Gog and Magog

Revelation 20:7-15

When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—and to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. (20:7-10)

Gog and Magog comprise the fourth apocalyptic element in this section. While there are many thoughts about what these represent (when I first learned this, I was taught they were the Soviet Union) John actually defines them in the text: “the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog”. Remembering our numbers, the nations in the “four” corners of the earth means all of the nations of the earth; Gog and Magog means all of the nations of the earth.

Notice here that there are two images that represent God’s judgment: The first is fire from heaven in verse 9 (cf. Ez. 39:6; 2 Kings 1:9-15) and the second is the lake of fire in verse 10 (cf. Rev. 19:20; 21:8). Thus, what we have in this passage is another vision of God’s final judgment. This passage also has a parallel in Ez. 38-39 that we will discuss in another post (The whole section of Rev. 20-22 is parallel with Ez. 37-48).

To sum up verses 7-10, we have a picture of Satan instigating a move of all of the nations of the earth, using the two beasts from Rev. 13 as his allies, against God’s people, the Church throughout this age, and being judged by God in the final judgment. The judgment description is more vivid in the next paragraph:

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire. (20:11-15)

Here is Almighty God in His judgment seat, an image so awesome and terrifying that the earth and the heavens flee from the sight; of course this is a figurative way to stress the fact that nothing and ho one can escape God’s judgment. God calls for the record books, and the books are opened; you just can’t read this without think about Daniel 7:9-10:

“As I looked,

“thrones were set in place,
and the Ancient of Days took his seat.
His clothing was as white as snow;
the hair of his head was white like wool.
His throne was flaming with fire,
and its wheels were all ablaze.
A river of fire was flowing,
coming out from before him.
Thousands upon thousands attended him;
ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.
The court was seated,
and the books were opened

(cf. ps. 56:8; Jer. 22:30; Exra; 15; Esth. 6:1; Mal. 3:16 and from Jewish apocalyptic writings 4 Ezra 6:20; 1 Enoch 90:20; 2 Apoc. Baruch 24:10.

The “Book of Life” represents a record of the names of those who remained faithful to God through Christ and is also mentioned in Rev. 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:17. When the great day of judgment comes, if your name is found in the Book of Life, you are “free to go” for that is all the record there will be about you; your sins are long gone. “Hades” is the Greek “place of the dead” that place beyond the River Styx where dead souls were said to go. Every human being who ever lived is present at the judgment, people who are in the Book of Life are excused, and the records of deeds are opened; do you see how this is working? As a follower of Christ, you have had your sins removed completely; they aren’t even in the records anywhere; they are gone as if they never happened…

In the end, even death itself is thrown into the “lake of fire” symbolizing the fact that death itself will be abolished completely. As the chapter closes, we have Satan, the two beasts, everyone who refused to accept God’s grace, death and the place of the dead all in the lake of fire. This is not necessarily to say that they fry for all eternity in torture and torment in burning sulfur, for the lake of fire is a symbol for God’s judgment. What it does mean is that God’s final judgment is FINAL and will never change or be rescinded. My guess is that’s why it’s called the “final” judgment, by the way.

Traditions, teachings and scholars disagree about all of this of course, but my conclusion about the lake of fire and God’s judgment of “Gog and Magog”, the nations of the earth, is that they will cease, terminated forever, and not that God will torture them forever. The reasons are the figurative nature of the passages in which they are mentioned, and the fact that we have just seen that two things are thrown into the lake that are not living things; death and Hades. How does one torture death? How does one burn and torment the place of death? you don’t; it doesn’t even make sense, for you cannot torment eternally an inanimate or conceptual thing (it isn’t really even a “thing”). Thus, by combining the inanimate with the living beings in the lake, it seems clear to me that John isn’t intending us to believe people are literally cooked alive for all eternity.

Next time, we’ll have a look at the New Jerusalem…

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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6 Responses to Gog and Magog

  1. pipermac5 says:

    Based on the cumulative descriptions of “hell”, I am not sure how “anihiliation” fits with those descriptions. I think we can agree that “hell” represents eternal-seperation from God, which means eternal-seperation from all that is good. I envision a “hell” that is a huge, inescapable prison-yard, where the inmates are incapable of showing themselves or anyone else any mercy, where they torture each other non-stop, where death would be merciful but death never comes. Where God removes His restraining-grace, all hell breaks loose.

    Your thoughts?


    • Don Merritt says:

      My thoughts? Well for starters, our word “hell” is one English word for five different words, two Hebrew amd three Greek. Each of those words mean quite different things, and none of them is a torture chamber. In all fairness, none of us has been there and back exactly, so about all we have to go on is an interpretation of a non-literal passage; best guess is what I wrote in the post.

  2. Steve B says:

    Maybe you need to meditate on Rev 20:10 just a bit longer.

    Rev 20:10 And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet {are}, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

    can you see the ‘day and night’ followed by forever and ever and yes ‘eis aeon aeon’ means exactly that as much as the bleeding hearts don’t think so.

  3. Steve B says:

    You know the most difficult thing to do in this world is to change the minds of people who have a certain belief system. Try telling evolutionists that evolution doesn’t exist or more recently the ‘warmists’ that man made climate change doesn’t exist. Almost impossible and yet God has appointed watchmen whose job it is to warn of where things are going wrong and get people to change their belief system. Ironic isn’t it?
    Your comment “….if you understand it literally” tells me that you are still on the symbolism bandwagon but you haven’t even explained yourself even remotely satisfactorily. Example is Satan Literal or Symbolic? Satan is thrown into the fire. Satan could be a symbol for evil and I could counter that Jesus spoke to Satan in the Gospels. If Satan is literal then maybe a few other things also like The Beast or the Fire. Jesus said in the Gospels “Mat 10:28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. ” The world translated hell is Gehenna which is also lake of fire. Why would Jesus give this warning if sinners are annihilated? Annihilation would be no big deal at all. Also this verse.
    “Mat 18:6 But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” Again annihilation would be no big deal. Jesus said many other things about being cast into the fire and that it is not a good thing.
    You quoted Enoch a few posts back. You do realize that Enoch also saw the fire and many voices come out of it.

    One last observation. God cannot annihilate himself. We humans and angelic beings live because of the “spirit of God”. We are eternal as are angels ( I cannot speak for all living creatures) and since we are eternal we will exist forever. We humans are one step below God so for those that hate God, God has to separate them from the rest of creation. The Lake of Fire is the only way otherwise if eternal humans escape, God’s Kingdom is in trouble.

    • Don Merritt says:

      Steve, interesting comments as always, but with a few factual problems…

      1. “Your comment “….if you understand it literally” tells me that you are still on the symbolism bandwagon but you haven’t even explained yourself even remotely satisfactorily”

      Actually Steve, I posted 4 times with introductory material, explaining the entire approach I am taking to Revelation… in excessive detail… and the reasons for it. In fact, those four introductory posts generated a total 71 comments, and not one of them was you objecting to my approach. Obviously, you haven’t read them, and since you haven’t, maybe you should avoid making rash statements so often, until such time as you actually know what you are talking about.

      2. Not knowing when to quit, you go on to say:

      “Example is Satan Literal or Symbolic? Satan is thrown into the fire. Satan could be a symbol for evil and I could counter that Jesus spoke to Satan in the Gospels. If Satan is literal then maybe a few other things also like The Beast or the Fire.”

      You are quite right that Satan is a literal being, and we know that because Jesus spoke to him in the Gospels (i.e. Matt. 4:1-11). A character or place discussed literally in literal passages is understood generally as literal in apocalyptic passages because of overall context, within a passage that is in an apocalyptic context. Context is the determining factor, not presuppositions.

      3. My particular favorite remark is this one relating to your quotation of Matt. 10:28:

      “The world translated hell is Gehenna which is also lake of fire.”

      In point of fact, Steve, the word “ge’enna” does not mean “lake of fire” at all, nor is it translated as such. In actuality it means: “valley of (the son of) Hinnom; ge-henna (or Ge-Hinnom), a valley of Jerusalem, used (figuratively) as a name for the place (or state) of everlasting punishment:—hell.”

      Literally, it is more like a garbage dump, since that is what Hinnon was.

      4. As for the doctrine of “annihilation”, I am not teaching it; I’ve left it open to interpretation on your part. I have however expressed my view that “lake of fire” is apocalyptic rather than literal. The reader (and that would be you) is free to believe whatever they want.

      6. I actually agree with you in part on this one:

      “The Lake of Fire is the only way otherwise if eternal humans escape, God’s Kingdom is in trouble.”
      That God will separate evildoers from His Kingdom is rather the whole point here, but that point has nothing to do with a literal or figurative understand of the lake of fire.

      Oh, and since you brought it up, it is very ironic indeed!

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