Question: Could the Gog-Magog battle come at the start of the Tribulation? Would that be what allows Israel to rebuild the temple? Where does the war on terrorism fit into this whole picture prophesied for the last days?
Answer: You can’t be referring to the “Gog-Magog battle” mentioned in Revelation:20:8, because that very clearly comes at the end of the Tribulation. However, since in that scripture the expression “Gog and Magog” signifies all the armies of the earth, it is reasonable to understand Gog and Magog in Ezekiel 38 in the same way. That battle, therefore, will not merely be an invasion of Israel by a Russian-Arab coalition, as usually stated, but by all of the world’s armies under the leadership of Antichrist. God declares that He will draw them there to destroy them for their evil treatment of His people, the Jews, and thereby demonstrate to the world that He is God (Ezk 38:16-23).
Clearly this battle could only come at the end of the Tribulation and must therefore be Armageddon. From the climactic language used in Ezekiel 38 and 39, this could not possibly be a previous or lesser battle. Every creature, even “the fishes of the sea and...creeping things,” will be shaken by God’s manifest presence upon earth, and “the mountains shall be thrown down, and...every wall shall fall to the ground....” The nations will know at last that Yahweh is the true God.
Describing Israel’s final redemption, Ezekiel 39 offers further irrefutable proof that this battle is Armageddon: “So will I make my holy name known in the midst of my people Israel; and I will not let them pollute my holy name any more...(39:7); So the house of Israel shall know that I am the Lord their God from that day and forward...(v. 22); Neither will I hide my face any more from them: for I have poured out my spirit upon the house of Israel, saith the Lord God” (v. 29). Inasmuch as Israel and individual Jews continue to displease God until the great repentance and turning to Him at His Second Coming, this must be that awesome event.
Ezekiel's description of Armageddon, climaxed by Christ’s Second Coming to deliver His people Israel, agrees with Zechariah’s prophecy: “In that day shall the Lord defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem....And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced....In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness....And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends....And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the Lord, two parts...shall be cut off and die....And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them...they shall call on my name, and I will hear...I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God....For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle....Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations....And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives....And theLord shall be king over all the earth...” (Zec:12:8-14:21).
The climax of the war of Armageddon with the defeat of the world’s armies brings the miraculous final gathering of the Jews from everywhere on this earth back to Israel: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days...shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other”(Mt 24:29-31). Christ is not describing a “post-trib” rapture but a “post-trib” gathering of “Israel mine elect” (Is 45:4): “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (Mt 24:13). Paul stated the same truth in these words: “...blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: asit is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins” (Rom:11:25-27).
In other words, every Jew on the face of the earth who is still alive at the Second Coming of Christ, when He intervenes to prevent the destruction of all flesh (Mt 24:22)and to destroy Antichrist, will believe in Christ and will be miraculously brought by angels to Israel, never to be scattered again. There, from the throne of His father David, Christ will reign over Israel and the world. And here we have further proof that Ezekiel 38 and 39 (though the vast majority of evangelicals reject this view) refer to Armageddon: “Then shall they know that I am the Lord their God, which caused them to be led into captivity among the heathen: but I have gathered them unto their own land, and have left none of them any more there [i.e., among the nations to which I had scattered them]” (Ezk 39:28)!
As for the war on terrorism, we must beware of trying to find a special place in Bible prophecy for every major news development. Not everything that happens is a specific fulfillment of God’s Word. The war on terrorism could very well turn out to be one of many steps toward a world government. Certainly it is creating a new cooperation between nations such as we have never known in history. Where it will lead, however, is still uncertain.
I believe we are on the way to the false peace foretold in Scripture (Ezk 38:8, 11-16; Dn 8:25; 1 Thes:5:3) and that this will happen sooner than later. The war on terrorism could very well play an important role in that process, but this new development, while of great importance, is certainly not specifically prophesied in the Bible.
The rebuilding of the temple and the reinstitution of animal sacrifices therein will be imposed by Antichrist upon the world at the very beginning of Daniel’s 70th week (Dn 9:27). In the midst of this week of years, Antichrist will reveal his real purpose by putting his image in the temple and forcing the world to worship him as God (2 Thes:2:4; Rv 13:14,15).