Personal Update & Exegetical Research on 2 Thessalonians 2 :1-12

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! My own is is ongoing as my wife and I are boarding a plane to spend a week with her parents in Iowa.  I really appreciate those of you who read my posts here on a regular basis and I have some exciting news. First, I finished my Masters of Arts degree in Theological Studies at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary last Fall semester. While now I have some credentials to serve in this capacity, I have hopes of perhaps teaching at the college or seminary level, so I will be pursing further study at Southeastern Baptist Theological seminary this Spring. I will be concentrating on Greek intensives, with the goal of entering the PhD program in the near future. Second, I have signed a contract to co-author a book with Tom Horn on the Malachy Prophecy of the Popes. The reason I have not posted here much lately is that I have been working 14 hour days on that project. I assure you the subject is much deeper than I ever imagined. The research for this book has taken me places I never imagined possible. Look for some jaw dropping revelations this Spring.

My last research project  for my Master’s Degree was an exegetical paper on Paul’s most definitive statement concerning the Antichrist and end-times, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12. It is a notoriously difficult pericope for exegesis but I chose it due to my deep interest in things eschatological.  Fee and Stuart even use it as an example of “problem passages:”

In many cases the reason the texts are so difficult for us is that, frankly, they were not written to us. That is, the original author and his readers are on a similar wavelength that allows the inspired author to assume a great deal on the part of his readers. Thus, for example, when Paul tells the Thessalonians that they are to recall that he “used to tell [them] these things,” and therefore “you know what is holding him back” (2 Thess 2:5–6), we may need to learn to be content with our lack of knowledge. [1]

Even so, I think this passage has a very important word for us today. In lieu of cutting an pasting the entire paper, I am going to post the introduction and a link to down load the pdf if yu want to read the whole thing. I derive several important implications for the modern church which I may post later as a separate post but  I wanted to make it available to you now as 2012 promises to be a big year.

Introduction

No one likes waiting. Patience, persistence and perseverance are not popular words. They convey capricious craving, laborious longing and unrequited love. How intense is the longing when waiting for one of infinite worth? Christians live in the tension of what is called the “already but not yet” paradigm. This refers to the idea that Christ inaugurated the kingdom at the first advent but it will not be fully realized until the second at the eschaton. Gordon Fee writes, “The theological framework of the entire New Testament is eschatological.”[2] Thus, there is a tension inherent in the Christian worldview that eclipses all the yearnings of adolescence. It is the groaning of creation itself (Rom 8:22).

The purpose of this paper is to interpret 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 using sound exegetical methodology. This presentation will first give a survey of the historical and literary context, and then it will offer exegesis of the text. Difficulties arise because Paul assumes knowledge on the part of the original recipients that subsequent generations do not have. Allusions to the Old Testament will be discussed based on Paul’s background. Each issue will be handled sequentially. The paper will attempt to show that because we still live in the apocalyptic tension of the already/not yet, the eschatological content still has great value for the contemporary church. Paul taught the Thessalonian church that they would recognize the “day of the Lord” by two harbingers: the apostasy and the appearance of the man of lawlessness.

Download: 2 Thessalonians 2 Exegetical Research – Cris D. Putnam

 

[1]Gordon D. Fee and Douglas K. Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1993), 69.

[2]Ibid, 145.

Patrick Heron’s End Time Eisegesis

By Cris D. Putnam

Patrick Heron likely means well but zeal comes before knowledge. He invokes the end times to assert that only now God is revealing special insight on the prophetic scriptures (apparently to himself). In other words, all the great expositors and scholars of the past have unable to decode the prophecies properly, but only now God has granted special insight to a select few, including himself, to warn God’s people… Really? He argues that only now has God “unsealed” the secrets in the book of Revelation and prophetic scriptures. This betrays a serious lack of knowledge of the book in which he claims to be an authority. The book of Revelation was never sealed, it was written to the first century Christians as well as for us today:

And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.(Re 22:10)

But Patrick believes he has been granted special insight and cites,

Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets. (Amos 3:7).

Astonishingly, he actually appears to be implying that he qualifies as such a prophet in this video at :57. I wanted to let it pass, but it seems he really means it because he cites it again at 17:30. Are we really supposed to believe that God will not do anything without letting Patrick Heron, the endtime prophet, know first? Seriously? He certainly implies as much by repeatedly citing it. But citing this verse from Amos is a major abuse of scripture. Amos was a shepherd and farmer called to prophesy during the reigns of Uzziah (792–740 BC) in the southern kingdom and Jeroboam II (793–753 BC) in the north. Amos was not giving his opinions on the interpretation of scripture; rather he spoke the very words of God directly. The Old Testament prophets were not just prognosticators rather they were spokespersons for God and covenant enforcers. This context no longer exists as we are under a new covenant and Jesus Christ is the mediator between God and man. To apply Amos 3:7 to a modern context and especially to yourself is an egregious error and extraordinarily arrogant.

His approach is very condescending as he labels the rendering in all English translations since the 16th century as a “deception.” Yes, even the authorized KJV as well as all modern translations are demonic deceptions according to Heron! The verse in question is:

“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;(2 Th 2:3, KJV)

“Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,(2 Th 2:3, ESV)

He desperately wants to believe that apostasia means a “departure” in the sense of the “rapture” the church being gathered bodily directly preceding the Great Tribulation and the coming of the antichrist. The following observations point to the implausibility of this identification.

  • The word apostasia in the Greek Old and New Testaments always refers to a “departure from faith” and never to a “catching away”, “bodily resurrection” or “gathering.”
  • A negatively religious nuance of “departure” is also dictated by the context, since in 2 Thes 2:3 it is conjoined with the man of lawlessness, and in 2 Thes 2:8–12 deception and departing from the faith also appear in conjunction with “the lawless one.”
  • The “gathering” of 2:1 is an allusion to Paul’s earlier teaching on the rapture of God’s people (1 Thess 4:14–17; cf. 1 Cor 15:52). Thus, Paul’s message to the Thessalonians was that they should not be misled because a sure sign of Christ’s return, the apostasy, has not yet taken place. This was Paul’s way of comforting them and reassuring them that they had not missed the Lord’s return. Patrick’s reading misses Paul’s point. We should expect to see a massive apostasy and the rise of Antichrist before the rapture.
  • The coming of Christ can still be imminent like “a thief in the night.” We should allow the possibility that the two signs will take place so quickly that by the time we recognize them as such, Christ’s lightning-like coming will have been set in motion (see Mt 24:27). Even so, Paul says it should not surprise us if we are alert (1 Thes 5:4). But this can be difficult because we live in the “already/not yet” period. Accordingly, the fulfillment of the prophesied apostasy and lawless one’s coming has been inaugurated and has occurred cyclically throughout history. John wrote back in the first century, “Children, it is the last hour! As you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. From this we know that it is the last hour” (1 Jn 2:18).  The last hour has been going on for 2,000 years! This explains why throughout the church’s existence many have erroneously claimed that the end has arrived. The claim is understandable, but the error lies in the inability to discern when precisely the apostasy has reached its absolute zenith and when one individual sufficiently incarnates lawlessness to the degree Paul has in mind in 2 Thes 2:4. Because of this no one can responsibly claim with absolute certainty, as Patrick does, that the end times are underway until these two signs have demonstrably occurred.

At 5:45 in the video, Patrick states that, “the answer to error is right doctrine.” This is of course true but right doctrine is derived from a sound hermeneutic which he has already abandoned at the outset with the unsealing of an open book and a gross misapplication of Amos 3:7. Of course, Patrick’s real purpose here is to promote his book and prop up the pretribulation rapture position. The word in question is apostasia. According to the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament:

ἀποστασία.

A later construction for ἀπόστασις. The word presupposes the concept ἀποστάτης “to be an apostate,” and thus signifies the state of apostasy, whereas ἀπόστασις denotes the act. Politically an ἀποστάτης is a “rebel” (Polyb., V, 41, 6; 57, 4: τοῦ βασιλέως; Diod. S., XV, 18: τῆς πατρίδος), and this sense is retained in ἀποστασία (Plut. Galb., 1 (I, 1052e): τὴν ἀπὸ Νέρωνος ἀποστασίαν; Jos. Vit., 43: διὰ τὴν ἀποστασίαν τὴν ἀπὸ Ῥωμαίων; Ap., 1, 135 f.; Ant., 13, 219.

In the LXX it also occurs in the political sense in 1 Esr. 2:23. It is particularly employed, however, in the religious sense, Jos. 22:22; Jer. 2:19; 2 Ch. 29:19 (the apostasy of Ahaz); 33:19 (of Manasseh). Cf. 1 Macc. 2:15 (used absol.); Asc. Is. 2:4. ἀποστάτης has also retained this religious sense, cf. Is. 30:1; 2 Macc. 5:8: Jason ὡς τῶν νόμων ἀποστάτης καὶ βδελυσσόμενος; Nu. 14:9; Jos. 22:16, 19: ἀποστάτης ἀπὸ τοῦ κυρίου.[1]

At 8:00, Patrick claims that Apostasia did not mean this in the Ancient Greek language. I guess someone forgot to tell the ancient Greeks that. He then cites Bullinger’s 100 year old argument concerning the construction of the term based on its roots. Interestingly, all of the translations he cited are from the 1500s!  Remember Patricks assertion in the beginning of the video that only now in the end times have the prophecies been unsealed… isn’t it odd that all of his sources are over 100 years old? (Patrick repeatedly asserts that scripture cannot contradict itself but apparently its fine when he does). The problem with using antiquated scholarship is that knowledge of the ancient Greek language has increased exponentially due to academic linguistics and archeological discoveries. Hence, today’s scholars are much more authoritative on Greek grammar and etymology. What Patrick has engaged in here is a commonly known exegetical fallacy:

1. The root fallacy

One of the most enduring of errors, the root fallacy presupposes that every word actually has a meaning bound up with its shape or its components. In this view, meaning is determined by etymology; that is, by the root or roots of a word. [2]

He claims a better rendering is “the departure” and then claims that the same term is used 15 times in the New Testament and 12 out of the 15 it is used as a departure. Yet if we search by lemma, meaning the canonical or dictionary morphology, it really only appears twice. One being the verse in question and the other in Acts:

 κατηχήθησαν δὲ περὶ σοῦ ὅτι ἀποστασίαν διδάσκεις ἀπὸ Μωυσέως τοὺς κατὰ τὰ ἔθνη πάντας Ἰουδαίους, λέγων μὴ περιτέμνειν αὐτοὺς τὰ τέκνα μηδὲ τοῖς ἔθεσιν περιπατεῖν.

“and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs.(Ac 21:21)

Hear it clearly means a departure from the faith and a rebellion as well. The important thing is how did first century people use the word. To see how Paul would have understood and used it the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, is  a great source, the term appears four times:

22 Ὁ θεὸς θεός ἐστιν κύριος, καὶ ὁ θεὸς θεὸς κύριος αὐτὸς οἶδεν, καὶ Ισραηλ αὐτὸς γνώσεται, εἰ ἐν ἀποστασίᾳ ἐπλημμελήσαμεν ἔναντι τοῦ κυρίου, μὴ ῥύσαιτο ἡμᾶς ἐν ταύτῃ, [3]

“The Mighty One, God, the Lord! The Mighty One, God, the Lord! He knows; and let Israel itself know! If it was in rebellion or in breach of faith against the Lord, do not spare us today.” (Jos 22:22)

(I will not bother to show the LXX for the rest, but I could…)

“All the utensils that King Ahaz repudiated during his reign when he was faithless, we have made ready and sanctified; see, they are in front of the altar of the Lord.”(2 Ch 29:19)

“The king’s officers who were enforcing the apostasy came to the town of Modein to make them offer sacrifice.”(1 Mac 2:15)

“Your wickedness will punish you, and your apostasies will convict you. Know and see that it is evil and bitter for you to forsake the Lord your God; the fear of me is not in you, says the Lord God of hosts.”(Je 2:19)

So Patrick is just wrong about the common usage of the word. He is engaging in another common fallacy known as “special pleading.” He is allowing his preference for the pretribulation rapture position to cloud his exegesis. I confronted him about his qualifications to dispute the unanimous (since the 16th century anyway) English rendering of the Greek in an email and he cited his Masters degree and Doctorate in Christian Literature. According to Wikipedia:

Heron holds a B.Sc. and M.A. in Business Studies from Trinity College, Dublin. He also holds a Degree in Theology and recently received an Honorary Doctorate in Christian Literature from the California Pacific School of Theology, Glendale, California, as a result of the research done in his book, The Nephilim and the Pyramid of the Apocalypse.[4]

His academic training is in business. So, in reality, he has no Greek exegesis credentials whatsoever and even his gifted doctorate is from an unaccredited institution. I would not have brought this into it, except that he brought it up as way to give himself some credibility. In truth, it does not appear that he put in the hard work to learn Greek that even a seminary trained youth pastor has. Patrick is clearly wrong in his interpretation but that does not mean that any rapture position is necessarily falsified. However, it does seem very clear that the church will see the apostasy and rise of Antichrist. This apostasy will take place within the professing church and will be a departure from the truth that God has revealed in His Word. While it is true that apostasy has characterized the church almost from its inception, Paul referred to a specific distinguishable apostasy that will come in the future (cf. 1 Tim. 4:1-3; 2 Tim. 3:1-5; 4:3-4; James 5:1-8; 2 Peter 2; 3:3-6; Jude). Do not listen to Heron for your comfort, be prepared, listen to Paul:

Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction.(2 Th 2:3)

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons,(1 Ti 4:1)

But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,” (1 Th 5:4–9)

And listen to Jesus:

Then many will fall away, and they will betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world, as a testimony to all the nations; and then the end will come (Mt 24:10–14)

For a more responsible handling of the rapture issue I commend the work of Chris White to you:

 

 



For an excellent scholarly treatment of the subject see: http://www.dbts.edu/journals/1998/combs.pdf

For an editorial see: http://moriel.org/MorielArchive/index.php/discernment/church-issues/end-times/one-insanity-is-but-a-reflection-of-the-other

[1] , vol. 1, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley and Gerhard Friedrich, electronic ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964-), 513.

[2]D. A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies, 2nd ed. (Carlisle, U.K.; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Paternoster; Baker Books, 1996), 28.

[3] Septuaginta : With Morphology, electronic ed. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1979), Jos 22:22.

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick_Heron_%28author%29

In the Belly of a Whale? Why the Average Bible Reader Should Study Hermeneutics

I realize that my longer post on hermeneutics below might be more than the average person wants to digest concerning biblical interpretation. However, it is more important than the average Christian realizes. As a demonstration of why it is important to study the basics of proper interpretation, I want you to picture in your mind the story of Jonah and the large fish. Remember the book of Jonah and the account of him being swallowed? I cheated by posting the photo to the right but does it bring to mind this? Or maybe this?For many people it does. But Jonah was not Pinocchio and it was a fish not necessarily a whale. This is how preunderstandings get attached to the biblical text apart from our even realizing it.

Once you rid yourself of the Disney indoctrination, you are forced to imagine how truly horrible and gross it really was. It must have been slimy, odoriferous and claustrophobic in the maximally terrific sense. In studying that book more carefully recently, I have come to the conclusion that Jonah actually died and was later revived.  Jonah 2:2 says he cried out from the “belly of Sheol” which infers death. It also coheres nicely with Jesus’ “sign of Jonah” referring to the resurrection (Mt 16:4). This frames Jonah in a new light and shows how far preunderstandings can lead us astray. When we covered Jonah in an adult class at church, I was amazed that nearly everyone has the Disney image in mind.

Hermeneutics the Art and Science of Interpretation

I haven’t put up a post in a while for several reasons. One, I had a hard drive crash which has diverted a lot of time to rebuilding that system. Two, I am busy in the final semester of my Master of Arts degree in Theological Studies. To that end, I am taking a class in hermeneutics. You might ask herm-a-what?  So, I thought I would share some of what I am learning. Hermeneutics is broadly defined as the art and science of bridging linguistic, historical, social, and cultural divides between ancient and modern contexts so that one may understand what the ancient texts mean.[1]  The term can also be used in the narrower sense of seeking the contemporary application of ancient texts.[2] The first step of interpretation is exegesis. Exegesis is the systematic effort to determine what the original author intended. Paul realized this about the Old Testament:

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.(Ro 15:4)

In many ways, we are just like Paul looking back on the Hebrew Bible. While the Bible was written for us, it was not written specifically to us. It was written to its designated audience. The first task of the interpreter is to hear the message of the Bible as the first readers would have understood it. In any text, there are three basic expressions of meaning:  1) what the writer means; 2) what the recipient understands; 3) what meaning is actually encoded in the text.[3]  While determining the former two is a historical process, a sound interpretation must account for all three elements.  Paramount in the process is a grasp of the historical context of the writing. Within that historical paradigm the occasion and purpose of the writing are centrally important.

God chose specific individuals, like Paul or John, and inspired them to communicate his word for us. For instance, the Apocalypse was written to the seven churches. The Gospels were likely addressed to the specific contexts of each evangelist author. The objective meaning of a passage is the meaning the original inspired author intended. While this may prove elusive, the goal of exegesis is an objective assessment of what the author was communicating to the original recipients. It follows necessarily that his meaning could be understood in the original context and was not based on our perspective of advanced historical developments.[4] Through historical research one can learn much about the author’s environment, occasion and purpose. Commentaries, bible dictionaries, study bibles and other reference works provide a great deal of background material. An essential goal in hermeneutics is to assess the inspired author’s intent. Yet, we as modern readers are far removed from the author’s world. To correctly interpret scripture entails examining our own beliefs as well. Interpretation is broken into four steps in my textbook:

Step 1:     Grasp the text in their town. What did the text mean to the original audience?

Step 2:     Measure the width of the river to cross. What are the differences between the biblical audience and us?

Step 3:     Cross the principlizing bridge. What is the theological principle in this text?

Step 4:     Grasp the text in our town. How should individual Christians today apply the theological principle in their lives? [5]

The terms “presuppositions” and “preunderstandings” are actually distinct phenomena. Preunderstanding entails our preconceived ideas (conscious and unconscious) that we bring to the text prior to engaging in serious study.[6] Preunderstanding involves past teaching and ideas we have gathered about a text that make us assume we already grasp it. These ideas are subject to change as new information is discovered. Presuppositions are different in that they are more fundamental and not related to specific passages rather the whole Bible.[7] An evangelical believer’s presuppositions include the existence of God, angels, demons and the supernatural realm whereas an agnostic may presume that miracles and the supernatural are not actually real. These divergent presuppositions will result in drastically different interpretations of the biblical text.

Preunderstandings originate generally from one’s culture, family and life experience and more specifically from Sunday school lessons, sermons, books and our own ideas from reading the Bible. They are not always bad but they should be subject to scrutiny. Preunderstandings can be tested by examining them in light of true serious study of the text. Once one has set preconceived ideas aside and undertaken the four step exegetical interpretative process, one can evaluate old ideas and formulate a better informed view. In this way, preunderstandings are dynamic. One should always be willing to modify preunderstandings as new data is discovered.

I know firsthand that one’s spiritual and intellectual history influence interpretation. I was not always a Christian. I became a believer later in life so many of my presuppositions have changed dramatically. Today, I can honestly say I affirm all four of the presuppositions listed on page 95 in the text by Duvall:

1.     The Bible is the Word of God. Although God worked through people to produce it, it is nonetheless inspired by the Holy Spirit and is God’s Word to us.

2.     The Bible is trustworthy and true.

3.     God has entered into human history; thus the supernatural (miracles, etc.) does occur.

4     The Bible is not contradictory; it is unified, yet diverse. Nevertheless, God is bigger than we are, and he is not always easy to comprehend. Thus the Bible also has tension and mystery to it.[8]

However, that was not always so. For instance, I used to be some sort of namby pamby confused deist/new ager. Accordingly, I was proud to boast that I was spiritual but not religious (whatever that means). This is embarrassing but at one point I thought you could just open up the Bible to any page and read and God would providentially point out a message unique to my situation. It was sort of like using the Bible as an Ouija board. Not recommended… Similarly, I also believed in Darwinian evolution. Of course, that colored my view of the first chapters of Genesis. Today, I hold the authority of scripture above the infallibility of science. I simply lack belief in Darwinism. Accordingly, I understand those texts much differently than I used to. This shows that presuppositions can change as well. When I became a Christian a lot of my old ideas were discarded. I have been pursuing serious training in biblical studies to be as accurately informed as I can be concerning God’s word. As my knowledge base increases, my understanding of the Bible evolves.

Complete objectivity is not really possible but it is not really the goal. We are striving to comprehend the message that God inspired the authors to write. As readers we respond based on our preunderstandings and presuppositions. Yet, we continually renew our minds by subjecting it to God’s word (Rom 12:2).  When dealing with any written text the authorial intent and reader response are contiguous but not necessarily congruent. In other words, the author’s writing is indeed connected to the reader response but that response is not necessarily the desired result. The meaning of a text can be described as the reader’s response or in terms of the author’s intention. The author has a message in which he encodes in language. The reader assimilates the words and ascribes their personal understanding and association with those words.  Because the two do not necessarily share the same definitions and associations, communication can break down. For any non-trivial piece of writing, I maintain that the correct view of meaning must be assigned to authorial intent. The text after all originates in the mind of its author. While the author is responsible for communicating clearly and precisely, it is the reader that chooses how seriously they will seek the author’s intent.  A reader’s presuppositions and preferences may cloud effective communication.  Readers must make decisions as to how they will interpret a given text. If the reader is honestly seeking to discern the communicated message they must choose to read through the proper contextual lens. In the case of Biblical interpretation this is magnified by translation not to mention considerable cultural and chronological distance. What might have been obvious to a first century reader may take considerable contextual research for a modern reader. To be an effective reader one must be willing to challenge their own presuppositions and thoroughly examine language, context and culture.



[1]William W. Klein, Craig Blomberg, Robert L. Hubbard and Kermit Allen Ecklebarger, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation (Dallas, Tex.: Word Pub., 1993), 5.

[2]Gordon D. Fee and Douglas K. Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1993), 29.

[3] Klein, Introduction, 8.

[4] Ibid, 11.

[5]J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-on Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005), 25.

[6]Ibid, 93.

 [7]Ibid, 94

[8]Ibid, 95.

Armageddon OT Background to the Battle for the Cosmic Mountain 5

By Cris D. Putnam

THE BATTLE

The Antichrist figure finds his counterpart in the Hebrew Bible as Gog in Ezekiel 38-39. To demonstrate this point, a brief examination of the name גּוֹג Gog is required. In Ezekiel, Gog is clearly the enemy of Israel from the land of Magog or possibly “from the land of Gog.” In scripture, the proper names Agag and Gog were rendered somewhat interchangeably from the Hebrew.  For instance, Agag appears in 1 Samuel: “And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive and devoted to destruction all the people with the edge of the sword”(1 Sa 15:8). He was the King of the Amalekites, a nephilim tribe, who was defeated and spared by Saul, but later killed by Samuel. It is interesting that the Septuagint translators rendered the name “Gog.” Yet, modern translations render it Agag. For instance, Numbers 24:7 which is a poetic oracle by Balaam concerning Israel and how they have God’s favor.

Remember, Balaam was a sorcerer hired to curse Israel but his diabolical efforts were frustrated by God. Thus, in the traditional rendering, the context is appropriate that Israel’s king will be superior to Gog. For instance,the ESV renders it,“Water shall flow from his buckets, and his seed shall be in many waters; his king shall be higher than Agag (Gog), and his kingdom shall be exalted”(Nu 24:7). Well enough, this traditional rendering of the prophecy is assuredly concerning Saul’s defeat of Gog, nephilim king of Amalekites. Yet strangely the LXX translation by Brenton reflects a different manuscript which makes it seem as if Gog is from Jacob’s seed:

And Balaam lifted up his eyes, and sees Israel encamped by their tribes; and the Spirit of God came upon him. And he took up his parable and said, Balaam son of Beor says, the man who sees truly says, he says who hears the oracle of the Mighty One, who saw a vision of God in sleep; his eyes were opened: How goodly are thy habitations, Jacob, and thy tents, Israel! as shady groves, and as gardens by a river, and as tents which God pitched, and as cedars by the waters. There shall come a man out of his seed, and he shall rule over many nations; and the kingdom of Gog shall be exalted, and his kingdom shall be increased. ( Num 24:5-7 LXX Benton 1851 )[1] (emphasis added)

The kingdom of Gog will be exalted? This is astonishing! Is this just a bad translation or could this reading infer the sorcerer Balaam was predicting the kingdom of Antichrist? Many have speculated he must be Semitic for the Jews to accept him as Messiah. Balaam is an odd character for a pagan sorcerer as he also predicted Christ and the star of Bethlehem in his final oracle (Num 24:17). The prophetic literature gets even stranger.

Missler makes reference to the name Gog being used in the Septuagint while drawing a parallel to its use Ezekiel and Revelation. The LXX Translation by Brenton 1851 renders, “Thus has the Lord God shewed me; and, behold, a swarm of locusts coming from the east; and, behold, one caterpillar, king Gog” (Am 7:1). The original context of this passage is that judgment is coming to the Northern kingdom, Israel. It is a vision given to Amos of a locust army invasion similar to that in Joel. Yet, Amos begs the Lord to repent of it and the Lord does not carry it through (cf. Am 7:3). The thing that makes this use of Gog distinct is that it is not a variant translation from the Masoretic text because the Masoretic uses no name at all. See a comparison here.  Missler draws significance from juxtaposing “locusts have no king” (Pr 30:27) against the “locusts” in Amos and Revelation who do have a king, arguing that it implies Amos and John must not be talking about insects:

The locusts in Revelation 9 have a king, Apollyon or Abaddon, but Proverbs 30:27 says that locusts have no king. So these locusts are not natural locusts; they are demon locusts. If that’s the case, then Gog, who is the king of the locusts, is a demon king.[2]

While the purpose of proverbs was not entomology, this reasoning seems quite reasonable. The terms grasshopper and locust are interchangeable as their is no taxonomic difference between locust and grasshopper species. In English the term “locust” is used for grasshopper species that change morphologically and behaviorally to form swarms. Research at Oxford University has identified that swarming behaviour is a response to overcrowding. Clearly the prophet is using locusts and caterpillar symbolically for invading hoards. The ancient Israelites had an agrarian economy. Invading armies are destructive to cities as insects are to crops. It implies annihilation. In the case of Amos’s original context, it would be the Assyrians who did in fact completely destroy the Northern kingdom. But the future context of Revelation speaks of a devastation by demonic entities.

Yet the only use of the proper name Gog in the NT appears in the book of Revelation and applies to a war after the millennium when Satan is released after being bound for 1,000 years. The locust imagery also recalls imagery from the book of Revelation 9 and the locust army of Joel:

In appearance the locusts were like horses prepared for battle: on their heads were what looked like crowns of gold; their faces were like human faces,(Re 9:7)

Their appearance is like the appearance of horses, and like war horses they run. As with the rumbling of chariots, they leap on the tops of the mountains, like the crackling of a flame of fire devouring the stubble, like a powerful army drawn up for battle.(Joe 2:4–5)

The two passage must refer to the same event because their really can be only one ultimate Day of the Lord. The locusts/war horses here are thought to represent the demon hoards who attack during the tribulation. The descriptions harken chimeric monstrosities. Tom Horn explores possible biotech avenues for making these monsters a reality in his books Apollyon Rising and Forbidden Gates. In the former he ponders Joel’s insectoid horde:

When the numerous ancient texts from inerrant Scriptures to extra-biblical sources are added up, there is persuasive evidence that Joel’s army could indeed be more than simple grasshoppers, and that this massive Gibborim army that runs upon the wall from which nobody can escape could be the result of man’s willingness to play “god” in reviving forbidden science and opening “gates” to what lurks beyond.[2a]

Others see what is widely believed to be “aliens” also taking part in this scenario. There does seem to be cultural trend toward belief in extraterrestrial life. It seems a likely cover story for demonic entities. In fact, the entities that gather the worlds armies for the battle of Armageddon bear an uncanny resemblance to what are commonly believed to be aliens.

“And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs. For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty.(Re 16:13–14)

Many believe this is the strong delusion mentioned by Paul (2 Thes 2:11). Dr. David Allen Lewis and Robert Shreckhise postulate that these demonic spirits that look like frogs are indeed what the popular media deems “greys.” [2b]  Paradox Brown carries this line of thought a little further offering:

But note that John doesn’t say the three evil spirits “ARE three frogs”. He says they “looked like frogs”… Let’s say that John was shown in his Revelation vision an image of something he had never seen before… It makes sense that if John didn’t know what this creature was, and had never seen anything like it, that he would describe it as “looking like” something he was familiar with. [2c]

Thus, it appears we have a menagerie of insectoid and reptilian transgenic entities involved in the Armageddon scenario. The secular world will likely assume they are from outer space as they have been heavily propagandized in that direction. We can infer that since Gog is the “caterpillar king” of this army, he is likely one and the same as Apollyon or Abaddon (cf. Am 7:1 LXX ; Rev 9:11). It seems likely that Gog in Ezekiel 38 & 39 is the Satanically empowered general in the end time war, the Beast.

Much has been written associating the Magog war of Ezekiel 38-39 with the battle of Armageddon. There are demonstrable parallels yet seemingly the book of Revelation explicitly places it one thousand years after Armageddon (cf. Rev 19:19; Rev. 20:8 ). Amillennialists (those who deny the 1000 year kingdom) like Kline attempt to conflate the battles described in Revelation 19 and 20.[3] Yet this lacks coherence as Heiser points out several insurmountable difficulties to this view. [4] Still, both Kline and Heiser agree that Gog can be associated with the Antichrist. This finds support in the Qumran War Scroll (1QM), which reveals it is Satan and his powers that are behind the usurpers:

For this shall be a time of distress for Israel, [and of the summons] to war against all the nations. There shall be eternal deliverance for the company of God, but destruction for all the nations of wickedness. All those [who are ready] for battle shall march out and shall pitch their camp before the king of the Kittim and before all the host of Satan gathered about him for the Day [of Revenge] by the Sword of God.[5]

The Qumran War Scroll reflects the same end time war as the Ezekiel text and accredits it to Satan. However, in Revelation 20 the Antichrist has been defeated and what is described is the release of Satan. Heiser convincingly solves this by viewing Gog as both. He writes, “I have argued that Ezekiel 38-39 will be fulfilled in two events: (1) Armageddon, which also is the fulfillment of Daniel 11:40-45; and (2) The subsequent, separate battle of Rev. 20:7-9.”[6]

“He shall come into the glorious land. And tens of thousands shall fall, but these shall be delivered out of his hand: Edom and Moab and the main part of the Ammonites.(Da 11:41)

“And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea.(Re 20:7–8)

Thus the Satanically possessed Beast of Revelation is Gog in the battle of Armageddon and Satan himself is Gog in the post-millennium war. While Heiser argues that the Magog war is fulfilled in two stages of the “already but not yet” fulfillment scenario, this present treatment suggests a similar but novel solution.

One of the better arguments against placing the Magog war prior to the tribulation as many traditional dispensationalists do as well as against the recapitulation view of Amillennialists is that Ezekiel 38 describes Israel as already completely regathered in the land (Eze 38:8, 12) and dwelling securely without defenses (Eze 38:11).[7]  This certainly does not apply to Israel’s current situation or to the preconditions for the battle of Armageddon. Today Israel is under constant threat and has very real barrier walls. It is also inconsistent with Armageddon because it is in the latter part of the great tribulation. Surely after enduring the trumpet and bowl judgments they will not be together in a secure peaceful state. Furthermore, the dry bones prophecy of Ezekiel 37 describes Israel’s rebirth contingent with the Messiah (Eze 37:15-28). Interestingly, Ezekiel 39:28 is a world wide call to Jews to return from the diaspora. Accordingly, it seems that chapter the 39 war precedes what is described in 38. Only after Ezekiel 39:28 will the diaspora be completely undone and the nation at peace. While others have postulated an earlier Psalm 83 war, The Ezekiel 38 war makes more sense in light of it being post millennium exactly as it says in Revelation 20. The biblical text solves the problem without an extra war. Thus, I completely agree with Heiser that Ezekiel 38 is the satanic showdown after the millennium. However, from this point forward an alternative interpretation is offered.

It is the proposal here that Ezekiel 39 describes the battle of Armageddon which temporally precedes the Magog war of chapter 38.  The prophetic books are in a state that makes it extremely challenging to determine where one oracle ends and another begins. The modern chapter divisions are arbitrary and were imposed during the thirteenth century AD. While, the traditional view is that chapter 39 is restatement of 38, this is a tacit acknowledgement that chapter 38 resolves satisfactorily.[8] In other words, because they are both complete units and not dependent upon each other, they can arguably represent distinct battles. In Ezekiel 38, some of the Nations question and do not battle (Eze 38:13) but at the battle of Armageddon (Zec 14: 12) it seems all the nations of the world will be gathered against Jerusalem. The Ezekiel 39 battle is addressed to all the nations (Eze 39:7). Furthermore, chapter 39 is inaugurated with a new “Thus says the Lord God.” This interpretation suggests that chapters 38-39 are two distinct wars for the following seven reasons: One, Gog and his armies are described as brought out to battle at the beginning of each chapter in unique circumstances (38:4-9; cf. 39:2). Two, chapter 38 clearly states that the land was restored from war (Ez 38:8). It is suggested that this refers to the Ezekiel 39/Armageddon war. Three, the chapter 38 war ties together with the post millennium release of Satan (Rev.20:7-10; cf. Eze 38:16, 22) and the white throne judgment (Rev.20:11-15) with “I will enter into judgment with him” (Eze 38:22). Four, the nations will know that their defeat was by the Lord and that Israel will know the Lord from that day forward (Eze 39:21-22). This arguably convenes the inauguration of the millennium. Five, the nations will understand why Israel was exiled and abandoned by God (Eze 39:23). This explains the tribulation. Six, the Lord will restore and gather Israel (Eze 39:25-27). This seems to be concurrent with the return of Christ in Ezekiel 37:15-28 and is a precursor to the chapter 38 war. Seven, Israel knows their God from that day forward and God never hides his face from them again (Eze 39:28-29). Consequently, the prerequisite regathered and secure status of Ezekiel 38 (Rev. 20) is arguably the result of the previous Ezekiel 39 (Rev. 19) war. All that is required for one to accept is that these are two oracles in a non-chronological order, a contention which is hardly unprecedented.

It is also compelling that in the Ezekiel 39 war, Gog is described as coming “from the uppermost parts of the North” and “against the mountains of Israel” (v.2). This language strongly concurs with the “mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north” interpretation of Armageddon. Brevard Childs’ scholarship on the enemy from the north and the chaos tradition suggests a possible connection:

Isa 14:12 ff. is a taunt against the king of Babylon and not directly related to the enemy tradition. Nevertheless, it is quite remarkable that the king who dared to “sit on the mount of assembly in the far north is described as the one “who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms.”[9]

It may be helpful to view this as cosmic north referring generally to the supernatural realm. In the aftermath, Gog falls on the mountains of Israel. In light of the case for supernatural warriors, it is interesting to note the distinction made between his hordes and people (Eze 39:4). In other words, his hordes are not necessarily human. There is a massive feast of carrion for the birds (39:4; cf. 17-20) which is correlated directly with Revelation 19:17-19. This also finds a parallel in Isaiah 18 and oracle addressing the inhabitants of the world (Is 18:3) and which culminates with the inauguration of Gods’ millennial kingdom (Is 18: 7ff).

Isaiah 18 Ezekiel 39 Revelation 19
 “They shall all of them be left to the birds of prey of the mountains and to the beasts of the earth. And the birds of prey will summer on them, and all the beasts of the earth will winter on them.”(Is 18:6) “You shall fall on the mountains of Israel, you and all your hordes and the peoples who are with you. I will give you to birds of prey of every sort and to the beasts of the field to be devoured.(Eze 39:4)“As for you, son of man, thus says the Lord God: Speak to the birds of every sort and to all beasts of the field, ‘Assemble and come, gather from all around to the sacrificial feast that I am preparing for you, a great sacrificial feast on the mountains of Israel, and you shall eat flesh and drink blood.” (Eze 39:17) “Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.” And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army.(Re 19:17–19)

There is only one time on the prophetic timeline in which one could say that God will reveal himself to all the nations and no longer tolerate his name being profaned (Eze.39:7; cf. Rev. 19:15). There is really only one day that he will regather all of Israel to their land while pouring out his spirit (Eze.39: 29;  cf. Joel 2:28).  Because these things are established “from that day forward”(Eze 39:22), this war will necessarily conclude just prior to the Millennium (Rev 20:4). That necessitates that this war happens on the narrow sense Day of the Lord, Armageddon or the battle of Har Mô∙ʿēḏ – the Cosmic Mountain of God.

Blow a trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm on my holy mountain!

Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming;

it is near, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness!

Like blackness there is spread upon the mountains a great and powerful people;

their like has never been before, nor will be again after them through the years of all generations.

Fire devours before them, and behind them a flame burns.

The land is like the garden of Eden before them, but behind them a desolate wilderness,

and nothing escapes them.

Their appearance is like the appearance of horses, and like war horses they run.

As with the rumbling of chariots, they leap on the tops of the mountains,

like the crackling of a flame of fire devouring the stubble,

like a powerful army drawn up for battle.

Joel 2:1-5

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[1] Septuagint Online, http://www.ecmarsh.com/lxx/Numbers/index.htm (accessed 9/03/2011).

[2] Chuck Missler, “Hosea and Amos: Prophets to the Northern Kingdom,” http://www.khouse.org/articles/2011/962/ (accessed 9/02/2011).

[2a] Thomas Horn, Apollyon Rising 2012: The Lost Symbol Found and the Final Mystery of the Great Seal Revealed (Crane, MS: Defender, 2009), 221.

[2b] David Allen Lewis and Robert Shreckhise, UFO: End-Time Delusion (Green Forest, Ark.: New Leaf Press (AR), 1991), 46.

[2c] Paradox Brown, A Modern Guide To Demons And Fallen Angels (Roswell NM: Seekye1 Publishing, 2008), 255.

[3] Kline, “Har Magedon,” 219.

[4] Heiser, Islam, 98-101.

[5]Vermes, The Dead Sea Scrolls in English, 141. [1 QM 15.2-3]

[6] Heiser, Islam, 102.

[7] Heiser, Islam, 100.

[8] Ralph H. Alexander, “Ezekiel” In , in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 6: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986), 934.

[9] Brevard S. Childs “The Enemy From the North and the Chaos Tradition.” (Journal of Biblical Literature, 1959), 196