(Rev. 20:7-8) Do Gog and Magog rebel before the millennium or after?

CLAIM: Amillennials often argue that premillennials can’t agree with each other, and premillennial theology leads to contradictory conclusions. For instance, the book of Ezekiel states that Gog and Magog rebel against God before the millennium (Ezek. 38), but John tells us that they rebel after the millennium (Rev. 20:8). Amillennials argue that this shows that the premillennial perspective is contradictory at worst, or confused at best. Is this the case?

RESPONSE: A number of observations can be made:

First, we believe that these could be describing two separate events. While Ezekiel 38:15 states that Gog will only come from “the remote parts of the north” (Ezek. 38:15; 39:2) John writes that Gog and Magog will come from “the four corners of the earth” (Rev. 20:8). This could be a textual cue of two separate events, which would harmonize these two accounts.

Second, there is a difference between contradiction and confusion. Literal fulfillment of the Bible should never lead to contradiction, but it does lead to confusion. If the biblical data is contradictory, then a literal interpretation isn’t warranted. While it is true that the premillennial perspective is confusing, it isn’t contradictory; otherwise, another interpretation would be warranted.

Third, while the biblical data is often confusing, it is still possible (and certain) if God says it. We might question how these prophecies will be fulfilled, but we should not question that they will be fulfilled. Consider a Jewish rabbi 200 years before Christ, trying to explain the First and Second Comings of Christ. I’m sure he said, “These passages about the Messiah are contradictory! How can the Messiah be both a Suffering Servant and a Reigning Ruler? They both can’t be literal.” And yet, the answer is simple looking back on the event. There were two comings of Christ. The predictions were literal, but he just couldn’t see how they worked out. It would have been wrong for him to deny a literal interpretation, simply because he was confused as to their outcome.

Fourth, struggling with these prophecies is better than “spiritualizing” these prophecies. While the literal interpreter might struggle with understanding a lot of the OT scriptures, it is still better than just allegorizing or spiritualizing them, because we can’t understand them. In other words, a struggling interpretation of OT verses is still better than no interpretation! The amillennial interpretation is admittedly easier, but this doesn’t make it true. As we already discussed elsewhere (see “Why did God make eschatology so confusing?”), Daniel was confused with his prophecies, too (Dan. 12:6-10). We prefer to take a literal interpretation and be confused on small details (like the return of Gog and Magog), than an allegorical interpretation (and dismiss large portions of Scripture). At least, we would be in good company with the prophet Daniel! (c.f. 1 Pet. 1:10-11)