The Book of Revelation, chapter 19, contains what is perhaps the most famous Biblical passage concerning the return of Jesus. There, Jesus the Messiah is seen to burst forth from heaven, riding on a white horse with the armies of heaven following Him. But as powerful and well known as this prophetic portrayal of the return of Jesus is, few are aware of the fact that the prophecy of Ezekiel 38 and 39, most often known as the Battle of Gog of Magog, also concludes with the return of Jesus. In fact, it can be said that Ezekiel 38 and 39 is in fact, the Armageddon of the Old Testament.
Although many popular interpreters have wrongly understood this passage to conclude several years before the return of Jesus, any honest assessment of the text simply does not allow for this. But among the many reasons to reject a pre-Day of the LORD conclusion of this prophecy, one of the simplest, is because it concludes with the LORD actually physically present in the land of Israel.
That’s right, Ezekiel reveals that at the conclusion of Gog’s invasion, Jesus the Messiah is physically present on the ground, in the land. Consider the following passage:
“For in my jealousy and in my blazing wrath I declare, on that day there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel. The fish of the sea and the birds of the heavens and the beasts of the field and all creeping things that creep on the ground, and all the people who are on the face of the earth, shall quake at my presence” —Ezekiel 38:19–20
According to this text, the Lord Himself says that throughout the earth, both people and animals will “quake at [His] presence.” The word used for presence here is the Hebrew word paneh. Paneh is a reference to the actual face of someone or something. When God says that the people of the earth will quake at His paneh, He is saying that they will be terrified because of His actual physical presence, on the ground, in the land of Israel (see also: Zechariah 14:2-5, Isaiah 29:2-8, Revelation 16:16-20).
Concerning the word paneh, The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary says, “The presence (face) of Jehovah is Jehovah in his own personal presence.” The New International Encyclopedia of Bible Words says, “In the OT, being in God’s or another’s presence is indicated by a preposition (l) prefixed to the Hebrew word panim (‘face’). The thought is to be ‘before the face of the person.” Paneh is used throughout the Old Testament to refer to the actual presence of God. Jacob, for instance, after wrestling with the Angel of the Lord, referred to seeing God face-to-face:
“So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, ‘For I have seen God face [paneh] to face [paneh], and yet my life has been delivered’” —Genesis 32:30
It is also interesting to note that in place of the Hebrew paneh, the Septuagint used the Greek word prosopon. Prosopon is one of two words commonly used in the New Testament to refer to actual presence. The other word is parousia, which is commonly associated with the Second Coming. To convey actual presence, between parousia and prosopon, prosopon is the more powerful term. While parousia most often implies coming, prosopon implies actual face-to-face presence. As Jesus is coming on the clouds, this is His parousia, but once He has actually arrived, then the word prosopon is used.
An excellent example of the New Testament usage of prosopon is a scene where the righteous are actually looking upon the face of God in the eternal city:
“No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face [prosopon], and his name will be on their foreheads” —Revelation 22:4
Ezekiel’s description of people quaking in fear of God’s face reveals that at the conclusion of the Battle of Gog and Magog, Jesus the Messiah, God incarnate, is physically present on the earth, in the land of Israel.
The Holy One in Israel
Further evidence for the physical presence of Jesus at the conclusion of this battle is seen in the following verse:
“And my holy name I will make known in the midst of my people Israel, and I will not let my holy name be profaned anymore. And the nations shall know that I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel.” — Ezekiel 39:7
This is the only time that the phrase “the LORD, the Holy One in Israel” is used in the whole Bible. It is the Hebrew YHVH qadowsh baYisra’el. A similar phrase, “the Holy One of Israel” (qadowsh Yisra’el), is used thirty-one times in Scripture (e.g., Isaiah 12:6; 43:3; 55:5; 60:9, etc.). But here in Ezekiel, the Lord is not merely the Holy One of Israel; He is actually present in the land and on the ground! While the popular position holds that this passage concludes several years before the return of Jesus, this verse makes this an absolute impossibility.
Other biblical commentators have also taken special note of God’s presence in Ezekiel’s oracle as evidence that it is a parallel to the Battle of Armageddon in Revelation 19. Apologist Dave Hunt for instance has stated:
“There is no doubt, from both Zechariah 12 and Revelation 1 and 19, that this personal coming of Yahweh to rescue His people and to destroy Antichrist and his armies takes place at Armageddon. It is significant, then, that similar language concerning the personal presence of God is found in Ezekiel 38 and 39, thus identifying the event described there as Armageddon also.”
Hunt’s observations are correct. But while most conservative, premillennialist, futurist interpreters who take Scripture at face value and use a literalist heremeutic will interpret the entirety of this passage in a literal fashion, when it comes to these two texts which show that God is actually present and in the land, many suddenly switch to an allegorical and non-literalist interpretation, without any justification for doing so.
If one uses a consistent literal method to interpret Ezekiel 38 and 39, then one must acknowledge that it concludes with the return of Jesus the Messiah. And as I have said before, if this is the case, within the world of Biblical prophecy, this absolutely changes everything. It is high time for the Church to begin wrestling with the implications.