“Peace and security” is an outstanding prophecy for the final part of the days. It is a prophecy we all are waiting for fulfillment. In this lecture, I will develop, in a series of more than one article, a discussion into prophecies. A sequence of different oracles related to our times will be examined. For instance, the events involving Gog of Magog and the appearing of the kings of north and south that interface with the outcry of peace and security and the fall of Babylon the Great. This is now a first introductory, somewhat preliminary part.
The obscurity of the prophetic message
Prophecy has generally a common feature: it has to be obscure for many reasons. It will be completely understood only after its fulfillment. If oracles were totally clear since the beginning, someone could seek to accomplish them for personal benefit or, on the contrary, strive to avoid their achievement. The same obscurity is especially true for Gog of Magog.
This is a well-known fresco by Ezekiel. It is generally believed that this will be the last conflict of the world with God, leading to the complete overthrow of human society. But, is it truly like that?
Names were accurately chosen
Just to start, let’s consider Gog and Magog. Who are they? I will examine their pedigrees first. Names in the Bible are always well chosen. They convey a meaning with them, like labels posted on a drawer. Bible characters are often introduced in the Scriptures with names they didn’t actually possess during their life.
We assume that names of Biblical characters are not accidental but reflect their essence or memorialize pivotal events of their lives. This makes perfect sense when we consider that Biblical individuals were called by several different names over their lifetimes and that sometimes different names were given “post-mortem”, in remembrance of major events.
A couple of examples
For example: “And he called his name Noah, meaning to say, “This one will give us comfort (e-noach-meinu) (Genesis 5: 29)”. Here the name reflects the character’s mission.”The name of one was Peleg, for, in his days, the entire world became divided (ni-peleg-a) (Genesis 10:25)” This name was given relative to the confusion of languages and the consequent dispersion after the Tower of Babel. It occurred during Peleg’s lifetime.
Even more, let’s consider the opening verses in the book of Ruth. She had two sons and both died of illness. Their names were Mahlon and Chilion, the one meaning Sickly and the other Frailty. Do you really think parents would choose names like these for their children at their birth?
So, we have to engage in ‘reverse engineering’, trying to grasp the extent of this prophetic character, his complex personality, and the amazing architecture in the building of its founding concepts. We must be aware that prophets taught in “riddles and parables” (Proverbs 1:6) and that our task is extract and restate their message in the plain language we use today.
Sometimes a single character is introduced, his fathers and forefathers are fully described, and his story then related. But, apparently, the same couldn’t be said of Gog of Magog. So, in order to build a background, the question is, are there any passages, besides Ezekiel, where these names are mentioned? There is an apparent paucity of clues and the first one appears to be the Gog of Magog name itself.
The Vilna Gaon’s methods
Obviously, to understand the prophecy, I have to search into the Bible. The Vilna Gaon (1720- 1797), a passionate learner of the Torah, suggested a major way to dig into the holy texts. He perceived that, in order to unveil the meaning of a word, you should consider the many passages where the word appears and especially the context where the same word appears for the first time.
Gog, an Israelite
So, let’s examine this name: Gog. There’s only one passage where we can find the name plainly revealed before. It’s in 1Chronicles 5:1,4. Here you find that Gog was a man in the genealogic descent of Reuben. This way, we start to grasp a first important datum. Gog sorts out sometimes, and I mean “sometimes” only – the character is too complex to generalize – as an Israelite. It will be under this cover “also” that the personage will play his part during the final battle. The etymologic sense of the name should help as well. I’ll consider it later on and you will get aware of the great ambiguity connected to the guy.
One of Jafet descent
Now, the same reasoning has to be made with Magog, as well. He is registered as one of the sons of Jafet, according to the table of the nations (Genesis chapter 10: 2). As a consequence, Magog is a model of the worldly nations of the earth. About this celebrity, the last book of the Bible, Revelation 20:7-8 reads as follows: “Now as soon as the 1,000 years have ended, Satan will be released from his prison, 8 and he will go out to mislead those nations in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war. The number of these is as the sand of the sea”.
So Gog and Magog are cryptic names which stand for the nations at the four angles of the earth. The indication here emerging is that there are two wars in perspective, one before the start of the millennium and one when it finishes. Let’s concentrate on the first, immediate war, and consider some main points.
The time appointed for the battle.
Ezekiel 38:8 makes it clear the point, this is a war to be fought in the final part of the years.
“‘“ You will be given attention after many days. In the final part of the years, you will invade the land whose people have been restored from the ravages of the sword, collected together out of many peoples onto the mountains of Israel, which had long been lying devastated. The inhabitants of this land were restored from the peoples, and all of them dwell in security. You will come against them like a storm, and you will cover the land like clouds, you and all your troops and many peoples with you.”’
“Peace and security!”
There is a people which is staying everywhere on the earth and living in a spiritual paradise. Could the words expressed in Isaiah 2:2 tell you anything? Then, probably, we belong to the same people. Of them, Isaiah wrote: “In the final part of the days, The mountain of the house of Jehovah Will become firmly established above the top of the mountains, And it will be raised up above the hills, And to it, all the nations will stream.”.
Then, the appointed time for fulfillment is a period of peace and security, maybe a time of a bold overconfidence, when anything unforeseen, unexpected can happen. The first letter to the Thessalonians keeps this warning:
‘“Whenever it is that they are saying, “Peace and security!” then sudden destruction is to be instantly on them, just like birth pains on a pregnant woman, and they will by no means escape. ”’1 Thessalonians 5:3
The same, apparently, will be the final situation for a people living on earth in the final days. So, God addresses Gog by the words: “This is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah says: ‘In that day thoughts will come into your heart, and you will devise an evil plan. You will say: “I will invade the land of unprotected settlements. I will come against those living in security, without disturbance, all of them living in settlements unprotected by walls, bars, or gates.” Ezekiel 38:10-11
Some lexical analysis
The original Greek text about Peace and Security reads as following: ὅταν λέγωσιν Εἰρήνη καὶ ἀσφάλεια, τότε αἰφνίδιος αὐτοῖς ἐπίσταται ὄλεθρος ὥσπερ ἡ ὠδὶν τῇ ἐν γαστρὶ ἐχούσῃ, καὶ οὐ μὴ ἐκφύγωσιν (original Greek text of 1Thessalonians 5:3).
The same words “Peace and security!” Εἰρήνη καὶ ἀσφάλεια appear in the passage of Ezekiel’s prophecy regarding Gog of Magog. (Ezekiel 38:11). The corresponding Hebrew words are the following: וְאָמַרְתָּ֗ אֶֽעֱלֶה֙ עַל־אֶ֣רֶץ פְּרָזֹ֔ות אָבֹוא֙ הַשֹּׁ֣קְטִ֔ים יֹשְׁבֵ֖י לָבֶ֑טַח כֻּלָּ֗ם יֹֽשְׁבִים֙ בְּאֵ֣ין חֹומָ֔ה וּבְרִ֥יחַ וּדְלָתַ֖יִם אֵ֥ין
Flipping through an Hebrew-English dictionary
Flipping through a Greek-English dictionary
I have to apply the same proceeding to the Greek text of 1Thessalonians 5,3:
αἰφνίδιος and ὄλεθρος are the most interesting words to examine.
Thayer’s Greek Lexicon at the issue αἰφνίδιος, (αἰφνης, ἀφανής, ἄφνω, which see), translates: unexpected, sudden, unforeseen
3639 ólethros (from ollymi/“destroy”) – properly, ruination with its full, destructive results (LS). 3639 /ólethros (“ruination”) however does not imply “extinction” (annihilation). Rather it emphasizes the consequent loss that goes with the complete “undoing.”
Adding two words to conclude
We should notice a first important point. The oracle about Gog of Magog does in itself incorporate another one. It is the prophecy we read in 1 Thessalonians 5:3 about the outcry of peace and security. When you grasp the one you will also understand the other.