Ezekiel 38 and Ezekiel 39 are the Siamese Twins of prophecy chapters. They have long been attached at the hip by commentators, but if they can be separated they will live better lives.
Three Campaigns, Not One
Dr. Charles Cooper states: “Commentators recognize a similarity between Revelation 19:17-18, and 21b and Ezekiel 39:17-20. The exact nature of the relationship between Revelation 19 and Ezekiel 38-39 is not at all clear. . . . No position enjoys the absence of contradictions.”
I respectfully suggest that the way to interpret Ezekiel 38 and 39 without contradiction or confusion is to recognize that they should be broken into their respective military campaigns, not run together. In Ezekiel 38 and 39, the prophet receives three separate predictions concerning Gog and the nations allied with him. The intermingling of these three prophecies can only generate confusion.
Order of the Three Campaigns
The prophecy of the first attack starts in Ezekiel 38:1, the second in Ezekiel 38:17, and the third in Ezekiel 39:1. Each begins with the phrase “Thus says the Lord God.” Each concludes with a declaration that God’s renown will increase due to His dealings with Gog. See, for example, the last verse in Ezekiel 38:
“‘“I will magnify Myself, sanctify Myself, and make Myself known in the sight of many nations; and they will know that I am the LORD.”’” (Ezekiel 38:23)
The description of the attack in Ezekiel 39 closely parallels the description of Armageddon in Revelation 19. However, the “starting condition” for Gog’s initial attack is that Israel will be living in safety, which is not what Israel is doing at the time of Armageddon. Indeed, Israel will be severely persecuted from the midpoint of the seventieth week through the end (though the ones who flee to the wilderness will be protected). So there you have the first (midpoint) attack separated from the third (Armageddon) attack. The second attack occurs at the start of the Day of the Lord, which means it is the Great Winepress (according to Revelation 14 and other passages).
The Battle of the Midpoint
The first prophecy, found in Ezekiel 38:1-16, features God drawing a man named Gog to attack His people (the Jews) in His land (Israel). The Jews in Israel at the time of this attack are described as “living securely” in verses 8, 11, and 14. This attack, if it occurs within the seventieth week of Daniel, must happen no later than the midpoint of that week. Israel will not be dwelling securely on her God-given territory from the midpoint of the seventieth week until the end of it. Rather, she will be exiled, harassed, and hunted.
It is true that Revelation 12 finds the woman (a faithful remnant within Israel) fleeing into the wilderness for 3½ years, the second half of the seventieth week. This remnant will be protected and preserved. The rest of the Jews, though, will suffer the worst persecution ever. It’s a grievous thing to think about or write about. In our eagerness to unravel the puzzles of biblical prophecy, we must not forget that real people will be affected by these tragic events.
The Great Winepress
The second prophecy, given in Ezekiel 38:17-23, finds Gog bringing troops and peoples against Israel again. They have tried to steal God’s land (Israel) and are now poised to attack His people, the Jews—specifically the Jews living in God’s holy city, Jerusalem. God intervenes with an earthquake and with His own presence, which terrifies and confuses Gog’s horde. To this He adds pestilence, blood, a torrential rainfall, hailstones, fire, and brimstone.
Thus, the people who have accompanied Gog into his planned (but thwarted) attack on Jerusalem are crushed in the Great Winepress. The armies are destroyed. The people God has chosen for His own possession are saved. God’s measureless holiness, justice, and mercy shine forth.
The Battle of Armageddon
Gog himself survives the Great Winepress to bring a third military campaign against Israel, which is shown in the third prophecy, located in Ezekiel 39:1-29. This campaign results in a great feast for the birds and the beasts, which in Revelation is called “the Great Supper of God” (Revelation 19:17). This third prophecy, therefore, concerns the Battle of Armageddon, where the Lord Jesus annihilates Gog, his armies, and the armies that have joined them.
Gog from Magog will attack Israel three times, but be successful only once. The other two attacks are miraculously thwarted. Praise God! Although the chosen people will suffer dreadfully, they will ultimately be rescued and protected. God will never forget His promises to them—or to us! His Word is rock solid. We can depend upon it without reservation.
Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible®, unless otherwise noted. Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. Bolding and italics mine. Brackets mine, added for clarity and emphasis.
 This blog post was adapted from material that originally appeared in the author’s book The Great Winepress Is Not Armageddon, copyright © 2008.
 “Parousia” Newsletter #16, Fall 2000, p. 7. From the article “The Prophetic Pillars of the PreWrath Position: The Battle of Armageddon Occurs Thirty Days After the Conclusion of Daniel’s seventieth week.” © 2000 The Sign Ministries, a ministry of Sola Scriptura.