When does the war of Ezekiel 38-39 take place in history?
The war described in Ezekiel 38-39 is a war prosecuted by Gentiles nations, led by a mysterious ruler, against Israel and Jerusalem. From the details given in Ezekiel, we can attempt to place the war in the overall timeline of eschatology.
First, notice the following verses:
From these few details, we can draw some initial conclusions:
1. The events of this war take place in the latter years, after many days.
2. They come against an Israel which has been "restored from the sword." To be restored from the sword means literally to have turn back from or to have repented from the weapons of war. This suggests that Israel has no war implements or armies with which to defend itself. The nation is only prepared for peaceful existence.
3. They live securely, at rest and without walls and defenses, presumably because they have no need for such things given #2 above.
These details combine to suggest an Israel unlike the one of our present age. This war will come upon an Israel that has repented of war and weapons, is peaceful, secure and at rest with the world of nations.
Next we read:
From this passage we learn the attacking forces come upon a nation of Israel that is living at the "center of the world." The Hebrew word for center means "highest point" or the heart of the world. This description is not accurate for the Israel of today. Though Jews have always perceived Israel as the center of the word, the Gentile nations do not grant Israel this status. However, in the time of this war, the Gentiles nations themselves will acknowledge that the Jews live at the heart of the world. Again, this is not an accurate depiction of the world we know today.
Though these two passages do not describe the present-day Israel, they do match Old Testament descriptions of the Israel of the Millennial Kingdom:
Notice that the Israel of the future will (once again) become the dwelling place for the Lord, for He will be literally dwelling among His people in Jerusalem. Because of the Lord's presence in the city, the nation of Israel and the city of Jerusalem will see its geography altered so that Israel is raised above all the hills of the Earth. Ezekiel also describes the Jerusalem of the Millennial Kingdom as a city occupying the highest mountain top in the world (Ezek 20:40; 37:21-23; 40:2; 43:12), and Isaiah says this results in all nations streaming to it. Finally Isaiah says the Lord will judge among the nations in perfect righteousness, rendering the implements of war unneeded.
These descriptions match the descriptions given in Ezekiel 38-39.
Furthermore, though the nations of the earth will no longer learn war (literally: train for war), the Enemy nevertheless will cause a final war to take place, according to Revelation 20:
This description also matches another passage from Ezekiel 38, describing the conclusion to this war:
The Lord Himself will fight the battle for Israel (since Israel has nor war implements), and He destroys the invading army by raining down fire, as Rev 2:9 describes.
Finally, Ezekiel names the participants of this battle:
The only other reference to a world leader of the name Gog, from the land of Magog, who fights against the Lord is found in Revelation 20:8, which describes the war that ends the Millennial Kingdom.
Based on these facts (and others in Ezekiel 38-39), we believe and teach that this war is the war that will end Christ's Kingdom. The main argument against this interpretation is where to fit the seven years of burning that Ezekiel says will conclude the war. Pastor Armstrong addresses that objection in the course of our Revelation study, when he teaches on the Kingdom in chapter 20.