Is Russia the Gog and Magog of Armageddon in the Bible?


Dean W. Arnold

Many Christians today believe Russia will be the fulfillment of "Gog and Magog" cited in both Ezekiel and Revelation in the Bible, a military force that will invade Israel. 

What is the argument for this position? Does the Bible say it is Russia? No. The argument is that the Hebrew word for Magog is "rosh." Rosh sounds a lot like Russia. 

That's the argument. That's it. Suffice it to say, it's not a good one. 

1. The Hebrew meaning of rosh is simply head or prince. It is used over 600 hundred times in the Old Testament, and it never means Russia.

2. Russia means "people of Rus." The earliest reference to the people of Rus is c. A.D. 832, when some Swedish/Viking type people used the word in referring to today's Kiev, Ukraine. So, Russia didn't really even exist until nearly 800 years after the book of Revelation was written and over 1000 years after Ezekiel.

3. The people who started the "Russia is Gog and Magog" meme are highly irresponsible Last Days evangelicals. These are the same people who assured us Jesus would return a generation after Israel became a nation. It's been nearly 70 years.


4. So what does Gog and Magog refer to? Oxford theologian Austin Farrer, a close friend of C.S. Lewis, who took him sacraments later in life, persuasively argues that the meaning for Gog and Magog is the rebellious nations of the world, those from Psalm 2 which gather against "the LORD and his anointed." You know, like a nation that might promote the abomination of same sex marriages. (You see what I did there? This loosy-goosy Armageddon talk can go both ways.)

5. The absurd Russia as Magog theory actually made slightly more sense 30 years ago when Russia (the Soviet Union) was an outspoken atheist empire, not the current, much smaller nation, returning to it's historic 1000-year Orthodox Christian roots and defending traditional marriage and other values on the international stage. But a bigger problem than poor biblical interpretation for End Times madness is the modern narcissistic Christian's insistence that they, and they only, must be living in the final generation. Author David Chilton, who argued against the silly Magog theory (even while the Soviet Union still existed), provides some historical context. "Those who are shocked that the possible future conquest of the United States by the Soviets might not be included in Bible prophecy would do well to consider the large number of important conflicts throughout the last thousand years of Western history that have been omitted--such as:

... the Norman Conquest, the War of the Roses, the Thirty Years War, the English Civil War, the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Napoleonic War, the Seminole War, the Revolutions of 1848, the Crimean War, the War Between the States, the Sioux Indian War, the Boer War, the Spanish-American War, the Mexican Revolution, the First World War, the Spanish Civil War, the Italo-Ethiopian War, the Second World War, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, to name a few; many of which were viewed by contemporary apocalyptists as notable fulfillments of Biblical prophecy." (p. 521)

Jesus may or may not be coming tomorrow. It may be a few hundred or a few thousand more years. (I've written about the two extreme possibilities here.) But if we are going to speculate on the End Times, let's try including some historical humility. And let's avoid Romper Room arguments about Russia.