Okay, to narrow the possibilities down, I think the first thing to do is to look at all the bible references in Ezekiel 38 and 39 that would best influence those possibilities. Here is a list of those references and what they pertain to.
Ezekiel 38:2-6, 15. The nations will come out of the north (of Israel).
Ezekiel 38:3-4; 39:1-4. God is against Gog and He is the one who will bring the nations to war.
Ezekiel 38:8, 12; 39:27-28. Israel is restored from the sword and gathered from many nations.
Ezekiel 38:8-11. Israel is living securely in a land with unwalled villages.
Ezekiel 38:10-13. They will come to seize plunder.
Ezekiel 38:13. Some nations that will question the invasion.
Ezekiel 38:16, 23; 39:6-7, 21-29. God will be sanctified through it.
Ezekiel 38:19-23. God’s judgment on the nations: earthquake, infighting, pestilence, rain, hail, fire, and brimstone.
Ezekiel 39:4, 17-20. Birds and beasts will feed on the dead.
Ezekiel 39:12-16. It will take seven months to bury the dead.
Ezekiel 39:9. Israel will be burning he weapons for seven years.
Narrowing the Possibilities
After studying these references, with an eye on the eight possible time periods (on the previous page), I deduced that there were four of the periods that I could eliminate right away. The first two were the non-literal view and the historical view. The non-literal view obviously must be eliminated because its originators would agree that the invasion has no time period. The historical view can also be easily proven false because the events of Esther 9 and Ezekiel 38 and 39 just don’t match up.
The other two questionable time periods would be the period between His Second Coming and the Millennium and the period at the end of the Millennium. In the period between His Second Coming and the Millennium, though Israel would definitely be at peace, the problem is that during this time period all the unbelievers will be dead and all wars will be over; Christ will be victorious over the world and the only humans left will be believers.
As for the period at the end of the Millennium, though Gog and Magog are mentioned (Rev. 20:8), I see three different problems: (1) the battle in Revelation 20:7-10 is by nations which are “in the four corners of the earth,” and not just in the north (Ezek. 38:2-6); (2) the nations here are gathered by Satan and not by God (Ezek. 38:3-4); and (3) there will be no time of seven years to burn the weapons, or seven months to bury the dead. In fact, there will be no need to do it; for immediately after this attempted takeover by Satan, God will bring His final judgment on all unbelievers, and also upon the earth and the universe (2Pt. 3:10, 13; Rev. 21:1).
So we are left with four time periods: the time period before the Rapture; the period between the Rapture and the Tribulation; at the middle of the Tribulation; and at Armageddon. I have considered all of them, but again, I think we can eliminate two more periods.
The period at the middle of the Tribulation has some valid points, but I see one major problem. The events (according to various bible passages), don’t match up with what happens in the Ezekiel passage. For as we know, according to Daniel 9:27, in the middle of the Tribulation the Antichrist will break his covenant with Israel. Then he will take his seat in the temple and declare himself as God (2 Thess. 2:4), and many Jews will flee out of Jerusalem and into the mountains for safety (Matt. 24:15-16). But I see the events in Ezekiel 38 and 39 entirely different. Here we see nothing of the Antichrist taking over Jerusalem. We see only Russia and Muslim countries north of Israel that are destroyed before they even get there.
As for the time period at Armageddon, many may be convinced of this choice because of the seemingly identical description of the judgments (the earthquake, rain, hail, fire, and brimstone, etc.), and also of the birds and beasts that will feed on the dead. But I really don’t see why God couldn’t bring the same judgments on both events.
Also, there are definitely two problems that will eliminate this choice: first, the nations involved in the Ezekiel battle are out of the north (of Israel), and the nations at Armageddon, recorded for us in Revelation 16:14, are from the “whole world”; secondly, Israel at this time is hardly living securely and at rest. Many have fled to the mountains, and most of the rest are either killed by the sword or captured (Matt. 24:9).
So we are left with two options for the invasion: before the Rapture or between the Rapture and the Tribulation. And I see no valid reason why it couldn’t be either one. There are no problems with either view.
In fact, these two views are the best views of the eight that leave enough time for the burning of the weapons. Let me explain.
After the invasion is over Israel will be burning the weapons of the dead troops for seven years (Ezek. 39:9). Since most of Israel will flee into the mountains at the midpoint of the Tribulation, it is most probable that they will have finished burning the weapons at that time. Therefore, from the beginning of the Tribulation to the midpoint, they will have been burning the weapons for three and one-half years; so they will still need three and one-half more years previous to that time to burn the weapons. And I see this as very possible and also close to the time of the Rapture.
Moreover, either view will nicely set the stage for the signing of the peace covenant.