Last time we began a study based on prophecies found in the books of Isaiah, Psalms, and Ezekiel. We entitled this section from our, “Israel’s Prophetic Future” series, “Isaiah, Asaph, and The Ezekiel War Scenario.” These passages, and others related to them, present events foretold by men of God millenia ago, and yet the events portrayed are still future to our time. We are not given an exact time-line, nor are we given a precise sequence of these events. Yet, as we study the scriptures led by the Holy Spirit we can at least ascertain a probable or possible scenario of how these events will unfold. That is the purpose of this particular section under examination presently.
Biblical scholars and avid students of the scriptures differ as to how to interpret these passages. Some see the destruction of Damascus foretold by Isaiah in Isaiah 17:1 as having occurred in the days of Jehoshaphat. While we see, as we discussed last time, a partial fulfillment at that time, it was not the exact event foretold by Isaiah. That event, Damascus being reduced to a, “ruinous heap” never to be a city again is yet future, perhaps near future; but future nonetheless. How will it occur? Most likely in the wake of some sort of nuclear event, perhaps initiated by Israel or one of her enemies, however we are not told exactly how it will occur.
In the case of Psalm 83, penned by Asaph, David’s music director and young priest from the Tribe of Levi; we see a group of Islamic nations, the ancient names of which all represent present mortal enemies of Israel, all conspiring to wipe out Israel and eliminate them from being a nation. Is the Psalm 83 coalition a separate military campaign, or is it part of a larger multinational effort aimed against Israel? Again, opinions vary among competent brethren. I am of the position the more I study this that the Psalm 83 war is indeed a distinct event that may include the destruction of Damascus with it, and also could serve as a bridge to the Ezekiel 38, 39 war. It is very possible that Psalm 83 will be a pre-rapture event, with Ezekiel 38, 39 probably being a post-rapture event, more than likely occurring very near the beginning of the seven-year Great Tribulation period. Again, exact time-lines are not given to us.
With respect to the Ezekiel 38, 39 war, there have been many misunderstandings. There are commentators who equate it with Armageddon. This is a mistake, as I believe we will demonstrate. In the Ezekiel account we see the rise of Islam portrayed in such vivid detail it could be taken from today’s headlines, and yet it was foretold again, millineia ago.
Before we examine in some detail Ezekiel 38, 39; I want to share with you ten reasons why we know that the Ezekiel war scenario and Armageddon are not synonymous.
- The invasion described by Ezekiel involves only a limited number of nations which are named. They are Meshech and Tubal from the land of Magog (Russia), Persia (Iran), Togarmah (Turkey), Libya and Ethiopia (modern-day Sudan) with protests from the “Merchants of Tarshish and the young lions thereof.” (Britain, USA, etc.) and “Sheba and Dedan (The Arabian Peninsula). The invaders are all Muslim nations led by Russia, whereas the final battle at Armageddon will involve “The kings of the earth and of the whole world” (Rev. 16:14, Joel 3:1).
- There are different leaders in these two invasions. The first invasion is led by Gog from the land of Magog (Russia), while Armageddon is orchestrated by Antichrist who is the final ruler of the revised Roman Empire.
- A large component of the armies at Armageddon will come from “The kings of the East”, and their number is 200 million and is said to come from the East beyond the Euphrates, whereas the Russian-led invasion is described by Joel as “the northern army” (Joel 2:20). Muslim nations couldn’t raise an army of this size.
- After the Russian/Muslim invasion one sixth of the invaders will be driven into Siberia, “a land barren and desolate with his face toward the east sea” (Joel 2:20), but there will be no place for the armies to escape from Armageddon. Those surviving will actually be gathered to Jerusalem for final judgment as “Sheep” or “goats” (Matt. 25:31 – 46).
- The armies at Armageddon will fill the land of Israel and reach Jerusalem (Zech. 14:2) and “the valley of Jehoshaphat” (Joel 3:2), whereas the Russian/Muslim army is destroyed on “the mountains of Israel” (Ezek. 39:4). There is nothing to indicate they will reach Jerusalem.
- Armageddon will see the visible appearance of Christ sweeping through the armies of the kings of the earth, who will be slain by the sword that proceeds from His mouth (Rev. 19:15), but the northern army of Russians and Muslims will be slain by an earthquake, disunity (they will slay each other), disease, hail stones, and fire and brimstone. At Armageddon the Lord says, “Of the people there were none with me (Isa. 63:1 – 6), but in the northern invasion God uses natural agencies. They are totally different scenes.
- The purpose of these invasions is quite different. Armageddon is to bring the judgment of God on the Gentile nations led by Antichrist and to deliver Israel who will be in grave physical danger, whereas the Russian/Muslim invasion is intended to bring Israel to repentance.
- To describe Ezekiel 38, 39 as Armageddon is totally inconsistent with the message of Ezekiel. His commission was exclusively to Israel, whereas Armageddon is the final rebellion of the Gentile powers. Ezekiel was told, “Thou art NOT sent to a people of a strange speech and of an hard language, but to the house of Israel.” (Ezek. 3:5) Daniel’s prophecies, however, are essentially about the “times of the Gentiles.”
If we trace the message of Ezekiel through his 48 chapters, he describes Israel’s sin and the glory of God departing from the Temple in his own day. This is followed by prophecies which have already been fulfilled by the Babylonians, and the final segment, from chapter 34 to 48, describes events of the last days which bring Israel to repentance, and sees the Glory of God return to a rebuilt Temple in the Kingdom Age. There is nothing in Ezekiel’s prophecy about the final judgment of Antichrist and the Gentile nations but only God’s response when Israel repents (See Ezek. 39:22- 29; Joel 2:20). The purpose of the Russian/Muslim invasion is to bring Israel to repentance.
- Since the conversion of Israel occurs at the Russian/Muslim invasion (Ezek. 39:22), and Israel has “the testimony of Jesus Christ” at the midpoint of the seven-year Tribulation (Rev. 12:17) when she is driven into the wilderness for the last 1,260 days, then the Russian/Muslim invasion must occur in the first half of the Tribulation. It cannot be, as I see the scriptures indicating, before the rapture or there would be no Jews here for the Tribulation. They would become part of the Church and all be raptured. And lastly,
- The reason some commentators have confused these two conflicts is because they have assumed that Israel repents when Christ returns to earth, but Israel will then be a saved nation and looking for the Lord when He comes. It will be too late to repent when Christ appears in judgment. They will say, “Lo, this is our God: we have waited for him, and he will save us” (Isa. 25:9). He would not rescue a nation that was still rejecting Messiah.
Here is an additional thought to buttress the points we have already made. Ezekiel 38, 39 states that the Gog-Magog battle will supply Israel with seven years worth of fuel and verse 12 states that Israel will take seven months to bury the dead. As Armageddon ends with Jesus’ Second Coming, the Gog-Magog battle must be a separate incident. It is also no coincidence that the Tribulation lasts seven years, placing the date of the Gog-Magog battle at the very beginning of this upcoming time period.
Having shown I believe that the Gog-Magog invasion and Armageddon are separate incidents, let’s consider,
- THE EZEKIEL WAR SCENARIO: Ezekiel 38, 39
Ezekiel begins, And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him, And say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal: [Ezek. 38:1 – 3] There is a great deal here, and I want to be very careful to handle it all properly. First, who or what exactly is, “Gog?” There is some discussion concerning this among competent brethren. However, the word, “Gog” means “roof” literally, or that which is on top. I personally believe that this is an individual rather than a spiritual entity. “Gog” refers to a world or national leader. It is a word much like, “President”, “Prime Minister”, “Czar”, etc. This refers to the “Man at the top”, if you will. Gog represents the leader of this coalition of nations to which the Word of the LORD refers to, as given to the Prophet Ezekiel. Within the text itself we get a clue as to his identity when he is referred to as the, “chief prince”.
“Chief” is the Hebrew, rosh. This word basically means, “Head”, or, “ruler.” There is something more we can see here as well. In this context this word has provided bit of an interpretive problem for scholars. It can be translated as a proper noun or an adjective. Many translations, such as the KJV, translate Rosh as an adjective and therefore render it, “chief.” I believe the better translation is to translate it as a proper noun referring to a specific place, Russia. The great Hebrew scholar Gesenius stated that, Rosh, should indeed be, Russia. Dean Stanley, author of the exhaustive, History of The Eastern Church, commenting on Gesenius noted that this is the only reference to a modern nation in the entire Old Testament. That is remarkable.
Bishop Lowther made the statement that Rosh taken as a proper name in Ezekiel signified the inhabitants of Scythia from whom the modern Russians derive their name.
We know from history, Russia was first called Muscovy, derived from Meshech. Ivan the Fourth, a czar of Russia, who was called Ivan the Terrible, came to the Muscovite throne in 1533. He assumed the title of Czar, which was the first time the title was used. I am sure you detect that the names Meshech and Tubal certainly sound like Moscow, and Tobolsk, which is way over in Siberia. This certainly leads us to believe that Ezekiel is talking about Russia in this passage. There are linguistic reasons obviously to identify this leader and people with Russia.
There are also geographical reasons that point to Russia as, “The land of Magog.” In verses 5 and 6 we read a list of the nations that will join with Russia in the last days, Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya with them; all of them with shield and helmet: Gomer, and all his bands; the house of Togarmah of the north quarters, and all his bands: and many people with thee. [Ezek. 38:5, 6]I submit to you that “Meshech” and “Tubal” refer to the cities of Moscow and Tubalsk. We read of a total of eight different geographic areas that will join with this last days Russian mad man. “Torgomah” corresponds to modern-day Turkey. “Magog” actually takes in Central Asia, all Islamic southern republics of the former Soviet Union. “”Persia” is Iran, Ethiopia or Cush corresponds to modern-day Sudan. “Gomer” is Germany. The phrase, “Of the North quarters” gives us the geographic location.
Looking ahead to Ezekiel 38:15 we read, And thou shalt come from thy place out of the north parts. In 39:2 the same location is given. The literal rendering is, “The uttermost parts of the north.” If you look at a map you will find that Russia is directly north-northeast of Israel. It covers Israel much like a cloud. When you start going north of Israel, you end up in Russia.
It is important to understand that directions in the Bible are in relation to the land of Israel. In the Bible “North” does not refer to north of where you live. It always refers to any area north of Israel. South is south of Israel, and so on. Israel is the geographical center of the earth as far as the Word of God is concerned.
Not only can we identify this land of Magog linguistically and geographically with Russia, but there are philosophic and ideological reasons for identifying this biblical land with Russia. I want to touch on those as we bring this edition to a close. Notice the language of Ezekiel 38:3, And say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal: [Ezek. 38:3 Emphasis added] This is strange language. Several times in the book of Ezekiel the Lord said that He was “against” certain nations. He said it about Babylon; He said it about Egypt; and He said it about nations that were against His people or His person. Now He says it about a nation that would arise in the “latter years”, a nation which is against God. We know that is the case because God says, “I am against you.”
This makes this nation different from any other. Why? Because God had said He was against nations already in existence. Now He says He is against a nation that wasn’t even in existence when the prophecy was given. That is truly amazing. We have seen this nation arise in the “latter years”, and it is in existence today. This nation arose with it’s primary philosophy being that of atheism. The political economy of Russia rests on the premise that there is no God. I know the Soviet Union as it once was fell. I know a door was opened for the proclamation of the gospel in the former Soviet Union under the Presidency and leadership of the late Boris Yeltsin. However, and read this carefully, those days are essentially gone. There is a new “sheriff” in town in the person of Vladimir Putin. He is old-school Russia at heart. He is not a friend of the West, nor of Israel. Old-school atheism reigns supreme again in Russia, and the Soviet “Bear” is awakening from hibernation.
Heathen nations of the past were upbraided for being polytheistic, they worshiped many gods. They were not atheistic. Russia is unique in being atheistic in ideology. Mr. Stalin once said, “We have deposed the czars of the earth, and we shall now dethrone the Lord of heaven.” God says, “I against thee.” When Russia put a rocket past the moon, called the Sputnik, and when it was nearing the sun, the following was heard on the radio in Russia: “Our rocket has bypassed the moon. It is nearing the sun. We have not discovered God. We have turned out lights in heaven that no man will be able to put on again. We are breaking the yoke of the gospel, the opiate of the masses. Let us go forth and Christ shall be relegated to mythology.” God says, “I am against thee.”
We have listed three reasons, linguistic, geographic, and philosophic; for identifying Magog with Russia. We will look further next time at the areas that will join them in their attack against Israel. We will try to ascertain from the scriptures what will prompt this attack, and also see if we can’t discern some sort of time frame for all of this.
We live in exciting days!