(Istanbul, Turkey) — With Russian and Iranian military forces now cooperating together and engaging in combat in Syria, just miles north of the border of Israel, people are asking me a lot of questions. Among them:
•Is there any significance to these developments in light of Bible prophecy?
•Do these events have anything to do with the prophecies found in Ezekiel 38 & 39?
•Are recent events setting the stage for the fulfillment of what Bible scholars call the “War of Gog & Magog” that is supposed to take place in the End of Days?
Last Friday night, I addressed the topic of Apocalyptic Islam at a conference in Toronto, looking at how Shia and Sunni extremists see the prophetic trend lines in the Middle East. On Saturday evening, I then taught through Ezekiel 38 & 39, addressing these specific questions in light of Jewish and Christian eschatology. From there, I flew to Istanbul to meet with several Arab Christian leaders on a range of matters. But sure enough, these questions certainly came up.
The short answer is this:
•It is simply too early to draw any conclusions regarding the Biblical significance of Russian and Iranian combat forces operating in an alliance in the Syrian theater, so close to the northern mountains of Israel. More would have to happen to convince me beyond the shadow of a doubt that these are prophetic events. And I urge Christians to be cautious and not jump to conclusions. Time will make things more clear.
•That said, there is cause to believe these events could be preparatory for the commencement of the “War of Gog & Magog.” We can’t rule out the possibility that prophetic events have been set in motion.
•Put another way: the fulfillment of Ezekiel 38 & 39 could be decades off, or more. However, these recent events — and numerous other regional trends — do appear consistent with what would have to happen to set the stage for Ezekiel’s prophecies to come to pass, and the Church needs to consider the possibility that such prophecies could unfold sooner than many people expect.
•The central fact to remember first and foremost is this: The prophecies of Ezekiel 36 & 37 have already largely come true. That is, the geopolitical nation state of Israel has dramatically been reborn in our lifetime. Jewish people are returning to live and work in the Holy Land after centuries of exile. The Jews are rebuilding the ancient ruins and making the deserts bloom, just as the ancient prophets said they would. We are also seeing a growing number of Jewish people coming to faith in Jesus as Messiah, consistent with Ezekiel 37’s prophecy that as the nation of Israel would be physical reborn in the last days, so too God would breathe His Holy Spirit into the Jewish people and more and more of them would be spiritually reborn in the last days, as well.
•Therefore, given the fact that Ezekiel 36 & 37 have largely come true, we must ask ourselves: Isn’t it remotely possible that the prophecies of Ezekiel 38 & 39 could soon come to pass, as well?
WHAT IS THE “WAR OF GOG AND MAGOG”? Part One
For the next several days, I will lay out a point-by-point analysis of the prophecies found in Ezekiel 38 & 39. It’s too much to explain all at once. So we’ll take it piece by piece.
Today, let’s start by defining “Gog” and “Magog,” when Bible indicates this prophecy will take place, and what countries will be participating in the coalition against Israel:
1.The Hebrew Prophet Ezekiel lived in Babylon (Iraq) more than 2,500 years ago and the Lord gave him a vision of events that would take place in the future.
2.Ezekiel 38:16 specifically tells us these events will take place in the “last days” — that is in the End Times before the Messiah comes to set up His kingdom on earth.
3.Ezekiel chapters 36 and 37 set the stage for the “War of Gog and Magog” by describing that Israel will be reborn as a country in the last days, the Jewish people will come back to the Holy Land from exile all over the world, the Jewish people will rebuild the ancient ruins and make the deserts bloom again. These things have all happened, and this suggests we are getting closer to the fulfillment of the next set of prophecies.
4.Ezekiel 38:2 tells us that the war will be led be someone known as “Gog.” This is not a personal name. We’re not looking for someone named David Gog. Or Ahmed Gog. Or Dmitri Gog. Rather, “Gog” is a title, like a “Pharoah” or a “Czar.” Through the prophecy, this Gog is described as a military leader, a political leader, and a coalition builder. In Ezekiel 38:10 he is described as developing an “evil plan,” we know this is an evil man, a tyrant.
5.The Hebrew prophet gives us more clues. This “Gog” is going to be from the “land of Magog.” One has to do some historical detective work to determine what Magog is, but it is possible. Flavius Josephus, the first century Roman historian, wrote in his famous book, The Antiquities of the Jews, that the people of Magog are the people whom the Greeks called “Scythians.” This is a critical clue because we know from history that the Scythians were a people group that migrated from the Middle East northward and settled north of the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea in the region we know today as Russia and the former Soviet Republics.
6.There are other interesting clues, as well. Ezekiel 38:15 says that Gog “will come from your place out of the remote parts of the north.” Ezekiel 39:2 says Gog will come “from the remotest parts of the north” and come “against the mountains of Israel.” The country that is farthest to the north in relation to Israel is Russia.
7.Thus, we can determine that a Russian dictator will build a diplomatic and military coalition to surround and attack the State of Israel in the End Times.
8.The question then is what other countries will be part of the coalition?
9.In Ezekiel 38:5, we learn that the first ally Russia will have is “Persia.”
Until 1935, of course, Persia was the legal name of the country we know today as Iran. So we know that Russia and Iran will build an alliance in the last days to attack Israel.
10.Ezekiel tells us that another country in the alliance will be what many English Bible translate as “Ethiopia.” The Hebrew word, however, is “Cush” and Cush is the upper Nile region that we now know as Sudan. While the current state of Ethiopia may also be involved in the war, the focus is really Sudan, which today, of course, is a radical Islamic Sunni state closely allied with Iran and Russia and deeply anti-Semitic and anti-Israel.
11.Next, Ezekiel says a nation called “Put” will be part of the alliance. Josephus identifies “Put” as “ancient Lybios” — the territory that today we call Libya and Algeria. Interestingly, both countries today are deeply hostile to Israel and closely allied with Russia.
12.The next country mentioned is “Gomer.” When one does the historical detective work, one learns that Gomer is what we now call Turkey. For much of the past 80 years, it didn’t make sense that Turkey would turn against Israel. Why? Because Turkey was a NATO ally, and a friend of Israel, the U.S. and the European Union. But in the last few years, the Turkish government has swung dramatically away from the West, towards Russia and Iran, and become deeply hostile towards the State of Israel.
13.The next country Ezekiel mentions is “Beth Togarmah.” This is the Turkic-speaking peoples that spread out from Turkey across the Causasus, and across Central Asia. We can’t be certain precisely which modern nation states from this area will join the anti-Israel alliance, because these are almost all Muslim countries with close links to Russia and Iran.
14.Interestingly, Egypt is not mentioned by Ezekiel as part of the Russian-Iranian alliance against Israel. This is interesting because Egypt has been such an historic enemy of Israel and the Jewish people. That said, perhaps Egypt’s non-involvement in the War of Gog and Magog could be explained by the peace treaty Egypt signed with Israel in 1979. This treaty is now in danger of unraveling, but at least for the near term Egypt is still unlikely to be in a position to strategically threaten Israel.
15.Iraq — whether under its biblical names of Babel, Babylon, Babylonia, Shinar, or Mesopotamia — isn’t mentioned in the prophecy either, yet it, too, is an historic enemy of Israel. Still, given the liberation of Iraq in 2003, the subsequent violence, and the rebuilding now going on, Iraq is not likely to be a threat to Israel in the near term.
16.Syria and Lebanon are not mentioned by named in the prophecy either. However, Ezekiel tells us repeatedly that the main military force that will be coming against Israel will be coming from the north, which means they will be coming through Lebanon and Syria.
In my next posting, I’ll explain what this coalition does and how the “War of Gog and Magog” will unfold.