"And I will send fire on Magog and on those who live in security in the coastlands." Ezekiel 39:6
Opening prayer: Father, this is a difficult study of a difficult subject. Help us to understand how this fits into Your plan and Your schedule, we pray.
This is a continuation of our series on the Revelation of Jesus the Messiah. If you haven't done so already, I encourage you to study our previous lessons in this series:
Rev. 1: The Revelation of Jesus
Rev. 2-3: I Know You!
Rev. 4-5: Preview of Heaven
Rev. Study: Prophecies of Daniel
Rev. Study: Raptures and Resurrections
Let's start this lesson with Ezekiel 38, verses 1-2:And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 2 Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him.
Hold it, teacher! Who are these guys?
Good question. If you look on a modern map, you won't find any of these countries. God knew, when He gave this prophecy, that countries change names and people tend to move around. Therefore He described these people using names of tribal groups dating back to the immediate Post-Flood period. For perspective, the Bible gives us two major passages to help us interpret these two verses: Genesis 10:2-5 and Ezekiel 27:10-15.
Genesis 10, verses 2-5 says:The sons of Japheth were: Gomer, and Magog, and Madai, and Javan, and Tubal, and Meshech, and Tiras. 3 And the sons of Gomer: Ashkenaz, and Riphath, and Togarmah. 4 And the sons of Javan: Elishah, and Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim. 5 By these were the coastlands of the Gentiles divided in their lands, every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations.
"Magog" refers to a people known to the Greeks as the Scythians who settled in Asia Minor, originally in the approximate area of Armenia. Eventually they came to dominate all of Asia Minor (now Turkey) and spread eastward as far as China. The northern portion of Magog included regions that are presently in the countries of Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan.
Note that while portions of Magog included provinces of the former Soviet Union and part of present-day Russia, it would be a severe stretch to say that Magog is Russia (although I believed that theory for several years).
"Tubal and Meshech" have been identified with the Tubalu and Mushki tribes that settled in Asia Minor (Turkey), who were within the Magog sphere of influence. "Togarmah" settled in the southeastern part of Turkey, near what is now Syria. "Gomer" is known to historians as Gimarrai of north-central Asia Minor.
Please note that all the areas mentioned so far are predominantly Muslim. This will be a predominantly Muslim invasion.
"Tarshish" settled in seaport areas surrounding the Mediterranean, mostly in western Europe, and became symbolic of Gentile nations a long sea journey west of Israel. Archeological evidence tells us that ships of Tarshish and Phoenicia traded with the North American continent -- before the ships of the Romans destroyed their fleets. As you may remember, the Hebrew prophet Jonah tried to escape by catching a ship to Tarshish. If God hadn't intervened, Jonah might have spent the winter in Miami.
Let's continue reading Ezekiel 38 with verses 3-4:And say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal: 4 And I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed with all sorts of armour, even a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords.
Verses 3-4 tell us that the Lord is very unhappy with somebody called "Gog." The flavor of the passage tells us that Gog and and his buddies have been engaged in a long-standing pattern of hateful behavior toward Israel and toward the God of Israel. Therefore the God of Israel will give these folks exactly what they want -- an opportunity to invade and destroy Israel.
Note that Gog be the driving force behind this conflict. He will lead the people of Magog, Meshech and Tubal out to battle.
But who is Gog? Ask three Bible expositors and you'll get four answers. The Lord addresses him as a person who operates as head (Hebrew word Rosh) of Meshech and Tubal. Here are three of the most-likely candidates for Gog:
- Some commentators believe that Gog is a name for the Last-Days' Dictator. If so, then this is the final battle at the end of the Great Tribulation, sometimes called the battle of Armageddon.
- Other commentators believe that Magog, Meshech and Tubal are in Russia, and thus Gog is the leader of Russia. Advocates of this theory usually conclude that this invasion happens at the beginning of the seven-year period known as Daniel's 70th week.
- A third possibility is that Gog is the leader of either Turkey or Syria, somebody in leadership today and not the Last-Days' Dictator. Again, this would be the case if God intends this battle to launch Daniel's 70th week.
So which theory is right? At this point in the lesson, we haven't seen enough Scriptural evidence to be sure. By the end of this lesson, you will be in a better position to draw your own conclusions.
By the way, don't be misled by the archaic names for weapons described in verse 4: horses and horsemen, armor, bucklers, shields and swords. God is giving the prophet a word picture of a heavily armed group of soldiers. Ezekiel didn't have "tanks" and "missiles" and "rocket launchers" and "airplanes" in his vocabulary. He did have "armor" and "bows" and "arrows" and "swords."
Let's continue in Ezekiel with verses 5-7:Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya with them; all of them with shield and helmet: 6 Gomer, and all his bands; the house of Togarmah of the north quarters, and all his bands: and many people with thee. 7 Be thou prepared, and prepare for thyself, thou, and all thy company that are assembled unto thee, and be thou a guard unto them.
Gog and Magog (Turkey and surrounding Muslim countries) will not be alone in this battle. According to these verses, Persia (Iran) will play a prominent role in this invasion. In addition, a nation called "Ethiopia" (most-likely to be Sudan and Somalia, which occupy a portion of ancient Ethiopia), Libya, Gomer (other Turkish tribes), and "the house of Togarmah of the north quarters" will also participate. Remember these participants. Remember that all these areas are presently Muslim peoples. We'll discuss them again later.
Hey, teacher! What about Egypt, Iraq and Syria? Won't THEY be involved?
Good observation. That is one of the oddest aspects of this account. Egypt and Syria (Damascus) have been enemies of Israel since the earliest Biblical accounts. In Ezekiel's day, Assyria and Babylon were the two most prominent and powerful oppressors of Israel, and both kingdoms were located in what is now Iraq. So why don't they participate in the invasion?
Egypt was at peace with Israel for decades under President Mubarak. However the Muslim Brotherhood seized control in 2011 and changed Egypt, the world's largest Muslim country, into an enemy of Israel. A few weeks ago (Summer of 2013), the Egyptian military seized control of the country and is consumed with the internal struggle against the radical Islamists. As long as the Egyptian military retains control, Egypt will be no worse than neutral to Israel. So there is at least a short-term opportunity for this invasion to proceed without Egypt.
The present-day Iraqis are just as hateful toward Israel, but Iraq is today (in 2013) at least a nominal ally of the United States. As time goes by, the Shiite majority in Iraq is likely to be receptive to a Shiite Caliph (the Last-Days' Dictator?) who is not Turkish or Sunni. See the notes below on Verse 8 for perspective.
Syria is a different matter. Syria and Iran are key sponsors of Islamic terrorism. At this writing, we can only speculate on why Syria is not mentioned in this passage, since Syria controls Lebanon (ancient Tyre) on Israel's northern border, and invading armies would presumably need to come through both Lebanon and Syria. As of today, this author can only see four explanations for the omission of Syria from the list of invaders:
- Perhaps Syria is temporarily aligned with Israel at the time of the attack. This might have been a slight possibility ten years ago, but is out of the question today.
- Perhaps Syria is temporarily neutralized by an invasion by Israel or the USA. This has a measure of credibility, since Syria is actively supporting terrorists (Hezbollah) across the entire northern border of Israel and is funneling terrorists and supplies across its common border with Iraq. Not long ago (October 2008), a US Special Forces team raided a site in Syria to disrupt this activity. Another invasion by Israel, the USA or both might even be the immediate provocation for the Magog invasion.
- Perhaps God includes Syria and Lebanon as part of the invading tribal groups listed earlier. This is a real possibility, since parts of present-day Syria and Lebanon were controlled by Magog in ancient times.
- As of this writing (Summer 2013), Syria is completely focused its own civil war and internal power struggles. If the Magog invasion happened today, the Hezbollah forces along Israel's northern border would join the attack, but Syria would be unlikely to send its own troops. When and if the civil war ends, the third possibility above would be the most-likely explanation.
Back to the subject of the invasion...
For additional insight, you should be aware that many of the nations mentioned in Ezekiel 38 are also mentioned in Ezekiel 27, which speaks of the destruction of Tyre (Lebanon). Some portions are particularly relevant to this discussion. Ezekiel 27, verses 10-15 says:They of Persia and of Lud and of Phut were in thine army, thy men of war: they hanged the shield and helmet in thee; they set forth thy comeliness. 11 The men of Arvad with thine army were upon thy walls round about, and the Gammadims were in thy towers: they hanged their shields upon thy walls round about; they have made thy beauty perfect. 12 Tarshish was thy merchant by reason of the multitude of all kind of riches; with silver, iron, tin, and lead, they traded in thy fairs. 13 Javan, Tubal, and Meshech, they were thy merchants: they traded the persons of men and vessels of brass in thy market. 14 They of the house of Togarmah traded in thy fairs with horses and horsemen and mules. 15 The men of Dedan were thy merchants; many isles were the merchandise of thine hand: they brought thee for a present horns of ivory and ebony.
This passage is an eerie parallel to the destruction of Babylon described in Revelation 17. This raises the possibility that Ezekiel 27 has a parallel application to the destruction of the Muslim nations described in Ezekiel 38 and 39, and also to the destruction of the harlot religion in Revelation 17-18.
Does this prove conclusively that Ezekiel 38-39 describe Armageddon? No, but the accounts have an interesting amount of overlap. At the least, it should cause a serious Bible student (you) to read Ezekiel chapters 26 and 27 as part of your homework.
Let's continue with Ezekiel 38, verses 8 through 12:After many days thou shalt be visited. In the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste: but it is brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell safely all of them. 9 Thou shalt ascend and come like a storm, thou shalt be like a cloud to cover the land, thou, and all thy bands, and many people with thee. 10 Thus saith the Lord GOD; It shall also come to pass, that at the same time shall things come into thy mind, and thou shalt think an evil thought: 11 And thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates, 12 To take a spoil, and to take a prey; to turn thine hand upon the desolate places that are now inhabited, and upon the people that are gathered out of the nations, which have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the midst of the land.
These verses are very significant in helping us establish the timing of the invasion:
- Verse 8 says this will happen "in the latter years." That's consistent Scriptural terminology for the last seven years of human history otherwise known as Daniel's 70th week and the "days of Jacob's trouble."
- Verse 8 also speaks of "...the mountains of Israel, which have always been waste." This author visited Israel in 2006 and saw the mountains near Megiddo and in the Golan Heights in March, after the Spring rains. The mountains might have been desolate in Ezekiel's day, but they were beautiful during our trip, dotted with cultivated fruit trees and even banana plantations.
- Magog will attack Israel after the people are "brought back from the sword...gathered out of many people." Verse 12 echoes this by saying the Israelites are in their homeland, after being "gathered out of the nations." God repeats Himself to emphasize that this invasion did not happen at some remote time in the past, after the Babylonian or Assyrian captivities. The only time Israel has ever been gathered out of multiple nations has been in our lifetimes, since the nation was reborn in 1948.
- In Ezekiel's day, every major city was fortified with tall walls and massive gates. So he is amazed to describe the latter-days Israel as "the land of unwalled villages" in verse 11. Today, fortress walls are no defense against modern weapons. Modern cities, including those in Israel today, can be described as "unwalled villages."
- Not only has Israel been gathered back to their land, the nation is prospering economically. Israeli farmers have gone into "desolate places" and turned them into lush farm lands, and have become the major supplier of fresh fruits and vegetables to Europe. Israeli scientists and engineers have developed many successful high-tech industries within Israel, and the Israeli government is now pondering ways to lure more college-trained immigrants from Europe and the USA to Israel.
- Israel was gathered in their land, but they weren't conspicuously prospering (and qualifying for this battle) until the 1960s.
- Since Iran (Persia) was a nominal ally and trading partner of the United States until the Shah was overthrown in 1979, this Magog alliance was not politically possible before then.
- Since these specific Islamic countries haven't invaded Israel since 1973, this battle must still be future (speaking in the Summer of 2013).
- Until recent times, Turkey had a pro-Western secular government and my first version of this lesson (written in early 2000) predicted that Turkey's secular government would be replaced by a more-religious faction of Muslims before conditions would be ready for Turkey's participation in this invasion. That transfer of power has happened.
- Did you notice the peculiar series of uprisings in Muslim countries early in 2011? In case you slept through it, a militant jihadist group called the Muslim Brotherhood organized a series of riots and anti-government protests in a string of nations in North Africa. With the approval of the present White House, the Muslim Brotherhood took control of three governments and toppled the only pro-Western Muslim dictator in the region, President Mubarak of Egypt.
- Although not widely reported in the USA, the Muslim Brotherhood has well-defined goals: (a) Destruction of Israel, (b) Establishment of sharia (Muslim) law over the entire world, and (c) Re-establishment of the Muslim Caliph as head of both the religious and political affairs of a soon-to-be-Muslim world. If you do some research, you'll discover that under sharia law, only the caliph is permitted to declare jihad. Any nutcase can declare fatwah, but only the caliph can declare jihad.
- The obvious beneficiary of the Muslim Brotherhood's activities is Turkey, where the last caliph ruled until the office was abolished in 1924. Have you noticed that of all the nations in the Muslim world, Turkey has been relatively immune to unrest? And would you consider it a mere coincidence that the invasion of Ezekiel 38-39 is led by somebody (Gog) behaving like a caliph?
- The key political alliances are now in place. This battle could happen at any time.
Verse 13 of Ezekiel 38 gives us some interesting insights:Sheba, and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof, shall say unto thee, Art thou come to take a spoil? Hast thou gathered thy company to take a prey? to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to take a great spoil?
Sheba and Dedan represent the Arabian countries (Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Kuwait, etc.), who will be standing nervously on the sidelines. The group "merchants of Tarshish" sounds very much like the European Community and the USA (which might be "the young lions thereof"). Note that they are neither participating in the invasion nor helping defend Israel. The Arabian countries, in particular, are aware that Iran has been less-than-subtle in their quest to develop nuclear weapons. In a way, the Arabians will be relieved that this nasty group isn't coming for them, but they know that they're vulnerable.
Now verses 14-17:Therefore, son of man, prophesy and say unto Gog, Thus saith the Lord GOD; In that day when My people of Israel dwelleth safely, shalt thou not know it? 15 And thou shalt come from thy place out of the north parts, thou, and many people with thee, all of them riding upon horses, a great company, and a mighty army: 16 And thou shalt come up against My people of Israel, as a cloud to cover the land; it shall be in the latter days, and I will bring thee against My land, that the heathen may know Me, when I shall be sanctified in thee, O Gog, before their eyes. 17 Thus saith the Lord GOD; Art thou he of whom I have spoken in old time by My servants the prophets of Israel, which prophesied in those days many years that I would bring thee against them?
Note that God takes this invasion personally. He refers to "My people" in verses 14 and 16. He speaks of "My land" in verse 16. He speaks of "My servants the prophets" in verse 17. It takes a special kind of stupid blindness to attack the kids and land of Almighty God.
This passage also gives us a subtle hint about the timing of this invasion. Note in verse 14 and verse 16 that God speaks of "My people." Please be very clear that "My people" means Israel in this passage. The Christian Church has NOT replaced Israel in the heart and promises of God. The Church of Jesus Christ is a temporary oddity ("a peculiar people") between the first and second comings of Jesus, the Messiah of Israel. By referring to Israel as "My people," the Lord is speaking of the time prophesied in Hosea chapter 1 when Israel is restored to the land and ready to be identified as the people of the Lord.
But why is that important?
Because it implies that this event happens after the initial Rapture of the Christians who are "alive and awake." See Raptures and Resurrections for details about this event. With the Bible-believing Christians gone from the scene, the Jewish people will be without their most-vocal allies. Another thought: If the invasion happens in the very near future, and the United States armed forces are still commanded by a President who was raised Muslim and has bowed to the Saudi king, the invading Muslim armies will think, "Nobody will step up to help Israel!" Like I said, it takes a special kind of stupid blindness to call the God of Israel "Nobody."
In recent years, the United States government has taken an unfortunate policy attitude toward Israel. The new administration refused to support Israel in its plans to destroy Iran's nuclear weapons facilities. More alarmingly, the new administration has given Israel a deadline to partition itself into two countries and give half of Jerusalem to Muslim control. The obvious implication is that if Israel doesn't destroy itself, the United States will solemnly pronounce Israel to be the obstacle to peace in the Middle East. In recent weeks, we have heard rumors that American troops are stationed in the country of Jordan, supposedly positioned to help the Islamic terrorists in Syria attack the terror-sponsoring government of Syria; these troops could also be used to invade Israel in response to some future action (or inaction) by Israel. It is apparent that the new administration has already decided to take the side of God's enemies. This attitude might explain a mysterious passage that we'll study later in this lesson.
Note that God is actually planning and permitting this invasion for His glory. In verse 16 it says: "...and I will bring thee against My land, that the heathen may know Me, when I shall be sanctified in thee, O Gog, before their eyes." In other words, God will turn this whole event into an opportunity for "the heathen" (your neighbors?) to observe His awesome and miraculous power.
How will His power be displayed? Verses 18-23 tell us how:And it shall come to pass at the same time when Gog shall come against the land of Israel, saith the Lord GOD, that My fury shall come up in My face. 19 For in My jealousy and in the fire of My wrath have I spoken, Surely in that day there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel; 20 So that the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the heaven, and the beasts of the field, and all creeping things that creep upon the earth, and all the men that are upon the face of the earth, shall shake at My presence, and the mountains shall be thrown down, and the steep places shall fall, and every wall shall fall to the ground. 21 And I will call for a sword against him throughout all my mountains, saith the Lord GOD: every man’s sword shall be against his brother. 22 And I will plead against him with pestilence and with blood; and I will rain upon him, and upon his bands, and upon the many people that are with him, an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone. 23 Thus will I magnify Myself, and sanctify Myself; and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the LORD.
God will display His awesome power and wrath in many ways:
- He will cause "a great shaking" (earthquake) in the land of Israel, severe enough to disturb even the birds and fish.
- The shaking may be centered in Israel, but its effects will impress people all over the world.
- In verse 21, the Lord says He will again confound the enemies of Israel so that they fight against themselves and destroy each other. This is one of the Lord's trademarks. He has frequently used this weapon against armies invading Israel, including at least twice in my brief lifetime.
- God will plead His case with "pestilence and with blood." I'm not sure what that means, but I'm VERY sure it will not be pleasant.
- God will send "an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire and brimstone" against Gog "and upon the many people that are with him." I've seen rain and large hailstones, but not "great" hailstones. The invading armies will be bombarded, first of all, with unprecedented "weather" -- rain and miraculous hailstones. Then will come the "fire and brimstone." God will destroy the invading armies like He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.
- I've never personally experienced "fire and brimstone," but I've seen films of some of the postwar nuclear testing.
Does this passage teach that there will be a nuclear war?
This passage itself is not conclusive. But this passage definitely tells us that something with the devastating power of nuclear war will be unleased against the invaders. Later passages will tell us more. For now, rest assured that God doesn't need any help from earthly weapons builders to make this happen. He was able to torch Sodom and Gomorrah without a single man-made weapon.
Now let's step back and look at the entire prophetic picture. We know from the prophecies of Daniel that the Last-Days' Dictator first gains fame by helping broker a treaty between Israel and "many." The Last-Days' Dictator will most likely be a "peace maker" arising from the general area previously ruled by the "King of the North." Today, that area is covered by Syria, Iraq and parts of Lebanon, Iran and Israel. That terrible person could originate from any of those countries. It is not likely that he will be a European, unless his genetic ancestors are from the Middle East. Furthermore, the most-likely time for the Last-Days' Dictator to broker or ratify this treaty (between Israel and the surviving remnants of its enemies) would be immediately following the invasion described in Ezekiel 38-39.
At this point, let me offer some observations and speculation:
- Iran is presently behaving as the least-rational country on earth. A previous President of Iran declared his willingness to sacrifice himself and his country if it would hasten the emergence of the 12th Imam, whose traditional description in Islamic literature sounds a great deal like the character we call the Last-Days' Dictator or AntiChrist. We don't yet know if the new President, Hassan Rouhani, has similar beliefs.
- At present, there are dozens of articles in the newpapers and Internet media about Iran's nuclear program and their repeated threats to launch a nuclear war against Israel if they (Iran) get attacked.
- In 2009, shortly after our current president gave Iran until the end of the year to begin constructive negotiations about its nuclear ambitions, Iran chose to shoot off some of its tactical missiles that could carry nuclear warheads -- on the same day that Iran's nuclear sponsor, North Korea, detonated a small nuclear device.
- At present, there are dozens of articles on the Internet speculating whether Israel will launch a pre-emptive strike against Iran's nuclear weapons program. Some Israeli friends of mine say the question is "when," and not "whether" the attack will happen. This "take-out" strike is another possible provocation for the Magog invasion.
- At various times in the past few years, there have been news stories about the oil ministers of the Muslim countries vowing to boost the price of oil skyward if Iran is attacked. The clear message is that other Muslim countries are 100% supportive of the nuclear ambitions and hostile intentions of Iran.
- Two US presidents ago, Russia -- the chief military sponsor/supplier of the Islamic terrorist nations -- was brazenly talking about nuclear war in general. In 2000, after President Clinton mildly scolded the Russians for bad behavior, a Russian spokesman replied, "Mr. Clinton seems to forget that we are a mighty nuclear power!" News reporters for European publications reported frequent episodes of open talk in the Russian Parliament about the possibility of nuclear war. In recent years, Russia has been outwardly quieter, but nothing has actually changed. God is putting hooks in their jaws. The Russians are ready to rumble. They were more respectful during President Bush's administration, but they have maintained the world's largest nuclear weapons arsenal and a hostile attitude.
- A few years ago (July 2008), Russia threatened military action against the Czech Republic and USA because of the NATO-centric missile shield that the USA is trying to interpose between the Middle East and Europe. Russia must be very concerned that their bully position (based on their overwhelming superiority of nuclear weapons over Western Europe and the Middle East) is endangered. Tsk, tsk. Perhaps this time, the defense system might really work. Y'know, it's hard to maintain a bully position when the other kids figure out how to protect themselves. Net result: Russia is becoming very anxious about the future, and is more likely than usual to support military action.
Enough speculation. Let's move on to Ezekiel 39, verses 1-5:Therefore, thou son of man, prophesy against Gog, and say, Thus saith the Lord GOD: Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. 2 And I will turn you around and lead you on, and will cause thee to come up from the north parts, and will bring thee upon the mountains of Israel. 3 And I will smite thy bow out of thy left hand, and will cause thine arrows to fall out of thy right hand. 4 Thou shalt fall upon the mountains of Israel, thou, and all thy bands, and the people that is with thee. I will give thee unto the ravenous birds of every sort, and to the beasts of the field to be devoured. 5 Thou shalt fall upon the open field, for I have spoken it, saith the Lord GOD.
These verses are bracketed by "Thus saith the Lord" in verse 1 and "I have spoken it, saith the Lord" in verse 5. In other words, PAY ATTENTION. God is being very emphatic here. God is talking about a real battle involving real people. Don't buy any wishy-washy talk about this being symbolic language describing the eventual triumph of good over evil. Whenever you see God repeating Himself for emphasis, PAY ATTENTION.
Note that God repeats the names of Gog, Meshech and Tubal, and speaks of "all thy bands, and all the people that is with thee." These are real nations, and we know that they're presently being ruled by some really hateful individuals.
We need to pay special attention to verses 3-5:And I will smite thy bow out of thy left hand, and will cause thine arrows to fall out of thy right hand. 4 Thou shalt fall upon the mountains of Israel, thou, and all thy bands, and the people that is with thee. I will give thee unto the ravenous birds of every sort, and to the beasts of the field to be devoured. 5 Thou shalt fall upon the open field, for I have spoken it, saith the Lord GOD.
Note that in verse 3, God declares He will "smite thy bow out of thy left hand, and will cause thine arrows to fall out of thy right hand." Since nobody fights with bows and arrows anymore, He is actually referring to modern weapons of warfare that fly through the air -- missiles. You can expect that the invading countries will launch an all-out attack against Israel using nuclear weapons. A few might be made in Iran but most have already been purchased from Russia or Pakistan.
But notice that God swats down the missiles.
Once again, the timing is interesting. In recent years, the USA and Israel co-developed a laser-based missile defense system capable of zapping the warheads of incoming missiles, rendering them relatively harmless. Without the trigger mechanisms, nuclear warheads are just heavy projectiles. They will make a "THUD" and a big dent wherever they land, but they won't detonate. Remember this for later in the lesson.
The leading edge of invaders will actually be allowed to get as far as Israeli soil. They will fall upon the mountains and upon the open field. And every vulture, jackal, wolf and rodent in the Middle East will be invited to a gruesome feast. Their weapons will be worthless to them. Their missiles will be zapped and neutered enroute. Their guns will be slapped out of their hands. They might as well have brought pea shooters and spitwads.
Note that the anti-missile defense system was co-developed by the USA and Israel. For the past several years, Israel has been actively deploying that system. However, political obstacles have prevented deployment by the USA. The present US government is unlikely to pursue deployment of this system. Since it actually works, deployment of the system would be considered "an act of provocation" by the external enemies of this country and therefore unacceptable to the internal enemies of this country.
Verse 6 is very troubling in view of the failure of the USA to deploy its antimissile defense:And I will send a fire on Magog, and among them that dwell carelessly in the coastlands: and they shall know that I am the LORD.
Ummmm -- what kind of fire is God talking about, teacher?
I don't know for sure, and neither does anybody else. God has used fire and brimstone (whatever those are) to vaporize His enemies in the past. This verse might describe a "coincidental" meteorite shower. Since the damage is done to the invaders (and their sympathizers) and not to the Israelites, everyone would know that God had supernaturally arranged it. However, meteorites are not consistent with some verses we'll see later in this chapter.
Ezekiel 39:6 might also describe nuclear war. If Israel actually does give up some strategic lands -- either to Syria or for "Palestinian settlements" -- they would not have suitable high ground from which to base a counterattack with conventional weapons. They would be forced to use nuclear weapons.
And who are these "coastlands" people that also get torched? Could that be the United States?
Maybe. When this alliance comes against Israel, the Russians might launch a pre-emptive first strike against the United States too. As noted earlier, the Russians have openly boasted of launching a strike against us someday, and for years have been building massive underground cities. Here are a few references available on the Web as of Summer 2011:
Russian leaders believe their key industrial and government centers would survive a counterattack from the USA, and a preemptive first strike against us would conveniently prevent our coming to help Israel. To be honest, we can only speculate. But in view of current events, these speculations are too close for comfort.
There is another factor you should be concerned about, even if the United States isn't directly bombed. The fallout from a nuclear battle, even on the other side of the world, would contaminate life all over the planet. The bad news is that normal wind patterns will carry nuclear debris everywhere. The good news is that you and your family can take steps to minimize the harmful effects of nuclear fallout, if the attack should happen before the next Rapture event.
A mutually destructive nuclear exchange would help explain another aspect of end-times prophecy. The Book of Revelation is very clear that in the last days, power will be concentrated in the Middle East. At the beginning of the last days, the USA will be staggered by the loss of between 5% and 10% of its population in the next Rapture event. Likewise China will be temporarily in shock from the disappearance of huge numbers of underground Christians (perhaps a larger percentage than in the USA). But China will be available for a push westward at the very end. Russia and the United States are conspicuous by their absence from the Book of Revelation. Their absence could be explained by a mutually destructive exchange.
Verses 7-8 are important clues to the timing of this invasion:So will I make My holy name known in the midst of My people Israel; and I will not let them pollute My holy name any more: and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel. 8 Behold, it is come, and it is done, saith the Lord GOD; this is the day whereof I have spoken.
God will use this event to trigger a mighty revival in the nation Israel. In my personal opinion, this will be the turning point spoken of by the Apostle Paul in Romans 11:25-26:"...blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, and so all Israel will be saved..."
Whether God uses nuclear missiles or supernaturally guided meteorites, a majority of the people of Israel will suddenly rediscover the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. A significant number of them will also discover Jesus, the Messiah of Israel.
Remember, you and I are presently enjoying the "time of the Gentiles." When this mysterious period of history is complete (in God's eyes), God will remove (rapture) the present-day Gentile Church so He can once again deal exclusively with the nation Israel. As we saw earlier, that first rapture might be one of the "hooks in thy jaw" that God uses to draw Gog and his buddies into this invasion.
Verses 9-16 of Ezekiel 39 describe the scene after the brief "invasion:"And they that dwell in the cities of Israel shall go forth, and shall set on fire and burn the weapons, both the shields and the bucklers, the bows and the arrows, and the handstaves, and the spears, and they shall burn them with fire seven years; 10 So that they shall take no wood out of the field, neither cut down any out of the forests; for they shall burn the weapons with fire: and they shall spoil those that spoiled them, and rob those that robbed them, saith the Lord GOD. 11 And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will give unto Gog a place there of graves in Israel, the valley of the passengers on the east of the sea: and it shall stop the noses of the passengers: and there shall they bury Gog and all his multitude: and they shall call it The valley of Hamongog. 12 And seven months shall the house of Israel be burying of them, that they may cleanse the land. 13 Yea, all the people of the land shall bury them; and it shall be to them a renown the day that I shall be glorified, saith the Lord GOD.
This is a really gruesome scene. And very curious. The Israelites will recover an astonishing amount of war material from the invaders. For seven years, "they shall burn them with fire" to supply their own domestic energy needs. This might refer to massive oil tankers and mobile tank trucks captured after the battle. Maybe. Chuck Missler suggests that this passage might refer to captured nuclear weapons. Nuclear power plants can use Mixed OXide (MOX) material consisting of 7% weapons-grade plutonium and 93% regular uranium. Since reactor rods last several years, it's very conceivable that the recovered plutonium would support up to seven years of fuel production.
There's more detail in verses 14-16:And they shall sever out men of continual employment, passing through the land to bury with the passengers those that remain upon the face of the earth, to cleanse it: after the end of seven months shall they search. 15 And the passengers that pass through the land, when any seeth a man’s bone, then shall he set up a sign by it, till the buriers have buried it in the valley of Hamongog. 16 And also the name of the city shall be Hamonah. Thus shall they cleanse the land.According to verse 14, the Israeli government will hire full-time professionals (men of continual employment) to oversee the burial and decontamination work. This sounds like the type of work needed after nuclear war -- or biological or chemical warfare. If it was a supernatural meteorite shower, the rocks would fall and the corpses would be buried in rubble. Then it would just take a few weeks of work with bulldozers (and vultures) to deal with the mess. Instead, this cleanup is very odd. Passersby don't just bury what they find; they erect markers and let the professionals carry the stuff away to a designated waste area. Sounds like the remains will be radioactive. Or toxic.
Skipping verses 17-20, let's read verses 21-22:And I will set My glory among the heathen, and all the heathen shall see My judgment that I have executed, and My hand that I have laid upon them. 22 So the house of Israel shall know that I am the LORD their God from that day and forward.
However God works this out, it will be a conspicuous miracle. Of all the participants in the battle, only Israel -- the intended victim -- will be left standing. Nothing subtle about this. According to verse 22, the Jewish people will experience a massive spiritual awakening. They "shall know that I am the LORD their God from that day and forward." This makes me think this event happens at the very beginning of the tribulation period.
After the miraculous deliverance, the nation Israel will be divided into two camps: the religious, worldly folk and the honest seekers for God. The religious majority will believe that God favored them because of their innate superiority, and will become like the religious Pharisees of Jesus' day. By contrast, the honest seekers will discover that Jesus, the Messiah, is described throughout their Scriptures, and they will turn to Him with all their heart.
Why do you say that the worldly folks will be in the majority?
Because other Scriptures tell us that only one-third of the nation Israel will escape to the wilderness. The rest will be surprised at the Last-Days' Dictator and his betrayal of them.
Hey, teacher! Couldn't these chapters be just another description of the Battle of Armageddon?
Maybe. That would certainly be a convenient explanation. But certain elements just don't fit:
- The Battle of Armageddon will be a gathering of all the world's military might to resist the return of Jesus, the Messiah of Israel. By contrast, Ezekiel describes an invasion of an independent nation of Israel. As we know from other Scriptures, notably the Book of Daniel, the Last-Days' Dictator will seize control of Israel in the middle of Daniel's 70th week. This invasion happens before Israel is betrayed by the Beast.
- Ezekiel's account of the battle does NOT include a description of the Messiah's return in the clouds of glory. Neither does it describe His immediate arrival in Jerusalem to establish His kingdom. Much as I dislike arguing from silence, these are HUGE clues.
- In other Hebrew prophetic accounts of The Day of The Lord, we see the Lord before, during and immediately after the devastation. Instead, Ezekiel spends verse after verse describing the toxic cleanup and how the nation Israel BEGINS its spiritual awakening process.
- God has specific objectives to accomplish by intervening in Magog's invasion. These objectives are different from His objectives for the Battle of Armageddon.
- In the overall context of Bible prophecy, we know that the seven-year tribulation period (known as Daniel's 70th week or the time of Jacob's trouble) will be a time when God is specifically placing the nation Israel at the center of the world's attention. His miraculous intervention against this invasion would be a suitable beginning.
- As we mentioned earlier, God will use this event as a spiritual wake-up call for the nation Israel. It would seem cruel if He permitted Israel to sleepwalk through the entire seven-year tribulation period. At the very latest, this event might be at the midpoint of the seven-year period.
- The political alignments are different. The account in Ezekiel sounds like how the alliances would form TODAY with Magog and Persia (Turkey and Iran) as the primary instigators. By contrast, the Book of Revelation shows the Last-Days' Dictator and his allied kingdoms as central antagonists.
- We know from our other studies that the Last-Days' Dictator will head a group of ten "kingdoms." He will uproot three of them. God's pounding of the invaders might enable him to uproot the three. I don't really care which three, nor do I plan to be around to find out. Hopefully you and I will be airlifted to safety (raptured) before then.
- The caliph (Gog) in Ezekiel's account would seem to be a secular, Sunni caliph based in Turkey. And that person is likely to perish in God's response to the invasion. The Last-Days' Dictator is more-likely to be a Shiite caliph, but this is all speculation for now.
- In our study of the seven seals, we see that 1/4 of the world's people will be destroyed by war, famine and disease during the first half of the tribulation period. A nuclear exchange between the USA and Russia, coupled with the resulting toxic clouds of debris, would account for casualties of that magnitude.
Are you ready to make a commitment?
We know that a numberless multitude will come to a saving knowledge of Jesus, the Messiah of Israel, during the first 3.5 years of the tribulation period, AFTER the "alive and awake" Church has been airlifted to safety. Unfortunately, this numberless multitude might not include very many U.S. residents living near strategic targets.
Are you sitting on the fence, wondering how long you can postpone a real commitment to Jesus? I can tell you that the answer is: "Not very long, because the fence might soon be radioactive." If God judged Sodom and Gomorrah for their "tolerance" of false religions and sexual perversion, then He MUST judge this nation too.
Are you VERY sure of the Scriptural basis for your salvation? Are you trusting in Jesus or in your long-time membership in the (whatever) denomination? What about your children and your closest friends? Are you willing to gamble that they'll have seven years after the next rapture event to get things right with God? Wouldn't you rather spare them the grief?
My hope is that you've already come to a saving knowledge of Jesus, the true Messiah of Israel. If you aren't sure of your relationship with Jesus, please click the "mail-to" link below to send us an e-mail. Explain your concerns and we'll respond as quickly as we can (assuming the next rapture event hasn't already happened). Now two quick offers before we close:
- For an overall timeline of last-days events, click here.
- If you disagree with some (or all) of my conclusions -- GOOD! I'm pleased that you have the intellectual fortitude to think for yourself. Just click here to see some positive steps for continuing your study of Scriptures.
Closing Prayer: Lord, some of my friends and family members don't know You, and I'm concerned about their future. Please lead me, by Your Spirit, to share the good news of Jesus with them, I pray. Amen.
Hey, teacher! Can you give us an overall timeline for all the tribulation events? I'm getting confused about what happens before what.
Welcome to the club: nobody (including you and me) can know the exact chronology, but we can develop some guidelines by comparing these Scriptures to other prophetic passages. The problem arises because the book of Revelation is arranged by subject, not by strict chronology. Within each chapter or major division, the events are arranged in sequence. But these events might happen before, after, or concurrently with events revealed in later chapters. For example, both the sixth seal of Chapter 6 and the seventh trumpet in Chapter 11 announce the beginning of the Day of the Lord, at the very end of the Great Tribulation. Having said all that, we can make some cautious generalizations about chronology.
A Guide to Last-Days Events
Here are some general guidelines based on our course material:
- At some point in the near future, possibly on a Pentecost Sunday or on Rosh Hashanah (the Feast of Trumpets), the Lord will call His followers to heaven and give them/us all new resurrection bodies.
- Shortly after you and I are airlifted to safety, the Last-Days' Dictator will facilitate a seven-year peace treaty between Israel and its hostile neighbors.
- The signing of this peace treaty will mark the beginning of the "70th week of Daniel" -- as described in Prophecies of Daniel. This "week" (seven-year period) will be a time of God's specific dealings with the nation of Israel, so the Church must be taken away just before or exactly at its beginning.
- Beginning then and continuing through the seven years will be the unfolding of the judgments we saw in Revelation 6, with the opening of the seven seals:
- Religious deception and a false messiah,
- Wars and rumors of wars,
- Disease and famine,
- Earthquakes and natural disasters, and
- Martyrdom of Christian and Jewish people for their faith.
- Approximately 1/4 of the world's population will be killed through these wars, diseases, famines, earthquakes, religious persecution and other disasters.
- At some point, either just before or just after the start of the seven-year period, the war described in Ezekiel 38 and 39 will happen. This will trigger the last-days spiritual awakening of the nation Israel.
- Shortly after the start of the seven-year period, the Lord will put His seal on 144,000 Israeli-born, Messianic-Jewish men. These men will have a unique evangelistic ministry for the first 3 1/2 years of the tribulation period before being given a private rapture to be with the Lord.
- Through the first 3 1/2 years of the tribulation, the Last-Days' Dictator will be a model of political correctness. He and his False Prophet will appear to be angels of light, helping to "teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony." They will make great, inspiring speeches, encouraging people of all races and religions to live in peace and love. Millions will thrill to hear them, buy their tapes, and spread their deceitful gospel.
- In the middle of the tribulation period, the Last-Days' Dictator will break the treaty, seize control of Jerusalem, defile the rebuilt temple, and go on a killing rampage to destroy the Jewish people. A faithful remnant will escape "to the wilderness" -- perhaps the rock city of Petra.
- The breaking of the treaty will announce the beginning of the 3 1/2 year period known as the Great Tribulation.
- When the beast rises to power, the False Prophet will force everybody to take the mark of the beast. This will probably be a forgery-proof identification and electronic funds transfer system. You can see a precursor to this mark in today's Islamic countries, where Jihadist demonstrators put marks on their foreheads as a mark of solidarity.
- At the very start of the Great Tribulation, the Lord will raise up two witnesses who will prophesy for the entire 3 1/2 years. They will call the shots for God, predicting the arrival of the Trumpet judgments and calling plagues down on the earth.
- At the start of the Great Tribulation, the Trumpet judgments will begin to fall upon the remaining inhabitants of the earth. These judgments will bring the type of devastation normally associated with nuclear war, and 1/3 of the earth's population will be destroyed.
- Shortly after the start of the Great Tribulation, midway through Daniel's 70th Week, the Lord will call a rapture for a second group of believers. These will be people (both Jews and Gentiles) who come to a saving knowledge of Jesus, the Messiah, during the first 3 1/2 years of the tribulation period. These are called the "numberless multitude," as we see in the lesson Special People.
- At some point, either at the start or sometime during the Great Tribulation, the devil and his angels will be cast out of their places in heaven and be confined to the earth. He and his henchmen intend to persecute every Christian and Jewish person remaining on the planet. Make plans to be elsewhere BEFORE that happens.
- Near the end of the Great Tribulation, our Lord will take a final harvest of believers who will stand tall in their faith and refuse to accept the mark of the beast. These believers will be eternal celebrities in heaven as a reward for what the apostle Paul describes as "momentary light affliction."
- By contrast to the believers just mentioned, the faint-hearted folks who take the mark of the beast will be part of a different harvest -- the grapes of wrath -- performed by a very grim reaper.
- At the end of the Great Tribulation, the two witnesses will finish their prophecy and the Last-Days' Dictator will kill them. After 3 1/2 days, the Lord will resurrect the two men and give them a private rapture to heaven.
- At the end of the Great Tribulation, God will direct His angels to pour out the seven Last Plagues upon the stiff-necked survivors.
- The plagues signal the official start of the Day of the Lord.
- The plagues will set the stage for the Battle of Armageddon.
- When the dust has settled, Jesus will return to the earth to set up His Kingdom and a 1,000-year period often called The Milennium. You and I will return with Him to participate in His government.
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Hey, teacher! I don't agree with your conclusions!Good! Please don't be satisfied with ANYBODY's explanation, especially mine. My goal is to spur you on to do further study on your own. In fact, nothing would make me happier than to hear that you were so outraged by my lessons that you spent days studying these Scriptures trying to prove me wrong. All I ask is one thing: Spend your time studying the Bible. Don't waste your time reading books ABOUT the Bible, except for fun. (Hint: You will save yourself a lot of grief (and money) if you avoid commentaries.) Instead, pray for the Holy Spirit to open your heart and mind. Then make up your own lists and charts based on your own personal study of the Bible.
Although the Bible should be your primary study material, a few study helps are worth purchasing:
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- Look up key words and phrases in your Strong's Concordance and in your Vines' Dictionary of New Testament Words.
- Get the Greek/English Interlinear text by George Ricker Berry, so you can get a flavor for the word-by-word literal translation of the Greek.
- Spend the majority of your time studying in the King James Version or the New King James translation. These two are the most accurate. (Note: Although the paraphrase versions (Living Bible, NIV) are very readable for the Old Testament and helpful for devotional studies, they are less accurate in the New Testament.)
- Follow up on the margin notes in your Bible, looking for related passages and concepts.
- Take everybody's explanations (including mine) with a grain of salt.