EZEKIEL 38-39 AND THE COMING "TRIBULATION"
(Note: Ezekiel 38-39 describes a Russian-led invasion of Israel in the"latter days" of history and provides a specific list of nations and alliances involved in the conflict on both sides. However, Egypt and Syria,two of the most important nations in Bible prophecy, are missing from Ezekiel. The writer believes this is because Egypt and Syria will be neutralized in a conflict with Israel beforehand, probably just prior to Ezekiel's war.)
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..... 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. (Ezekiel 38:2-6, 16)
TWO RELATED VERSES?
Why is this war described by the prophet Ezekiel important enough to justify two entire chapters of the Bible and with so much detail? My answer is based on this revelation I received in 1981: that Ezekiel 38:22 and Revelation 8:7 describe the same events.
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. (Ezek 38:22) The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood,and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up,and all green grass was burnt up. (Revelation 8:7)
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? (Ezek 38:17)
This rhetorical question is highly significant. Why? Because God is clueing us here that the prophecy of Russia's invasion of Israel is the actual beginning of the long-awaited prophetic events spoken of "in old time by my servants the prophets of Israel." If this position proves accurate, then the sobering implication is that when Russia attacks we can know that the "first angel" (i.e.,"first trumpet") of the tribulation has sounded (Rev.8:7),meaning the world has entered into the first half of the seven-year countdown into the return of Jesus Christ. (The precise duration of this first 3.5 year period is actually numbered in 1,260 days from the arrival to the departure of the "two witnesses" [see Rev.11], who, presumably, appear just in advance of the first trumpet to warn the world of the monumental events about to come upon the earth [see Amos 3:7, Malachi 4:5].)
Note: The "Feast of Trumpets" is next in line on the Hebrew prophetic calendar and relates to the coming trumpets of the Revelation. Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits and Pentecost each had historical fulfillments in the first year of the New Covenant era in the events of Christ's death, resurrection and the initial outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon his followers at Pentecost (all within only 53 days of each other).
Due next after the long prophetic gap on the Jewish feast-calendar (i.e., from Pentecost to Trumpets) is, in order, the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles (see Lev.23), all of which, like the first group, shall have historical consequences in God's plan of redemption. More about these prophecies will be posted as events unfold.
TIMING IN CURRENT WORLD EVENTS
When will it happen? Ezekiel's war probably will occur soon after the coming conflict between Syria/Egypt and Israel, which could happen any moment. It's probable that the next war will be the "hooks in the jaw" (Ezek.38:4) that draws Russia, Iran and their allies directly into this regional conflict. Even now the Russians are selling and installing massive amounts of weapons in Iran (Ezekiel's "Persia"). In June, 1997, Iran test-fired missiles over the Persian Gulf, giving much concern to the U.S. Defense Department, and also held huge military maneuvers code-named "The Road to Jerusalem.
"THIS IS NOT THE FINAL GOG-MAGOG BATTLE
That Ezekiel's war will commence near the beginning of the tribulation period and is not the "Gog and Magog" battle of Revelation 20 (which happens after the 1,000 year reign of Christ) is suggested by the following verses:
And they that dwell in the cities of Israel shall go forth, and shall set on fire and burn the weapons...and they shall burn them with fire seven years: 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. Ezek 39:9-10
This seven-year period coincides with the "tribulation." The need for wood-burning fuel in Israel during the war's aftermath suggests that Ezekiel's prophecy isn't the post-millennial era of Revelation 20:8, where there the term "Gog and Magog" is a broader reference to the far-flung gentile nations of the world, who invade Israel from "the four quarters of the earth." Ezekiel's Gog and Magog, however, is a gentile nation specified as the "chief prince of Meschech and Tubal," limiting the reference in both time and location to a nation (Rosh) who leads an invasion of Israel from the"north quarters" only, not from all "four quarters of the earth" as described in Revelation 20. It is also unlikely that wood-burning fuel or any other kind would be required at the end of the 1,000 year "regeneration" and reign of Jesus Christ, after which an entirely new creation is made. Furthermore, the chapters following Ezekiel 38-39 describes this millennium period, placing Ezekiel's war prior to it. According to Ezekiel, this "Rosh [chief prince] of Meshech and Tubal" will "prepare" and "guard" (literally: arm and command) a group of mostly Islamic nations in the invasion (38:7). It's no coincidence that in every war including and since Israel's War of Independence in 1948, Russia has provided the Arab nations with both weapons and personnel in their wars against the Jews. Russia is the ultimate threat to Israel from "out of the north parts" (38:15). The ancient historian, Josephus (Antiquities 1,VI.1), tracked the migration of Noah's descendants, Gog, Magog, Meshech and Tubal (Gen.10:2), to the northern regions of what today are parts of southern Russia and/or the former Soviet Union. Many Orthodox Jews in Israel today believe Russia is Ezekiel's Gog and Magog, that this war is imminent, and that the Messiah, interestingly, will come to deliver them from their invaders. Note: Since Ezekiel 40 and following reveals a "temple" with very precise measurements, this might be the blueprint of the controversial "Third Temple" which many Jews long for, and which they might be inspired and enabled to build after Ezekiel's war, when they no longer have to bother about Islamic opposition. However, building might start sooner, which will further incite war with the Arabs.
THIS IS NOT THE BATTLE OF ARMAGEDDON
There are no references in Ezekiel 38-39 to the conflict between Jesus Christ and "antichrist" (the false Christ), a battle that will end with antichrist's defeat at the notorious battle of Armageddon (Rev.16:16). Armageddon takes place about seven years later at the conclusion of the tribulation with the"glorious appearing," i.e., the second-coming, of the Lord Jesus Christ (Rev.19:11-21).
ESCALATION OF EZEKIEL'S WAR
Again, Ezekiel's war occurs near the beginning of the final seven-year tribulation period and will bring about much devastation to the planet as part of a time generally known as the "beginning of sorrows," which will only intensify until the second coming of Christ. While Israel's victory in this war will encourage believing Jews and Gentiles who know from the Bible that God has actually won the day and glorified himself (38:23) as He did in ancient times against Pharaoh, the world (including Israel's allies) will be severely traumatized by this escalating war (39:6), which probably will involve nuclear weapons. This point cannot be overstated, because Ezekiel's war and the events following it will instill such fear and insecurity in humanity as to pave the way for the coming of"antichrist" and a universal system of government (the real "new world order") that will offer the delusion of "peace and safety," despite worse troubles to come.
THE GOOD NEWS IS THAT CHRIST'S LIGHT WILL SHINE IN THE DARKNESS!
Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. (Isaiah 60:1-2)
During the coming financial, military, political and environmental chaos of the tribulation period will be the greatest outpouring of God's Spirit ever and the greatest time of outreach the church has ever known. Note: See Joel 2:28. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit that "shall come to pass afterwards" is after the defeat of the "northern army" (i.e., Russia)of verse 2:20 (compare Ezek.39:11), but prior to the second-coming of Christ in 3:11-12 (Armageddon). This same pattern of "spiritual outpouring" can also be seen in Zachariah 12:10, where it too occurs between two wars described in 12:2-9 and 14:1-4). So despite the increasing darkness and unprecedented troubles coming upon the world with fearful signs and wonders in the heavens and on earth, the Bible says that
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Apparently, many will do so when faced with such ominous signs of the "last days." (Joel 3:14 , Rev. 7:14)