Answers to the most frequently asked questions about the “War of Gog & Magog.” Part Four in our series on the prophecies of Ezekiel 38-39.

(Source: screen capture of a CNN report on July 9, 2015)

(Source: screen capture of a CNN report on July 9, 2015)

(Central Israel) — Today is Part Four in our study of Ezekiel 38 & 39 and what Bible scholars call the “War of Gog and Magog.”

In light of the growing alliance between Russia and Iran, and the growing interest in eschatology among Muslims, Jews and Christians, many of you have questions regarding these prophecies.

Today, let’s answer three of the most frequently asked questions.

Q: Will the War of Gog and Magog happen before or after the Rapture?

A: The truth is we simply do not know the answer for certain, because Ezekiel does not say. Many of the theologians I cited in Epicenter believe the war will occur after the Rapture. In the novel Left Behind, Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins describe the War of Gog and Magog as having already happened before the Rapture takes place. In The Ezekiel Option, I also chose to portray the war occurring before the Rapture.

In Matthew 24:14, Jesus says, “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come” (NASB). We also know from Ezekiel that God will use the War of Gog and Magog to display his glory to all nations and to pour out his Holy Spirit, particularly on the nation of Israel. As a result of the entire world seeing God defend Israel from the onslaught of the Russian-Iranian coalition, a dramatic spiritual awakening will occur around the globe. It would certainly be consistent with God’s heart for humanity that he would cause this cataclysmic moment to occur before the Rapture in order to shake people out of their spiritual apathy and/or rebellion and give them at least one more chance to receive Christ as their Savior before the terrible events of the Tribulation occur.

But let me be clear: I believe that the Rapture could occur at any moment, and I would certainly not be surprised in any way if it occurred before the events of Ezekiel 38 and 39 come to pass. Christian theologians speak of the “doctrine of imminence.” This means that according to the Bible there is no prophetic event that has to happen before Jesus snatches his church from the earth. That is, the Bible teaches us that we should be ready for Jesus to come for us at any moment. I fully believe that. But it should be noted with regard to this doctrine that while no major prophetic event has to happen before the Rapture, that doesn’t mean no such event will happen first. Perhaps the clearest evidence of this truth is the rebirth of Israel. This major prophetic event was foretold in Ezekiel 36–37, yet its fulfillment happened before the Rapture. Thus, it is certainly possible that other events—such as the events of Ezekiel 38–39—could happen before the Rapture as well.

Q: Ezekiel says the War of Gog and Magog will happen in the last days. Doesn’t that by definition mean it will happen during the seven years of the Tribulation?

A: Ezekiel 38:16 does say these events will happen in the “last days” (NASB), but this term is not necessarily limited to the period of the Tribulation. The apostle Peter, for example, used the term in Acts 2 to refer to the period he was living in, and that was nearly two thousand years ago. Likewise, consider the words of another apostle in 1 John 2:18: “Dear children, the last hour is here. You have heard that the Antichrist is coming, and already many such antichrists have appeared. From this we know that the last hour has come.” Again, John was writing nearly two thousand years ago.

It’s important to note that the Hebrew term translated as “the last days” can also be translated as “in the distant future” (NLT) or “in days to come” (NIV). Thus, it is reasonable to conclude that the term the last days refers to an indeterminate period of time leading up to the second coming of Jesus Christ. This period includes—but is not limited to—the seven years of the Tribulation.

That said, I don’t believe the War of Gog and Magog can begin during the Tribulation. Why? Because Ezekiel 39 indicates that after the supernatural destruction of Israel’s enemies, the people of Israel gather up and burn the weapons of their enemies for seven years. Yet when we look carefully at the writings of the prophet Daniel and the Book of Revelation, we see that 3 1/2 years into the seven year Tribulation, the Antichrist will invade Israel (aka, “the Beautiful Land” — see Daniel 11:16 and 11:41-45) and set up his throne here and desecrate the Third Temple (which will have been built and been operational by Day One of the Tribulation). There is no way that Jewish Israelis will be burning the weapons of their enemies if their country is being invaded by the Antichrist. Thus, since the burning of the weapons occurs for seven years, it cannot be the same seven years of the Tribulation.

Q: Doesn’t the Bible tell us that the War of Gog and Magog will happen at the very end of time—after the Rapture, after the Tribulation, after the Battle of Armageddon, and after the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth—not before all these things as you have described?

A: Revelation 20:7-10 does speak of another War of Gog and Magog that occurs at the end of time, after all these other events. But this is a second war, not the war referred to by Ezekiel 38–39. We know this for several reasons.

  • First, Ezekiel’s war is described as occurring relatively soon after the rebirth of the State of Israel and the ingathering of the Jewish people from around the world (Ezekiel 36–37). The war in Revelation, by contrast, occurs after Jesus has reigned on earth for a thousand years.
  • Second, Ezekiel’s war involves a fearsome but limited coalition of countries that surround Israel, as we learned in earlier chapters. The war in Revelation involves all the nations from “every corner of the earth” coming to attack Israel (Revelation 20:8).
  • Third, after Ezekiel’s war, life continues. Bodies are gathered and buried for seven months, weaponry is gathered and burned for seven years, and Ezekiel 40–48 describes the Temple that will be built. By contrast, the war in Revelation is followed immediately and literally by the end of the world. Satan and his followers are judged and thrown into the “lake of fire” (Revelation 20:10). The heavens and earth are destroyed. A completely new heaven and a new earth are created, and followers of Christ will live on this new earth for the rest of eternity.

—————–

  1. To read Part One of the series, please click here.
  2. To read Part Two, please click here
  3. To read Part Three, please click here

————————–

Advertisements

Will the Biblical “War of Gog & Magog” bring about the end of Radical Islam as we have known it? Here’s the answer, Part Three.

Kremlin_Moskow_2(Central Israel) — Today is Part Three of our study of Ezekiel 38 & 39 and the Biblical prophecies concerning the coming “War of Gog & Magog.”

The stunning move in recent weeks by Russia and Iran to intensify their military alliance and to actually engage in combat operations in Syria, not far from the borders of Israel, has prompted renewed interest in these ancient prophecies. So has Israel’s discovery this month of massive amounts of oil in the Golan Heights, the explosion of Radical Islam and Apocalyptic Islam in the region, and the surge of interest in eschatology (the study of End Times matters) among Muslims, Jews and Christians around the world.

As I explain in my 2006 non-fiction book, Epicenter — and the updated 2008 paperback release, Epicenter 2.0 — the prophecies of Ezekiel 38-39 are critically important but often overlooked portions of Scripture. They are also quite controversial. Sincere and well-respected Bible scholars do not all agree on how to interpret these prophecies.

Of particular dispute, for example, is the identification of Magog. Many scholars and Bible teachers believe that the evidence suggests “Magog” is the nation we today call Russia and that “Gomer” is modern-day Turkey. (I am in this group, for reasons I describe in more detail in Epicenter.) Others believe “Magog” and “Gomer” are modern-day Turkey and that Russia isn’t involved in this prophecy at all.

Another dispute: Some Christians are asking whether Russian President Vladimir Putin is the “Gog” figure describe in the prophecies. (I say it’s too early to draw such a conclusion, though I admit Putin is certainly “Gog-esque.”) Other Christians are beginning to wonder if Turkish President  Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (pronounced “Air-do-wan”) is “Gog.” (I don’t believe so, but he’s certainly emerging as an enemy of Israel and an ally of Putin.)

My objective in this series of studies is not to persuade you of my view, but to explain the prophecies the best I can and help you study them for yourselves. Indeed, I believe the prophecies of Ezekiel 38 & 39 deserve much more careful study, prayer and discussion in our time — both by scholars and by lay people — especially in light of current trends.

In our study today, let’s look at what the prophet Ezekiel says will happen to the enemies of Israel when the War of Gog and Magog concludes, and what happens with Israel and the Jewish people, as well.

  1. As the forces of the Russian dictator (Gog) and his military coalition — including Iran (Persia), Libya & Algeria (Put), Sudan (Cush), Turkey (Gomer), and other Islamic nations (Beth Togarmah) — converges against the State of Israel in the “last days,” the Hebrew Prophet Ezekiel tells us that at the last moment when there seems to be know hope for Israeli Jews, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is going to supernaturally intervene and come to the rescue.
  2. Consider Ezekiel 38:18-19. “‘It will come about on that day, when Gog comes against the land of Israel,’ declares the Lord God, ‘that My fury will mount up in My anger. In My zeal and in My blazing wrath I declare that on that day there will surely be a great earthquake in the land of Israel.”
  3. Ezekiel tells us that this earthquake will shake the entire globe and “all the men who are on the face of the earth will shake at My presence” (38:20).
  4. The enemy forces will become so frightened and disoriented during this massive earthquake that they will turn and starting fighting each other (38:21).
  5. Terrible diseases (pestilence) will start to spread through the enemy forces (38:21).
  6. As God judges these enemies of Israel, Ezekiel explains that the Lord “will rain on him [Gog] and on his troops, and on the many peoples who are with him, a torrential rain, with hailstones, fire, and brimstone.” (38:22)
  7. In a scene evocative of a Hollywood blockbuster, fire from heaven will fall on the enemies of Israel, consumes and destroying them in divine judgment.
  8. The Lord also says “I will send fire upon Magog and those who inhabit the coast lands in safety.” (39:6) In other words, parts of Russia and other enemy countries will be devastated supernaturally by fire from heaven.
  9. The Bible does not tell us exactly how this will happen, but it clearly describes a supernatural judgment. This does not appear in the text to be a war started by the Israeli Defense Forces. These do not appear to be missiles from the Israeli Air Force. There no evidence in the text of Israeli military forces on the move and defending themselves and their nation. Perhaps Israeli leaders at that point are engaged in diplomacy, trying to persuade the Russian leader to stand down and back off. Perhaps Israeli leaders at that time are hoping for the U.S. or the U.N. other nations to intervene diplomatically or even militarily to protect them. Whatever the case, the text does not provide clear evidence of the Israeli military going into action to protect their country and defeat their enemies. Rather, the text indicates that the God of Israel steps in and defends Israel Himself, raining fire and brimstone down on the enemy forces and utterly destroying them — and doing so at the very last possible moment, when all hope appears to have been lost.
  10. Why does God act to protect the nation of Israel and defeat Israel’s enemies? The Lord tells us directly in Ezekiel 38:22-23 — to bring judgment and to reveal Himself and His power and glory to Israel and the nations. “With pestilence and with blood I will enter into judgment with him [Gog]….I will magnify Myself, sanctify Myself, and make Myself known in the sight of many nations; and they will know that I am the Lord.”
  11. As we head deeper into the “last days” (Ezekiel 38:16) and the Second Coming of Christ, many nations — and perhaps all nations — will have forgotten or refused to believe what the Bible teaches, that God does, in fact, love the Jewish people very much. The Lord God of the Bible does love the nation of Israel. The Jewish people are by no means perfect. Yet the Bible states that God loves them still and has made promises to them and that the Lord intends to keep those promises. Indeed, the Lord God wants Israel to know that He exists and is All-Powerful and that He loves His Chosen People, and He wants the rest of the world to know that He exists and is All-Powerful and that He loves His Chosen People.
  12. The devastation that results from these divine judgments is so horrific that chapter 39 tells us it takes the Israelis seven months to bury all the bodies of the enemy forces (39:12-16).
  13. Ezekiel tells us it would probably take longer than seven months but the birds of the air and the beasts of the field eat many of the bodies (39:17-20)
  14. The prophesies regarding Gog & Magog remind us that sin has consequences. God said in Genesis 12:1-3 that those who bless the children of Abraham will be blessed, but those who curse them will be cursed. God is patient. He is slow to anger. But when pushed too far, He will act against those who hate the Jewish people and seek to rob, kill and destroy them. Let the nations be warned.
  15. There is more to the story, however. Not only will the “War of Gog and Magog” be a day of great judgment; it will also be a day of great mercy. The Bible says that the militaries of these enemies will be destroyed. There are hints here and in other texts (Jeremiah 49, for example) that the governments of these countries will be judged, as well. But God is not going to wipe out all the people of these enemy countries. To the contrary, He wants them to see His glory and His mercy. Ezekiel 39:21 — “I will set My glory among the nations; and all the nations will see My judgment which I have executed and My hand which I have laid on them.”
  16. Consider that verse carefully. The text says that “all” the nations will “see” God’s glory and judgment. Today, we are living in the first generation in human history where because of the miracle of global satellite television technology people in every country on the planet will be able to watch the prophecies of the Bible come true before their very eyes. When the Russian-Iranian alliance converges against Israel, the world will be able to see it happen on television. When fire falls from heaven on the enemy forces, the world will be able to watch it on television. Anyone in any nation that has a television will be able to see the mighty hand of God reaching into human history to bring about divine judgment on Israel’s enemies and divine mercy on Israel’s people, both Jews and Arabs. It will a dramatic moment, and “all the nations” will “see” God’s glory and power.
  17. As a result, I believe Ezekiel 38-39 describes the end of Radical and Apocalyptic Islam — and effectively the end of all of Islam — as we have known it. After all, when the God of Israel destroys these Islamic and Russian military forces supernaturally while Muslims watch live on Al Jazeera and other networks, how will Muslims wake up the day after and believe that the Qur’an is the true word of God and that Muhammad is a true prophet? As a result of the War of Gog & Magog, the vast majority of Muslims will abandon Islam. They will have seen their god and false prophet defeated before their very eyes, by the God of Israel, no less. As a result, their faith in Islam will be shattered. Many will turn to faith in Jesus Christ. Not all, of course, but many will because they will have seen the Word of God come true right in front of them and the Word was God and the Word is God and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and His name is Jesus the Messiah. (John chapter 1)
  18. Thus, the War of Gog & Magog may very well turn out to be the most dramatic moment of Muslims converting to faith in Jesus Christ in fourteen centuries.
  19. Meanwhile, Israelis will feel very afraid and very much alone as the crisis builds and unfolds, right up until the Lord shows His mighty hand. But at that point, when they see the judgment of their enemies, then even those who are secular will know there is a God in heaven.
  20. Consider Ezekiel 39:22 — “And the house of Israel will know that I am the Lord their God from that day onward.”
  21. Consider Ezekiel 39:25-26,28 — “Therefore, thus says the Lord God, ‘Now I will restore the fortunes of Jacob and have mercy on the whole house of Israel; and I will be jealous for My holy name. They will forget their treachery which they perpetrated against Me, when they live securely on their own land with no one to make them afraid….Then they will know that I am the Lord their God because I made them go into exile among the nations, and then gathered them again to their own land and I will leave none of them there any longer.’”
  22. Israeli and Jewish secularism will be over, once and for all.
  23. On top of all this, the Lord says He will no longer hide His face from the Jewish people and that He will pour out His Holy Spirit upon the Jewish people. “I will not hide My face from them any longer, for I will have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel, declares the Lord.” (39:29)
  24. As a result, many Jews will come to faith in Jesus as Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior of the world, for that is the role of the Holy Spirit, to reveal the true identity of Jesus to people. Jesus said in John 14:26, “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” (see also John 16:13-15.) Not all Jews will come to faith in Jesus at that time, but many will because the Father will pour out His Holy Spirit on the house of Israel.
  25. While we know these events will all happen in the “last days” (38:16), we cannot determine whether the “War of Gog and Magog” will happen before the Rapture (when the Lord suddenly snatches born again believers in Jesus off of the earth, prior to the Tribulation) or not, because the text does not tell us one way or the other.
  26. That said, I believe it is very possible — not certain, but very possible — that these events will unfold within this generation, and possibly quite soon. We are certainly seeing geopolitical events unfolding in a way consistent with Ezekiel 38-39.
  27. Therefore, the most important question we must ask is this: Since the Lord in Ezekiel 38:7 told Gog, the enemy of Israel, to “get ready, be prepared,” what then should Israelis themselves and friends of Israel be doing? Shouldn’t we, too, get ready and be prepared — spiritually, emotionally, physically, financially, and in every other possible way, for the coming War of Gog & Magog?
  28. These prophecies are some of the most interesting and important descriptions of End Times events in all of the Bible. Unfortunately, too few people in the world are aware of them, or have read them, much less studied them carefully. May the Lord bless you and reveal Himself and His heart to you as you get yourself ready for the prophecies coming our way.

In our next study, I will answer some frequently asked questions about these prophecies.

—————–

————————–

Israel makes massive discovery of oil in the Golan Heights. Is this a prelude to the “War of Gog & Magog”? Here’s the answer, Part Two.

The table of contents of "Epicenter," from 2006.

The table of contents of “Epicenter,” from 2006.

(Central Israel) — It has been a dramatic month here in Israel, and we’re only eleven days in.

At the moment, we’re experiencing a rash of violence, including a series of stabbings by Arab terrorists, Arab rioting in various cities, and other attacks against Jewish people. Last night, terrorists in Gaza also fired a series of rockets at southern Israel. Fortunately, the Iron Dome system shot down one of the rockets and no one was injured by the others. The Prime Minister has deployed additional police and soldiers to increase security. He has also deployed additional Iron Dome batteries in the south. Please pray for a restoration of calm. We’re not worried. Life is going on nearly as usual here. But life is never dull here, and we need the Lord to move mightily to restrain the forces of evil.

That said, two much bigger stories have also captured people’s attention here in recent days.

  1. THE EMERGING RUSSIAN-IRANIAN MILITARY ALLIANCE ENTERS COMBAT. The first story I’ve already noted on this blog, but it’s importance cannot be overstated. We are witnessing a stunning move by Russia and Iran as they send military forces into combat in Syria. For the first time, these two nations — historic enemies — are operating together in a military alliance, one that will have profound consequences for the security of the region, and one that poses a grave danger to the security of Israel.
  2. ISRAEL MAKES MASSIVE DISCOVERY OF OIL. The second big story I have noted on Twitter but not yet on this blog. Israel this past week announced the discovery of a massive oil patch in the Golan Heights, along the border of Syria, that could make the Jewish state energy independent for decades to come. I have previously reported Israel’s discovery of massive amounts of natural gas off the Mediterranean coast. But while there has been speculation about the presence of oil in Israel, a major discovery has never been confirmed until now.

“Energy geologists estimate that billions of barrels of crude oil are available in shale in the occupied Golan Heights, but will Israel be able to get to it? If it can, the field could make the Jewish state self-sufficient in oil for years,” explains a news report from NASDAQ. “Afek Oil and Gas, a subsidiary of the U.S. company Genie Energy had been drilling in the southern Golan Heights for more than a year, and in September announced the discovery of the shale deposit. But the size of the field wasn’t confirmed until Oct. 7. In an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 News, the company’s chief geologist, Yuval Bartov, said, ‘We are talking about a strata which is 350 meters thick, and what is important is the thickness and the porosity….On average in the world strata are 20-30 meters thick, so this is 10 times as large as that, so we are talking about significant quantities. The important thing is to know the oil is in the rock and that’s what we now know.'”

Consider, too, these headlines:

Readers of my novels and my non-fiction books will recall that in the past I have suggested such events will happen one days, and could set into motion the fulfillment of the prophecies of Ezekiel 38 and 39, what Bible scholars call the “War of Gog and Magog.” For example, in Epicenter, I predicted the following future headlines:

  • “FUTURE HEADLINE: Israel Discovers Massive Reserves of Oil, Gas”
  • “FUTURE HEADLINE: Treaties and Truces Leave Israelis More Secure Than Ever Before”
  • “FUTURE HEADLINE: A Czar Rises In Russia, Raising Fears of a New Cold War”
  • “FUTURE HEADLINE: Kremlin Joins ‘Axis of Evil,’ Forms Military Alliance With Iran”
  • “FUTURE HEADLINE: Moscow Extends Military Alliance To Include Arab, Islamic World”

Given that we are definitely seeing such headlines, is it possible that we are also going to see the “War of Gog & Magog” happen soon? As I stated in Part One of this series, it is too early to draw such a conclusion. More would have to happen to convince me the prophecies are definitively coming to pass in our lifetime. But given the trend lines, we cannot rule out the possibility that Ezekiel 38 & 39 will come true soon. It’s certainly possible.

Therefore, let’s continue to look carefully at what the text really says. Here, then, is Part Two of our study:

  1. In Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39, he Hebrew Prophet Ezekiel describes the rise of an evil military/political/diplomatic leader (Gog) from the land of Magog (Russia) who will form a military coalition with Persia (Iran), Cush (Sudan), Put (Libya & Algeria), Gomer (Turkey), Beth Togarmah (Turkic-speaking nations in Central Asian) countries in “the last days” (Ezekiel 38:16). In the days of Ezekiel, of course, there was no Islam. Today, we know that most of the nations Ezekiel mentions are Muslim-majority countries. We know that Russia is about 20% Muslim. And we know that Russia’s leaders are increasingly allied with Iran and other Islamic countries.
  2. The Bible explains very clearly that the target of this military coalition in the End Times will be Israel.
  3. Ezekiel 38:8 says “in the latter years, you [Gog and his coalition] will come into the land that is restored from the sword, whose inhabitants have been gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel which had been a continual waste; but its people were brought out from the nations and they are living securely, all of them.”
  4. Ezekiel 38:16 says that the coalition “will come up against My people Israel” and that “it shall come about in the last days that I will bring you [Gog] against My land.”
  5. Ezekiel 39:2 says that Gog will come “from the remotest parts of the north…against the mountains of Israel.”
  6. Clearly, then, the main pre-requisite for this prophecy regarding the “War of Gog and Magog” to come true is that the State of Israel has to be prophetically reborn in the last days. Indeed, this is what the prophecies of Ezekiel chapters 36 and 37 describe in detail.
  7. The Lord showed Ezekiel that Jews would living in exile,  scattered throughout the world because of sin and disobedience to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Ezekiel 36:16-21).
  8. But solely because of His grace and mercy, the Lord promised to regather the Jewish people to the land of Israel.
  9. The Lord promised that “I will cause men — My people Israel — to walk on you and possess you” (Ezekiel 36:12).
  10. The Lord said that the ancient ruins and the “waste places” in the land of Israel will be “rebuilt” by the Jewish people (Ezekiel 36:10). [See also Isaiah 61:4, “Then they will rebuild the ancient ruins, They will raise up the former devastations; and they will repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations.”]
  11. The Lord said that the land and “mountains of Israel” at that time would “put forth [their] branches” and bear fruit for “My people Israel.” (Ezekiel 36:8) [See also Isaiah 27:6, “In the days to come Jacob will take root, Israel will blossom and sprout, and they will fill the whole world with fruit.”]
  12. The Lord also indicates through this Scriptures that a prerequisite for the War of Gog & Magog is that Israel will not only be rebuilt but will be thriving economically in the last days. Indeed, the prophecy notes that part of the motivation (or perceived motivation) of Gog and his forces is “to capture spoil and to seize plunder, to turn your hand against the waste places which are now inhabited, and against the people who are gathered from the nations, who have acquired cattle and goods, who live at the center of the world.” (Ezekiel 38:12)
  13. Furthermore, the text notes that, “Sheba and Dedan and the merchants of Tarshish with all its villages will say to you [Gog], ‘Have you come to capture spoil? Have you assembled your company to seize plunder, to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to capture great spoil?'” (Ezekiel 38:13) Sheba is the ancient name for Arabia, which is currently known as Saudi Arabia. Dedan is the ancient name for the region of the Persian Gulf, what we currently call the “emirates” (such as the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, etc). Tarshish is the ancient name for the “Gold Coast” of Spain. Thus, “the merchants of Tarshish with all its villages” is generally thought of as the business and political leaders of Europe and the West. All this to say that the prophecy indicates that the Saudis, the Gulf states, Europe and the Western powers are not in a coalition against Israel, but are become worried by this Russian-Iranian coalition against Israel because it seems designed to capture the enormous wealth of the Jewish people in the rebuilt and thriving Land of Israel.
  14. Could these ancient prophecies be alluding to the discovery of massive amounts of oil and natural gas in and around Israel? Perhaps. In my first novel series (including The Last Jihad, The Last Days, and The Ezekiel Option) that concerns how the War of Gog & Magog might be set into motion and come to pass, I created a fictional scenario in which Israel discovers massive amounts of oil and gas, adding to the tremendous wealth she has already developed and acquired through her high-tech sector, banking and financial sector, and other lucrative elements of her economy. At that time, this appeared to be pure fiction. But since The Last Jihad was published in November 2002, Israel has in fact discovered oil and gas and is steadily becoming a very wealthy economic power in the region. I described some of these developments in my first non-fiction book, Epicenter, in 2006, but more and more gas and oil discoveries have been made since then, up to an including this month.
  15. The Lord said, FIRST, the physical restoration of Israel and the Jewish return to the Land would be set into motion (Ezekiel 37:4-8)
  16. After the physical restoration of the State of Israel began, then SECOND, the spiritual restoration of the Jewish people would be set into motion (Ezekiel 37:9-14).
  17. Then, once Israel was reestablished as a State, and the Jewish people were being regathered to the Land, and the Lord was drawing the Jewish people back into a relationship with Him, and Israel was living securely in the Land (Ezekiel 38:8) with a degree of prosperity even (Ezekiel 38:12), then — and only then — would the Russian-Iranian coalition be set into motion to rob, kill and destroy Israel and the Jewish people.
  18. It should be noted that Ezekiel does not describe Israel having “peace.” Rather, twice Israel is described as “living securely” (Ezekiel 38:8 and 38:11).
  19. I recognize that these verses can be difficult for some Palestinian Arabs and some Israeli Arabs to read, whether they are born again Christians or nominal Christians (raised in churches but without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ). These passages concerning the rebirth of Israel in the “last days” are also especially difficult, frustrating — even infuriating — for Muslims to read. Yet the Bible clearly teaches that God will set into motion the rebirth of the geopolitical nation state of Israel in the End of Days. Further, the Bible indicates that Jews will be a sinful, unredeemed, worldly people when they are brought back into the Land. Only after they return, the Bible teaches, will the Holy Spirit be poured out upon the Jewish people in an increasingly significant way (Ezekiel 39:29 and Joel 2:28-32 — or Joel chapter 3 in Hebrew Bibles). At that point, a growing number of Jewish people will repent and return to God and discover a personal relationship with the Lord that will transform their lives and attitudes and behavior in a powerful, supernatural way. In the meantime, the Lord Jesus said in Matthew 24 and Luke 21 that there will be “wars and rumors of wars” and “revolutions” and “lawlessness” in the last days. Certainly, the rebirth of Israel — while prophetic and God-ordained — has come with wars, rumors of war, revolutions, sins, and even crimes committed by Arabs as well as some Jews. The Bible doesn’t teach this period of the last days will be easy, and the Bible is right.
  20. That said, we would be not be honest to the Word of God if we were to ignore, deny or try to explain away the plain meaning of these verses. The Bible told us well in advance that Israel would be reborn and the Jews would come back to the Land, and this has come to pass. Genesis 12:1-3 tells us that the Lord will bless those who bless the children of Abraham, and He will curse those who curse the children of Abraham. Those who have cursed Israel have, sadly, found themselves facing great pain and suffering. Sometimes Bible truths are difficult to accept, but they are true nonetheless and we must accept them by faith.
  21. That said, while the Bible clearly explains that the Lord will bring the Jewish people back to the Land of Israel and allow them to reclaim their God-given ownership of the Land, nowhere in the Bible are Jews (or any group of people) given a license to commit injustice. To the contrary, the Bible teaches that Israelis are commanded to love their neighbors (Leviticus 19:18 and Matthew 19:19). The Bible also teaches that Israelis are commanded to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them (Matthew 5:44). The Jews do have rights to the ownership of the Land, but they also have responsibilities to govern justly and compassionately, in accordance with the Scriptures. In Leviticus 19:33-34, for example, the Lord says: “When a stranger [non-Jew] resides with you in your land,  you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who resides with you shall be to  you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.”
  22. Those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ need to teach sound Bible doctrine regarding Israel and the Palestinians. We need to love both, bless both, pray for both. Moreover, we need to stand with and encourage our brothers and sisters in the Messiah, whether they are Jewish or Arab. The Bible gives us no freedom to ignore, deny, or oppose our brothers and sisters on either side. Rather, Jesus said “blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9). We need to be pro-actively building relationships with Israelis and Palestinians and being ambassadors of Christ and agents of reconciliation whenever and wherever possible.
  23. We do not have to agree with everything that our brothers and sisters believe, especially if those beliefs are unscriptural. But we are commanded to love them unconditionally and sacrificially. After all, Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
  24. Now, back to the prophecy and its analysis: It could be reasonably argued that Israel is more prosperous and is living more securely today than at any other time in its 67 years. The Israeli Defense Forces are widely considered the strongest and most effective ground fighting force in the Middle East. The Israeli Air Force is widely considered dominant in the skies. Israel has peace treaties with two major neighbors, Egypt and Jordan. Yasser Arafat is gone. Saddam Hussein is gone. Osama bin Laden is gone. Palestinian suicide bombings are not a daily part of Israeli life since 2004. Israel now has the very effective “Iron Dome” system to shoot down rockets fired at Israeli civilians from Gaza in the South or from Lebanon and Syria in the North. Meanwhile, Israel has submarines, ballistic missiles, and first-rate intelligence services in her defense. Israel has also enjoyed decades of a close strategic partnership with the United States (though this is fraying), has a strong and vibrant economy, and is widely believed to have defensive nuclear weapons, though the government maintains a policy of “strategic ambiguity” on the subject, neither confirming nor denying the existence of those weapons.
  25. Could Israel currently be secure enough to fulfill this prophetic prerequisite? Perhaps. Certainly this month Israelis feel somewhat on edge due to a rash of Arab stabbings, riots and other attacks. Perhaps events soon will lead Israelis to being and feeling even more secure. But there is no question that even with emerging new threats on the horizon, overall, Israelis feel more secure today than ever before its their modern State’s existence.
  26. Given the fact that the major End Times prophecies of Ezekiel 36 and 37 have largely come true in our lifetime, does this mean that we will see Ezekiel 38 and 39 come true in our lifetime as well? At the moment, I believe it is too soon to say so definitively. Certainly we are seeing geopolitical events unfold in recent decades and in recent years that are strikingly consistent with what the Bible describes as preparations essential for the “War of Gog and Magog.” The presence of Russian and Iranian military forces fighting in an alliance together in Syria — just miles north of the mountains of Israel — is a development we have never seen in the 2,500 years since this prophecy was written. So we should be ready. And we should be prepared — not caught off guard — if events accelerate in the near future. But we must also remember that the Lord in His sovereignty could also decide to delay events for quite some time for His own sovereign purposes.
  27. That said, it should be noted that when the Russian dictator finishes building his military coalition in Israel and begins to move his forces to surround Israel in the “last days,” Ezekiel gives us no indication that any country will come to Israel’s defense. There are no indications that the United Nations, or the European Union, or NATO will defend Israel. Nor is there any indication that the United States will defend Israel. Rather, Israel will be — and will feel — all alone in the world.
  28. Today, Israel is increasingly isolated from the international community. And U.S.-Israeli relations have become deeply strained during the Obama-Biden administration. God could change the heart of American leaders to once again become more pro-Israel. And/or a new President could come to office in 2017 or beyond that repairs the U.S.-Israeli alliance. But in the end, the Scriptures are clear that Israel will be abandoned by all nations. That would have to include the United States. How soon that will happen I cannot say. But we need to be aware that this will happen and not be surprised when it does.

Next, I will describe what the Bible tells us will happen to the forces of Gog and Magog.

—————–

————————–

With Russian & Iranian forces now engaged in combat in Syria, people are asking, “What is the War of Gog & Magog?” Here’s the answer, Part One.

Standing in front of the famed Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey.

Standing in front of the famed Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey.

(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.

—————–

————————–

Putin orders Russian military forces into combat in Syria, just miles from northern border of Israel. Russian forces working closely with Iran. Here’s the latest.

(photo credit: CNN)

(photo credit: CNN)

(Rochester, New York) — In the Kremlin’s biggest military operation in the Middle East since 1941, Russian air and ground forces are now engaged in combat in Syria. And they are now operating just miles from the northern mountains of Israel.

The Kremlin’s stated objective is to defeat ISIS and protect the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a long-time Russian ally in the Middle East. But Vladimir Putin’s aggressive moves have broader, more ominous implications.

  1. Putin is a Czar, an imperialist, consumed with “Mother Russia’s” need to expand it’s borders and influence — and he is now on the move to seize control of the dynamic in the epicenter.
  2. Putin specifically wants to replace the United States as the dominant military and political force in the Near East. It’s been firm, bipartisan U.S. foreign policy since World War II to keep the Russian military out of the Middle East. Yet President Obama is surrendering the region to the Kremlin with breathtaking speed and foolish recklessness.
  3. Putin is not alone in making these moves — he is working hand-in-glove with Iran’s government, which is also sending military forces into Syria.
  4. The Hebrew prophet Ezekiel wrote 2,500 years ago that in the “last days” of history, Russia and Iran will form a military alliance to attack Israel from the north. Bible scholars refer to this eschatological conflict, described in Ezekiel 38-39, as the “War of Gog & Magog.” Are these sudden and dramatic moves by Moscow and Tehran are simply coincidental, or have prophetic implications?

In the days ahead, I will examine the prophetic angle.

For now, let’s simply consider the magnitude of what Putin is doing.

“This is not only the Kremlin’s biggest military expedition outside the old Soviet Union since 1989, but the first Russian campaign in the Middle East since Moscow allied with Britain to invade Iran in 1941,” notes the UK Telegraph.

Putin is rapidly building two new Russian military bases in Syria, including a forward operating air base. He’s ordering Russian ground forces, tanks, heavy equipment into the Syrian theater. He’s ordered the Russian air force to launch bombing missions throughout Syria. He’s doing this in close coordination with the Iranian government and military. And today he signed orders to draft 150,000 more Russian men into the military.

As I wrote on September 16th, Putin is taking advantage of the geopolitical vacuum in the Middle East created by President Obama’s full-scale retreat from the region and appeasement of American enemies. And he’s not inching in — he’s going big and bold.

And the whole region is watching. Netanyahu was just in Moscow last week, holding an emergency meeting with Putin to discuss the dangers of this rapidly intensifying Russian-Iranian alliance.

Jordan, Egypt, the Saudis and the Gulf states are watching, too. They see America cutting them loose, and the Russian military surging into the region — not in advisory capacities as during the 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli wars, but in full combat mode.

More news and analysis soon. But here are the latest headlines…..

_______________

————————–

When it comes to choosing the next American President, what lessons can we draw from the Biblical stories of Josiah, Samuel and David? (My address to the Values Voter Summit)

Joel-FRC-VVS15On Saturday, I addressed the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C.

[To watch the video of my remarks, please click here.]

After most of the GOP presidential candidates had spoken, I was the last general session speaker at the two-day Summit. In my remarks, I focused on the darkness falling upon the Middle East — and particularly the emerging threat of Apocalyptic Islam — as well as why America is currently on the road to implosion unless we dramatically change course.

Rather than spend extensive time looking at the many existential challenges we face, however, I focused mostly on how we might best approach choosing the next American President. Who would be best candidate to lead America in 2017 and beyond? Who has the right character, vision, and detailed, substantive, serious plans for reform? Who has the wisdom, experience and sound judgment? Who is ready for the enormous and complicated challenges facing this great country?

I noted that I have been praying about this and studying the Scriptures for many months, asking the Lord for clarity, and here is what I have concluded: America also needs a Josiah. A President cannot save America from all our troubles. We desperately need a massive spiritual revival, a Third Great Awakening that transform hearts and minds from the Carolinas to California. But leadership matters. We need a leader like the one-time King of Judah whom the Bible describes as one of the most humble, strong, courageous, wise and impressive leaders in Jewish history.

In addition, I noted the story of the Hebrew prophet Samuel. The Bible tells us that Samuel was sent by God to the house of Jesse in Bethlehem to anoint the next King of Israel. The first person Samuel saw in Jesse’s home looked like just the right guy. But God said no, this wasn’t the one He had chosen. Then the next person Samuel saw looked like the right choice. But again God said no. This happened again and again until finally the Lord directed Samuel to anoint David — who wasn’t even in the room when Samuel began his search.

As we examine and study all the candidates, let us be prayerful and careful. Is it possible someone we’re not carefully considering right now might be the one the Lord is raising up? Is it possible that someone at or near the bottom in the polls — or just beginning to creep up in the polls — has more to offer than we realize? I can’t say if God will give us a Josiah — or a David — but let us not be hasty in making a decision, but watching carefully and seeking the Lord’s counsel.

Finally, I noted that sometimes God doesn’t raise up leaders after His own heart to lead a nation. Sometimes He requires His children to live under tyranny. Consider the story of Pastor Saeed Abedini. For three years, Saeed has been held in prison in Iran for preaching the Gospel and living for Christ. He has no immediate hope of a Josiah or a David coming to power in Iran. But he still is trying to cling to Christ and serve His Savior faithfully. We need to be praying for him to be brave and strong and healthy and released soon. And we need to consider his example — could we be faithful for Christ amidst tyranny?

God help us all.

_______________

————————–