Delving into the patchwork of messages hidden within thousands of verses of Biblical prophesy to arrive at a composite End-of-Days picture is akin to assembling one of the complex puzzles that many of my pre-smart-phone generation once relied upon to get us through a boring rainy day. The more pieces and the more complex the better. There was something about dumping a thousand seemingly disassociated puzzle pieces into a pile in the center of a kitchen table then accepting the challenge of making them come together to resemble the well-known landscape or man-made wonder displayed on the front of the box. Each stand-alone piece wasn’t much to look at and yielded little information; for in a tiny fragment of a scene, the corner of a man’s elbow looks about the same as a crag on a mountaintop or a pebble on a beach. But when properly matched with its adjacent brethren the image, feelings and message that the artist or photographer intended to convey begins to rise to the surface.
Like the picture on the box cover, we too have Biblical snapshots to guide our efforts, prophetic images of wars to be initiated by the enemies of Israel, the return of the Son of God to gather His flock, times of tribulation for those left behind on the earth, wondrous acts of God in the heavens and a white throne judgment of the lost. For centuries theologians struggled to assemble the fragments of prophesy, many of which didn’t seem to be either plausible or possible. And those who attempted to make sense out of them and to assemble the puzzle often faced severe ridicule for their efforts.
Yet recent decades have favored those who put their trust in the Word of God. Archaeological finds and the ongoing march of modern world events have unveiled much of that cover image painted by our Creator ages ago. Mysteries once hidden within His holy book’s pages have been gradually revealed to faithful believers. Like a grandiose chess game, world powers are maneuvered around the board in a series of interactions that will usher in the Lord’s return. Prophetic images that once appeared unrelated and unlikely now seem quite feasible, even probable.
Scriptures that foretold earth-shaking changes that would catapult Biblically-cited nations from obscurity back to the center of the world stage seemed unrealistic a couple decades ago. Yet recent events, highlighted by the meteoric rise of an Islamic Caliphate and a nuclear Iran, have refocused the entire world’s attention on the Middle East. And one tiny plot called the Land of Promise is in the crosshairs of every nation on the planet.
Jesus told His followers to wait and watch for various signs that the time was near. And we are the generation chosen to witness and alert others that the time is at hand. Only the willfully blind can ignore the twists and turns in world events that have become so frequent and glaring – for they now are more akin to signals than signs that we are on the very precipice of the last days. No one can afford to ignore the direction in which world events are moving. To the unbeliever it should be worrisome. But to the Christian, it’s exciting to be living in this age. It’s imperative that those of us in-the-know seek to understand and communicate to others not only what is going to happen, but why.
Modern Nations in Prophesy
To understand Bible prophecy modern nations must be correlated with their ancient names – develop sort of a “Who’s Who.” National borders have changed multiple times over the centuries. For the most part what is now Iran was once called Persia. What is now Iraq, in ancient times was composed of several different kingdoms. Southern Iraq was comprised of the peoples of Shinar, Chaldea, and Babylon, while northern Iraq was part of Assyria, and today’s Kurdish portion was inhabited by the Medes. Assyria also extended into what is currently Turkey. What are now Russia and parts of China were referred to as Gog and Magog. And what formerly was Tyre is modern Lebanon. Only a few nations have retained their names over the centuries: Israel, Egypt, Syria and Ethiopia. Since the Bible is focused on Israel and its Middle Eastern neighbors, distant nations in Europe, North and South America, and Australia are not even cited; rather they are referred to only in general terms as to whether or not they are righteous, treat their own people and strangers with compassion, serve God and support Israel.
The Prophets tell us that in the end of days most nations will be aligned against Israel and will go to war with and invade it. There have been a number of invasions by Israel’s Middle-Eastern neighbors since its founding on May 14, 1948, and Israel has successfully repelled each, gaining land and expanding closer toward its ancient borders each time. Israel has been unsuccessful in its attempts to make peace with most of her neighbors, and Islamic terrorist organizations situated on her borders have gotten more and more aggressive and murderous. But the prophet Ezekiel warns of one especially violent war with Persia and her allies. This prophetic war has never taken place. In fact, the only time in history Persia/Iran has ever gone to war inside the borders of what is now Israel was in 614 AD (prior to Islam) when the Persian Emperor sent his troops to take Jerusalem and overthrow the Byzantines who were persecuting the Jews and Samaritans of the land.
Iran today has two chief allies, Russia and China, and as permanent members of the United Nation’s Security Council these two have enabled much of Iran’s terrorist support activities against Israel. Together they stand in opposition to the United States and Western Europe as they vie for world domination. The rest of the world’s prophetic nations are aligning themselves with one or the other of these two global forces.
Ezekiel 38 is a prophecy not only about Persia, but also about people groups referred to as Gog and Magog. These and all their distant “cousins” will form an alliance in the End-of-Days to try to destroy Israel. Gog and Magog and their invasion are also mentioned in Revelation 20. Few theologians doubt that this is a reference to modern Russia and China. Other prophesies speak of these forming a global economic partnership along with other nations of the world to exclude Israel.
In a prophecy recorded in Daniel 11, a clash is foretold between “the king of the north” and “the king of the south.” Emerging victorious, the king of the north’s army is then prophesied to conquer the tiny Jewish nation. At that point, the prophesy foretells, “tidings out of the east and out of the north shall trouble” this king. This event is further expounded in Revelation 16 where it is prophesied that the “kings of the east” will gather a vast army. There are many possibilities for these various north, south and east “kings,” based on their geographical location to Jerusalem, so we’ll just have to wait for more information. But most theologians see Russia, China, an Islamic Iran and Turkey, as well as some European nations fitting in those roles.
In addition to Magog and Persia, Ezekiel 38 references several of the people groups that will comprise the army that attacks Israel in this great war: Put, Cush, Meshech, Tubal, Gomer and Beth-Togarmah. Ancient Put was the land just west of Egypt, or what is today Libya, a sponsor of terrorism, and one which refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist. The ancient kingdom of Cush was the land just south of Egypt on the Nile River. Today this land is occupied by Sudan, home to the National Islamic Front. The country which harbors countless Islamic terrorist groups has already a close alliance with Iran, trading military supplies for docking rights on the Red Sea shipping routes.
The remaining four names relate to lands that make up modern Turkey. As the 6th and 5th sons of Japheth, the son of Noah, Meshech and Tubal refer to peoples who dwelled in the area south of the Black and Caspian Sea which today is Turkey as well as parts of Southern Russia and Northern Iran. Gomer was the first son of Japheth and the Gomerites were the ancient Cimmerians who occupied territory from the southern steppes of Russia into Turkey. And Togarmah was the third son of Gomer, and in Ezekiel’s time there was a city in Cappodocia (modern Turkey) with a similar name. “Beth” at the beginning of the name is just the Hebrew word for “house” or “place of.” Turkey is linked both ethnically and linguistically to Central Asia (Magog) and since the break-up of the Soviet Union, it’s seen a growing number of political parties that support opposition to Israel, establishment of a Turkish Islamic Republic, and the worldwide rule of Islam.
Signals via current events
- We’re all aware of the daily rocket barrages and suicide bomber attacks into Israel from both Hezbollah on the Lebanon border and Hamas on the eastern Gaza strip; but recently an ISIS-associated terror group of 600 fighters massed in Syria’s Golan Heights border. Incursions by terrorists are even taking place from the southern Egyptian border. For the most part, these are all financed and supplied by Iran. Also the Palestinian people are encouraged and paid to carry out terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians.
- Iran has tested missiles capable of reaching inside Israel – and its nuclear program is nearly complete – with the help of the current U.S. Administration.
- 2015 and 16 have been marked by Islamic terrorist attacks inside of historically-Christian nations such as France, Belgium, Australia, the U.S., etc. And the numbers of massacres of Christians across Africa and the Middle East have multiplied exponentially.
- China has published the coordinates for their bid to take complete military control of the East China Sea, claiming that the disputed and uninhabited islands known as the Senkaku and the Diaoyu are within their realm of international control, giving them territorial dominion over these islands. China also published a warning that any aircraft flying over this region could provoke “defensive emergency measures” against the aircraft that failed to identify itself.
- The United States, in an act of defiance to China’s changing the international rules controlling this region, dispatched two unarmed U.S. B-52 bombers to fly over the disputed islands accepted by the international community as belonging to Japan. This was done while doing training maneuvers in the East China Sea. Japan followed suit as their planes continued to fly through this new airspace zone.
- Russia likewise has reasserted control over much of the region it once possessed through the USSR. We’ve seen this in the Ukraine and elsewhere. And they’ve gained footholds militarily in Syria and Iraq.
- Germany’s and France’s military efforts against ISIS have developed gradually over the course of the last 15 months—spreading from limited sorties in Iraq to include missions over Syria and the deployment of an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf. Following the Paris terrorism attack, in December French planes began bombarding the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa in Syria. France and Germany have even opened the door to cooperation with the Syrian army in the fight against Islamic State, while Germany has made political moves to send 1,200 troops to the Middle East in a departure from its usual non-intervention stance.
- The United States, France and Germany have increased their cooperation on intelligence in Syria since the Paris attacks. And the U.S. is expanding intelligence sharing with her European allies and has agreed to speed the delivery of detailed targeting information in support of possible French retaliatory strikes against Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq.
- And just last week we saw ISIS-supported terrorists attack at the very heart of NATO headquarters in Belgium, killing and wounding hundreds of innocent civilians.
- While many people seem confused and obsessed with this year’s Presidential nomination process, I view it as simply one more piece in the puzzle.
The Great Coming War
Both Ezekiel 38 and 39 and the Book of Revelation speak of a great war that will be unlike any other war in history. It will unleash a series of irreversible events which will change the world forever. According to the Bible, Israel must stand alone – with God. For when this coming war does finally start, even the United States will be unwilling (or unable) to help Israel defend herself. Even though the Bible warns that the invading armies will be ultimately destroyed by God, it will be a devastating war for both Israel and the whole world.
We are not exactly sure when this attack will take place, but from current news headlines, it looks as though it is getting very close. Iran is constantly threatening Israel with annihilation and this month test fired two 2000 km ballistic missiles with the words “Israel must be wiped out” emblazoned on their sides in Hebrew. Russia is fully backing Iran, and Turkey is quickly turning against Israel, as are most other nations with the exception of America. And many of these are, or soon will be armed with nuclear weapons.
The Bible goes on to declare that the invading armies will be utterly destroyed by God with the aftermath of this invasion very gruesome. There are hints this coming war may go nuclear: the Bible says Israel will wait months to enter the battlefield after the battle; that they will “set apart men regularly employed” to bury the dead; and later if a bone is spotted it is to be “marked” for the professionals to bury. These are the same procedures found in nuclear/biological/chemical battlefield cleanup manuals today.
We aren’t sure if this coming war is part of the prophetic battle of Armageddon or will just precede Armageddon in order to prepare a path for a coming World Leader who will enforce a Peace Plan upon Israel. But it will trigger the final prophetic 7-Year period of time which is called the “Tribulation.” That’s when the coming Antichrist will rise up to command the 10 nations which were once a part of the Roman Empire, filling the world power vacuum that will be left after the war.
The Bible promises that believing Christians who are alive at that time and who have endured in their faith in God’s Word will not be “appointed” to this coming time of “God’s wrath” that will be poured out upon the whole world. As a result, many believe the prophetic event called the Rapture of the Church must take place sometime before God intervenes in this coming battle. Regardless, all Christians are told to “examine” themselves in the Word and in their faith to insure they are not “lukewarm” in their relationship to Jesus and God’s Word.