(Jerusalem, Israel) — It was an honor to be here Tuesday as Israelis celebrated the 63rd birthday of their prophetically reborn state. A colleague and I spent a wonderful afternoon celebrating at a backyard barbeque at the home of Danny and Anne Ayalon and their family and a few friends. Danny is Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister and the former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., which is where I first met him. His wife, Anne, is working with Orthodox Jews and evangelical Christians to purchase land along the shores of the Sea of Galilee and develop a conference center and resort that will allow Christians to have more and bigger events in the area where Jesus spent most of His time and did most of His ministry. It’s a great project and I’m hopeful they can find Christian and Jewish investors to get it up and running in the next few years.
Please keep praying for our Joshua Fund team and Israeli allies as we finalize details for the 2011 Epicenter Conference. It’s just five days away now and we’re excited about how the Lord is going to use the event to educate and mobilize Christians around the world to love and bless Israelis and Palestinians and all those in this region in the name of Jesus. Please pray for the speakers as we finalize our messages, and please pray for the Lord to prepare the hearts of all who are coming and all those who will be watching by webcast or listening by radio. Thanks so much.
As promised, then, here is “Part Two” of my notes from an address I gave on Friday, May 6th to a conference of some 300 Israelis and Palestinians on “Current Events In Light of Bible Prophecy.”
My focus was Ezekiel 38-39, the prophecies that Bible scholars describe as the “War of Gog & Magog.”
The subject is timely. As nearly eight million Israelis are celebrating this week the 63rd birthday of the modern State of Israel, there are real questions in the region about how much longer the Jewish State can and will survive. A growing number of Radical Islamic leaders are declaring that Israel will soon be “wiped off the map,” and are vowing to assist in that effort. Iran is feverishly trying to build nuclear weapons and the ballistic missiles to deliver them. Hezbollah in Lebanon has built up a force of more than 40,000 rockets aimed at Israel. The bloodthirsty regime in Syria is slaughtering opponents of the regime while buying weapons systems aimed at Israel. Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is rapidly rising in power and the current presidential candidate front-runners in Egypt are speaking with growing hostility towards the Jewish State. Fatah has chosen to make peace with the Hamas terrorist organization rather than with Israel. Meanwhile, a growing number of Orthodox rabbis in Israel believe recent events are indicators that the “War of Gog and Magog” is coming soon. A growing number of Christians around the world think the “War of Gog and Magog” is coming soon, as well. Are they right?
Let’s look at what the Bible teaches.
- The Hebrew Prophet Ezekiel describes a Russian dictator (Gog) who will form a military coalition with Iran, Sudan, Libya, Algeria, Turkey and a group of other North African, Middle Eastern and 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 majority Muslim countries, and Russia is about 20% Muslim and increasingly allied with Radicalized Islamic countries.
- The Bible explains very clearly that the target of this military coalition in the End Times will be Israel.
- 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.”
- 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.”
- Ezekiel 39:2 says that Gog will come “from the remotest parts of the north…against the mountains of Israel.”
- 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.
- 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).
- But solely because of His grace and mercy, the Lord promised to regather the Jewish people to the land of Israel.
- The Lord promised that “I will cause men — My people Israel — to walk on you and possess you” (Ezekiel 36:12).
- The Lord said that the Jewish people would rebuild the ancient ruins and the “waste places” (Ezekiel 36:10).
- 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)
- The Lord said that first the physical restoration of Israel and the Jewish return to the Land would be set into motion (Ezekiel 37:4-8)
- After the physical restoration of the State of Israel began, then the spiritual restoration of the Jewish people would be set into motion (Ezekiel 37:9-14).
- 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.
- 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).
- 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), and especially if they are Muslims. The Bible indicates that Jews will be a sinful 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). Then, a growing number of Jewish people will repent and return to a personal relationship with the Lord. Meanwhile, Jesus said in Matthew 24 and Luke 21 that there would 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 some 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.
- 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.
- But 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 Israel to love her neighbors (Leviticus 19:18 and Matthew 19:19). The Bible also teaches Israel to love her neighbors 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.”
- 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.
- 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)
- Now, back to the prophecy and its analysis: It could be reasonably argued that Israel is living more securely today than at any other time in its 63 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 (though the future of the treaty with Egypt is increasingly in question). 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. Rockets are occassionally fired from Gaza at Israeli civilians living in the south, but this is not nearly as bad as it was prior to Operation Cast Lead in January 2009. Moreover, Israel has just deployed a short-range rocket defense system called “Iron Dome” that is very effective. 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, 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.
- Could Israel currently be secure enough to fulfill this prophetic prerequisite? Honestly, I am not sure. 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, Israelis feel more secure today than ever before its their modern State’s existence.
- Given the fact that the major End Times prophecies of Ezekiel 36 and 37 have essentially come true in our lifetime, does this mean that we will see Ezekiel 38 and 39 come true in our lifetime as well? To me, 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.” So we should be ready. 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 purposes.
- 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 not 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.
Next, I will describe what the Bible tells us will happen to the forces of Gog and Magog.