TO SURVIVE THE COMING NIGHT
Is the Apocalypse Nigh?
If this truly is the beginning of the end of this age, then we should expect wars and rumors of war to increase until the entire globe is consumed, just as it was in the Great War of 1914-1918, and again in the Second World War of 1939-1945. Depending on one’s perspective, the Tribulation either begins with or is immediately preceded by this period of escalating war. This is the time of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the rider of a White Horse going out to conquer, the rider on the Red Horse who takes peace from the earth, the rider on the Black Horse bringing famine, and the Pale Horse bearing Death and Hades. In short order these Horsemen bring an end to the lives of one fourth of the population of the planet. The Horsemen are followed by the revelation of multitudes of martyrs slain for their adherence to the Word of God who ask how long before the Lord will judge the world and avenge their blood. They are told to wait until the number of martyrs yet to die is complete. Then comes a great earthquake and many signs in the heavens, followed by the selection of the special servants of God (12,000 from each tribe of Israel, 144,000 total) and the deliverance of multitudes from the Great Tribulation. After that comes silence in heaven for a short time, and then the judgment of God begins in earnest.
The events described above are the Seven Seals of Revelation. They are followed by Seven Trumpets, and then Seven Bowls of God’s Wrath. Those events are not the subject of this writing. By the time they begin, all the people of the earth shall either be dead, in a place of safety guarded by God Himself, or fully exposed to the judgments as they fall. What I intend to investigate is the prelude to these events, specifically the wars leading to the Tribulation. Humanity has expected the Apocalypse ever since Yeshua returned to the Father. Such was the expectation in some circles one hundred years ago as World War I plunged our civilization into darkness. Today is no different, except for one thing: Israel exists as a nation, and the peoples of Israel, Jewish and non-Jewish, are awakening to their identity. Yeshua advises us that the generation who sees the things He foretold of the end of the age would not pass away until all these things take place (Matthew 24:32-35). A common understanding of His meaning is that the generation which sees the nation of Israel reborn shall not pass away until the end of the age and Yeshua’s return. The State of Israel came into existence on May 14, 1948, and in May of 2018 will celebrate 70 years of independence. Since a generation is often counted as 70 years, there is speculation that 2018 could mark the end of this age, either with the beginning or end of the Tribulation, or the return of Messiah.
It is still too soon to say with certainty where we are on this timeline of judgment and redemption, but it appears that we are indeed in the window for Messiah’s return. We will never know the exact day or hour, but we can and must know the season. That is why God explained His calendar to us and told us to observe His appointed times (Feasts of the Lord) throughout all our generations. Today the world revolves around a man-made solar calendar that begins in January and ends in December, but God’s calendar, which is often called the Jewish calendar, operates differently. His calendar begins in the first month (March/April) with the feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits, continues to the third month (May/June) with the Feast of Shavuot (Pentecost), and moves on to the seventh month (September/October) with the fall feasts of Rosh Hoshana/Trumpets, Yom Kippur/Atonement, and Sukkot/Tabernacles. Any attempt to interpret biblical prophecy without resorting to His calendar and these appointed times is doomed to failure because it starts from the wrong reference point. And yet even in Jewish and Messianic circles there is confusion about the calendar, with the result that we cannot be certain exactly which day is which. Even so, we can know the season, and we can be certain the Lord Himself will reveal what we need to know at the time we need to know it. That is why we watch and pray, studying the signs He explained through Scripture.
Those signs include events in the heavens. The first chapter of the Bible explains that God made the sun, moon, and stars for “signs and seasons, and for days and years” (Genesis 1:14 NKJV). Regarding the end of this age, or Day of the Lord, we can expect these signs:
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord. And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, as the Lord has said, among the remnant whom the Lord calls. (Joel 2:28-32 NKJV, emphasis added; see also Acts 2:14-21)
It just so happens that some of these signs are appearing in the heavens even now in our day. A few years ago, Pastor Mark Biltz of El Shaddai Ministries identified the phenomena of Blood Moon Tetrads that will occur during the Feasts of the Lord in 2014 and 2015. These are lunar eclipses in which the appearance of the moon turns red, which is why they called blood moons. Four of these lunar eclipses (a tetrad) occur on the feasts of Passover and Tabernacles in 2014 and 2015 (April 15 and October 8, 2014; April 4 and September 28, 2015). Similar tetrads occurred in 1949-50, just after Israel won its independence, and 1967-68, at the time of the Six Day War when Israel regained control of Jerusalem. It is easy to make too much of these signs, but we cannot let them pass as mere coincidence. After all, the first Blood Moon of 2014 has been followed by a season of war for Israel which is still in its early stages. It is interesting to note that the first Blood Moon Tetrad marked the independence of Israel, and the second Tetrad marked the reestablishment of Israeli control over Jerusalem. Perhaps this next series of Blood Moons will see Israel regain complete control over the Temple Mount. If that happens, then we could expect Israel to make an effort at rebuilding the Temple and reestablishing sacrificial worship according to the commandments of Leviticus. Admittedly that is just speculation at this point, but it is plausible. As we know, the reestablishment of Temple sacrifices must occur before the Abomination of Desolation which marks the beginning of the Great Tribulation. It is with this in mind that we watch and pray, as Yeshua commanded us.
An Expanding Series of Conflicts
Perhaps the most significant developments for which we should watch are the wars surrounding Israel. Prophecy scholars have identified three great wars culminating prior to Yeshua’s return: the last great Arab-Israeli war (Psalm 83 and Isaiah 17), the Gog/Magog War (Ezekiel 38-39), and the War of Armageddon (Revelation 16:12-16). The War of Armageddon is as yet too far off to describe in any detail, but the first two seem to be taking shape even as we watch. Let us take a closer look at each.
The Confederation to Annihilate Israel and the Destruction of Damascus
The events of Psalm 83 and Isaiah 17 often get combined in Bible commentary. Psalm 83 concerns a conspiracy of Arab peoples against Israel, and Isaiah 17 foretells the destruction of Damascus. Together these passages point to an astounding Israeli victory, although at great cost. Consider the opening verses of Psalm 83:
Do not keep silent, O God! Do not hold Your peace, and do not be still, O God! For behold, Your enemies make a tumult; and those who hate You have lifted up their head. They have taken crafty counsel against Your people, and consulted together against Your sheltered ones. They have said, “Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation, that the name of Israel may be remembered no more.” For they have consulted together with one consent; they form a confederacy against You:” (Psalm 83:1-5 NKJV)
This is the invocation of God’s help against the confederacy. The psalmist says the confederates are enemies of God. They have lifted up their heads against God, but since they cannot get at Him they lash out in their anger against the people God has protected. The target of their anger is the State of Israel – the Jewish state. God’s esteem for Israel is a major topic of the Bible, beginning with God’s solemn promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (renamed Israel by God Himself) to give them and their descendants the land now called Israel. God has called Israel the apple of His eye, and has promised to deal with the nations that have plundered the land and people. It is well known that Hamas, Fatah, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood, Al Qaida, Syria, and other Arab entities have spoken consistently about demolishing the Jewish state. These are all members of the Psalm 83 confederacy. Iran also has spoken out vehemently against Israel, even voicing the sentiment of cutting Israel off from being a nation. Although Iran is not mentioned as part of the Psalm 83 confederacy, it is part of the Gog/Magog alliance, and its former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad drew global attention throughout his presidency for his vocal anti-Israeli sentiment and policies. But who, exactly, is in this Psalm 83 confederacy? It is a familiar list, and all of them are identifiable in Scripture:
The tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites; Moab and the Hagrites; Gebal, Ammon, and Amalek; Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre; Assyria also has joined with them; they have helped the children of Lot. Selah. Deal with them as with Midian, as with Sisera, as with Jabin at the Brook Kishon, who perished at En Dor, who became as refuse on the earth. Make their nobles like Oreb and like Zeeb, yes, all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna, who said, “Let us take for ourselves the pastures of God for a possession.” (Psalm 83:6-12 NKJV, emphasis added)
- Edom: Descendants of Esau (Edom) (Genesis 36), whose hereditary land is southern Jordan, and who include Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank and Israel.
- Moab and Ammon: Descendants of Lot’s sons (Genesis 19:30-37). Their hereditary lands are the rest of Jordan. The capital of Jordan, Amman, even retains the name of the Ammonites.
- Ishmaelites and Hagrites: Descendants of Abraham’s first son, Ishmael, whose mother was Abraham’s Egyptian concubine, Hagar (Genesis 25:12-18). Many of the Arab peoples descend from Ishmael, including those of Saudi Arabia. The Hagrites (I Chronicles 5:18-22) are the people living east of Gilead in southern Syria. Since Hagar was Egyptian, it is possible Psalm 83 includes at least part of Egypt in the confederacy. If so, it may mean only the inhabitants of Sinai since the psalm would likely name Egypt specifically if that nation were rising against Israel.
- Gebal and Tyre: This is Lebanon. Tyre, along with Sidon, were prominent cities of the Phoenicians (Mark 7:24-30), a seafaring Canaanite people who built the ancient world’s greatest commercial empire. Although King Hiram of Tyre was an ally of David and Solomon (I Kings 5), Ezekiel 28 names the king of Tyre as a symbol of Satan. As for Sidon, its great biblical significance is as the hometown of wicked Queen Jezebel, the woman who induced King Ahab of Israel to make Baal worship the official state religion. Gebal (modern Jubayl; Joshua 13:5; Ezekiel 27:9) is also in Lebanon and was another Phoenician city. Today Lebanon is a divided land, split between the powerful Shi’a Hezbollah terrorist army and less organized Sunni militias. All of them, however, harbor enmity toward Israel. Whether it is Hezbollah alone or the various factions united against a common enemy, all of Lebanon will be involved in this war.
- Amalek: A grandson of Esau (Genesis 36:12), Amalek and his descendants populated southern Jordan, the Negev, and northern Arabia. They are the only people God commanded Israel to hold as enemies forever and wipe out completely (Deuteronomy 25:17-18). It was the Amalekites who ambushed Israel on the way out of Egypt, and Haman, a descendant of King Agag of Amalek, came close to destroying the Jews in the days of Esther.
- Philistia: Philistia is the ancient territory of the Philistines, hereditary enemies of Israel who originated on the island of Crete. The five cities of the Philistines were Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron, and Gath (Joshua 13:3). The only major city of the Philistines not currently under Israeli sovereignty is Gaza.
- Jabin and Sisera: In the days of Israel’s judges, Jabin was king of Canaan and Sisera was his general. They were defeated by Deborah and Barak (Judges 4). This reference in Psalm 83 indicates that the war will include the present-day Canaanites: the Palestinians who live in Israel among the Israelis, as well as those living in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). Already there have been two Intifadas (uprisings) against Israeli control over the Palestinian territories (1987-93; 2000-05), and there have been calls for a third Intifada in light of the recently failed Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations and the current Gaza war.
- Oreb, Zeeb, Zebah, Zalmunna: These were Midianite kings defeated by Gideon (Judges 7-8). Midian is the territory of northwest Saudi Arabia next to the Red Sea. This reference to Midian indicates that Saudi Arabia, or at least portions of it, could be involved in this war.
- Assyria: The heartland of Assyria is northern Iraq and eastern Syria, precisely the territory now claimed by the Islamic State of the newly proclaimed Caliph Ibrahim. Considering the stated goals of the IS, it is certain that they will be involved in this war as it escalates.
What happens to this confederacy? Psalm 83 tells us:
O my God, make them like the whirling dust, like the chaff before the wind! As the fire burns the woods, and as the flame sets the mountains on fire, so pursue them with Your tempest, and frighten them with Your storm. Fill their faces with shame, that they may seek Your name, O LORD. Let them be confounded and dismayed forever; yes, let them be put to shame and perish, that they may know that You, whose Name alone is the LORD, are the Most High over all the earth. (Psalm 83:13-18 NKJV)
The psalmist does call for the Lord to bring destruction on the antagonists, but note the reason: “that they may know that You, whose Name alone is the LORD, are the Most High over all the earth”. This war against all of Israel’s immediate neighbors will result in a resounding victory, and it will bring glory to God. The peoples of the earth will begin to sit up and take notice that something unusual is going on: Israel will survive against all odds, just as it has done since becoming a nation again in 1948.
The current Gaza war may be the precursor to the wider Psalm 83 war. There is prophesied judgment and destruction on Gaza, as well as other cities of the ancient Philistines, in the first chapter of Amos:
Thus says the Lord: “For three transgressions of Gaza, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because they took captive the whole captivity to deliver them up to Edom. But I will send a fire upon the wall of Gaza, which shall devour its palaces. I will cut off the inhabitant from Ashdod, and the one who holds the scepter from Ashkelon; I will turn My hand against Ekron, and the remnant of the Philistines shall perish,” says the Lord God. (Amos 1:6-8 NKJV)
Some of that prophecy is already fulfilled, but it certainly seems that the part about the “fire upon the wall of Gaza” is happening even now. In any case, the final disposition of the Philistines and Canaanites (Palestinians) is the subject of another prophecy, which we will address shortly.
But what of Damascus? There is still the Isaiah 17 dimension to this conflict. Syria is already dismembered and bleeding from the civil war now in its fourth year. Already Israel has exchanged fire across the northern border with forces of the Syrian government and with various rebel factions. Isaiah 17 indicates that Syria will be decisively engaged in this coming conflict:
The burden against Damascus. “Behold, Damascus will cease from being a city, and it will be a ruinous heap. The cities of Aroer are forsaken; they will be for flocks which lie down, and no one will make them afraid. The fortress also will cease from Ephraim, the kingdom from Damascus, and the remnant of Syria; they will be as the glory of the children of Israel,” says the Lord of hosts. “In that day it shall come to pass that the glory of Jacob will wane, and the fatness of his flesh grow lean. It shall be as when the harvester gathers the grain, and reaps the heads with his arm; it shall be as he who gathers heads of grain in the Valley of Rephaim. Yet gleaning grapes will be left in it, like the shaking of an olive tree, two or three olives at the top of the uppermost bough, four or five in its most fruitful branches,” says the Lord God of Israel. In that day a man will look to his Maker, and his eyes will have respect for the Holy One of Israel. He will not look to the altars, the work of his hands; he will not respect what his fingers have made, nor the wooden images nor the incense altars. In that day his strong cities will be as a forsaken bough and an uppermost branch, which they left because of the children of Israel; and there will be desolation. Because you have forgotten the God of your salvation, and have not been mindful of the Rock of your stronghold, therefore you will plant pleasant plants and set out foreign seedlings; in the day you will make your plant to grow, and in the morning you will make your seed to flourish; but the harvest will be a heap of ruins in the day of grief and desperate sorrow. Woe to the multitude of many people who make a noise like the roar of the seas, and to the rushing of nations that make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters! The nations will rush like the rushing of many waters; but God will rebuke them and they will flee far away, and be chased like the chaff of the mountains before the wind, like a rolling thing before the whirlwind. Then behold, at eventide, trouble! And before the morning, he is no more. This is the portion of those who plunder us, and the lot of those who rob us. (Isaiah 17:1-14 NKJV)
There is much in this passage that is unclear, but it begins with the unmistakable prediction that Damascus will be destroyed and the sovereignty of Syria removed. There is also mention of judgment on Israel – not on Judah, the current State of Israel, but on Ephraim, the northern kingdom of Israel which is still dispersed among the nations. Perhaps what the Lord means in this word given through Isaiah is that the power of Ephraim as it now exists in the various nations of the earth will be broken, compelling Ephraim to trust in the Lord alone. There are various schools of thought that Ephraim today exists largely within the United States and/or Great Britain. If that is so, then perhaps this indicates a complete dissipation of the strength of those nations. That would be consistent with God’s intent to regather the dispersed tribes and their companions (those grafted into Israel) at the end of this age. It is consistent as well with this historical note from the Psalms that may also be prophetic:
The children of Ephraim, being armed and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle. They did not keep the covenant of God; they refused to walk in His law, and forgot His works and His wonders that He had shown them. (Psalm 78:9-11 NKJV)
This passage brings to mind the non-action of the United States in response to the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons on August 13, 2013. After calling chemical weapons use a “red line” which the Assad government had crossed, the Obama administration made every indication it would commit to limited U.S. military intervention in Syria. Yet rather than carry through with this threat, the US ceded the initiative to Russia, permitting Moscow to negotiate a protocol that left the Assad regime unpunished in exchange for handing over most of its chemical arsenal. That was, quite possibly, a mortal blow to US credibility, and certainly a decisive blow to any ability of the US to exert leadership, power, and influence in the Middle East or anywhere else in the world. If the US and the West, therefore, are in any way connected with the House of Ephraim, than this statement from Psalm 78 describes what happened with Syria in August 2013.
Time and further study will tell whether the dissipation of the strength of the US and the West is part of the meaning of Isaiah 17. What does seem to be clear is that Israel will face a war of annihilation with the Arab peoples, and that the Lord will come through to bring victory. Perhaps this war has already started. Those coming against Israel will be Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, the Palestinian Arabs, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and perhaps Saudi Arabia. Jordan and Saudi Arabia are yet missing from the conspiracy, but it would not take much to bring them into it. Already Jordan is facing a threat from the Islamic State. The IS hopes to topple King Abdullah and bring his realm under the sway of Caliph Ibrahim, and has similar designs on Saudi Arabia. It would seem, however, that Jordan is the real indicator; as long as King Abdullah’s throne is intact, the Psalm 83 confederacy is incomplete.
God’s Glory, Israel’s Expansion, and Russia’s Demise
Israel’s victory in the Psalm 83 war will bring glory to God and vindication for Israel, but it will leave Israel exhausted. Most likely the Israel Defense Force will have to occupy much of the lands of its defeated foes, particularly Lebanon, Gaza, Jordan, and southern Syria. This will leave Israel vulnerable to a determined enemy. In fact enemies abound for Israel. The destruction of Damascus alone will be enough to gain worldwide condemnation. Already Israel’s actions in Gaza have fueled the flames of anti-Semitism in Europe and elsewhere. It is not hard to imagine that after the next war Jews will find it very difficult to remain in their current homes. Many are even now fleeing France, Ukraine, and other increasingly inhospitable nations where they have lived for centuries. As Jews return in greater numbers, Israel will be replenished, but condemnation of the Jewish state will only grow louder.
Scripture indicates the opposition to Israel will come from a larger alliance than the Arab confederation. Ezekiel 38 and 39 speaks to an alliance led by Russia and including Turkey, Iran, Libya, and Sudan or Ethiopia. It is worthwhile to review the passage in detail:
Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him, and say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I am against you, O Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal. I will turn you around, put hooks into your jaws, and lead you out, with all your army, horses, and horsemen, all splendidly clothed, a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords. Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya are with them, all of them with shield and helmet; Gomer and all its troops; the house of Togarmah from the far north and all its troops—many people are with you. Prepare yourself and be ready, you and all your companies that are gathered about you; and be a guard for them. After many days you will be visited. In the latter years you will come into the land of those brought back from the sword and gathered from many people on the mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate; they were brought out of the nations, and now all of them dwell safely. You will ascend, coming like a storm, covering the land like a cloud, you and all your troops and many peoples with you.”
“‘Thus says the Lord God: “On that day it shall come to pass that thoughts will arise in your mind, and you will make an evil plan: You will say, ‘I will go up against a land of unwalled villages; I will go to a peaceful people, who dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates’—to take plunder and to take booty, to stretch out your hand against the waste places that are again inhabited, and against a people gathered from the nations, who have acquired livestock and goods, who dwell in the midst of the land. Sheba, Dedan, the merchants of Tarshish, and all their young lions will say to you, ‘Have you come to take plunder? Have you gathered your army to take booty, to carry away silver and gold, to take away livestock and goods, to take great plunder?’”’”
“Therefore, son of man, prophesy and say to Gog, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “On that day when My people Israel dwell safely, will you not know it? Then you will come from your place out of the far north, you and many peoples with you, all of them riding on horses, a great company and a mighty army. You will come up against My people Israel like a cloud, to cover the land. It will be in the latter days that I will bring you against My land, so that the nations may know Me, when I am hallowed in you, O Gog, before their eyes.” Thus says the Lord God: “Are you he of whom I have spoken in former days by My servants the prophets of Israel, who prophesied for years in those days that I would bring you against them?”
“’”And it will come to pass at the same time, when Gog comes against the land of Israel,” says the Lord God, “that My fury will show in My face. For in My jealousy an in the fire of My wrath I have spoken: ‘Surely in that day there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel, so that the fish of the sea, the birds of the heavens, the beasts of the field, all creeping things that creep on the earth, and all men who are on the face of the earth shall shake at My presence. The mountains shall be thrown down, the steep places shall fall, and every wall shall fall to the ground.’ I will call for a sword against Gog throughout all My mountains,” says the Lord God. “Every man’s sword will be against his brother. And I will bring him to judgment with pestilence and bloodshed; I will rain down on him, on his troops, and on the many peoples who are with him, flooding rain, great hailstones, fire, and brimstone. Thus I will magnify Myself and sanctify Myself, and I will be known in the eyes of many nations. Then they shall know that I am the Lord.”’” (Ezekiel 38:1-23 NKJV, emphasis added)
“And you, son of man, prophesy against Gog, and say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I am against you, O Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal; and I will turn you around and lead you on, bringing you up from the far north, and bring you against the mountains of Israel. Then I will knock the bow out of your left hand, and cause the arrows to fall out of your right hand. You shall fall upon the mountains of Israel, you and all your troops and the peoples who are with you; I will give you to birds of prey of every sort and to the beasts of the field to be devoured. You shall fall on the open field; for I have spoken,” says the Lord God. “And I will send fire on Magog and on those who live in security in the coastlands. Then they shall know that I am the Lord. So I will make My holy name known in the midst of My people Israel, and I will not let them profane My holy name anymore. Then the nations shall know that I am the Lord, the Holy One in Israel. Surely it is coming, and it shall be done,” says the Lord God. “This is the day of which I have spoken.
“’“Then those who dwell in the cities of Israel will go out and set on fire and burn the weapons, both the shields and bucklers, the bows and arrows, the javelins and spears; and they will make fires with them for seven years. They will not take wood from the field nor cut down any from the forests, because they will make fires with the weapons; and they will plunder those who plundered them, and pillage those who pillaged them,” says the Lord God.
“’“It will come to pass in that day that I will give Gog a burial place there in Israel, the valley of those who pass by east of the sea; and it will obstruct travelers, because there they will bury Gog and all his multitude. Therefore they will call it the Valley of Hamon Gog. For seven months the house of Israel will be burying them, in order to cleanse the land. Indeed all the people of the land will be burying, and they will gain renown for it on the day that I am glorified,” says the Lord God. “They will set apart men regularly employed, with the help of a search party, to pass through the land and bury those bodies remaining on the ground, in order to cleanse it. At the end of seven months they will make a search. The search party will pass through the land; and when anyone sees a man’s bone, he shall set up a marker by it, till the buriers have buried it in the Valley of Hamon Gog. The name of the city will also be Hamonah. Thus they shall cleanse the land.”’
“And as for you, son of man, thus says the Lord God, ‘Speak to every sort of bird and to every beast of the field: “Assemble yourselves and come; gather together from all sides to My sacrificial meal which I am sacrificing for you, a great sacrificial meal on the mountains of Israel, that you may eat flesh and drink blood. You shall eat the flesh of the mighty, drink the blood of the princes of the earth, of rams and lambs, of goats and bulls, all of them fatlings of Bashan. You shall eat fat till you are full, and drink blood till you are drunk, at My sacrificial meal which I am sacrificing for you. You shall be filled at My table with horses and riders, with mighty men and with all the men of war,” says the Lord God.’
“I will set My glory among the nations; all the nations shall see My judgment which I have executed, and My hand which I have laid on them. So the house of Israel shall know that I am the Lord their God from that day forward. The Gentiles shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity; because they were unfaithful to Me, therefore I hid My face from them. I gave them into the hand of their enemies, and they all fell by the sword. According to their uncleanness and according to their transgressions I have dealt with them, and hidden My face from them.”
“Therefore thus says the Lord God: ‘Now I will bring back the captives of Jacob, and have mercy on the whole house of Israel; and I will be jealous for My holy name—after they have borne their shame, and all their unfaithfulness in which they were unfaithful to Me, when they dwelt safely in their own land and no one made them afraid. When I have brought them back from the peoples and gathered them out of their enemies’ lands, and I am hallowed in them in the sight of many nations, then they shall know that I am the Lord their God, who sent them into captivity among the nations, but also brought them back to their land, and left none of them captive any longer. And I will not hide My face from them anymore; for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,’ says the Lord God.” (Ezekiel 39:1-29 NKJV, emphasis added)
Much commentary has focused on the alliance of this prophecy. A traditional interpretation is that Gog and Magog refer to Russia, and that is worthy of consideration if for no other reason than the fact that God says He will draw Gog and his people from the far north. However, all of the peoples originally identified as Rosh, Meshech, Tubal, Gomer, and Togarmah lived in what is now Turkey. As for the other members of the alliance, Persia is still Persia (Iran) and Libya is still Libya (or perhaps a North African confederation with Libya at the center). Ethiopia, or Cush in Hebrew, could mean the entire Horn of Africa, but particularly Sudan.
According to Ezekiel’s prophecy, somehow an alliance of anti-Israel nations comes into being to crush the expanded Israeli state after the Psalm 83 war, and that God Himself brings about the defeat of this alliance just as their invasion of Israel is on the verge of success. My opinion is that Russia is indeed the senior partner, or at least a major contributor, to this effort. Even if Russia is not Magog, Russia gives the alliance a large amount of credibility and muscle, which may be the point of the phrase, “Prepare yourself and be ready, you and all your companies that are gathered about you; and be a guard for them” (Ezekiel 38:7 NKJV, emphasis added). Events playing out in the Middle East even now, as well as Russia’s historic interest in the region, seem to bear this out. It is Russia that has bolstered Iran, improved its military capabilities, and brought it closer to the nuclear threshold. Russia, with Iran, has kept Bashar al Assad in power in Syria, and Russia even now is working with Iran to keep the Islamic State at bay and preserve a remnant of Iraq. Russia has stepped in to assist Egypt in throwing off the Muslim Brotherhood and combating Sunni terrorists, and has filled the void left when the United States turned away both from Israel and from its traditional Arab allies. Russia has also exerted influence over Turkey, ensuring that Istanbul does not go too far in its quest to restore Ottoman greatness.
Some observers consider Turkey as Gog based on this Ottoman legacy and on the efforts of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to restore Turkish power and influence. However, considering the powers that could fill the role of Gog and the land of Magog, Turkey is a poor contender. Unlike Iran and Russia, the Turks seem to vacillate in their foreign policy and have proven unable thus far to sustain any ability to project power far beyond their borders. Prime Minister Erdoğan has indeed led Turkey into a more Islamist path, and unless there is another secularist coup led by the military, Turkey will become increasingly more Islamist. However, Turkey has not been the senior partner in any Great Power venture for over 330 years, and it does not seem likely to fill that role anytime soon. I assess, therefore, that Turkey will indeed go along with the Gog/Magog invasion plan, but not lead it – just as Turkey in World War I was but the junior partner in the Central Powers alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary.
And how, exactly, will this invasion come about? The preparations are already in development thanks to the rebirth of the Russian Empire. Aggression toward Ukraine is just the latest and most blatant example of Russian resurgence. As of this writing, allegations of Russian military support to the insurgents in eastern Ukraine grow more strident in the aftermath of the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight 17. MH17 may indeed be the Lusitania of our day – the single great atrocity which brings the condemnation of the world onto the greatest aggressor among the Powers. However, that condemnation will ring hollow as the Western nations find themselves impotent to do anything to keep Moscow from justifying an incursion to protect “oppressed” ethnic Russians. As the prophecy indicates, the only opposition to this invasion is a feeble diplomatic protest (Ezekiel 38:13), not unlike the impotent floundering of the US, EU, and NATO even now in the face of not only Russian actions toward Ukraine, but the Gaza war. We have seen such things before; Western inability to stand up against Adolf Hitler resulted in the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia in 1938.
Already the Russian government is preparing its people for war, as one will see with a quick review of the headlines in Pravda. A recent story in Pravda indicates preparations for further intervention in the Middle East. In “Iraq: US and Israel Plan Destruction of the Nation State“ (July 19, 2014), columnist Michel Chossudovsky refers to the Zionist invocation of God’s promise to Abraham to give his descendants the land from the River of Egypt to the Euphrates. His contention is that the US and Israel plan to dismember the current Arab states and make them smaller, more controllable entities, with the help of an independent Kurdistan. It is not difficult to see how such a train of thought could lead to Russian intervention on behalf of beleaguered Arab peoples to rescue them from Jewish aggression, particularly after the Psalm 83 war brings about what looks like the fulfillment of this plan.
There remains much uncertainty about this Gog/Magog War. It may even be identical to the War of Armageddon, although that is by no means clear. If the two wars are not one and the same, then the Gog/Magog War will open the way for Antimessiah to establish his global regime. After the defeat of God’s alliance, there will be no one else to contest the Beast, other than the Kings of the East who will come against him later (Revelation 16:12-16).
However it occurs, the Gog/Magog War will bring about something that most commentators have failed to notice: the restoration of all Israel. Ezekiel says that, “the house of Israel shall know that I am the Lord their God from that day forward.” (Ezekiel 39:22 NKJV) He is not referring to the Jewish people, the House of Judah. Judah is already in the land, and will continue to return as Jews around the world make Aliyah in the face of growing anti-Semitism. The remaining exiles are those of Ephraim, the House of Israel, and their companions. In fact, the Ezekiel 38-39 prophecy follows on the greatest prophecy in Scripture about the return of all Israel: the prophecy of the Two Sticks of Judah and Ephraim in Ezekiel 37:15-28. It may be that Psalm 83, Isaiah 17, and Ezekiel 39:6 indicate that the rest of the world becomes inhospitable for those who have a testimony of Yeshua and keep the commandments of the Lord (Revelation 12:17; 14:12). Indications as of now are that these will be the Torah-keeping Christians; non-Jewish Messianic believers who have awakened to their grafted-in Israelite identity and are determined to return in obedience to the Lord. To some extent they could be called “Christian Zionists”, but that term is not entirely accurate. Not all Christian Zionists are willing to turn from Sunday worship back to God’s Sabbath, nor shun Christmas and Easter in preference for His appointed times of Passover and Tabernacles. Exactly who are these people is still not entirely clear, but we can be sure from Ezekiel’s prophecy that they are the companions both of Judah and of Ephraim (Ezekiel 37:15-17). Their return, no less than the miraculous destruction of the Gog/Magog forces, will proclaim the greatness of the God of Israel to the entire world.
The timing of all of this is still unclear. It may be that the regathering of all Israel, and particularly of Ephraim, will accelerate with the Psalm 83 and Gog/Magog wars, but will not be complete until after Messiah returns. However it occurs, the regathering of Israel will result in the fulfillment of yet another prophecy through Isaiah – the final victory over Israel’s longstanding enemies:
And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, Who shall stand as a banner to the people; for the Gentiles shall seek Him, and His resting place shall be glorious. It shall come to pass in that day that the Lord shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people who are left, from Assyria and Egypt, from Pathros and Cush, from Elam and Shinar, from Hamath and the islands of the sea. He will set up a banner for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. Also the envy of Ephraim shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off; Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not harass Ephraim. But they shall fly down upon the shoulder of the Philistines toward the west; together they shall plunder the people of the East; they shall lay their hand on Edom and Moab; and the people of Ammon shall obey them. The Lord will utterly destroy the tongue of the Sea of Egypt; with His mighty wind He will shake His fist over the River, and strike it in the seven streams, and make men cross over dry-shod. There will be a highway for the remnant of His people who will be left from Assyria, as it was for Israel in the day that he came up from the land of Egypt. (Isaiah 11:10-16 NKJV, emphasis added)
How much of this is now in play? Only time will tell. What is certain is that in this summer of 2014, the echoes of 1914 sound louder each day from the embattled cities of eastern Ukraine, from the tunnels under Gaza, and from the empty houses of Christians in Mosul. The world has changed. Only those who watch and pray with discerning spirits will know how much.
This concludes this series of reflection on the Centennial of World War I and its legacy today in light of biblical prophecy.
 For further study on the meaning of the Blood Moons, see “End of Days: The Blood Moon Tetrads and the Greater Exodus” by 119 Ministries, available both in video and written format.
 This observation came to my attention through a weekly Shabbat teaching by Monte Judah of Lion and Lamb Ministries. I recall the comment having come at some point in late March or early April 2014, at the season of the first Blood Moon, but to date have been unable to locate the exact reference.