“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.” Ezekiel 38:15
The other day while I was at the gym someone texted me that very question,“Is Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine the Fulfillment of Ezekiel 38 & 39?” The short answer to that question is “NO,” at least not yet, or at a minimum it could be a precursor to the war that Ezekiel was prophesying. You may remember from last week’s article “Why Ukraine Matters to Christians,” I mentioned that the battle described in Ezekiel 38 and 39 is a coalition of Arabic Nations led by Russia as they launched an invasion on Israel. Apparently, the thing motivating Russia to attack Israel will be their newly discovered oil and gas reserves. Back in 2010 they discovered an abundance of oil and natural gas under the Mediterranean Sea. Conservative estimates say there’s 95 billion dollars’ worth of natural gas along with an additional 250 to 500 billion barrels of oil. In this article, we want to look at the timing of this battle, as well examine who the major players will be when this invasion foretold by Ezekiel takes place.
The Timing of This Battle
Ezekiel actually tells us the timing of this battle. Verses 8 and 16 of Ezekiel 38 tell us this takes place “in the latter days” meaning in the “End Times.” In my understanding of the End Times, the next event to take place on the prophetic calendar will be the rapture of the church, which could happen at any moment. Shortly after the rapture, a one world political leader the Bible often calls the “Anti-Christ” will emerge on the scene. This leader will sign a seven year “peace treaty” with the Nation of Israel. Once that treaty is signed in fact, while the ink is still wet, the seven-year Tribulation period starts. It’s important to understand that the rapture does NOT start the seven-year Tribulation period; rather, it’s the peace treaty with Israel signed by the so-called Anti-Christ. At the end of those seven years of Tribulation, Jesus then physically returns to the earth for the classic Battle of Armageddon that takes place in the Valley of Har Megiddo in Israel. After that battle, then Jesus sets up His Kingdom on the earth, where He rules and reigns for one thousand years. This so-called Millennial Kingdom (one-thousand-year reign) is then followed by a new heaven and a new earth for eternity.
With that timeline in mind, where does the battle of Ezekiel 38 & 39 fit. There are varying opinions regarding this. Some pastors and end times students like Greg Laurie, Don Stewart, Mark Hitchcock, Amir Tsarfati, Joel Rosenberg, and Skip Heitzig, believe that this battle can take place anytime. Meaning, that the events of Ezekiel 38 and 39 can happen before the rapture, during the rapture or even during the seven-year Tribulation period. However, many agree that it’s more likely this event takes place before the Tribulation and may be the catalyst that causes the Anti-Christ to rise as this newly elected world leader.
However, other respected Bible teachers and scholars hold a different view regarding the timing of this battle. Brian Brodersen pastor of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, and leading End Times Scholar John Walvoord the Chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary believe that Ezekiel’s battle is just a different description of the Battle of Armageddon that takes place at the end of the seven-year Tribulation period.
In my personal opinion, I’m inclined to agree with guys like Greg Laurie and Don Stewart, that this is a battle that will probably happen before the Tribulation period. When you look at the nations mentioned in Ezekiel’s prophecy and compare them to the nations mentioned in Revelation 16, Revelation 20, and Daniel 7, it’s clear these are two different battles. In Ezekiel 38 & 39 the armies of the “north” and a few Arabic nations invade Israel. Whereas the battle described in Revelation involves “all the armies of the world,” not just the North and a few allies. Additionally, in Revelation 20 Satan plays a key role in the battle, but in Ezekiel, there’s no mention of Satan at all. Therefore, the battle prophesied by Ezekiel is probably not the Battle of Armageddon and it could happen anytime, perhaps in our lifetime.
Who Are the Major Players In this Battle?
“Now the word of the LORD came to me saying, ‘Son of man, set your face against God, 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.” Ezekiel 38:1-6
In these verses, are listed some of the key players who launch an invasion on Israel. Later in chapter 38 and 39 other nations are mentioned such as; “Put,” “Sheba” “Dedan”and “Cush.” Now the problem of course is that these are all ancient names of countries that most of us are not familiar with. However, when you compare ancient maps with these names to modern maps of our day, the picture becomes clear. Now the central character leading this invasion is a leader named Gog from the land of Magog, so let’s identify Magog first. It is widely accepted that Magog is modern day Russia. Why do most believe this to be the case? Well when you read Genesis chapter 10 and look at the “Table of Nations” you see that Magog was the second son of Noah’s son Japheth, who according to the ancient historian Josephus settled north of the Black Sea. Likewise, Tubal and Meshech are the fifth and sixth sons of Japheth who settled just south of the Black Sea. These tribes intermarried and became known as Magog. The Greek historian Hesiod says that the descendants of Magog later came to be called “Scythians,” who were a fierce warring people, feared by many. So much so, that later Alexander the Great was afraid these Scythians would invade his Kingdom. So as the story goes, he had a great wall built. He named it, “Wall Al Magog,” today we know it by a different name “The Wall of China.” As the story goes, this wall was not built by China, rather it was built because Alexander the Great, who conquered the world, feared one particular group, the Scythians, the descendants of Magog.
Let me provide you a list of the nations mentioned in Ezekiel’s prophecy along with their modern day equivalents.
The battle scene that Ezekiel portrays is that Magog (Russia) leads a coalition of Arabic nations like Iran and Turkey and some of the “Stans” like Kazakhstan to invade Israel. Other nations like Saudi Arabia, and some European countries will attempt to be “neutral.” They may not agree with this invasion, but they cannot afford to make themselves enemies of Russia and her allies.
Many believe that what is being described in Ezekiel 38 verses 18-23 as well as chapter 39 verses 1-20 is the effects of a nuclear war. Chapter 38 verse 19 mentions fire and an earthquake. Back on March 1, 2018, Vladimir Putin boasted that Russia had a“Doomsday Machine.” What is this “dooms day machine”? It is an underwater drone powered missile that is capable of traveling twenty times the speed of sound and carries a fifty-megaton nuclear payload. It is said that using this weapon to strike an underwater target could trigger a massive earthquake, which when then would cause a tsunami as large or larger than the tsunami that hit Japan back in 2011. Even now, as Russia invades Ukraine, they are threatening the use of nuclear weapons. It’s interesting to note that Ezekiel 39 verse 9 says that after Magog is defeated the people of Israel will burn Magog’s weapons for seven years. So the weapons meant to destroy Israel become a seven year energy supply. For years many older Bible commentators dismissed this as just “symbolic” because they thought nothing was capable of burning for seven years. But as Skip Heitzig points out in his commentary, “None of that seemed possible until the advent of nuclear weaponry. We now know that the shelf life of a Soviet nuclear warhead is seven years.”
How does Russia's Invasion of Ukraine Fit into Ezekiel 38 & 39, or Does It?
Clearly, the war in Ukraine is different from this battle. Ukraine is not even mentioned in Ezekiel’s prophecy. The battle in Ezekiel 38 & 39 is Russia’s invasion of Israel, not Ukraine. Furthermore, in this modern battle with Ukraine, Russia has not unified with any other nations other than Belarus but certainly they have no Arabic nations aligned with them in this invasion. Simply put, for now Russia’s attack on Ukraine is NOT the battle that Ezekiel prophesied.
However, that’s not to say that it might not be a “precursor” to Ezekiel’s battle. NATO leaders are worried that this could be a “World War” now that Belarus has sent troops to support Russia. Many nations have openly condemned Russia’s attack on Ukraine but Israel until this week was trying to be neutral. Why? Because Russia has staged a massive arsenal of weaponry and soldiers in Air Force and Naval bases in both Syria and Turkey, who can attack Israel at a moment’s notice. Putin has already threatened to attack both Sweden and Finland if they join NATO. Therefore, it’s not unreasonable to assume they could retaliate against Israel, now that on Tuesday March 1, they publicly condemned Russia. However, having said that, we must also recognize that this entire situation in Ukraine could dissolve in a matter of days or weeks, especially when you consider that this war is bankrupting Russia. As of this week the Russian Ruble is now worth less than a US Penny.
Having said of all of that, this conflict in Ukraine could be a “precursor” in another way. If anything, we are seeing that Putin certainly meets the profile of “Gog” the leader of Magog, or Russia. Certainly, the aggression and egotism we see in a Putin led Russia fits Ezekiel’s description of a tyrant seeking to invade if not destroy Israel. Based on these recent events, perhaps we are closer today than ever before to seeing the battle of Ezekiel 38 and 39 happen.
But before we get all excited, and even get tempted to set dates for the rapture, let me throw out a word of caution. Just keep in mind, Vladimir Putin is not the only tyrannical leader to come from Russia (Magog) to fit this description. Russia’s history is littered with a long list of dictators who all fit this description: Mikhail Gorbachev, Joseph Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev, just to name a few. The unfortunate tendency among many of us in the Body of Christ is to get too excited. Some of us chase news story after news story. We see these events like the war in Ukraine and we get excited that the Lord’s return may be soon. Indeed, I believe we are closer to the Lord’s return today, than we have ever been before. Like many of you, I get excited seeing the signs of the times seemingly lining up. However, I am not excited to see war in Ukraine. I am not excited to see civilians being run over by armored tanks and entire housing developments obliterated by Russian cluster bombs. We would do well to temper our excitement about the signs of the times, with some compassion and awareness for those being victimized by this war.
I love the advice Chuck Swindoll gave a group of pastors regarding the end times when he said, “Those who are really plugged into the return of Christ live as if today could be the day. But are prepared to live as if He may not return for another thousand years.” In these last days that we are apparently living, let’s keep our eyes on heaven, but keep our feet firmly grounded.
Now that you’ve read this article, I would encourage you to read Ezekiel 38 and 39 for yourselves to get a better understanding of this passage in light of these events.