Once upon a time, students of Bible prophecy were uniform in their perspective regarding a number of pivotal assumptions about the so-called “prophetic scenario.” Debates on the matter of Bible prophecy mostly had to do with timing and whether the rapture of the Church would happen in the beginning, middle, or end of the Great Tribulation Period usually identified with Daniel’s 70th week.
As a result of the success of Hal Lindsey’s Late Great Planet Earth and Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins “Left Behind” series, most evangelicals in America, to be more specific, those who believed in what is called “futurism” (that is, those that believe there remain many Bible prophecies related to the Second Advent awaiting fulfillment), agreed on the following points:
- The power base of the antichrist would be “Rome” and a revived Roman Empire. Europe would grow so strong it would exceed the United States in diplomacy, economics, and military power. Europe would grow into a one-world system. The possibility that the “New World Order” would be behind the transition was not usually included in the prophetic presentation.
- The antichrist would be a descendant of Jewish ancestors (perhaps through the tribe of Dan), but also claim European ancestry (perhaps including both Greek and Roman forebears).
- The United States was universally seen to be “missing in action” during the end times. Hal Lindsey, Grant Jeffrey, David Jeremiah, and many other prophecy pundits discounted the U.S., seeing moral corruption, reduced military spending, loss of individual freedoms, and increased influence of socialism all accounting for our undoing.
- The rapture of the Church would precede the worst geopolitical events described by the Bible, including the apocalyptic plagues, natural disasters such as earthquakes, and the eruption of massive wars across the globe. Since American prophecy writers saw our country as predominantly a Christian nation, it was assumed that the rapture would contribute mightily to the decimation of America too.
- Mystery Babylon was considered the Roman Catholic Church. Luther and Calvin believed this to be true. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church agreed. Many modern evangelical leaders tended to confirm this view too. The zenith of this judgment in our day came when Dave Hunt, another famous prophecy writer, published his magnum opus, A Woman Rides the Beast (1994). The 600-page book chronicled the atrocities of Rome against Protestants. The notion that the False Prophet, the second beast of Revelation 13, would be the Roman Pope was commonplace. Many held Roman Catholicism would win out once Protestants returned to the fold.
- The return of Israel to its historic land was considered the high water mark of fulfilled prophecy. The “dry bones” came together in 1948 and survived numerous wars. The teaching of dispensationalists, like author Lindsey and highly esteemed works of scholars John Walvoord, Dwight Pentecost, and Charles Ryrie, as well as more recently renowned author and teacher Chuck Missler, pastor and author Mark Hitchcock, and scholar Randall Price, all emphasize that Israel is the “mega-sign” that signals we live in the last days.
- The archenemy of Israel, Gog and Magog, would be realized through the power of the Soviet Union. The “red menace” would eventually combine forces with the Islamic states surrounding Israel, and come against tiny Israel. This great war would most likely kick-off the Great Tribulation, highlighted by massive persecution of Jews and Christians (those “left behind” for one of several reasons, mostly because they got on board too late). This war would also premiere the Antichrist making a peace treat with Israel for protection.
- The Battle of Gog and Magog would be “next up” right before Daniel’s 70th Week (and the Great Tribulation) commenced. Many prophecy scholars expounded the scripture citing the Grand Prophecy of Ezekiel 38-39 contending it would be prominently displayed on our radar screens since it was destined to occur in the very near-term. While some argued the construction of a new Jewish temple in Jerusalem would be the necessary pre-condition for Jesus’ return, most others suggested that the Gog and Magog conflagration would set the stage for that monumental event; and in fact, it was absolutely essential so the Temple Mount would be cleared (and no longer declared off limits) to allow the future Jewish temple’s construction.
Since 1970, however, many geopolitical realities have transpired that diminished the probability these conclusions would prove true. In effect, the traditional prophetic scenario did not stand the test of time. Evaluating the assumptions one-by-one, we can readily see how each of these premises fails to obtain allegiance today:
- The growth of Islam, especially the impact of extreme Muslim beliefs neatly summarized in one word, jihad, increases the fears of Westerners that Mohammed and not Jesus will be the dominating religious figure of the twenty-first century. Protecting Islam now seems to be the new byword of the political left including the current President, with Christianity passé and the silent majority of white Anglo-Saxon protestants considered obscurantist at best, and at worst, Islamophobic.
- The Soviet Union began to crumble with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and soon thereafter it was fully confirmed when the revolution against communism in Russia booted Mikhail Gorbachev out of office. By 1991, many political experts regarded Marxism to be an ideology of the past. If Gog was a Russian, which was now doubtful, he certainly wasn’t going to be a communist. Perhaps this counterfeit Gog, defrocked from his Marxist priestly vestments, might instead find his way back to his thousand-year-old roots in the Russian Orthodox Church. Strange how that has seemingly come to pass.
- The European Union never found its footing. The Euro as a combined unified currency increasingly falters. The socialism of Europe has broken the bank, so to speak, with too many benefits for too many geriatrics and too few youngsters to pay taxes into the system. The demographics of Europe show it to be a civilization rapidly trending downward, with married couples having too few children to replace themselves. For a number of nations including Greece and Cyprus, with others holding on for dear life like Spain, Ireland, Portugal, and Italy, prospects seem bleak. (The openness of Europeans to embrace Syrian refugees can be explained by this demographic decline and the fact that many Syrians are already educated in Western ways).
- The decline of the United States has been greatly exaggerated. While many prophecy experts predict the U.S. economy is ready to collapse at any moment, this has proven to be more fear mongering than fact. The U.S. military, from a conventional weapons perspective (land, naval, and air) continues to reign globally. True, U.S. “policing actions” have grown more problematic as we have seen in the South China Sea (2015) and in the Middle East. But if we are talking about projecting power, the U.S. is the only horse to ride with eleven carrier groups (compared to one apiece for Russia and China), and over 80 nuclear powered boomers (subs that carry nuclear ballistic missiles) and attack submarines (that carry torpedoes and cruise missiles) primarily targeting enemy shipping. Likewise, U.S. aircraft continue to outpace almost all the competition, although recently Russian aircraft have just about drawn even with the U.S. as the universal fighter, the F-35, has disappointed many experts.
- The timing of the rapture of the church is fervently debated. During the past two decades a new theory of the rapture known as the “pre-wrath” rapture, has grown popular especially with younger people who doubt that Americans are likely to see special treatment when it comes to escaping the Great Tribulation. Many former “pre-Tribbers” are embracing this view or going even further, acknowledging they are now “post-Trib”. Consequently, the timing of the rapture has become a test for orthodoxy among the old-line Dispensationalists. Battle lines as well as swords have been drawn. Acrimony runs hot.
- The Roman Catholic Church is no longer seen as the only source of evil in the Christian world. Many who continue to espouse Bible prophecy as a key element of orthodox Christianity worry that new teachings about prosperity and the “seeker-friendly church” has become the latest apostasy capturing the minds and ministries of evangelical pastors and theologians. Conservative leaders have become the most recent victims of “modern theology” spouting historic Christian liberalism (now entering its third century) by denying the inerrancy of the Bible, the orthodox understanding of the deity of Christ, and proposing “centering prayer” as a key element of an true oxymoron – Christian Buddhism. New Age Spirituality, made famous in the 1970s by a number of writers (who used to be counted as just plain cockamamie), has infiltrated what was once the secure bastion of biblical orthodoxy.
- Many now question Israel as the axiomatic mega-sign of fulfilled Bible prophecy. Those that hold to the rebirth of Israel as a demonstration of God’s unswerving commitment to His historic people and whose protection amounts to a sacred obligation for Bible-believing Christians, are considered simple-minded “Christian Zionists with no sense of how vile (so they say) the Jews can be.” Furthermore, Zionism has become a bad word for many – purportedly a form of bigotry denying Palestinians have rights too. Championing Israel has become equated with prejudice and political incorrectness. What used to be called “replacement theology” is finding a home among a number of prophecy teachers who now doubt that God has distinctive programs for Israel and for the Church. A number of authors have grown “enlightened” and embrace a view that dramatically discounts Israel’s once exalted status in the minds of many American evangelicals. Israel is regarded as an occupier and oppressor.
- The new candidate for Gog and Magog are the Turkish peoples. Specifically, many popular prophecy pundits now consider Ankara to be the power player in the Islamic world. Those who consider Turkey to be the home of the Islamic antichrist would include successful authors Joel Richardson, Walid Shoebat, and even the popular Jewish author and speaker Avi Lipkin. Likewise, for a number of years respected godparent of eschatology Chuck Missler has proposed that the “Eastern leg” of the Roman Empire might be the home of a “Roman” antichrist. Many of the newly popular proponents draw strength from Missler’s conversion, adopting the view that Islam will be the predicted one-world religion and Babylon will be rebuilt on the Euphrates, growing to become the capital for Antichrist. Those that espouse Turkey as the best candidate to fulfill the prophecy concerning the land of Magog (Ezekiel 38-39), assert this view for numerous (some not-so-obvious) reasons cited here:
- The seven churches of Revelation were in ancient Turkey, i.e., Anatolia.
- Noah’s ark came to rest in Turkey (Mount Ararat) and “as it was in the days of Noah so it shall be in the days of the Son of Man.” (Matthew 24:37)
- Pergamum in Turkey was “the seat of Satan” according to Revelation 2:13 (although its famous temple was dismantled and moved to Berlin during the time of Adolf Hitler).
- Meschech and Tubal are located in Turkey. Magog comprises a region between the Black and Caspian Seas. “Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him” (Ezekiel 38:2).
- Ankara is considered more “true north” of Jerusalem than is Moscow.
- Turkey is sometimes considered the protector of Islam. Proponents claim the Ottoman Empire reigned for almost 1,000 years, from the tenth century until the twentieth. Presumably, Turkey, like Rome, will revive to be the final great empire of the last days.
In response, Turkey does possess a significant military contingent; however, its strongest suit is its member status in NATO – not that it holds military weapons of superior strength (its WMD are controlled by NATO), a massive and accomplished army (it ranks tenth in the world), or that it controls economic or political influence in any sector, which it avowedly does not. History may be on Turkey’s side, but history, after all is passé. Turkey only stirs up controversy, allegedly supporting ISIS (illegally buying their oil). Turkey seems harmless to everyone but the Kurds who live in its southeastern region.
While I personally cannot comprehend the relevance of a number of these arguments supposedly demonstrating Turkey fulfills the Ezekiel prophecy regarding Gog and Magog, (as cited above and promulgated by its advocates), my approach in this book relies much more on arguments for the alternative candidate; that is, a positive polemic for why Russia remains the best candidate to be Ezekiel’s Gog, not a negative assessment of Turkey’s capacity to fulfill the attributes of God as Ezekiel describes him. On the other hand, I will cite the factors that make the “Turkish theory” highly problematic, reasons I consider axiomatic to geopolitical reality.
Finally, in the past decade, a different major war will become the predicted “next event” that underscores the imminency of the Lord’s anticipated return. Well-respected lecturer, author, and friend Bill Salus, has written two important books, Israelestine (2008) and Psalm 83 (2013), which pre-empted the Battle of Gog and Magog as the next great war in the Middle East. Salus powerfully argues (and his view has grown to be part and parcel of most eschatology author’s scenarios today), that the nations listed in Psalm 83 must be eliminated or at least vanquished in such a way that Israel would grow to be rich and at peace. His view is that Israel will soon flourish in peace and security. It will become the “land of unwalled villages”. It will literally drop its guard, considering unnecessary the walls that protect it today. The borders of Israel described in the last portion of Ezekiel (chapters 40-48) would be greatly expanded (from the Nile to the Euphrates). The “inner ring” of nations such as Syria, Iraq, Jordan, and even Egypt will hold no threat to Israel. Perhaps two to three decades from now, when Israel believes itself invulnerable and owns the Arab wealth, Gog will muster its hordes and attack Israel to “take a spoil”. Only then will Gog and Magog become the “next great war.”
In my considered opinion, the question of whether the Psalm 83 war is the next great war of the Middle East depends not so much upon whether Psalm 83 describes war in our times (between Israel and its neighbors), but upon how we interpret one particular passage from the prophet Ezekiel, specifically Ezekiel 38:10-13. From premises drawn from this passage, supporters of Psalm 83 (it being the supposed next great war) promulgate several notions that require fulfillment before the war of Gog and Magog could occur. For the reader’s convenience, to quote the scripture in question:
10 Thus saith the Lord God; “It shall also come to pass, that at the same time shall things come into thy mind, and thou shalt think an evil thought:
11 and thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates,
12 to take a spoil, and to take a prey; to turn thine hand upon the desolate places that are now inhabited, and upon the people that are gathered out of the nations, which have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the midst of the land.”
13 Sheba and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof, shall say unto thee, “Art thou come to take a spoil? Hast thou gathered thy company to take a prey? To carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to take a great spoil?” (Ezekiel 38:10-13)
The first premise to which I draw the reader’s attention concerns how Gog will come against a land that needs no walls for protection. Ezekiel mentions Israel in verse 8 of the chapter as, “dwelling in the land” against (or near to) the “mountains of Israel” where the people will dwell safely.
After many days thou shalt be visited: in the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste: but it is brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell safely all of them. (Ezekiel 38:8)
The conventional prophetic view (from Hal Lindsey forward) along with those who support the Psalm 83 “next war” thesis, supposes that Israel is also the land referenced in verse 11, and therefore, Israel must not be threatened since the people must dwell safely. Given that Israel continues to be threatened today by its hostile neighbors, this would seem to suggest that something dramatic must occur to nullify this threat and supply Israel with peace and tranquility. Proponents for the Psalm 83 war thesis propose the answer lies within the words of Psalm 83. In this Psalm, Israel fights against the many nations (peoples and tribes) surrounding it on three sides, to demonstrate that the Jehovah (Yahweh) is the name of the Lord. The Psalmist (in this case Asaph who did prophesy for the Lord) says Israel fights this battle (or battles) “that men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth” (Psalm 83:18). Jews and Christians alike, all those who believe firmly that the Bible sanctions no compromise in designating the identity of the LORD God, would never accept that Jehovah and Allah are two names for the same entity. Whether Psalm 83 refers to wars past or future (or perhaps most likely, currently going), Jehovah is the LORD and only He deserves our praise. I stand firmly with the Psalm 83 proponents in this regard.
However, the stark reality remains that Israel still lives behind a 417-mile-long wall for protection, a wall that serves as a compelling point in favor for an indefinite delay of the war of Gog and Magog until after the Psalm 83 war. In other words, the proposed Psalm 83 war must occur so that Israel takes down the wall (or opens its gates), no longer threatened by Palestinian terror. As long as the long wall remains and is well guarded, the Battle of Gog and Magog cannot take place. Or so the argument goes.
The second premise follows from the first; namely the assumption that Israel comprises the focus of the passage and therefore Israel must be the land of unwalled villages. It has been and is still taught by most everyone that Israel must live at ease first – that is, it must dwell safely. This is true for almost all futurists regardless of the sequence they suppose between (1) a Psalm 83 conflagration and (2) the Battle of Gog and Magog. Furthermore, it is assumed that after Israel wins this war it enriches itself with the spoils of the forecasted war, because the motivation of Gog appears to be “to take spoils” from the land of unwalled villages. Thus, Israel must possess great wealth. Consequently, given the standard assumption the land of unwalled villages is Israel, Israel must also become a dominating empire in the Middle East. It will acquire the wealth of its neighbors. It will dwell securely. Never mind that this political incorrectness extends beyond any situation that the world could possibly allow Israel to enjoy (that is, to possess the wealth of its Islamic neighbors). Nevertheless, since these geopolitical objections carry little to no weight for most eschatology teachers (those futurists who subscribe to this line of thinking), Israel’s becoming a dominating empire in the Middle East continues to be seen as the most plausible prophetic scenario.
However, Israel remains the same nation that took the Temple Mount in the Six-Day War of June 1967 and then immediately returned it to the Islamic trust known as the WAQF (fearful of the global Arab response if Israel occupied this Islamic – and Jewish – sacred site). To this author, not only does it seem out of character for Israel to take such aggressive measures, it constitutes geopolitical suicide. I believe there is a much more plausible scenario that both recognizes geopolitical realities and better fits the scriptural witness if we consider the whole counsel of God. The prophecies of the Battle of Gog and Magog – as well as the extensive prophecies in Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Zechariah concerning the daughter of Babylon – lead me to envision a very different scenario.
Nevertheless, according to the “Psalm 83 war” thesis considered in conjunction with the conventional view concerning the interpretation of Ezekiel 38, Israel will grow rich while Gog grows envious – and eventually feels enticed to steal that wealth. That is, the proposed future vast riches of Israel motivate Gog to seize Israel’s post-Psalm 83-war wealth. This seems to be the most plausible scenario if Israel is the land of unwalled villages.
The third premise that figures into the favored scenario relates to the implied holder of the riches. The conventional view of Ezekiel 38:13 sees “Sheba and Dedan, the Merchants of Tarshish, and the young lions” protesting what is happening when Gog goes on the attack. From the standpoint of the conventional view of scholars for almost fifty years, these nations sit on the sideline and wonder aloud what Gog is doing. The spoil being sought, according to this view, belongs to Israel. It comprises the wealth acquired during the Psalm 83 war. As we will discuss later in this book when expositing the passage in Ezekiel, the astonishment of “Sheba and Dedan, the Merchants of Tarshish, and the young lions” comes not from protesting what appears to be the object of Gog’s attack, i.e., Israel, but rather Gog’s attack upon them! That is the key thesis advanced here. The spoil that Gog seeks in verse 13 actually comprises the wealth of the “third parties” identified in this passage, and not Israel. Verse 13, and in fact the whole passage from verse 10 to 13 comes across as “an aside” – a parenthetical comment, as in “Oh, and by the way while I’m telling you about what will happen to Israel, let me tell you about what will happen to Saudi Arabia, England, and its colony the United States.”
The U.S. in particular, as well as Saudi Arabia, possesses great wealth. England too remains one of the most dominating financial powers in the world. It you combine these two nations with the support given by Saudi Arabia (through the enforcement of the Petro-dollar), this trio of nations amounts to the “axis of economy” that drives the world system. The Anglo-American alliance, through its colossal marketplaces (namely Wall Street and the City of London) along with the dominating power of Saudi Arabia in OPEC, encompasses more than any other financial alliance, the wealth of the world. The U.S., England, and Saudi Arabia, has vast “cattle and goods”, “silver and gold”, (and other vast natural resources) as well as the U.S. comprising a nation gathered from the lands all over the world. It too fits the description Ezekiel provides, and thus, constitutes a candidate for the attack of Gog, especially since “taking the U.S. military out of the way” would be militarily necessary before Gog could bring his armies against Israel. Although economics will not be a subject discussed in this book, it should be stressed at the outset that the single greatest way for the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) to overcome the infamous international bankers would be to “break the bank” – literally destroy the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, backed by the U.S. and U.K. systems, and eliminate the staggering amount of debt held by BRICS. In 2013, Brazil, India, and South Africa owed more than $1.2 trillion dollars, with less than $1 trillion in their central bank reserves. U.S. and U.K. bankers can block payments to the BRICS nations. Russia and China remain throttled and controlled by the Anglo-American nexus. The BRICS bank remains “dollar-denominated”.[i]
Some might object that the U.S. has already deserted Israel and will not stand alongside Israel to oppose its enemies. But in truth this comprises a reactionary perspective from we conservatives who hold Israel dear. We are frustrated that the current administration has not prioritized Israel’s security above other U.S. actions in the Middle East, vis-à-vis the Iranian “deal”. While it is quite true that the U.S. has not been strongly supportive of Israeli interests, particularly as it has pressed Israel to accept a “two-state solution”; nevertheless, reckoning the U.S. has “abandoned Israel completely” overstates U.S. policy. Despite the obvious – that the U.S. is far less enthusiastic about supporting Israel than it used to be – it is geopolitically unthinkable that the U.S. would sit idly by and “do nothing” as long as the U.S. possesses vast military assets and retains some proximity to the region. Additionally, the Jewish lobby remains too influential to allow the U.S. to “sit the next one out”. Furthermore, the U.S. government, even this administration, knows it stands to lose its foothold completely in the Middle East if Israel ceases to exist. The U.S. would not intentionally sit on the sidelines. U.S. participation, however, might not be an option.
If the U.S. were attacked with nuclear weapons, the danger for Israel would become enormous. Gog would then feel free to muster its company and commence the campaign against Israel. The U.S. would no longer be the “only remaining superpower” protecting Israel. Israel would be on its own – humanly speaking, entirely on its own – except for the greatest superpower of all, the LORD God of Israel. Of course, that is what the Bible predicts.