Almost every prophecy teacher today holds that Russia and their Islamic allies will invade Israel before the start of the Tribulation. With Russia positioning itself as the strongman of the Middle East it’s prompting many students of prophecy to ask… Is Russia preparing for the Battle of Gog and Magog?
Chapters 38 and 39 of Ezekiel reveal an apocalyptic battle at the end of the age. The battle is described as “against Gog, of the land of Magog.” This unusual and difficult passage has been the subject of endless discussion and speculation among prophecy students as to the identification of the mysterious participants.
The two chapters in Ezekiel describe a large military assault on Israel in the end times led by an unknown leader named Gog from Magog. Gog leads a coalition of Islamic nations that launch a surprise attack on Israel. In the midst of the war, God intervenes, crushes the participants and supernaturally saves Israel. The question is… who are the participants and when is the battle?
One view holds that the text is referring to a Russia-led invasion of the Middle East. This interpretation rose during the Cold War when the atheistic Soviet Union was deeply involved in the Middle East supporting Israel’s Arab enemies. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, a growing number of scholars, however, realize that the Russian invasion theory rests upon scant foundations.
Russia or Turkey?
There is growing evidence of a more plausible view showing that the prophecy is not about Russia at all. Instead, Ezekiel 38 and 39 teaches that Antichrist is Gog and the battle depicts Turkey leading the Caliphate into Israel for the Battle of Armageddon at the end of the Tribulation. The One who enters the scene in none other than Jesus Christ at His Second Coming. As such, the Battle of Gog and Magog is simply an Old Testament portrayal of the New Testament Battle of Armageddon. The battle takes place on the mountains of Israel and Jesus intervenes on behalf of His covenant people.
Notice in the map below that five of the eight ancient names mentioned as participants in the battle of Gog and Magog in Ezekiel 38:1-6, are lands found within modern day Turkey. God is warning us of the leadership role Turkey plays as the head of the Caliphate in the end times.
Map: Muslim Nations in the Battle of Gog and Magog – Ezekiel 38:1-6
Here are a few points to consider substantiating that it’s not possible for the battle of Gog and Magog to take place before the Tribulation and that the war must occur at the end of the Tribulation when Jesus the Messiah returns in power and great glory.
1. Gog is Antichrist – the one prophesied by other prophets – Ezek. 38:17
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?
Amos gives us insight into how God reveals prophecy. He tells us that God doesn’t reveal anything without first revealing it through His prophets, “Surely the Lord God does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).
Ezekiel 38:17 is a key verse to interpret this prophecy. This verse affirms that God through His prophets spoke about Gog in former times. That tells us that the leader of the battle, Gog, has been prophesied about before in previous biblical prophets. What great military leader has been prophesied about to attack Israel in the end times? The only candidate that meets this requirement would be the one we call Antichrist, Satan’s tyrant. Importantly, both the prophetic books of Micah and Daniel were written before Ezekiel and both talk about Antichrist in their respective books leading Israel’s enemies and waging war in the end times against Israel (Micah 5; Dan. 7). Nowhere in the biblical record is there another mighty warrior mentioned that leads an assault on Israel in the end times. And certainly, there is no mention of a Russian leader in any prophetic writings prior to Ezekiel. This leads us to the conclusion that Gog is a reference to Antichrist (not Putin) leading this invasion against Israel.
2. The battle was previously prophesied – Ezek. 39:8
Surely it is coming, and it shall be done,” says the Lord God. “This is the day of which I have spoken.
Here God declares that the battle “is the day that I have spoken”. Not only was Gog prophesied about previously, but the battle itself has been previously spoken about in the prophets before Ezekiel. Once again, the question to ask is what Old Testament prophets, previous to Ezekiel, spoke about the details of a great end times battle? The prophet Joel, long before Ezekiel, spoke of the day that God will return to judge the nations in the “Valley of Jehosophat,” a reference to the Battle of Armageddon (Joel 3:1-2):
“For behold, in those days and at that time, When I bring back the captives of Judah and Jerusalem, 2 I will also gather all nations, And bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat;
And I will enter into judgment with them there On account of My people, My heritage Israel, Whom they have scattered among the nations; They have also divided up My land.
There is no pre-Ezekiel prophet referencing a Russian invasion of Israel. This leads us to conclude that since the only other battle prophesied about in the Old Testament is the Battle of Armageddon, then the Ezekiel battle is just another depiction of the Battle of Armageddon at the end of the Tribulation.
3. Israel will be saved – God will pour out His Spirit – Ezek. 39:22, 29
22 So the house of Israel shall know that I am the Lord their God from that day forward.
29 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.
One of the great themes of Old Testament prophecy is the salvation of the Jewish remnant that survives the 7 year Tribulation. The Jewish people will see Jesus when He breaks through the clouds which brings them to repentance (Zech. 12:10-14) at the intersection of the Battle of Armageddon and Christ’s Second Coming. What a blessing! God is faithful to redeem His people just like He promised. (Ezek. 36:23-38; Dan. 12:1; Hosea 14:1-9; Joel 2:32; 3:16-21; Amos 9:11-15; Zeph. 3:14-20 Zech. 13:9; Mal. 3:16-4:4; Rom. 11:25-27)
Isa. 40:3 mentions a “highway” called – “the way of the Lord” when Israel returns to the Lord on His highway of Salvation. This happens at the end of the Tribulation, not before the Tribulation like the Russian theory proponents suggest. The above two verses clearly broadcast Israel’s salvation at the end of Gog and Magog, “Israel shall know that I am the Lord their God from that day forward” (vs. 22). To further clarify what that means, verse 29 says, “for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel”. This phrase is used elsewhere (Isa. 59:20-21; Zech. 12:10) to describe Israel’s future glorious day of salvation at the return of the Lord. Once again, we are left with the same conclusion. Ezekiel’s Battle of Gog and Magog, which results in Israel’s national repentance and salvation, is an Old Testament commentary on the Battle of Armageddon (Rev. 14:14-20; 19:11-21).
4. The Messiah has Arrived – Ezek. 38:19-20
The Book of Revelation, chapter 19, contains what is perhaps the most famous Biblical passage concerning the return of Jesus. There, Jesus the Messiah is seen to burst forth from heaven, riding on a white horse with the armies of heaven following Him. But as powerful and well known as this prophetic portrayal of the return of Jesus is, few are aware of the fact that the Battle of Gog of Magog, also concludes with the return of Jesus.
As the final proof that Gog is Antichrist, Ezekiel reveals that at the conclusion of Gog’s destruction, Jesus the Messiah is physically present on the ground, in the land:
19 For in My jealousy and in the fire of My wrath I have spoken: ‘Surely in that day there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel, 20 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.’
The Lord says that both animals and people will “shake at My presence.” That’s because the Holy One of Israel has arrived. Ezekiel’s description of people shaking in fear of God’s face reveals that at the conclusion of the Battle of Gog and Magog, Jesus the Messiah, God incarnate, is physically present on the earth, in the land of Zion! As a result of the presence of Jesus, at the conclusion of the battle, Ezekiel 39:7 says:
7 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.
This is the only time that the phrase “the Holy One in Israel” is used. Notice it refers to the Holy One “in” Israel. A similar phrase, the Holy One of Israel” is used thirty-one times in scripture (Isa. 12:6; 43:3; 55:5; 60:9). But in Ezekiel 39:7, the Lord is not merely the Holy One “of” Israel; He is actually present in the land just as promised (Zech. 14:4). This means His feet have touched down on the Mt. of Olives.
While the popular Russia invasion theory holds that this battle concludes several years before the return of Jesus, this verse makes that theory an absolute impossibility. As a practical matter, as long as the USA stands beside Israel, Ezekiel’s battle can’t take place.
For all those worried about Russia’s maneuvers in the Middle East, don’t fret, Russia’s not in this battle. More importantly… the church will never see this battle!