A Land That Has Recovered From War
A Peaceful and Unsuspecting People
There are two possible events that may mark the beginning of the end-times Tribulation: the attack upon Israel of the Magog alliance, or the opening of the sixth seal. The question is, which of these events will occur first? A quick read of Ezekiel 38:18-19 seems to indicate that the Magog invasion comes first, and then the sixth seal is opened, which begins with the earthquake that Ezekiel describes at the end of verse 19,
"This is what will happen in that day: When Gog attacks the land of Israel, my hot anger will be aroused, declares the Sovereign LORD. In my zeal and fiery wrath I declare that at that time there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel."
(See Chapter Four: The Day of the Lord for evidence that the events surrounding the Magog invasion correspond with the sixth seal and first trumpet judgments of Revelation).
Ezekiel seems to indicate that the Magog invasion arouses Gods "hot anger," which will result in Gods "fiery wrath." Yet the term fiery wrath seems to apply better to the judgement of blood, fire and hail that destroys the armies. "Fiery wrath" does not seem to apply to the initial earthquake that strikes Israel and the shaking of the entire earth. If Gods wrath begins after the invasion, then why does He not immediately strike the invaders? Why do the first judgments affect Israel and then the whole earth, with the fiery destruction of the invaders occurring afterwards?
Another item to address is the fact that Gog, the chief prince of Magog, appears to be pulled into this conflict against his will, with God being the agent that brings the actual attack into fruition:
"This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. I will turn you around, put hooks in your jaws and bring you out with your whole army--your horses, your horsemen fully armed, and a great horde with large and small shields, all of them brandishing their swords." Ezekiel 38:3-4
" In days to come, O Gog, I will bring you against my land Are you not the one I spoke of in former days by my servants the prophets of Israel? At that time they prophesied for years that I would bring you against them." Ezekiel 38:16-17
God will put hooks into the jaws of the ruler of Magog, pull him into the conflict and bring him against Israel. God will make sure that it happens! How then can He turn around and be angry at the invasion? The answer is that God's anger is aroused because the planning for the invasion begins far prior to the actual invasion itself,
"This is what the Sovereign LORD says: On that day thoughts will come into your mind and you will devise an evil scheme. You will say, I will invade a land of unwalled villages; I will attack a peaceful and unsuspecting people--all of them living without walls and without gates and bars. I will plunder and loot and turn my hand against the resettled ruins and the people gathered from the nations, rich in livestock and goods, living at the center of the land." Ezekiel 38:10-12
"This is what the Sovereign LORD says: In that day, when my people Israel are living in safety, will you not take notice of it? You will come from your place in the far north, you and many nations with you, all of them riding on horses, a great horde, a mighty army. You will advance against my people Israel like a cloud that covers the land." Ezekiel 38:14-16
The leader of Magog plots and schemes, and looks for a way in which he might plunder and loot the peaceful and unsuspecting land of Israel. But God will take control of the situation and make sure that this inevitable invasion comes at a time of His own choosing. God will put hooks into the jaws of Magog and bring him against Israel " so that the nations may know me when I show myself holy through you before their eyes." Ezekiel 38:16
But how does God achieve this? What forces the leader of Magog to act when he is not necessarily inclined? The possibility to be considered is that perhaps the initial earthquake and global shaking of the earth comes prior to the Magog invasion itself. Ezekiel wrote that "at that time there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel." "At that time" may not necessarily mean after the invasion begins and may instead indicate an event that happens near the time of the invasion, perhaps even before the invasion. The great and terrible shaking of the entire earth might be the event that gives the plotters the chance that they have been waiting for. The global chaos and disorder that results might be the window of opportunity for the Magog alliance to invade; it may be the hooks in the jaws which pull Magog into the invasion and the way in which God brings them against His land. Only then, after the invaders have entered Israel, will God act in His "fiery wrath," destroying the invaders with the blast of fire and hail from heaven.
The initial earthquake and global shaking of the earth corresponds with the opening of the sixth seal of Revelation, and then the blast of fire and hail from heaven (shown in Ezekiel 38:22-39:6) that actually destroys the invaders corresponds with the first trumpet judgment of Revelation. In Revelation there is a short delay between the shaking of the earth and the plague of fire and hail. This delay comes with the opening of the seventh seal, whereupon there is "silence in heaven for about half an hour," (8:1). Perhaps it is within this interlude that the Magog invasion takes place.
The geo-political reality that exists today makes an invasion on the scale shown in Ezekiel an impossibility. Russia, the nation most likely referred to as Magog, would never make such an attack. It would instantly create World War III, as the United States would respond in defense of Israel without a second thought with her most powerful weapons of mass destruction. The Magog invasion would be impossible today because such a massing of ground troops, as predicted in Ezekiel, would be instantly noticed by Americas satellites. However, if the Magog invasion were preceded by the great shaking of the entire earth, then all of these satellites would be useless.
The great shaking of the earth, which marks the beginning of the Day of the Lord, will be hugely destructive. It will cause mountains to overturn, cliffs to crumble and walls to fall to the ground. In addition, the United States advanced technologically-dependent society will be grievously damaged. America uses satellites for everything from communications, to commerce, navigation, surveillance, and even for weapons guidance for her missiles and bombs. All of this would be rendered useless were the earth to shift on its polar axis. Americas great military would be crippled, and she would be essentially powerless to respond to an invasion of Israel. It would give Russia an opportunity to crush the only nominally democratic government in the Middle East, and would give her control of the most important commodity in the world: oil. The Arabs nations would no longer fear the West and, if successful, Russia would once again be a dominant world power. Additionally, Israel is highly dependant on a technological advantage over her foes. In the aftermath of a polar shift she would be forced to depend more on conventional weapons, and in this respect she is greatly outmatched by her enemies.
Gods great shaking of the earth might be the hooks that pull Magog against Israel. This is just a possibility to consider, but it is one worth looking at.
The Enemies of Israel
The chart below lists the nations that make up the Magog alliance:
The modern names for these ancient countries(as determined by various Bible scholars)
Russia- Ezekiel says that Gog, the chief prince of Magog, will come from his place in the "far north." Russia is the nation farthest north from Israel, and Moscow is almost due north from Jerusalem in the same time zone.
Iran- The country that occupies the land of ancient Persia.
Sudan- Cush was the land to the south of Egypt, now Sudan or northern Ethiopia.
Libya- Put was the ancient nation to the west of Egypt, now known as Libya.
Prophecy scholars are divided, seeing Gomer during the Cold War as East Germany, but today as Germany, Eastern Europe or Turkey.
The House of Togarmah was likely located in eastern Turkey or southern Russia, or perhaps where the modern nations of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia exist now.
There are two important points to consider about this list:
1. The major allies of Magog, who are the present-day nations of Iran, Sudan and Libya, are countries that enjoy a close association with, or are militarily supported by, Russia. The major members of this alliance are already on good terms and the Magog invasion is not something that has to occur in the distant future.
2. None of these nations are close neighbors of Israel, nations that have traditionally been Israels greatest enemies. In this great invasion of Israel where is Syria, Iraq or Egypt? Where is Jordan, Lebanon or the Palestinians?
This second point leads to evidence that may explain Israels situation at the time of the Magog invasion. When Magog and its allies invade, Israel is a nation that "has recovered from war," and the people of Israel are occupying "resettled ruins." They have been gathered back to Israel, "and now all of them live in safety." Israel will be "a land of unwalled villages," and the inhabitants will be "a peaceful and unsuspecting people- all of them living without gates and bars."
Now there are two views regarding the Magog invasion. The first view is that it may occur at any moment, and that since Israel was established as a nation in 1948 she has always been "a land of unwalled villages," and "living without gates and bars." It is argued that she has been continually fighting battles and so she has always been a land that has "recovered from war." This view argues that the conditions for the future Magog invasion are already met and that it could occur right now.
The second view focuses on the fact that since her establishment as a modern nation, Israel has never enjoyed peace and safety to the level that Ezekiel described. She has always been fighting with her neighbors, against Egypt, Jordan, Syria or Lebanon, and continually against the Palestinians. It is theorized that the war from which she will have recovered when Magog plots against her will be a preliminary war in which Israel will subdue her immediate neighbors. Only when the Palestinians, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon have all been neutralized as military threats will Israel truly live in peace and safety, and that would also explain the absence of these nations from the Magog alliance. There are a number of prophecies that lend support to this second view.
"O God, do not keep silent; be not quiet, O God, be not still. See how your enemies are astir, how your foes rear their heads. With cunning they conspire against your people; they plot against those you cherish. Come, they say, let us destroy them as a nation, that the name of Israel be remembered no more. With one mind they plot together; they form an alliance against you-- the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites, of Moab and the Hagrites, Gebal, Ammon and Amalek, Philistia, with the people of Tyre. Even Assyria has joined them to lend strength to the descendants of Lot."
The tribes conspiring in this prophecy are the modern Muslim nations, the "Ishmaelites" that surround Israel. They are the nations of Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria, and the Philistines are the Palestinians. This great conspiracy to completely destroy Israel has surfaced many times over the last half-century that Israel has existed as a reborn nation.
The writer of this Psalm ends by asking the Lord to chastise the conspirators,
"Make them like tumbleweed, O my God, like chaff before the wind. As fire consumes the forest or a flame sets the mountains ablaze, so pursue them with your tempest and terrify them with your storm. Cover their faces with shame so that men will seek your name, O LORD. May they ever be ashamed and dismayed; may they perish in disgrace. Let them know that you, whose name is the LORD-- that you alone are the Most High over all the earth."
These nations have never been humbled to the extent sought by the psalmist. The prophet Isaiah offers a very specific prophecy that includes several of the nations mentioned above. It is a very harsh prediction, and one that has never been fulfilled.
"An oracle concerning Damascus: See, Damascus will no longer be a city but will become a heap of ruins. The cities of Aroer will be deserted and left to flocks, which will lie down, with no one to make them afraid. The fortified city will disappear from Ephraim, and royal power from Damascus; the remnant of Aram will be like the glory of the Israelites, declares the LORD Almighty. In that day the glory of Jacob will fade; the fat of his body will waste away."
Damascus claims to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world (see www.syriatourism.org), yet the prophet Isaiah is clear that "Damascus will no longer be a city but will become a heap of ruins." This prophecy cannot have been fulfilled in the past. Isaiah continues by offering evidence that the destruction of Damascus comes as a result of a conflict with Israel,
"In that day their strong cities, which they left because of the Israelites, will be like places abandoned to thickets and undergrowth. And all will be desolation."
Syria and Israel will one day come into terrible conflict. The results will be as follows:
1. Damascus will become a heap of ruins.
2. The cities of Aroer will be deserted. Aroer is in south central Jordan.
3. The fortified city will disappear from Ephraim. This is the land of todays central West Bank. It is the land of the Palestinians, who have fortified their cities with weapons brought in as a result of the Oslo "peace" initiatives. Isaiah predicts that these fortified cities will be destroyed, or at least no longer fortified.
4. Royal power will disappear from Damascus. An obvious result of the destruction of Damascus.
5. The glory of Jacob will fade. Israels war, as in the past, will likely be met with worldwide condemnation. Perhaps this is what is meant by the fading of Jacobs glory.
6. The remnant of Aram will be diminished just as Israels glory. Aram refers to Syria, and the remnant will be diminished just as Israels glory will fade.
7. The strong cities of Syria will be abandoned and all will be desolation.
Isaiah continues on in this prophecy to describe the anger that will rise up from many nations against Israel, as a result of this conflict that ends with the complete destruction of Damascus,
"Oh, the raging of many nations-- they rage like the raging sea! Oh, the uproar of the peoples-- they roar like the roaring of great waters! Although the peoples roar like the roar of surging waters, when he rebukes them they flee far away, driven before the wind like chaff on the hills, like tumbleweed before a gale. In the evening, sudden terror! Before the morning, they are gone! This is the portion of those who loot us, the lot of those who plunder us."
Many prophetic scholars, including Jewish scholars, see the "raging of many nations" predicted by Isaiah as a reference to Ezekiels Magog invasion. The Magog invasion includes nations such as Russia, Iran, Libya and Sudan, and does not include Syria. Isaiahs "raging of many nations" comes after the destruction of Damascus, but the goal of the invasion is loot and plunder. This compares to the goal of the Magog invasion. Ezekiel writes that Magog and the nations who plot the invasion of Israel say to themselves,
"I will invade a land of unwalled villages; I will attack a peaceful and unsuspecting people--all of them living without walls and without gates and bars. I will plunder and loot and turn my hand against the resettled ruins and the people gathered from the nations, rich in livestock and goods, living at the center of the land." Ezekiel 38:11-12
Nearby nations who avoid the conflict will ask the invaders, "Have you come to plunder? Have you gathered your hordes to loot, to carry off silver and gold, to take away livestock and goods and to seize much plunder?" Ezekiel 38:13
It appears that the prophecies of Isaiah 17 directly lead to the prophecies of Ezekiel 38-39.
"Woe to the land of whirring wings along the rivers of Cush, which sends envoys by sea in papyrus boats over the water. Go, swift messengers, to a people tall and smooth-skinned, to a people feared far and wide, an aggressive nation of strange speech, whose land is divided by rivers.
All you people of the world, you who live on the earth, when a banner is raised on the mountains, you will see it, and when a trumpet sounds, you will hear it. This is what the LORD says to me: I will remain quiet and will look on from my dwelling place, like shimmering heat in the sunshine, like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest.
For, before the harvest, when the blossom is gone and the flower becomes a ripening grape, he will cut off the shoots with pruning knives, and cut down and take away the spreading branches. They will all be left to the mountain birds of prey and to the wild animals; the birds will feed on them all summer, the wild animals all winter.
At that time gifts will be brought to the LORD Almighty from a people tall and smooth-skinned, from a people feared far and wide, an aggressive nation of strange speech, whose land is divided by rivers-- the gifts will be brought to Mount Zion, the place of the Name of the LORD Almighty."
This is another prophecy that may describe events that come about after the destruction of Damascus. It is a prophecy of the land of Cush, and it predicts that messengers from Cush will travel to meet with a people describes as, "a people tall and smooth-skinned a people feared far and wide, an aggressive nation of strange speech, whose land is divided by rivers."
Cush is one of the nations that will be included in the Magog alliance, and the people of Russia seem to fit Isaiahs description of the people to whom the messengers of Cush will travel. The result of this meeting will be the raising of a banner on the mountains and the sound of a trumpet; both of which are signs of an invading army. God will then look down quietly at this invasion from heaven,
"This is what the LORD says to me: I will remain quiet and will look on from my dwelling place, like shimmering heat in the sunshine, like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest. "
This is an important reference to a delay and a time of quiet that may refer to the time between the shaking of the earth at the sixth seal and the actual invasion. This might also be the delay that is shown at the opening of the seventh seal that brings "silence in heaven for about half an hour."
First the events of the sixth seal will occur, then there will be a delay during which the invasion will take place, and then God will execute judgment upon the invaders, a judgment that is also shown at the blowing of the first trumpet of Revelation. Isaiah then predicts the end result,
"They will all be left to the mountain birds of prey and to the wild animals; the birds will feed on them all summer, the wild animals all winter."
Again we find a startling parallel between Isaiahs prophecy and Ezekiels prophecies of the Magog invasion of Israel. Ezekiel predicted that God would bring this invasion "against the mountains of Israel," which compares to the raising of a banner on the mountains that was described by Isaiah. Ezekiel also gave a similar prediction for the end of the invaders,
"Son of man, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: Call out to every kind of bird and all the wild animals: Assemble and come together from all around to the sacrifice I am preparing for you, the great sacrifice on the mountains of Israel. There you will eat flesh and drink blood. You will eat the flesh of mighty men and drink the blood of the princes of the earth as if they were rams and lambs, goats and bulls--all of them fattened animals from Bashan. At the sacrifice I am preparing for you, you will eat fat till you are glutted and drink blood till you are drunk. At my table you will eat your fill of horses and riders, mighty men and soldiers of every kind, declares the Sovereign LORD." Ezekiel 39:17-20
And then in the aftermath of this invasion the covenant that marks the beginning of the 70th Week will be established and Israel will be allowed to rebuild their Temple. At the same time Joshua and Zerubbabel will appear on the scene to begin their ministry as the Two Witnesses of Revelation.
We cannot know for certain what exactly will precede the great invasion of Israel that will come near the beginning of the end-times Tribulation. Scripture seems to offer us many provocative clues, but how it will all play out will not be clearly understood until after the events have transpired. However, we do know for certain that in the days prior to the Magog invasion Israel will be "a land that has recovered from war," and they will be "a peaceful and unsuspecting people."