Israel is rarely out of the news. But comments from politicians and the media about Israel are generally negative, and they invariably miss the fundamental issues. The truth is that the tension over Israel (and particularly over Jerusalem) has deep spiritual roots. That’s why future conflicts over Israel are detailed in Bible prophecy. According to prophecy, at least two major conflicts occur in the foreseeable future, and both are defeated by the God of Israel.
The first invasion of Israel appears to come from an alliance of Islamic nations in the Middle East (specifically Iran and Turkey), and all probably led by Russia. This is the so-called Gog-Magog war detailed in Ezekiel’s prophecy. Some sort of alliance between Russia, Iran and Turkey is already visible. A second, and last invasion (amassed in a place called Armageddon) appears to involve ‘all nations’ of the world working under a Satanically inspired world government. Such government appears to be Europe-based and many see a notable absence of America from such events! Prophecy and current events suggest that China is also a key player.
Prophecy indicates that, between these two major wars, Israel is invaded by the prophesied ‘world ruler’. This despicable person sets up what Jesus referred to as the the ‘abomination of desolation’ in the (new) Jewish temple. All these events are at the very end of this age and may span less than ten years. The good news is that, despite great trauma, a remnant of Jews survive and go on into a ‘millennial earth’.
Jump to Gog-Magog War – Armageddon – Seals, Trumpets & Bowls
Get Real: Middle East War on Israel is Imminent
Remember: The root-cause of all aggression against Israel is spiritual
HAMAS in Gaza: Since Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, terrorists have fired more than 11,000 rockets into Israel from Gaza [IDF]. Since Israel’s ceasefire with Hamas in August 2014, it is estimated that Hamas has now fully restocked its missile arsenal to about 12,000 rockets. Some of these are “heavy rockets”. Meanwhile the civilian population in Gaza continues to suffer from poor conditions.
HEZBOLLAH in Lebanon: As of 2016 it was estimated that Hezbollah had stockpiled some 130,000 rockets and had the capability to launch 1,500 rockets/day at Israel, link. Some of these have 400 km range and so can reach all Israel. Hezbollah also has at least 45,000 trained fighters [IDF]. Remember, orders to Hezbollah come from Tehran!
RUSSIA, IRAN & TURKEY: These countries are emerging as the real power brokers in the Syrian conflict and seek a political settlement. Russia and Iran have supported Assad and the Syrian Arab Army. Russia has a military base at Tartus (Syria) and Iran has provided financial aid, armaments and intelligence to Syria. There is geopolitical concern from Turkey, partly because Turkey supports all the Syrian rebel groups with the aim of removing Assad. Despite the political friction, the emergence of these three power brokers is surely biblically significant! Russia, Iran and Turkey are the key players in the coming Gog-Magog war against Israel (Ezek 38.2-6). And they are all north of Israel, as required in prophecy.
ISIS – ISIL: ISIL means “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant”. Where is the Levant? It covers all of Israel, and more. ISIL aims to replace the State of Israel with an Islamic state – a caliphate. In fact “IS” dreams of a world-wide caliphate!
Major Prophecies about Middle East War
Bible prophecy describes how the increasing political bias of western nations, and the increasing aggression of Arab-Muslim nations finally leads to a major end-time war against Israel. In fact, since prophecy here is not precise, many see several major Middle East wars just before the close of this age and the Second Coming of Christ. Let’s summarize the key points in Bible prophecy:
- Any major future aggression against Israel, including invasions to eliminate Israel, will be defeated by the God of Israel. The nation of Israel survives into the Millennial Age, and beyond
- There will be an alliance of invading nations – mainly an Arab-Islamic alliance, possibly led by Russia. This is commonly referred to as the ‘Gog-Magog War’
- At the very end of this age an army from ‘all-nations’ will invade Israel – commonly referred to as ‘the Battle of Armageddon’. It will be defeated at the Second Coming of Christ
- These end-time wars will usher in a time of peace and justice on the earth under the firm rule of Christ. Some refer to this as the ‘Millennial Age’, when “nation will not lift up sword against nation”
- Key prophecies concerning end-time invasions of Israel are Ps 83, Isa 17, Jer 49, Ezek 38,39, Zech 12,14, Joel 3, Mal 4, Mat 24, and Rev 16,19,20
- Psalm 83 speaks of an alliance of Arab-Islamic nations (see later)
- Zech 12, Zech 14, Joel 3, Rev 16 and Rev 19 appear to describe a final ‘all-nation’ invasion of Israel which is defeated at Christ’s Second Coming. Prophecy refers to this time as ‘The Great Day of God’, or ‘The Day of the Lord’, and it is commonly referred to as ‘the Battle of Armageddon’
- Revelation 20 speaks of the very final war on this earth, at the end of a millennial age
- The prophecies of Ezek 38 and Ezek 39 are much debated, link, link. If they refer to the same invasion, they probably speak of a Russian-Islamic invasion of Israel prior to Armageddon. The timing of this invasion is probably around the start of Daniel’s 70th Week, and certainly before the final ‘all nation’ invasion (see later)
- The weapons referred to in the above prophecies are those familiar to historic Israel. Future wars appear to use today’s advanced weapons (see later)
Amalek: Everlasting Trouble for Israel
A Source of the next Middle East War
Many Israelis see the historical tribe of Amalek as a source of today’s aggression against Israel.
A Little History: Hostility against Israel came from the descendants of Esau. When Esau realized the folly of giving up his birthright to Jacob, he still sought some sort of blessing from his father Isaac. But Isaac replied:
Behold, away from fertility of the earth shall be your dwelling … by your sword you shall live (Gen 27.39,40)
Note that, unlike Ishmael, Esau did not get a blessing. Rather, he was assigned a place ‘away from fertility’. So his descendants moved away to Edom (an area east of today’s Arava Valley and part of today’s Jordan, link). Despite the reconciliation of Jacob and Esau recorded in Gen 33, the Edomites generally remained hostile towards the Israelites. For instance, they refused to permit the Israelites to pass through their land, even threatening them with the sword (Num 20.18). Instead, the Israelites were forced to go via the wilderness (Deut 2:8). This ‘everlasting enmity and fury’ (Ezek 35.5)(Amos 1.11) from Mount Seir (Edom) towards Israel drew judgement from God:
You will be a desolation, O Mount Seir, and all of Edom (Ezek 35.15)
Edom as a nation was subsequently destroyed by invaders and, according to Jewish Encyclopaedias, the Edomites were incorporated into the Jewish people (Herod was an Edomite). And when the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD Edom disappeared into Rome. So has the aggression from Esau stopped? Some think not, and maintain that one of the two nations in Rebecca’s womb was to have everlasting enmity towards Israel (Ezek 35.5 NASB). Note that Esau had a grandson Amalek (Gen 36.12), and the Amalekites were enemies of ancient Israel. God commanded King Saul to ‘utterly destroy’ the Amalekites for their aggression against Israel (1 Sam 15.3-7). But they were not completely destroyed by Saul.
So today, many Israeli’s regard their adversaries as ‘Amalek’, either in reality or in symbolism. They claim Iran and its Proxies are the Amalek of today, link.
Setting the Scene for Middle East War
Let’s take just a few serious examples:
UN BIAS AGAINST ISRAEL: GENEVA, July 23, 2014: The Palestinian ambassador to the UNHRC, together with Iran, Syria, Egypt, Cuba and Venezuela try to silence UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer during a UN Emergency Session on Gaza. Neuer defends Israel’s right to resist Hamas aggression. The council voted 29 to 1 (USA), with 17 abstentions, to condemn Israel.
UK BIAS AGAINST ISRAEL: The British Foreign Office (FO) has shown political bias against Israel since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. The FO has repeatedly prevented the Queen from visiting the only democracy in the Middle East – Israel. During her reign, the Queen has made over 250 official overseas visits to 129 different countries, but she has never been to Israel on an official visit, link. It seems the UK does not wish to upset her Arab friends!
ISLAMIC HATRED OF ISRAEL: Israel has been in continuous conflict with her neighbours since the birth of the State of Israel in 1948. Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement) does not recognize Israel’s right to exist and has the goal of destroying Israel through Jihad. The 1988 Hamas Charter says ‘Islam will obliterate Israel’. It is true that the revised Hamas Charter (2017) appears to have softened the Hamas approach to Israel e.g. “Jews” are described as “occupiers” rather than as “enemies” and Israel’s 1967 borders are recognized, link. But the revised charter does not include recognition of the State of Israel and the underlying objective is still to replace the Jewish state with an Islamic caliphate, link. So much of the conflict between Israel and the Arab-Islamic nations is over Israel’s very existence:
We must constantly repeat that the root of the conflict is the very existence of the State of Israel, the refusal to recognize the State of Israel in any borders whatsoever [Benjamin Netanyahu, 2012]
ISIS (ISIL, IS) HATES ISRAEL: ISIS stands for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and is also known as ISIL or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The Levant embraces all of Israel. ISIS later changed its name to “Islamic State (IS)” with the ultimate aim of a global caliphate. This is to be achieved through indescribable acts of global terrorism. Since ISIS arose in the Euphrates region in Iraq, link, some see ISIS as the demonic activity associated with the sounding of the sixth trumpet in the book of Revelation:
Then the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, one saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” And the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released, so that they would kill a third of mankind. (Rev 9.13-15)
Clearly, this is the ultimate global war and entails the elimination of Israel. ISIS has declared jihad against all infidels, especially Jews and Christians.
The Gog-Magog War:
The Russian-Islamic Invasion of Israel
The root-cause of the Arab-Israeli (Israeli-Palestinian) conflict is a hidden spiritual battle
The puzzle of Israel’s role in the world is being assembled, and some of the pieces involve war.
Israel’s neighbours are posed to attack.
It seems very plausible that Ezek 38 and Ezek 39 refer to an invasion of Israel prior to the last battle of this age (the so-called ‘Battle of Armageddon’) and that this war involves mainly those Arab-Islamic nations surrounding Israel. Psalm 83 speaks of an alliance of invading nations, a mainly Arab-Islamic alliance. This view is supported by the fact that some nations denounce the invasion (Ezek 38.13) and by the fact that the God of Israel is ‘hallowed’ (revered and honoured) in the sight of many other nations through the defeat of the invader (Ezek 38.16, Ezek 39.27). In other words, not all nations seem to be involved. Moreover, key present-day Arab-Islamic nations such as Turkey, Iran, Libya and Ethiopia are identified in Ezek 38.1-6. Let’s examine prophecy in more detail.
The Significance of Psalm 83: An End-time Invasion of Israel
Many Bible scholars see this psalm (written 10th century BC) as prophetic and applicable to end-times. They identify in the psalm specific Arab nations which make war against Israel at the end of this age, although scholars disagree on the particular nations involved, link, link. What we do know is that the psalm speaks of a confederacy against Israel with the aim of eliminating Israel:
They have said, ‘Come, and let us wipe them out as a nation, that the name of Israel be remembered no more … they form a confederacy against You’ (Ps 83.4,5)
Does this sound familiar?
Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it [Hamas Charter, 1988]
Israel has no roots in the Middle East and would be ‘eliminated’ [President of Iran, 2012]
Psalm 83 goes on to mention certain people groups in this alliance:
- Ishmaelites (v6) refer to Saudi Arabia (the Arabs)
- Edom and Moab (v6) refer to Jordan
- Philistia (v7) relates to Hamas in Gaza
- Gebal (v7) (a maritime town near Tyre) and Tyre relate to Hezbollah in Lebanon
- Ammon (v7) relates to Palestinians east of the West Bank (NW Jordan)
- Assyria (v8) relates to northern Iraq and parts of NE Syria and SE Turkey (areas now troubled by ISIS or ISIL), link
What is the current scenario? Well, these are all Islamic countries with Hamas (Gaza) and Hezbollah (Lebanon) vehemently opposed to Israel. Currently Israel’s chief enemies are Shia Muslim (as in Hezbollah), so Israel is currently tightly aligned with anti-Shia Saudi Arabia, link. When it comes to Israel and Jordan, these nations are currently tethered by a peace treaty but the current ‘cold peace’ could easily turn into a ‘deep freeze’, link. Moreover, Jordan (and all Israel) is an integral part of the Levant, an area marked by ISIS for an Islamic caliphate (see map).
Historical Connection: We must not forget what has already happened. Historically, the Edomites (v6) and the Amalekites (v7) were arch enemies of OT Israel. Whilst it is claimed that Edom disappeared into Rome when the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD, link, that is not true for the Amalekites. The Torah teaches that Amalekites exist in every generation, link, and so today many Israeli’s regard their adversaries as ‘Amalek’ either in reality or in symbolism. As in history, today’s Amalekites actively conspire to kill off God’s chosen people – the Jews – and we can see this in Iran and in ISIS. So given the close correspondence of Philistia (Gaza) with Hamas, Tyre (Lebanon) with Hezbollah, and the Levant (Ammon, Amalek, Philistia, Tyre, Moab and (northern) Assyria) with ISIS, then Psalm 83 does indeed appear to foresee an end-time Arab-Islamic invasion of Israel. Prophecies in Ezekiel confirm this.
The Significance of Turkey
The invasion is sometimes referred to as the Gog-Magog war since it is led by “Gog of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal … from out of the far north” (Ezek 38.2,15). Here, ‘Gog’ could be the leader of the coalition against Israel, or a specific anti-God people living in Magog. A number of Bible atlas’s place Magog in northern Turkey, link. Gomer and the house of Togarmah are also mentioned (Ezek 38.6). Gomer was an Aryan group who conquered Armenia (essentially north-eastern Turkey) from their Ukrainian homeland, and Togarmah was the south-eastern part of Turkey near the Syrian border, link.
Ezekiel 38.2 mentions Meshech and Tubal which the Oxford Bible Atlas identifies as “regions in Asia Minor”. So biblical maps usually locate Magog, Meshech, Tubal, Gomer and Togarmah in Asia Minor or Turkey, link, link. And of course Turkey is indeed north of Israel, as required by prophecy (Ezek 38.6).
Politics: Currently Turkey finds herself isolated and surrounded by not very friendly states such as Iran, Iraq and Syria. So an anti-Israel alliance with these countries seems rather distant, especially since Turkey-Israel relations could even improve, link, link. But given the rapid political transitions in recent years in Libya, Iraq and Egypt, Turkey could yet fall to hard-line Islamic fundamentalists and join Iran, link. Under President Ergodan, Turkey now has a powerful President who is sympathetic to Egypt’s suppressed Muslim Brotherhood, link.
What of Syria?
Syria is mentioned some 300 times in the Bible and Damascus (now probably the world’s oldest, continuously inhabited city) is mentioned about 60 times. In those days Syria covered a substantially larger area than modern Syria, reaching down into Lebanon and Israel, link. But apart from the coastal regions of ancient Syria (e.g. Gebal and Tyre), Syria is not specifically mentioned in Psalm 83 or in Ezekiel 38. Why? Consider a possible reason. Historically, Damascus has suffered attack (2 Ki 16.9) but it has never been totally destroyed. But prophecy states that one day soon it will be totally destroyed:
Damascus will cease from being a city … it will be a ruinous heap. (Isa 17.1)
Today’s news suggests that this is close to fulfillment.
Is Russia Involved?
The key question here is, ‘Where is the land Magog?’, the land of the key player Gog in the coalition against Israel. As discussed, Bible atlases tend to place Magog in northern Turkey. But there is another view. Magog was a son of Japheth and a grandson of Noah (Gen 10.2). The descendants of Japheth subsequently settled across Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) and those in the eastern parts became known as Scythians. The significant point here is that historians link the Scythian peoples to Magog. Hesiod identified Magog with the Scythians and the southern Russia area in the 7th century BC, and Herodotus wrote about the descendants of Magog by their Greek name, the Scythians in the 5th century BC. Both Jerome and Josephus claimed that Magog is a general designation for the many Scythian tribes of the north, whilst Philo (1st century) identifies Magog with the southern Russia area, link.
So where were these Scythians? They were barbarians (non-Greek and non-Roman), a people dwelling north and east of the Black Sea and in the area surrounding the Caspian Sea. This was an area on the outer edge of the then known civilized world, link, link. Today’s maps identify this area to include the Ukraine, Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation, link. The Russian Federation (and Moscow) is indeed to the ‘far north’ of Israel (Ezek 38.15).
It is also worth considering ‘Rosh’ (Ezek 38.2,3 NKJV, NASB). This term is missing in some Bibles, and is replaced by the Hebrew noun ‘ros’, meaning ‘the chief’ or ‘the head’, link, link. But other translations imply Rosh is a geographic location, and in early Greek writings Rosh was a name used for all the nations of the north, link. So some bible scholars associate Rosh with Russia, link.
Politics: Russia’s strengthening economic and military ties with Iran (a key nation in Ezekiel 38) supports the view that Russia could be the leader of the God-Magog invasion, link. Russia and Iran both support Bashar al Assad’s regime in Syria and oppose Sunni jihadist movements such as ISIS. Russian military support for Iran comes via arms deals between the two countries, as in the supply of S-300 air defense systems, Sukhoi Su-30SM multi-role fighter jets and advanced Russian T-90 tanks, link. On the other hand, Moscow does not want Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.
The Invaders: a Russian-Islamic Alliance
So let’s identify the key players in the alliance against Israel. If we follow some historians rather than a Bible atlas, then Russia could be the leader (Gog). The rest of the coalition are nearly all strongly Islamic. Ezekiel 38.1-6 describes Turkey (98% Muslim), Iran or Persia (99% Muslim), Libya Heb:Put (97% Muslim) and Ethiopia Heb:Cush (50% Muslim). Psalm 83 adds more Islamic groups based in Gaza, Lebanon, and possibly northern Iraq (Assyria). All this is pretty specific on location and seems to involve principally Arab-Islamic nations in the Middle East. Current Islamic threats support this interpretation of prophecy.
Politics: Not all Islamic nations appear to be involved, principally Egypt, and probably also Syria (possibly for reasons already discussed), Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Today’s politics support this view. Israel has been working hard in recent years at diversifying its alliances, and has courted the leaders of Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Surprisingly, in contrast to prophecy, Israel also has a working relationship with Russia, link! Prophecy indicates that this will change.
Weapons: A straight reading of prophecy suggests that the invaders use primitive weapons that can be burnt for fuel (Ezek 39.9,10 suggests they are combustible). Surprisingly, such a scenario is not impossible in today’s world! An EMP (electromagnetic pulse) weapon exploded over areas north of Israel could disable all modern electronics-based weapons, link, forcing the use of primitive weapons. On the other hand, Malachi 4.1-3 and Zechariah 14.12 appear to describe how the invaders in the final conflicts will perish, and may be references to nuclear war and the use of neutron bombs respectively. The unused fuel in military vehicles could be the combustible element in Ezekiel 39.9-10.
Islam is Humiliated
The 1988 Hamas Charter vowed that Islam would eliminate Israel. Nothing has changed, and today Islamic leaders proudly boast of their coming destruction of the Jewish nation, Israel. For example:
The Quran teaches that the Palestinians must liberate Israel in its entirety. Allah says (in the Quran): ‘And drive them out from wherever they have driven you out’. Removing the Jews from the land they occupied in 1948 is an immutable principle, because it appears in the Book of Allah. We have liberated Gaza, part of Palestine, but I am not prepared to accept just Gaza … Our position is: Palestine in its entirety, and not a grain of soil less. (The Quran says:) ‘Kill them wherever you may find them’ – Allah did not define the 1967 borders or the 1948 borders. We will fight them wherever we can – on the ground, underground, and if we have airplanes, we will fight them from the skies.
[ Mahmoud Al-Zahar, a co-founder of Hamas, and member of the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip, March 2017 ]
Here, Al-Zahar is choosing his words from at least 109 verses in the Quran that call Muslims to war with nonbelievers for the sake of Islamic rule, link.
But Bible prophecy says they will fail! The invaders do not appear to reach Jerusalem. Rather, they fall on the mountains of Israel and in the open field (Ezek 39.4,5). Whilst the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) must play a part in the war, prophecy implies that they receive supernatural help. The God of Israel says to the invaders: “I will strike your bow from your left hand and dash down your arrows from your right hand” (Ezek 39.3). They are also defeated by extreme weather:
With pestilence and with blood I will enter into judgment with him; and I will rain on him and on his troops, and on the many peoples who are with him, a torrential rain, with hailstones, fire and brimstone. I will magnify Myself, sanctify Myself, and make Myself known in the sight of many nations; and they will know that I am the Lord.
Defeat comes through fire and brimstone similar to that which destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah (Job 38.22,23), and via extreme snowfall (Job 38.22-23). There will also be a great earthquake in Israel (Ezek 38.19).
Here we see the total defeat and humiliation of militant Islam in the sight of many nations. Moreover, from that day, Israel starts to know her God as He pours out His Spirit on her:
So the House of Israel shall know that I am the LORD their God from that day forward … for I shall have poured out My Spirit on her (Ezek 39.22,29)
Timing of the Gog-Magog Invasion
As mentioned, scripture indicates that this invasion is a separate invasion to ‘the battle of Armageddon’. The timing is not clear in scripture but it is generally taken to occur before Armageddon. The timing appears to be around (just before or just after) the last seven years of this age (Daniel’s 70th Week). At the start of this ‘week’ the end-time world dictator makes a covenant with Israel:
That ruler will have a firm agreement with many people for seven years … (Dan 9.27 GNT)
This may be a ‘peace’ covenant, but in reality it is a ‘covenant with hell’ (Isa 28.11)
A Pre-Covenant Invasion: In this scenario, the invasion takes place before the revealing of the secular world dictator (the ‘beast’ of Rev 13.1) and the false ecclesiastical head (the antichrist, Rev 13.11). This revealing must occur around the start of the 70th week to allow for a seven year covenant. Placing the invasion before the 70th week allows Israel seven years to use Gog’s weapons as fuel (Ezek 39.9,10) before they start to suffer in the great tribulation under the beast (Jacob’s trouble Jer 30.7). So the invasion probably occurs around the time of the rapture of the true church, either a few years before or a few years after the rapture.
At first, such timing appears to conflict with the vision of Israel living in safety before the invasion commences. The invader says:
I will go up against the land of unwalled villages. I will go against those who are at rest, that live securely, all of them living without walls and having no bars or gates’ (Ezek 38.11)
Clearly, this is not true of present-day Israel. But ‘living securely’ may refer to the fact that most Jews will by then have returned to Israel where they find safety from hostility e.g. antisemitism in Gentile nations (Ezek 38.8, 39.26). These verses imply that dispersed Israel will never feel safe whilst she dwells amongst Gentile nations and will only feel safe when she is in her own land. Note God’s warning to rebellious Israel:
And among those nations you shall find no rest … there the LORD will give you a trembling heart … your shall fear day and night (Deut 28.65,66)
As for ‘living without walls’, this may be a reference to the sheer multitude of people who have made aliyah to Israel, rather than to the absence of Israel’s military defenses. Scripture says:
Jerusalem will be inhabited without walls because of the multitude of men and cattle within it (Zech 2.4)
Certainly Ezekiel 38.12 (the next verse) agrees with this view: the waste places (desert scrub) are now blooming due to Israel’s advanced agriculture.
So the timing of the Gog-Magog invasion could well be before the emergence of the final world dictator but after the dispersed people of Israel have been gathered back into their own land and so are safe from hostility within the Gentile nations i.e. at or near the end of the aliyah (Ezek 39.27,28). This implies that the true church may well see this invasion before she is taken up in the rapture. Today, the aliyah continues, with millions of Jews still residing in Gentile nations. As of 2015, the world Jewish population was 14.2 million, of which 6.2 million (44%) resided in Israel, link.
See also The Last Gog-Magog War
The Beast’s War on the Jews in Israel
Between two major wars against Israel (Gog-Magog and Armageddon) the World Ruler invades Israel
A common prophetic interpretation is that a secular world ruler will emerge right at the end of this age. He is the ‘prince who shall come’ in Daniel 9.26, the ‘lawless one’ in 2 Thes 2.8, the ‘beast from the sea’ in Rev 13.1 and the ‘beast’ in Rev 19.20. This despicable person creates ‘the great tribulation’ described in Mat 24.21 – essentially a tribulation of the Jews in Israel. It is the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jer 30.7) when two thirds of the Jews in Israel will perish but a remnant comes through refined (Zech 13.8,9).
Many take the ‘beast from the sea’ (the sea of humanity) to be the Antichrist. Others identify the ‘beast from the earth’ (Rev 13.11) to be the Antichrist i.e. anti-Christ, and the beast from the sea as a false god i.e. anti-God. Note that the latter is against God (Rev 13.6) and sets himself up as God (2 Thes 2.4)(Dan 11.36). With this view, the world ruler aligns better with anti-God than with anti-Christ, and the ‘ecclesiastical’ beast of Rev 13.11 aligns well with the Papacy and the apostate church. Certainly, Wycliffe, Luther, Calvin, Tyndale, Bunyan, Huss, Knox, Edwards and Wesley associated the Papacy with the Antichrist and this teaching gave rise to the Protestant Reformation. The secular world ruler could emerge from the final form of the European Union – the so-called Revived Roman Empire. More at World Government.
Israel Invaded – the ‘Abomination of Desolation’
We find a description of the world ruler’s activities in Daniel chapter 11. Much of this chapter describes his archetype, Antiochus IV, who invaded the Jewish temple in Jerusalem c168 BC, stopped the Jewish daily sacrifices and set up the ‘abomination of desolation’ spoken of in Dan 11.31. The abomination was a pig on the Jewish altar. So much for history. From Daniel 11.36 onwards the text blurs the historical Antiochus into prophecy of a second and even more despicable ‘Antiochus’ – the end-time secular world ruler. He rules the nations during the last half of Daniel’s 70th week or 1260 days (Dan 12.7). This is the great tribulation period at the very end of this age (Mat 24.21)(Rev 7.14). Daniel 11.40 stresses the point: it is ‘at the end time’.
Following the activities of Antiochus IV, the world ruler uses military force to enter Israel (Dan 11.41). He breaks a 7-year covenant with the Jews mid-term, invades Jerusalem and puts a stop to (re-instated) Jewish sacrifices (Dan 9.27). He even sets up his ‘palace’ near Jerusalem and sitting in the (new) temple proclaims himself to be ‘God’ (Dan 11.36, 2 Thes 2.4). He conquers other Middle Eastern countries, including Egypt, but fails to conquer Edom. This is interesting. The Edomites were a Transjordan tribe whose territory was between Petra and the Red sea. Petra was a prominent city in Edom, accessible only through a narrow canyon within cavernous mountain walls. Is this the ‘wilderness place’ where Israel flees to during the great tribulation?
But the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman (Israel), so that she could fly into the wilderness to her place, where she was nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent (Rev 12.14)
Bad News for the World Ruler
Here’s where Daniel’s prophecy blurs. It appears that some nations rebel against the world ruler (Dan 11.40-45) especially nations from the east and north (v44). This may be a reference to a large army from the east (China?) crossing a dried-up Euphrates river (Rev 16.12). The details are not revealed to Daniel but this could be setting the scene for the final war of this age located in the large plain in northern Israel – Armageddon (Heb: Har-Magedon).
And they gathered them together to the place which in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon (Rev 16.16)
Whilst it is a world war against Israel (see below) it is primarily a world war against Christ and His armies. The outcome is certain:
And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. And the beast was seized … (and) thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone (Rev 16.19,20)
Seals, Trumpets and Bowls!
We cannot discuss end-time wars against Israel without asking; “Where do the Seals, Trumpets and Bowls of the book of Revelation fit in?” Let’s take the futuristic view of prophecy, where the events discussed probably occur just before or during the last i.e. 70th week of Daniel’s prophecy (Dan 9.24-27). This approach to prophetic interpretation fits well with the observed world scenario today.
The exact chronology of the events in this brief but traumatic time of history is not revealed in the book of Revelation. There are different prophetic interpretations here, but at the outset it is clear that they are mostly literal events. They describe in detail God’s judgments upon a godless, rebellious world and run parallel in time to “the great tribulation” of Israel (Mat 24.21). They describe a few years of unparalleled trouble in the world – a world suffering the tyranny of a Satanically inspired world government, widespread war, famine, martyrdom and death (Rev 6). A possible chronology of these events is shown in Figure 1 (p27) of Daniel’s Seventieth Week. This figure spans about seven years – the last seven years of this age (Daniel’s 70th week) just prior to the return of Christ. It assumes that the true church is taken up (raptured) to be with Christ around the middle of the week. Alternatively – based on prophecies like Rev 3.10, Mat 24.36-44 and 2 Thes 2.7,8 – many see the rapture of the true church prior to the opening of the first seal.
It is probable that both the Gog-Magog war and the last end-time war at Armageddon (see below) take place around these last seven years. The Gog-Magog war may occur just before this seven year period. With the defeat of Russia and Islamic forces, the way will be open for the Satanically inspired, secular, world ruler (first seal, Rev 6.2). He will go out to ‘conquer’ and his military might (Rev 13.4) results in the death of one quarter of the world’s population (fourth seal, Rev 6.8). Then, at the sixth trumpet, a third of the remaining world population is killed through what appears to be another major war involving a huge army from the east (Rev 9.13-19, 16.12). This last war is called by the Hebrew name, ‘Armageddon’ (Rev 16.16). Note that, overall, this short period of trauma appears to result in the death of half of the world population! Finally, we see the return of Christ at the seventh trumpet (Rev 11.15).
Armageddon and the last Middle East war against Israel
At the end of this age, Bible prophecy says all nations will rise up against Israel
The Bible mentions the word Armageddon just once (Rev 16.16). It comes from two Hebrew words ‘har’ (a mountain or range of hills) and ‘megiddo’. Megiddo was one of the fortified cities of the Canaanites overlooking the Valley of Jezreel. It lies about 30Km south east of Haifa, and is located at a strategic entrance through the eastern Carmel/Manasseh hills, see pictures. Two great mountains stand to the northeast and southeast of the hill of Megiddo: Mt. Tabor and Mt. Gilboa. Between these two mountains runs the valley of Jezreel, which is fifteen miles wide at its widest point. So, as Rev 16.16 says, Armageddon is a place, not an event. The event associated with Armageddon is ‘the great Day of the Lord’ (Rev 16.14).
Understanding the event helps to understand the prophecies often associated with Armageddon. Consider:
Proclaim this among the nations: prepare for war … assemble and come, all you nations, and gather together all around (Joel 3.9,11)
I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone … though all nations of the earth are gathered against it (Zech 12.3)
I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle … (Zech 14.2)
The number of the armies of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them (Rev 9.16)
The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river, the Euphrates; and its water was dried up, so that the way would be prepared for the kings from the east (Rev 16.12)
spirits of demons, performing signs, (will) go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty … And they gathered them together to the place which in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon (Rev 16.14-16)
And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army (Rev 19.19)
From these texts it is clear that huge armies gather for war in the Armageddon plain. Why? Some see an end-time man-man war as a huge army from the east rebels against the World Dictator (the first beast of Rev 13). Taking a futuristic view of prophecy they note that he will have already conquered some parts of the Middle East and will have established a foothold in Israel (Dan 9.27, 11:40-45). Others read these texts, particularly Dan 11, as being already fulfilled and furnish historical detail to support their claim, link. Others note that Dan 11.40 refers to ‘the time of the end’ and point to the common ‘dual interpretation’ of prophecy. An end-time man-man war may occur, but a majority view is that these texts refer to a man-God war as the godless nations war against God and His returning Christ (Psalm 2.1-3), link. According to Rev 16.14, demonic spirits call all nations (all ‘kings of the earth’) together to war against Christ. And since Christ returns to the Mt of Olives, the focus of the battle moves to Jerusalem. The timing of this Middle East war against Israel appears to be at the very end of this age (the sixth bowl and sixth trumpet), just prior to the return of Christ to the earth.
What of America?
The term ‘all nations’ appears to be precisely that (rather than Middle East nations local to Israel) if it is to be consistent with Zech 14.9; the Lord cannot be King over part of the earth! Now if all world leaders attack Israel, this implies a change of policy in America, or even the absence of America on the world scene! Indeed, it is difficult to find America in end time prophecy. How can this be? To answer this we again turn to prophecy.
Bear in mind that at this time the nations will be under the World Government which will be vehemently anti-Christian and anti-Jewish. The United Nations (HQ New York) is already vehemently anti-Israel, link. The leader of this invasion is the ‘little horn’ of Daniel 7.20, the ‘abominator’ of Daniel 9.27 and Mat 24.15, the ‘king’ of Daniel 11.36, the ‘king of the north’ of Dan 11.40, the ‘man of sin’ of 2 Thes 2.3, the ‘lawless one’ of 2 Thes 2.8, the ‘beast’ of Rev 13.1-8, the ‘conqueror’ of Rev 6.2, and the ‘beast’ of Rev 19.19.
This despicable person is the end time World Dictator, who many believe will arise from a Revived Roman Empire in Europe. The implication is that America is effectively absent from the world scene!
What of China?
As discussed, the World Dictator is also a military leader with total military supremacy over mankind (Rev 13.1-4). He readily wages war on the earth, and a quarter of the world’s population dies as a result of war at the time of the 4th seal (Rev 6.8). Later, as already suggested, at the sounding of the 6th trumpet he may engage in another major man-man war, this time in Israel. Using a dual prophetic interpretation of Daniel 11 some see an army from the north and east rebelling against the World Dictator (Dan 11.40-45). Recall that at the pouring out of the 6th bowl of wrath, the Euphrates dries up and provides a way for the ‘kings of the east’ (Rev 16.12). It is interesting to note that the Euphrates is already ‘drying up’, link. Then at the 6th trumpet, demonic activity draws a massive army (200 million strong) and the resulting war kills a further third of mankind (Rev 9.13-21).
Even if there is no man-man war, many speculate that the ‘kings from the east’ is a prophetic reference to the army of modern China, link. Today, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is the largest army in the world (2.3m) with increasing hi-tech weaponry. This is well below 200 million, but note that the total population of china is 1.4 billion (2016). Furthermore, China has been building ‘The New Silk Road’ that will run from China’s coastline to Europe, through Central Asia and Iran. Train and road networks have been built across northern Iran to link Afghanistan with Turkey. The New Silk Road has now gone straight from the Shenzhen industrial zone on the South China Sea to the heart of Eastern Europe, link. Is this modern infrastructure a route for the ‘kings of the east’?
The Battle of Armageddon
So what happens? As the 6th bowl of Revelation is poured out, demonic spirits entice the leaders of all the nations to gather for battle (Rev 16.12-16). As mentioned, the armies gather at a place called Armageddon in northern Israel (the valley or plain of Jezreel, near Mount Carmel). Whilst it may be the location of the last war between human armies, it is certainly the gathering place for the world’s armies as they prepare for the final war against Jerusalem and in particular for war against Christ and His armies – a unique man-God war (Rev 19.19)(Zech 12.2-9). Prophecy also suggests the type of weaponry used in this war. It could involve neutron bombs, since these vaporize flesh at close range (Zech 14.12), and nuclear devices since Malachi 4 refers to a time of fierce heat when attackers will be burnt to ashes.
This man-God war is the final war of the age – ‘the great day of God Almighty’ (Rev 16.14). The important point here is that Israel will not be alone since her God, the ‘Lion of Judah’ protects her:
As a lion roars … so the LORD of hosts will come down to fight for Mount Zion
The LORD will go forth and fight against those nations … and the armies of heaven follow Him
(Zech 14.3, Rev 19.14)
The battle is described in detail in Rev 19.11-21 and Zech 12-14. The world armies are defeated, the two beasts of Revelation 13 are cast into the lake of fire (Rev 19.20,21), the godless World Government is crushed and becomes ‘chaff’ in the wind (Dan 2.34,35), this present age ends and the millennial age starts. From this time onward Christ reigns from Jerusalem as King over all the earth (Zech 14.9)!
Israel’s Refining – Just One-third Survive
As mentioned, the last attack on Israel will focus on Jerusalem. Speaking of this traumatic time, the God of Israel says:
In that day I will set about to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem (Zech 12.9)
But this war is not without great cost to the people of Israel. It is a final time of the refining of Israel such that they at last call upon their God:
It will come about in all the land, declares the Lord, “that one third shall be left … I will bring the one third through the fire, will refine them as silver … and test them as gold. They will call on My name … and they will say ‘the Lord is my God'” (Zech 13.8,9)
A Possible Timeline
There are many interpretations of the end time events described in Bible prophecy. But the popular futurist and pre-tribulation views of prophecy align well with the current world scenario and suggest the following timeline. It is concentrated around the last week of Daniel’s seventy-week prophecy (just seven years):
- the Gog-Magog war and humiliation of the Arab-Islamic nations (Ezek 38)
- the true church is removed (‘raptured’) from the earth (Mat 24.36-44)
- the world ruler (false messiah) is revealed (2 Thes 2.3)
- the world ruler makes a (false) covenant (Peace Treaty?) with Israel (Dan 9.27a)
- The world enters a few years of unparalleled trouble (wars, famine, death and martyrdom)
- Israel realizes she has made ‘a covenant with hell’ (Isa 28.15)
- the world ruler invades Israel (Dan 9.27b)
- the world ruler gathers all nations for war against Israel (Armageddon) (Rev 19.19)
- Jerusalem and Judah will be the focus of the invaders (Zech 12.2-3, 14.2)
- God strengthens Israel (Judah in particular) to defend Jerusalem (Zech 12.4-9)
- Ultimately, it is Christ and the armies from heaven who defeat the invading armies (Rev 19.20,21)
- Christ rules the millennial world from Jerusalem (Zech 14.8,9)
- In subsequent years, the Gentile nations go up to worship Christ in Jerusalem (Zech 14.16)
Another interpretation of Daniel and the tribulation period can be found in the recent book: “The Coming War of Jesus Christ and the Ten Year Tribulation Beginning in 2016”, link. The book is about prophecies in the Bible, mostly from the book of Daniel, that include interpretations quite different to those found in books about end times.
The Spiritual Root of all Middle East Wars against Israel
Yes – there is a root cause, a single principal cause, and it is not political or ideological. According to the Bible, the nations will be in virtually continuous conflict with the State of Israel until Christ returns, and future Middle East war against Israel is certain. In fact, aligning prophecies in Ezekiel with the present world scene, the world is on the brink of another major Middle East war against Israel. But why? What is the real reason for yet another war? Revelation 12 makes it clear that the underlying problem is spiritual, not political: the conflict is between Israel, God’s servant, and Satanic powers:
the dragon (Satan) persecuted the woman (Israel) who gave birth to the male Child (Jesus) … the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children
This key text identifies Israel’s conflicts with the spiritual entity Satan. It clearly states how Satan hates Israel and those who are blessed through her. According to the Bible, Israel is God’s chosen witness and servant in the world, and through Israel came the Messiah, Jesus Christ (Isa 43.10, Gen 22.18, Gal 3.16). So Satan hates the witness (Jews), and all who follow Christ (Christians). The Gentile nations and their armies are merely pawns in the hands of Satanic powers! Even Israel will be deceived into accepting a false peace treaty.
Israel’s Divine Protection
Those who reject the biblical/spiritual explanation of the world’s hatred towards Israel will find the puzzle of Israel difficult to solve. Although Israel was scattered throughout the nations for some 2500 years, it is amazing that somehow a remnant of the nation has always survived. Today we see many of the world’s 14 million Jews now regathered in Israel. Moreover, they have been, and always will be, protected by their true Messiah – Christ, the ‘Lion of Judah’. Consider the following facts:
The 1948-49 War of Independence: As soon as the Jewish State was born, she was invaded by five Arab armies (Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq). The Arabs had no difficulty obtaining all the arms they needed, whilst Israel had only a newly formed and ill-equipped defense force (the IDF). Even so, the Israelis managed to successfully defend themselves in virtually all battlefields, link, and at the end of the war Israel held territory beyond the boundaries set by the 1947 UN Partition Plan.
The 1967 Six-Day War: In the Six-Day War, the armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon (and later Iraq) attacked Israel. Their goal was “to wipe Israel off the map”. Israel defeated the attack even though the Arab armies had huge superiority in armour, aircraft and troops. After the war Israel held the Sinai, the Golan Heights, Gaza, the West Bank and all of Jerusalem.
The 1973 Yom Kippur War: Egypt and Syria launched another attack on Israel in an attempt to regain the territory Israel had acquired in her defensive war of 1967. Their armies launched a joint surprise attack on the Jewish Yom Kippur holiday, with Egyptian forces in Sinai and Syrian forces in the Golan Heights. Although Israel failed to see this war coming and suffered heavy casualties, she eventually retained the Golan Heights and Sinai, link (Israel withdrew from Sinai in 1982).
God’s Protection: In all three wars, Israel was either relatively poorly armed or surprised and ill-prepared. Either way, Israel repulsed the attacks and we must ask ourselves, ‘How was that possible?’ The biblical answer is that the God of Israel protected her, as in the following texts:
Whoever assails you will fall because of you … no weapon that is formed against you will prosper
I will be a wall of fire around her … he who touches you, touches the apple of (the Lord’s) eye
This protection extends to all future wars against Israel, as in the Gog-Magog war:
I will send fire upon Magog and those who inhabit the coast lands in safety; and they will know that I am the LORD
Did God Protect Israel against ISIS? Early December 2016 a strange storm cloud (dust and rain) put a barrier between Israel and ISIS. Reports say the storm stopped on the border of Syria and was ‘unable’ to enter Israel’s Golan Heights area. Many believe God intervened on behalf of Israel, to prevent ISIS from entering Israel, link.
A Final Thought. At the end of this age we find confirmation of the root cause of conflicts with Israel and the root cause of the persecution of the Jews. Jesus referred to a future time of ‘great tribulation’ for Israel (Mat 24.15-28), driven by a world dictator (Dan 9.27). The point here is that this despicable person is merely the human arm of Satan: “the dragon (Satan) gave him his power” (Rev 13.2). This confirms that the root cause of conflicts with Israel is hatred from Satan. It is a spiritual war. But the politicians cannot see it!
The Very Last War on Earth:
The Post-Millennial Gog-Magog Invasion
If Ezek 38 refers to a different war to Ezek 39, then Ezek 38 may refer to the post-Millennial Gog-Magog invasion of Israel:
When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison, and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the seashore. And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them. (Rev 20.7-9)
Certainly, Israel will be at peace and live securely throughout the Millennium with no need for military forces (Ezek 38.8,11). Swords will be beat into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks, and “nation will not lift up sword against nation” (Isaiah 2:4). Today’s weapons will be a thing of the past in the Millennium and primitive weapons (as in Ezek 38.4,5) may return.
But it is more probable that the post-Millennial Gog-Magog invasion of Israel is distinct from the war in Ezekiel 38-39. Recall that Christ will rule the Millennial world “with a rod of iron” (Rev 12.5). Why? Because the Millennial nations will still have a rebellious heart. For example, they will need a “carrot and stick” approach to worshiping Christ in Jerusalem (Zech 14.17-19). If they fail to worship then rain is withheld. It is not surprising therefore that all nations readily respond to evil once Satan is released. Note that, unlike the war in Ezek 38-39, no specific nations are mentioned. In Revelation 20, “Gog and Magog” appears to be a general reference to all the rebellious nations “in the four corners of the earth”, link. The point has been made for the last time: mankind is basically sinful and needs salvation in Christ.
The good news is that, as before, the God of Israel responds by protecting Israel and destroying the invaders. And Satan is forever prevented from influencing mankind (Rev 20.10).
The Implications for YOU
End time prophecies are being fulfilled before our eyes; the emergence of a World Government, the emergence of Israel, the emergence of electronic ID, and the ubiquitous climate change. You are being swept into a humanistic, godless and potentially brutal World Government or New World Order. Sooner or later this system will require you to receive the mark of Revelation (the ultimate electronic ID) in order to buy or sell. And because of its hatred towards the God of the Bible, Christians and Jews, this world system will conspire against Israel. National armies will be mobilized for war against Israel. You may even be asked to have some part in this invasion.
The turmoil in the Middle East and the anger against Israel are signs that an invasion will take place in the foreseeable future. Within just 100 years Israel has gone from insignificance to the vortex of the world. The significant point is that when the invasion starts Jesus will return to earth. In fact, there is strong biblical support for the view that Christians (believers in Christ) will be taken from the earth prior to the emergence of the World Dictator and the coming world wars.
ISN’T IT TIME TO FIND THE REAL PURPOSE OF LIFE?
ISN’T IT TIME TO TRUST IN JESUS?
Source of map image showing ancient Magog, Meshech, Put, Cush, Persia: SignPosts of the Times