What’s Gotten into Russia Lately? Russia’s Future in Bible Prophecy
I have always wanted to visit Russia (during the summer of course). A country rich in culture and history, and enormous to boot. One could spend his whole life in Russia and never see all there is to see.
Despite the struggle of the Cold War, one can’t help but admire Russia’s recent history. After the collapse of communism, Russia looked to become a failed state, slipping into the recesses of history as a third world country.
Yet Mother Russia found a way. Utilizing their massive energy depot in Siberia, the Russians embraced capitalism to become one of the world’s leading producers of natural gas and oil. Despite his ultra-ego and insistence to be on camera shirtless, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has much to brag about.
Putin is a man on a mission. The mission is nothing less than the restoration of the Russian Empire. Armed with nuclear weapons, a top-notch spy agency, and a Napoleonic complex, Putin will stop at nothing to restore his country to former glory.
That’s where Russia and the United States have issues. The last thing the United States wants or needs is a revived Russia seeking to undermine American interests in Asia and Europe.
When President Obama took office, one of the first foreign policy items on his agenda was a “reset” with Russia. Noticing that Russia was turning away from the Western world and reverting back to its secretive ways, Obama sought to disarm them with niceness. Surprisingly, it didn’t work.
Instead, he got a reset of the Cold War. In addition to becoming increasingly anti-Western, Russia has become anti-Israel as well. During the Arab-Israeli Wars, it was the Soviet Union’s weapons support for the Arabs that marked Russia as anti-Semitic. Today, it is Russia’s zealous assistance to Iran’s nuclear program that has shown Russia’s true colors. Despite Iran’s nuclear rhetoric, Russia has repeatedly warned the West and Israel not to attack Iran.
WIthout Russia, Iranian president Ahmadenijad would simply be another holocaust-denying loon. His weekly nuclear tirades might garner a passing glance, but nothing more. Much like the man on the corner spouting the destruction of the world by his alien friends, his rantings are met with indifference. “So what if the crazy guy wants to talk about aliens?”
Unfortunately, Russia’s arming of Iran’s nuclear program is akin to an anarchist giving the crazy-guy-on-the-corner an automatic sub-machine gun. To ignore his rantings would be folly. To leave him on the corner to pursue his own desires would be calamitous. Russia has given the toothless tiger of Iran teeth again.
According to a recent article from Reuters, despite years of economic sanctions, the 1,000 megawatt Bushehr nuclear plant in Iran is finally up and running.
For some odd reason, Israeli leaders simply don’t believe Iran’s nuclear program will be used for peaceful means. Iranian President Ahmadenijad’s weekly calls for the “Zionist” regime’s destruction doesn’t seem to alleviate Israeli fears.
Additionally, Iran’s proxy military, Hezbollah, has armed itself with thousands of missiles in Lebanon, ready to unleash hell in Israel. Hezbollah has participated in countless acts of terrorism against the Jewish people – a fact Russia has chosen to ignore.
Russia also supports the embattled Assad regime in Syria. Syrian President Bashir al Assad is no friend to Israel. In the recent uprisings, Russia has repeatedly voiced support for the Syrian dictator, and even continues to supply weapons to the Syrian government.
Why does Russia seem to be helping Israel’s enemies? Scripture may have the answers. Russia’s future is highlighted in chapters 38 and 39 in the book of Ezekiel.
“Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshek and Tubal; prophesy against him and say: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against you, Gog, chief prince of Meshek and Tubal (Ezekiel 38:2-3).
A majority of Bible scholars have concluded the descendants of these ancient people groups represent Russia. A simple study of the peoples mentioned is plenty evidence enough. If one believes in a literal fulfillment of scripture (all previously fulfilled prophecies have come about literally), then one must conclude that Russia will one day invade Israel.
The land of Magog was home to the Magogites of Ezekiel’s day. According to ancient Greek historian Herodotus and Jewish historian Josephus, the Magogites’ descendants can be traced to the Scythians of Roman times. They were a constant problem for the Romans and hailed from the region of southern Russia and the Ukraine.1
It is no secret that the Russians claim ancestry to the ancient Scythians. What’s not to love about the Scythians? From acquiring enemy skulls as war trophies to weekly slave raids into enemy villages, the Scythians were the darlings of the ancient world.
The descendants of Meshek and Tubal can also be traced to the modern day Russians. According to ancient Assyrian texts, these contemporaries of Ezekiel lived in northern Turkey in the 6th century BC, but eventually migrated to southern Russia.2
Ezekiel also references Gog coming from “the far north” in verse 38:15. Unless Estonia is planning an end-times Middle Eastern invasion, Ezekiel was referring to the other nation that reaches the farthest north of Israel’s location – Russia.
When will Russia fulfill its destiny? Several clues lead the reader to the timing of this end-times invasion. The first clue is found in Ezekiel 38:8b.
In future years you will invade a land that has recovered from war, whose people were gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate. They had been brought out from the nations, and now all of them live in safety (Ezekiel 38:8b).
This event has not yet occurred in history. The term “future years” alludes to the end-times. It is used elsewhere in Scripture to describe end-time events.
A second clue regards the re-gathering of Jews after war. After WWII, thousands of war-weary Jews made their way to Israel. For the first time in nearly 2,000 years, Israel returned as a nation.
A third clue lies in Israel’s safety. Despite the raging of Ahmadenijad, Israel lives in a degree of safety today. Although Israel’s neighbors want her dead, the Jewish people live with a degree of self-confidence. Having won all of the Arab-Israeli Wars, the Israeli Defense Force has proven more than capable of withstanding significant attacks.
Furthermore, Israel’s neighbors are in no position to destroy Israel today. Syria and Egypt are politically chaotic, while Jordan and Lebanon are weak militarily. For the first time in its modern history, Israel has found a strategic advantage amongst her neighbors.
Many read the invasion passage in Ezekiel 38 and 39 and mistakenly concluded (as I did once) that this must be a Tribulation event. Fire from heaven, earthquakes galore, and smiting from heaven as Ezekiel foretells haven’t been seen since Old Testament times. Some have mistaken this battle for the Gog/Magog battle referenced in Revelation 20. This is a distinct battle, separate from Revelation chapter 20′s account.
In Revelation 20, it is Satan who draws the godless from the far reaches of the earth (Gog and Magog) to destroy Jerusalem (Rev. 20:8). In Ezekiel 38, Gog is a man who is drawn down to Israel by God for the purposes of plunder (Ez. 38:4).
The Revelation 20 battle occurs at the end of the Millennium (Rev. 20:7), while Ezekiel 38 must take place at a time when Israel has recently “recovered from war.” Since there is no war in the Millennium, the battle of Ezekiel 38 cannot be the same battle of Revelation 20.
The reference to “Gog and Magog” in Revelation 20 must be a general term for “godless hordes.” The future invasion in Ezekiel 38 will be such an event that it will go down in history as a godless assault on God’s people.
In Ezekiel 39, the invaders are destroyed by fire, earthquake, and infighting, while in Revelation 20 God destroys the godless horde with fire from heaven. No infighting, no earthquakes, just pure smiting.
Despite the similarity in the names, the Bible relays ample evidence that Ezekiel is referring to a distinct end-times battle separate from the one in Revelation 20.
A third indication to the timing of this invasion lies in Ezekiel 39:9-10.
“‘Then those who live in the towns of Israel will go out and use the weapons for fuel and burn them up-the small and large shields, the bows and arrows, the war clubs and spears. For seven years they will use them for fuel. They will not need to gather wood from the fields or cut it from the forests, because they will use the weapons for fuel. And they will plunder those who plundered them and loot those who looted them, declares the Sovereign Lord” (Ezekiel 39:9-10).
With all this burning and plundering going on, this battle must take place before the Tribulation. Ezekiel explains that Israel will use the invading armies’ leftover weapons as fuel for a period of seven years. During the Tribulation, Israel will have no time to plunder enemies or burn fuel. Halfway through the Tribulation, the antichrist will turn on Israel and chase the Jews all over the Middle East.
Therefore we can conclude that this future invasion will take place before the Tribulation begins (possibly 7 years). This allows Israel seven years to use the leftover fuel and “plunder” their enemies.
Despite the debate over the timing, one thing is for certain – Russia will invade the tiny nation one day. Their close alliance with Iran, combined with their lust for expansion means Russia could be on Israel’s doorstep soon. Look to see an aggressive Russia eyeing the Middle East – particularly Israel.
1. John Phillips, Exploring the Future: (Commentary Series) A Comprehensive Guide to Bible Prophecy. (Grand Rapids: Kregel Pub., 2003), 310.
2. Joel Rosenberg, Epicenter: (2.0 Version Updated and Expanded) Why the Current Rumblings in the Middle East Will Change Your Future. (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale Pub., 2008), 86.