Updated: Mar 25
There are a lot of people today talking about Gog and Magog—The Ezekiel 38 attackers of Israel leading to an earthquake and miraculous victory for the Jewish people. Prophecy experts and armchair prophecy "experts" (sometimes they are the same people) see Russia and Iran as central in this attack. Given what is happening in Russia today, with its brutal attack on Ukraine, and what is taking place with the Iranian nuke deal, it is certainly something to consider.
But I would just remind everyone that this is not the first time in history that believers were yelling Gog and Magog. One of those instances was when the Roman Empire finally collapsed. Christians at the time viewed the Roman Empire as the Kingdom of God. Roman Christianity had a theocratic identity with Rome. Some bishops equated the attacking Goths and Visigoths with Gog and Magog in the fifth century.
Of course, Ezekiel 38 speaks about a war against the nation of Israel, not the Roman Empire. The Church Fathers had spiritualized these verses, and Christianity, which was now synonymous with Rome, was the new Israel. Augustine fought against this interpretation—that the fall of Rome was the Gog and Magog war and that Rome was the kingdom of God. While he did embrace the idea that the Church was the new people of God and hoped the Jews would leave Judaism for it, he did not believe any "earthly institution could be 'pure' in the terrestrial city." (Britannica)
The Fall of Rome
Here's an interesting fact. Rome was the longest-lasting empire in history—some say it began in 635 BCE and others in 27 BCE, but we all know that it fell in 476 CE. Suffice it to say, it was enduring. While Constantine embraced Christianity in 313 CE, it wasn't until February 27, 380 CE, under Theodosius I, that Christianity became the "religion of the Roman Empire." Just 30 years later, in 410 CE, the unthinkable happened, the Visigoths sacked Rome. And less than 100 years after Christianity became the empire's official religion, Rome fell.
"In 410, an army of Visigoths under Alaric entered and sacked the city of Rome, dealing a humiliating blow to its proud population who thought the city to be both eternal and invincible." (Lindemann and Levy, p. 63)
There will be no effective theocracy without a "Theo" — God. All pretenders will come down until "the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and He will reign forever and ever." (Rev. 11:15)
Getting back to the main topic, I do believe we are in the End Times. But I also believe that 1,000 years from now, somebody may see this blog and laugh. We may be gearing up for the Ezekiel 38 War. Or not.
However, there are some significant differences between today and the fall of Rome.
After 2,000 years of being "trampled on by the Gentiles" (Luke 21:24) Jerusalem is back in Jewish hands.
Significant end-time prophecies have taken place. In addition to Israel becoming an independent nation again, the worldwide ingathering of Jews to that land has happened (and is still happening, thanks to Putin's persecution of Ukraine—there are expectations that tens of thousands will apply to immigrate to Israel under The Law of Return).
And the fact that both Russia and Iran have become bad actors—the two main countries long thought by many prophecy wonks to be (or be part of) Ezekiel's apocalyptic Gog and Magog.
I have taught for sometime that the Ezekiel 38 war and subsequent defeat of those attacking armies could lead to the Great Tribulation. Why? Ezekiel 39:9 says that Israel will use the weapons of the attackers for fuel for seven years. Why seven? Dr. Thomas D. Ice agrees, "The strength of this position is that it accounts for the burning of the weapons of war for seven years as mentioned in Ezekiel 39:9." While I do not agree with Ice's pretrib rapture view (and neither did any Church Father), the math still works—the only difference is that I believe that the ekklesia remains on earth and is raptured at the end of the Tribulation.
I have also taught that such a victory for Israel could lead to the fulfillment of Daniel 9:27, which speaks of a new Temple. This must happen somehow, and then in the middle of this last "seven" (thought to be seven years), the antichrist will "put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.” Paul alludes to this:
He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God. (2 Thessalonians 2:4)
Notice I used the word could. That is because we don't know. The Bible gives us enough clues that we should be able to recognize things when they take place, but not so much information that we can be dogmatic before they happen.
There is no question that we could be in what Yeshua described as the birth pangs period that leads to the Second Coming. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is just one of a number of worldwide events that have taken place since 2020. I have written about this in my book Birth Pangs which is now free.
The New Testament imperative is that no matter what, we should always be ready.