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The coming Temporary Peace in Israel
The Bible tells us that soon, Israel will have a temporary peace with its neighbours.
Ezekiel 38 is a prophecy all about the “latter days” (v8 and v16) – a phrase which is used in the Bible to describe the time period of the Jews being regathered as a nation (see Hosea 3:5). This time period relates directly to our time – as – since 1948 – Israel has indeed once again become inhabited by the Jews.
In these latter days we read in Ezekiel 38 of a massive invasion of the land of Israel just prior to the return of Christ. Some of the details that surround this indicate that Israel is at peace during this time. For example :
In v8 it says that the regathered Jews “shall dwell safely all of them”. In v11 it says that the invading army comes against a land whose inhabitants “dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls and having neither bars not gates”.
It is an amazing fact that today, when you travel around the land of Israel you find that the majority of Israeli settlements, known as Kibbutz all have fences and walls around them, as well as large, yellow gates and watch towers. Clearly things have to change – both internally between the Jews and the Palestinians and also externally between Israel and her neighbouring countries. One of these countries is of course Syria, which lies to the North of Israel.
The invading powers
However seeing that Ezekiel 38 is a prophecy of the invasion of Israel, the peace that will come can only be temporary. The invasion will take place, not by one single nation, but by a group of territories listed by their ancient names in verses 2-6. These nations will be headed up by a character called “Gog” and when the ancient names of the territories are traced back to their roots you find they describe the powers that sit on the areas of Russia, Europe and Northern Africa.
Russia is directly mentioned in verse 3 by its ancient name of “Rosh”. This is evident by modern translations of this verse – such as the New King James Version which translates verse 3 as: “and say, Behold, I am against you, O Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal”. All of these ancient names relate to the peoples of Russia.
Also included within the list of powers is the name “Persia” in v5. When you look back at the ancient territory of Persia you will discover that this covers the countries of modern: Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan – these territories are the “Persia” of Ezekiel 38:5.
Syria – part of the territory of the “King of the North”.
So as Bible students, we would expect these countries who are hostile to Israel to become less of an issue for a limited time. How might this situation occur and are there any other Bible prophecies which include these territories in the latter days?
Well Daniel chapter 11 helps to shed some light upon this. Daniel 11 is an amazing prophecy about two key territories down through time which would be taken over by occupying powers known as “the king of the north” and “the king of the south”. The start of the prophecy is the time period of the Medo-Persian Empire (approx 550BC) but the final focus of the prophecy is the same time period as that of Ezekiel. We know this because in Daniel chapter 10 we read these words spoken by an angel to the prophet Daniel:
“I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days: for yet the vision is for many days.” Daniel 10:14
In other words he is going to show Daniel what would happen in the same time period in which Ezekiel 38 occurs. The angel then proceeds in chapter 11 to show Daniel that eventually the then current superpower, the Persian Empire, would be superseded by the Greeks in v2. The angel explains in v3 that a mighty king of the Greeks would emerge on the world scene and we know this to have been Alexander the Great. Then the angel explains how that the territory would be split up into four areas and again we know from history that this occurred when Alexander’s four generals eventually took control of the Greek Empire.
The prophecy then picks up two of these areas. One to the North of Israel called “the king of the north”, which is known as the Seleucid Empire. This covered the area of Iran, Syria and Pakistan. The other area discussed is the area to the south of Israel called “the king of the south” or the Ptolemaic Empire. The prophecy goes through various events which would happen down through time between the occupiers of these territories.
It is worth noting, that to be called “the king of the north or south” the power had to be an occupying one and not a native power of the territories.
In verse 36 though another character is introduced. He is simply known as “the king”. As you follow the prophecy through, you will find that this describes the state of the two territories when one occupying power was in control of them both. This is the time when the Roman Empire controlled the north and the south and so there was no “king of the north” and “king of the south” – there was just “the king”. We know that the capital of the Roman Empire at this point was Constantinople.
The time of the end
What is interesting though is that as we reach the climax of the prophecy, we read of how, once again, there would be occupying powers that would arise on the territories of “the king of the north” and “the king of the south”.
Verse 40 begins:
“And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him:” So as the prophecy draws to a close and reaches its dramatic climax, about what would happen to Daniel’s people in the latter days, we read of how an occupying force of the south will push against the power of “the king” that resides in Constantinople. This is not our subject but the criteria of this prophecy has been fulfilled in the events of Word War 1, when the occupying power of Egypt (at the time this was Britain), pushed against the Ottoman Empire from the south.
But then we read on: “and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind”. This has not yet occurred. An occupying power which controls all the territories of the king of the north has not yet come against the power of Constantinople. The criteria of the prophecy therefore requires that a power will appear on the world scene which will dominate and control Lebanon, Syria, Iran and Pakistan. Once such a power is seen on the world stage we will be looking at the latter day “king of the north”. When he appears, he will then attack Turkey, “the king”. He won’t stop there though – the prophecy goes on:
“The king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over. He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon. He shall stretch forth his hand also upon the countries: and the land of Egypt shall not escape.”
We then read of how he comes back from Egypt into Israel but meets his end in Jerusalem in verse 45.
Russia is the “King of the North” and the “Rosh” of Ezekiel 38
In a book initially entitled “Europe Chained and Russia Triumphant” or now more commonly known as “Exposition of Daniel”, Bible student John Thomas outlines various reasons why it is reasonable to assume that Daniel’s “king of the north” is the same character as Ezekiel’s “Gog”. Some of these reasons are as follows:
• Geographical locations are the same – i.e. from the north of Israel
• Both are invaders of Israel
• The time period of the prophecies is the same
• They have the same peoples confederate with them “Persia, Ethiopia and Libya”
• They both meet with the same fate
We therefore believe that the occupying force of the territories of the king of the north will be the power of Russia who will soon control these territories to fulfil its role as the Gog of Ezekiel 38 and the king of the north of Daniel 11.
Once in control of these territories it would seem that somehow peace will be made with Israel – perhaps for an energy deal. This would account for the peace and safety of Ezekiel 38 before the sudden invasion.
Current events in the region
The civil war in Syria has exposed to us the interest that Russia has in the territory of the ancient king of the north – just as we would expect from what is revealed in the Bible.
It is therefore very interesting as we watch the events in Syria, how that we get the distinctive smell of the Kremlin in all the events which surround the struggle in which an estimated 80,000 people have lost their lives.
As Syria plunged into civil war, Russia blocked three attempts by the United Nations to sanction the Syrian government.
Russia has also admitted supplying the Syrian government with weapons such as SA-17 surface-to-air missiles. It was reported that Israel had carried out an airstrike in January on a convoy of these supplies and other Israeli airstrikes on military supplies reported to be from Russia and Iran have also been mentioned in the media.
On May 17th it was reported that US Army General Martin Dempsey had commented on this supply of arms and said: “It’s at the very least an unfortunate decision that will embolden the regime and prolong the suffering,… It’s ill-timed and very unfortunate.” (http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2013/05/17/new-russian-missile-sales-to-syria-makes-assad-prone-to-miscalculation)
The New York Times reported on May 16th that, “Russia has longstanding interests in Syria, including a naval base at the Mediterranean port of Tartus. As the Syria crisis has escalated, Russia has gradually augmented its naval presence in the region. In January, more than two dozen Russian warships sailed to the Black and Mediterranean Seas to take part in what the Defense Ministry said was to be the country’s largest naval exercise in decades, testing the ships’ ability to deploy outside Russian waters.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/17/world/middleeast/russia-provides-syria-with-advanced-missiles.html?pagewanted=2&ref=russia)
This is interesting as in Daniel 11 we read of how the “king of the north” comes with “ships”. Well Russia has a port already in the territory of the king of the north and here we see them willing to use it!
Russia is not only involved directly but also indirectly – as it is a great supporter of Iran, who in turn is a great supporter of Hezbollah, the terrorist group operating from Lebanon to the north of Israel. It has come to light this week that Hezbollah has been sending troops over the border into Syria to help the Syrian government and that Iranians are also fighting alongside the Syrian army.
Hezbollah and Iran have also joined Russia in supporting the Assad regiem. Hezbollah has very publicaly warned the West against getting involved – particularly after the Western media speculated that the Syrian govenrment has recently used chemical weapons in the confilict, something which President Obama had indicated was a “red line” that shouldn’t be crossed. On the 5th of May the Israel National News reported:
“Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah gave his clearest admission to date that the Shi’ite Islamist group is offering active support to Syrian government troops and other pro-regime forces. Nasrallah declared that “Syria has real friends in the region and in the world who will not allow Syria to fall into the hands of America or Israel” http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/167616#.UZ54cb_SFRk
Russia has also been instrumental this last week in persuading the Syrian government and rebels to attend a peace conference soon to take place.
We can therefore see Russia and its allies are very much involved in the region of the king of the north. Yes – Russia’s claws are already deeply rooted in these territories as we would expect from Bible prophecy! It is preparing to fulfil its destiny as the occupying power of the region which will soon be clothing itself with the mantle of the king of the north.
The Kingdom of God is coming
We therefore watch the signs of the times. We do not know how things might pan out in Syria in the short term but God has revealed to us what will ultimately occur. That even though this invasion will take place, God will act to save Israel and show forth His glory by revealing his son to the world – along with all the faithful followers of His word. These immortal beings will then destroy the enemies of Israel and re-establish God’s kingdom on earth which will be the restored kingdom of ancient Israel.
In Daniel 12, speaking about the time of the latter day activities of the king of the north, we read these words:
“And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.” Daniel 12:1-3
It is this time we, as Bible students hope for. The time “the Lord Jesus Christ, shall judge the quick (living) and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom” 2 Timothy 4:1. It is the time of the resurrection of the dead for those responsible to God’s word down through the ages and the time for when the faithful will be given the gift of eternal life. It is this time that our Lord and Master taught us to pray for when he said “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”
How we look forward to that Kingdom when all the conflicts in this world will be removed and replaced by a reign of peace and righteousness. We watch and wait for that time and as we do so we hope you will stay true to the word of God and continue to join us for more episodes of, The Bible in the News. This has been Matt Davies joining you.