Signs of the End: The Ezekiel 38-39 War

There have been wars and rumors of wars for thousands of years. During the past one hundred years, we’ve fought two world wars in addition to many other smaller ones. World War 1 was terrible with more than 17 million deaths and as terrible as that was, World War 2 soon followed with more than 60 million people killed.

It seems that the world has constantly been at war, but all the death and carnage the world has seen will pale in comparison to the wars that are still to come before Jesus returns to put down the kingdoms of mankind at the end of the tribulation.

This message will focus on the war that is prophesied in Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39.

A future attack on Israel

God’s prophet, Ezekiel wrote about a future attack on Israel that will be led by Russia who is accompanied by several other nations. Ezekiel used the original titles of people and names of places in this prophecy. For example, Gog is the ruler of Magog (Russia). If this war were to begin today, the Russian President Vladimir Putin would be identified as Gog (Ezekiel 38:1-4).

We know that Gog is the ruler of Russia because Ezekiel identifies him as the chief prince (ruler) of Magog, Meshech, and Tubal which were the grandsons of Noah who settled in the land known today as Russia. Also, the prophecy says that Gog will come from the far north (Ezekiel 38:15). If you look at a map, you’ll see that Moscow, the capital of Russia is to the far north of Jerusalem. Also, there are no other nations that are farther north from Israel than Russia.

God says He will put hooks in Gog’s mouth and turn him against Israel (Ezekiel 38:4). The Russian leader might think it’s his own idea to attack the tiny nation of Israel but God makes it clear that He’ll be orchestrating the whole thing.

Why would God do this?

You might be wondering why God would cause other nations to attack His chosen people, Israel. In the past, God has done this to punish the Jews when they turned away from Him and worshiped false gods. But not this time. We don’t have to guess the reason God will do this because it’s spelled it out plainly in scripture.

Spoiler alert: God will fight for Israel in this war and defeat all of the enemies that come against His chosen people.

Here are some of the reasons why God causes the attack:
  • To show His greatness and holiness and to make himself known to many nations so they will know that He is the Lord (Ezekiel 38:23) and might repent of their sins and turn to Him.
  • So that after God saves their necks, the Jews will turn to Him and never again forget that He is the Lord their God (Ezekiel 39: 22).
  • So that all of the Jews who were living abroad before the attack will relocate to Israel and the glory of God will be shown through them (Ezekiel 39:27-28).

Russia brings a coalition of many nations with them

Russia won’t be the only nation that comes against Israel in this war. They’ll be accompanied by several other nations.
Persia, Cush, and Put are with them, all of them with shield and helmet; Gomer and all his hordes; Beth-Togarmah from the uttermost parts of the north with all his hordes—many peoples are with you.
Ezekiel 38:5-6 (ESV)
You probably don’t recognize most (or possibly any) of these names because the Bible uses the original names of these nations. Keep in mind that this prophecy is about three thousand years old and the names of many nations have changed over time. Here’s how the original names of these nations map to their modern-day names:

Original name: Persia
Modern-day name: Iran

Original name: Cush
Modern-day name: Southern Egypt, Northern Ethiopia, and Northern Sudan

Original name: Put
Modern-day name: Libya and North Africa

Original name: Gomer and Togarmah
Modern-day name: Turkey

This will be a coordinated attack from several nations and peoples. Ezekiel 38:9 says “You will ascend, coming like a storm, covering the land like a cloud, you and all your troops and many peoples with you.”

If I didn’t read to the end of the prophecy, I might think that Israel would be overwhelmed by such as massive force.

When this attack will happen

Ezekiel 38:11 tells us that this attack will occur when the entire nation of Israel is dwelling in peace and safety in their land. It will come when they’re living without walls or bars or gates. This certainly doesn’t appear to describe the condition of Israel today. From a western point-of-view, Israel doesn't appear to be experiencing peace. They continue to endure attacks and threats from all sides and they have a very significant wall that protects them from attacks from the Palestinians living in Gaza.

However, many Jews who are living in Israel feel like they're living in the safest place in the world. This is because even though they're under frequent attacks and threats from their enemies, they are overwhelming the greatest military power in the region.

What will be the motivation for the war?

Since there will be several nations that come against Israel in this war, they could each have different motivations for their involvement. But we know Russia's primary motivation will be to plunder Israel (Ezekiel 38:12).

Until recently, the tiny nation of Israel hasn’t had a lot of natural resources other than having some of the most productive farmlands in the world. So what could possibly tempt Russia into coming against Israel? What would make it worth the trouble? The answer is oil and gas.

In recent years, Israel has found massive quantities of natural gas and oil and the president of Russia has already shown interest in obtaining rights to that oil. Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu has declined to grant Russia rights to their oil and gas. So Russia’s incentive might be that they decide to take Israel’s gas and oil by force. This motivation (or hooks in the jaw, as Ezekiel puts it) might not be only out of greed but also out of desperation. You see, the Russian economy is in rough shape.

Israel’s friends protest the attack

Even though Israel has the most powerful military in the middle east, if they had to fight this future invasion on their own against multiple enemies attacking them simultaneously, they would most likely be overrun by the sheer force and numbers that will come against them. But fortunately for Israel, they won’t be fighting their enemies alone. God will fight for them.

This is a good thing since their allies and friends will apparently not come to their aid. Instead, they will only object to the attack.
Sheba, Dedan, the merchants of Tarshish, and all their young lions will say to you, ‘Have you come to take plunder? Have you gathered your army to take booty, to carry away silver and gold, to take away livestock and goods, to take great plunder?
Ezekiel 38:13
Who are these nations who object to the attack on Israel?

Original name: Sheba and Dedan
Modern-day name: Saudi Arabia

Original name: Merchants of Tarshish
Modern-day name: Europe and the European Union

Original name: Young Lions
Modern-day name: This is probably the United States

If the young lions really are the United States of America, then it means that either the U.S. is no longer an ally of Israel when this attack occurs or they'll be unable to come to their aid. Perhaps due to a massive natural disaster or because the rapture of the church as crippled the U.S. military. Whatever the reason for standing on the sidelines, a nation that doesn’t come to the aid of Israel cannot expect to receive blessings from the Lord (Genesis 12:3).

The result of this war

To say the least, this isn’t going to go well for Russia and the horde they lead against Israel. Here’s how God will fight for His chosen people:
  • He will cause a great earthquake that will shake Israel so that the fish of the sea and all creatures and men across the entire earth will be shaken. The mountains and all the walls will fall to the ground (Ezekiel 38:19-20).
  • He will cause every sword to be turned against his brother (Ezekiel 38: 21). God will actually cause Russia’s troops and their allies to fight each other.
  • He will judge the enemies of Israel with pestilence and bloodshed and bring flooding rain, great hailstones, fire, and brimstone upon them (Ezekiel 38: 22).
It doesn’t matter what kind of weaponry you have if you’re fighting against God. Indeed, the invading armies will be completely and utterly destroyed.
You shall fall upon the mountains of Israel, you and all your troops and the peoples who are with you; I will give you to birds of prey of every sort and to the beasts of the field to be devoured. You shall fall on the open field; for I have spoken,” says the Lord GOD.
Ezekiel 39:4-5
Just to put an exclamation point on His message to the leader of Russia, God will send fire down on Russia and on the people living in the coastlands (Ezekiel 39:6). Destroying the coastlands would certainly have a major impact on the naval power of Israel’s enemies.

Just how massive will the death toll be?

The prophet Ezekiel didn’t reveal how severe the carnage will be from this conflict. But, as I’m sure you can imagine, the armies of the nations who are completely destroyed on the battlefield along with the death that will be caused when God rains fire down on Russia and the coastlands of the attacking nations, the death toll will be massive.

But will it be significantly greater than any war that mankind has fought so far? Given that this will be one of the signs that Jesus referred to as birth pangs (which increase in intensity) I would have to guess that the answer to that question is yes.

But here’s another clue. This war could very well be related to either the fourth seal or the sixth trumpet judgments that are recorded in the book of Revelation.

The fourth seal judgment

So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth.
Revelation 6:8-9
At today’s population of 7.5 billion people, one-fourth of mankind would be a death toll of approximately 1.8 billion people.

The sixth trumpet judgment

God will “release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” (Revelation 9:13-21) to kill one-third of mankind. The Euphrates river originates in Turkey and runs through Syria and Iraq and empties into the Persian Gulf. This is the exact region where several nations, including Syria, Russia, Turkey, and the United States, along with other nations are currently fighting and building up their military presence. This puts all of these armies in the vicinity of Israel’s northern border. Let that sink in for a little while.

Assuming that the fourth seal judgment occurs first, at today’s population minus the death toll from the fourth seal judgment, one-third of mankind would be about 3.8 billion people killed. Of course, this is a rough estimate and doesn’t account for the people who will be taken from the earth during the rapture of the church (assuming that happens first which it could). But even so, I think you'll agree that the death toll will be staggering.

The aftermath of the war

Israel won’t have to cut down trees for seven years because it will take that long to burn all the weapons that are scavenged from the battlefield. Israel will also pillage and plunder those who tried to plunder them (Ezekiel 39:10).

The carnage from this war will be so great that Israel will employ men to bury the dead and it will take them seven years to finish the job. Apparently, nuclear weapons will be used because the search parties that search for the dead bodies will put a marker next to any human bone they find. This is probably because the bones will be radioactive (Ezekiel 39:14-15).

Parting thoughts

Do we see events aligning in the world today that could bring us to this point? You bet we do. Iran, Russia, and Turkey are already close allies and Russia is firmly planted in the middle east. In fact, all three of these nations have military bases in Syria right now and Iran has been aggressively attempting to build up its military presence in Syria close to the Israeli border.

As I mentioned earlier, Israel has discovered vast amounts of gas and oil which will most likely make Israel a global economic power and Russia and Turkey covets that oil. Iran's primary motivation is simply to wipe the nation of Israel off the map. They don't know it yet, but as you have seen, their plans will utterly fail in a spectacular way.

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