In the January 2022 edition of Light for the Last Days I wrote that there were three world situations threatening wars which could have far reaching consequences. Russia and Ukraine, China and Taiwan and Iran and Israel. Now the Russia and Ukraine war has happened. Will the other two follow?
The world was in shock after weeks of denying that he had any intention to invade Ukraine, Vladimir Putin has done just that. Our TV screens have been full of pictures of Russian tanks on the roads of Ukraine, buildings shattered by Russian missiles and desperate people sheltering underground. The Ukrainian forces are fighting back the superior Russian forces, while enduring terrible damage on their cities and people. There is talk of a negotiated settlement, which is most to be desired, but nothing decided at the time of writing this magazine. Over two million people have fled the country to become refugees with a projection of as much as four million leaving in the days to come.
From the Russian point of view the invasion has been a disaster, its army performing very badly, with poor communications and low morale amongst its battered troops. Putin’s propaganda that they were going in to liberate Ukraine from Nazis has been shown to be a ridiculous lie and now they face the universal scorn and rejection from the Ukrainian people, including its Russian speaking population. After the terrible damage Russia has inflicted on Ukrainian cities the prospects of the Ukrainians accepting a pro-Russian puppet regime in place of Zelensky and his government are nil. Russia now finds itself a pariah in the world, impacting its economy and every aspect of life. Putin has had to impose police state restrictions barring protests against the war and any genuine reporting on what is happening in Ukraine.
What is behind this? Putin claims that since the fall of the Soviet Union, NATO has been encroaching on what Russia regards as its territory. He says that the west has been humiliating Russia and trying to undermine its government with the aim of absorbing it into their world order plan. Russia claims that the first stage in this process was to take Ukraine into the western orbit and then use this as a staging post for overthrowing its government. The attempt to put this into practice began in 2014, when there was a revolution in Ukraine ousting the pro-Russian (and very corrupt) President Yanukovych. Russia claims this was orchestrated by the EU and US.
This was a threat to Russia for two reasons. First, if Ukraine prospers in a democratic union with EU backed by NATO it will cause the Russians to become restive and want to change their present corrupt government. This has been described as a ‘kleptocracy’ in which Putin and his oligarchs control immense wealth and power and suppress freedom in Russia. Secondly Russia needs access to the Black Sea and its warm water ports for its fleet. The Soviet navy was based at Sebastopol in Crimea and Odessa during the days of the Soviet Union. When the Soviet Union collapsed, Russia maintained its naval base at Sebastopol, however Crimea became a part of Ukraine. Odessa is Ukraine’s main outlet to the sea for exporting its goods.
As long as Ukraine remained neutral, this uneasy situation was able to continue up to 2013. But after Ukraine turned towards the EU and NATO, US warships started patrolling the Black Sea, and were allowed to resupply in Odessa. With Sebastopol technically under Ukrainian control as well, America / NATO could in theory have gained influence in the entire Black Sea. From Russia’s point of view this would be a bit like the Russian fleet having a controlling influence over the English Channel and docking in Plymouth and Portsmouth. Putin then decided to re-assert Russia’s previous ownership of Crimea and took it back into Russian hands.
Russia sees NATO as a hostile force, which has moved right up to Russia’s borders in the Baltic states, and is stationing its troops in Poland and Romania. Putin claims this is contrary to promises made to Russia in the 1990s. Ukraine is a bridge too far so Putin demanded that NATO should back off and never allow Ukraine to join NATO.
Putin sees himself confronting the west’s ‘world order’ and trying to enforce his own alternative world order. Just before the invasion of Ukraine started, he went to China to consult with Chinese leader Xi Jinping to try to confirm this alliance. This would make a Russia – China based world order of former Communist rulers in order to make their part of the world safe for their dictatorships.
There are a number of prophetic spin offs from this which we will look at before getting into the question of whether Russia is mentioned in the Bible in the prophecy of Gog and Magog in Ezekiel 38-9.
Russia and the EU
The Soviet Union was a Communist dictatorship which brought oppression and misery to millions and was a severe persecutor of Christians. Far from creating peace and equality, the Communist Party leaders became the new ruling class with power, wealth and control over society (as with Putin and his oligarchs today). They enforced this by a police state, the KGB and the gulag camps where political prisoners were held in the terrible conditions described by the writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn. By its hold over the Communist regimes of Eastern Europe after World War 2, Moscow became the controlling power over the Warsaw Pact countries, from Poland down to Bulgaria, separated from western Europe by the Iron Curtain.
Soviet President Gorbachev attempted to liberalise Communism during the 1980s with his ‘glasnost’ (openness) and ‘perestroika’ (restructuring) programme. People were already fed up with the stifling dictatorships in eastern Europe and rose in revolution in 1989, as one country after another threw out the Communists. In 1991 Communist rule in the Soviet Union collapsed and the different republics of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) became independent countries. All of eastern Europe joined the EU, including the Baltic States which had been part of the USSR.
Putin sees the fall of the Soviet Union as a ‘catastrophe of the century’ which has left Russia vulnerable on its western border where it once had client states like Poland, East Germany and Czechoslovakia and now has countries which have joined the EU and NATO. Russia wants these buffer states to protect itself from invasion from the west, mindful of the terrible suffering it endured when the Nazis invaded in 1941, resulting in the death of around 28 million Soviet citizens.
Today Russia’s move into Ukraine is seen as a threat to all the countries that left the Soviet orbit to join the western one, hence NATO building up its defence of countries like Poland and the Baltic states. One of the spin offs of this crisis is that EU leaders are seeing the need to beef up Europe’s armies and strengthen European unity. President Macron of France has called for the creation of a united EU army to defend Europe, along with calls for deeper EU integration. EU president Ursula von der Leyen is now calling for the EU to unite to make itself independent from Russian oil, gas and coal.
The renewed threat from Russia and the economic crisis now threatening Europe may cause it to push for deeper unity and to emerge as a power in its own right, in a country called Europe. According to Bible prophecy there will be a revived Roman Empire in the last days of this age, which will be the seat of the Antichrist’s power in the last days (see Revelation 13, 17.9-14, Daniel 7.19-25). Many connect this power with the European Union. This power will be involved in a peace settlement in the Middle East involving Israel (Daniel 9.27). This peace settlement will set off the final seven year period of the tribulation (Daniel 9.27). One view of prophecy is that this will come after the failed invasion of Israel by Russia and allies, prophesied in Ezekiel 38-39. More on this later in this article.
Because of the crisis with Russia, Europe is looking for alternative sources of supply. The EU has approached Israel to supply it with gas via Egypt, which Israel’s government is currently considering. Israel’s Leviathan gas field is situated in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Israel in the north.
There was a proposal to create a pipeline from Israel through Cyprus and Greece to Italy, where it would be used as a supply of gas to Europe. Currently this has been suspended because of environmental considerations, objections from Turkey and a move against it by the Biden administration in the USA. If it were to be revived Russia may see it as a threat to its interests, a possible motivation for its involvement in the Gog and Magog war, when it comes to ‘take great plunder’ (Ezekiel 38.11).
These issues therefore encourage deeper EU integration, as it tries to push its influence eastwards and towards Israel. In Daniel 8.9 we read: ‘And out of one of them (the Revived Roman empire) came a little horn (the Antichrist) which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the Glorious Land (Israel).’
Russia, sanctions, and the world economy
Since the fall of Communism, Russia has become increasingly linked into the global economy. Its main export is oil and gas which accounts for around 40% of its income. A cut off from Russian oil and gas threatens the future of the EU particularly Germany which imports 55% of its energy needs from Russia. Already countries in Europe are reporting a crisis due to rising cost of energy, which is adding to the pressure on their economies. Without Russian gas many of the countries of Europe would face a massive crisis, causing the shutdown of much of their industry.
Russia and Ukraine also produce about 25% of the world’s wheat and corn. Countries in North Africa and the Middle East depend on Ukrainian wheat for their bread supply. Russia produces around two-thirds of all the world’s fertilizer, which it is about to take out of circulation for the rest of the world. As the countries of the northern hemisphere enter into the growing season this could badly affect food production, raising the prospect of famine stalking the nations. For more on this see our ‘Signs of the Times’ section.
Expelling Russia from the world’s banking system, particularly the SWIFT exchange system will do great damage to Russia’s economy, but could also damage the west, especially America. Russia’s response to this is to seek to build up an alternative system with China, which it is in the process of setting up. This exchange system could be attractive to a number of countries and cause the SWIFT exchange system to go down. There is also a move from Russia and China to change the ‘petrodollar’ exchange system for buying and selling oil. This could cause the dollar to fail as the world’s reserve currency, bringing about a social and economic crisis in the USA, which is already trillions of dollars in debt. Some have even projected the collapse of the US.
We are also seeing the possibility of total disaster through nuclear war or a lesser disaster through one of the nuclear sites in Ukraine releasing contamination throughout Europe. When the Chernobyl reactor in northern Ukraine was on fire in 1986, it was within 48 hours of blowing up the whole site which would have rendered much of Belarus and Ukraine and surrounding countries uninhabitable for centuries. Brave action of workers at the site stopped this total disaster, but even so we had the world’s worst nuclear accident yet. Now we hear that power has been cut off to the Chernobyl site, threatening the safety of the site. The Russians have shelled Zaporizhian Nuclear Power Plant in Enerhodar, a city about 400 miles from Kyiv, almost creating another nuclear disaster.
In all this we see signs of the prophecy of Revelation 6, the four horsemen of the apocalypse, coming on the earth. This marks the beginning of the Great Tribulation period which precedes the second coming of Christ, as the false messiah (antichrist) rides out on the white horse, seeking world dominance, leading to war, famine and mass death on the earth. How near or far we are from this, we cannot be sure, but it looks ominously like humanity is heading in this direction.
Russia, Syria, and Iran (Persia)
An event took place in the Indian Ocean in January, which focuses on another anti-American nation – Iran. Iran, Russia, and China held their third combined naval drill in the northern Indian Ocean, amid speculation that the three countries are teaming up in the face of growing regional tensions with the United States. Since coming to office in June 2021, Iran’s hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi has pursued a policy to deepen ties with both Moscow and Beijing.
Iran has openly stated its intention to eliminate the state of Israel and is supplying missiles to Israel’s enemies, Hezbollah in Lebanon in particular. Israel has evidence of Iran’s plan to build a nuclear weapon capable of destroying the Jewish state and has vowed to prevent this from happening, including a threat to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities. If Israel does attack Iran it could ignite a regional war which would see Russia come in on the side of Iran. Israel is already attacking Iranian bases in Syria, which prompted an Iranian attack on a US army base in Erbil, Iraq, which the Iranians said was being used as a spy centre for Israel. In January, Israel carried out a drill to prepare for war in the north, in particular a conflict with Iran’s ally, Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Russia supports the Assad regime in Syria and used its air power to crush Assad’s enemies in the Syrian civil war (in the process destroying cities like Aleppo). Russia needs Assad in power to keep control of its Syrian port facilities in Latakia and Tartus and its air base at Hemeimeem. On 15th February the Russian military deployed long-range nuclear-capable bombers and fighter jets carrying state-of-the-art hypersonic missiles to its air base in Syria and conducted massive naval drills in the region amid soaring tensions with the West over Ukraine.
Russian and Syrian planes flew close to Israel’s northern border after Israel expressed support for Ukraine. Russia also told the Israelis that it does not recognise Israeli control of the Golan Heights and that these should be returned to Syria. There is no way Israel can do this. Russia is becoming irritated with Israel’s attacks on Iranian targets in Syria, especially after a recent missile attack on Iranian bases in Damascus.
Another factor in all this is the push for an agreement with Iran over its nuclear policy, being supported by the Biden administration in the USA. This would remove sanctions on Iran and leave it free to continue and increase its malign activity in the Middle East. If Iran is seen to be continuing its effort to build a nuclear bomb, this could trigger an attack by Israel to destroy Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. This could then bring Russia into a war against Israel, with Iran and other allies, as prophesied in the book of Ezekiel.
There are rabbis in Israel who are now making the connection with the build-up of tension in Ukraine and in the Middle East with the war of Gog and Magog prophesied in the Bible, Ezekiel 38-39, in which Russia and Iran (Persia) are leading nations. In this war a combined army under leadership of Gog of the land of Magog comes against Israel, from the direction of the north (Syria) and meets its doom on ‘the mountains of Israel’. So, it is possible that these ‘world order’ conflicts will reach their climax over Israel, as the Bible predicts.
The War of Gog and Magog
Is Ezekiel 38 about modern day Russia coming against Israel? Some interpreters say it is a symbolic picture of the conflict between good and evil, or even relates to wars in the ancient Persian empire. However, the text does imply a literal war taking place in the region of Israel in the last days of this age, involving a power from the far north, which has names which line up with Russia today.
The prophecy speaks about something that happens in the ‘latter days’ after the Jewish people have been brought back from dispersion to dwell in the land of Israel, including the ‘mountains of Israel.’ The mountainous part of Israel is the Golan Heights and the hill country of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) centring on Jerusalem. We have now seen the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. In 1967 the Golan Heights and Jerusalem came under Israeli control as a result of the Six Day War.
At this time a hostile force will come from the north (the direction of Syria) and attack Israel. The leader of this force is ‘Gog of the land of Magog’. The word Gog in Hebrew refers to an exalted leader with an implication that he will be lifted up against God. The Hebrew word ‘gag’ means roof or something high and lifted up. In the context Gog is the ruler of a country called Magog and is against God and His people.
Magog was an area in biblical times which would have been known to Ezekiel. Ancient tribal groups occupied the area that now comprises southern Russia and Central Asia including the area of some of the southern Islamic republics that were part of the USSR. Magog was the second son of Japheth, the son of Noah (Genesis 10.2), and his descendants are often referred to by their Greek name, the Scythians. Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews) identified Magog with the area of what is today Russia:
He went on to say these people lived in the northern regions above the Caucasus mountains, settling north of the Black Sea.
Gog is described as being ‘chief prince’ of Meshech, and Tubal, who comes from the uttermost north. The Hebrew for ‘chief prince’ is ‘nissi rosh’ which can also be translated as ‘prince of Rosh’. The place name Rosh (or its equivalent in the respective languages) is found at least twenty times in other ancient documents, referring to bands of the Rosh people who lived in an area to the north of the Black Sea. It has a linguistic connection to the name ‘Rossiya’ or Russia.
Meshech appears 10 times in the Hebrew Old Testament, including its first usage in the Table of Nations (Genesis 10:2). In Genesis 10, Meshech is listed as the 6th son of Japheth who settled in the north eastern portion of Asia Minor. His posterity extended from the shores of the Black Sea along to the south of the Caucasus. He was the father of the Rossi and Moschi, who dispersed their colonies over a vast portion of Russian territory.
Wilhelm Gesenius, the world class Hebrew scholar, whose Hebrew Lexicon has never been surpassed, identified Meshech as Moscow, the capital of modern Russia. He identified Tubal as Tobolsk, the earliest province in Asiatic Russia to be colonised, and also the name of the city in which Peter the Great built the old fortress after the pattern of the Kremlin in Moscow. Gesenius states that the Greek name “Moschi”, derived from the Hebrew ‘Meshech’, is the source of the name for the city of Moscow (Moskva in Russian). His conclusion was these people make up the modern Russian people. If you go due north of Jerusalem you will come to Moscow.
In Ezekiel 38 ‘Gog of the land of Magog’ leads this army which is an alliance of nations including Persia (Iran) and Togarmah (Turkey). These come against Israel from the north. At the time it says Israel is dwelling safely. Some have said this cannot apply to Israel today, with the threats it faces from all sides, but the Hebrew phrase here is ‘la betach’ which has the idea of ‘with security.’ Israel has one of the strongest armies in the world with hi-tech equipment and a missile defence system which is without parallel. It is developing a new laser defence system which could destroy incoming missiles before they enter Israeli space.
According to Ezekiel 38.12-13 this invading army comes down to take a spoil. ‘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?’ Israel has discovered large amount of natural gas and oil off coast near Haifa in north, in the area settled by the tribe of Asher in Bible times. In the Bible there is a promise that ‘Asher shall dip his foot in oil’. Deuteronomy 33.24
The Hebrew word for oil used here is ‘shemen’ which meant olive oil, but it is the modern Hebrew word for oil used for industry. This could be of interest to Russia as it seeks to control the flow of oil and gas to the western world. There is a view that Russia’s strategy in Ukraine is to create a corridor of power going down from Russia, through Turkey to Syria and then on to Israel and Egypt, in order to be able to control the oil and gas exports from the Middle East and Caspian Sea area.
The invasion is opposed (verbally not militarily), by Sheba, Dedan and the merchants of Tarshish. Sheba and Dedan in the Bible are in the Arabian peninsula, corresponding to the Gulf states which are now in alliance with Israel. One reason for this alliance is that both are threatened by Iran. They are being helped by Israel with its missile defence system, which is also being offered to Saudi Arabia. Tarshish is an area to the far west of Israel. Biblical Tarshish was most likely located in modern Spain, but it has been suggested that this reference could refer to the western alliance, including Britain and America (young lions relates to the symbol of the lion associated with Britain).
These powers protest at what Gog is doing but they do nothing. They don’t need to because God acts, destroying the invading army.
In the following chapter it describes walls falling down, a great earthquake in the land and rain, hail and judgement falling on the invading army. Fire falls on Magog (Russia) and those who dwell securely in coastlands (USA?). The Spirit is poured out on the people of Israel as the Lord saves His people.
Is the current crisis in Ukraine connected to this event? If Russia prevails and gets its way in Ukraine, it could bring this war spoken of in Ezekiel as its next move. If it does not it could make it further away as Russia is weakened by the disastrous effect its invasion of Ukraine has had, the poor performance of its army and the great worldwide hostility to Russia this has stirred up. Only the Lord knows, but this prophecy has never yet been fulfilled and it is specifically stated that it will be fulfilled in the latter days.
Interestingly the book of Joel also speaks of an event located in the last days, when a northern army comes against Israel and is defeated:
Following this event, the Spirit is poured out (Joel 2.28-32), before the final battle, involving all nations which is concluded with the coming of the Lord to Israel to bring deliverance and peace to His people (see Joel 3).
More on Ezekiel 38 is to be found in an article by Rema Marketing https://www.globalwatchdisclosures.com/thewrathofgog.htm from which some of this information is taken.
There is also a talk by Tony Pearce on Ezekiel 38 at the Bridge website:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=70ThD5UHAE0 This is also available as a CD.