As Russia continues an unprovoked invasion into the sovereign nation of Ukraine, political warnings abound.
Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told the United Nations on Wednesday an outright war with Russia would be the “end of the world order.” Others are pondering what Russian President Vladamir Putin’s obstinate and dangerous acts mean for the future of international affairs more broadly.
Amid all this dismay, though, is a lingering theological conversation that has unfolded for decades around the biblical end times and Russia’s theoretical involvement in it.
Are the end times upon us? Are Russia’s actions part of the eschatological landscape? What does it all mean? These are just some of the pressing questions before us.
Is Russia a key end-times player?
Most Bible experts carefully discuss these issues and are cautious not to overstate or definitively make proclamations about nations and events, though viable theories have emerged that are worth exploring.
Author Joel Rosenberg has been among those who have vocally explored Old Testament prophecies about the biblical end of days, discussing Russia’s potential placement in the mix. He published a blog post a few years ago in which he discussed world events as they pertain to the writings of Ezekiel, a biblical prophet.
“The Hebrew prophet Ezekiel wrote 2,500 years ago that in the ‘last days’ of history, Russia and Iran will form a military alliance to attack Israel from the north,” Rosenberg wrote. “Bible scholars refer to this eschatological conflict, described in Ezekiel 38–39, as the ‘War of Gog & Magog.'”
The text discusses a “Gog, of the land of Magog” and points to not only a battle but a victory for the Lord before the world’s eyes. Ezekiel 38:14-16 (NIV) reads:
“Therefore, son of man, prophesy and say to Gog: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: In that day, when my people Israel are living in safety, will you not take notice of it? You will come from your place in the far north, you and many nations with you, all of them riding on horses, a great horde, a mighty army. You will advance against my people Israel like a cloud that covers the land. In days to come, Gog, I will bring you against my land, so that the nations may know me when I am proved holy through you before their eyes.”
Read the rest here.
What is Gog and Magog?
There are undoubtedly many opinions surrounding Gog, Magog, and the intensely complex themes in these biblical texts. GotQuestions is one of the outlets that has provided an explainer regarding Russia, among other facets.
“Gog is a person. Whoever Gog is, he is from the land of Magog and is the leader of Tubal and Meshek (some translations add ‘Rosh’ to the list) and a confederacy of other nations: Persia, Cush, Put, Gomer, and Beth Togarmah (Ezekiel 38:5–6),” the outlet notes. “And, whoever he is, he will have plans to ‘attack a peaceful and unsuspecting people,’ viz., Israel (verses 11, 14, and 18). But, regardless of Gog’s plans, the Lord God is against him and will defeat him soundly (Ezekiel 38:4, 19–23; 39:3–5).”
This is a pretty concise recap of what is believed to be happening in this text. But you might have a lingering question: Why is Russia believed to be Magog by so many?
If you take out a map and look to the north (these Scriptures note Gog comes from the “far north”), you’ll find Russia and former Soviet territories. So, it’s not surprising to see so many Bible experts point to this region.
One other note worth mentioning here is “Persia,” a nation listed as being in alliance with Magog, is modern-day Iran. Considering current affairs and trajectories, that piece is raising a lot of eyebrows.
You can read more about it here.
No one knows the day or hour
Again, these themes are complicated. Dr. Roger Barrier, a retired teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona, has given us something essential to remember when we explore the end of days: “God has not chosen to give us all of the details regarding the end times.”
Thus, some of the details are murky, and there’s much to distill.
And sometimes, we won’t be able to have definitive answers about what is unfolding, specifically when it comes to events like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. That said, Barrier has noted that understanding to the best of our abilities what the Bible says about eschatology can help us fully understand Scripture and live holy lives.
Plainly stated: it’s incredibly fruitful to explore these Scriptures and have an understanding of what the biblical texts are pointing toward.
As noted, Rosenberg, author of “The Kremlin Conspiracy,” along with a host of other novels and nonfiction books, has explored these issues in national and international interviews for this very reason: to help believers navigate and understand God’s Word.
He has repeatedly affirmed that no one knows when the end of days will come but that some biblical signs are worth exploring.
“I don’t know when, I don’t have a date … but if you look at all the prophecies … one wonders,” he told Pure Flix in a 2018 interview. “You see a lot of global chaos .. more Christians have been slaughtered in the last century than at any other time in human history — and that’s saying something, because we’ve been often slaughtered.”
The re-emergence of Israel
One of the critical end-times prophecies he believes is present in Ezekiel 36–39 is the re-emergence of Israel, something that unfolded in 1948, when the Jewish state ended up back on the map.
Ezekiel 36 speaks about Israel’s restoration after the Hebrews were scattered throughout the world — something God prophesies He will do for His Holy name. Verses 24-32 (NIV) read:
For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God. I will save you from all your uncleanness. I will call for the grain and make it plentiful and will not bring famine upon you. I will increase the fruit of the trees and the crops of the field, so that you will no longer suffer disgrace among the nations because of famine. Then you will remember your evil ways and wicked deeds, and you will loathe yourselves for your sins and detestable practices. I want you to know that I am not doing this for your sake, declares the Sovereign Lord. Be ashamed and disgraced for your conduct, people of Israel!
While many Bible experts believe Israel’s re-emergence has been fulfilled, Rosenberg and others contend the Gog and Magog prophecy remains unfulfilled.
“The one-day, future evil leader of Russia is going to form an alliance with Iran, Turkey, and some other hostile countries to come and surround and attack Israel in the last days,” he said.
Some might wonder if Putin and contemporary Russia fit this bill, but Rosenberg was again cautious and said it’s possible these events are hundreds of years away — or closer. The Bible doesn’t specify, and Christians are implored not to date-set.
That said, Rosenberg delivered a warning about Putin back in 2018 that is incredibly fascinating considering the events we’re watching unfold this week.
“Vladimir Putin is more dangerous to the United States and our way of life than radical Islam,” he said. “And I don’t think most Americans process it that way.”
So, is the chaos in Ukraine part of the end times? No one knows, but considering ongoing international issues surrounding Israel, Iran, and Russia, you can bet many Christians and theologians will be closely watching.
You can read more about this topic in my book, “The Armageddon Code: One Journalist’s Quest for End-Times Answers.”
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