Russia and Iran in Bible Prophecy


Part 1




John Hoole - February 6, 2011





If you were to look down on Israel from space, you come to realize just how small it is.  Israel stretches only 263 miles from north to south, and its width ranges from 71 miles at its widest point to only 9 miles at its narrowest point.  To the northeast, Israel faces a 47-mile border with Syria.  To the north and northwest, a 49-mile border with Lebanon.  To the east, Israel has a 247-mile border with Jordan.  And to the southwest, Israel has a 130 miles border with Egypt.


Although Egypt and Jordan have tentative treaties with Israel, none of her neighbors are really Israel's friends.  Israel is living in a tough neighborhood.  To a country, her neighbors would like to rid the world of the Jewish people.  Israel is locked in tight in their small piece of real estate.


Earlier we had lessons on what the Bible says about Israel.  We noted that the Bible tells us the Jews were going to be dispersed into all the world.  But God says He would preserve them, even though they would fear for their lives.  We also learned that dozens of Scriptures tell us God would bring them back to their land.  And on May 14, 1948, that happened.  And ever since, the countries that surround them have been hostile.


We also studied what the Bible has to say about the Arabs in general.  Today we will look specifically at some of Israel's neighbors.


Those of us who believe whole-heartedly that the Bible is indeed the infallible and inspired Word of God also realize that when the Bible declares something is going to happen, it is going to happen!  To date, Bible prophecy has been fulfilled with 100% accuracy.  It has never been wrong.  But, it has not only been accurate every time, we know it was accurate because it was fulfilled literally.  This is another reason I believe we should look at Bible prophecy with a literal mind-set rather than figurative.


Because Bible prophecies have been fulfilled literally that gives us every reason to believe this trend will continue with the yet-to-be-fulfilled prophecies in God’s Word.


One such prophecy is found in Ezekiel 38 & 39, which was written some 2,600 years ago.  It details an attempted surprise attack on the nation of Israel.  However, it is not a surprise for any student of God’s Word.  This Passage in Ezekiel list, in detail: WHO is involved – WHAT they will do – WHY they will do it – and HOW they will be defeated.  It even details the clean-up activity following the battle.


A multi-national army, including a massive Islamic alliance are going to invade Israel !!


If I had made this statement sixty five years ago, it would have seemed ridiculous.  First of all, I was only 5 years old sixty-five years ago.  But, more to the point, it would have seemed ridiculous because there was no nation of Israel to invade.


Who could have imagined that a few years later the Jew would have part of their own homeland back.  At the same time, none of the Islamic nations that are so dangerous today were even blips on the international radar screen.  Their thought of attacking anybody was a joke.  But it’s anything but a joke today.


The world today is like a powder keg with an already-lit fuse.  And present conditions all over the world indicate that the fuse could burn its way to the end very soon.


Although the rise of militant Islam has shocked and surprised many people around the world, the God of Scripture has not been taken off guard.  Through the prophet Ezekiel, God predicted events that are strikingly foreshadowed by what we see every day on the evening news.


Ezekiel 36 – 39 is history written beforehand.  In Ezekiel 36, we are told of the dispersion of the Jews throughout the world.  Halfway through this chapter, God speaks of His gathering them back to their land.  In Ezekiel 37 we read a fascinating vision given to this prophet about some of the details of the regathering of the Jews to their own homeland.  Ezekiel sees a vision of a valley with some very dry bones.  In verse 11, God tells Ezekiel, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel.”  There is no doubt this text is speaking only of the nation of Israel.


God asked Ezekiel a strange question:      “…can these bones live?” (verse 3)Ezekiel responded to God by saying, “O Lord God, You know.”  Then God asks Ezekiel to do something strange.  He tells him to preach the word of the Lord to these bones.  It was a message to the deadest congregation in the history of preaching.


Ezekiel 37:7-8 NKJV


7       So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone.

8       Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them.


The dry bones in Ezekiel’s vision represent the nation of Israel during the diaspora (their dispersion, their scattering), beginning in A.D. 70.  Gradually the bones came together, and the sinews and flesh came upon them.


Then, in Ezekiel 37:21 (NKJV), we read:


21     "Then say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land;


This was fulfilled on May 14, 1948, at 4:32 p.m.  The state of Israel became a nation once again.  And this prophecy continues to be fulfilled as almost 2,000 people are immigrating to Israel every month.  This is known in Hebrew as "Aliyah ha Eretz Yisrael" - Immigration to the Land of Israel.


Notice again what we read in verse 8 just a moment ago.


Ezekiel 37:8 NKJV


8       Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them.


This is where most of Israel is today – they are physically being ushered back to their homeland but they are still spiritually dead.  But God depicts several methods by which the Jews will come to recognize their need of God, as well as helping them understand that Jesus is their Messiah.  One of those methods is the prophecy found in the following two chapters – Ezekiel 38 & 39.


Ezekiel 38:1-8 NAS


1       And the word of the LORD came to me saying,

2       "Son of man, set your face toward Gog of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him

3       and say, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I am against you, O Gog, prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal.

4       "I will turn you about and put hooks into your jaws, and I will bring you out, and all your army, horses and horsemen, all of them splendidly attired, a great company with buckler and shield, all of them wielding swords;

5       Persia, Cush and Put with them, all of them with shield and helmet;

6       Gomer with all its troops; Beth-togarmah from the remote parts of the north with all its troops — many peoples with you.

7       " Be prepared, and prepare yourself, you and all your companies that are assembled about you, and be a guard for them.

8       " After many days you will be summoned; in the latter years you will come into the land that is restored from the sword, whose inhabitants have been gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel which had been a continual waste; but its people were brought out from the nations, and they are living securely, all of them.


To understand a passage like this, it is essential first to determine who the players are.  In these eight verses, we find 10 names that may not be especially familiar to you.  You might say that this list of names is God’s 10-most-wanted list.  God says in Ezekiel 38:3 and 39:2, “I am against you.”


These ten names have been tried in the supreme court of the universe and found guilty.  All that remains is for the sentence to be executed, and the one who will execute judgment is God Himself.  When these nations come against Israel, they meet their final doom.


Before answering the question as to who these 10 nations are, let’s answer a few other questions.


1.   When will this invasion of Israel occur?

2.   What must happen before this invasion happens?


3.   Who is really in control?


4.   Is this battle the same as the Battle of Armageddon?


The Timing


Was this fulfilled in the past or is it still a future prophecy?  Have these groups of nations ever been aligned in this fashion before?  If this is still in the future, where does it fit in the timeline of End-Time Prophecy?


Prophecy scholar, Mark Hitchcock notes: "By far, the most controversial issue in Ezekiel 38 & 39 is the setting or timing of the invasion.  The specific time of the invasion in Ezekiel 38 is difficult to determine."


Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins in their best-selling novel Left Behind, sets this invasion of Israel right before the rapture of the church.  Grant Jeffrey also holds this view.  Mark Hitchcock holds another view - that it will happen after the rapture of the church, but prior to the beginning of the 7-year Tribulation.  Thomas Ice and Hal Lindsey, both prolific writers on prophecy, believe this invasion will happen in the first half of the Tribulation.


I have chosen these prophecy scholars, holding different views as to the timing of this invasion, because they agree with each other on almost all other prophecy issues.  They are all pre-millennialists.  They all believe the rapture of the church will occur prior to the 7-year Tribulation.  And yet, they differ some on the timing of the invasion mentioned in Ezekiel 38 & 39.






By far, the most controversial issue of Ezekiel 38 & 39 is the timing of this invasion.  While the specific timing might be difficult to pin down, the general time can be ascertained with some certainty.  While some believe the events of Ezekiel 38 & 39 have already occurred, most Bible scholars agree that this invasion has not been fulfilled in the past.


There are a number of reason for saying this battle is yet future.  First, look at Ezekiel 38:8.  God speaks to these invaders, and says:


8       After many days you will be visited. In the latter years you will come into the land…


Notice that phrase, “in the latter years.”  This is the only occurrence of this exact phrase in the Old Testament.  Another similar phrase occurs in verse 16.


Ezekiel 38:16 (NKJV)


16     You will come up against My people Israel like a cloud, to cover the land. It will be in the latter days that I will bring you against My land, so that the nations may know Me, when I am hallowed in you, O Gog, before their eyes."


Here we have the phrase, “in the latter days.”  This phrase is often used to signify Israel’s final time of distress, or to Israel’s final restoration to the Messianic kingdom (Isaiah 2:2; Jeremiah 23:20; 30:24; Hosea 3:5; Micah 4:1)It is speaking or referring to the end-times.  The phrase, “in the latter days” is a technical term that refers to Israel's final troubles.  In other words, this invasion will occur during the final events of this age, as preparation is made for the establishment of the Messianic Kingdom of Christ.


Here is another reason for thinking the events of this invasion are yet future.  The land of Israel has been the scene of countless battles, wars, and invasions, but nothing even remotely similar to the events in Ezekiel 38 & 39 has ever happened.


Preconditions to the Invasion

Another reason for saying this invasion could not have already happened, certainly not in the last 2000 years, is because, as we said earlier, there was no nation of Israel to invade.  This also will answer one of our other questions, namely, what must happen prior to this invasion?


Look at Ezekiel 38:8 (NKJV) once more:


8       After many days you will be visited.  In the latter years you will come into the land of those brought back from the sword and gathered from many people on the mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate; they were brought out of the nations, and now all of them dwell safely.


The Jews must be back in their land.  This goes right along with the previous two chapters in Ezekiel – 36 & 37 - which describe the process of Israel’s restoration and re-gathering to their land.


The modern restoration of Israel to her land began back in the late 1800’s.  But the key date was May 14, 1948, when modern Israel was officially born.  With Israel restored as a nation, the first necessary precondition for this invasion moved strategically into place.


One more thing that must occur prior to this invasion that also has an effect on the timing is found in the last phrase of the verse we just read (Ezekiel 38:8).  Speaking of Israel, God describes them as having been “brought out of the nations, and now all of them dwell safely.”  This says the invasion will not occur until the Jews are dwelling safely in their land.


Ezekiel 38:11 (NAS) adds:


11     And you will say, 'I will go up against the land of unwalled villages. I will go against those who are at rest, that live securely, all of them living without walls and having no bars or gates,


The word translated “rest” here, means, be quiet, undisturbed.  It is true that there are no walls around the cities in Israel today.  But with modern-day weapons, walls would not be a deterrent.  Israel, however, is not living undisturbed and unthreatened.


This does not describe modern Israel.  Since 1948 Israel has never felt secure enough to lower her defenses.  For the past half-century, there has not been peace in Israel, only times when there has been an absence of outright war.




The Bible describes two such periods of time still to come.  The first is a short period of time during the first half of the future era known as The Tribulation.  This is a future period of time – 7 years in length – that begins with a treaty brokered by the Antichrist between Israel and their neighbors.


This treaty is mentioned in Daniel 9:27.  But the same verse informs us that in the middle of that 7-year treaty, the antichrist will break his treaty.  So, the first 3½ years of this treaty finds the nation of Israel living in peace, where the combined forces of this leader guarantee such a peace.


The second time of peace for Israel will occur during the reign of Christ.  This is the 1000-year period sometimes called the Millennium.


During His reign on earth, the Bible says, Isaiah 2:4 NKJV:


4       He shall judge between the nations, And rebuke many people; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war anymore.


         Since Jesus will not let one nation attack another nation during His reign, then this invasion must not happen during this time.


So, the only period of time in the future, where Israel will be at peace and unthreatened, is during the first half of the 7-year tribulation.  I cannot be dogmatic about the timing, but I personally believe it will occur near the end of that 3½-year period.


But this view is not without problems.  While this might better explain Israel's feeling of "safety" and being "at rest," due to the peace treaty brokered by the Antichrist, it doesn't account for the seven years of burning the enemies' weapons.  This would have the burning of the weapons at a time when many in Israel will be fleeing the persecution of the Antichrist during the 2nd half of the Tribulation.  In addition, the burning process would have to continue during the beginning of the Millennium.


Events in our world today point toward the impending fulfillment of the invasion of Israel by Gog and Magog and Iran, as recorded in Ezekiel 38 & 39.  All the necessary preconditions or antecedents for the fulfillment of this prophecy are in place or are moving in that direction.


1.      Israel must be a nation that can be invaded. This is already in place.  It has been since the late 1940s.  In fact, in 2006, for the first time since AD 135, there are more Jews in Israel than in any other place in the world.


2.      Israel must be living in peace and prosperity. They do live in prosperity as a nation, but they do not live in peace and at rest.  The way is clear for someone - the antichrist - to broker a peace between Israel and her neighbors.


3.      The nations listed in Ezekiel 38 must have the desire and means to invade Israel. Every nation listed by Ezekiel other than Russia is an Islamic nation and hates Israel with a passion.  Russia is rapidly returning to her totalitarian ways, and has and continues to develop her ties with Iran.


In his commentary on Ezekiel, published back in 1987, W. A. Criswell, a well-known pastor, wrote these timely words concerning the prophecy of Ezekiel 38 - 39.


"The prophet Ezekiel lived 2,500 years ago, and yet he writes as though he were a correspondent for the daily newspapers of the earth.  What he says is so pertinent this moment that it is as though he lived in the places where history is unfolding before our very eyes."


John Walvoord also notes the significance of Ezekiel's prophecy for today.


"In the present world scene there are many indications pointing to the conclusion that the end of the age may soon be upon us.  These prophecies relating to Israel's coming day of suffering and ultimate restoration may be destined for fulfillment in the present generation.  Never before in the history of the world has there been a confluence of major evidences of preparation for the end."


"Never before has it seemed more likely that the prediction will be fulfilled given by Ezekiel (chapters 38 & 39) of an invasion..."


I couldn't agree more.  God's Word for this generation is clear - prepare for the coming of the Lord.  Never before in human history has there been such a convergence of trends and developments that are part of the matrix of end-time events predicted in Scripture.


The Battle of Armageddon


Several well-known commentators and prophecy teachers view the battle of Gog and Magog in conjunction with the campaign, or war, of Armageddon at the end of the Tribulation.  The justification given for this lies in the similar descriptions that both Ezekiel and Revelation contain regarding the feasting of the birds and beasts on the battle's carnage.  For that, you can read Ezekiel 39:4 and Revelation 19:17-20.


While these passages are indeed similar, the other specifics about the two battles are not.  I think there are at least four obstacles to the scenario of Ezekiel's battle being part of Armageddon.


1.      Ezekiel lists the names of specific countries involved in this invasion.  But Armageddon involves all the nations of the earth.  Zechariah 14:2-4“For I will gather all nations.”  Zechariah 12:2-3all the people of the earth…”  Revelation 16:16 is the only verse in the Bible that uses the term “Armageddon.”  Two verses earlier – verse 14 – says it involves “the whole world.”


2.      Look at who is not involved in Ezekiel 38.  Egypt is not involved, but is called the King of the South in the Battle of Armageddon.  Iraq is not mentioned, but they are involved – center stage – in the Battle of Armageddon.


3.      Is Gog the Antichrist?  For these two battles to be synonymous would require that Gog is the Antichrist.  But in Ezekiel 38, Gog is the ruler of a specific nation or place, while the Antichrist is the ruler of the entire world.


4.      Israel is not a safe place prior to or during Armageddon.  Ezekiel 38 describes a surprise invasion of Israel.  The last 3½ years of the Tribulation – leading up to the Battle of Armageddon, will be a very difficult time for Israel.  Jeremiah 30:7 describes this period as the time of “Jacob’s Troubles.”  These 3½ years will see the Antichrist persecuting the Jews in every way possible.  Many of them, according to Matthew 24, will flee into the wilderness to escape.



In our next lesson we will discuss 1) Who are the players in this invasion?  2) What is the battle's outcome?   3) What is involved in cleaning up the carnage?