Russia and Iran in Prophecy|
Joel Rosenberg's The Ezekiel Option is based on his interest in the prophecies of Ezekiel and the connection to modern-day Russia and Iran. In the Left Behind series, the "Russian sneak attack" was a prominent part of the storyline. Where do Russia and Iran—so much in the news today—fit into prophecy? A recent Prophecy Club Newsletter "Q&A" feature used an article, "Gog and Magog," by Mark Hitchcock, which appears in the Tim LaHaye Prophecy Study Bible (AMG Publishers, p 876).
The prophet Ezekiel predicted 2,600 years ago that in the latter times Israel would be furiously invaded by a people "out of the north parts" (Ezek. 38:6, 15). In Ezekiel 38:2-3; 39:1, the Hebrew word rosh, which simply means head, top, summit, or chief, is used to identify these people from the north. The interpretive problem is that the word rosh can be translated as either a proper noun or an adjective. Many translations use rosh as an adjective and translate it as the word chief. I believe the better translation is to interpret rosh as a proper noun referring to a specific place—Russia.
The fulfillment of God's most amazing prophecies concerning Russia seems more imminent than ever before. As we track this nation in the prophecies of the End Times, we discover that her footprints lead right to the land of Israel. In tracking the events that lead to this invasion, one must consider the appearance, the allies, the activity, the annihilation, and the aftermath.
A madman called Gog by Ezekiel will be the end-time leader of Russia (38:2). A host of allies will join this leader when he invades the land of Israel (Ezek. 38:9). Eight other geographical locations are mentioned in Ezekiel 38:1-6: Meshech, Tubal, Gomer, and Togarmath (Turkey); Magog (Central Asia; Islamic southern republics of the former Soviet Union); Persia (Iran); Ethiopia or Cush (Sudan); and Libya.
Ezekiel says these nations, led by "Gog," will come against Israel "in the latter years," at a time when the people of Israel are living in peace and prosperity (38:8-12). This probably describes the first half of the Tribulation, when Israel will be living under her peace treaty with the Antichrist. Near the middle of the Tribulation, Russia and her Islamic allies will descend upon the national of Israel "like a storm—and like a cloud to cover the land" (38:9).
These nations will invade Israel to:
Israel will be under her peace treaty with Antichrist, so an attack against Israel is a direct challenge to Antichrist's power. After he has destroyed the armies of Ezekiel 38, Antichrist will break his covenant with Israel and invade her himself (Dan. 11:41-44).
- cash in on the wealth of Israel (Ezek. 38:11-12)
- control the Middle East
- to crush Israel (the Islamic nations mentioned in Scripture hate Israel)
- to challenge the authority of Antichrist (Dan. 11:40-44).
When Antichrist assembles this strike force, it will look like Israel is finished. But God will be in full control of the entire situation. He will come to rescue his helpless people and will use four judgments to destroy the nations:
The four key events that occur in the aftermath of this invasion are the:
- a great earthquake (38:19-20)
- infighting among the troops of the various nations (38:21)
- disease (38:22)
- torrential rain, hailstones, fire and burning sulfur (38:22)
- call for the birds and the beasts to feast on the dead (Ezek. 39:4-5, 17-20 [cf. Rev. 19:17-18])
- burying of the dead (7 months, Ezek. 39:11-12, 14-16)
- the burning of the weapons (7 years, Ezek. 38:-9-10)
- and the blessing of salvation (Ezek. 38:16, 23; 39:6-7, 21-22).
In July of 2004, Mark wrote about "Persia in Prophecy." At that time the war in Iraq captured most of the headlines and places familiar to Old Testament readers, including Babylon, began to appear in the news. But Mark suggested that our attention should be further east.
In the last fifteen years we have heard quite a bit about the place of Babylon in Bible prophecy. The two Gulf wars have focused world attention on the land of ancient Babylon and how the stage is set for the rebuilding of the ancient city just as the Bible predicts. But another ancient empire has been flying just under the radar for many students of Bible prophecy. The land of Persia. —
Persia is probably the easiest of the nations in Ezekiel 38 to identify. Ezekiel wrote his prophecy in about 580 B.C. when Babylon was the ruling empire. At that time, Persia was not a dominating power although they did sell their services as mercenaries to other nations (Ezekiel 27:10). But about 40 years later, in 539 B.C., the Persians conquered the mighty city of Babylon. To discover where Persia is today all you have to do is look at an ancient map of the Persian empire. Where was it centered? In the land we know today as Iran. In fact, the name Persia was changed to Iran in foreign usage in March 1935 and then to the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979 during the Iranian Revolution.
Therefore, according to God's Word, the Iranians will join with Turkey, the nations of Central Asia, Libya, Sudan, and Russia to invade Israel in the end-times. By the way, Iran is one of the nations included in President Bush's "axis of evil" along with North Korea and Iraq. I hardly have to say much to convince anyone today that Iran is an archenemy of Israel and the West. Iran is considered by many to be the number one rogue nation in the world.
Mark went on the describe how Iran was related to other nations: its dependence on Russia for nuclear technology and weapons, the Tehran Conference in 1991 that clearly set the Muslim world against Israel, and its support of terrorism. Many of those have increased in seriousness, especially since the election last year of Mahmoud Ahmadenijad as president.
Ahmadenijad's inflammatory rhetoric—calling for the destruction of Israel, claiming the Holocaust a hoax, and stirring holy war against the West—is based on a belief within Islam concerning a messianic figure called the Hidden Imam. It's an eerie apocalyptic world view that Mark wrote about in a recent Prophecy Club article, which we will present here in a future issue. (Subscribers to the Prophecy Club e-mail newsletter receive four stories about current events each week, plus a Bible study, a Q&A about prophecy, and access to message boards).
Dr. Mark Hitchcock is contributing editor of the Left Behind Prophecy Club newsletter. He is pastor of Faith Bible Church in Edmonds, Oklahoma and a nationally recognized prophecy author and speaker.