THE NEXT HOLOCAUST AND THE REFUGE IN EDOM – (PART 1)
What is the purpose of the Great Tribulation? Where do those who are in Judea flee? (Matthew 24:16) Which mountains? What is the prophetic role of Ammon, Moab, and Edom (now known collectively as Jordan)? Where does Jesus return? On the Mount of Olives or in Bozrah?
As we read and watch todays media coverage of world events, its not hard to see Zechariahs prophecy being fulfilled in every newscast:
“Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.” – Zechariah 12:2,3
This article will begin an exploration of some of the less familiar prophecies of the End Times, the Tribulation, and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. But first, some background history is needed. Where did Ammon, Moab and Edom come from and what are their prophetic destinies? It appears they escape the rule of the coming world leader (commonly known as the Antichrist):
“He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon.” – Daniel 11:41
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is not an ancient kingdom, but rather a European creation of 1946. Prior to World War I, the areas of Ammon, Moab and Edom had previously been populated by unaffiliated Bedouin tribes. During the war, when the British and the Allies were fighting the Germans and the Ottoman Turks, Major T.E. Lawrence organized his widely publicized Arab Revolt. General Allenby was ultimately victorious in the Middle East and so the League of Nations awarded the British a Mandate on April 25, 1920 (which was to endure until May 14, 1948).
In 1921 an aggressive young man named Abdallah, the son of Sharif Hussein of Mecca in Arabia, moved into the land east of the Jordan river with his troops. The British Colonial Secretary recognized Abdallah as the Emir of Trans-Jordan. Abdallah then consolidated control with his British-trained Arab Legion. In 1946, Abdallah was crowned King of Trans-Jordan. (His great-grandson, Abdullah II, has been the current king since 1999).
In 1948 Jordan joined the attack against Israel in its War of Independence and successfully fought the Haganah and held the West Bank. In 1967, however, again joining Egypt in the Six-Day War, they lost it. In 1998, having previously repudiated any rights to the West Bank, Jordan signed a Peace Treaty with Israel at Camp David. (Our government offered King Hussein the waiving of $950 million of debt owed by Jordan, and assistance in modernization of his armed forces, as an incentive for the meeting with Yitzhak Rabin.)
And, indeed, the Bible says this area will be a refuge for the remnant that flees Jerusalem when under attack during the Great Tribulation (Dan 11:41; Isa 16:1; 63:1ff; Mic 2:12; Mt 24:15-22).
Ammon was the name of the descendants of Benammi, Lots younger son by his daughter, born in a cave near Zoar (Gen 19:38). Regarded as their relatives, the Israelites were commanded to treat them kindly (Deut 2:19). At the time of the Exodus, Israel did not conquer Ammon (Deut 2:19, 37; Judg 11:15). However, the Ammonites were condemned for joining the Moabites in hiring Balaam and were forbidden to enter the congregation of Israel to the 10th generation (Deut 23:3-6). Rabbah Ammon is now Amman, the capital of Jordan.
Moab was the son of Lot by an incestuous union with his eldest daughter (Gen 19:37). Balak, king of Moab, distressed by the Israelite successes, called for the prophet Balaam to curse Israel (Num 22-24; Josh 24:9). As Israel prepared to cross the Jordan, they camped in the plains of Moab (Num 22:1; Josh 3:1).
When Israel sought permission to travel along the Kings Highway, which crossed the plateau, Moab refused (Judg 11:17), but they may have had commercial contact (Deut 2:28-29). Moses was forbidden to attack Moab despite their unfriendliness (Deut 2:9), although the Moabites were henceforth to be excluded from Israel (Deut 23:3-6; Neh 13:1).
In the days of the Judges, Eglon, king of Moab, invaded Israelite lands as far as Jericho and oppressed Israel for 18 years. Ehud the Benjaminite assassinated him (Judg 3:12-30). Elimelech of Bethlehem migrated to Moab and his sons married the Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. Ruth later married Boaz and became the ancestress of David (Ruth 4:18-22; Mt 1:5-16).
At the fall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. some Jews found refuge in Moab, but returned when Gedaliah became governor (Jer 40:11ff). Moab was finally subdued by Nebuchadnezzar (Josephus, Antiquities, 10. 181) and fell successively under the control of the Persians and various Arab groups. The Moabites ceased to have independent existence as a nation, though in post-exilic times they were known as a race (Ezra 9:1; Neh 13:1, 23). Alexander Jannaeus subdued them in the 2nd century B.C. (Josephus, Antiquities, 13. 374).
The archaeological story of Moab is slowly being unraveled: the Moabite stone, a block of black basalt found near Dibon, Jordan, in 1868, bears an inscription in the Moabite language describing a 9th-century B.C. victory of King Mesha of Moab over the Israelites. Its now in the Louvre museum in Paris.
The term Edom denotes either: the name of Esau, given in memory of the red pottage for which he exchanged his birthright (Gen 25:30; 36:1, 8, 19); the Edomites collectively (Num 20:18-21; Amos 1:6, 11; 9:12; Mal 1:4); or the land occupied by Esaus descendants, formerly the land of Seir (Gen 32:3; 36:20-21,30; Num 24:18; Ezek 35:3-5, 10, 12; 36:2, 3, 5).
Modern archaeology has shown that the land was occupied before Esaus time. We conclude that Esaus descendants migrated to that land and in time became the dominant group, incorporating the original Horites and others into their number (Gen 14:6). Joshua allotted the territory of Judah up to the borders of Edom, but did not encroach on their lands (Josh 15:1, 21). Two centuries later King Saul fought the Edomites (1 Sam 14:47), although some of them were in his service (Edom proper fell into Arab hands during the 5th century B. 1 Sam 21:7; 22:9, 18).C., and in the 3rd century B.C. was overrun by the Nabataeans. Judas Maccabaeus later subdued them, and John Hyrcanus compelled them to be circumcised and incorporated into the Jewish people (1 Macc 5:65). When the Romans conquered Judea, they appointed Herod, an Edomite (Idumean) as their vassal.
THE PREREQUISITE TO THE SECOND COMING OF JESUS CHRIST
The purpose of all history (Mt 23:37) was that God might gather His children together. (Jerusalem is a synecdoche for all of Israel.) Jesus did die for the sins of the world, including the nation of Israel, but His own received Him not (Jn 1:11). This is the tragedy of all history (Mt 23:37b, 38). But there is hope.
Jesus left the nation with a promise: He would one day return; the nation would see Him and say, Blessed be He that cometh in the name of the Lord! (Mt 23:39). Because of disobedience, Israel would be scattered over the world. Their blessings and promises are conditioned upon confessing their iniquity (Lev 26:40-42; Jer 3:11-18). Iniquity (Lev 26:40) is singular and specific. Israel must look unto (not upon as in KJV) Him whom they have pierced (Zech 12:10). Israel’s offense was the rejection of His Messiahship. Jesus will not come back to the earth until the Jews and Jewish leaders request Him to come back (Mt 23:37-39; Hos 5:15).
By Chuck Missler
What is the purpose of the Great Tribulation? What is the prophetic role of Ammon, Moab, and Edom (now known as Jordan)? Where do those who are in Judea flee? Where does Jesus return? The Mount of Olives? (Zech 14:4) or Edom? (Isa 63).
Last month we explored the historical backgrounds of Ammon, Moab and Edom. This month well take a look at their prophetic destiny:
“He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon.” – Daniel 11:41
Ammon is now Amman, the capital of Jordan. It appears this is one of the few areas that escape the rule of the coming world leader (commonly known as the Antichrist).
Jesus warned the dwellers in Judea that when they see the “Abomination of Desolation” a desecrating idol installed in the Holy of Holies of the Temple” to immediately flee to the mountains. The remnant of Israel will find refuge there for three-and-a-half years while God protects them and provides for them. From other passages, we learn that the remnant will flee to Bozrah in the mountains of Edom.
THE GREAT TRIBULATION
The Tribulation is often used as a generic term for the entire seven years of the 70th Week of Daniel. However, the Great Tribulation is actually defined as the last half of the week: three-and-a-half, not seven years.
“And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.” – Daniel 12:1
Note too, that although it is worldwide, the focus is on Israel:
“Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacobs trouble; but he shall be saved out of it.” – Jeremiah 30:7
THE NEXT HOLOCAUST
Some view the Nazi Holocaust in Germany as its fulfilment. However, devastating as that was, it hardly fits the text. It is to be followed by dramatic cosmic signs and the Second Coming of Christ:
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” – Matthew 24:28, 29
This was hardly fulfilled historically. Tortuous attempts to allegorize this text just don’t work. The worst is yet to come. It has been estimated that the Nazi Holocaust killed one Jew in three; it appears the next one will take two out of three:
“Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the LORD of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones. And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the LORD, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein. And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God.” – Zechariah 13:7-9
THE PURPOSE OF THE GREAT TRIBULATION
The purpose of this ordeal, the Time of Jacobs Trouble, is to drive Israel en extremis, to return to God: I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me earnestly (Hosea 5:15). Interesting Old Testament passage: God says, I will go and return to my place To return, He must have left it! Watch those until’s in the text: they often denote significant milestones. The term offence is singular and specific. Apparently, a prerequisite condition for the Second Coming of Christ is for Israel to acknowledge her Messiah and to petition His return. (This would help explain why Satan continues to be so intensely committed to the Jews destruction.)
THE ARMAGEDDON CAMPAIGN
“And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.” – Revelation 16:16
The engagement involves a global confederacy led by the coming world leader. The campaign includes the following stages:
The Assembly of the Army (Rev 16:12-16):The Valley of Jezreel is the staging area for the armies coming against Jerusalem and, thus, against God the Father and His Messiah. Gods viewpoint is one of mockery (Joel 3:9-11; Ps 2:1-6). This is the Day of Vengeance (Isa 61:2).
The Fall of Jerusalem (Zech 12:1-9; 14:1-2; Micah 4:11-5:1).More than half the city will be taken into slavery by the Gentile forces from the Valley of Jezreel.
The Armies at Bozrah (Jer 49:13-14; Micah 2:12):The world army pursues a faithful remnant, which fled to the mountains of Edom in Jordan.
Bozrah (Sheepfold): Bozrah is pinpointed, which was located in the region of Mount Seir, on the western side of Edom in southern Jordan (Micah 2:12). An ancient sheepfold had a narrow entrance so that the shepherd could count his sheep, and, once inside, he could guard a single entrance to contain them. (Cf. I am the door, John 10). Sela, now Petra, fits the description, shaped like an ancient sheepfold, with a narrow passageway (the Siq) opening up to a spacious city surrounded by cliffs.
THE NATIONAL REGENERATION OF ISRAEL: Israels required confession (Lev 26:40-42; Jer 3:11-18; Hos 5:15) and pe-titioning the Messiah (Zech 12:10) inaugurates the final three days of the campaign with pleading and petition (Hos 6:1-3; Isa 53:1-9), fulfilling Romans 11:25-27(see also Zech 12:10-13:9; Joel 2:28-32; Isa 64:1-12; Ezek 20:33f; Ps 79:1-13; 80:1-19). When the faithful remnant petitions Jesus to return, He comes to rescue them.
THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST (Isa 63:1-6):If this battle wasnt stopped, all mankind would be destroyed; however, the Lord interrupts it, at Petra in Edom, fighting for His remnant of believers. He is described as covered with the blood of His enemies. (Note: His armies are not re-quired in the fighting.)
FROM BOZRAH TO THE VALLEY OF JEHOSHAPHAT (Isa 63:1-4; Rev 19:13; Isa 34:5-6, 8).The Antichrist is powerless be-fore Christ (Hab 3:13; 2 Thess 2:8; Isa 14:3-11, 16-21). His armies are destroyed (Zech 14:12-15; Joel 3:12-13) at Bozrah (Jer 49:20-22The Antichrist is powerless be-fore Christ (Hab 3:13; 2 Thess 2:8; Isa 14:3-11, 16-21). His armies are destroyed (Zech 14:12-15; Joel 3:12-13) at Bozrah (Jer 49:20-22), then Megiddo. Bozrah to Megiddo is 176 miles; 1,600 furlongs (Rev 14:20).
THE VICTORY ASCENT UPON THE MOUNT OF OLIVES: (Zech 14:3-4; Rev 16:17-21; Mt 24:29; Joel 3:14-17.) His ultimate victorious return to the Mount of Olives is described in Zechariah 14. That leads to the establishment of the Lords Millennial Kingdom on the Earth. Many experts believe the weapons that will be used at Armageddon are in inventory today.
Role and Placement of Ezekiel 38
However, we hold the view (which is disputed by reputable Bible scholars) that Ezekiel 38 is not part of Armageddon scenario:
In Ezekiel, the invasion comes from the north; Armageddon, from the whole earth;
2. Definite armies from the north (Magog); not all nations of the world;
3. Egypt not involved (cf. King of the South in Dan 11:40);
4. Russias invasion is for spoil; Armageddon, to destroy the Jews;
5. Seven-month cleanup inconsistent with Israel’s flight;
6. Cleansing may be preparation for rebuilding the Temple;
7. Seven years energy requirement would carry into the Millennium. (See The Magog Invasion for further study.)
Russia: Looking for Spoil
By Dr. Steve Elwart
[Quick note: I personally believe this is a post-harpazo, (gathering up) event. In the church age we believe “by faith not by sight…The resolution of this battle clearly reveals the hand of God:
22 I will execute judgment on him with plague and bloodshed; I will pour down torrents of rain, hailstones and burning sulfur on him and on his troops and on the many nations with him. 23 And so I will show my greatness and my holiness, and I will make myself known in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord.’ (Ezekiel 38)
THIS MESSAGE FROM THE LORD CAME TO ME:
“Son of Man, turn your attention toward Gog, from the land of Magog, the chief noble of Meshech, and Tubal. Prophesy this against him: ‘This is what the Lord GOD says: “Watch out! I’m coming after you, Gog, chief ruler of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal. I’m going to turn you around, put hooks into your jaws, and bring you out—you and your whole army—along with your horses and cavalry riders, all of them richly attired, a magnificent company replete with buckler and shield, and all of them wielding battle swords. Persia, Cush, and Libya will be accompanying them, all of them equipped with shields and helmets. Gomer with all its troops, and the household of Togarmah from the remotest parts of the north with all its troops—many people will accompany you.” – Ezekiel 38:1–6, ISV
World events have made many people turn to this passage and see if current events mark the beginning of the fulfillment of this prophecy. As events unfold, these verses take on more meaning than at any other time in history.
MODERN DAY PLAYERS
The above passage describes an invasion of Israel from the north. Later verses describe its destruction once they reach the area of the mountains of Israel. To fully understand the prophecy, one needs to identify the major players in this divine drama.
In verses 1–4, Gog is first mentioned. He is described as the leader of the land of Magog. He is the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal. This leader was as unknown to Ezekiel as he is to us today. We do know “Gog” is not a proper name but a title for the ruler of Magog, just as the terms “pharaoh,” “kaiser,” and “czar” were titles for rulers and not proper names.
The tribes identified as Magog, Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal can be identified by Scripture and other ancient writings as peoples who once occupied the areas of modern-day Russia. Magog, Meshech, and Tubal were between the Black and Caspian Seas, which today include parts of Iran, Turkey and southern Russia. Some historians believe the tribes of Meshech and Tubal later gave their names to cities that today bear the names of Moscow, Russia’s capital and Tobolsk, a major city in the Urals in Siberia. Rosh was in what is now northern Russia.
The name Rosh is the basis for the modern name Russia. These names, then, cover the modern territories of northern and southern Russia in Europe and Siberia to the east in Asia. The modern nation of Russia encompasses all these areas mentioned in Ezekiel. To highlight the point, verses 38:15 and 39:2 state these areas lay in the farthest parts of the north. If one would head due north from Israel, a traveler would find themselves in Russia, with Moscow being almost a straight line due north from Jerusalem. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume modern-day Russia is the country that leads this northern confederacy, with Gog as its leader. This has also been the rabbinic view. The Artscroll Commentary on Ezekiel states:
“The Gaonim had a tradition that these controls were indeed located in Russia… One tradition passed down from the Vilna Gaon states: When the Russian Navy passes through the Bospores [Bosporus Strait] (that is, on the way to Dardanelles), it will be time to put on Sabbath clothes (in anticipation of the coming of the Messiah).”
In the rabbinic view, during the Magog war, Messiah, the son of Joseph will be killed which will then bring the coming of the Messiah, the son of David.
In this scenario Russia is not alone in the invasion of Israel. She is the leader of a confederation. The other nations involved are listed in verses 5–6. Iran (ancient Persia) is also part of that confederacy. Once a pro-West, pro-Israel bulwark against the Arab States, Iran made a 180-degree turn in the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic Iranian Revolution. Iran drew closer to the atheistic Soviet Union and its successor, Russia.
Make no mistake. This is only a marriage of convenience as far as Iran is concerned. Jihadists may chant “Death to America, Death to Israel,” but they hate the Russians just as much. Iran allies with Russia only because it serves their immediate purpose. Iran, along with Sudan and Syria, has been classified as state sponsors of terrorism according to the U.S. Department of State.
THE NATURE OF THE ATTACK
The next section of this passage, Ezekiel 38:7–9, answers the question as to where the invasion takes place:
“Be prepared. Yes, prepare yourself—you and all of your many battalions that have gathered together around you to protect you. “Many days from now—in the latter years—you will be summoned to a land that has been restored from violence. You will be gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel, which formerly had been a continual waste, but which will be populated with people who have been brought back from the nations. All of them will be living there securely. You’ll arise suddenly, like a tornado, coming like a windstorm to cover the land, you and all your soldiers with you, along with many nations.” – Ezekiel 38:7–9, ISV
Verse 7 continues to name Gog as the leader of this confederacy and verse 8 names the specific location of where the invasion takes place: the Land of Israel, more specifically in the mountains of Israel. Verse nine goes on to describe the size of the invasion. It is absolutely massive, painting a picture of a storm cloud that covers the entire land. These verses introduce a concept that was not true until recent times: a modern Jewish state.
Later on is another passage that shows the necessity of the establishment of the Jewish State and a re-gathering in unbelief. Israel has to be a state before this invasion can occur. Regardless of one’s viewpoint as to when this invasion occurs, each viewpoint does require the preexistence of the Jewish State. Verse eight describes this Jewish State as:
1. A land that has been restored from violence.
2. A land that will be populated with people who have been brought back from the nations.
3. A land with mountains that have been a continual waste. and
4. A land that is brought forth out of the peoples.
Ezekiel is not describing an Israel that ever existed in ancient times, but all these statements are true of present-day Israel. This began occurring toward the end of the nineteenth century, culminating with statehood in 1948. It was a nation as Isaiah described being born in a single day.
THE PURPOSE OF THE ATTACK
Ezekiel 38:10–13, answers the question as to why this invasion takes place on the part of Russia:
“This is what the Lord GOD says: ‘This is what’s going to happen on the very day that you begin your invasion: You’ll be thinking, making evil plans and boasting, “I’m going to invade a land comprised of open country that is at rest, its people living confidently, all of whose inhabitants will be living securely, with neither fortification nor bars on their doors. I’m going to confiscate anything I can put my hands on. I’ll attack the restored ruins and the people who have been gathered together from the nations, who are acquiring livestock and other goods, and who live at the center of the world’s attention. Businessmen based in Sheba, Dedan, Tarshish, and all of its growling lions will ask you, “Are you coming for war spoils? Have you assembled your armies to carry off silver and gold, and to gather lots of war booty?”’ – Ezekiel 38:10–13, ISV
THE SPOILS OF WAR
The reason for the Russian-led invasion is to take spoil (booty). What Russia is exactly looking for is not stated in the text. The text mentions livestock, goods, silver and gold. However, these are general Old Testament references for the spoils of war. Much speculation has been involved in what it is Israel has that Russia would want. Given what a traveler would find in the land before the formation of the State of Israel, one would think Russia was in dire need of sand and rocks.
Closer investigation of the region led to the realisation that the answer could have been found in the Dead Sea. The waters of the Dead Sea contain over 45 billion tons of sodium, chlorine, sulphur, potassium, calcium, magnesium and bromide. These chemicals have their uses; indeed, magnesium has been called “The King of Minerals” because of its varied medical uses. Going to war, however for a bunch of salt is unlikely.
After the 1967 Six-Day War another explanation was offered for a Russian invasion of the Promised Land. Scientists searching the Sinai Peninsula in the five years after Israel captured it from Egypt found signs of copper, tungsten, and feldspar deposits under the shifting sands of the desert. Tungsten is an expensive, rare metal used for hardening steel and other high-grade metals. Some believed these ores could be part of the spoils the Magog alliance would try to wrench from the Israel.
The year 2009, however, brought further clarity of the passage, for it was in January of that year the Tamar gas field was discovered. The Tamar gas field was a major gas find in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Israel. The field is located in Israel’s exclusive economic zone, roughly 50 miles (80 km) west of Haifa in waters over one mile (1,700 meters) deep. People’s interest was really piqued the following year when in December 2010 another gas field was discovered. The Leviathan gas field is a large natural gas formation in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Israel, 30 miles (47 km) southwest of the Tamar.
What could be the final piece of the puzzle may have been supplied in October 2014 when oil was discovered in the Golan Heights.
Because of these three discoveries Israel has become a much more attractive target for supplying the spoils of war. Together, the Tamar and Leviathan fields are estimated to contain 1 trillion (1,000 billion) cubic feet of natural gas, enough to supply Israel’s energy needs for the next 50 years. (Though those of us who take the Bible seriously doubt it will need natural gas for that long.)
The oil field in the Golan Heights is also looking to be a major energy find. Israeli business website Globes quotes Yuval Bartov, chief geologist of Afek Oil and Gas as saying:
“We are talking about a strata [sic] which is 350 meters thick and what is important is the thickness and the porosity. On average in the world strata are 20–30 meters thick, so this is ten times as large as that, so we are talking about significant quantities. The important thing is to know the oil is in the rock and that’s what we now know.”
The estimated size of the field, if found to be true, would make Israel a world player in the oil market.
This is where things get interesting.
Assuming Israel can get around its own bureaucratic morass and develop these fields, it has a few export markets it can service. If they decide to export some of their production, the only viable markets available to them are in Egypt, Jordan and possibly Turkey. Given those countries current energy needs and the price they would pay, those markets do not look very attractive.
There is one other place, however, that could prove lucrative – Europe.
Europe is starving for hydrocarbons. That continent was on a program of going nuclear, but after the nuclear power plant disaster in Fukushima, Japan, the EU has cooled to using atomic power for its energy needs. In fact, several countries, Germany in particular, is shutting down their nuclear power plants. The EU is trying to replace nuclear power with alternative energy sources, but they cannot bring these sources on-line fast enough to make up the energy deficit. That leaves hydrocarbons to fill in the breech.
Much of the EU’s oil needs came from Libya, but since the Arab Spring, much of that oil has dried up. That has left the three largest oil suppliers to Europe being the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. (Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan are largely under Russian influence.) As for gas, Russia has supplied Europe with the lion’s share of its needs, which has left Europe beholden to Russian interests. This became painfully clear in January 2009 when Russia shut off natural gas supplies to Europe in the wake of the Ukrainian Civil War. Europe imports about half its natural gas from Russia (about 15% of its total imports) through the Ukraine pipelines. When Russia expressed its displeasure at the European sanctions against it by closing the gas valves to the EU capitals, the only thing Europe could do was shiver in the dark.
Russia likes having this giant energy stick to use against the Europeans and will try mightily hard to keep it.
That is one reason Russia is in Syria.
THE SYRIAN CARD
Even before the Ukrainian gas embargo, Europe had been looking at alternative gas pipeline routes bypassing Russia. There were two routes proposed, one through Iran and Iraq, the other through the more pro-western Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Both pipelines however pass through Syria. President Assad, wanting to curry favor with his Russian patron (and realising there was a major Russian naval station sitting in his backyard in the port of Tartus,) would not approve either pipeline, hence keeping Russia the dominant player in Europe’s natural gas mix.
Many believe that refusal bred the start of the Syrian Civil War. The natural gas exporting countries, both Sunni and Shia, decided they needed Assad out of the way to open an avenue for their gas to enter European markets.
Vladimir Putin jumped into Syria with both feet to assure Assad stayed in power and Russia’s dominance in the EU remained in place.
HERE COMES ISRAEL
Imagine the Kremlin’s concern when huge gas and oil fields were found in Israel in an area where both gas and oil could be transported under the Mediterranean to Europe, bypassing Russia.
It doesn’t take a large stretch of the imagination to see Russia moving in to stabilise the situation in Syria and then moving further south into Israel.
Ezekiel’s prophecy does not lay out Magog’s entire battle plan and maybe Russia only would see a move on Israel as Act One of a bigger play of gaining a solid foothold on the entire Middle East hydrocarbon supplies. A Russian takeover of Israel would give Russia such a foothold without overly upsetting the Arabs since they would be in favor of the destruction of Israel even though they would be very nervous if it means a Russian army in the area.
Regardless of the publicly stated reasons for Russia’s interest in Syria, the main reason for their involvement is self-interest. It is stated in verse ten that the invasion is premeditated by the Russians, for they will be thinking, making evil plans and resolve to invade for the purpose of spoils (vv. 11–12). (And whether the others admit it or not, self-interest is the reason for the involvement of the other players, both East and West. If the main export of Syria were mangoes, no one would be there.)
In verse 13, a second group of merchant nations are listed as protesting this invasion, for they recognise it to be an invasion for spoil and for nothing else Businessmen based in Sheba, Dedan, Tarshish, and all of its growling lions will ask you, “Are you coming for war spoils? Have you assembled your armies to carry off silver and gold, and to gather lots of war booty?”(ISV) Sheba and Dedan are countries in northern Arabia, which shows that at least some of the Arab states will not favour the Russian presence in the Middle East. Another nation named is Tarshish, followed by the phrase with all the growling lions thereof. This phrase is a Hebrew idiom meaning nations that have come out of Tarshish. (The Revised Standard Version translates the idiom as all its villages).
In Ezekiel 38:14–16, the invasion is seen as having begun and further answers the question why, but this time it is seen from God’s viewpoint:
“Therefore, Son of Man, prophesy to Gog and tell him, ‘This is what the Lord GOD says: “When the day comes when my people are living securely, won’t you be aware of it? You’ll come in from your home in the remotest parts of the north. You’ll come with many nations, all of them riding along on horses. You’ll be a huge, combined army. You’ll come up to invade my people Israel like a storm cloud to cover the land. In the last days, Gog, I’ll bring you up to invade my land so that the world will learn to know me when I show them how holy I am before their very eyes.”’ – Ezekiel 38:14–16, ISV
In verses 14–16a, the invasion begins and the confederate army covers the land like a storm cloud in massive swarms. Hence, there is initial success by Russia. In verse 16b, God’s reason is given for allowing this invasion to occur, as over against Russia’s reasons given in the preceding verses: that He might be sanctified in the eyes of the nations in light of what is about to occur.
THE FINAL ACT
In the final demonstration of God’s power in the prophecy, Ezekiel 38:17–23 describes how God moves out in judgement (vv. 17–18) to destroy the invading army. This is followed by the answer to the question of how the invading army is disposed of and destroyed. Several causes are listed: earthquake (vv. 19–20); civil war breaking out among the invading soldiers themselves (v. 21); pestilence, blood, flood, hailstones, fire and brimstone (v. 22). Since these things destroy the invading army without the aid of other nations, God’s purpose is seen as succeeding in its objective. God will show His holiness and make Himself known in the eyes of many people (v. 23).
Watching from the Mezzanine
However these events unfold, if the pre-Tribulation view is correct (and we believe it is), we will watch these events, the gathering, the final battle and the aftermath from the mezzanine. All of these events will have been preceded by the Harpazo, commonly called the Rapture.
In the meantime, we are undoubtedly living in exciting times, times in which prophecy is being fulfilled before our eyes. If the events seem too trying all we need to do is look up and remember the last verses John wrote in Revelation:
“The one who is testifying to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon!” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.” – Revelation 22:20–21, ISV