Recovering the classic, Protestant interpretation of Bible prophecy.

Ancient Prophecies of Armageddon

Taken from "A Popular Survey of the Old Testament" by Norman L. Geisler, (Baker Book House: Grand Rapids, MI, 1999). p.41.

Ancient Prophecies of Armageddon:

In the Last Days the Nations Turn Against Israel

The map above shows the nations described in the prophecy of Armageddon found in Ezekiel 38. The red dots are the enemies described as gathering together against Jerusalem (Magog, Rosh, Meshech, Tubal, Persia, Ethiopia, Put, Gomer and Beth-Togarmah). The blue dots seem to be nominal allies who, in the prophecy, raise a feeble protest against the agression of Israel's enemies, but are either unwilling or unable to intervene on her behalf. Tarshish is of particular interest to many scholars and is often interpreted as loosely referring to the Atlantic powers of our time: Great Britain, Canada, and the U.S.. This stems from a plausible translation of the Hebrew text in Exekiel 38:13 as, "...Tarshish and the young lions thereof...". The purple dot is, of course, Israel.

The final conflict of nations against Israel is also predicted in Daniel 11. In order to decipher the prophecies in Daniel 11 concerning the "final conflict" spoken of elsewhere as "Armageddon," it is necessary first to identify the character who is the subject of 11:36-39. Protestant, Historicist scholars over the past 4 centuries are divided on this passage: some identifying this "king" as the dynasty of Popes, called the Papacy, the head of the Roman Catholic Church and symbolic head of the the 10 prophetic nations of Western Europe; others identifying him as "Islam" under its various rulers. My grandfather, A. J. L. Haynes agreed with the former school of thought, that the Papacy is intended in this passage. And he may have been right. He discusses the implications of this view in his chapter "Other Prophecies of Daniel" in Tomorrow: What do the Prophets Say?. But what if they are correct who believe this passage concerns the rise of Islam? I believe that the implications of this passage and the following verses (Daniel 11:40 - 12:2) become very urgent if in fact Islam is the subject of verses 36-39. Let me make a couple of observations about what this passage seems to predict before returning to the subject of the fulfillment of Ezekiel 38 regarding the attack against Israel by Gog and his allies.

Daniel 11:40 - 12:2

40 "At the end time the king of the South will collide with him, and the king of the North will storm against him with chariots, with horsemen and with many ships; and he will enter countries, overflow them and pass through. 41 "He will also enter the Beautiful Land, and many countries will fall; but these will be rescued out of his hand: Edom, Moab and the foremost of the sons of Ammon. 42 "Then he will stretch out his hand against other countries, and the land of Egypt will not escape. 43 "But he will gain control over the hidden treasures of gold and silver and over all the precious things of Egypt; and Libyans and Ethiopians will follow at his heels. 44 "But rumors from the East and from the North will disturb him, and he will go forth with great wrath to destroy and annihilate many. 45 "He will pitch the tents of his royal pavilion between the seas and the beautiful Holy Mountain; yet he will come to his end, and no one will help him. 1 ΒΆ "Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued. 2 "Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.

Verse 40 begins this prophetic drama of the final conflict in the Middle East by mentioning an attack by the "King of the South". I agree with my grandfather's conclusion (in the above mentioned chapter of his book) that the "King of the South" is a designation for whichever world-power is the polar opposite to the "King of the North." At present (in 2006), the most likely candidate for the title "King of the North" is still Russia and therefore, the most likely candidate for the title, "King of the South" is the United States of America. But in verse 40, who does the U.S.A. attack? The word "him" in the above quoted passage, I believe, refers to Islam. It is hard for modern readers to grasp "Islam" as a single entity, but the fact is that radical, militant Islam, from Al Qaeda to Hezbollah, has as its goal to restore the rule of Islam to at least the extent of it's borders under the last great empire of the caliphs. That is why the destruction of the Jewish State of Israel is essential to the mission of both terrorist organizations and their state supporters, whether Shiite or Sunni. Radical Islam is in fact a trans-national religious and military movement. It is this "movement" that I strongly suggest may be intended as the "king" who is attacked by the King of the South (U.S.A.) in verse 40 of Daniel 11. When did this attack take place? I wrote a short article just two days after "September 11" in which I cautioned readers to watch for just such an attack against an Islamic state or states by the United States. Since I wrote that article, the U.S.A. and her allies invaded Afghanistan to remove the Taliban from power and subsequently attacked and invaded Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein from power. These events of the last half-decade may constitute the fulfillment of the first portion of verse 40 of Daniel 11. If I am on the right track in the interpretation of this passage that I am suggesting, then we should be looking for the fulfillment of the next part of Daniel 11:40--the attack by the "King of the North". I am suggesting that Russia is the "King of the North" intended in verses 40-45. I am also suggesting that if I am correct in this interpretation so far, then we should be alert to a massive movement of Russian troops and equipment into Islamic states in the coming years. These events would then parallel the prophecy concerning Gog in Ezekiel 38.

Ezekiel 38:1-39:29

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, Ethiopia 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. 9 "You will go up, you will come like a storm; you will be like a cloud covering the land, you and all your troops, and many peoples with you." 10 ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, "It will come about on that day, that thoughts will come into your mind and you will devise an evil plan, 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, 12 to capture spoil and to seize plunder, to turn your hand against the waste places which are now inhabited, and against the people who are gathered from the nations, who have acquired cattle and goods, who live at the center of the world.’ 13 "Sheba and Dedan and the merchants of Tarshish with all its villages will say to you, ‘Have you come to capture spoil? Have you assembled your company to seize plunder, to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to capture great spoil?’"‘

14 ¶ "Therefore prophesy, son of man, and say to Gog, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, "On that day when My people Israel are living securely, will you not know it? 15 "You will come from your place out of the remote parts of the north, you and many peoples with you, all of them riding on horses, a great assembly and a mighty army; 16 and you will come up against My people Israel like a cloud to cover the land. It shall come about in the last days that I will bring you against My land, so that the nations may know Me when I am sanctified through you before their eyes, O Gog." 17 ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, "Are you the one of whom I spoke in former days through My servants the prophets of Israel, who prophesied in those days for many years that I would bring you against them? 18 "It will come about on that day, when Gog comes against the land of Israel," declares the Lord GOD, "that My fury will mount up in My anger. 19 "In My zeal and in My blazing wrath I declare that on that day there will surely be a great earthquake in the land of Israel. 20 "The fish of the sea, the birds of the heavens, the beasts of the field, all the creeping things that creep on the earth, and all the men who are on the face of the earth will shake at My presence; the mountains also will be thrown down, the steep pathways will collapse and every wall will fall to the ground. 21 "I will call for a sword against him on all My mountains," declares the Lord GOD. "Every man’s sword will be against his brother. 22 "With pestilence and with blood I will enter into judgment with him; and I will rain on him and on his troops, and on the many peoples who are with him, a torrential rain, with hailstones, fire and brimstone. 23 "I will magnify Myself, sanctify Myself, and make Myself known in the sight of many nations; and they will know that I am the LORD."‘

1 ¶ "And you, son of man, prophesy against Gog and say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I am against you, O Gog, prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal; 2 and I will turn you around, drive you on, take you up from the remotest parts of the north and bring you against the mountains of Israel. 3 "I will strike your bow from your left hand and dash down your arrows from your right hand. 4 "You will fall on the mountains of Israel, you and all your troops and the peoples who are with you; I will give you as food to every kind of predatory bird and beast of the field. 5 "You will fall on the open field; for it is I who have spoken," declares the Lord GOD. 6 "And I will send fire upon Magog and those who inhabit the coastlands in safety; and they will know that I am the LORD. 7 "My holy name I will make known in the midst of My people Israel; and I will not let My holy name be profaned anymore. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel.

8 ¶ "Behold, it is coming and it shall be done," declares the Lord GOD. "That is the day of which I have spoken. 9 "Then those who inhabit the cities of Israel will go out and make fires with the weapons and burn them, both shields and bucklers, bows and arrows, war clubs and spears, and for seven years they will make fires of them. 10 "They will not take wood from the field or gather firewood from the forests, for they will make fires with the weapons; and they will take the spoil of those who despoiled them and seize the plunder of those who plundered them," declares the Lord GOD. 11 "On that day I will give Gog a burial ground there in Israel, the valley of those who pass by east of the sea, and it will block off those who would pass by. So they will bury Gog there with all his horde, and they will call it the valley of Hamon-gog. 12 "For seven months the house of Israel will be burying them in order to cleanse the land. 13 "Even all the people of the land will bury them; and it will be to their renown on the day that I glorify Myself," declares the Lord GOD. 14 "They will set apart men who will constantly pass through the land, burying those who were passing through, even those left on the surface of the ground, in order to cleanse it. At the end of seven months they will make a search. 15 "As those who pass through the land pass through and anyone sees a man’s bone, then he will set up a marker by it until the buriers have buried it in the valley of Hamon-gog. 16 "And even the name of the city will be Hamonah. So they will cleanse the land."‘ 17 "As for you, son of man, thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Speak to every kind of bird and to every beast of the field, "Assemble and come, gather from every side to My sacrifice which I am going to sacrifice for you, as a great sacrifice on the mountains of Israel, that you may eat flesh and drink blood. 18 "You will eat the flesh of mighty men and drink the blood of the princes of the earth, as though they were rams, lambs, goats and bulls, all of them fatlings of Bashan. 19 "So you will eat fat until you are glutted, and drink blood until you are drunk, from My sacrifice which I have sacrificed for you. 20 "You will be glutted at My table with horses and charioteers, with mighty men and all the men of war," declares the Lord GOD. 21 "And I will set My glory among the nations; and all the nations will see My judgment which I have executed and My hand which I have laid on them. 22 "And the house of Israel will know that I am the LORD their God from that day onward.

23 ¶ "The nations will know that the house of Israel went into exile for their iniquity because they acted treacherously against Me, and I hid My face from them; so I gave them into the hand of their adversaries, and all of them fell by the sword. 24 "According to their uncleanness and according to their transgressions I dealt with them, and I hid My face from them."‘" 25 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, "Now I will restore the fortunes of Jacob and have mercy on the whole house of Israel; and I will be jealous for My holy name. 26 "They will forget their disgrace and all their treachery which they perpetrated against Me, when they live securely on their own land with no one to make them afraid. 27 "When I bring them back from the peoples and gather them from the lands of their enemies, then I shall be sanctified through them in the sight of the many nations. 28 "Then they will know that I am the LORD their God because I made them go into exile among the nations, and then gathered them again to their own land; and I will leave none of them there any longer. 29 "I will not hide My face from them any longer, for I will have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel," declares the Lord GOD. (Ezekiel 38:1-39:29 NAS95)

As we can see in Ezekiel's prophecy about Gog, that is if Gog is in fact Russia, Russia appears to invade Israel, a land of people who had returned from being scattered among the nations for nearly 2000 years (Ezekiel 38:8). Russia appears to be the leader of a multi-national military force including, first, Iran (Persia), Ethiopia (or possibly Sudan), and either Egypt or Libya. The list of Russia's allies in Ezekiel 38:5 seems to parallel the list of nations in Daniel 11:43. The one notable difference between the two verses is that whereas in Ezekiel 38:5 "Egypt" (or "Libya" in most translations) is an ally, in Daniel 11:43 events are seen to have unfolded that result in Russia's forces conquering Egypt (ancient "Libya" mentioned by Ezekiel is not identical with the modern state of Libya, and so since ancient usage sometimes referred to north Africa and even all of Africa by the name, "Libya" [See Wikipedia article], it is at least possible that Ezekiel may be referring to either modern Libya or modern Egypt or both). The second group of allies that follow Russia's leadership in this future multi-national force is, according to Ezekiel 38:6, Gomer and Beth-togarmah. Again I agree with my grandfather that Gomer indicates a group of ethnically related peoples including Cymrians, Celts, Galatians and most notably Gauls. For this reason, I suspect that Russia's allies will include a prominent number of French and Turkish troops. The rest of the prophecy in Ezekiel 38 seems to run very closely parallel to that of Daniel 11:40 to 12:2. Ezekiel 38:13 predicts that certain nations will raise a protest, most likely diplomatically, challenging Gog's motives for invading Israel and the other neighboring nations. This seems to imply that Gog's motives up until the challenge of verse 13 will be thought by the International community to be noble: perhaps for peace-keeping or establishing a cease-fire and end of hostilities between Israel and one of her neighbors. But Ezekiel 38:11-13 is in harmony with Daniel 11:43 in which it appears that Gog's / The King of the North's / Russia's motive will be to control "treasures" of the land: probably oil reserves. Following this opposition, such as it is, Daniel 12:44 foresees a time when Gog will hear news about events in the North and East (probably relative to Israel) that will alarm him. He then will act with the purpose to cause great destruction. The purpose, at least one of the purposes, of these prophecies is to lead Israel to put their trust in God who will protect the Jewish nation and destroy her enemies. The end result of these events will be the return of Christ Jesus to establish His Kingdom, and the realization of all peoples and all nations that Jesus Christ is Yahweh God.

A final word of advice: do not use scriptural prophecy to try and predict the future, but rather as a guide to be alert to world events as they develop. The purpose of Scripture in keeping Christians alert is to motivate Christ's followers to authentic discipleship, holy living and evangelism. As Jesus commanded in His "great commission,"

"Going therefore, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you."

For more information on this interesting subject, we recommend the short book by A.J.L. Haynes, Tomorrow: What do the Prophets Say? In particular we suggest the chapters on Ezekiel and "Other Prophecies of Daniel."

This page was updated on: July 28, 2006.


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Historicism.com is owned and operated by me, Joe Haynes, of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. I serve as a pastor in a church plant in Victoria since 2013. My wife, Heather, and I have five kids. In 2011, I completed a Master of Arts in Christian Studies from Northwest Baptist Seminary at the Associated Canadian Theological Seminaries of Trinity Western University. Feel free to visit my blog at Keruxai.com.
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