Many modern Bible prophecy teachers declare that Israel will soon be invaded by Russia, Iran and surrounding Arab nations in the very near future. For the invasion, as well as the identities of these modern nations, they point to Ezekiel 38. (They point to the names of Rosh, Meshach and Tubal in verse 2 as associated with Russia, while they say that Persia, in verse 5, stands for Iran.) The nearness of the invasion is based on the current rise of Russia and Iran as enemy powers to Israel, as well as the assessment of the current times with descriptions in Ezekiel 38.
Putting aside the association of the names found in Ezekiel 38 with Russia and Iran, clearly, Ezekiel chapter 38 does portray an invasion of Israel by a conglomerate of nations. But the question is, when will this invasion occur? Many, if not most, modern prophecy buffs believe that this invasion of Israel will occur prior to the initiation of the seven-year treaty (the end-times treaty) with Israel. In fact, this understanding of the timing of this Ezekiel "war" has become so prevalent that it seems to be assumed in evangelical circles.
But is this timing correct? Let us look at the evidence.
Upon first glance at Ezekiel 38, the reader will notice the names "Gog and Magog." Interestingly, those names are used together in only three chapters of the Bible—Ezekiel 38, 39, and Revelation 20 (verses 7-10).
Specifically, Gog and Magog appear in verses 7-10 of Revelation chapter 20, a context which is set at the end of the millennial kingdom (the thousand-year rule of Christ following His return to the earth). This usage of Gog and Magog by the apostle John (the author of Revelation) brings up this critical question: Since, outside of Revelation 20:7-10, Gog and Magog are only used together in Ezekiel 38 and 39, why would John choose to mention them by name where he does? After all, John could certainly have given a description of this scene without the use of Gog and Magog. In fact, Gog and Magog seem to stand out as if they almost do not fit in this description.
Since Gog and Magog do not seem to add to the understanding of Revelation 20:7-10 on its own, there appears to be no other reason for their listing in the context of these verses except to connect this passage with a passage of their previous usage. In addition, there is no explanation of Gog and Magog in Revelation 20, which indicates both a prior understanding of these terms by the readers of Revelation and the intent of the apostle to take the readers back to another context where they have previously
This means that by the rare usage of Gog and Magog in tandem in Revelation 20:7-10, the apostle John is signaling that he is referring back to Ezekiel 38. Thus, Revelation 20:7-10 presents the same event as in Ezekiel 38, though the two passages are from different perspectives.
In addition to the passages being connected by "Gog and Magog," there are a couple of other similarities which indicate that Ezekiel 38 portrays the same event as that in Revelation 20:7-10. First, both picture a great multitude invading Israel. Second, the result in each passage is the same; God destroys them by fire.
Another clue that the scene in Ezekiel 38 will occur at the end of the coming kingdom, the time at which the Revelation 20:7-10 scenario occurs, is the state of peace and total security Israel will be experiencing when the nation is invaded by the hordes. This
state of peace and security experienced by Israel at the time of her attack is emphasized by phrases such as, "a land of unwalled villages"; "a peaceful people, who dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates"; and "Israel dwell[ing] safely." These descriptives indicate a state in which Israel has no fear of enemies. Certainly, Israel does not experience that now, and the nation will not dwell in that kind of security even after the seven-year treaty goes into effect. The only time Israel will dwell in that kind of security will be in the coming (millennial) kingdom.
Thus, based on this alone, the "war" in Ezekiel 38 will not occur until sometime after Christ begins to rule on the earth. Based on the connection with Revelation 20:7-10, it will take place at the end of Jesus' thousand-year rule on the planet. But there are still at least two more pieces of evidence that Ezekiel 38 will be fulfilled within the coming kingdom.
One of those is the description in verses 12 and 13 that at the time of this attack, Israel will exist in a state of bountiful possession. As these verses indicate, the wealth of Israel will be such that it will tempt a vast multitude to risk coming into Israel (while Jesus is ruling from Jerusalem) to plunder the nation. This is the kind of prosperity Israel will enjoy during the kingdom age.
According to verses 16 and 23 of Ezekiel 38, the result of God's judgment upon Gog in Ezekiel 38 is that God will be known and magnified and hallowed in the eyes of the nations. According to verse 16, the result of this "battle" is "that the nations may know Me, when I am hallowed in you, O Gog," and in verse 23, God announces this result: '
"Thus I will magnify Myself and sanctify Myself, and I will be known in the eyes of many nations. Then they shall know that I am the LORD." ' Certainly, God is not "known in the eyes of many nations" today, and will not be known in that global sense prior to the
millennial kingdom; this will only be true when God's kingdom arrives on the planet. This means that Ezekiel 38 will be fulfilled sometime in the coming kingdom; and, as the connection with Revelation 20:7-10 shows us, its fulfillment will occur at the very end of the millennial kingdom.
Therefore, Ezekiel 38 does not support a soon invasion of Israel by Russia, Iran, and surrounding nations. In fact, no invasion of Israel will occur until three and a half years into the seven-year treaty with Israel when the king of the North brings his armies into
the Jewish capital; but that will be a very different invasion than that described by Ezekiel 38.
Thus, do not look for a Russian-Iranian-Arab invasion of Israel to occur soon. It is far more likely that Arab states (at least some) will back an Israeli military attack on Iran
to halt its race toward nuclear capability. This, in turn, could lead to a regime change, which will affect the entire region. While Russia would love to get its foot in the Middle East door, it will not be a part of the regional treaty with Israel, which will occur sometime after Israel's attack on Iran. It will be this treaty which will start the clock ticking on the final seven years leading to the return of Christ.
[John Claeys is the Executive Director of John Claeys Ministries and is the author of Apocalypse 2012: The Ticking of the End Time Clock—What Does the Bible Say?, a riveting look of the events leading up to the return of Christ. See www.JohnClaeys.com for more information.]