The Bible prophesises two great wars that will be waged in Israel in the end-time. The first one is the Russo-Arab invasion of Israel (Ezek. 38–39) and the second one the battle of Armageddon (Zech. 14; Rev. 19). The first one will be a major regional war and the second one a world war that will affect all people on earth. These wars will both be instigated by the kingdom of darkness in an effort to thwart the revelation of God’s kingdom on earth.
The Russo-Arab invasion of Israel
According to Ezekiel 38 and 39, various Arab countries will secure the leadership of Russia and launch a full-scale attack on Israel to bring about the downfall of this country and wipe it off the world map. Gog in the land Magog (that is the country to the north of the Caucasus Mountains, i.e. modern Russia) will invade Israel together with Persia (Iran), Togarmah (Turkey), Ethiopia, Libya, Gomer (Germany) and various other countries.
The leadership role of Russia (Ezek. 38:7) is not only due to their strong army and advanced weaponry but also because the Lord wants to judge them (Ezek. 39:1). The reasons for divine wrath against Russia are their prominent role in promoting hatred of the Jews, and also their policy of arming Israel’s enemies. Because of this, God will enter into judgement with them upon the mountains of Israel (Ezek. 39:4).
The Lord says that He will lead Russia out of its country with hooks on its jaws to participate in this war. Circumstances will force them to assist their Arab and other allies. God says to Gog, “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... You will come up against My people Israel like a cloud, to cover the land. It will be in the latter days... (Ezek. 38:8,16).
Among the allies of Russia which are mentioned by Ezekiel, Iran plays a leading role in seeking the downfall of Israel. The president of Iran has made at least two calls for the complete eradication of the Jewish state. Various other Arab countries in principle agree with a holy war (jihad) against Israel. Their hatred against Israel has soared no new heights when the Jewish state invaded Lebanon to destroy strongholds of the Hezbollah terrorists who are strongly supported by Syria and Iran. Russia also condemned the Jews for this act of self-defence and continues to collaborate with the enemies of Israel.
Syria and Iran followed a strategy aimed at the full-scale withdrawal of Israel from their northern territories in reaction to the firing of thousands of rockets which were supplied to Hezbollah in Lebanon. In conjunction with offensives by terrorists of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad who infiltrate Israel from Gaza and the West Bank, these radical Islamic enemies hoped that their efforts would lead to the ultimate downfall of the Jewish state. But that did not happen because the Lord fights for Israel (cf. Ex. 14:25).
Now, after Israel’s severe reprisals against Hezbollah, the international jihad movement is planning a comprehensive campaign against Israel, and also against the USA and Britain as they are regarded to be enemies of Islam because of supporting Israel. But this time the main assault will not be through terrorist groups as they contemplate a full-scale war against Israel in an effort to occupy the entire land and wipe the Jewish state off the map. For this purpose, they need a multi-national invasion force that can attack Israel from different fronts – from the north, the east, the south and also from Libya in the west, across the Mediterranean.
Israel’s enemies will try to secure Russia’s involvement for this war. To Russia there is the advantage of extended political influence and interests in the Middle Eastern oil fields if they help to realise the Arab dream of complete Islamic domination of the Middle East. Furthermore, there is the possibility that China would offer military assistance to the Arabs if Russia refuses to do so. Although reluctantly, Russia will, according to the Bible, agree to participate in the attempted destruction of the Jewish state.
The war of Ezekiel 38 and 39 is rapidly approaching. But the Lord will reveal Himself in a very clear way through the termination of this war: “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” (Ezek. 38:16). The destruction of the invading forces are graphically described by God: “You shall fall upon the mountains of Israel, you and all your troops and the people who are with you... You shall fall on the open field; for I have spoken, says the Lord God. And I will send a fire on Magog (Ezek. 39:4-6). There will also be a very big earthquake on that day (Ezek. 38:19).
Because of this intervention, Russia, Israel and all the nations will recognise God as the Holy One. That will bring about an end to atheism, agnosticism and secularism, but unfortunately not a true and lasting return to the living God. All the nations of the world, including Israel, have largely fallen into infidelity, materialism and humanism. As a result of these ideologies they have rejected the Triune God and His Word. They rendered proof of their apostasy by omitting the earlier recognition of God’s supremacy from their revised constitutions, and also discontinued Christian education as a state-supported institution. Many of these countries have openly ridiculed the Christian faith by equating it with the heathen religions.
The supernatural destruction of Israel’s enemies will induce the nations to recognise the God of Israel and the Bible as the true God who should be feared and served. But they will know so little about Him that they will accept the wrong person, i.e. the Antichrist, as the Christ and messenger of God. The Antichrist and false prophet will exploit the nations’ new respect for supernatural signs by performing astounding signs and wonders themselves:
“And he [the false prophet] exercises all the authority of the first beast [the Antichrist] in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast” (Rev. 13:12-14). The people will be utterly amazed and accept the false credentials of the Antichrist to be “the Christ” and Saviour of the world.
The deceptive claims of the Antichrist and the false prophet will be so convincing that even Israel will be deceived into accepting the wrong person as their promised Messiah. The Lord Jesus said, “I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive” (John 5:43). Likewise, the whole world will marvel and follow the Antichrist, while worshipping him as the self-declared universal messiah (Rev. 13:3-4).
Through his power to do signs and wonders, the Antichrist will claim credit for the sudden ending of the great war in Israel. Not only Israel will accept and follow him as the promised Messiah but the nations will also conclude a covenant with him and recognise him as their leader. They will openly declare that he saved humanity from a self-destructive world war, thereby giving all people new hope on a better future based upon global peace and unity.
Through Satan’s cunning devices, the world’s sudden swing towards the general recognition of God will end up in large-scale deception. It will continue through the seven-year period of the Antichrist’s reign in the tribulation. During this year-week, Israel will derive great economic benefits from the spoils of war. They will use the weapons for fuel or melt them and use the metal in their industries (Ezek. 39:9). The seven years probably refer to the 70th year-week of Daniel (Dan. 9:27) – that is the tribulation period that will elapse between the rapture (Christ’s secret coming for His bridal congregation – John 14:2-3) and His public coming on the Mount of Olives when every eye shall see Him (Zech. 14:4-5).
The battle of Armageddon
The fact that Israel and the entire world will marvel and follow the Antichrist (Rev. 13:3) will give rise to false peace and unity on earth that will last for 3½ years. That will be during the first half of the Antichrist’s seven-year covenant with Israel and the nations (Dan. 9:27). During this time, the false religions – including a perverted form of Christianity – will link hands and worship the Antichrist as their common messiah (Rev. 13:8; 17:3-5). That will coincide with the formal and world-wide rejection of evangelical Christianity as they cannot enter into any association with the non-Christian religions (John 14:6; 2 Cor. 6:14-16). The Christians who will be saved during that time (Rev. 7:9,13-14) will be persecuted and killed.
During the second half of the tribulation period, the war against the kingdom of God will continue. The Antichrist will go to new extremes in his rebellion against God by declaring himself to be God in the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem (2 Thess. 2:4). He will erect an image of himself in the temple’s Holy of holies and have all people executed who would refuse to worship him as God (Rev. 13:15).
The Antichrist will know that Jesus Christ will return to earth at the end of that year-week to save a remnant of Israel and the nations (Matt. 24:29-30). That means that the Antichrist’s reign of terror during the second half of the tribulation will only last for 3½ years, i.e. 42 months (Rev. 13:5-7). Satan will send some of his demons to the nations of the world to mobilise them for the war of Armageddon, where they will try to prevent the establishment of Christ’s kingdom on earth:
“And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty... And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon” (Rev. 16:13-16).
This great confrontation will happen on the day of Chris’s second coming, but it will be a bad day for the enemies of the Lord Jesus: “And I saw the beast [the Antichrist], the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse [Christ] and against His army. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshipped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse” (Rev. 19:19-21). The short-lived reign of the Antichrist will thus be brought to an end and replaced by the thousand-year reign of the true Christ.
These two major wars in the Middle East both have a very clear spiritual dimension in that they reflect the resistance of fallen humanity against the revelation of God’s kingdom on earth. At the beginning of the seven years, Israel’s enemies in the Middle East will be assistance by Russia and other countries in their relentless efforts to drive Israel from their God-given inheritance. The war cry against Israel will be, “Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation, that the name of Israel may be remembered no more” (Ps. 83:4).
Israel and the true church of Jesus Christ are standing in the way of the Antichrist’s satanic new world order. The perpetrators of evil will do everything in their power to get rid of these two groups, as they are both destined to play a major role in the kingdom of God. Satan knows that a remnant in Israel will be reconciled to the Messiah (Zech. 12:10) and will then be the most important nation during the Messiah’s reign (Isa. 60:12,14; Zech 8:23). He also knows that evangelical Christians will reign with Christ in His kingdom (Rev. 2:26-27; 5:9-10). During the time of God’s revealed kingdom, Satan will be bound in a bottomless pit so that he should deceive the nations no more (Rev. 20:1-3).
Israel still rejects the Lord Jesus as their Messiah. Because of this, they will have to pass through the time of tribulation before a remnant will be saved on the day when the Messiah comes again (Jer. 30:7; Ezek. 36:22-28; Zech. 13:9; Rom. 11:26). During the first great war (Ezek. 38–39) Israel will be delivered from agnosticism and atheism, but because of ignorance they will accept the wrong messiah. During the second great war (Zech 14) a remnant in Israel will be delivered from the Antichrist’s tyranny to accept the true Messiah. The same change of heart will occur among a remnant of the nations, particularly the Assyrians (Syria and Iraq) and the Egyptians (Matt. 24:30; Isa. 19:23-25).
God’s kingdom will be revealed in power and glory when the reign of the Messiah is introduced with Jerusalem as capital of the whole world (Jer. 3:17). All the nations will come to Jerusalem to honour and serve the Lord, and to be taught by Him (Isa. 2:2-4; Zech. 14:16). They will also seek the favour of Israel (Zech 8:23).
A spiritual battle
A great spiritual battle is waged in the world. It will serve no purpose to only consider the military implications of this war as there are strong spiritual powers at work behind the scenes.
Militant Islamic organisations and countries are waging a demonic-inspired war against Israel. See Zechariah 14:12-13 and Joel 3:2 on the divine wrath that will be poured out upon them in the near future. There are no biblical grounds for hatred of the Jews and wars against Israel as they inhabit a land that was given to them by God (Gen. 13:14-15; Ezek. 36:24). Any effort to drive them from their land amounts to a declaration of war against God.
On the other hand, one should not lose sight of Israel’s spiritual blindness. God will allow them to be inflicted by their enemies because they still reject Jesus as Messiah. Spiritually speaking, Israel has become dross in the eyes of the Lord, and for that reason He will surrender them to severe testing and tribulation (Ezek. 22:18-22). Pray for the salvation of Israel and their enemies. They must all prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ – He will judge the unsaved and glorify the saved in His kingdom.