The Unfolding Mystery
The purpose of this war has long caused questions for commentators. Ezekiel explains the purpose to be twofold: to take a spoil and to take a prey. The poverty of Palestine has made this difficult to understand, but now the mystery is unfolding.
The Jews have been the prey of persecutors for thousands of years. Today, if it were militarily possible, they would be the prey of their Arab neighbors. In the coming war with Russia, nearly all the Arab nations will be allies of Russia, and their primary purpose will be to take a prey — Israel. The Russians, however, will be marching to the Middle East to take a spoil. They will be pleased to cooperate in the conquest of Israel, knowing that when their military forces overrun the Middle East they will control all the wealth there, including the Arab oil.
Recent history has demonstrated that those who become the allies of Russia are soon totally controlled by her; witness Eastern Europe. So while the Arabs will join the attack against Israel to take a prey, Russia will be invading to take a spoil.
And the spoil is oil.
In addition, the mineral wealth of the Dead Sea, valued at two trillion dollars, must be considered, as well as the wealth being generated in Israel through industry and agriculture. The protest of Israel’s allies makes this clear:
Sheba, and Dedan, and the merchant s of Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof, shall say unto thee, Art thou come to take a spoil? hast thou gathered thy company to take a prey? to carry away silver and gold, and take away cattle and goods, to take a great spoil? (Ezek. 38:13)
Sheba and Dedan represent a small number of Arabs who will not participate in the attack on Israel. The merchants of Tarshish are Western powers who by this time will be under the control of the Antichrist, soon to be revealed for who he is and to become the final world dictator.
When will this war take place?
There are four time factors that allow us to arrive at the approximate time of the war between Russia and Israel.
• The war takes place in the “latter years” (38:8), or the “latter days” (38:16).
• The war can only take place when the Jews are in their land. This prophecy could not have been fulfilled before 1948. Any invasion of the Middle East by Russia previous to statehood for Israel would have been meaningless in regard to this prophecy. The enactment of this scene in the last days also guarantees the survival of Israel until the war with Russia. Were the Arabs to succeed in destroying the Jews, it would be impossible to fulfill Ezekiel’s prophecy.
• At the time of the invasion of Israel, Russia must be a major military power, a fact that guarantees the survival of Russia until the war with Israel. The increase of Russian military might is well known, but that immense and fearsome buildup would have no prophetic significance if the Jews were not in their homeland. Conversely, the gigantic Russian arms effort in view of the present Middle East situation must be seen as preliminary to an attack on Israel as prophesied by Ezekiel.
• This war between Russia and Israel must take place when the Jews are dwelling securely in their land. The threat of Arab invasion will therefore have been removed to the point that the Jews feel safe: “And thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates” (Ezek. 38:11).
It seems likely that this Jewish security will come from enacting a treaty with the head of the Western alliance or the revived Roman Empire. It will be an agreement intended to last for seven years: “…And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week… ” (Dan. 9:27).
Since by the time of the Russian attack, the treaty of peace will have been in force long enough for the Jews to feel safe, it appears that the Russian invasion will come at about the middle of the Tribulation period or approximately three and one-half years after its signing. There is also a hint that the Antichrist will come to world power at that point in time. The extension of his dominion over all the earth seems to follow the defeat of Russia and the armies of the East (Rev.9:16).
Russia’s attack on Israel will be her greatest military blunder. Though brief, the conflict will be one of the most destructive in history.
Ezekiel’s description of the battle is as follows:
…Surely in that day there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel; So that the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the heaven, and the beasts of the field, and all creeping things that creep upon the earth, and all the men that are upon the face of the earth, shall shake at my presence, and the mountains shall be thrown down, and the steep places shall fall, and every wall shall fall to the ground. And I will call for a sword against him through all my mountains, saith the Lord God: every man’s sword shall be against his brother. And I will plead against him with pestilence and with blood; and I will rain upon him, and upon his bands, and upon the many people that are with him, an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone (Ezek. 38:19-22).
The prophet’s vision carries with it many of the characteristics of nuclear war. There are earth-splitting explosions. Mountains are toppled. Rain, hail, and fire become part of the picture as nature erupts in rebellion against the forces marching to bring destruction to the Jews.
While details of military action in this war are few, something about the defeat of the northern invaders will make it clear to the Jews that God has protected them: “Thus will I magnify myself, and sanctify myself; and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the LORD (Ezek. 38:23).
The casualties of the Russian invaders are so great that only one-sixth of the fighting force is left after the battle: “And I will turn thee back, and l eave but the sixth part of thee, and will cause thee to come up from the north parts, and will bring thee upon the mountains of Israel” (Ezek. 39:2).
Two important developments will follow the defeat of the invaders of Israel. First, the attack by Russia will give the Antichrist an excuse for full occupation of Israel under the pretense of protection and will, along with his defeat of the huge Eastern force (Rev. 9:16), extend his power over the entire world. Second, the divine protection of Israel as prophesied by Ezekiel and proclaimed to the world by evangelists and writers throughout the closing time will turn many Jews to their Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The final world dictator will become the most evil of all earth’s political and religious leaders. His blasphemy, oppression, and self-exaltation will surpass that of all tyrants before him.
Persecution of believers in Christ will reach an all-time high. Millions will be martyred.
Anti-Semitism will become the passion of those in power.
And the world will continue its age-old march to the most fierce and foolish war of all — the Battle of Armageddon.
We will delve into the Battle of Armageddon in our next study.
A MESSAGE OF HOPE FROM DR. JACK VAN IMPE