CHAPTER IIITHE TIME OF THE INVASION OF PALESTINE
Thus far in this discussion we have seen that God has clearly foretold in the prophetic word the invasion of Palestine by the forces of Germany, Russia, Turkey, Persia, Ethiopia, and all their hordes. Furthermore, it has been learned that, when this great army of occupation moves into Palestine to take possession of the land given to the Jewish people by divine decree, there is no battle fought. The western Democracies, according to the prediction, only make a protest. There is no further need of human action, because God by a mighty stroke of divine judgment overthrows these vast forces, annihilating them completely. The God of the universe who created all things and in whom we live, and move, and have our being, can cope with any situation. All the nations are "as a drop in the bucket, and as the small dust of the balance."
"Behold, the nations are as a drop in the bucket, and are accounted as the small dust of the balance; behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing. 16 And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering. 17 All the nations are as nothing, and vanity" (Isa. 40:15-17).
Hence the combined peoples of the earth, with all their material resources, are but as a drop of a bucket and the small dust of the balances; the armies of these nations mentioned, though mighty and powerful, are less than a drop in the bucket. The Lord, therefore, can deal with them practically and efficiently in a moment of time. He can thus wipe them from the face of the globe at will if He desires to do so.
In this connection it is well for us to remember that no king is saved by a multitude of a host. The deciding factor in every conflict is God. The marvelous statement found in Psalm 33:16-19 throws a flood of light upon this question.
There is no king saved by the multitude of a host:
A mighty man is not delivered by great strength.
A horse is a vain thing for safety;
Neither doth he deliver any by his great power.
Behold, the eye of Jehovah is upon them that fear him,
Upon them that hope in his lovingkindness;
To deliver their soul from death,
And to keep them alive in famine.
In this connection it is well for us to ponder the words of the youthful David as he went against the mighty Goliath, the champion of the Philistines, who were the enemies of God and His people.
"Then saith David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a javelin: but I came to thee in the name of Jehovah of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. 46 This day will Jehovah deliver thee into my hand; and I will smite thee, and take thy head from off thee; and I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day unto the birds of the heavens, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that Jehovah saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is Jehovah's, and he will give you into our hand" (I Sam. 17:45-47).
Having been strengthened by the power of God and enabled to slay a lion and a bear on two former occasions when they pounced upon his flock, David discerned clearly that numbers do not count in a conflict, but that God is the determining factor in every controversy. Being conscious of the fact that the honor of God had been challenged by Goliath and the Philistine forces, which he represented, and being aware that Israel was the Chosen People of God, David, by the special illumination of the Spirit of God and by faith, uttered these memorable words. God always, at the psychological moment, steps in and vindicates His people who are in fellowship with Him and upholds His reputation in the sight of men. This He has done on many occasions.
When this invasion of Palestine occurs, and these anti-Semitic forces strike at Israel to despoil her of all her earthly possessions, it will be preeminently time for God to step in and intervene. As proof of this fact note the following statement:
It is for Jehovah to work
For they have made void the law (Psa. 119:126).
Since this prophecy speaks of such an epoch-making event, it is of the highest importance that we study most minutely and accurately what the Scriptures say as to the time when it occurs. This prophecy occupies one of the chief positions in the prophetic word. A failure to recognize the time element in this prediction throws the entire program for the future into disorder. It is utterly impossible for one to understand the events just ahead of us in relation to the tribulation unless this prediction is located properly. With the utmost care and diligence, therefore, we must investigate all the data.
I. THE FOUR THEORIES ADVANCED
Various answers are given by different schools of thought as to the time when this invasion occurs. Since the prediction is so very definite and is given in detail, it is utterly impossible for all four of these hypothesis to be correct. Of four contradictory propositions only one can be right. In some cases when such a predicament arises, even all explanations may be wrong. On the other hand, only one of the four opposite conclusions can possibly be right.
Since the time element is probably one of the most important items of this prediction, it behooves us to be most definite and accurate in our statements. All the evidence possible must be presented for each position in order that the reader might understand the situation and weigh all the facts.
Regardless of what position the reader might accept, he is in good company, because excellent, God fearing men hold different views. It is needless to say that each one is honest and conscientious in his interpretation of the fact. Of course, being Christian, we never think of drawing a line against a brother who does not see eye-to-eye with us on every point.
A. Before the Tribulation
There are born again people who have a fairly accurate knowledge of the Scriptures and who believe that the events of this prophecy occur before the tribulation. Those taking this position locate the fulfillment of this prediction as coming before the tribulation, because the prophets said that Israel would be dwelling securely in the land of their fathers, living in unwalled villages. This time foretold by Ezekiel is a period when the Jews are partially gathered back to their own land from the nations among whom they have been dispersed through the centuries. According to Jesus (Matt. 24:37-39) and Paul (I Thess. 5:3) there is to be a period of peace and prosperity preceding the day of the Lord. Since the invasion occurs when Israel is dwelling securely in unwalled villages in the Land, these students conclude that Ezekiel's prophecy will be fulfilled during a period of peace immediately preceding the tribulation.
B. At the Conclusion of the Tribulation
Those taking the position expressed in the heading of this subdivision identify this invasion of Palestine as the one that is foretold as occurring at the end of the tribulation. It is identified with that mentioned in such passages as Zechariah 14:1-8:
"Behold, a day of Jehovah cometh, when thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. 2 For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. 3 Then shall Jehovah go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. 4 And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east; and the mount of Olives shall be cleft in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. 5 And ye shall flee by the valley of my mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azel; yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah; and Jehovah my God shall come, and all the holy ones with thee. 6 And it shall come to pass in that day, that there shall not be light; the bright ones shall withdraw themselves: 7 but it shall be one day which is known unto Jehovah; not day, and not night; but it shall come to pass, that at evening time there shall be light. 8 And it shall come to pass in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the eastern sea, and half of them toward the western sea: in summer and in winter shall it be."
A similar forecast is presented in Zechariah 12:1-9. Identifying Ezekiel's prediction with those found in such passages as the ones just mentioned, these brethren interpret Ezekiel's prophecy as a forecast of what is usually termed, "The Battle of Ar-Magedon." This conclusion is reached because the prophet in chapter 39 speaks of Israel's being settled permanently in the land of the fathers. At the end of the tribulation Israel acknowledges her sin of rejecting King Messiah and accepts Him. Then she is reinstated into the favor of the Almighty and resides there throughout the kingdom age. According to these brethren the end of the tribulation seems to fit all the circumstances. They, therefore, see in this prediction a forecast of "The Battle of Ar-magedon."
C. In the Beginning of the Millennial Age
Some excellent brethren, rejecting the interpretation given above, are convinced that this prophecy refers to events which occur at the beginning of the Millennial Age. The reason leading them to accept this position is that Israel is dwelling securely in her own land when the aggressors march into the country. Being convinced that there is no battle foretold in the prediction, and knowing that Israel is dwelling securely in the land at the time of the invasion, they locate this event as occurring in the first part of the Millennial Age, after our Lord has returned to earth, has delivered Israel, and has set up His Kingdom.
The suggestion has been made that, since the Russians are the leaders in this great aggressive movement, this is the result of the seeds of atheism and ungodliness which are now being sown in that country, and which will find expression in this diabolical, satanic invasion of Israel. Since Christ, according to the present theory, will be reigning in Jerusalem as Israel's Messiah King, they see in the prediction a prophecy of a stroke of divine judgment which annihilates the onrushing hordes.
D. After the Millennial Age
Some scholars, rejecting the three explanations just mentioned, see in Ezekiel's prophecy a prediction of an invasion of Palestine which occurs after the great Millennial Age. Their proof of this position is seen in the following passage:
"And when the thousand years are finished, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, 8 and shall come forth to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to the war: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. 9 And they went up over the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down out of heaven, and devoured them. 10 And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where are also the beasts and the false prophet; and they shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever" (Rev. 20:7-10).
According to these scholars there is no necessity for our attempting to locate this prophecy at any time other than after the Millennial Age, because, as they assert, John has given us the divine interpretation of Ezekiel's prophecy. Emphasis is laid upon the fact that he even states that "Gog and Magog" gather their hordes for the purpose of overthrowing the government of Christ at Jerusalem. They, therefore, go up against the Holy City and the camp of the saints to match swords with the strong Son of God--after He has reigned in righteousness, power and glory for a thousand years.
I have given the theories and have called attention briefly to the reasons leading the various schools of thought to accept these different explanations. It is now for us to examine most minutely all the facts in the case in order to determine who is right, and what is the truth in the matter.
II. EXAMINATION OF THE THEORIES
It is necessary for thinking people to formulate theories regarding various matters when they are far removed either in time or space from the events, and when the data is meager and fragmentary. Straws show which way the wind is blowing. In like manner incidental remarks and circumstantial evidence often point in the direction of truth and facts.
That theory which does not contradict any of the evidence of data, and that is in perfect alignment with the known facts is to be accepted as correct, when only one explanation is possible. This is the basic principle underlying our judicial system, which seeks to identify and to punish the guilty and to liberate and exonerate the innocent.
In the preceding section the theories attempting to locate the time of the fulfillment of the prediction were listed according to the chronological order of the dating; but in investigating and expounding these theories I wish to begin with the fourth and test them in the reverse order.
A. After the Millennial Age
As was shown in the preceding section, one school of thought holds to the opinion that Ezekiel 38:1-39:29 is speaking of the invasion of Palestine which occur after the reign of Christ on the earth for a thousand years. Will the evidence support such a theory?
In the prediction of Ezekiel 38 we saw that there is a coalition of nations, which might properly be called the Northeastern Confederacy. This alliance of peoples consists of Germany with all its hordes, Russia with its mighty hosts, Turkey, Persia, Ethiopia, and Somaliland. We are informed definitely that these peoples will send their armies into Palestine. On the contrary there is another group of nations which in a previous chapter was designated as the Western Democracies, and which issue a protest against such a movement. Thus it is evident that there are two opposing camps into which the nations are divided, or a great number of them, at the time of this act of aggression. From this position there can be no retreat from the one who is willing to accept the record at its face value. Is this the revelation that is set forth in Revelation 20?
Satan, as we learn from Revelation 20:1-6, is bound and is cast into the pit of the abyss during the thousand years' reign of our Lord. At the conclusion of this period of time Satan is released from his confinement in the infernal regions and is permitted to come forth and to deceive the nations that are upon the face of the earth.
"And when the thousand years are finished, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, 8 and shall come forth to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to the war: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. 9 And they went over the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down out of heaven, and devoured them. 10 And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where are also the beast and the false prophet; and they shall be tormented day and night forever and ever" (Rev. 20:7-10).
From verse 8 of this quotation it is clear that Satan moves upon the hearts of the people of all the nations who are living in the four corners of the earth, and that there is a mighty host from the various peoples, tribes, tongues, and languages, who yield to his subtle influence, and who make a march against Jerusalem.
Because of the lack of a better name I call this "A Youth Movement." My reason for thus naming it is that no person who has been genuinely and really born-again would ever join such a diabolical movement as the one set forth in this passage. We, therefore may be certain that this company of people are all unregenerated individuals.
Will there be unsaved people in the Millennial Age? Of course there will be. God never conscripts recruits for His ranks; neither does He force the will of anyone. He has made man a moral agent and permits him to exercise the freedom of choice at all times. This has been true ever since man was created and will continue to be so throughout the history of this world, even in the Millennial Age. The Lord will not coerce anyone. He will then, as now, use all moral suasion and all legitimate means in order to influence people to accept the right and to serve Him faithfully. But He never crosses the sacred threshold of any man's personality in order to force His will.
During the Millennial Age, the population of the earth will increase most rapidly. This is a natural consequence of the lifting of the curse. The pain and the dangers of childbirth, which characterize this age, are the result of the curse of which we learned in Genesis 3. The infantile mortality list throughout the centuries has been terrifyingly enormous. Not so will it be in the Millennial earth when the curse is lifted.
"There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days; for the child shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner being a hundred years old shall be accursed" (Isa. 65:20).
According to this promise everyone who is born into the world in the kingdom age will live to be at least one hundred years old. During this time the Gospel will be preached by Israel, who alone will be the ministers of our God (Isa. 61:4-6). Then everyone will have an opportunity of redemption through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Every possible effort will be put forth in order to influence each person to accept the mercy extended to him through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ in order that he might be saved.
Notwithstanding all the marvelous and unprecedented opportunities that the people at that time will enjoy, there will be many who will postpone their acceptance of Christ, or will in a mood of deliberation reject the Saviour. In spite of their willful rejection of Him, or negligence in accepting Him, they will be allowed to live to the good ripe age of one hundred years. If upon their reaching that age they have not accepted Christ, they will be smitten with death as indicated in the passage quoted.
Under the ideal conditions which will obtain in the Millennial Age the population of the earth will increase enormously. Innumerable will be the generation that is born in the last century of that era. Without doubt the majority of the rising generation of that time will accept the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour and be accepted in the Beloved. On the other hand, there will be an innumerable host of those who do not accept Him and who will come to the end of the thousand years reign of our Lord without having been regenerated. These are, in my judgment, the ones who compose that mighty army of "the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to the war." Of these John in Revelation 20:8 speaks, emphasizing the fact that they are a countless number. He asserts that "the number of whom is as the sand of the sea."
Though the armies of the nations mentioned in Ezekiel's prophecy are vast, they seem to be inconsequential in comparison with the vast hordes of those mentioned by John in the Revelation passage. In view of this fact I cannot believe that Ezekiel and John are speaking of the same invasion. The facts and circumstances in each case are different. It seems, therefore, gratuitous to identify these two predictions as relating to one and the same event.
Another consideration confirms this conclusion, which is set forth in this passage:
"Be thou prepared, yea, prepare thyself, thou, and all thy companies that are assembled unto thee, and be thou a guard unto them. After many days thou shalt be visited" etc. (Ezek. 38:7, 8).
According to this prediction Gog is to prepare himself and lead his hosts into the land. But he is informed that "after many days" he is to be punished. From this fact it is clear that the punishment is to be many days after the offense. In order to understand this phrase, we must examine a like one found in a similar prediction presented in Isaiah 24:21, 22:
"And it shall come to pass in that day, that Jehovah will punish the host of the high ones on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth. 22 And they shall be gathered together as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison; and after many days shall be visited."
These verses are followed by one that speaks of the glorious reign of Christ upon the earth.
The first twenty verses of this chapter describe most graphically the horrors of the great tribulation and conclude this narration with a prediction concerning the rocking to and fro of the earth like a hammock. At that time the hosts of high ones on high (Satan and his servile spirits) together with the kings of the earth will be gathered together as prisoners are placed in a pit where they are confined for a long period of time. After many days they shall be visited in the sense of being punished, as the marginal note indicates.
When we compare this passage with Revelation 20:1-10, we see that this is a prediction of the casting of Satan and his hosts into the pit of the abyss at the beginning of the 1000 year reign of Christ. They remain there during that time. At the end of that period they are brought forth and punished. The 1000 years are in this passage reffered to by the expression, "After many days." The same phrase upon the lips of Ezekiel when studied with this parallel passage as a guide is seen to connote the same period. Gog's invasion of Palestine is, in the light of these facts, before the 1000 year reign of Christ. After that era he will be punished--after the many days.
But, does not Ezekiel speak of "Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal"? And does not John speak of "Gog and Magog"? This is true; but it seems that the circumstances connected with each of these prophecies are so very different that it is impossible to interpret the two passages as referring to the same event. Why then did John speak of the hosts which he in vision saw as "Gog and Magog"? This question is easily answered: Because this usage is a type of language which is employed every day. Wellington the English general, fought with and conquered Napoleon at Waterloo. The latter had terrified all Europe and the Mediterranean world for approximately two decades. Finally, on the battle field of Waterloo Napoleon was overwhelmingly defeated. This victory of Wellington delivered Europe from the scourge of aggression by which she had been plagued periodically in that generation. People today when speaking of someone who has been successful in his career, but who meets some reverse fatal to his plan which has been hitherto unchallenged, say that this one has met his Waterloo. No one misunderstands this type of language. Frequently today we hear people who are familiar with the general trend of political events speaking of "The Red Napoleon." From the drift of the conversation or the context of the article, whenever such language is used, it is evident that the writer or speaker is talking of or referring to Stalin, the dictator of Russia, or some future successor of his. Since, as we have already seen, the circumstances and the facts that are mentioned in the two prophecies show conclusively that these two men of God saw different visions, and since John refers to the hosts which he saw as "Gog and Magog," it is most highly probably that he speaks of the invasion of Palestine which occurs after the Millennial Age with its recruits gathered from all parts of the world in terms of the similar invasion foretold by Ezekiel as occurring before that time. Since these hordes of the two predictions march into Palestine, and since they both suffer a like overthrow by a divine stroke of judgment from the very throne of God, it was quite natural for John to speak of the leader and the hordes of this latter invasion in terms of the former one.
When all the facts, therefore, of the prophecies are taken into consideration and every allowance is made for the moral, natural use of language, one is forced by the facts of both passages to conclude that they are two distinct invasions, and that John speaks of an event which occurs after the millennium.* Because of its similarity with the first one he speaks of it in the terms used by Ezekiel.
B. In the Beginning of the Millennial Age
The next theory which we are to consider is the one which states that this invasion of Palestine occurs in the beginning of the Millennial Age. As stated above, those taking this position are led to do so because they see that Israel is dwelling safely in the land when these forces march into the country. They do not see any hope for her having any rest or quietude in the land until after she is reestablished there by her Messiah, which condition will obtain after Christ comes and is seated upon His throne. If we know positively, without any doubt, that there would be no peace for Israel in the land until the Messiah comes, then we would be driven irresistibly to this conclusion. But there is no evidence whatsoever that Israel may not have a short period of peace there prior to the beginning of the Millennial Age.
* Some scholars have great difficulty in accepting the prediction of the invasion of Palestine and the revolt against Christ's authority after He has reigned for 1000 years in the city of Jerusalem. To them it is unthinkable that there could be such a rebellion after this earth has enjoyed 1000 years of the righteous reign of our Lord. Some have told me in most emphatic terms: "Such a thought is inconceivable." They, therefore, cannot believe that this language is literal and should be taken at its face value. Consequently they place a figurative or metaphorical meaning upon it.
Is such an interpretation inconceivable in the light of all the facts? Let us examine it. When we remember that the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked and there is no foretelling what an unregenerated man may do (Jer. 17:9), when we remember that God does not force men's wills but allows them to exercise the freedom of choice, and when we remember that the generation arising in the last century of the Millennial Age will not accept Christ by the time of its close, we can see how these unregenerated souls can be deluded by Satan and can be led into an insurrection and revolt against Christ. Such an event likewise becomes luminous in the light of the historical record concerning Satan's original revolt against God. The Almighty created, not only the material universe, but also an innumerable host of angels. It seems that Satan was the anointed cherub, the first of the creation of God (Ezek. 28:11-18). One-third of the angels, it appears, were seduced to join the insurrection and to stage a formidable rebellion against the Most High (Rev. 12:4). From the paragraph in which this verse appears, it is evident that John, in speaking of the future, foretold what Satan will do against Israel and showed that in doing this he will simply be carrying out his revengeful purpose against the Almighty which he began when he instituted this original revolt among the angels.
If, before there was any sin or curse, Satan, this anointed cherub, basking in the sunlight of God's eternal love and favor together with an innumerable number of holy, created beings, could persuade himself and others, and they with one consent did find it in their hearts to revolt against God, and could persuade themselves to do so, as we know they did, it is not unreasonable to believe that unregenerated men at the conclusion of the Millennial Age when they are deluded by Satan may, as John has foretold, be led blindly to institute a revolt against Christ and His righteous reign.
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