A SECOND VIEW OF THE PICTURE
In Ezekiel 38 the prophet depicted in a most vivid way, the invasion of Palestine by the forces of "The Northeastern Confederacy" under the leadership of Gog, prince of Russia. He revealed the motive prompting this act of aggression and made known to us the reaction of the Western Democracies, expressing itself in the form of a diplomatic protest. He showed us most clearly that Gog leads his hordes not to triumph, but to utter annihilation by a divine stroke of judgment from the Almighty Himself. Thus the chapter has given us a complete picture of this satanic effort to seize the wealth of the Jews when they dwell securely in their own land, residing in unwalled villages--colonies at the present time. The story is told in this chapter in a most effective and thrilling manner. No details are lacking. The picture is complete. The man of God brings us to the climax of his prophecy. We understand thoroughly what will happen and what the outcome will be.
In giving us chapter 39 Ezekiel followed the rule of "The Law of Recurrence." This principle is especially characteristic of the Hebrew prophets. A failure to recognize it leads to confusion and misunderstanding only, whereas a proper knowledge of it enables one to enter into a fuller appreciation of the divine message. What is this law of recurrence? It may be stated in the simplest terms. The inspired writer makes a prediction of a certain event, giving the general outline of the situation and filling in certain details. The story is complete within itself. Though nothing is lacking in his picture, he often covers the same ground. In his second view he calls attention to new elements omitted from the first description and enlarges upon certain details which he mentioned very briefly in his first discussion. In other words, the law of recurrence might be spoken of as a review or another look at the same thing with the attention focused upon different elements.
That is exactly what Ezekiel has done in chapter 39. He has employed "The Law of Recurrence" and given us another view of the picture. In this second look we see things that were not brought to our attention in chapter 38. This new knowledge enriches our knowledge of that which actually will transpire in connection with this epochal event. Let us now examine the picture as we take this second and last look at it.
I. THE OVERTHROW OF THE FORCES OF GOG
"And thou, son of man, prophesy against Gog, and say, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal: 2 and I will turn thee about, and will lead thee on, and will cause thee to come up from the uttermost parts of the north; and I will bring thee upon the mountains of Israel; 3 and I will smite thy bow out of thy left hand, 4 Thou shalt fall upon the mountains of Israel, thou, and all thy hordes, and the peoples that are with thee: I will give thee unto the ravenous birds of every sort, and to the beasts of the field to be devoured. 5 Thou shalt fall upon the open field; for I have spoken it, saith the Lord Jehovah. 6 And I will send a fire on Magog, and on them that dwell securely in the isles; and they shall know that I am Jehovah" (Ezek. 39:1-6).
In this quotation Gog, the leader of the enterprise and prince of Rosh, only appears in this passage. His associates are not mentioned. Since he is the leading spirit, the flood light is focused upon him.
According to verse 2 the Lord declares that He will turn Gog about and will cause him to go up from the uttermost parts of the north in order that he might invade the land of Israel. This strikes the same note that was sounded in the former chapter. Although this mighty prince is free to exercise his own choices, God at the same time overrules and brings him into the land. Those who believe the revelation of God accept without any qualifications the Scriptural teaching of man's freedom and of God's sovereignty.
The prediction is made in verse 3 that God will smite the bow from the hand of Gog and cause his arrows to fall to the ground. The Lord spoke simply of the leader of the hordes, but we are to understand that this prediction relates to all of his forces. The facts of the context demand this interpretation.
From verse 4 and 5 we learn that the slain multitude will simply be a prey of the ravenous birds and beasts of the field, since they lie unburied for along time upon the face of the ground.
We have already seen that by the catastrophic stroke of judgment which annihilates the forces of the invaders fire and brimstone fall from heaven upon them in the land of Israel. But in the 6th verse of this chapter we see that fire will reign upon Magog, the land of Gog--Russia. It will also come upon "them that dwell securely in the isles; and they shall know that I am Jehovah." A like situation existed when Sodom, Gomorrah, and the cities of the plain were destroyed. Thus it will be in the overthrow of the forces of Gog. The same kind of fire will fall upon the land of Gog and those countries that are embraced in the expression, "that dwell securely in the isles." What nations are referred to in this phrase, no one at the present time can tell. All who believe the revelation of God are convinced that this prediction will be fulfilled just as spoken.
We may be absolutely certain that the complete annihilation of the forces of the Northeastern confederacy together with the destruction of life and property throughout the land of Gog and those countries referred to in the prediction will produce chaos throughout the world. The destruction of the countries forming the Northeastern Confederacy will render those lands defenseless. For the Roman empire these helpless nations will form a most tempting prize, which its leaders cannot resist seizing. Since the fire will fall upon "them that are secure in the isles," these countries thus affected will also be thrown into chaos. From the vast extent of this judgment we can understand how this international disorder and desolation will be the order of the day. The situation will give a most excellent opportunity for the fourth beast of the visions of Daniel 7, which is Rome, to incorporate the entire world within her boundaries as set forth in Daniel 7:23:
"Thus he (the interpreting angel) said, The fourth beast shall be a fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all the kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces."
II. THE REVIVAL IN ISRAEL
"And my holy name will I make known in the midst of my people Israel; neither will I suffer my holy name to be profaned any more: and the nations shall know that I am Jehovah, the Holy One in Israel. 8 Behold it cometh, and it shall be done, saith the Lord Jehovah; this is the day whereof I have spoken" (Ezek. 39:7, 8).
According to this prediction God makes His holy name known in the midst of His people Israel by this catastrophic judgment upon the various nations. Since this seems to be the object in view, it is quite likely that these strokes of wrath will fall upon those countries which are the centers of Jewish population. There are, at present, countries where Jews reside in large numbers. God thus intervenes in such a signal way that many of His Ancient People, regardless of where they are, recognize Him as Jehovah who revealed Himself to Israel at Sinai. He does this in order that they might again see the proof and evidence of His supreme power and Godhead.
The latter clause of verse 7 declares "Neither will I suffer my holy name to be profaned anymore: and the nations shall know that I am Jehovah, the Holy One of Israel." In the first part of the verse the Lord declared that He will make Himself known to His people, but in the clause just quoted He asserts that He will see to it that His name is no longer profaned by them. To the casual reader it would appear as if the immediate result of this catastrophic judgment is the conversion of Israel, after which event God's name will nevermore be profaned among them. We have already seen in a former chapter of this book that this pouring out of God's wrath upon the forces of Gog occurs before the tribulation--more than 7 years before Israel's conversion, which takes place at the very end of the tribulation. Since the Word of God never contradicts itself, we must understand this passage in the light of the facts which we have already learned. After the destruction of the forces of Gog, the revival in Israel begins and finally culminates with the conversion of the nation seven or more years later.
God declared to Abraham that in him and in his seed He would bless all nations. The Lord created the Hebrew people to be His special channel for bringing His blessing to the entire world. That He did create Israel for His glory may be seen in Isaiah 43:1-7. Since she has forsaken Him she can never function in this capacity until she is brought back into fellowship with Him. The Lord never abandons any of His fore-announced plans or purposes. It is clearly stated that it is His intention to bless all the world through saved Israel, which thing He will do.
The conversion of the Chosen People is not a spectacular event caused suddenly by the revelation of the Lord Jesus at the conclusion of the tribulation. On the contrary, it is brought about by three, distinct steps or forward movements and it is primarily the result of the proclamation of the Gospel. It is the good pleasure of God to save those who believe by the preaching of the Word. "For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom knew not God, it was God's good pleasure through the foolishness of the preaching to save them that believe" (I Cor. 1:21). God has committed unto men the message of reconciliation.
"But all things are of God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and gave unto us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 to wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not reckoning unto them their trespasses, and having committed unto us the word of reconciliation" (II Cor. 5:18,19).
The Scripture declares that, "Whosoever believeth on Him (Christ) shall not be put to shame." Faith cometh by hearing the message of the cross. God is using men, and not angels, to proclaim the Gospel. Hear what the Apostle Paul said on this point:
"How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 and how shall they preach except they be sent? Even as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that bring glad tidings of good things!" (Rom. 10:14,15).
From these and many other passages we see that God saves men by the preaching of the Word. Israel is no exception to this general rule.
The three stages of the revival in Israel and her ultimate conversion may be stated as follows: first, the revival which begins in connection with the overthrow of the forces of Gog in Palestine before the tribulation; second, the world-wide revival which will be conducted by the 144,000 Jewish evangelists in the first part of the great tribulation as is set forth in Revelation 7; and third, the conversion of Israel--the entire nation living at that time--at the end of the day of wrath.
In the verses under consideration, Ezekiel 39:7,8, the prophet refers to the beginning of this revival in Israel which culminates in the conversion of the race. This first stage is doubtless that which was spoken of by Joel in 2:28-31. In order that this might be understood properly, one must note that in verses 21-27 there is a clear prediction of the conversion of Israel and the establishment of the Kingdom upon the earth when Jehovah in the person of Messiah will dwell in the midst of the Chosen People. In the first clause of verse 28 of this passage we have these words, "And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh." From the preceding verses we see that the pouring out of the Spirit of God upon all flesh--all nations--is preceded by the conversion of Israel. After that is an accomplished fact, then comes the conversion of the world.
Following this quotation we have these words, "And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions ... the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of Jehovah cometh." The conjunction rendered "and" at the beginning of this last quotation not only means "and," but also means "but." In hundreds of instances it is thus rendered because the facts of the context demand such a translation. Since the first clause of verse 28 is looking at the conversion of the world after Israel's turning to God, and since the revival spoken of in the quotation introduced by the conjunction "and" is linked with the mighty miracles in the heavens and upon the earth, which occur before the tribulation, we must understand that the revival likewise occurs at the same time--before the tribulation. In view of these facts a perfectly grammatical rendering of this Hebrew conjunction is "but." The verses should read as follows:
"And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; but your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: 29 and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my Spirit. 30 And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. 31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of Jehovah cometh" (Joel 2:28-31).*
In the first clause of this quotation we see a prediction of the conversion of the world after Israel's turning to God. The second clause of verse 28, beginning with these words, "but your sons and your daughters," constitutes a contrast with the first statement. The revival in Israel which is here mentioned is inseparably connected with the miracles which occur before the great and terrible day of Jehovah. We are of the firm conviction that we may expect this turning to God on the part of many Hebrews before the beginning of the great tribulation.
When Joel's prophecy is laid beside that of Ezekiel's especially the verses under consideration, and is read in the light of the context, it becomes highly probable that Joel is speaking of the same phenomena, not only in the physical realm, but also in the spiritual sphere as was foretold by Ezekiel.
The second phase of this revival in Israel is beautifully set forth in Revelation 7. Some other matters, which constitute the background of this mighty spiritual awakening, must be studied first. According to the teaching of the New Testament, the church of the Lord Jesus--the aggregate of the born again ones--will be taken out of the world prior to the great tribulation. This occurs when Jesus descends from heaven to the air and raises the dead in Christ (I Thess. 4:13-18). All saints, regardless of circumstances, will be taken out of the world at that time. Paul set forth this truth in I Corinthians 15:51,52. When God begins to send His judgments upon the world, the inhabitants thereof learn righteousness. This fact is seen in Isaiah 26:8,9. At the beginning of the tribulation, there will arise a mighty army of 144,000 Jewish servants (evangelists) to whom we who see Israel's place in the plan of God are now giving forth His Word before the rapture, but who, because of the present blindness (II Cor. 3:12-16), do not accept the Lord now. The message in the light of the falling judgments will enable them to see the truth and to accept Christ as their Saviour. They will most enthusiastically take up the banner of Prince Immanuel, which is dropped by the ascending Church, and will go forth into every nook and corner of the world proclaiming the glad tidings through Jesus Christ and His shed blood. The result of this mighty evangelistic campaign will be the conversion of multiplied hundreds of thousands of people from every nation, tribe, tongue, and language. That this is the world-wide revival to which reference is frequently made may be found in the writings of the different prophets. It will sweep the world; myriads will be brought to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. During this period of intensive proclamation of the Word every person throughout the world will have an opportunity of either accepting or rejecting the truth.
In the middle of the tribulation the world dictator with all his forces will endeavor to stamp out Christianity. He will wage a terrific fight--a war of extermination--demanding that all worship him as the one and only god. Notwithstanding his might and power, this revival, like a smoldering fire, will continue through the latter half of the tribulation and will burst forth, figuratively speaking, into a mighty spiritual conflagration, which will bring about the conversion of all Israel at the end of the tribulation.
The third and last stage of the revival in Israel is, as suggested, at the conclusion of the great tribulation. The nation of Israel at that time will have learned the facts with reference to the Lord Jesus Christ and His atoning death. Thereupon they will make the confession concerning the tragedy of Calvary as was foretold by Isaiah in chapter 53:1-9. One must recognize that these verses are the penitential oral confession which the nation of Israel in the year 1940 plus will make when she looks back toward Calvary, seeing for the first time the real significance of the crucifixion. At that time all Israel will repudiate the national sin and will accept the Lord Jesus Christ personally as Saviour. When "they acknowledge their offense," the Messiah will arise from His seat at the right hand of the majesty on High and will return, delivering the Chosen People from all their enemies.
The last three days of the great tribulation will indeed be momentous for them as well as for the entire world. The first of these is the one on which the national sin is repudiated, and an official and public recognition of Jesus as the Hebrew Messiah and Saviour is made. During that day and the following one the Jewish people will lie prostrate before God in genuine repentance for the tragedy of Calvary 1900 years ago. At the end of that second day God will pour out upon them His Spirit who will revive them--the nation will then be born in a day. The next--the third day--Messiah will rend the heavens and return. For all these facts, see the following quotation from Hosea 5:14-6:3:
"For I will be unto Ephraim as a lion, and as a young lion to the house of Judah: I, even I, will tear and go away; I will carry off, and there shall be none to deliver. 15 I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me earnestly.
6 Come, and let us return unto Jehovah; for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. 2 After two days will he revive us: on the third day, he will raise us up, and we shall live before him. 3 And let us know, let us follow on to know Jehovah: his going forth is sure as the morning; and he will come unto us as the rain, as the latter rain that watereth the earth."
Thus at the end of the tribulation the whole nation of Israel will be converted. When she thus comes to a knowledge of the truth and is converted, the Lord's name will no longer be profaned among His Chosen People. Through saved Israel all nations will at that time learn that Jehovah is God and the Holy One of Israel. At that time all peoples will come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
III. THE WEAPONS USED
"And they that dwell in the cities of Israel shall go forth, and shall make fires of the weapons and burn them, both the shields and bucklers, the bows and the arrows, and the handstaves, and the spears, and they shall make fires of them seven years; 10 so that they shall take no wood out of the field, neither cut down any out of the forests; for they shall make fires of the weapons; and they shall plunder those that plundered them, and rob those that robbed them, saith the Lord Jehovah" (Ezek. 39:9,10).
Some Bible students have, upon the authority of this passage, come to the conclusion that the arms which are now used in modern warfare will be abandoned in the future and that there will be a reversion to the use of primitive weapons. From this angle, therefore, these verses are interpreted as literally meaning the return to the old shield and buckler, bows and arrows, spears, etc. In support of this proposition our attention is called to the reported fact that certain rays have been discovered which will melt airplane engines or will cause them to cease functioning. For years wild rumors to the effect that such inventions are already a reality have been making the rounds. It is reported that certain of the European nations possess such instruments of death.
It has been very difficult for me to accept these weird fantastic stories. My reasons for doubt on this point are based upon the fact that the nations which are supposed to have made these discoveries have with all speed been increasing their air fleets propelled by the regular motors. To me it was preposterous to think that they would continue to go to the enormous expense of building such aircraft if they had discovered rays which would render such weapons obsolete.
It appears to me that if such instruments of death were in existence, they would be used at the present time in the European conflict. The history of war has shown that for every new invention of offensive warfare there has been created a defensive one to counteract it. At this present time there does not seem to be any likelihood of the discovery of new forces which will render all the modern equipment of war obsolete and cause the nations to return to primitive weapons.
Those advocating the position under consideration insist that this passage must be taken at its face value, and that we must believe in the return to primitive methods of warfare. Let us examine this position more carefully.
When one speaks to another, he must use terms with which the latter is familiar. In an effort to impart knowledge concerning something that is novel or strange, one must either use familiar terms which are known to both speaker and hearer, or he must by comparison express his ideas. Even then such analogies must be within the realm of the knowledge of the listener. In view of this principle it becomes very evident that Ezekiel had to speak of the future weapons of warfare in terms of those with which his auditors were familiar. Had he spoken of airplanes or machine guns, he would have had to speak of them in known terms, comparing them with familiar objects, or the Lord would have had to coin names for them, which still would have been unintelligible. This He did not choose to do.
Possibly we may get some light on this subject by examining Isaiah 2:1-4.
"The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. 2 And it shall come to pass in the latter days, that the mountain of Jehovah's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. 3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem. 4 And he will judge between the nations, and will decide concerning many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore."
The prophet looked forward to the time of the coming of the Lord when he will cause all wars to cease. There will, therefore, be no need for weapons of warfare. But there will be a great demand for implements of agriculture. Hence Isaiah said that men will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning-hooks. Are we to infer from his statement that the processes of manufacturing agricultural implements will be abandoned and that a primitive method of beating the metal into the shape desired will be adopted? Such a thought is preposterous. In the millennium, of which the passage speaks, there will be no occasion for a reversion to primitive methods of manufacturing objects.¹ To interpret this language literally and thus to infer that the methods of manufacturing implements of agriculture now employed will be laid aside and the primitive process of shaping by beating will be adopted is to reduce this sublime prophecy to an utter absurdity. The plain sense, therefore, of the wording of the passage makes nonsense. Hence we must accept that interpretation which will accord with all the facts known, not only of this context, but also of the general sweep of Scripture. Since one must use the language understood by those addressed, we must believe that Isaiah was speaking of the cessation of war and of converting the materials that had been employed in the manufacture of weapons into agricultural implements, putting his message into terms that his audience comprehended. In the same way we must understand Ezekiel to be employing his terms relating to weapons of warfare.
This conclusion is likewise confirmed by a careful study of Joel 2:3-11. When this paragraph is studied carefully, it is absolutely certain that the prophet was speaking of a modern mechanized army, such as is used at the present time or may be developed by military science and engineers.
At the time of the final restoration of Israel to the land of her fathers, dirigibles and aeroplanes will be in use, because Isaiah foretold this fact. "Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows?" (Isa. 60:8). The prophet saw the children of Israel flying as a cloud and as a dove. The flying is literal. For the reason stated above, and others that might be given, I am of the firm conviction that one must take the language of Ezekiel as referring to the weapons that will be used in the future but he expressed his thought in terms with which his audience was familiar. In my opinion there is, therefore, no reference to, nor authority for, one's interpreting this passage as a prediction that there will be a return to the use of primitive weapons.
IV. THE BURIAL OF THE SLAIN
"And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will give unto Gog a place for burial in Israel, the valley of them that pass through on the east of the sea; and it shall stop them that pass through: and there shall they bury Gog and all his multitude; and they shall call it The valley of Hamon-gog. 12 And seven months shall the house of Israel be burying them, that they may cleanse the land. 13 Yea, all the people of the land shall bury them; and it shall be to them a renown in the day that I shall be glorified, saith the Lord Jehovah. 14 And they shall set apart men of continual employment, that shall pass through the land, and, with them that pass through, those that bury them that remain upon the face of the land, to cleanse it: after the end of seven months shall they search. 15 And they that pass through the land shall pass through; and when any seeth a man's bone, then shall he set up a sign by it, till the buriers have buried it in the valley of Hamon-gog. 16 And Hamonah shall be the name of a city. Thus shall they cleanse the land" (Ezek. 39:11-16).
According to this paragraph certain men will be employed continually for seven months going throughout the length and breadth of the land in search of corpses or bones of the slain. Whenever one is found a stake is to be driven beside it, indicating the location of a skeleton. These will be buried in the place that will be called "Hamon-gog." This will be done in order to cleanse the land ceremonially from defilement of a dead body. The orthodox Jews who are strict on this point will see that this is done.
In great contrast with this gathering up of the bodies and the bones of the fallen of Ezekiel's prophecy is the prediction found in Jeremiah 25, which foretells the destruction of the kingdom of the world and the slaying of the wicked throughout the entire earth at the close of the day of Jehovah. Those who are slain will not be gathered for burial; on the contrary, they will lie upon the face of the earth and become fertilizer. On this point hear what the prophet says:
"Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, Behold, evil shall go forth from nation to nation, and a great tempest shall be raised up from the uttermost parts of the earth. 33 And the slain of Jehovah shall be at that day from one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth: they shall not be lamented, neither gathered, nor buried; they shall be dung upon the face of the ground" (Jer. 25:32,33).
The treatment of the slain in the two instances differentiates them most clearly. The passage in Jeremiah is unmistakably talking about the time when Jehovah shall come at the end of the tribulation. Ezekiel's prophecy, therefore, could not possibly refer to the same thing as does Jeremiah's prediction, for in the case of the former slain are denied internment whereas those of Ezekiel's prophecy are hastily buried.
* On the day of Pentecost Peter quoted this passage and applied it to the coming of the Spirit upon the apostles on that occasion. This event was but a partial fulfillment of the prophecy. This position is evident from the fact none of the phenomena in the physical realm mentioned by Joel occurred that day. The prophet's statement affirms that all of these things will come to pass "before the great and terrible day of Jehovah," which is the tribulation period. The events on Pentecost, therefore, were but a partial fulfillment of the prediction. We may expect it to materialize at the time foretold.
¹ It is altogether possible that the primitive peoples who enter the kingdom will still use the methods of shaping utensils and implements with which they and their ancestors have been acquainted. Later they will accept the methods and processes which they learn under Christ's benign reign. Since this prediction is speaking of all nations and since we know that those who do practically all the warring in the end of time use the latest methods of manufacturing goods, the argument above is absolutely true.
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