Sept. 11, 2001 – the mere mention of that date brings a flood of emotional memories to Americans old enough to remember how this country was attacked on what would have been just another day. When terrorists destroyed about 3,000 American lives, our nation was instantly and indelibly changed. A war against terrorism began that still continues to this day.
Oct. 7, 2023 now rings with a similar gut-wrenching tone to Israelis. When the populations of the U.S.A. and Israel are compared, the loss of life Israel experienced on Oct. 7 would be equal to a dozen Sept. 11 attacks, or roughly 40,000 U.S. citizens.
The atrocious terrorist attacks upon Israel are brutal, disgusting and pure evil. The savagery that the terrorists brought upon innocent people cannot be condemned in strong enough language. By definition, it is as bad as anything Hitler and his Nazi party forced upon the Jewish people.
God told us to, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Ps. 122:6). We have intensified those prayers since Oct. 7.
Prophecy in the News and SWRC have received several questions since the war in Israel began. People are hungry to know what God’s Word says about this and if it is part of the fulfillment of specific Bible prophecies. I’ve taken some of those questions and added a few of my own to help us think through these issues.
Before answering questions, I need to share a couple of important prophecy perspectives with you.
First, PITN and SWRC believe God still has future plans for the nation of Israel. We utterly reject replacement theology that teaches the church has replaced Israel in God’s future plans. This theology misinterprets many Scriptures about God and Israel.
Secondly, we approach Bible prophecy with a strong commitment to the premillennial and pretribulation rapture perspective. I mention this at the outset because some of the questions and answers listed below come from others who share this perspective with us. Otherwise, some of the questions and answers would not make sense.
With these foundations established, let’s look at some questions and answers.
1. IS THIS THE PSALM 83 WAR?
No, not at this point. Several of the places mentioned in this passage are not currently engaged in this war. For example, Edom, Moab and Ammon are all in modern-day Jordan (Psalm 83:6-7). Thus far, Jordan has remained out of this war.
Part of our ministry team spent almost two weeks filming Bible teaching projects in Israel and Jordan in early September. The Oct. 7 terrorist attack occurred less than four weeks after we returned home. While in these two countries, we learned about the modern history of conflict between them.
Did you know Israel pumps billions of gallons of water to Jordan each year? This agreement was reached since the Sea of Galilee is inside Israel’s border. Water is scarce in Jordan and if they entered the war against Israel, the loss of this water supply would severely hurt Jordanians. Although some Jordanians are protesting against Israel, its government has remained out of this conflict.
Further, Jordan has asked the U.S. to continue its military defense presence to shield it from terrorist strikes. With all that Jordan stands to lose by entering into this war against Israel, at this point it seems unlikely that Jordan will fight against Israel. Thus, what we witness today is not the fulfillment of Psalm 83.
Some Bible teachers have suggested that Psalm 83 was fulfilled in 1948 when Israel became a nation. All these countries stood against Israel in an attempt to block its national rebirth following World War II. Could there still be another future fulfillment of Psalm 83? Certainly. However, we do not see that happening right now.
2. IS THIS THE FULFILLMENT OF EZEKIEL 38-39?
No, it is not. While Bible scholars who hold to a premillennial and pretribulation rapture perspective have differing opinions about the exact timing of the Ezekiel 38-39 war, most agree on one thing—it will occur after the rapture of the church.
There are a small few who argue the events of Ezekiel 38-39 will occur just before the rapture and Great Tribulation, but there are several interpretative problems with that view.
For example, Ezekiel makes it clear that when this war breaks out, Israel will be at peace. God told Gog, “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). Notice Israel is living without city walls, bars or gates. Peace will give them a sense of security.
This certainly does not fit with what we saw leading up to the Oct. 7 attack. While we were in Israel just weeks before the attack took place, we saw daily reminders of the constant tension its citizens live under. We saw the presence of the Israeli Defense Force in full armor in most of the cities we visited. Walls, gates, and barbed wire are ever-present reminders of the need for Israelis to protect their lives and property.
As the world learned after Oct. 7, Israel must stay on a constant state of high alert for attacks by various terrorist groups. This fact alone should make us realize this is not the Ezekiel 38-39 war.
There are other interpretive problems with the view that Ezekiel 38-39 will occur just before the rapture and Great Tribulation. Ezekiel 39:25-29 indicates that after this war Israel will dwell safely in the land forever. How could God promise such a thing if the Great Tribulation is still future? The land of Israel will witness horrific battles during the Great Tribulation period.
Some have suggested the places “Meshech” and “Tubal, which are mentioned in Ezekiel 38:3, refer to the Russian cities “Moscow” and “Tobolsk” simply because they sound similar. However, the interpreter is forced to read those current Russian cities back into the text of Scripture.
C.I. Scofield (1843-1921) popularized this view in his well-known Scofield Study Bible. Sadly, he allowed the geopolitical situation of his day to guide his interpretation of Ezekiel’s prophecy. Israel was not a nation when Scofield first published his study Bible in 1909. World Wars I and II were still future as well. His notes on this passage are still harming Bible students’ interpretations of this passage today. This underlines how important it is to accurately handle God’s Word. Future generations could be led astray from biblical truth if we mishandle Scripture. We must invest the time and effort to properly understand its message.
Reading the current geopolitical situation back into the Bible is a highly dangerous interpretive practice. It will lead to significant misunderstanding of Scripture and misapplication of its teachings. Instead, the interpreter needs to start with the text of Ezekiel and discover where these places were when he wrote these words. Then the interpreter must discover other Scriptures that mention “Meshech” and “Tubal.” This will aid in understanding what Ezekiel meant by these names.
While space will not permit a detailed explanation of this passage, consider these hints to help you get started in studying this more. The first mention of these terms is found in Genesis 10:2. This verse explains that Meshech and Tubal were two sons of Japheth, Noah’s son. Other biblical and historical data seems to suggest their descendants settled in the regions near modern-day Turkey, Iran and possibly southern Russia, close to the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. Once again, we must not give into the temptation to read our current geopolitical understanding back into the text of Scripture.
Do not be biblically misinformed. What we witness happening in Israel right now is not the Ezekiel 38-39 war. This war is yet to come. I do not believe the church will be here to see it. This leads to our next question.
3. WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN BEFORE THE RAPTURE?
Nothing. We must remember that there are no prophetical signs that precede the rapture of the church. No war must take place, no new technology must be developed and certainly no blood moons must appear in the sky. I often write and speak about the push for globalism and the conditioning of our world for the antichrist’s rule. If we see the stage being set, then we know the rapture must be that much closer.
I know Christians who have grown weary of being rapture-ready. They grow tired of hearing the warnings. However, this reveals a wrong perspective. The purpose of the rapture is to take us to be with Jesus forever. The bride will finally be with her groom!
If a bride grows weary of planning her wedding, she must remind herself that she is getting ready to marry the love of her life. They will get to enjoy sharing life together from that day forth. When she gets bogged down with what she is doing to prepare for the wedding, she must remind herself why and for whom she is doing it. The church must do the same thing.
4. WHERE SHOULD OUR FOCUS BE?
People need the Gospel of Jesus Christ now more than ever. I am praying for the peace of Jerusalem but the greatest peace Jerusalem needs is not the absence of war. It is the presence of Jesus the Messiah. I pray this war will open the eyes and hearts of many in the Middle East to their need for Jesus. I encourage you to join me in prayer to this end. The Gospel is always our first focus as Christians.
If we are in the final two minutes of this “ballgame,” we must give it our all until the Lord calls us home. We are here on Earth “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). Let’s take advantage of this present moment to advance God’s truth around the world.
As we go forward in this moment, we need to ask ourselves some important questions.
Are our Bible prophecy questions motivated by fear? Have we allowed the news to scare us so much that we are desperately flipping through our Bibles or scrolling through YouTube videos to find the answers to ease our fear? Cling to the God who is greater than all—all our fears, all our enemies and all our obstacles.
Is our quest to answer these questions drawing us closer to God? Are we more interested in breaking headlines than we are in truly understanding God’s Word? These are challenging and convicting questions we must answer. God gave us His word to reveal Himself to us. The study of Bible prophecy ought to propel us closer to the heart of God.
I once had a conversation with a missionary about a fellow minister we both knew. I made the comment that our mutual friend-in-ministry loved to study Bible prophecy. The seasoned missionary replied, “No, he likes the news.” He knew this man better than I did, but his comment was revealing.
Yes, we must stay informed. We cannot be salt and light by withdrawing from the world or ignoring the headlines. That is not what I am advocating. However, if our love for news drowns out our love for the Lord, we will not minister effectively in this world for the cause of Christ.
In the words of Prophecy in the News founder J.R. Church, “Keep looking up!”
“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).