It seems that whenever something happens in the Middle East, people start asking if it’s a fulfillment of end-times prophecy. Whether it’s war in Iraq, the Muslim Brotherhood uprisings, Syria, or anything else, Christians think it’s a sign that the end is near. The ongoing war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas is no exception.
Some may speculate that the current conflict could the first stage of fulfilling the Gog of Magog prophecy in Ezekiel 38. In a nutshell, Ezekiel prophesied that an army from the north (Gog) and his Middle East allies would invade Israel, but that God would miraculously protect Israel. The current fight between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, along with Russia’s new uprising are said to be leading to this prophecy coming true.
How the Gaza War Might Fulfill Prophecy
One postulated scenario goes as follows:
- Global opposition to Israel continues to rise to the point where the world demands Israel is stopped.
- Arab states and groups unite against Israel, especially Iran, Syria, Egypt, Qatar, Turkey, and ISIS.
- The Arab axis fear Israeli retaliation—especially Iran, who fears Israel will destroy their nuclear facilities—so they beg for Russian help.
- Russia initially refuses, but eventually, and very reluctantly, joins in the fight.
- Israel is attacked by the Russia-Arab coalition, but God miraculously protects Israel.
Some may say that sounds conceivable or even likely. On the one hand I agree that the above scenario is plausible; on the other I believe hand it is very unlikely. The current Israel-Hamas war in Gaza will not fulfill the prophecy of Ezekiel 38.
Why the Gaza War Will Not Fulfill Prophecy
“How can you say that? What about that scenario you mentioned?” True, the scenario seems to fit Ezekiel’s prophecy: Russia’s reluctance to attack, a Russian-Arab unified attack, a viable basis to attack, and God’s protection. However, it overlooks the most vital part: Scripture.
Ezekiel 38:8, 14 state,
8 After many days you will be summoned; in the latter years you will come into the land that is restored from the sword, whose inhabitants have been gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel which had been a continual waste; but its people were brought out from the nations, and they are living securely, all of them. . . . 14 Therefore prophesy, son of man, and say to Gog, “Thus says the Lord GOD, ‘On that day when My people Israel are living securely, will you not know it?’”
Notice two phrases in those verses:
- “they are living securely” (v. 8)
- “when My people Israel are living securely” (v. 14)
This shows that Israel will be living in a time of peace, not conflict (cf. “unwalled villages” and “living without walls and having no bars or gates” in v. 11). They will not be under constant military attack; their enemies will not be striking at them. The Russia-Arab alliance will unexpectedly attack Israel. This means that the Gaza War is not a leading to a fulfillment of Ezekiel because Israel has not been “living securely” for decades. Rather, Israel has been under constant attack from Muslim terrorist groups, either by suicide bombers or rocket strikes. This, however, is not the only biblical evidence against the current Gaza battles fulfilling Ezekiel.
God declares the reason Gog and his friends attack Israel:
‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “It will come about on that day, that thoughts will come into your mind and you will devise an evil plan, and you will say, ‘I will go up against the land of unwalled villages. I will go against those who are at rest, that live securely, all of them living without walls and having no bars or gates, to capture spoil and to seize plunder, to turn your hand against the waste places which are now inhabited, and against the people who are gathered from the nations, who have acquired cattle and goods, who live at the center of the world.’ “Sheba and Dedan and the merchants of Tarshish with all its villages will say to you, ‘Have you come to capture spoil? Have you assembled your company to seize plunder, to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to capture great spoil?’”’ — Ezekiel 38:10-13
Notice the phrases, “to capture spoil” (v. 12), “to seize plunder” (vv. 12, 13), “come to capture spoil” (v. 13), “to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to capture great spoil” (v. 13). This shows that the reason for the attack in Ezekiel is piracy and theft. Gog and his allies will be engaged in a form of piracy.
According to the scenario above, the basis for the attack on Israel would be to defend Hamas, Gaza, or both. It would be a defensive counter-attack, not an attempt at pillaging. Therefore, the Gaza conflict will not lead to a fulfillment of Ezekiel 38 because the reason for the strike would not be the one given in Scripture.
Identifying When the End Will Come
As shown above, the battle between Israel and Hamas will not lead to an end-times fulfillment of Ezekiel 38. First, Israel has not been living in a time of peace and security, but a time of constant attack by her enemies. Second, the basis for Russian and Arab involvement would be defensive, not to seek spoils of war.
What are the signs of the end? Could this conflict be birth pangs? Could it lead to something else? I don’t know the answers to these questions. I do, however, know when the end will come (no, I’m not date setting).
People have been asking when the end will come since at least the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry. His own disciples asked what would be the signs of the end. Many Christians today refer to the “wars and rumors of wars” and the “birth pangs” (Matt 24:6-8). Others point to the supposed “blood moons” (for which I have not found biblical support without using bad hermeneutics). There are many, though, who try to identify the Antichrist, False Prophet, or other things. Jesus addressed all these concerns.
He said that his own disciples 2,000 years ago would see some of the “birth pangs” and early events: wars, rumors of wars, false messiahs, famines, earthquakes, and more (Matt 24:4-8). Regarding these things he told his disciples and us, “See that no one misleads you” (Matt 24:4) and “See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place” (Matt 24:6). He closed his cautionary advice saying “but that is not yet the end” (Matt 24:6).[pullquote]Christians must spend less time looking for the end and more time evangelizing the world.[/pullquote]
What this tells is that war, violence, hunger, and natural disasters do not mean the end is very near. Furthermore, these things are not the “birth pangs,” but, “all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs” (Matt 24:6). Notice, they are the beginning of the birth pangs. That means they are the earliest of the earliest indications. Jesus gives no timeline for how long they will last, so the “beginning of birth pangs” can last a very long time.
He did however tell us exactly when the end will come (though he never gave a date): “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matt 24:14). Did you catch that? The end will certainly come when the gospel is preached to the whole world (literally, to all people groups).
What qualifies as the gospel being preached to all people groups? Nobody knows. The only thing we do know is that only after the gospel is preached to all, “then the end will come,” and not one day before.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Jesus never gave us clear indications of when the end would come or when he would return. He told many parables about his return, and in all of them his message was clear: be prepared at any time. He further explained what he means to be prepared: be preaching the gospel. Christians must spend less time looking for the end and more time evangelizing the world.
As Christians we must be busy doing to the work of Jesus, that is, seeking the lost in every nook and cranny of society (Luke 14:15-24). Jesus left us with uncertainty regarding the time of his return, except only to say that it could be at any time. In the meantime we must be busy doing the evangelistic ministry of Jesus, not the outreach ministry of church promotion or the feel-good work of forming a church in our own image.
Until Jesus returns we must be sharing Jesus through personal evangelism. Sadly, most Christians are not evangelizing on a regular basis, and many churches have falsely convinced themselves that they are evangelistic. That can be fixed—that must be fixed!
If we work together, we can renew our faith, rebuild local churches, and grow God’s kingdom. Churches must develop a strategy for personal evangelism rather than depend on the ineffective efforts of the recent past. Christians must commit themselves to evangelizing the lost in their daily lives. That is our mission until Jesus returns, and he will return at any moment!