Harry Whittaker
The Last Days

Chapter 1 - The Gog-Magog Invasion. When?

For many years it has been almost a dogma among Christadelphian students of Bible prophecy that World War III, the great conflict, which is to herald, the coming of the Lord, will begin with a Russian invasion of Palestine. This, of course, on the basis of Ezekiel 38. Yet, whilst there is nothing known to the present writer which is decisive in favour of such a conclusion, there are certain considerations which suggest that that familiar Ezekiel prophecy be fulfilled after Christ is enthroned in Zion.

For instance, the sequence of the chapters (Ezekiel 37 to 40) points strongly towards such a conclusion. Chapter 37 has the “resurrection” of Israel and their re-establishment in the land of their fathers. Next, there is a picture of “David my servant” ruling over them in righteousness. It is a spiritual, as well as a national, revival of Israel. Then chapter 38 continues with its vigorous portrayal of an invasion which meets with due retribution, as the fuller picture of Ezekiel 39 shews. After this, appropriately, is the detailed picture of Zion as the centre of worship—”a house of prayer for all nations”. [1]

To put the northern invasion before the coming of the Messiah is to seriously dislocate this sequence. On the other hand, to accept the order of events suggested by the order of the chapters means at once the elimination of certain long-standing difficulties. The motive for the invasion is given thus: “to take a spoil, and to take a prey . . . against the people that have gotten cattle and goods . . . Art thou come to take a spoil? hast thou gathered thy company to take a prey? to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to take a great spoil?”

The efforts of prophetic expositors (including the present writer on more than one occasion) in an attempt to impart reality to these words in the wrong framework have varied from the ingenious to the ludicrous. Perhaps the favourite device has been to read the words “goods” as meaning “oil” especially. But this will hardly do, for there is almost no oil in Israel. The best supplies of oil are in an altogether different direction. If Gog goes into Israel for oil, he has lost his bearings!

Alternatively, emphasis is put on the immense value of Palestine as the strategically important land bridge between the continents. This is doubtless true, though now of less and less importance as the powers become more and more committed to nuclear war. But in any case this, if valid, is a vastly different consideration from that intimated in the words just cited. The prophecy does not say: “I will go to the land of unwalled villages because I covet its geography”.

Instead of these shifts it is manifestly much more satisfactory to accept the sequence which Ezekiel himself supplies and to take his chapter 38 as having a fulfilment after the Lord has come to be King of the Jews’ and after he has already raised his people to a pitch of prosperity (see Isaiah 60) such as would make chapter 38 the natural and inevitable sequel of chapter 37.

Yet another difficulty evaporates with the one just discussed. The invaded people are described as being “at rest, dwelling safely (RV securely), all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates”.

Under the domination of the old hypothesis, the best that the present; writer used to be able to make of these words was to read them as a contrast between the realization of Jewish nationalism as it is today in their proud little state of Israel, and the ancient terror and restriction of the ghetto life which
Jews have had to put up with for the best part of two milleniums.

Yet this is at best an exegete’s expedient. A glance at any newspaper published since 1948 will provide evidence that Israel, ringed round by implacable Arab foes, will never be “at rest”, will never “dwell securely”, will never abandon their “bars and gates” (their defensive armaments), until the ancient hostility between Esau and Jacob has been finally ended by the lasting acceptance by Esau of Jacob’s right to the Land (as in Genesis 33 and 36).

There is also a purely Biblical argument of considerable force, which seems to have suffered from quite unwarrantable neglect. Revelation 19 has a vivid symbolic picture of the Word of God going forth against nations whom he is to “rule with a rod of iron”. He rides at the head of the armies of heaven in the character of King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. At this time an angel cries to all the birds that fly in mid-heaven: “Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; that ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of the mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them . . .” (Revelation 19:13-18). What is this but the culmination of the destruction described in Ezekiel 39? “Speak unto every feathered fowl, and to every beast of the field, Assemble yourselves, and come . . . Ye shall eat the flesh of the mighty, and drink the blood of the princes of the earth” (Ezekiel 39:17, 18).

These passages are the only two places in Scripture where such an idea and such phrases meet the reader. If the principle of interpretation of Scripture by Scripture is worth anything, one of two conclusions seems to be inescapable — either that Ezekiel 39 is to be fulfilled after the Lord’s coming in glory, or that immediately before and after his coming two similar divine judgements are to be visited upon the warring enemies of Jehovah. Of the two the former is obviously the more preferable and the more likely.

In conclusion, the question may be asked: Over against the arguments adduced in this study, what points of positive evidence are available in support of the more usual assumption that Ezekiel 38, 39 are to be fulfilled before the Lord comes.

Are there any?

[1] How many are aware that in Eureka II 557, and III 405, 602 precisely this interpretation is given to Ezekiel 38?

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