Monthly Archives: June 2022

Gog and Magog: Will Russia Attack Israel?

ARE WE THERE YET? 

Shalom in His grace! Thank you for giving me a few moments to address a question that so many of us are asking at this critical point in time.

Do you recall in the Gospel of Matthew when the disciples were sitting on the Temple steps? They simply could not contain their curiosity about the coming of the kingdom. So they asked Jesus, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matt 24:3).

At this point, He had not yet been crucified nor raised from the dead, and, of course, He had not yet ascended to the right hand of the Father. But they were so eager for the establishment of the Davidic kingdom that they could not muster the patience needed to join Jesus on His journey to the cross and beyond.

We have the great advantage of looking back at these events. After a couple of thousand years of waiting, we have either developed the godly virtue of patience or perhaps, sadly, grown complacent about God’s coming kingdom. We might also have become too attached to a world that is passing away and tempted to try to hold on to what we have.

When I was a new believer, all I could think about was the return of Jesus. I was so eager for His appearing. But time can slowly diminish your hope until the burdens of this life suddenly awaken a more urgent desire to know when He will return: it could be sickness, the loss of a loved one, or a bitter disappointment. Yet, our faith teaches us that the Lord is gracious and uses the trials of life to remind us that something far better is coming!

Then again, God can also remind us of His return through His Word. The passage in Matthew commonly known as the Olivet Discourse reminds us that, as the return of the Lord grows near, we will see signs of increasing intensity, likened to childbirth. According to Matt 24:5–13 (as well as Luke 21 and Mark 13), these signs will include:

  • False prophets and messiahs
  • Wars and rumors of wars
  • Nation rising against nation
  • Kingdom against kingdom
  • Famines
  • Earthquakes
  • Other types of plagues and natural disasters

But all these signs are merely the beginning. As believers, we will be persecuted, killed, hated, and tempted to fall away. We may even betray our fellow followers of Yeshua! Lawlessness will increase, love will grow cold, and soon after that, the end will come!

The Gospel writers record Jesus telling His disciples much more, as the Lord answers with far more detail than they might have expected. For example, Jesus told His disciples that He expected them to pay attention to the signs of the times (Matthew 16:2–4) but that no one, not even He, knew the exact date of His return.1

ROAD SIGNS TOWARD THE FUTURE

We might not be there just yet, but the signs are beginning to look like we are getting close!

Here are some of the most widely accepted indicators of the Second Coming that believers today hold:

  • The Jewish people will return to the land of Israel in unbelief before Jesus returns (Ezekiel 36:22–24).
  • All the nations of the earth will threaten Israel and gather to destroy her at the very end of days (Zechariah 12:3, 9–10).
  • The end-time remnant of the Jewish people will accept Jesus (Zechariah 12, 19; Romans 11:25–29).

There are multiple other prophetic issues to discuss, including the timing of the rapture of believers (1 Thessalonians 4:13–18). Godly and faithful believers take various positions as to when this event will occur—before, during, or after the Great Tribulation (Jeremiah 30:7). Other believers affirm a general resurrection, but not the concept of the rapture. The literalness of the kingdom described in the Hebrew Scriptures and the book of Revelation (Rev 20:1–3, 7) is also highly controversial. Chosen People Ministries’ staff affirm that God will fulfill His promises to Israel, but we also consider the evangelization and discipleship of Jewish people to be our mission’s priority.

GOG AND MAGOG: WHO, WHEN, AND WHERE?

Many also ask me today, and for good reason, if I believe the war that Russia initiated with Ukraine will one day bleed over to Israel and be the fulfillment of the biblically expected war between Gog and Magog?

Again, this is a fair and reasonable question. As mentioned, Jesus wants us to study the Bible and determine the signs of the times to ready ourselves for His return and be passionate about finishing the task of world evangelization. If He is coming soon, we need to follow His final marching orders to each of us: to make disciples of the nations—to the Jew first and also to the Gentiles (Matthew 28:19; Romans 1:16).

His coming should motivate us to make the Great Commission our life’s greatest priority!

The text inspiring the question of whether the war between Russia and Ukraine may lead to the final battle between Gog and Magog and Israel is in Ezekiel chapters 38–39.

And the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Son of man, set your face toward Gog of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him and say, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I am against you, O Gog, prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal. I will turn you about and put hooks into your jaws, and I will bring you out, and all your army, horses and horsemen, all of them splendidly attired, a great company with buckler and shield, all of them wielding swords; Persia, Ethiopia [Cush] and Put with them, all of them with shield and helmet; Gomer with all its troops; Beth-togarmah from the remote parts of the north with all its troops—many peoples with you.”’”
(Ezek 38:1–6, emphasis added.)

The other passage that is relevant to our search is Revelation 20:7–8: “When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison, and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the seashore.”

I believe this war to end all wars is coming! I am not sure we can prove that Rosh (“head” in Hebrew) is Russia, as we must work through entirely different languages to come to this conclusion. We know that Persia, or Iran, is an ancient and current enemy of Israel. Cush refers to Ethiopia, which is not currently an enemy. However, Put, which is Libya, could very well become more of an enemy in the days ahead. The Bible refers to territories that are north of Israel, which could include Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq—traditional enemies of the modern State of Israel. Russia has not been an outright enemy of Israel, although Vladimir Putin has sided with Syria and claimed some months ago that Israel stole the Golan Heights from Syria and should return it.

One point that makes me seriously think that this war will one day turn against Israel is the description of Israel’s security measures in Ezekiel 38:8 and 11: “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. . . . 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.’”

One only needs to visit Israel today to see that it requires some of the most obvious and intensive security measures of any nation in the world. All you need to do is count the young soldiers on the streets of Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.

So, is it possible that this war is coming soon? Perhaps. But it seems to me that the table is not yet fully set.

I am sorry that I cannot provide a more definitive answer for you; I can pray that the Lord leads you to a deeper understanding of a complex biblical truth and offer a few suggestions for your personal study. I hope these suggestions help you on your journey:

Identify the key players by starting with a good Bible dictionary and an ancient world map.

  • Read through Ezekiel 35–39 slowly, carefully, and at least a half dozen times to get the complete picture of what God is doing in these last days. Then do the same with Revelation 20. 
  • Draw a timeline for yourself and see if you can plot the various events of these days.
  • Read through Zechariah 12–14, Romans 11, and Matthew 23:37–39 to see if these passages shed some light on the topic.

So, are we there yet? Only God knows, but the road signs indicate we are getting close! As Jesus said, “Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door” (Matthew 24:32–33).

1 Matthew 24:36, 42, 44, 25:13; Mark 13:32–37; Acts 1:7; 1 Thessalonians 5:1–2.

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Reaching Secular Jewish People for the Messiah

Thank you for your prayers and support! Chosen People Ministries’ staff could not do this great work of reaching Jewish people for Jesus in these last days without your partnership. Allow me to bring you up to date on what God is doing through our committed staff members in answer to your prayers.

We continue to work among Ukrainian refugees in Poland, Germany, and Israel, as well as with those who remain in Ukraine by choice or necessity. Our hearts break to see the displacement, devastation, and destruction of cities, families, and lives.

Your Mission to the Jewish People is also continuing to implement our Foundations ’22 campaign. We are reaching out to Jewish people and focusing on personal evangelism, discipleship, and training those who come to faith to be lifelong, fruitful followers of the Lord.

MY PERSONAL JEWISH STORY

My family is from eastern Europe, which is why I identify with Ukrainian Jewish people today. We have Ukrainian Jewish roots. My grandparents left eastern Europe during the rapidly deteriorating dark days of pre-Holocaust Europe. Persecution of the Jewish people was on the rise, and many were fleeing to places like Israel, South America, and the United States, where they found peace, opportunity, and freedom.

My father’s parents were from Ukraine. My grandfather was loving and kind and wanted nothing more than to assimilate into American life. He was proud to be part of a nation that cherished freedom and believed all men and women were equal in the eyes of God and the state.

While he was not religious, he instilled a love for the Jewish people in his sons. They also had a concern for continuing those cultural and family-based values and traditions woven into the fabric of the Jewish soul.

My maternal grandparents came to the United States a few years after the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia (1917–1923). My grandfather was the son of an upper-middle-class manufacturer who lived in Minsk, Belarus. My grandmother was from a similar Jewish social circle. Unlike my paternal grandparents, they were far more religious and practiced Orthodox Judaism. They ate kosher food, observed the Sabbath, attended synagogue as often as they could, practiced Jewish rituals daily, and spoke Yiddish1 at home.

They had hoped the rest of their family would follow and join them in the United States, but they did not. Eventually, they would all perish in concentration camps when Hitler destroyed the Jewish community in Minsk. Again, my grandparents tried to scrupulously keep the Torah as they understood it. But the culture of the new world and its philosophy of assimilation resulted in none of their children becoming observant Jews. I am sure this was heartbreaking for them, but all their children—including my mom—still proudly affirmed their Jewishness, celebrated the holidays, and participated in the Jewish community.

BEING RELIGIOUS IS ONLY ONE SLICE OF BEING JEWISH

For my family and so many others, Judaism is not always about God or theology. Being Jewish is more often about focusing on family values, tradition, and the need to provide Jewish education and continuity for our children.

The religious side of Jewish life for so many Jewish people today has become watered down. The Jewish community and its leaders know this, and so should you. So when a Jewish friend says, “You know so much more about my Bible [the Old Testament] than I do,” it should not surprise you. This sentiment will be common, and it might amaze your Jewish friend that you know more about the Hebrew Scriptures than they do! That is a positive testimony!

On the other hand, it should not surprise you if your Jewish friend feels somewhat threatened when you speak to them about Jesus. Even secular Jewish people will generally feel a need to defend Judaism when approached with the gospel. You might think, “If they are not religious, why are they responding so negatively?” It is partly because of the tragic history of interactions between Jews and Christians and because you might have inadvertently threatened their lack of religious knowledge about Judaism. When they think others view their faith as deficient, they often feel helpless to respond.

THE BELIEFS AND VALUES OF SECULAR JEWISH PEOPLE

One could describe secular Jews as “culturally Jewish.” Secular Jews often do not understand their religious heritage and the values and laws given to Moses at Mount Sinai. Though detached from its divine origins, our culture is deeply ingrained in our hearts and minds. For example, many Jewish people are very concerned about civil rights and fight for the rights of the marginalized. Is this because we were or are an oppressed people? Partly. But, it is also the message of the Old Testament that we are to care for the poor, widows, orphans, and those displaced within society. For this reason, Jewish people are also often generous philanthropists, concerned with education, and divinely wired for healing others.

You see, being Jewish is not as much a function of belief as it is a matter of community identity. A person could retain that identity as long as they do not cross certain lines. However, if you breach one of these unseen parameters, you could easily cross over and out of the Jewish community. Believing in Jesus is one of those lines, perhaps the boldest of the lines, and once you cross over, you cannot return unless you renounce those beliefs.

The Jewish people you meet and those to whom you witness will be resistant to the gospel far more because of their fear of community sanctions than because of a theological disagreement over the identity of the Messiah.

You can help Jewish believers in Jesus by providing friendship and support, as the Lord can use you to ease the pain of community rejection that is sure to follow their acceptance of the Messiah.

We are eager to help you reach your Jewish friends!

Recently, I presented “Messiah in the Passover” at a local Baptist church. A delightful Christian approached me to ask for help in witnessing to her Jewish friend. She wanted to know if giving her friend my book, Isaiah 53 Explained, would offend him. She really loves her friend, who is in his 90s, and prays for him each day. I suggested giving him the book, encouraging him to review it from a Jewish perspective, and then asking him to let her know what he thinks.

Our staff have dozens of conversations like this each month, and we want to help you share the good news with a Jewish friend. Equipping you is a significant part of our Foundations ‘22 annual campaign.

SUPPORTING FOUNDATIONS ’22

We are reaching many different types of Jewish people around the globe: Israelis, religious Jewish people, elderly Holocaust survivors, displaced Ukrainian Jewish people, and more!

Your generous support enables us to produce websites and printed materials, maintain facilities, employ staff across the globe, and allow our missionaries to focus on evangelism, discipleship, and training.

Thanks for caring!

In our Messiah,

Mitch

1A mixture of German, Hebrew, and Slavic languages. Yiddish was the primary language of the Jewish

people in Europe for centuries.

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Filed under evangelism, Holocaust Survivors, Israel, Jewish Christian Dialogue, Jews and Christians, Judaism, Messianic Jewish, Uncategorized