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
- 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.