and Israel in Conflict at the End of the Age
Ezekiel was a priest by lineal descent. He was a prophet by divine calling. And God said to His servant Ezekiel, "Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me" (Ezek. 3:17). Ezekiel was an exilic prophet. That is, he ministered to his brethren during the Babylonian captivity.
Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, weakened and eventually destroyed Jerusalem in three incremental stages. In 606 B.C. he made Jehoiakim, king of Judah, submit to his authority and took some of the royal seed captive back to Babylon, including Daniel and his three friends.
Rebellion by the Jews about nine years later in 598 B.C. brought a second attack by Nebuchadnezzar and further punishment. This time he took 10,000 captives back to Babylon including Ezekiel.
Yet a third time in 586 B.C., because of rebellion against his rule, Nebuchadnezzar would put the city of Jerusalem under siege, eventually gain entrance to the city, destroy the Temple, and take more captives back to Babylon.
It was to these Jews - taken captive to Babylon, far removed from their beloved city of Jerusalem, with their holy Temple in ruin, with their priesthood obsolete, with no sacrifice for sin, and worst of all, with a questioning of God's faithfulness to His covenant and power to protect - that Ezekiel was called to minister.
In Babylonian captivity, the prophet Daniel wrote of the course of Gentile world history as depicted in the great colossus of Daniel chapter two, and defined as an extended period of time during which Israel and Jerusalem would be under the control of heathen nations, and no son of David and rightful heir would sit upon the throne of Israel.
the same Babylonian captivity the prophet Ezekiel, who, in
the early years, was a contemporary of Daniel, wrote of:
Restoration of the Land
A remnant of the Jewish people returned to their beloved Jerusalem after 70 years of captivity in Babylon. They were small in number, struggling to survive and with no king from the royal line of David ruling over them. As world powers changed, Israel went from domination by Babylon, to Persia, to Greece, and finally to Rome.
In A.D. 66, the Jews rebelled against Rome. And four years later, after an extended siege, in A.D. 70, the Roman legions, under General Titus broke through the walls of the city. Jerusalem was sacked, many were killed, the Temple was once again destroyed, and the people were scattered across the face of the earth.
Through the centuries that followed, many powers claimed control of the land of Israel, among them the Byzantines, Muslims, Seljuks, Mamluks, Crusaders, Turks, and British. Most used the land for selfish purposes, taking from the land but never giving back. None of these nations took the land to their bosom and loved her. And just as sure as they came, with the passing of time, the land belched all of these conquerors out.
Through the centuries of foreign domination, the trees were indiscriminately cut down. First, they were cut down by marching armies that wanted to prevent other armies from living off the land. Second, they were cut down by absentee landlords seeking to avoid paying property taxes determined by the number of trees on the land and, thirdly, for the fueling of the engines of the famed Orient Express train that had a spur passing through Israel from Syria to Egypt. With no trees to hold it, the topsoil was washed off the hills and the valleys became malaria-infested swamp land.
And then almost unnoticed, after 1,800 years, at the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth century, Jews began to return to the land of their forefathers. They came fleeing persecution in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. What they found upon their return was a barren, desolate, largely abandoned and, in the north, malaria-infested swamp land. Only a handful of Bedouins and an occasional sickly village could be found throughout the length and breadth of the land.
The "promised land" was now not very promising. Clearly, it was not the land flowing with milk and honey that the Jews first saw more than 3,300 years earlier when they entered the land under the leadership of Joshua.
Nonetheless, the prophet Ezekiel speaks glowingly of the restoration of the land in the last days. This watchman of the house of Israel was commanded by his Lord to "Prophesy therefore concerning the land of Israel, and say unto the mountains, and to the hills, to the rivers, and to the valleys, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I have lifted up mine hand, Surely the heathen that are about you, they shall bear their shame. But ye, O mountains of Israel, ye shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to my people of Israel; for they are at hand to come" (Ezek. 36:6-8).
And then speaking of the land itself, God says, "For, behold, I am for you, and I will turn unto you, and ye shall be tilled and sown: And I will multiply men upon you, all the house of Israel, even all of it: and the cities shall be inhabited, and the wastes shall be builded: And I will multiply upon you man and beast; and they shall increase and bring fruit: and I will settle you after your old estates, and will do better unto you than at your beginnings: and ye shall know that I am the LORD" (Ezek. 36:9-11).
This restoration of the land at the end of the age is not something that the Jewish people earned or deserved. It will be sovereignly and graciously bestowed. Once again God speaks through His prophet. "But I had pity for mine holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the heathen, whither they went. Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD: I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name's sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went. And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, saith the Lord GOD, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes" (Ezek. 36:21-23).
Not only does God say that He will restore the land at the end of the age, but He will also regather and regenerate the Jewish people who have for so long lived in unbelief. God declared:
"For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God" (Ezek. 36:24-28).
This regeneration of the nation did not occur at the end of the Babylonian captivity, and it has not occurred at any point in Israel's history. It is the moment of time at the end of the age which the apostle Paul had in mind when he wrote, "And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob" (Rom. 11:26).
Regathering of the People
In Ezekiel chapter 37, the prophet writes of an event that must precede Israel's spiritual redemption. First she must be regathered back to the land, and the twelve tribes reunited.
Ezekiel is carried out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones (Ezek. 37:1).
In imagery, that the bones were dry, suggests that whatever the bones represented they were a long time dead. They were probably white - bleached by the hot sun. And it was not a single corpse - the valley was "full of bones." It would have been a startling sight for the prophet to behold.
As Ezekiel looked at his surroundings in what must have been stunned silence, his Lord posed a question to His servant: "And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest (Ezek. 37:3).
Everything normal and pragmatic argued for a negative response to the Lord's question. How could a valley filled full of dismembered, scattered, dried, and bleached bones a long time dead ever live? And yet, Ezekiel responded as a man of great faith with these simple words: "O Lord GOD, thou knowest" (Ezek. 37:3).
Ezekiel, in his response, seems to be saying these bones are many, they are dried, they are bleached from the sun, they have been a long time dead, and everything empirical argues for a negative response. But you alone are the source of life and omnipotent in power, you spoke the worlds into existence, you created man from the dust of the ground. If you want these bones to live, they can live - "O Lord GOD, thou knowest."
As the prophet beheld, the bones begin to come together. But let him tell it his way.
"So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone. And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them. Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army" (Ezek. 37:7-10).
As to the identity of these bones, we are left in no doubt. The Word of God is very precise.
"Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts. Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD: Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord" (Ezek. 37:11-14).
The imagery is graphic. The Jewish people have been out of their land of blessing and covenant, and "buried" among the nations of the world without Jerusalem their capital city, without their Temple, without their high priest, and without their king.
It was of their own making. It was because of their sin. However, in the last days, God will bring them back to their land from among the nations. They will have their capital city, they will have a Millennial Temple, and, above all, they will have Jesus their King-Priest.
And once again, there is the emphasis on their spiritual regeneration. "And [I] shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, saith the LORD" (Ezek. 37:14).
Attack of Israel by Gog and His Allies
Ezekiel chapter 36 details the restoration of the land of Israel, which had become a wasteland. Ezekiel chapter 37 depicts the regathering of the people back to the land from among the nations of the world where they had been scattered. Ezekiel chapter 38 and 39 describes an invasion of Israel by a coalition of nations under the leadership of a man called Gog of the land of Magog.
This invasion occurs near the end of the age and the second coming of Christ. This invasion is specifically said to occur "in the latter years" (Ezek. 38:8), and "in the latter days." The Word of God is very precise. As God addresses Gog, He declares, "And thou shalt come up against my people of Israel, as a cloud to cover the land; it shall be in the latter days, and I will bring thee against my land, that the heathen may know me, when I shall be sanctified in thee, O Gog, before their eyes" (Ezek. 38:16).
The main body of his invading force is said to come from the far north. That is, from the far north of Jerusalem, which is always the navel of biblical geography.
God said to Gog, "And thou shalt come from thy place out of the north parts, thou, and many people with thee, all of them riding upon horses, a great company, and a mighty army" (Ezek. 38:15). And again God speaks, "And I will turn thee back, and leave but the sixth part of thee, and will cause thee to come up from the north parts, and will bring thee upon the mountains of Israel" (Ezek. 39:2).
The invasion will occur at a time when Israel is dwelling safely.
To Gog, God says, "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; see also vv. 8, 14).
The invasion will occur at a time when Israel is prospering as a nation, and for the purpose of taking a spoil and prey. The reason for the attack is clearly given. "To take a spoil, and to take a prey; to turn thine hand upon the desolate places that are now inhabited, and upon the people that are gathered out of the nations, which have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the midst of the land" (Ezek. 38:12).
These invading armies will attack Israel in the latter days. The principle armies will come from the north. The attack will occur while Israel is dwelling safely. Who are these armies?
Gog is said to rule over Magog. The Magogites were the ancient Scythians. In the time of the prophet, they dwelt in an area which was then to the far north of Israel, between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, with the Caucasus Mountain Range as their southern border.
Gog of Magog is the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. Both Meshech and Tubal, along with Magog are listed in Genesis 10:2 as sons of Japheth. Japheth was a son of Noah. The ark landed on Mount Ararat in the Caucasus Mountains.
These three grandsons of Noah settled north of the mountains in what would be in the southeastern region of the former Soviet Union.
Gog's forces will be augmented by other armies, among them Persia, Cush, and Put. Coming against Israel from the east will be Persia. Persia changed its name as recently as 1935. It is now known as Iran. Cush and Put will attack Israel from the south. Cush is located to the south of Egypt and is, today, the eastern part of the Sudan and Ethiopia. Put is to the west of Egypt in the region of Libya (Ezek. 38:5). Both are descendants of Noah through Ham (Gen. 10:6).
Also allied with Gog in his invasion will be Gomer and Togarmah. These Japhethite grandsons of Noah settled in Asia Minor; Gomer in central Turkey, and Togarmah in eastern Turkey.
These eight nations surrounding Israel on the North, South, and East, and with the Mediterranean to the West, will invade Israel in the last days. But their attack will not succeed. God has decreed, "And I will call for a sword against him throughout all my mountains, saith the Lord GOD: every man's sword shall be against his brother. And I will plead against him with pestilence and with blood; and I will rain upon him, and upon his bands, and upon the many people that are with him, an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone. Thus will I magnify myself, and sanctify myself; and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the LORD" (Ezek. 38:21-23).
These eight nations, which will be devastated by God Himself, have one thing in common. They are, today, all Islamic nations - every one of them.
Terrorists and Jihads notwithstanding, Islam will not conquer the world or defeat Israel. And the glory, which belongs to Christ and His heavenly Father alone, will not be given to Allah.