Since Libya and Gaddafi are so much on the news today, I’ve been finding prophecy news regarding the civil war all over the blogosphere. Joel Rosenberg, one of the most popular evangelical Zionists today, writes:
In Ezekiel 38-39, we learn that Libya is one of the nations that joins the Russian-Iranian alliance against Israel in â€œthe last days.â€ â€¦ This tells us the no matter what the near term outcomes of the revolutions underway in North Africa are, in the not-too-distant future Libya for certain and possibly her neighbors will have virulently anti-Semitic and anti-Israel leadership who will eagerly join a coalitionÂ bent onÂ destroying the Jews and occupy the land of Israel â€¦ Hopefully Gaddafi will be deposed andÂ a more moderate leadership will rise up for a season before the prophecy of the â€œWar of Gog and Magogâ€ comes to fulfillment. Either way, the Church should be using this window of time to do everything possible to get the gospel into Libya and to strengthen the persecuted believers in Libya before the country faces Godâ€™s judgment for attacking Israel.
Another dispensationalist pastor offers his Libyan analysis in “Libya in End Times Prophecy”:
This coalition of nations, and the Bible implies many more nations with them, will make an all-out assault on Israel, intending to destroy her. God told Ezekiel that this event would occur in theÂ “latter years” (Ezekiel 38:8). At the last moment it will look like Israel will be wiped out, but God will intervene and Libya and the other nations, including Iran, will suffer a 7-fold judgment from Godâ€”a great earthquake, pestilence, bloodshed, flooding rain, great hailstones, fire, and brimstone (Ezekiel 38:19-22). To be sure, God will not need airplanes and troops to get this accomplished.
Like all prognosticators, the above writers see the whole Scripture as nothing other than God’s plan for Israel, contradicting the overarching principle of Biblical interpretation in what Jesus himself declared, “everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled”
(Luke 24:44; cf Luke 24:27).
I don’t want to be “left behind” in all this excitement about the unfolding of prophecy right before our eyes on CNN and CBN, so I say, “Me, too!” Are dispensationalists the only ones who keep revising their prophecies?Â So here’s an update of two old posts regarding how Biblical prophecy must be interpreted.
In 1974, at the height of the energy crisis and soon after the Yom Kippur War between Israel and the Arabs was over, John Walvoord published his New York Times bestseller, Armageddon, Oil and the Middle East Crisis. Then, every time a major crisis erupts in the Middle East, he rewrites his book to suit the current situation: in 1991, before the Gulf War; and in 2007,Â Armageddon, Oil and Terror, after the 9-11 terror attacks and the War in Iraq.
Walvoord and most evangelical theologians believe that the next prophetic event will be a secret Rapture when all Christians will be taken up to heaven, and that Christ will then return to earth from heaven seven years later with all these believers. At his return, the people of the earth will defy him in a war called Armageddon, but Christ will destroy all of them and throw them all, together with Satan and his evil angels, into a lake of fire. He will then reign as King from a rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem for one thousand years. But after he reigns for 1,000 years, a multitude of sinful peopleâ€“called Gog and Magogâ€“will again rebel against him. These too will be destroyed by God, and finallyâ€”finallyâ€”sin will be destroyed forever.
A different twist to this doomsday scenario is being popularized by another dispensationalist, Joel Rosenberg, in another bestseller entitled Epicenter. I first heard of Epicenter when he spoke at a prophecy conference in the Philippines last year. Rosenberg connects the Gog and Magog war in Ezekiel 38-39 and Revelation 20:8-9 to an invasion of Israel by an alliance of Russia, Iran and the Arabs.
Several misinterpretations are apparent in Rosenbergâ€™s view. First, except for Persia, the kingdoms listed in Ezekiel are unidentifiable today. All of his identifications of Meshech, Tubal, Put, Gomer and Beth-togarmah (Ezek 38:1-6) are nothing but wild speculations. Kim Riddlebarger cites the work of noted evangelical archaeologist and historian Edwin Yamauchi,Â Foes from the Northern Frontier: Invading Hordes from the Russian Steppes (Baker, 1983):
as Edwin Yamauchi … has pointed out in his book … this identification is based upon a number of unsubstantiated assumptions. For one thing, Gog and Magog cannot be directly tied to the Scythians. Yamauchi believes that their identity is not certain at all. Furthermore, he contends that Meshech and Tubal cannot be tied to Moscow or Tobolsk in any sense. He believes these are references to ancient Assyria which did invade Israel from the north.
Andrew J. Webb, in “The Final Doom of Gog and Magog,” ties the place-names of Ezekiel 38:1-6 with the same names in Genesis 10:2, concluding that these names are symbolic of an alliance of many unbelieving nations descended from Noah surrounding Israel:
[Gog] will be the head of an alliance or confederation of nations … from the four corners of the earth. Persia to the East, and Ethiopia and Put to the South are specifically mentioned, for instance. All of these nations will be assembled and come out of the North as a “great assembly and a mighty army” (Ezek. 38:15) in order to attack Godâ€™s people, Israel (38:16).
Second, Gogâ€™s axis of evil come from â€œthe uttermost parts of the northâ€ (Ezek 38:6).Â The prophets frequently mention Israel’s enemies as coming from the north (Isa 14:21; Jer 1:15; Ezek 23:24; Zeph 2:13), referring mostly to Assyria and Babylon. Ezekielâ€™s invaders from the north is anÂ innumerable army of unbelievers,“You will be like a cloud covering the land, you and all your hordes, and many peoples with you” (Ezek 38:9).Â They attack Israel because they are against the God of Israel.
John universalizes Ezekiel 38-39 into a great endtime war between God’s people and Satan’s hordes.Â Revelationâ€™s hordes attack Christians,Â â€œthe camp of the saints and the beloved city,” and the church,Â â€the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalemâ€ who are made up of “the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven” (Heb 12:22-23)? In fact, Gog is probably the same Antichrist figure as the Beast of Revelation 13, the one who will be givenÂ authority “over every tribe and people and language and nation … from the four corners of the earth” (Rev 13:7; 20:8), and “utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling,Â that is, those who dwell in heaven” (Rev 13:6).Â He and all his hordes will be violently opposed to Christ and his beloved people (Rev 13:7).
All of the foregoing mean that Ezekiel 38-39 is a prophecy of the Assyrian invasion of Israel in the 8th century B. C., and this invasion is typologicalâ€”a foreshadowâ€”of the great persecution of Christians by unbelievers throughout this present age until Christ returns, which John sees being fulfilled in Revelation 20:1-10.
It is no surprise then to find striking similarities between the description of the Gog and Magog rebellion in Ezekiel 38-39 to the Gog and Magog rebellion in Revelation 20. And both of these texts have uncanny parallelisms with Revelation 19:11-21. These three passages all describe the same endtime â€œbattleâ€ between God and evildoers, as seen in the following table:
As seen from the above comparison, those two texts from Revelation describe the same endtime â€œbattleâ€ between God and evildoers. Revelation 20:7-10 is a recapâ€”a â€œreplayâ€â€”of Revelation 19:11-21.
Isn’t kind of interpretation â€œspiritualizingâ€ instead of literal? But â€œspiritualizingâ€ is exactly what John and all the other New Testament writers do with Old Testament prophecies about Christ. Revelation 20:8-9 is just one example. Everywhere, the New Testament â€œspiritualizesâ€ Old Testament Israel as fulfilled in Christ and the church, the true Temple and the true Israel of God.The following articles present Biblical prophecy based on Scripture interpreting Scripture, not Scripture interpreted by CNN or CBN or the New York Times: â€œGog, Magog and an Iranian-Russian Alliance?â€ and â€œA Present or Future Millennium?â€ by Dr. Kim Riddlebarger.
Scripture must interpret Scripture. The New Testament must interpret the Old.