Middle East Meltdown 014 – Ezekiel 38Ezekiel 38:17‒39:2 • Dr. Andy Woods • April 24, 2022 • Middle East Meltdown
Middle East Meltdown 014 – Ezekiel 38
By Dr Andy Woods – 04/24/2022
Go ahead and open with a word of prayer and we’ll get started. Someone might want to close that door back there. Alright! Well, let’s pray. Father, we’re grateful for another day. Grateful that in a world that seems to be out of control by trusting in you we can have perfect peace. So we just claim that provision today as we need it. We’re going to take a couple of moments of silence, before your father, just to do business with you personally. So that we can receive today from your eternal word. We’re thankful, Lord, for the promise of 1st John chapter 1, verse 9 (1 John 1:9) which can restore not our position but broken fellowship that we have with you sometimes as Christians and so, we just Lord today put ourselves in a position in your grace where there is no encumbrance and we can receive something from you today. We pray Father, that is your word is taught, that you would apply it, as you wish, into the hearts and the lives of people. Only you know what the individual needs are and we’re trusting you that you can use your Word to touch and bless people right where they are at. We also specifically ask, Lord, that if anybody is in the building or listening online that has never trusted in you for salvation, that today might be an exciting day, where today is the day of salvation. So we just trust you for this great work, we lift up all of these things in Jesus’ name and God’s people said, Amen. 2:21
Well, let’s take our Bibles today and open them to the book of Ezekiel chapter 38, and verse 17 (Ezek 38:17). In Sunday school we’re working verse by verse through Ezekiel, 36 through 39 and it’s a study that we started at the beginning of the new year entitled the Middle East Meltdown. I just didn’t know how fast it would melt down once we started the study. So we really didn’t do this to be newsy, we did it just to get a better perspective on this important section of Scripture. But as you consult your headlines, many of the players and prophecies that are mentioned in this section are actually in play right now. Not so much in terms of fulfillment but in terms of stage setting. God seems to be removing every possible barrier, so that the specifics of His word can be fulfilled.
- Israel to prosper again (1-15)
- Israel’s sins inhibiting prosperity (16-21)
- Israel to be restored: physically & spiritually (22-38)
So Ezekiel, 36, you remember, is that great passage concerning Israel’s physical and spiritual restoration in the last days and from there we moved to chapter 37 where we move from point to picture, where the Holy Spirit gives Ezekiel two metaphors or word pictures defining better or clarifying better what was described in chapter 36; and those two metaphors or prophecies are the vision of the valley of the dry bones and then the vision of the two sticks. We’ve worked our way through that. So by the time you get out of chapters 36 and 37, you learn that, okay, God is going to restore Israel in unbelief in the last days, that would be the bones coming together and then in a subsequent work, He’s going to regenerate the whole nation, that would be the breath coming into the bones. So you get that picture, not just in chapter 37 but you get it in chapter 36, and by the time you get out of chapter 37, you’re wondering what is the tool that God is going to use once He re-gathers Israel in unbelief. What’s the tool He’s going to use to regenerate His nation and you get an answer to that question in chapter 38. Chapter 38 is the means that God is going to use and it has to do with a northern invasion.
- Invasion planned (Ezek 38:1-13)
- Invasion executed (Ezek 38:14-16)
- Invasion defeated (Ezek 38:17‒39:20)
- Invasion’s results (Ezek 39:21-29)
An invasion spearheaded by a power from the remote north. So we can take that invasion and we can divide it up into four parts: The invasion planned, verses 1 through 13 (Ezek 38:1-13), that we’ve already talked our way through; God has His plan, verses 1 through 9 (Ezek 38:1-9), and man has his plan, verses 10 through 13 (Ezek 38:10-13). So man or Gog is planning this invasion and in reality, as they’re planning this invasion, they’re actually going to be executing the purpose of God, to bring wayward Israel to faith, because God’s agenda for Israel is to put them under so much pressure, that the only way they’re going to see out of it is to trust in their messiah and this is how God works. If you monitor your own life, you’ll see God doing this in your life all of the time as you walk with Him. He puts you into circumstances where there’s almost no way out, to the point where we say, okay, I guess I’ll have to trust the Lord. You know, we kind of trust the Lord as a last resort, you know, and God says, well that’s the reaction I wanted initially and so if you can understand God doing that in your personal life, you can see the plan of God as He’s going to do this for the nation of Israel. 7:07
So it’s in verses 1 through 13 (Ezek 38:1-13) that we get a list of those nations and we’ve talked through how to identify those nations in the Middle East. So this would be sort of a red green axis, Communism, Russia, the rest of these nations, Islam. It’s interesting how the Marxists and the Muslims seem to get along really well, because the enemy of my enemy is my friend, right? Until one day when all of us are gone, then the Marxists are going to be left with the Muslims and if I was a betting man, I’d put my money on the Muslims. They’re going to see what a terrible friend they really are but in the meantime, they’re both using each other to invade Israel in the last days.
So we’ve talked through those ancient names and I’ve shown you exactly how to identify these names to modern countries that we see today. We’ve gone through about fourteen names. So the invasion is planned. The last Sunday we were together, we looked at verses 14 through 16 (Ezek 38:14-16) where there was a movement away from the planning of the invasion to the execution of the invasion and as this invasion is being executed, once you get to Ezekiel chapter 38, verse 17 (Ezek 38:17) through chapter 39, verse 20 (Ezek 39:20), you’ll see that God has the whole thing under control, aren’t you glad that God’s got everything under control? And He’s going to defeat this invasion personally. He’s not going to rely upon the United States of America to rescue Israel. He’s going to do it himself and He’s going to bring these invaders to a very violent end and so that starts getting described in chapter 38, verse 17 (Ezek 38:17). The armies are going to be destroyed, the weapons are going to be burned, the soldiers are going to be buried and the soldiers are going to be eaten. Wow! By the birds of prey. So we are right here with the prophecies that Ezekiel had two thousand six hundred years ago concerning the destruction of this invading army and of course, as we start to go through this, the background of it, always, when God is dealing with the nations is Genesis chapter 12, verse 3 (Gen 12:3), which was foundational promise as God was bringing the nation of Israel into existence, God said, I will bless those who bless you, concerning Israel, and the one who curses you I will curse. Why? Because in you, all of the families of the earth will be blessed. God has purposed to export His blessings to planet earth through the nation of Israel and so, you might ask yourself why did God choose to use Israel and you’ll have to ask God that question. I don’t know, but God made a sovereign unilateral choice to elect a nation to be His channel of blessings to the world and the moment He put His hand on Israel as His instrument of blessing to the earth is the moment God knew that Satan would try to destroy the nation of Israel and so consequently, God gave to Israel other promises and one of those is the nation that comes against you, I personally will come against; and you clearly see an outworking of this in Ezekiel, 38, verses 17 and following (Ezekiel 38:17). 11:04
Charles Feinberg and his outstanding commentary on the book of Ezekiel writes:
Charles L. Feinberg – The Prophecy of Ezekiel: The Glory of the Lord, Paperback ed. (Chicago: Moody, 1969; reprint, Chicago: Moody, 1984), 223, 228
“Through the centuries Israel has time and again been the prey of one nation after another. Yet in every case the visitation of God in wrath has been unmistakable upon the ones involved. But the nations have not fully learned their lesson as far as hatred of Israel is concerned and will try yet once more…” Interrupting the quote for a moment, I mean, that’s a perfect description of today. Everybody looks at the nation of Israel as if it’s just kind of a real estate deal, we need to work out over there, not understanding that they’re tampering with forces that they can’t possibly fathom and even though God has acted in history over and over again to defend Israel, the Gentile nations are really slow to learn and boy! Are they going to learn their lesson here as this prophecy moves into fulfillment? Continuing on… “Satan will urge them on yet again to their doom so that all may see that God curses those who curse Abraham’s seed…” Then, Charles Feinberg, a Hebrew Christian himself says… “Let us be among those seeking their good and their blessing. It will be seen that the serious and fatal weakness of the enemies of Israel will be their reliance on numbers, and their confidence that Israel‘s weaknesses means their strength and ultimate victory. They fail, as always, to take God into account…”
So they’re going to launch this invasion saying, the time is right, we’ve got the numbers and they don’t understand the brick wall they’re about to run into, the divine hand of God. So let’s go ahead and start moving verse by verse. Take a look at verse 17 of Ezekiel, 38 (Ezek 38:17): Thus says the Lord GOD, Are you the one of whom I spoke in former days through My servants the prophets of Israel, who prophesied in those days for many years that I would bring you against them?… So you’ll notice the expression here “the former prophets”. In other words, this invasion that’s being described here is not just described in Ezekiel, 38 and 39. Certainly, you probably get the most specific picture of the invasion in these chapters, but it’s alluded to elsewhere. It’s alluded to and prophets that wrote prior to and around the time of Ezekiel. Charles Feinberg says:
Charles L. Feinberg – The Prophecy of Ezekiel: The Glory of the Lord, Paperback ed. (Chicago: Moody, 1969; reprint, Chicago: Moody, 1984), 219
“Notice that twice it is stated (Ezek 38:17; Ezek 39:8) that former prophets foretold this invasion… And he gives several scriptures that are probably speaking of the same general events: (Psalm 2:1-3; Isaiah 29:1-8; Joel 2:20; Joel 3:9-21; Zech 12:1 ; Zech 14:2-3).”
which we’re starting to study in our mid-week Bible study, Wednesday evenings; and this becomes the problem of tampering interpretation wise with what God is saying here, cause people for whatever reason feel that they have the freedom to rewrite the Bible if it doesn’t make sense to their own world view. They do this with Ezekiel’s millennial temple, chapters 40 through 46, all of the time and they don’t really understand that Ezekiel’s temple is specifically spoken of in the prophet Ezekiel but it’s spoken of in a lot of other passages as well. So if you start playing games with Ezekiel’s temple, you’re playing games with other prophetic scripture also. If you start playing games with Ezekiel, 38 and 39 and trying to come up with an interpretation that’s less than literal and many people do that, then you’re not just damaging the prophecies here, you’re damaging the prophecies elsewhere in God’s word concerning the same event and one of the most important things you can ever learn is theology, it’s like a seamless tapestry. You start tampering with one area of the Bible and you may not realize it but you’re affecting another area of interpretation. So we today are living in a climate where evangelicalism, so called, the biggest conversation that’s happening for the last couple of years in the evangelical theological society, which is the group of scholars, the movers and thinkers of evangelical Christianity, the number one thing they’ve been talking about for the last couple of years is the historicity of Adam. So even to have that conversation, it’s obvious that many if not most of them don’t believe in the historical character of Adam. They don’t take a literal, normal understanding of Genesis chapter 1, verse 11 (Gen 1:11) and they probably sit around thinking that they’re just having a conversation about the first Adam. But the problem is when you study the Bible particularly Luke, 3, you’ll see that Adam is in a genealogy linking Adam to Jesus. So if you start playing games with Adam and the various characters mentioned in Genesis, 1 through 11, that’s an unbroken chain there in Luke, 3. It’s just a matter of time before you affect the doctrine of Jesus Christ Himself and whether He’s even a historical figure. In our resurrection Sunday message last week I showed you the quote from the late atheist Christopher Hitchens who doesn’t believe there’s any historical reference for Jesus of Nazareth. Of course he died in 2011, so I think he probably has a different viewpoint now, but that mindset of we don’t know whether Jesus even existed, I mean, that follows logically with the idea that we don’t even know if Adam existed, because whatever you’re doing with Adam, it’s going to affect your understanding of the last Adam, Jesus Christ, because that’s how theology is, it’s a seamless tapestry. So if I sometimes seem a little bit wound up concerning what people are doing with God’s word, it’s because I’ve studied enough theology to understand that if you change this over here, you’re affecting that over there; and most people they don’t connect the dots, they just think you’re having a nice conversation about whatever. They don’t understand it’s like dominoes in a row. You knock over one domino and the others will start to follow. 18:50
So that’s why it’s important to understand that Ezekiel’s invasion is also mentioned in other prophets and then you come to verses 18 and 19 (Ezek 38:18-19), which says: It will come about on that day, when Gog comes against the land of Israel, declares the Lord GOD, that My fury will mount up in My anger. In My zeal and in My blazing wrath I declare that on that day there will surely be a great earthquake in the land of Israel… Now, notice these words here: Fury, anger, blazing wrath. The reason those words are so significant is because it locks you down on when this event is going to happen, because there are many, many people that will tell you that this happens before the rapture or it happens subsequent to the rapture but before the peace treaty is signed and very, very good people hold to that sort of perspective. I am not in that camp at all and the reason I’m not in that camp is Ezekiel tells us when this is going to happen. It’s going to happen when God’s wrath is unleashed and today we see God abandoning us, our country, as a form of wrath, Romans chapter 1. But we’re not living in a time period where he has unleashed His wrath. We’re not living in a time period when the seals and the trumpets and the golden bowls of wrath are being poured out on the human race.
So the fact that this happens during the time of God’s blazing wrath, in my opinion, locks this down to the tribulation. So, as we have been going through this passage, I’ve shown you different clues, because the big question everybody has with this is when is it going to happen?
6 Timing Clues
- Restoration section (33-48)
- Latter times (Ezek 38:8a)
- Last days (Ezek 38:16)
- After Israel’s regathering in unbelief but before her final restoration (Ezek 38:8b; 39:22, 29)
- During God’s wrath (Ezek. 38:18-19)
- While Israel is living securely and peacefully (Ezek 38:8c, 11)
Well you’ll notice it happens in the restoration section of the book, with all of Ezekiel’s other futuristic prophecies, so this must be something yet future. You’ll notice it happens in the latter times and in the last days and when you track those expressions down in the prophets, they basically refer to the time of Israel’s restoration and birth of her kingdom. As we move into chapter 39, I’ll show you that very clearly this happens after Israel is re-gathered in unbelief but before her restoration. In other words, this is the tool that God is using to bring unbelieving Israel to Himself. Number six there at the bottom, it happens while Israel is living securely and peacefully. So by my way of thinking, at least chapter 38 is taking place after the antichrist has started the tribulation period with an event that Daniel, 9, verse 27 (Dan 9:27) predicts, a peace treaty between the antichrist and unbelieving Israel, which will allow Israel to live in security and peace for a season. So it must happen after that event and then a final clue is it happens during God’s wrath. So as I’ll try to explain, I think chapters 38 and 39 sort of bracket the tribulation period. Chapter 38 happening towards the beginning. A world war breaks out with seal judgment number seven and chapter 39 is more describing the after effects of the tribulation period at the end, but I believe that this is a tribulation period event and that expression “anger, fury and wrath” to me, it locks it down into that time period. I mean, you have to ask yourself when is God’s fury and anger and blazing wrath poured out. It’s only happened a couple times in history. It happened in the days of Noah, the global flood. It happened again with study that we’re going to be talking about in the main service, Sodom and Gomorrah, it happened then and it’s going to happen again in the tribulation period. So God today is waiting for the world to repent, to change their mind about His Son. So we’re living in an age of grace, but you have to understand that the age of grace won’t last forever. As God said in the days of Noah, my Spirit will not strive with man forever. For he is mortal, his days will be 120 years. In other words, you reach a point where the age of grace is over and the wrath of God comes forth upon the earth and that’s what we’re seeing described in verses 18 and 19. 24:18
It’s kind of interesting because it doesn’t describe here in verses 18 and 19 any sort of indirect mediary that God is using. It’s like it’s His own wrath coming forth, which is a little bit different than Sodom and Gomorrah, where the destroying angel, before he came to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, as he was dispatched from heaven said to Lot: Hurry, escape there, for I cannot do anything until you arrive there. Therefore the name of the town was called Zoar… In Genesis, 19, God used an angel to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah but as you look at verses 18 and 19, you don’t see any angel there. It’s almost as if God is unleashing His wrath in this circumstance directly and then, take a look at the very end of verse 19 (Ezek 38:19), because this is very interesting, it says: In My zeal and in My blazing wrath I declare that on that day there will surely be a great earthquake… And then it says… in the land of Israel… So the first thing that God is going to do to destroy this invading party is He’s going to allow a great earthquake in the land of Israel and as you go through the book of Revelation, Revelation chapter 11 for example, other passages, it keeps talking about a great earthquake or earthquakes in the land of Israel. That’s why this article from Times of Israel, I believe this is a 2018 article, I found so interesting. It says this:
After tremors, experts warn a huge quake is the greatest threat facing Israel
“Scientists say thousands could die because Israel, which sits on a major fault line, has ignored warnings to strengthen homes and schools. After a series of minor tremors rattled northern Israel over the last two weeks, experts warned that the country is negligently unprepared for a major earthquake that would likely kill thousands of people, including many children…” Now if my memory is right, in Revelation, 11, as it describes an earthquake in the land of Israel, I believe it says, you might want to double check me on this, seven thousand died because of the earthquake and this article is predicting the death of thousands of people, because of this fault line. It goes on and it says: “Experts warned that the country is negligently unprepared for a major earthquake that would likely kill thousands of people, including many children… And then they’re quoting an expert here: ‘The threat of an earthquake, is in my eyes, the greatest threat facing the state of Israel,’ geologist Ariel Heimann told Hadashot news on Friday. It is definitely a greater threat than rockets fired from Gaza, and it is a far greater danger than the Iranian threat… So this interesting article says the biggest threat is not rockets of terrorism fired from the Gaza Strip, it’s not Iran which, as we all know, is very close to crossing the nuclear finish line. I mean, those are threats to be sure but that’s not the greatest threat according to the article, it’s this fault line that runs through the land of Israel. Israel sits on the Syrian African shift, a tear in the earth’s crust running the length of the border separating Israel and Jordan and is part of the Great Rift Valley which extends from northern Syria to Mozambique. The expert says: If God forbid, we have an earthquake like this, it will leave thousands dead and hundreds of thousands of people will have to leave their homes. Houses will be destroyed, there will be massive economic damage that will set the country back dozens of years,” Heimann warned.
So it is interesting that you read these prophecies given two thousand six hundred years ago. I mean, Ezekiel saw these things in Babylon, three hundred and fifty miles to the east of Israel and he’s seeing an Israel reborn in the last days. He’s seeing an Israel reborn in the last days in unbelief. He’s seeing an Israel born in the last days in unbelief, susceptible to an earthquake and just go through the checklist: Has Israel been born in unbelief? Check; Is this real susceptible to an earthquake? Check, because that’s what the Bible says. I don’t know of any other book in the history of mankind that can do this, that can make prophecies with such precise accuracy and then you go down to verse 20 (Ezek 38:20) and I think this is largely describing, it reads a lot to me like the seals and the trumpets and the bowls. It says in verse 20 (Ezek 38:20): The fish of the sea, the birds of the heavens, the beasts of the field, all the creeping things that creep on the earth, and all the men who are on the face of the earth will shake at My presence; the mountains… Now, we’ve made a big issue about the mountains and we will make more of an issue of that later, but that’s something to underline… the mountains also will be thrown down, the steep pathways will collapse and every wall will fall to the ground… And you go on to verse 21 (Ezek 38:21) and it says: I will call for a sword against him on all My mountains, declares the Lord GOD. Every man’s sword will be against his brother… And so it almost seems like God here is using a strategy to destroy these invaders very similar to what He did in the days of Gideon, you remember. How the enemy came in the days of Gideon and how God defeated that enemy by allowing that enemy to start to turn on each other, because it says here, every man’s sword will be against his brother. So God has all kinds of tools that He’s going to use to bring these invaders down. Number one, there’s going to be an earthquake. Number two, He is executing a strategy that you see in the book of Judges, concerning Gideon, about the enemy fighting amongst itself. 32:11
Just to refresh your memory, Judges, 7, verse 22 (Judges 7:22) says: When they blew the three hundred trumpets, the LORD set the sword of one against another even throughout the entire army; and the army fled as far as Beth-shittah toward Zererah, as far as the edge of Abel-meholah, by Tabbath… So we have a tendency to look at these huge armies as if, Oh! My goodness, what’s going to happen? Israel is so outnumbered and God says, I’ve got the whole thing under control. I’m actually going to bring into existence circumstances where the enemy is going to fight amongst itself and remember that’s how God dealt with Gideon, remember how God whittled Gideon’s troops down? Certain troops were allowed to go home and he’s just stuck with a bare minority and he probably thought to himself, I’m going to be wiped out and he wasn’t counting on God and His battle strategy, where God is going to take this massive army and it’s going to somehow start a civil war amongst itself. Apparently the same kind of thing is going to happen here and this is why you don’t have to worry about circumstances in your life that are overwhelming you. God has strategies and tactics that you have never probably even thought about or contemplated because we serve a very, very big God and He has the battle all under control, He has strategies all under control, He knows how the victory is going to be achieved. We don’t know and so God just asks us to trust Him in life problems. You know, as the saying goes: God’s got this. God’s got it figured out and certainly when Israel needs God the most, right here in this prophecy, the battle plan is already laid by God and He’s bringing it to fruition. You’ll notice again verse 21 (Ezek 38:21), the repetition of the mountains. More on that a little later and then you go down to verse 22 of Ezekiel, 38 (Ezek 38:22) and it says: With pestilence and with blood I will enter into judgment with him… See, how it’s a direct judgment, we are not dealing with indirect judgment. This is directly coming from the hands of God… and I will rain on him and on his troops, and on the many peoples who are with him, a torrential rain, with hailstones, fire and brimstone… So notice again verse 21 (Ezek 38:21) the repetition of mountains, notice verse 22 (Ezek 38:22) torrential rain. There’s a lot of things that are going to be happening and one of them is a divine annihilation of the coalition, which God is going to see to it personally Himself and you’ll also notice this expression “many peoples with you” and I have taught that to mean that the different players that are mentioned in Ezekiel, 38 and 39, the outer ring of the nations, it doesn’t rule out that the inner ring:
Jordan, Lebanon, etc… won’t also attack at the same time, because when it keeps saying many peoples with you. It says that in verse 6 of chapter 38 (Ezek 38:6), verse 9 of chapter 38 (Ezek 38:9), verse 15 of chapter 38 (Ezek 38:15), verse 24 of chapter 38 (Ezek 38:24) and then in chapter 39, verse 4 (Ezek 39:4) it says it again “the peoples who are with you”. It keeps repeating this over and over again. I’m understanding this as God to Ezekiel is not giving an exhaustive knowledge of every single nation that’s involved. 36:48
So the nations, I think, that will attack will be the outer ring on our map that we’ve studied. But also the inner ring will attack simultaneously. So I don’t really have any real interest in trying to see two wars here as many people do. The outer ring is war one and the inner ring is war two or the inner ring is war one and the outer ring is war two and they go to these sort of remote passages to develop these two wars and I don’t see any need to do that, because their premise is, well, what about the inner ring nations? Well, the inner ring nations are included here, because it says, the nations that God revealed to Ezekiel are not exhaustive, because many peoples will be with you. So that would include the outer ring and the inner ring simultaneously; and then you come to the very end of the chapter. Look at verse 23 (Ezek 38:23), because you can see the point of the whole thing. Why is God allowing this? Ultimately, well let me rephrase that, one of His purposes is the salvation of the nation. That’s very, very important. Their physical protection and their spiritual regeneration. But that’s not God’s ultimate purpose. God’s ultimate purpose is to glorify Himself, because God’s purposes in human history are doxological. Doxa means glory. God works in human history to glorify Himself. Now, of course, when His elect nation is all saved, in other words, they’re saved physically from this invasion and then they’re regenerated spiritually, I mean, that’s a wonderful thing but that’s not even God’s ultimate purpose. God’s ultimate purpose is that He might be glorified through this exchange of events. So every time God acts is to glorify Himself and even our salvation, which is a wonderful thing. I mean, it’s a wonderful thing that we can trust in Christ and not go to hell after death but instead go to heaven. I mean, that’s a fantastic thing that’s happened but that in and of itself is not God’s ultimate purpose in saving you. God when He saved you had in mind your soul being spared from eternal torment but He also had in mind a greater goal, His ultimate goal, which is to glorify Himself. So God’s purposes, His primary purposes in human history are not soteriological, to save. But His ultimate goal, His big goal is to glorify Himself and you can take God’s soteriological purposes and see it subsumed under a much larger category, the glory of God and a lot of theological systems don’t teach that. Reformed theology, essentially what it says, among many other problems, it says: God’s purposes in human history are soteriological. In other words, to save and that is not true. God’s ultimate purpose is to glorify Himself and when a lost sinner is saved, God gets the glory. If you think that God’s purposes in history are soteriological, then you have no category for dealing with God’s dealings with the angels. Good angels, fallen angels. How can that be soteriological when the plan of salvation is not open to the angels. So if you’re going to say God’s purposes in history are soteriological, then you have no category for explaining how He works with the angels; but if you see God’s greatest purpose is to glorify Himself, you can take His dealings with the angels and you can file it under that larger category of the doxological purpose of God. You can take an individual salvation and file it under the larger purpose of God, which is doxological. 41:35
So Dr. Charles Ryrie puts it this way:
Traditional-normative dispensational theology… And you’re sitting in a church that teaches this, by the way, traditional dispensationalism… is a system that embodies three essential, fundamental concepts called the sine qua non… Which is Latin, which means without which there is not. In other words, dispensationalism boils down to three things and if you take away one of the three, you don’t have dispensationalism anymore. Everybody thinks that dispensationalism is so complicated. No, it’s not complicated at all, you just believe three things and what are those three things?
- The consistent use of a plain, normal, literal, grammatical, historical method of interpretation. In other words, we’re dispensationalists here, not because dispensationalism sounds great. Gee! I want to be a dispensationalist today. No, it arises out of a hermeneutic, which means interpretation, of interpreting the Bible in a normal manner; notice he says normal here, because that takes into account figures of speech when they’re conspicuous in the text, because our opponents say, well, we’re wooden literalists and we don’t recognize figures of speech. They don’t understand what we’re saying. We take the text at face value except when there’s an obvious figure of speech in play. Other than that, we take the words in their normal sense and notice that we do this consistently. Everybody does it in the gospels. If I didn’t do it in the gospels, they would be full-fledged liberals. What makes this church different following this system, is we take that method of interpretation and we apply it to the whole Bible, which by the way would include Genesis, 1 through 11. It would also include Ezekiel, 38 and 39, which we’re looking at and chapters 40 through 46 in Ezekiel. So we do not play this game of, well, this part of the Bible’s literal but not this part. That’s why that expression “consistent”, as Ryrie is articulating this, is such a big deal. So you’re a dispensationalist if you want to take the whole Bible literally… Which reveals… See that? Once you take the whole Bible at face value there is an end product. There’s a result, which reveals that the church is distinct from Israel. Why do I think that there are separate programs for Israel and the church? I didn’t wake up one day and say, you know what? I love this idea of separate programs for Israel and the church. Let me see if I can go to my Bible and make this work. That’s not how dispensationalists operate. You take the whole Bible literally and once you do that, it yields an obvious result that Israel is Israel and the church is the church. They are two different trains on totally different train tracks, because God is achieving different results through each program and by the way, God is a God of diversity, Amen? We have male and female. God has a program for men, He has a program for women. God has a program for the good angels that did not fall, He’s got a different program for the fallen angels so God has separate programs for Israel and the church and only a talented author can take all of these different sub-themes and weave them together in such a way that it creates a literary masterpiece and what’s the literary masterpiece? The whole thing is about the glory of God. So:
- We believe in a consistent literal or plain method of interpretation, which reveals that the church is distinct from Israel. That’s why as I teach this I’m not telling you that the church is involved in this invasion. Why am I not telling you that the church is somehow on the earth when this happens? Because you can’t find the word church here. But you find the word Israel, land of Israel, mountains of Israel, used over and over again and then number three:
- In dispensationalism, God’s overall purpose is to glorify himself (Eph. 1:6, 12, 14)
Another way of putting it is this, God’s ultimate purpose for the ages is to glorify Himself. Scripture is not human centered as those salvation where the principal point. But God centered because His glory is at the center… I’m continuing to quote here from Charles Ryrie as he’s developing the third point in his Sine Qua Non of dispensationalism, he says: The glory of God as the primary principle that unifies all the dispensations, the program of salvation being just one of the means by which God glorifies Himself. Each successive revelation of God’s plan for the ages, as well as his dealings with the elect, non-elect, angels, nations, all manifest His glory… And once you understand this, it’s going to save your life a lot of problems, because you’re going to figure out why you’re here. The reason you are on the earth is to glorify God. When you trusted in Christ for salvation, God received the glory. So as a growing Christian you say to yourself, Gee Lord, it’s really not about me and my plans and my ambitions. I had a youth pastor that put it this way: If you want to make God laugh, show Him your plans for your life. I mean, you show God your plans for your life, it’s like giving Him a little sand castle and asking Him to bless it. It’s not about me, it’s not about my plans, it’s not about my skills and temperament and background, it’s not about helping me find fulfillment. Now, those things in and of themselves are not wrong. But they’re not the principal purpose. Once you get saved, you come before the Lord and you say, you know what Lord? However you’re going to do it, I don’t even know how you’re going to do it. But however you’re going to do it, just glorify Yourself through my life. Now you’re living for the purpose for which you exist and your life will start to make sense. As long as you don’t understand your purpose and are moving over here or moving over there without understanding the big picture, you get yourself embroiled in all kinds of projects and activities that may not be what God wants you to do. So we just deposit ourselves before the Lord and we say, Lord, as much as you’re able in this flesh, this decaying flesh that I am, as a new born child of God, just glorify yourself and watch what God does with your life. I mean, you’ll be shocked at what God does with your life. God, make me a great evangelist. God says, well, I’m not really interested in that. God, made me the bestselling author. God says, I’m not really interested in that. God, put me on television and radio and make me the most successful evangelical pastor in the United States of America. God says, I’m not really interested in that and then finally, you wise up and you say you know what Lord? Just glorify yourself in my life and God says, now we’re in business. Now, you’re talking and you just trust God with whatever He’s going to do with the waning days that we have left, you know, on planet earth either prior to death or prior to the rapture or whichever comes first. I love this diagram given to us by Dr. Michael Stallard and it says here:
The focus on the glory of God in dispensationalism and as you kind of work your way up, the left edge of the triangle, it’s everything that God has done in creation to glorify Himself. Creation of the world glorifies God, Genesis, 1. Creation of the nations glorifies God, Genesis, 10. Creation of Israel glorifies God, Genesis, 12. Creation of the church, Acts, 2, glorifies God and then, you work your way down through the other edge of that triangle and it’s everything God does in redemption, glorifies God. Rapture of the church glorifies God. Restoration of Israel glorifies God. Judgment of the nations glorifies God. Redemption of creation itself, the eternal state, glorifies God and so it’s a reminder of the doxological purpose of God. 52:05
One of the clearest passages on this is Isaiah, 42, verse 8 (Isa 42:8), which says: I am the Lord, that is My name and I will not give My glory to another. Nor My praise to idols… Now, I don’t know everything there is to know about God but I do know this much, that when a human being begins to eclipse glory that only belongs to God, he’s cruising for a bruising, let’s just put it that way, because that’s an interference with why God is working in history either creation or redemption and the reason I’m going into this, is this is exactly how this chapter ends, verse 23 (Ezek 38:23). It’s the reason why God is allowing this whole invasion to transpire. He says in verse 23 (Ezek 38:23): I will magnify Myself… That’s the purpose… sanctify Myself, and make Myself known in the sight of many nations; and they will know that I am the LORD… So the very nations that were plotting and conspiring and executing a plan to wipe His elect nation off the face of the earth, in the presence of those nations, God will be forever glorified and that would make sense because that’s God’s purpose in everything. We moved from there to chapter 39 and I think chapter 39 is sort of the results of the invasion.
- Ezekiel recommissioned (33)
- False shepherds removed (34)
- Edom destroyed (35)
- Israel’s restoration: physical & spiritual (36)
- Israel’s restoration illustrated (37)
- Means of restoration: Northern invasion (38)
- Results of the Northern invasion: conversion (39)
- Millennial Temple (40‒46)
- Tribal land allotment (47‒48)
The results of the invasion is the conversion of Israel, which glorifies God and that becomes the subject matter of chapter 39. So notice if you will chapter 39, verse 1 (Ezek 39:1), it says: And you, son of man, prophesy against Gog and say, Thus says the Lord GOD, Behold, I am against you, O Gog, prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal… So when he says there “and you son of man prophesy”, it seems to be a new oracle. But it’s not fresh material, it’s sort of continuing on with the oracle that he had back in chapter 38, so the themes continue. But the emphasis more in chapter 39 is on the results of the invasion. What is the ultimate result? Chapter 38 is the invasion itself, chapter 39 is its results. So Ezekiel is told to prophesy again and you’ll notice there he says, prophesy against. Well, against who? Against Gog, against the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal. This is exactly what he said back in chapter 38. Go back just for a minute to chapter 38, verses 2 and 3 (Ezek 38:2-3): Son of man set your face toward Gog of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal and prophesy against him… Verse 3… Thus says the Lord God, behold I am against you, O Gog, prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal… So Ezekiel’s posture in both of these chapters is to give prophecies against somebody and it shows you who God is against. God is against these nations that have taken it upon themselves to eradicate Israel from the face of the earth. God says I am against Gog, the leader of this confederation. I am against Rosh and we’ve defined Rosh earlier in our series as Russia. God is not against the Russian people, God loves everybody but He is against a regime that would seek to do evil involving being so bold as to try to invade the Middle East. God says I’m against that, He says I’m against Meshech and Tubal. Meshech and Tubal as we’ve argued earlier in our study represent Turkey. So Turkey would be in alignment with Russia and the two of them would sort of team up along with other nations under the leadership of Gog to invade Israel in the last days and God wants to communicate that He is against those nations that are doing this. He loves the people of Turkey, He loves the Russian people but the evil regimes itself many times which oppress their own people and try to remove the presence of God from the face of the earth by invading the Middle East, God is very clear that I’m against that. So Ezekiel is told to prophesy against that. Rosh-Russia, Meshech and Tubal-Turkey and this is just sort of a review cause we’ve gone to a lot of efforts to teach people how to pinpoint the specific nations.
So if this is confusing to you, I would encourage you to go back into our archives and listen to some of the lessons. 58:21
But then you come to verse 2 (Ezek 39:2): I will turn you around, drive you on, take you up from the remotest parts of the north and bring you against the mountains of Israel… Notice this expression here; we’ve seen it several times “from the remote parts of the north”. This is an expression that you’ll find in chapter 38, verse 6, verse 9, verse 15 (Ezek 38:6,9,15). So it’s been used three times before and here it is the fourth time, chapter 39, verse 2 (Ezek 39:2). This is one of the reasons we believe Rosh is Russia. It’s not the only reason but it is one of several reasons and it’s just a matter of consulting Google maps, if you will and starting with Israel, which is the center of the nations as far as God is concerned, chapter 38, verse 12 (Ezek 38:12) and chapter 5, verse 5 (Ezek 5:5) and just going to the remote north.
Go as far north as you could possibly go and you run into not just Russia, but you run into Moscow herself. You’ll notice there in verse 2 (Ezek 38:2) the repetition of the mountains of Israel. Son of man set your face toward Gog of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal and prophesy against him… Verse 3 (Ezek 38:3) says: Thus says the Lord God, behold I am against you, O Gog, prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal… You know, what I’m reading out of the wrong chapter. No wonder I’m having so much trouble. Unless you guys want to review chapter 38, we can do that. You go to verse 2 (Ezek 39:2) and he says: I will turn you around, drive you on, take you up from the remotest parts of the north… Now, we talked about the remotest parts of the north. But one other fast thing, he says, I will bring you against the mountains of Israel. As we’ve gone through this, we’ve seen the repetition over and over and over and over and over again to not just Israel but her mountains and I’ve given you quotes from Mark Hitchcock and also from Arnold Fruchtenbaum indicating that with the Six Day War, as Israel recaptured Judea and Samaria, suddenly you have mountains in Israel and then Donald Trump came along and he gave back to Israel or he allowed Israel to annex the Golan Heights, which is a mountainous region separating the land of Israel from her northern neighbor Syria and there’s another example where mountains have come into Israel, just in modern times.
When God says this invasion is going to happen against the mountains of Israel, we’ve got to have mountains in Israel. Gee Lord, how we are going to get mountains in Israel? God says, I’ll take care of that, Six Day War. I’ll take care of that, Donald Trump took care of that. Thank you Donald Trump for putting the mountains in Israel, so that this invasion could occur. Different way of looking at political figures, isn’t it? 1:02
He says and I’ll stop with this, I know I said that about five minutes ago (Ezek 39:2): I will turn you around, drive you on, take you up from the remotest parts of the north and bring you against the mountains of Israel… Now notice what God is doing with Gog and this coalition Rosh, He’s turning them around. They think they’re making decisions to do this invasion, but it’s actually God Himself that’s drawing these nations into the Middle East so He can rescue Israel and destroy the coalition, so He receives the glory. So is this man’s doing or is it God’s doing? The answer is yes and what is it that turns this coalition around and brings them into the land of Israel? Well, we’ve covered this back in chapter 38, verse 12 (Ezek 38:12): It’s spoil, plunder, cattle and goods. Verse 13 of Ezekiel 38 (Ezek 38:13), we’ve covered this: It’s silver and gold. So these nations are coming primarily to seize or take control of Israel’s wealth, which means part of this prophecy is not just Israel being re-gathering in unbelief. Israel, not just having mountains within her borders, so this invasion can occur, but in order to set the stage for this, Israel must become phenomenally wealthy and I would submit to you that is happening before our very eyes. Even a lot of the technological devices that we’re so accustomed to were invented in the land of Israel. As we’ve talked about there are five trillion dollars’ worth of mineral deposits alone in the Dead Sea. Israel has discovered natural gas on her northern shoreline, she has discovered oil within the land of Israel. Just Google “oil in Zion” and you can read all about it and if all of that weren’t enough, it says here “silver and gold”. As we’ve talked about in prior teachings, I’m of the persuasion that the nation of Israel is probably on the precipice of a massive silver and gold discovery. Silver and gold hidden by Solomon, because when you read about the Solomonic empire, there is gold everywhere and when you look at what Israel took into the captivity in the very careful genealogies that are provided in the Bible and what Israel brought back from the captivity, you don’t see the reference to the massive gold and silver that Solomon owned and so you have to ask yourself, well, what happened to it. Conjecture, this is not something worth starting a new church over per se. Conjecture, Solomon hid it and Solomon did such a good job hiding the silver and gold no one ‘s been able to find it and if that silver and gold is in the land of Israel, which I think it is, because it didn’t just disappear. There’s no record of it in terms of it being taken into Babylon and brought back from Babylon, it’s just a matter of time before it’s discovered, if it hasn’t been discovered already and when that happens, that becomes another ingredient that God is using to put hooks in the jaws and to turn this coalition around for the invasion of Israel in the last days. 1:06
The one thing I just want to leave you with is this: We are living in Messianic times. We are living in times that are extraordinary, extraordinary and so if there’s something that God is calling you to do, you should probably do it, because there is the potential you may not live out your natural lifespan before the rapture. I’m not a date setter nor the son of a date setter, but I am someone who, on my knees, is trying to look into these issues and I see the prophetic curve accelerating, not decreasing as issue after issue is coming into clearer focus for God to fulfill the specifics of His word. Let’s pray. Father, we’re grateful for Bible prophecy. Help us to be good stewards of these chapters. Help us not to just fill our heads with knowledge, but help us to allow this material to change the way we live. We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name and God’s people said, Amen.