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Gog, Magog and an Iranian-Russian Alliance?

Rosenberg.jpgJoel Rosenberg is a very popular writer who tells a compelling story.  His books are even endorsed by Rush Limbaugh.  In his book Epicenter, which ranks high up on the Amazon best-selling chart, Rosenberg argues that the current animus between Israel and Iran is actually foretold in chapters 38-39 of the famous prophecy of Ezekiel regarding Gog and Magog. 

As Rosenberg sees things, one day soon Israel will find itself cornered by a Russian-Iranian-Arab alliance which will threaten Israel's very existence.  To prove his point he cites from a number of military, political and journalistic sources.  He is probably right about the animus and the Islamic designs upon Israel.  But my interest in this post is with Rosenberg's appeal to the prophecy of Gog and Magog in Ezekiel 38-39.

Typically, dispensationalists like Rosenberg appeal to this passage as a yet unfulfilled prediction of a Russian-backed Islamic invasion of the modern nation of Israel, at or about the time the seven-year tribulation begins.  Dispensationalists believe that the nations listed in the prophecy refer to people living in Ezekiel's time, who can then be traced to modern nations.  Following this method, Gog is the mysterious leader of Magog, a land north of the Caucasus mountains inhabited by the ancient Scythians.  This is in modern Russia.  Meshech is supposedly Moscow. Tubal is variously taken as Turkey or Tolbosk (a city in Russia).  Persia is clearly Iran.  Put is Libya.  Cush is Ethiopia.  Beth-Togarmah is Turkey.  Some have even identified Gomer as Germany.  But since the fall of the Soviet Union, Gomer is more often identified with Russia.  Since the bulk of these people live to the northern parts (Ezekiel 38:15) and since the predicted invasion of Israel will come from the north, Rosenberg's thesis is simply a new variation of an old dispensational theme.  At some point near the beginning of the tribulation, Israel will be invaded by a Russian-Iranian-Islamic confederacy, only to prevail militarily through God's amazing grace.

To be fair, the dispensationalists were not the first to tie this prophecy to contemporary events.  Ambrose identified these same figures as the Goths who were then threatening the Holy Roman Empire.  Luther applied this prophecy to the Turks, who were at the gates of Vienna at the time of the Reformation.

But there are two significant problems with this approach to Ezekiel 38-39.  First, as Edwin Yamauchi (a noted evangelical archaeologist and historian) has pointed out in his book, Foes from the Northern Frontier:  Invading Hordes from the Russian Steppes (Baker, 1983), 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.  This means that Ezekiel is speaking of Israel's immediate future (an Assyrian invasion from the north), which also prefigures an end-time event.

How do we know that to be the case?  If you follow the basic hermeneutical principle that the New Testament interprets the Old Testament (something dispensationalists are want to admit when it comes to interpreting biblical prophecy), then in Revelation 20:8-9, John speaks of Gog and Magog as symbolic of the nations of the earth, gathering together to make war on the saints (the church). 

This leads to the second problem with the dispensational understanding.  In Revelation 20:8-9, John is universalizing Ezekiel's prophecy of Israel being invaded from the north to the church being attacked from the four corners of the earth--this "spiritualizing" of the Old Testament as practiced by John under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is, of course, the very thing dispensationalists claim is illegitimate.  The fact of the matter is, this is exactly what John does.

In Revelation 20:8-9, John sees a vision of Gog and Magog leading all of the nations on the earth to wage war against God's people (the church), after Satan has been released from the Abyss.  These enemies of Christ and his church are ultimately and finally destroyed at Christ's second advent (see Beale, The Book of Revelation, Eerdmans, 1022-1024).  This means that the Assyrian invasion of Israel from the north foretold by Ezekiel, is actually typological of the end-times war upon the entire people of God as witnessed by John in his vision.

Man%20of%20sin%20small.jpgIf you are interested in such things, I also deal with this topic more fully in my recent book, The Man of Sin.  You can check it out, Click here: Riddleblog - Man of Sin - Uncovering the Truth About Antichrist

Rosenberg tells a great story and has gathered much interesting evidence about Islamic and Russian intentions.  But he also misuses the prophecy of Ezekiel 38-39 to make his point.  


Reader Comments (15)

I hear tell sometimes that classic dispensationalism is gone, that all you see out there now is the saner "progressive dispensationalism". You couldn't tell it by me. You have _no_ idea how much of this stuff I've heard with my own ears.

And, oh, yeah, Ezekiel 37 is about Israel returning to the land in 1948 (huh?!). And the "exceedingly great army" that rises from the dry bones is (surprise!) the Israel Defense Force. And a ressurected David is going to reign as Jesus' viceroy in the millenium (because, ya know, it says David will reign).
June 20, 2007 | Unregistered Commenter"lee n. field"
We've come a long way,baby, since the 1970's! lol
June 20, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterturmeric
I heard this tale at least 50 times growing up in Sunday school... but I never did hear about the gospel, bodily resurrection of the dead (since we were looking to the rapture, of course), or any of those awkward and difficult letters that Paul wrote.
June 20, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterGrumbler
The problem with both Idealism and Dispensationalism is that these schools of interpretation await a future antichrist "man on the scene" before the return of Christ. Wycliffe, Tyndale, Luther, Calvin, Cranmer, Bunyan, the translators of the King James Bible and the men who published the Westminster and Baptist Confessions of Faith; Isaac Newton, John Knox, Wesley, Whitfield, Jonathan Edwards, Spurgeon, Martyn Lloyd-Jones and countless others, all saw the office of the papacy as the antichrist. Christ could return at any moment. We do not await a future man of sin.
June 20, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJohn
(BTW, This Joel Rosenberg ( should not be confused with the Joel Rosenberg ( who writes science fiction and teaches defensive handgun.)
June 20, 2007 | Unregistered Commenter"lee n. field"
"I heard this tale at least 50 times growing up in Sunday school... but I never did hear about the gospel, bodily resurrection of the dead (since we were looking to the rapture, of course), or any of those awkward and difficult letters that Paul wrote."

Unfortunately, our dispy-costal church talked a lot about Paul's letters - and I still can't read them without all those bizarre teachings about Law and Grace and sanctification I was taught recurring. I listened to a Tim Keller sermon about Romans 8 and it wasn't anything like what I heard as a child.

Oh, yeah, we got the Gog/Magog stuff too.
June 20, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterturmeric
John said,

"The problem with both Idealism and Dispensationalism is that these schools of interpretation await a future antichrist "man on the scene" before the return of Christ....Christ could return at any moment. We do not await a future man of sin."

Apostle Paul said,

"Now regarding the arrival of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to be with him...Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not arrive until the rebellion comes and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction.4 He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, and as a result he takes his seat1 in God’s temple, displaying himself as God."

Again, "let no one decieve you in any way"

June 21, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAlan Kurschner
It is interesting though, that Iran appears to be behind much of global terrorism. Ken Timmerman (Countdown to Crisis) and others document the connections with Hamas, Hezbollah, even Al Queda. And who now is supplying nuke making machinery to Iran? Plus the top of the line TOR anti aircraft missiles? Russia!

Daniel had to pray and fast three whole weeks before a powerful heavenly angel was able to get past the Prince of Persia to give Daniel a message. I personally assume that particular Satanic ruling Prince still rules over Iran ( Persia) within the sovereignty of God's providence. And I don't doubt for one second Timmerman's assertion that Iran has at least four good imported nukes ready to be lobbed onto land from boats 12 miles out in International waters. When, not if.

I am amil and think Riddlebarger is the best in the world for eschatology. The dispys are too focused on current events and Israel, and are blind to the truths about this. But it doesn't change the biblical fact that the Prince of Persia was- and probably still is- perhaps one of the most powerful evil strongholds on earth. The Iran-Russia connection may well usher in nuclear devastation.
June 21, 2007 | Unregistered Commentercarolyn
Indeed, the office of the Papacy is the office of Antichrist. What else can you call it when it continues to damn the elect to hell with its illicit anathemas. Certainly it is antichrist to damn whom God has pronounced blessed. CB
June 21, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterCB
I read Kim's comments about Gog/Magog then checked my email. There was an email from my uncle who is dispensational. The subject was Gog/Magog!
June 23, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterGary
Alan, the temple is the church, not the temple in Jerusalem. “He sits as God in the temple [naos] of God” (II Thes 2:4).The temple of God under the Old Covenant was a physical temple referred to in the New Testament by the Greek word hieron, whereas the temple under the New Covenant is the body of Christ, a spiritual temple naos. The word hieron is not used in any of the epistles to refer to the church.

In context, Paul is explaining that the resurrection had not yet come because the papacy, the man of sin, had not come yet because he was being restrained by the Roman Empire, the restraining/ruling power at the time (Acts 17:7). The papacy alone opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, and as a result he takes his seat in God’s temple, the church, displaying himself as God."
June 24, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

Any idea yet on when your next book on eschatology will be finished, printed and available???
June 25, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterWayne Rohde
The Russian/Iranian alliance has been a concern for western govts. since well before the 1950's when the Iranian govt. nationalized the Anglo/Iranian oil company taking millions of dollars out of the British government coffers.

Whether that is a validation for an Ezekiel 38-39 scenario I have no idea, but you cannot deny the facts.

And since there are smarter and more knowledgeable people than Kim Riddlenabarger concerned about the subject and the fact the Ahmadinejad is on record as stating Israel should be destroyed, Riddlebarger cannot deny the fact that these two paradigms exist.

How about sticking to the facts instead of using your usual "All Dispensationalists are like Tim Lahaye" argument.

November 12, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterZechariah
The last e-mail was june today 3/22/2010......The Iranian Russian alliance is real and playing out in real time. Disbelievers be aware it's happening now!
March 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkaren
Mr. Riddlebarger spends a lot of time knocking other teachers, but doesn't come up with actual biblical truths. I am sure he actualy went to the schools he cites, but I am not sure what he came away with. Anyone can make a website to spout his own phoilosophies. This treatment of end times is skewed and purposely twisted to promote his own faulty doctrine of amillenialism....when you are in a religion which makes up the phony infant baptism and then tries to "fit" scripture to make it true, you really have to take everything else spouted as non- truths...faulty doctrine promotes faulty lifestyles....very sad.
October 25, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterm. pavlik

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