BEWARE OF THE (Russian) BEAR
Who could ever imagine that a Hollywood actor would one day become President of the United States of America? A performer can play the role of a President, but he doesn’t become one! But that’s exactly what happened when Ronald Reagan was sworn in as President in January, 1981. I voted for him, but I also had doubts. Bedtime for Bonzo kept flashing through my mind! But, so did what is perhaps Reagan’s best movie, Kings Row. Many believed he would be a one-term wonder, a political fluke whose election was merely a backlash rebound of the voters against the ill-fated presidency of President Jimmy Carter (1976-1980). Mostly, it was the Iranian takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran that sealed Carter’s fall from political grace with the American public.
Not only did Ronald Reagan successfully navigate through his first term with his trickle-down Reaganomics economy, but he won a landslide victory over Walter Mondale to ensure a second term as our President. He garnered the most electoral votes in history (525), with Mondale winning only his home state of Minnesota and the District of Columbia. Moreover, by the time President Reagan completed his second term as President, he had been instrumental in achieving what no one thought possible … the dissolution of the mighty Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (Though the Soviet Union wasn’t dismantled until 1991, this was simply the aftermath of Reagan’s efforts during the 1980s to stand tall against the Soviet regime).
Some of you may remember: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” The Russian President complied, resulting in the reunification of East and West Berlin; also, the end of Soviet dominance of East Germany, which had become like a vassal state to Russia. Soon to follow was the break-up of the Soviet Union, in which most of the 14 satellite states that comprised the Russian Sphere declared their independence from the mother land. By the end of 1991, the Soviet Union was no more. The principal nation of Russia converted to (still is) the Russian Federation. Many of these peripheral countries became independent states, such as Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Moldavia, Uzbekistan (and all the other “stan” states), and the Ukraine.
The American eagle flew proudly over the Russian bear, and spread her wings to protect and defend the nations that embraced democracy. The United States regained her status as the world’s only superpower. The Soviet Union seemed to implode from within … suffering from all the ills of economic collapse, political corruption, and social disarray. Virtually overnight, her status as a superpower vanished. Many politicians, social scientists, economists, religious leaders, and even evangelicals believed the once mighty Russian bear was dead.
Students of prophecy shook their heads in disbelief, questioning whether their analysis of the Ezekiel 38 & 39 Gog, Magog attack on Israel could possibly be accurate. Many students of the Bible reexamined the Scriptures to determine if, “the prince who rules over the nations of Meshech and Tubal” (Ezekiel 38:2) and, “Gog” ruler of the land of Magog would, in fact, be the ruler of the nation that comes against Israel, “from the distant north” (Ezekiel 39:1). Had they been wrong all this time? Russia couldn’t even lead itself, let alone a great multi-national army as Ezekiel so graphically portrays in Ezekiel 38:9: “You and all your allies—a vast and awesome army—will roll down on them (Israel) like a storm and cover the land like a cloud.”
Despite President Reagan’s huge contributions toward the Soviet Union’s collapse as a godless communist conglomerate along with its looming threat to the United States and the entire world as a nuclear superpower, this article is not about Ronald Reagan. Rather, it is about the rising resurgence of the Russian Bear.
Return of the Bear
We see, now, that the Bear was not dead, but in a state of prolonged hibernation. Due mostly to the leadership of one man, Vladmir Putin, the people from the mother land of “the distant north” once again proudly wave the Russian flag. Recently, Mr. Putin voiced his opinion that the greatest calamity of the 20th century—indeed of modern history—was the disintegration of the Soviet Union. In no uncertain terms, he was implying that this catastrophe even exceeded the monumental disasters of World War II, including the unthinkable, unimaginable tragedy of the Holocaust. But, then, with autocrats such as Putin, we must consider the source. For many, it is crystal clear what Putin intends to do: Whatever the cost, he means to rebuild the once mighty Russian empire and reestablish its preeminence among the global family of nations.
In slightly over twenty years, Russia has emerged economically, politically, and militarily as a force to be reckoned with; in large part due to Vladmir Putin’s ominous, but remarkable rise to prominence and power. After 16 years as a KGB officer, Putin eventually became Russia’s President in 2000, serving in that position until 2008. (Many countries have a president, however, their highest position of leadership is that of prime minister. In Russia, it’s just the reverse … President first, then Prime Minister).
After a good deal of deliberation, Putin decided to acknowledge the Russian Constitution’s presidential two-term limit (identical to the United States two-term limit), and chose not to run again for President in 2008. However, he was appointed by the newly elected President, Dmitry Medvedev, to the 2nd highest position in the land, Prime Minister. Yet it was no secret that most of Russia wanted Putin back as President; therefore, Medvedev recommended (nominated) Putin as a presidential candidate in 2012. On May 7th, 2012, Putin once again was elected President, swapping positions with Medvedev who was appointed Prime Minister. For all practical purposes, the Russian constitution was ignored.
Recently, Forbes magazine ranked Vladmir Putin as the world’s most powerful person, a rating that the President of the United States normally is afforded. Apparently, the current criteria for this ranking doesn’t depend on the goodness or benevolence or positive image of a leader, but rather on sheer power, prestige, and global influence. However, Putin claims to be a Russian Orthodox Christian, and, in fact, attends Orthodox Church services … all the while maintaining his membership in Russia’s Communist Party. Throughout Russia, Putin is revered as a super-hero, with many commercial products named after him. Putin declared the recent Winter Olympics held in Russia as a huge success. Why not … Russia led all nations with the most medals!
With such world-wide accolade and lofty status, Putin had no problem ignoring United States and the European Union’s threats of political and economic sanctions against Russia if they annexed Crimea back to the Russian Federation, which is exactly what happened just a few days ago. Subsequently, the U.S. and EU targeted several high-ranking officials in the Russian government with sanctions, but not Putin. In part this is because heads of state are not often sanctioned, but also because of the bewildering standing Putin has gained in the international community.
In response to Russia’s takeover of the Crimea and corresponding fear of surrounding former Russian satellite nations (such as Lithuania) that Russia will seek to return them to Russian territory, US Vice President Biden assured them that the United States is, “absolutely committed” to defending any aggression against its allies, i.e. NATO alliance nations or those who are in partnership with NATO.
Yet, many are skeptical of any U.S. or EU backing of these countries vulnerable to Russia invasion and annexation. Such as Israeli columnist and Editor Boaz Bismuth who wrote in Israel Hayom, “The Russian bear has already swallowed the (Crimean) peninsula as if it were a jar of honey.” Thus, Crimea no longer belongs to the Ukraine, even though former Russian President Nikita Khrushchev had allowed the Crimea to be part of the independent Ukraine state in the 1950s. Bismuth concluded his article by saying that Putin will, (continue to) “exploit the West’s blubbering and Washington’s lack of leadership.”
What About Ezekiel’s Gog, Magog Prophecy?
International developments within the past few years shows that Ezekiel’s prophecy of Gog and Magog is alive and well after all! Right? Of course, right. Why is that? Because it’s found in the Bible, the very Word of God! What God says will happen, happens! Always has, always will! It parallels other Biblical prophecies that were considered to be impossible or inaccurate or non-applicable to the generation of that time, only to be proven correct by means of gradual or even sudden changes in world conditions. Israel’s miraculous born-in-a-day arrival on the world scene in 1948 is a good example.
Prior to that remarkable event, the vast majority of Biblical scholars and the Christian Church in general had given up on Old Testament prophecies that distinctly articulate the physical and spiritual restoration of Israel and the Jews. So much so, that many Christians and churches turned to the insidious, deceitful idea of Replacement Theology—the church symbolically replaces Israel even as applied to end-times prophecies. Or, the Church is God’s only reference point despite the many prophecies that indisputably identify the physical LAND and actual descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as the PEOPLE of that land, Israel.
I repeat for emphasis: Not the Church but Israel is the exclusive subject of such passages as: “Watch, for the day of the Lord is coming when your possessions will be plundered right in front of you! I will gather all the nations to fight against Jerusalem. The city will be taken, the houses looted, and the woman raped. Half the population will be taken into captivity, and the rest will be left among the ruins of the city” (Zechariah 14:1-2). How can this passage possibly refer to the Church during the Tribulation? The answer is, it can’t. Not unless the Church is exclusively located in Jerusalem and half of the church (believers) are taken captive, etc, etc. But that’s what you must do if you subscribe to Replacement Theology. You must take all the negative passages with the positive.
Scripture is unambiguous: Believers will be taken in the Rapture, so that we do not have to go through the Great Tribulation. “For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us” (I Thessalonians 5:9). The us in this verse clearly refers to believers in Christ. In the context of this entire passage, the poured out anger is equally transparent: it is the wrath of God vented on a rebellious global populace during the Great Tribulation.
There was no need for Bible students to panic back in 1991, when the Soviet Union crumbled to the ground. Although that was considered a positive development for the world-at-large, many Christians felt they had been misled by teachers of prophecy with regard to Russia as the only viable nation to match the description of Gog and Magog. So, we should have chilled out a little. In just over twenty years, we’re back on track … precisely where we started. Russia under the powerful leadership of Vladmir Putin is once again in the spot light of world affairs, and she is flexing her political clout and military muscles. I firmly believe that Russia will continue to grow as a world power right up to the time when she marches against Israel and fulfills the spectacular prophecy of Ezekiel 38 & 39.
Several nations will join the Russian campaign against Israel; in fact, these nations are even identified by Ezekiel in verses five and six of Chapter 38. Chief among these Russian allies is none other than the other rogue nation generating most of today’s headlines, Iran. Never before in medieval or modern history have Russia and Iran been allies or supportive one of the other. Until now! Russia is doing its best to block any additional sanctions against Iran from the West. Although there is no actual treaty or pact between Russia and Iran, it’s no secret that Russia and Iran are bosom buddy bedfellows in just about every way imaginable.
Russia, Iran & the Sovereignty of God
In fact, before the Iranian revolution in the late 1970s that overthrew the Shah, Iran was a staunch ally of the United States. Since that time, Islamic controlled Iran has done an about-face, and now pursues diplomatic, economic, and military support from Russia. And, Russia is all too willing to oblige. At first glance this is an oddity, as the Ayatollah Khomeini initially said (1979) that Iran and Russia were not well-suited for diplomatic cooperation, because Islam and Communism were totally incompatible. But that all changed when the Soviet Union collapsed. Communism no longer controlled the internal structure of government and external life style of the people.
Do you see the inexplicable irony in that? The United States was largely responsible for the demise of the communist government of the Soviet Union. Which, in turn, made strange bedfellows between Russia and Iran, historical enemies for hundreds of years. And Russia’s recent support for Iran, including actual aid in the development of nuclear facilities, has deepened the rift between the US and Russia, that had actually abated for some twenty years. Ironic? Yes. But there is an explanation. That explanation is the Sovereignty of Almighty God. The kind of providence that makes all the international intrigues and political maneuverings work together to fulfill God’s perfect plan for Israel, the Church, and all Gentile nations of the world, including (especially) the evil nations.
A brief review of the Gog, Magog attack on Israel shows that the prince who leads this great coalition comes from a land to the distant north of Israel. If you look at a world map, Moscow is directly north of Jerusalem. Thus, some Bible scholars (including me) believe this prince will be none other than a modern-day ruler from Russia. Who else could it be?
Question: If Russia, Iran and the other nations in this Gog, Magog coalition were to suddenly march against Israel today, would the United States come to Israel’s aid? Despite the recent wavering of the United States and retreating from red lines drawn in Syria (use of chemical weapons) and Iran (sanctions to deter manufacture of uranium and plutonium for nuclear warheads), my view is that America would, indeed, defend Israel and take on this Gog, Magog alliance.
My Rationale: Even though we might legitimately question President Barack Obama’s resolve to support Israel, there is still extremely strong support from our Congress (both houses) to fight for/with the tiny nation of Israel. Right now, as we speak, I’m totally convinced that the US Congress would vote to support Israel in response to an act of war against Israel … be it from Iran, Russia, the Arab Federation, or all of the above. But, according to the Gog, Magog prophecy of Ezekiel, other nations throughout the earth (strongly implying only the nations with military capability to take on Russia and its allies), will do nothing to come to Israel’s aid, except to verbally challenge Gog’s intentions (See Ezekiel 38:13). How can we then reconcile the nearly 100% guarantee that the US will come to Israel’s rescue today or in the foreseeable future, with the fact that neither the US nor any other prominent nation will oppose the Gog, Magog forces of Ezekiel’s prophecy.
ANSWER: When Russia, Iran, and this unholy coalition attack Israel, the U.S. won’t be able to do anything about it. Why? Because she will have been decimated by the loss of millions upon millions of people. And how will that happen? THE RAPTURE. Which means that, in all likelihood, this audacious attempt to destroy Israel and mock the true and living God will take place shortly after the Rapture. Nero, who reappears as the beast of Revelation, will not yet have assumed the great authority given to him for forty-two months. He, too, will sit idly by to watch and wait for Russia and her international partners in crime to destroy Israel. As Ezekiel clearly tells us … it will be God, himself, who will supernaturally crush Gog from the land of Magog.
Which, in turn, strongly suggests that the Rapture could take place soon, very soon. The reason for this conclusion is the fragile modern-day alliances between certain nations of the world. It only takes a minor incident for one country to turn on another and end whatever cooperation that had existed between those nations. Meaning that it wouldn’t take much at all for Russia and Iran to end their relationship. If that were to occur, then the Biblical prophecy of Gog, Magog would be put on hold indefinitely; which doesn’t fit with the ongoing fulfillment of other prophecies in our modern-day world.
Like so many other recent developments that match the Bible’s last-day predictions that take place in the final generation, the cooperative alliance between Russia and Iran (including Russia’s overt or tacit support of the other countries listed in the Gog, Magog coalition) suggest that the end is very near.
The slumbering Russian bear has awakened. She is baring (pun intended) her teeth at NATO and the EU. In a demonstration of superiority, fearlessness, and defiance, she is swiping her paw at the United States. She dared the West to do something about Crimea and the Ukraine, much like Iran dared the EU and the United States to do something about Syria and about Iran’s nuclear intentions. Russia and Iran stood up. The West stood down. What will they do next? What will we do next?
Who better to assume the role of the prince of Magog, than Vladmir Putin? Right, wrong, or indifferent, today’s global community crowns Putin as the “world’s most powerful person.”
Things to Ponder
– In the epic battle of Gog, Magog, Russia and Iran will do precisely what God warns them not to do. So, too, does this warning apply to the beast of Revelation. “I warned the proud, ‘Stop your boasting!’ I told the wicked, ‘Don’t raise your fists! Don’t raise your fists in defiance at the heavens or speak with such arrogance’” (Psalms 75:4-5). But they will not listen. Following the total annihilation of Gog’s armies as described in Ezekiel 38 & 39, here’s what God says to Israel and to the nations, “In this way, I will demonstrate my glory to the nations. Everyone will see the punishment I have inflicted on them and the power of my fist when I strike. And from that time on the people of Israel will know that I am the Lord their God” (Ezekiel 39:21-22).
– For believers in Messiah Yeshua, the awesome Son of God, we embrace the very words of Jesus: “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me … When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am” (John 14: 1-3).
– Again, Jesus says: “…Yes, I am coming soon!” (Revelation 22:20a).
– And we say, “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20b).