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1. We look for the personal, bodily return to this earth of the Lord Jesus Christ (II Peter 3:12, Hebrews 9:28, Acts l:11, Matthew 24). As the angels noted in Acts 1, told the apostles: It is this Jesus; not some other variant or substitute, like those who substituted for Southerners in the American Civil War, enabling others not to participate. This Jesus will return.
Further: He will return in just the same way as He left. It is, then, precisely the Christ who was crucified and buried and who, being resurrected, will draw His people to Himself, by the same power which raised Him from the dead and translated Him to the form of eternity, which was His at the first. (John 1 7:22-25, Revelation 1:8,17, Philippians 2:5-11). He will return, just as He said, having judgment committed to Him, just as men committed judgment against Him (John 5:27, Matthew 25, 26:64, 7:21-29, John 12:48).
Being resurrected, He was first recognised by the disciples and shouted to them, and ate with them (John 21:5 ff., Luke 21:43, Acts 10:43); but now His body is glorified (John 20:17, Acts 2:33). What new dimensions of power, grace and beauty the eternal God has invested in this form, we do not know; but this we know, we who are His shall share what is His, being similarly clothed upon this, His return (1 John 3:1-3). Not only does the scripture say that this same Jesus shall return as He left, but that we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.2. What does this mean ? God instituted form for the earth and the stars and - for life in human format - for His Son; as well as for us; and He is to reinvest us with a new form when our apportionment in eternity is revealed. Then the forms fit for eternity being given, the life in that magnitude with the magnificent Son of God, proceeds.
There is glory and there is ruin. Now the apportionment of this fading earth becomes more manifest, in smog, fire, smoke, radiation, noxious enduring chemical residues in bodies, chemical pollution of soil, water and skies; and for the body, there is a corresponding gamut of disease as its marvellous complexities are increasingly marred by many types of misuse.
Even mental pollution appears in riot, and in rebellious frivolities. This may pass for learning though frequently devoid of logic, in parallel with the propaganda pushers themselves in their rebellion, devoid of spirituality; for their minds are alienated from the very life of God, as the scripture declares (Ephesians 4:17-18, Romans 1:18-20).3. Yet how may we consider this resurrection of the body of believers, this reinvestment with our eternal form ? There is another style of resurrection for God-rejecters (John 5:23-29), whose wilfully ignorant competition with God is folly. (John 3:16-19, 33-36, 5:19-23.) What however can be said of the bodily resurrection of the people of God ?
It is provided on Christ's return: as an automatic seeming explosion of power (I Corinthians 15:51 ff., l Thessalonians 4:13 ff.), like that of buds in spring, but directly supernatural. It is to occur in "in the twinkling of an eye". With its increased dimensions, there is the correlative: our drawing up from this earth into a celestial domain, just as Christ first departed for the intense internality of power and place in His Father, at His ascension: "I ascend to my Father, and to your Father, to my God and to your God" (John 20:17).
There will be rejoicing and fulfilment that is not selfish; there will be the deft and decisive benediction of seeing the Creator, face to face (I Corinthians 13:12 ff.), who redeemed us. We will see written, as it were on His face, the ineffable fulness of judgment in love, compassion and those inclusions and exclusions which the gospel makes so clear, but which were before all time known to God: for we shall see Him as He is (I John 3:1 ff.). And what is the exclusion ? It is this: that light came (3:17-19, in context 1:1-14) in Jesus Christ to the world, and men preferred darkness. That is how God puts it and this is how it is to be received.
Indeed, He assures us, "He is not willing that any should perish" (1 Timothy 2), "but that all should come to repentance and the knowledge of the truth". (See also John 3:13-21 and Ephesians 1:4, Colossians 1:19-23.)
It is for this merciful reason that the God of all mercy has provided a full, sufficient and adapted propitiation (1 John 2:2, 1 Timothy 2:3-6) for covering against His just anger at sin, one which is available to all, in all earnestness and sincerity (amongst many protestations: Matthew 23:37, Ezekiel 33:11 , Titus 3:4-7, John 3:17). It is thus, for God is not double-tongued (Proverbs 8:7-11), even if He is far deeper than men may imagine; for His understanding is infinite (Psalm 147:5), just as His greatness is unsearchable (Psalm 145:3). His word is true and the truth, and it is the work of truth not to improve on it (John 17:17, II Corinthians 4:1-4); for perfection such as that, laid up in heaven and manifest on earth, is merely depreciated by human attempts at 'improvement'. Unmuzzled, many misled theologians contribute to the tampering (II Peter 2:1-3, I Timothy 3:1-13, 6:3-6, II Corinthians 4:2), with results even less beneficial to man, than marauding dogs produce to the torn flesh of children.
4. The servants of God thus come personally into the presence of God, clothed with the righteousness of the Redeemer, Christ (Matthew 22:11-14; Isaiah 61:10 ff.; 1 Corinthians 1:30-31), in new bodies fitting for the occasion (1 John 3:1-3).Then, the rejoicing of this spiritual Springtime finished, which is called the Marriage Feast of the Lamb in scripture (Revelation 19:7-9, Matthew 22:1-14), we who are His, return to this earth with Him. Then does this earth expose its depths; for then is judgment as manifest as was the crucifixion of the Judge, Jesus Christ Himself; then is folly in its colours clearly seen and rebellion lowered to its place (Isaiah 32:1-5). Then is righteousness as the blossom and justice as fragrance: for the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14, cf. Isaiah 62:1, 11:3-9). Having conquered in 'weakness' to redeem (1 Corinthians 1:23-25), the now vindicated Christ will disclose in power, the wonder of His massed creation, majestically ruled (Isaiah 9:7)Then shall be put in place by divine power the wicked machination, the evil designs and the spiritual novelty making of man, all that mocks at God by its very daring. Included in this sweep of Judgment is that of the rankest of injustices which would rule men from the place of man, as if that were the place of God: whether in the form of rule of the Roman pontiff, of Communism with its commissars, of materialism with its professors or any other crudity (Revelation 19:14-21).Then does human power corrode: uncovered; exposed to Him. Then (Psalm 2:7-12, Revelation 2:26) is His majestic power manifestly unleashed as at the resurrection, though He has used it to forward His purposes in our time (John 14:21, Ephesians 1:19). Then is the loveliness of this earth released when those whose vital aim is profit in men or money, continue no more their dismal control (Isaiah 65:25); and spiritual profit adorns the globe as does the Light of the Lord; for as that scripture we have noted says so clearly, profoundly and pervasively:The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. (Cf. pp. 631A-B infra.)5. And those waters, how do they cover the sea ? In every wave and lip, in every swelling and in every deep, in the shallows and in the waves, in the distances of the ocean, and in its intimacies nearer the shore; in its freshness and in its very majesty and grandeur, they cover it. So too the Lord will cover the earth with His glory, seen shining in its brightness past the curse, and the calumnies of departing man. Thus will the Lord be honoured and glorified and vindicated, who long bore with a world astray, strove with it and sent His servants with messages of mercy (Isaiah 64:5, Matthew 28:19-20, Hosea 12:10) . They shall be refreshed who sought Him, and delighted who serve Him; for in this, they see His world as He set it up, deprived of the depraved dynamics, and grown to the maturity of beauty like the young in the flush of their first formation.This is called the millennium, an earthly time of the rigorous rule of love and righteousness upon the earth (Isaiah 11; 65:18-25; Revelation 20).6. Later, following a final dissolute and dissident rebellion (Revelation 20:7 ff.), the heaven and earth themselves are dissolved (II Peter 3:9 ff.) and "the earth also and the works in it shall be burnt up." Then, "we look for a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells" (II Peter 3:13) and continue, witnesses of magnificence (e.g. Revelation 21:5; 22:10), in such close intimacy with God in the presence of Christ in eternal bodies (John 14:1 ff.; II Corinthians 5:1 ff.; Revelation 22:3 ff.) and in eternal dwellings, seeing God as He is, that lingering longings are no more, and we serve and worship and rejoice in Him.Blessed are those who know God, and will know Him, for "this is eternal life, that you should know God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent" - John 17:3.B. Sequence
7. There are matters of some detail which remain, which are of interest: but they are of a lesser centrality, if not for that reason unimportant. Further, putting the many scriptural elements together in time, to the extent it may seem to give too great a precision to the exact timing of the return of Jesus Christ, could be contrary to God's interests (Acts 1:6 ff.), so not to be expected in all parts from His word. Nevertheless, much is simple, more is straightforward, though elements are for pondering. Only from scripture may these matters of sequence be determined; and where it is not given, it is not to be sought.Somewhere in the immediate prelude to the return of Jesus Christ (point 2 para 2, above) with His saints to this then turmoiled earth (II Thessalonians 2:7-10), there is to be witnessed someone called the "man of sin" (II Thessalonians 2:3), who is to be the very acme and peak of political and religious evil. Before the glory, there is shame. Evil men, we read from Christ (Matthew 24:11) and from Paul (1 Timothy 4:1-3; II Timothy 3:1-6; 4:3-5; 3:12-13) are to abound: morally evil persons, false prophets and false Christs.In this time, just before Christ comes for His people, and before His return with them therefore, we see this man of sin ruling in spiritual squalor such as is favoured by spiritual slum dwellers who, dismissing and divorced from the truth (II Thessalonians 2:10-12), are led by their delusions.Even, however, while they are deluded in this their mesmerised admiration for the antichrist (II Thessalonians 2:1-4), the very earth around them is writhing from curse and corruption both of judgment and justice, and because of God's own judgments on it all (Revelation 9:20-21). The rigours of it are revealed in the book of Revelation. Unless this squalid stage were shortened, the human race could not continue (Matthew 24:22).Christ (Matthew 24:34-4, 15, 23-31) answering the disciples' question about the end of the Age, spoke of His 'elect' - His own people without qualification of Jew or Gentile (Romans 11:24-36), and described the trial and challenge which would be theirs in this time. There is a fiercest fullness for the 'ministry' of this evil being, this man of sin who gravely persecutes, but does not extinguish the Church (Matthew 16:18); for Christ's church is safely set on that Rock which IS Christ (Psalm 62:2, I Corinthians 10:4, Isaiah 28:16; Deuteronomy 32:4, 15, 30-31, Isaiah 17:10, 7; 44:6-8; 51:1-2). He being immovable - so is the Church. Indeed, in history, no boulder could block the return to life of that living Rock, the Word of God incarnate, Jesus Christ!How long will this turbulent period of the antichrist proceed before his final crisis and ruin ? No precisely provable period is set; for although arithmetic language is used (Daniel 7:25), after the crucifixion of Christ, such terms tend to be used freely and even symbolically, as in Revelation 11 where this style of language must once refer to the entire time from Christ's departure till near His return. In this, it is unlike the simple progression of history foretold in Daniel 9:24-27, where the predicted Ministry of Christ, the Messiah around whom all revolves, covers 3 1/2 years, and His time of death is given! (See in detail, Daniel File, Part A, pp. 886 ff..)After His Son was murdered (Mark 12:1-11), God is economical in revealing time, as if all such privilege is past; and the Son being made known, the world of His murderers will be 'kept in the dark' about such things, until the time comes (Acts 1:7-8). However analogy from Daniel 8 would suggest that this critical period of intense evil will be quite limited in quantity, whilst relatively fierce in quality! (cf. Daniel 8:9,13,23-25, with 7:7-8,20,24 and 9:25,27b, 12:36-39,40...) Thus the fine focus is kept on Christ Himself, whilst the incognito element is preserved for the precise timing of His so abrupt return. Abrupt ? Yes, so abrupt that it will come when men think 'Peace at last!' (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3); but then the Lord is near to His return, a return which in turn is death to the antichrist (Revelation 19; II Thessalonians 2; Matthew 24:30, 42-51).Seeking to disrupt the saints (the church, Ephesians 1:1), the antichrist will at terrible cost seek to find a 'peace' as have lesser dictators before him. The church however will be gone before this, the devil's christ, makes his ultimate stand (II Thessalonians 2:7-8; Matthew 24:22, 40-44). All and only the elect (chosen of God) will be taken (Matthew 24:22 ) : Their exposure time is briefer, just as they have not failed to expose Christ to the heedless world.8. Near to the time the antichrist 'tells himself that he is god' in the temple, as Paul puts it (II Thessalonians 2:4), assuming divine honours in the sacred place, so that this appalling horror is fully and formally realised - but when, no man knows: Christ comes. Suddenly He returns, withdraws His people to Himself from this earthly stage - as already seen in Matthew 24:40-44 (I Thessalonians 4:14-17). In sequence: He comes for them, and soon afterwards comes with them (II Thessalonians 1:6-10; Matthew 19:28), consuming and abolishing this man of horrid and hollow 'holiness', by the word of His power (Revelation 19:11-21), just as indeed He created the world by the word of His power in the first place (Hebrews 11:1-4; II Corinthians 4:6).With divine, incandescent and almighty power, Christ the creator confronts this antichrist; with holy and just purpose, He dashes him, this delusive 'god', as waves dash light timber in the storm. Gone then is this antichrist: destroyed, 'by the brightness' of Christ's coming (II Thessalonians 2:8, cf. Revelation 19:11-20:2, Revelation 19:11, 20:2, 1 John 2:18-19), from the scene. The light of divine reality, flaming and unabashed, obliterates fraud.9. Now when all this is done, and the millennium of Revelation 20 bursts into life, then are fulfilled those Old Testament predictions such as Isaiah 65:19 -25, which stirringly depict what is neither the perfect painlessness of heaven nor the day of that evil prince who, Christ said, was to come (just as He Himself was to leave - John 14:28-31 - for a time). In fact, they diverge marvellously from our present time of pilgrimage! While it was not always clear to the prophets who foretold these things, just how they would come (I Peter 1:10-12), yet they will in their time be fulfilled. Of this we spoke in the points 4 and 5 above.Thus the marvels of the millennium follow the fiery challenge of the puppets of Satan.In this millennium (Revelation 20), Satan is bound and the relish of righteousness is like cool spray felt with exuberance on a sea voyage: clean, fresh and vast in its dimensions. Jew and Gentile alike (point 7, para 5), even where the prophets had not always fully seen this (Ephesians 3:9), will conduct themselves in the service of Christ, one body (Ephesians 4:4), one Church. Small wonder Paul is filled with a sense of its marvel (Romans 11:27-33). It is marvellous! It is sound. It is right. Shall not the Judge of the whole earth do right! (Genesis 18:25). It is not surprising, though it is intensely awesome, justly evocative of profound worship.The whole body of Christians in the rich mercy of one Gospel (Isaiah 53:1), He rescues before the millennium, at the rapture of His saints (point 1, that is, their calling from the earth to Himself).Thus "ALL Israel will be saved" - (Romans 11:26; cf. Galatians 6:16), and we see from this passage the complex complementarity of those called in Christ, summoned when He comes to deliver His elect, as in Matthew He declares He will do (24:30-31, 38-42), gathering the two components of the bridal party noted so vigorously in their conjunction in Romans 11 (cf. Revelation 19:7-11).The Jews, as a race, are first to be made largely willing (Zechariah 12:1-2; 12:12-14; Romans 11:25-26, 29-33). No half-hearted bride, no bride in stages is for Him; the foolish virgins (Matthew 25:11-12) are not 'known'! To the Church already instituted (Matthew 16:18ff., 18:17) and viewed as operational, though set for development (Luke 24:46-49); to those, then, already upon this foundation (I Corinthians 3:11; Luke 22:28-30; Luke 14:26-33; 10:16; 18:29-30; Matthew 16:16-17), Christ delivered His promise of 'the rapture' (Matthew 24:27-43); and it is to this category, of whatever race, the promise accordingly relates.Whether for Jew or for Gentile, failure to receive Him when they cry 'Peace! peace!' secures the same reward, the same honest rejection of those who frankly rejected Him! No favourites are found; those who would not confess Him, He will not confess. The statement is clear, factual and final (Luke 9:26), wholly devoid of racism of any kind.The Jews, then, as noted, as a body are to be made in large measure willing... at last: after such prolonged purges and problems and pain, in their alienated state, they who had been a nation of standard bearers for God, but would not stop short of killing their Lord, yes, even their Lord 'mighty in battle' who had fought for them. Moreover, it may be that other Christians, all the Christians ("so ALL Israel shall be saved'', Romans 11:26 - caps. added), the whole body will be raptured (Matthew 24:40-42) at about the time of the mass Jewish conversion which is to come.However it might be also that this joint rapture occurs when the Jews are tried by their own special versions of the antichrist's rigours. It is about this time. The divine discretion shows us enough to satisfy, and encourage us to marvel; but not enough for us to tick off the events in computer-like simplicity, by keys: for the key is Christ, and He will come when He is ready. We are directly told of this 'marriage' of the Lamb, that His 'wife' ''has made herself ready'' (Revelation 19:7). Ready therefore, she is, not an arm and a leg, but all, the whole body is ready at this time, the whole body of Christ (Isaiah 26:19) shall rise. His 'elect', He gathers (Matthew 24:22, 31). It is indeed because of them that the days are shortened (Matthew 24:21). Now, as Paul says, is the day of salvation (II Corinthians 6:2), and this (Matthew 24:3) is the end of the Age!God tells us enough of these developments (Matthew 24 e.g.) to help us to see the nearness of His coming (as is now shown - see Ch.'s 8-9 infra), and to glimpse the perfection of the plan associated with it. He tells us when we see these signs, such as we are now seeing, what His people must do. You, He says, should then ''lift up your heads, for you know that your redemption is drawing near.'' To His word we are to add nothing (Proverbs 30:6), and to His elect, His chosen, in terms of the only one Gospel (Ephesians 4:4), this is the expectation declared.10. As the righteous loveliness of the millennium grows like an oak in the world, following the return of Christ with His people, fresh from the marriage feast of the Lamb, so the present era reaches its verge. As the character of holiness moves throughout the earth, at last a final resistance occurs; a recalcitrance develops.A spirit stirs in the hearts of many. It is a spirit which seeks to menace all this new wonder of a reformed earth. Unmellowed yet by its marvels throughout the millennium, and not repentant even in the midst of this beautiful, released and significantly realised reality, this thankless spirit reacts negatively till the end. (Revelation 19:19-20:9, cf. Isaiah 26:10.)To be, rather than be with God, continues to dominate the thoughts, implicit or explicit of some. To run His kingdom keeps its ancient appeal. To have no one to rule over them retains its insinuations of self-to-the-end, despite the millennia of misrule that preceded this holy time, eras ably and abundantly filled with the experiments of horror.We find, then, that even though the earth is then being covered with the glory of the Lord, yet this is not satisfactory to the indulgent, to the liars and to the frauds who can watch even this display of splendour, like a spiritual sunset adorning the earth. They watch it unmoved, or not greatly moved, and rebel in their ultimate rebellion.Earlier the spiritual forbears of these God-rejecters (you reject God just as securely, whether you tell the God-who-is so to His face, or manufacture a pseudo-god of your own, and say what you will to him, or worship any other creature at all) ... these had seen the stars and the sea and the intricacies of creation, often revealed by science, only to worship in perversity this 'Science' or its objects, rather than its source (who made both the mind of man and the material he investigates)! This we see, for example, in II Peter 3:5-7, I Timothy 6:20 and often in Jeremiah, Isaiah; and also in the world at this time, fulfilling the prediction as if set with passion on providing yet one more verification by this means, of the word of God!Man, worshipping either God's products, or his own, has specialised in not worshipping God, and increases the scope of the speciality. At length the Satanically inspired 'man-of-sin' attracts them (II Thessalonians 2:3-9), by his spurious spiritual fires, and the whole course the present portends, that time portrays!11.
Therefore those of an ultimate rebellious spirit... rebel. In their folly, they perfect (Revelation 20, cf. Ezekiel 38-39) an earlier assault of an international character, predicted to be made on the newly returned Israel, back from dispersal among the nations.Before we discuss the final rebellion, therefore, let us look backward to its prototype, and so be ready to assess the later development, after the millenium, or rather as it draws to its highly dramatic close.This earlier assault is to be on Israel; it is prior to the rapture and to its subsequent horror (Revelation 16:16; 19:19), at Mount Megiddo ('ar is 'mount'- Armageddon). It is to be multinationally flung at that little land of Israel. It is to come in that pre-millenial time, specifically from the north (Ezekiel 38:6). Based, at that time, in a master plotter (*1) definable in a land towards the Caucasus, perhaps beyond, near the southern sector of Russia ('Gog'), the thrust is set to ravage God's real estate appointed to Israel (Genesis 17). That is its intention. Its critical failure and its divine overthrow is a topic in prophecy to which we shall later come (infra pp. 516 ff., and in Chapter 9, 848 ff., 874 ff., 879-880 -*6, 965-966).The parallel is drawn by the use of the term 'Gog' in both cases. In the first, the attack on Israel: it is northern, on Israel, specific. It is territorial in lust. In the episode at the end of the millenium, however, it is a world-wide assault on the power of God, a rebellion of the utmost breadth and scope, as also steeped in ultimate depravity. Its spiritual base is perfectly explicit. It is to this last assault, linked by the term 'Gog' to the assault still to come (and perhaps soon!) on Israel, that we now turn.It is, then, at the end of the millennium (just as the parallel earlier aggression preceded its commencement), that this assault comes, universal in its embrace, moving in all directions (Revelation 20:8), directed against the 'camp of the saints' (20:9), as also against the 'beloved city.' Its purpose is to engulf Christendom, blight its manifestations.Not the Jewish but the Christian "race" (1 Peter 2:9-10, Galatians 3:28) is the aim of this baleful, and ultimate fire of rebellion against the Lord, which once burned high, when the Judge was judged in Jerusalem, and led to Calvary. Nothing has changed these hearts; neither thousands of years of gospel and opportunity; nor a millenium of righteousness overflowing the earth have softened their thoughts, eased their reflections or chastened their minds; they review not at all, reflect only to strive. They are inveterate, implacable, their evil - through remorseless and evil desire - irresolvable: a brief comet of incandescence in evil, demonstrating to the world and angels, the significance and necessity of damnation. Damnation by decree is here preceded by damnation by desire; for they are ever unwilling to have God above them.Dynamised by deception, this final war stops at nothing (Revelation 20:8-10). That ends the devil's course!It starts however our more detailed consideration of that earlier attack on Israel, for which all the ingredients are now either wholly ready, or exceedingly close to it, focussed on Jerusalem. (This, as we shall see in PROPHECY Chapters 8-9 infra, being now in Jewish possession, is a sign of the end of the Gentile Age - Luke 21:44.) This will allow a finer feel for the odious episode just traced, when a section of the human race seeks to dispossess God in its own name, and that of the Adversary.
The Assault To Come On Israel
Gog Mark I: and Comparison with Gog Mark IIHaving followed then, the sweep of events, it is timely for us to return to that earlier assault predicted to be made on Israel, before the millennium. This time segment is, according to the scriptural requirements, and the earthly signs (Luke 21:28) somewhere about the present time. That Middle Eastern adventure of evil which is predicted, that assault on newly returned Israel, back from its dispersion (Ezekiel 38:10-12, cf. Appendix A), pitilessly harassed anew, though already duly punished for so long: it will be launched by a Northern confederacy. That is, one to the north of Israel.The land unconditionally accorded to Abraham and his generations, as seen in Genesis 17, from early times, is subjected to a cultural convulsion, a military invasion, an international outrage, a joint expedition to engulf it with the power of man, the grasp of nations. The new terminology, as that of Saddam Hussein of Iraq, may be to 'liberate' it; just as the Communists were earlier so keen to 'liberate' those to be destroyed. The effect, however, in this case has this additional dimension: that the 'liberation' is intended against what God has given to the Jews. Not that they deserve it, God says (Ezekiel 36:32 ), of their whole restoration to their land, now evident to our modern eyes. Yet this return of Israel is not to be overthrown, but rather to lead to their massive return, when assaulted, not merely to their land, but to their Lord, in specific repentance at His crucifixion (Zechariah 12:1,11; Ezekiel 36:33-38, 37:14, 23-26; 39:12 ff.).Nonetheless, God is committed to the deliverance of Israel, in the land of His promise. "I will turn you round, put hooks in your jaws", He says to the aggressive horde, whether they call themselves deliverers or assassins. "Behold, I am against you," He says to Gog: "Prepare yourself and be ready!" (Ezekiel 39:1-6, cf. prototype Isaiah 37:26-38).Yes, "after many days," He predicts, "you will be visited. In the latter years, you will come into the land of those brought back from the sword and gathered from many people... brought out of the nations." Israel, at long last, will "dwell securely", only to be confronted ... by this storm of multi-national invasion. It is planned to take plunder and assault the land delivered from waste and newly cultivated; such is the lure of the assault force.That was the human intention, of the attacking armies, Libya, 'Persia,' Gog and others. What is the result predicted to be ? It is this: the Gog-dominated Northern confederacy will itself become a ravaged ruin; it will secure for itself, not the land of Israel, but the destruction it sought to inflict (*2)! This comes by divine intervention and power, involves a fiery, an incendiary method! (Ezekiel 39:6, Isaiah 66:14-16) and attests, in the crushing of the massed terror directed by men against Israel, God's factual concern for the integrity, and (in history) the fulfilment of His pledge to Abraham (Ezekiel 36:8-15).He will not suffer the taunts (36:15) and the pillage to reach fruition. He had earlier (Jeremiah 33:19 ff.), dramatically and eloquently focussed the divine power which would keep His word to the Jews. Certainly they sinned in murdering (as an officially implicated nation) the Christ, God's own fellow (Zechariah 11:12-14; 13:7; 12:10), as was predicted so clearly.They had broken their covenant; but God would not break His word... not even with that provocation. Rather, He proceeds to show - in delivering the returned and punished Jewish people, the grandeur of His honour - that He can absolutely be relied upon to do all He says. Such is His commitment to this 'latter day' deliverance, and securing of the land of the Jews (Genesis 17:7-8; 22:17).Though rebellious, the Jewish nation could as well be cast away and their covenant forfeited in its unconditional elements, as the heavens and the earth have lacked divine constitution of their order! As well mess up astronomy as foul up His covenant with the Jews. God has instituted the heavens and the earth , and runs both; He has instituted His covenant with the Jews, and though fulfilling its universal blessing through Jesus Christ by specific prediction to 'bless'... 'all nations', as He said, He will also fulfil His undertaking concerning the promised land, as in fact He is, at the very moment doing, unilaterally; and this is one pivotal element of demonstration told most forthrightly and from thousands of years before (see Appendix A).If the Heavens could be overthrown, so might God break his word of honour to the (even rebellious) Jews. Would they suffer ? Yes! But suffered to be cast out of the land to which He, after discipline, restores them! no!
In fact, evidently before that climacteric time, there is forecast a series of Jewish military victories against great odds, and the breach of enemy ownership of Jerusalem (Zechariah 12; 14:1-3); and indeed, Jerusalem would come into Jewish hands, so that it could be disputed, as by an enemy from outside! (Zechariah 12:1 ff.). All this has happened; the vicious Northern assault is yet to come; and it is to this we have been referring. Divine plans will not be reviewed in the matter; the whole outcome is foretold, with reasons indeed given, and the warning to others to profit from the sight of the restoration of the Jews (Ezekiel 36:36 ff.).God we thus see was resolved, and statedly so, to have this land for them following the discipline of their rebellions (cf. Leviticus 26 passim, esp. 26:25,31,33), rebellions which were also in considerable detail forecast. As He would evacuate them in derision, so He would restore them with precision, sustain them with power, and contend with those who would contend, breaking their power and bringing the assailants of the land themselves to ruin: though they should be many and likewise dynamic and highly armed (Ezekiel 38:9, 4) with weapons of offence and defence.God, it must be stressed, resolved this for the land though they did not deserve it (Ezekiel 36:22,32), and though the whole host of men in high places should seek to carve it up to the contrary (as the United Nations did in 1947, leading on to the triumphant wars of 1948, 1967 and 1973 - as well as that effective Israeli victory of 1956 and their vicarious war of 1991). He was resolved to have it for them, because He had so directed and engaged; had done so with grounds and purposes indeed; and in honour, reliability and power, He would do it.As with the crucifixion and resurrection, themselves physical, predicted and duly performed, with infinite consequences, even that everlasting salvation which is given (Isaiah 51:6; 55:1-4), and that everlastingly enduring righteousness accorded to the redeemed (Isaiah 54:8; 62:12; 49:26; 51:11; 54:17; 53:11): so with the case-history of Israel, it is predicted. As the physical resurrection obtained its spiritual result (Luke 24:39; John 20:24-29; Romans 4:25-5: 1; 1:4), so the Jewish saga exhibits the faithfulness of Him who makes these results (Romans 11:32-36).But what of the fate of the Northern confederacy, this allied host predicted to come and attack Israel ? For months, we read in Ezekiel 39:12-16, the bodies of the doomed attackers, of the angry and greedy assailants of Israel are to be removed from the assaulted soil.This earlier, premillennial assault predicted to be made on Israel, and so rigorously crushed, this abortive display of the Northern confederacy which is to sweep upon literal Israel (Appendix A - these are the terms of the prophecy's reference): it is to teach to many no lesson! They will not learn, just as they will not worship God, the only rock!Israel ? Pregnant with its individualised and predicted history of receiving the Lord, rejecting Him, and the national dispersion which followed, one at long last cancelled by the divinely directed return to their pledged land: To Israel, this Israel, so contextually defined, now is granted a stupendous victory (Ezekiel 38:18-23).Even this, however, would yet be disregarded by millions, as a learning experience! Neither the sudden birth (Isaiah 66:7-9), the former devastations, the divinely accorded reasons nor the predictions of all these things would move the dead, embraced by death while living! After the millennium, just as before, the same spirit of rebellion is predicted to grip the earth. No grace, no power, no favour, no gospel will they learn; nor will they accept this (cf. Isaiah 26:9-11).i) What precedes the millennial glory is an attack on Israel by one group of invading nations from one direction, the North. This, as we see, is to be demolished by divine intervention to protect Israel, evidently before (Ezekiel 39:21-29) the catastrophic days of the antichrist, with his European-based and Satanic oppression. Israel is to proceed into its substantial numerical conversion (*3) (Zechariah 12:10), through the attendant invasions (Zechariah 12:1-2; 14:1-3), coming to understand the Lord and repent. Then, with the rest of the Church that will remain faithful, this mass of converted Jews will live, one Church, with everlasting joy upon their heads (cf. Isaiah 35:10,61:7), amid eternal blessings till Christ comes (*4 ... Ezekiel 37:24-28), continuing in the spiritual format the earlier promises.His coming is as we have shown earlier, for His saints, for the intimate and festive rejoicing of the 'marriage feast of the Lamb', the communion after pilgrimage, the reunion after death, the summit scenario of unspeakable joy, in open reality, in the very presence of God. Then, God's saints apart in heaven, the judgment on the infested earth, bloated with the emblem of antichrist, proceeds. Christ, with His many saints (II Thessalonians 1:9-10, Revelation 19), will destroy the offender and He will establish His kingdom (20:3,5,6).ii) What follows this protracted millennial glory is a broader force (Revelation 20:8), transformed into a blatant and final mustering of resistance and rejection of God Himself (shown in the bud in Revelation 16:16; 19:20). This squalid spiritual vagrancy is to reach new depths while the evil aspirations look to new heights, so timelessly expressed in the denunciatory words of Isaiah the prophet (14:13):I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High...Yet you will be brought down to hell.Now it is no more a matter of a regional if massive assault (point 11 supra), soon consummated by Armageddon, but of a global and explicit affront (cf. the prototype Revelation 19:19), in this final thrust of evil. At Armageddon, it was a world spirit led by the unmasked devil's messiah and his 'chaplain'. Now a released Satan fumes direct (Revelation 20:2,7-10). For them all, only judgment is left. (Cf. *1, p. 1137 infra.)That, then, rehearses these two evil thrusts, one before the millenium, and the other, instrumental to its close. What then? We see four phases of evil.12. Three of these occur before that final furious fling just noted.
i) There is the general trend to evil (point 2). In this, the church is involved at length, as there is to be a froth of false prophets and false Christs (Matthew 24) as noted, with money a magnet for many (II Peter 2:1 ff.), and lawlessness a spirit of the times. There is to be a great ''falling away'' (II Thessalonians 2:3) which thus will be coordinated with a deceptive spirit (1 Timothy 4:1 ff.) and false teaching (II Peter 2; II Timothy 3:1-6), together with a dysfunctional formalism. All this has been abundantly fulfilled already.
ii) There must also come the return of Israel to its land (point 11) so that it may be assaulted and, in large numbers, its people converted to the crucified Christ as Saviour (Zechariah 12:10), amidst great and instructive carnage (Zechariah 12:9, Isaiah 49:21-26, 66:7-16) ... "His indignation towards His enemies". This has spiritual significance for both the attacked and the attackers, as the former seek the Lord in the end, and the latter are in confrontation with God, since He promised the land to the Jews and brought them back despite their follies (Isaiah 49:14-26; 11:11ff.; Zechariah 10:6-12; 12:1-10) for the express purpose of fulfilling His promises (Leviticus 26:33-46; Deuteronomy 32:27-43; Ezekiel 36:12-15, 23-28; 37:23-28; 38:8; 39:21-29).This is in the first stage, already fulfilled; for Israel is indeed back, and its triumphant wars are as predicted (Zechariah 12). As to the final phase of attack from the torrential Northern confederacy, what of it ? While the nations with Communism or neo-expansionism, and Mohammedanism, as diverse or even joint grounds of negative feeling (both to Jews and to Biblical prediction) are in place, and the range of forces is clear: this event seems to loom near. The diversification of the former Soviet Union may merely add to its risks, and to the scope for other partnerships, using power while it is there, to snatch goods or fame or name or territory.Since Jerusalem is back in Jewish hands (Luke 21:44), the time is now ripe for the predicted conversion of the Jews; for Christ Himself indicated that the restoration of this city to Jewish hands meant that the special time of the Gentiles was over. And that ? It suggests the renewal of Israel is at hand (cf. Romans 11:25).iii) If the Northern Confederacy which is to assault Israel is scripturally seen in prophecy as powerful, intemperate and ruthless, yet what is said of the European centred antichrist reveals a most subtle, seditious and a very religious person. False prophets, associated and thought of in Revelation as a trio of frogs, will hop into sacred things, all that is not protected and covered, and pollute them (Revelation 16:13).This monolithic malady, the antichrist, like a viral infection, is centred in Europe (Daniel 7) and the Northern Confederacy, as noted, is not!, having in fact names for the nations relating to areas inclusive of Russia and near Eastern companions, with some of Europe only minimally added.Indeed, the Ezekiel assault on newly returned Israel (Ezekiel 38:10-12, Isaiah 66:8,14-16, Deuteronomy 32:36-43) is from the far North (Ezekiel 38:15), as is Moscow; and it is not from the West as to base. That is certainly not Europe, as a map will surely show. It is fascinating how near to directly north of Israel, Moscow is. However that is not determinative; rather the company to come is named, and while as we will see, care is needed with the ancient place names, assuredly this is not centrally European at all.The European antichrist predicted so clearly by Daniel, what then of it ? Since this antichrist is the form of the evil taken when Christ returns to destroy the evil and militant forces on His return, and to fulfil the longing expectations of the people of God, the sequence appears sure. The dark light of the antichrist in deepest gloom follows the assault on Israel: perhaps by a small margin. It is a returned Israel, not a millennial situation to which the Northern Confederacy comes; and Israel must be back for the Gentile period to finish - so that Jerusalem may be freed! It is to a newly returned Israel that the attack comes. *5
Hence it appears the sequence is this.
A short sequenceIsrael returns; Jerusalem is liberated; Israel fights triumphant wars; the Gentile period of speciality ends, the church in some of its forms falling away, and false prophets abound; the Confederacy assaults Israel; the Spirit of God is poured out; many Jews are converted; the Lord appears and the whole (composite) church disappears to be with Him at the marriage feast of the Lamb; the antichrist now appears in full force, unhindered by the power of Christians (Revelation 11, II Thessalonians 2:7-8); the Lord returns with His own, destroys the antichrist and the millennium ensues in which the rule of righteousness is witnessed on the earth through a Christ whose earlier crucifixion shows the height and purity of His love.
During their trials, and up to Christ's return for them, the people of God are kept inside a more powerful presence than any evil can create (Luke 21:14-15 ; Matthew 28:18-20; John 14:21; Mark 11:25; Ephesians 1:19). Then they are removed at an unexpected time (Matthew 24:50; Mark 13:32 ff.), taken from this ideological, psychological and unspiritual horror that at that time overtakes the earth.
13. But when, when is this, the return of Christ to rescue His people and allow the earth to reach its evil prime, ready for destruction ? As well as the pointers already noted and in place, we find from Christ the words of multiplied wars, rumours of wars, earthquakes and famines, a time when people's hearts 'fail for fear' and when, if it were not shortened, ''no flesh could be spared''... But when ? Before, then, no flesh could endure. But when! In a time shortened for the 'elects' sake.' How much shortened ? We do not know, so why should we be concerned!It is enough that to Christ we look, the Lord of glory soon to appear and come in His love stronger than hate, irresistible and all wise (Jude 24-25), removing all who ''love His appearing'' (Hebrews 9:28; Matthew 24:31-40; Acts 1:7-11; I Thessalonians 4:13-18; I Corinthians 15:50-58; 1 John 3:1-3).
Scenario before that sovereign Spirit, sole SaviourAnd then, when the rapture in its time, and the following return with the Lord of His saints, when these rejoicings are fulfilled; and when the masterly millennium in its time is past; and the final rebellion in its time (Revelation 20:2,7,10,14): then the old heaven and the earth are dismissed and dissolved (Matthew 24:35; Isaiah 51:6; II Peter 3:10) - then... ? Then is the magnificence of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21) exposed like the butterfly from the grub; and the former things do not occupy the mind (Isaiah 65:16-17). The shakeable is gone and the unshakeable remains (Hebrews 12:25-28). As our sins (Hebrews 8:12) are forgotten, so is the trauma, tragedy and trial of the pilgrimage. The race is won; the echoes depart.
and Governor who is God
Indeed, the new, the later things so far surpass the former things that it would be as if a Professor of Mathematics should think of the former things of school's first stages, as he studies (Revelation 21:1-4; Isaiah 65:16-17).
But Christ, the eternal Son shall not be surpassed: rather shall He be found, as Revelation tells us, in the centre of the throne (Revelation 7:17; 22:3; 21:22-25): He who with the Father is one God, to be worshipped for ever. He is the God, the only God (Isaiah 45:14,21-22), who loved; and sent; and saved; and has judged and rules and is the delight of His own. For His love is fulfilled, and not frustrated; it is alive (John 17:23-26) in His adopted children.
He has done as He pleased; and His power is the path of His desire; and it is found perfect.
Extension: on The Middle East... and Contemporary EventsCare is needed in seeking to determine the nations intended in the prophecy of Ezekiel 38-39, concerning the international horde of assailants on Israel, destined to a very special doom, in which force in the onset is more than matched by divine power in the rebuff!
The scriptural words for these nations, relating as they do, to the geographical terminology of the times, require interpretation. Libya and Ethiopia appear similar to the nations of the present day, in this prediction of assault on Israel. The reference to Gog and Magog appears to concern us generally with the Caucasus mountain area, one indeed perhaps stretching past this to the North, where major parties named seem to have been; or towards which, reports of their early movements, seem to indicate their drift. Josephus gives some attestation here, as does Pliny, both referring to the Scythian tribes and their movements. It is the area that, after so long, concerns us in this matter. Such is the background to the chief prince, Gog, of the land of Magog.
Now the Caucasus area is currently in Russia (and it is becoming more and more necessary to consider the section of the former U.S.S.R. which concerns us, as the union loses its force, though not yet its identity!). They are close to Turkey and Iran as well.
In fact, Persia (now Iran) is one of the nations specifically mentioned as joining in the attack. At its height, it incorporated much territory, and Iraq could be considered as within its domain.
Indeed, Iraq and Iran point directly to the general Caucasus area, if one takes them together, in their northern tips, just as Russia would appear indicated, in its southern extremity at least. Iran's recent call for a pan-Islam attack approach to Israel is, in this context, of extraordinary interest, and this the more in that it was echoed in a conference of nations held in Iran.
It is conspicuously important to realise that many of these areas, are Moslem. The barking of Saddam Hussein for help (September 1990) in 'liberating' Jerusalem and Iran's attitude, one tolerating if not actually endorsing Iraq in its action, appear in this setting of special significance. An all-Islam movement of regional bodies is certainly possible, and it is nothing less that Hussein seeks ... as more recently also, as we shall see, does Iran (1991). The former U.S.S.R. bodies of Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan (recently seething centres of unrest, resentment and gory uncertainty) in the period following World War I, in fact were named the "Caucasus", a unit of the Soviet Republic! (See p. 631A-B infra.)
In general, the people mentioned seem to have been driven to (or through) the mountainous areas south-east of the Black Sea, or to have moved there.
Let us, in view of the contemporary, indeed 1990 Middle East events, look further.
Daniel 11 has some words of exceptional interest for the present time.
In his long narrative, most of which covers historical incidents before the time of Christ, and which are readily identified, he comes with this emphasis on detail to the time near the end of the Age, near indeed to the resurrection (Daniel 12:1).
In this last phase of the account in chapter 11, designated "at the time of the end" (in verse 40) such that the essential spiritual identity of the forces in view is now crystallised into the malign presence of an artful king, there appears a fascinating revelation of things to come. Evil glares in ultimate manifestation (11:35-36, 9:27).
First, one should observe, the way in which the area king at the time of the end is introduced, is such that this arrogant autonomy noted in vv. 36-39 preceding it (v.40), must at least be relevant. His essential element of continuity with that phase of history is made clear; and while it could be dangerous to assume that each detail is precisely the same, there can be no reasonable doubt that the general character as described in vv. 36-39 must be to a large, or at least significant degree, applicable.
Then as to the end phase of his matter (11:40-45 cf. v.35): there is to come on this satanic potentate an assault from the South. Now since the regime of Antiochus Epiphanes has been in view at an earlier phase of the chapter, and this involved one of the four quadrants or quarters of the broken-up empire of Alexander the Great, it would signify an area geographically extending to the North of Israel, and in close proximity to it. This would relate to countries such as Iraq, Syria, Iran and beyond.
Aptly at the present time, the notorious and demonstrative forcefulness of Saddam Hussein of Iraq is a modern legend, and the amazingly increased proximity of purpose which he seems to have generated with Iran is also noted; as is the pan-Moslem aspect of the two countries, with, to no small extent, that of Syria, as well as Jordan, apparently somewhat in Hussein's shadow economically, not to say religiously.
The possibility that some such alignment on a pseudo-religious basis, or even simply including such an element, could act in company with other Moslems such as those of Russian (Soviet ?) Georgia, or Azerbaijan and related areas (the Soviet has no insignificant number of Moslems in its midst, in various outlying areas in particular) in an attack on Israel requires virtually no imagination to envisage. (Saudi Arabia, is in fact to the South.)
The possibility of a pan-Moslem contribution at least, to such an assault is not lessoned by the report (Time, November 4, 1991) of the Tehran Conference 'called by Iran's parliament to discuss ways of assisting the Palestinian intifadeh; with endeavour to "Islamicize all opposition to Israel".' Allied with a reported offer of Iran's President to 'dispatch troops to fight Israel along with the Palestinians', and a conference agreement to establish an 'Islamic army', there is evidence of a dynamic in the area in extraordinary concord with the scriptural predictions for the assault on Israel, its place and it participants.
It may be that the current crisis then will lead on to the predicted invasion of the Northern multinational force, against Israel. A further reason that this is so easy to conceive is, very conspicuously, the repeated challenge to Israel which the oil-enriched potentate of Iraq has laid down. A holy war, he feels, would be a good idea; Israel has moreover been given notice to quit 'Palestine', their tiny enclave amidst the rolling lands of the Arabs.
Those lands are vast, extending to loss of view, rolling into the dim distance of the deserts, and not without substantial civilisation. The desire for an Israeli exit seems then to co-exist with oversight of this circumstance, and of Jordan in particular, which indicates its lack of desire, really, to be involved with the Palestinian question. After all, if it is a Palestine, and it were to be thought of as such, the refugees could inhabit such Moslem tracts with small discomfort of religion.
Instead, they appear, despite the initial, apparently almost entirely voluntary departure from Israel, some with the alleged intention of returning with victorious Arab armies in the 1948 war of Israeli independence, to have a desire to return there. Perhaps the leader of Iraq could contribute some returning armies, so conspicuously absent when the Jews won the 1948 war, by the very clearly predicted grace of God, even to a nation which per se did not believe in the Messiah... in Him, whom God indicated in advance, they would reject (Isaiah 49:7, 53)! In view of Daniel 11:41, 44, he may have some peripheral success before the final destruction awaiting him, he or some other convenient fulcrum of power.
It may be, however, that it will merely set the scene. Events of this kind have, it certainly seems, a way of coming in fascinating ways, fulfilling what is predicted with a certain independence of spirit. But fulfilled the prophecies are; and whether this current event leads on immediately or distantly to the fulfilment of Daniel 11 as shown above, and whether this is found to be identical, as might well be, with Ezekiel 38-39, remains to be seen.
Already clearly visible are a number of prophetic preliminaries: events conducive to and markedly in line with the predictions yet to be fulfilled. Thus it has been in the providence of God, the King of the nations, that:
i) An Arab cartel has been permitted, by which through oil a vast and truly remarkable, epochal transfer of wealth has occurred to the Middle East, so that a civilisation not remarkable for its industrial and financial clout, now is.
ii) This transfer has increased Western 'interest' in the area, and
iii) It has been used to transfer enormous masses of sophisticated weapons to the now wealthy Arabs, whose religious animosity to Judaism, very often, has new practical power.
iv) A break-up of the Soviet empire, has occurred, allowing Moslem regions in the South-West to achieve new forms of alliance, or some of them to do so, or be ready to do so, on anti-Israeli religious grounds.
v) A ruthless seeming dictator in Iraq has given such attitudes uninhibited expression, rallying against Israel antagonistic forces, which now have new practical power, while recalling that war is still in force between the two nations.
vi) This power in fact was augmented by the U.S.A. in earlier aid to Iraq. An Armageddon wind (Revelation 16:16; 19:20) ?
vii) A resurgence of anti-Israel force has occurred in Iran, freed from the overpowering presence of Iraq for the time, through US intervention. A specific call has been made for, and steps taken to establish a pan-Moslem, and solely Moslem international 'treatment' for Israel: including a large army, and hostile promulgation of attitudes on a religious basis. Further points might be added:
viii) The U.S. is by no means so pro-Israel as under President Reagan, the Bush administration seeking quite decisively to induce Israel to cede even more land back to those Arabs who lost it in the extermination wars against a harassed and tiny Israel. The September 1993 'Accord' formalises rather than normalises this situation (see p. 881 infra), and focusses the Biblical dynamic of unresolved ... Jerusalem. (Cf. pp. 816 ff., 832 ff. infra.)
ix) This US reduction in support may be paralleled by two developments: the increase of Moslem or anti-Jewish steps, plans and hopes; and even in the UN, further endeavours to implement the 1947 internationalisation of Jerusalem, or other reduction in Israel, which might give some air of legitimacy to any effort to force Israel to conform to 'international pressure'.
They did, after all, try it before, when Zechariah 14:1-2 was forthwith fulfilled, there being not only the local intention in the surrounding nations, the relevant ones, but the international fulfilment through the very international power body which is called the United Nations and professes international form and format for world action.
The Israelis fought the Arabs in 1948 against just such an international form and force of resolve, sanction and resolution: the formula in force and the Arab forces jointly making the assault.
Objectively, the fulfilments are decided, distinct, detailed and dramatic; and the scenario requirements for the next set of fulfilments, are also decidedly advanced. (See also Ch. 9, Section 4, pp. 837-884; and pp. 631A,973A infra.)
Endnotes for Section 2 (EN #)*1 See Extension on pp. 516 ff..
*2 Just as, incidentally, did Saddam Hussein - proclaiming war and destruction to Israel - secure, on a far smaller but still impressive scale, widespread destruction for both his land and his people. If that was an entrée, the arrival of the main course will be a very prodigy!
*3 Zechariah 12:10 ff. gives, on the occasion of the manifestation of the crucified Christ to the spirits of repenting Jews (Zechariah 12:10 ff.), such an effusion of grief, and pangs of repentance so individualised, as to strike a keynote of Christian conversion.
*4 Then Christ comes to collect His actors, His agents, converted and called: they are removed from this temporary stage, which after the millenium will be wholly dismantled (as are indeed spectator seats or even stadia ... by ourselves).
Some further elements of the cae may prove instructive and helpful for some.
It is worth emphasising that the IMPACT of the Northern confederacy's assault on the Jews is this:
- "And the nations shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity; because they trespassed against me, therefore did I hide my face from them, and give them into the hand of their enemies; so that they fell by the sword.
"According to their uncleanness and according to their transgressions have I done to them, and hidden my face from them... Now will I bring again the captivity of Jacob and have mercy upon the whole house of Israel, and will be jealous for my holy name, and after they have borne their shame....
- "When I have brought them again from the peoples, and gathered them out of their enemies' lands, and am sanctified in them in the sight of many nations, then shall they know I am the Lord their God, who caused them to be led into captivity amongst the nations ... neither will I hide my face any more from them; for I have poured out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, says the Lord God."
Thus this is an event (as in 38:8) which in impact has basic emphases:
1) Israel is delivered in such a way that it is plain her earlier and prolonged (as in 38:8, 39:23) exile from her own land was indeed a discipline (as forecast in fact in Leviticus 26), a divine prerogative, especially apt and chaste for those who had entered into formal covenant with Him.
2) This will be an immediate and deep effect, proclaimed in effect with vociferous volume, mighty obviousness.
3) There is to be no further national chastisement (38:28) of any such dimension or scope.
4) The outpouring of God's Holy Spirit is associated in some way with this event, so that it is emphasised at the end of it, that it has happened.
Eight things at once are clear.
1) That Israel is the major focus in this episode.
2) That its history and chastisement are a centre of attention, and an obvious teaching outcome for those who watch what has happened.
3) That this is at the international level, a lesson to all peoples.
4) That the outpouring of God's Spirit is highly relevant to the entire proceeding.
5) That the major player is from the North, in company with many others, and the aim is plunder rather than politics.
6) That a declaration of war against God (as in Revelation 19:19) is in view at the end, at the Coming of Christ with His people (as in II Thessalonians 1); whilst the focus in Ezekiel 38-39 is Israel and the result a lesson about Israel, divine discipline upon it and its historical past.
7) That a direct divine interposition as in Zechariah 14 is one thing, with the Lord personally apparent; while a divine help to enable victory is another, less specific, far more normal in the miraculous dealings with Israel over time. It is neither categorical nor per se final. The Coming however ends the Age.
8) That the correlation of Zechariah 12:10 with Ezekiel 39:28-29 is intense, just as Zechariah 14:4 is separable from the mere defence of Jerusalem and destruction of the aggressive enemies who know neither compunction nor shame, but savagely yet further oppress the returned Israel, whose restoration to its land is fresh enough to be an appropriate emphasis (as in Ezekiel 38:8).
With these things in mind, we note that the Bible has two events entirely correlative, namely Ezekiel 38-39 and Zechariah 12. The lessons in both cases are similar, Jerusalem centred not merely geographically, but historically and didactically. Those of Zechariah 14 and Revelation 19 however specifically include the direct and personal return of the Lord, and are correlative with II Thessalonians 1.
The question whether, therefore, the deliverance of Israel in Ezekiel 38-39 is the return of the Lord is given a simple answer: NOT BY ANY BIBLICAL INTIMATION, AND THE ASSUMPTION THAT IT IS IS MERELY AN ADDITION THEREFORE TO THE TEACHING OF THE BIBLE, WHICH SPECIFIES DIFFERENTLY IN FOCUS, HISTORICAL FORCE AND TEACHING IMPACT THESE TWO THINGS.
It is, as noted earlier, however, by no means certain that we are far from the Second Coming of Christ for His people (as in Matthew 24), by the time of the events of Ezekiel 38-39 and for that matter Zechariah 12. These may in fact may well be two aspects of one thing, each with the same highly concentrated focus and impact relative to the Jews, and each stressing the outpouring of the Spirit of God on the Jews, which is an epochal matter in these New Covenant terms (cf. Ezekiel 16:60ff., 37:26 cf. Jeremiah 31:31), and hence not a mere repeatable episode. These Northern confederacy events could well be a climacteric preliminary to that Advent of the Lord; though this is not certain it will be a simple sequential step.
It is quite possible also that, following this invasion of Israel, the grip of the antichrist in his UNIVERSAL scope and EUROPEAN amphitheatre of operations, as to base and glory (as in Daniel 7) will quickly develop to that final and self-glorying and vanquishing force (as in Revelation 13:4,15ff. and II Thess. 2:4-8) which signals the coming of Christ personally, so that the world-wide nature of the rebellion which by then has developed, and the directly anti-divine character which is then expressly taken by the assault, may amplify what has differently preceded in the mere multi-national attack on Israel.
Those won in Israel during this outpouring of the Spirit (as in Zechariah 12:10ff.), at the time of that international attack on it, are as one bride with the Gentiles: there is no sense of bigamy, or a divided bride or any other gospel - Revelation 14, Gatlatians 1 - or of any other bridesmaids waiting outside the shut door as in Matthew 25, but there is an end. Whether then
soon the Lord WILL COME for all His people, the deliverer to Zion, and so ALL Israel will be saved, the Jews superadded to the long-term phase of Gentile conversions (the time of the Gentiles, during Israel's long dispersion and aversion to the Messiah) as studiously detailed in Romans 11.
- very soon after the gathering of the Israelites in such numbers to the Lord through the Spirit, which is associated as in Zechariah 12, with a specialised assault on that land, or
- after a little further development, the European forces not being then ready,
"So shall the deliverer come to Zion", as Isaiah 59 puts it, and its scope will be a Zion with a new name (Isaiah 62:2) and a people who, while geographically distinct, are covenantally merely one more element in that diversified totality given unity in the New Covenant of the Lord (cf. Isaiah 65:13-15, 66:20-21).
Neither the Jews nor the Gentiles nor any other part or particular will ever be central in the theme of the Covenant in Christ; but neither will man dictate to the Lord the diversified elements and the developmental lessons which He chooses to make, step by step, as the culmination of this vast palette of history reaches the final finesse and shows its eventual dimensions: ONE the author, ONE the gospel, ONE the bride, ONE the conclusion, so that indeed we may say with Paul:
"Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out out! " The background to this statement is the DIVINELY PARTICULAR way of merging and diverging, making history teach and nations illustrate, as the outcomes of the ONE GOSPEL through many elements of history, are brought into ONE GLORIOUS UNITY IN CHRIST.
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