In recent years, Russian President Vladimir Putin has aggressively pursued reunification of the Soviet bloc. He has annexed Crimea, infiltrated Eastern Ukraine, and crept into the Republic of Georgia. Not only is he provoking the people of Eurasia, but his strong–armed policies are also causing concern around the world. According to a Gallup poll, the public has consistently ranked Russia as the United States’ second greatest enemy since 2015.1 Newsfeeds swirl with questions about his intentions, but perhaps we should ask ourselves this question: What does the Bible say about modern Russia?
Approximately 2,500 years ago Ezekiel predicted specific events that will occur in Russia’s future. Chapter 38 of his self–titled book begins with a long list of nations that will attack Israel. None of these nations are called Russia; that name is not found anywhere in the Bible. However, the reference to Rosh in verse 2 is a shortened version of the word Russia. This can be determined linguistically and geographically. The Bible describes Rosh as being far to the north of Israel, which was the reference point for Ezekiel’s original audience.
Russia’s Inner Circle
One name on Ezekiel’s list, Gog, is the name of a national leader. We find this in Ezekiel 38:1–2, “Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal.’ ” So, Gog is the prince of Rosh, or we would say the leader of Russia.
One other word that we need to understand is Magog. That word is not found anywhere except in the Bible, and Ezekiel tells us that this name refers to an alliance of nations. If you trace it back in history, you will notice that Magog is a land surrounding Russia, filled with a lot of different–sounding places. In the Jeremiah Study Bible, there is a note about these nations being called the “stan” nations—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and, perhaps, even Afghanistan. These are all the nations that used to be part of the Soviet Union. In the End Times, the book of Ezekiel prophesies that the king of Russia is going to bring this alliance together.
The Bible lists many other nations that will form an alliance with Russia, and I address those in The Book of Signs. For now, we will focus on Russia and the nations of the former Soviet Union. It is enough to know this coalition is larger than the former bloc: it encompasses several nations in the Middle East and northern Africa. This sounds menacing, and it is. But notice what the Lord says in Ezekiel 38:3, “Thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, I am against you, O Gog, the prince of Rosh.’ ” Verse 16 tells us that God not only anticipates this aggression, but He will also orchestrate it: “I will bring you against My land.” Why would He do that? “So that the nations may know Me, when I am hallowed in you, O Gog, before their eyes.” Even rogue nations are under the authority of Almighty God, and they serve His purposes.
Before Russia attacks Israel, three requirements will have to be met. Understanding these requirements helps us anticipate the timing of the attack.
First, Israel must be present in her land. For over two thousand years, the Jewish people were scattered all over the world, living among Gentiles, because there was not a Jewish nation. In 1948 that changed. The nation of Israel was reborn, and many Jews returned to their homeland. So the first prerequisite for the invasion of Russia has already been fulfilled. Israel occupies her land.
Second, Israel must not only be present in her land; she must be prosperous in her land. Ezekiel prophesied that when the Jewish people return to their homeland, God will bless them beyond anything they have known in their history. Ezekiel 36:11 describes Israel’s wealth this way, “I will multiply upon you man and beast; and they shall increase and bear young; I will make you inhabited as in former times, and do better for you than at your beginnings.” The modern fulfillment of this prophecy is evident in Israel’s thriving economy, which has been ranked as the world’s third most innovative, behind Finland and Switzerland and just ahead of Japan and the United States. Modern Israel is a center of innovation and entrepreneurship, which means the second prerequisite to Russia’s invasion has been met.
Third, Israel must be at peace in her land. If you visit Israel today, you will see people with guns slung over their shoulders everywhere you go. They are always on alert because they know they could be attacked by their neighbors at any moment. Ezekiel 38:11 describes a markedly different Israel, “[Gog] will go up against a land of unwalled villages; [Gog] will go to a peaceful people, who dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, having neither bars no gates.” When Russia attacks Israel, the nation will be disarmed! That is difficult to imagine.
This radical shift in Israel, when she will lower her defenses, will occur at the beginning of the Tribulation or just before it. At the time of the Rapture, the Antichrist will make a seven–year deal with Israel in which he will promise to protect the nation. Israel will become dependent upon the Antichrist, disarm her army, and devote all her energy to increasing her wealth. The nation will be defenseless against the northern coalition.
We do not know when Israel will make this pact with the Antichrist because we do not know when the Rapture will occur. Matthew 24:36 makes that clear. However, we can be certain this army will come against Israel when the nation is present, prosperous, and peaceful in her land. The north’s invasion of Israel is not going to happen in the immediate future, but perhaps sooner than we think.
Russia’s Invisible Adversary
From a human perspective, there is no way Israel will overcome this assault. The nation’s only hope will be God’s intervention, and Russia will be blind to this prospect. Ezekiel describes the Lord’s response to Russia’s invasion this way: ” ‘It will come to pass at the same time, when Gog comes against the land of Israel,’ says the Lord God, ‘that My fury will show in My face. For in My jealousy and in the fire of My wrath I have spoken: “Surely in that day there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel” ‘ ” (Ezekiel 38:18–19). Later in the chapter, there is a description of massive casualties among the northern coalition and a series of natural disasters. God will use the evil tendencies of the allied nations—their greed, their hatred, their bloodlust—to goad them into attacking Israel so that He can execute His judgment against them for their long history of opposition to the Jewish people. God’s judgment will rain down in a series of disasters even more spectacular and catastrophic than the plagues of ancient Egypt.
Russia’s Impossible Adversary
God does not reveal the future to us, but the Bible informs us of these signs so that we will never fear the impossible. In fact, impossible is not possible when God is on our side. Jesus assures us with these words, “With God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he writes that God “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20). Israel’s impossible odds are no obstacle for her incomprehensible God, and Russia’s invisible adversary is impossible to overcome.
Reassurance for Today
In our culture, God’s people often feel powerless. They throw up their hands and refuse to resist the onslaught of evil. That is not the answer. We should all be as involved as possible, pursuing that which is right. When all of that is finished, and we have done our best, God is still present with all His power, with all His majesty, and with all His ability. Prophecies like this one about the future of Russia and Israel remind us we have a great and awesome God, and nothing is beyond His power. Even when it looks like there is no hope, God can come in and change everything.