Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Middle East conflict (3)

I've been asked for some clarification about the sequence of battles in the 'end times', particularly whether Zechariah 14 and Ezekiel 38 are the same conflict.

There are several important differences between the descriptions of the invasions in Zechariah 14/Joel 3/Ezekiel 35/Psalm 83 and Ezekiel 38-39.

  • Gog invades when the people are dwelling safely, at peace, without walls or gates. The description of Israel’s condition in Ezekiel 38: 8-11 is remarkably similar to these prophecies of Messiah's reign:
    • "Every man will sit under his own vine
      and under his own fig tree,
      and no one will make them afraid,
      for the LORD Almighty has spoken." (Micah 4:4)
    • "In his days Judah will be saved
      and Israel will live in safety.
      This is the name by which he will be called:
      The LORD Our Righteousness." (Jeremiah 23:6)
    • "I will surely gather them from all the lands where I banish them in my furious anger and great wrath; I will bring them back to this place and let them live in safety." (Jeremiah 32:37)
    • "I will make a covenant of peace with them and rid the land of wild beasts so that they may live in the desert and sleep in the forests in safety." (Ezekiel 34:25)
This suggests that Gog invades after Jesus has commenced his reign.
  • Zechariah 14 says the city is taken and the people go into captivity. Gog in Ezekiel 38 is defeated, but there is no mention of even an initial victory of any type, or a single drop of Jewish blood being shed.
  • Zechariah 14 says the Lord will come to the Mount of Olives to deliver Israel from the invader. Ezekiel 38 says nothing about Israel being delivered. It seems that the invader is destroyed almost before he begins.
I don’t think there is anything in Scripture to suggest that the Messiah reigns unopposed and in peace from the commencement of His kingdom. In fact Psalm 2:2 suggests the opposite. ("The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One.")

The way I envisage this being worked out is something like this:
  1. Israel is invaded by a confederacy of her neighbours (Psalm 83). Jerusalem is taken (Zechariah 14:2 and Ezekiel 36:2).
  2. Jesus will return to deliver Israel and Jerusalem from their captivity at the hands of this invading force made up of her neighbours (Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Palestinians).
  3. The invader is defeated in Jerusalem (Joel 3 gives further details).
  4. Jesus then commences His reign in Jerusalem.
  5. Some time later, after Israel has begun to enjoy peace and safety, other Islamic nations (from “the four corners of the earth”) come against the Land and against the Lord. They are summarily defeated.
  6. I have no idea how long it will be between the two conflicts. It’s possible that the western (‘Christian’) nations will be amongst the first to acknowledge the King in Jerusalem as the true Messiah. If so, they will give Him their allegiance and their tributes. Israel will become a wealthy nation, and the nations who have refused to accept Jesus’ sovereignty will come against the Land “to take plunder and to take a booty”.

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