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Russia, Ukraine and the End of Days

Is the Russian invasion of Ukraine a sign that we’re in the Tribulation. Has the end arrived? It seems every time there is a world crisis, some people begin to put us into the tribulation period of the end of days. Whether it’s a pandemic or a plague, earthquakes or floods, wars or peace treaties, people jump to conclusions. In the last month, I’ve been asked about the significance of the Russian invasion of Ukraine repeatedly, specifically, if it’s the invasion described in Ezekiel 38-39, an event that seemingly will take place near the middle of the future tribulation.

So let me just say what my son would say to Israel tour groups when people would get unreasonably nervous about some site we were heading to, for example, obsessing about how deep the water will be in Hezekiah’s tunnel. They start asking questions and I’m trying to settle them down. My son would always grab the microphone on the bus and say, “Everybody, just calm down.” That’s what I’m saying about the end of days significance of this current war: Everybody, just calm down. I’m not saying it’s not serious or we shouldn’t be concerned about the war. But it’s not what Bible teaching sensationalists are claiming—it’s not the tribulation. Here’s why:

First, every war should not be considered the end of days. Consider what the Lord Jesus said when describing the signs of the end. “You are going to hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, because these things must take place, but the end is not yet” (Matt 24:6). In my lifetime, there have been multiple Israeli wars, two Iraq wars, the Iran-Iraq war, and many others. People automatically claim this is the end. The same was said during the two world wars. Friends, the end is not yet. First of all, I believe the body of Messiah will be raptured before the Tribulation. But even if not, the Antichrist will need to be revealed first and sign a covenant with Israel to start the tribulation. That hasn’t happened, so we are not in the Day of the Lord yet.

Second, the nations described in Ezekiel 38-39 do not include Russia. The idea that they were Russian became popular during the cold war but it isn’t so. There’s a Hebrew word, Rosh, which means “head” and refers to Gog as the head of the areas of Meshech and Tubal. This was misunderstood to refer to Russia. Meshech and Tubal were misunderstood to refer to Moscow and Tobolsk. Magog, Meshech, Tubal and the other nations mentionedrefer to some of the modern Islamic states of the former Soviet Union and also to Eastern Turkey. Not Russia. It’s much better to interpret the Bible with Scripture rather than whatever is in the newspaper.

Third, the country that will be invaded at the end will be Israel, not Ukraine. In Ezekiel 38:16, God says to Gog, “You will advance against My people Israel like a cloud covering the land. It will happen in the last days, Gog, that I will bring you against My land so that the nations may know Me, when I show Myself holy through you in their sight.” As terrible as I believe it is for Russia to invade Ukraine, this is not the war described in Ezekiel.

Finally, the sign of the beginning of the tribulation is peace, not war. In 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul describes the situation when the Day of the Lord comes. He says it will start unexpectedly, coming like a thief in the night. When everyone “is saying, ‘peace and security,’ then sudden destruction comes” (1 Thess 5:2-3). This fits well with Ezekiel 38-39, because there it says that Gog’s invasion will take place when Israel is finally living in peace and security. God says to Gog, “You will say, ‘I will come against a tranquil people who are living securely, all of them living without walls and without bars or gates’” (Ezek 38:11). This is certainly not a description of Israel today, with all its intense security measures.

Even though the Russia/Ukraine war is not a sign of the end of days, here are two steps we can take as we wait for the end. First, we should be ready. In Matthew 25:1-13, in the parable of the 10 virgins, the point of the Lord Jesus is that the return of the Lord for His body, the rapture, can happen at any moment, it’s imminent. So, we should be ready at all times. Second, we should be serving. That’s the point of the Lord Jesus in the parable of the talents (Matt 25:14-30). We need to be serving the master as we await His return. As Mr. Rogers sang, we need to think of something to do while we’re waiting.

So everybody, just calm down. As Jesus said, “Don’t be alarmed . . . this is not the end yet.” Instead, we need to live as if the Lord Jesus could return for us, today, because He very well can. His return can happen at any moment.

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