As I was thinking about my conversation with Charlie, I realized that I need to start with the Prophet of prophets. Just studying the prophecy of Ezekiel 38-39, though it is clear to me, doesn’t seem to be clear to my friend.
Jesus, in his most important address on the subject of the End Times, had this to say about the early stages of these times;
“And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? 4 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. 5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. 6 And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. 8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.” Matthew 24:3-8
Notice, first of all, that their question is about the end of the world. I don’t think he is actually telling them about the end of the world, but the end of the age. He had His own agenda, and was not about to be distracted by their question. Why? The Church needs to be more concerned about the end of this age, than the end of the world.
He proceeds to tell them about signs of the end of the age. Not the end of the age they were in at the time, the age of Israel, but the end of the Church age.
The first warning He gives is that many who say that Jesus is the Christ will deceive many. This should be a warning to us that there are many who correctly teach that Jesus is the Messiah, and yet teach error when it comes to prophecy, this is not minor error, but very serious deception with serious consequences.
Immediately, he begins to warn about the End Times wars. I believe He is actually warning us that the deceivers in question will be telling lies about these wars, and those lies will be told by professing Christians.
Since the time Jesus said these words, there has always been wars and rumours of wars. In fact there has only been a handful of years, since the first century, when there was no official war somewhere on earth. In the context of two thousand years of continuous war, “wars and rumours of wars” would not be a sign of anything.
Dispensationalists teach that the rapture of the Church is a sudden event, without signs of any kind. I guess they are thinking that Jesus was referring to the continuous history of war literally as being a non-sign.
They are wrong, and I think Jesus was speaking of something else.
Notice, in verse 6, He says about these wars; “see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet”. Why would His followers be troubled about wars when there has been a continuous history of two thousand years of war? This is because He is not referring to just any war. Jesus, in this passage, is referring to biblically prophesied wars that look like Tribulation wars.
Jesus was always referring back to the Old Testament! Christians who are here during Tribulation-like wars, would be very concerned that they had missed the rapture, or that they were not saved. This was the concern of Christians in Thessalonika, which Paul was addressing in the book of 2 Thessalonians 2. Notice that he told them that the Antichrist would be revealed first, which is another sign, but now I want to focus on these wars.
Does the bible speak of wars that just might look like Tribulation wars, but which might actually occur at some other time?
Yes, it does.
At present I am aware of two wars that really look like they could be a part of the Tribulation period, but the timing of which actually appear to occur shortly BEFORE the Tribulation begins. These wars are the Psalm 83 war, and the Gog and Magog war, of Ezekiel 38-39. Amazingly these wars are mutually exclusive; The nations that attack Israel in the Psalm 83 attack, are not involved in the Gog/Magog war, and actually are listed as nations who protest that invasion. (Sheba, Dedan, and Tarshish)
Neither of these wars are a part of Armageddon, since Armageddon involves the whole world, and these are limited local wars. No, there is a relationship between them, which is consecutive; the Psalm 83 conflict comes first, and then several years later, after a time of peace and prosperity, the Ezekiel 38-39 war occurs.
These wars centre on the nation of Israel, and will be used to set-up the Tribulation period, but are not a part of it themselves. They look like the Tribulation, and will be viewed as being the Tribulation by many professing Christians. These are the deceivers Jesus was referring to in Matthew 24:5.
There will actually be world leaders involved who could be said to be fulfilling the roles of major players in the biblical account, such as an antichrist and a false prophet. I wrote about this in my article about the Denver International airport. These are decoys, meant to distract from the coming Antichrist.
You may be thinking “this is a reach”, and “are there any other places in Scripture where such a decoy-Tribulation is alluded to?” I’m glad you asked. Yes, there is.
“For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.” 1 Thes. 5:3
In the midst of this passage of the End-Times, the people of the world are thinking that they are about to enter a time of world peace. Remember how we started, with the words of the Lord, that “there will be wars and rumours of wars”? In this case, why would they be expecting a time of peace? The best answer is that they have been through the wars Jesus was speaking about, which looked like the Tribulation to them, and now they think that they are at the end of the Tribulation. They believe that the Messiah, the Christ, has come, and he will lead them into the millennial reign.
This is why Jesus said “Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.” Luke 12:40
Most people take this to mean that Jesus will return at a time when people have forgotten Him. Notice the “ye” in this passage. “Ye” is a plural form of “you” and here refers to the people who are reading the bible at that time. He is not saying that the world will not be thinking about Him, rather He is saying that professing Christians will expect that He will not return! This is because they have a faulty eschatology!
Yes, your eschatology does matter!
But, why would professing Christians not expect the return of the Lord Jesus? This is because they think He is already here, in the person of the Antichrist!
In other words, they know the Beast is not Jesus Christ, but they think the Beast is here in the “spirit of Jesus Christ”, so Jesus Himself has no reason to return!
This is what happens when you allegorize Scripture, you can take it so far that you will end up supporting Christ’s greatest enemy! This is why it is wrong to spiritualize Scripture; how far do you go before you stop? The eschatologies that rely on allegory, like A-millennialism, Preterism, and Post-millennialism, are set-up to fall into the trap of the Antichrist.
In order for Satan to make the world think the Antichrist is here in the “spirit of Christ”, he will have to take them through a period of time that appears to have been the biblical Tribulation period.
Years ago Grant Jeffrey spoke about the dams on the Euphrates river, and how it is now possible for the nations on the Euphrates to shut off its flow by the use of these dams. As I remember, he was pointing to this development in relation to Revelation 16:12, to say that this might be how the Euphrates will dry up to allow the kings of the east to invade Israel at Armageddon.
I think this is a deception of Satan, which will be used during the Gog and Magog war, to shut off the Euphrates to allow the invading nations to invade Israel. This event will be one of the reasons people will point to the Gog/Magog war to say that it has been Armageddon.
The problem with this idea is that the event in Revelation is a result of a devastating drought, and not the result of some dam workers, or soldiers, shutting the flow of water off.
I remember Jeffrey, and other teachers talking about how, maybe helicopters might be the creatures referred to in Revelation 9:10, with a sting in their tail. This will also fall into Satan’s trap, for the beings in question are demonic entities, and not some man-made machine, but the use of helicopters in the Gog and Magog war could lead some to identify them as being fulfilment of this prophecy.
The kings of the east? Don’t forget that there are millions of Muslims in Indonesia, and other Asian nations. These are descendants of Gomer, and variations of that name appear throughout parts of Asia, such as Khmer of Cambodia, and they will join in the Gog/Magog war. Their presence in those armies will be interpreted as being the kings of the east, of Revelation 16:12. They are not, but they are a deception of Satan, to confuse the Gog/Magog war with Armageddon.
The “kings of the east” is actually the kings “from the rising of the sun” (Greek, apo anatolés héliou) While the author of the cited article thinks that this means the kings of the whole earth, I think that God was looking forward in time, to a time when Japan joins China to engage in a “police action” in Israel. He is correct that the whole world will be involved, but there certainly will be a contingent from China and Japan. Thus, a war involving other Asian nations, but not Japan and China, could not be Armageddon.
These are examples of how many will interpret the events of the Psalm 83 war, and the Gog/Magog war, as actually being events of the Tribulation period itself. They will be wrong to do so. Amillennialists are certainly in this camp, since they believe we are in the millennial kingdom now, and thus the next prophetic event will be the Gog and Magog war of Revelelation 20:8. The confusion between this and the Ezekiel account will lead to their downfall.
As Jesus said about these wars, “see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.” Isn’t he saying that the Church will still be here for these events, but the “end”, the Tribulation itself, is not here quite yet, thus Christians should not be surprised that they are still here?