The King Destroys NationsErwin W. Lutzer | October 17, 2010
Selected highlights from this sermon
Israel will be at the center of everything when God begins to wrap up history. The Antichrist will have a coalition of western nations behind him, while Gog and Magog will work with Middle-Eastern countries. Millions of soldiers will head to Israel to wipe it off the face of the planet.
But God will come to Israel’s aid. He’ll decimate countries that have officially proclaimed there is no God, those who’ve insulted Jesus by saying He’s not the Son of God, and those who’ve rejected Him.
God’s mercy will still be overflowing even in the midst of all of the destruction and judgment. Believers in those targeted countries will still have a secure place in heaven.
THE KING IS COMING
#6 The King Destroys Nations
It is truly amazing, isn’t it, that a little sliver of land like Israel (depending on where you put the borders) perhaps a hundred miles long, and (depending on where you measure it) 30 to 50 miles wide, would command the attention of the world? And when God begins to wrap up history, everything has to do with Israel. Everything has to do with the city of Jerusalem, that small little postage stamp of a country.
What is amazing perhaps is that the United States is not mentioned in prophecy. There’s no evidence that the United States is directly involved. At least the Bible doesn’t predict it. There may be some reasons for that. First of all, if you have a pre-tribulation rapture, if two or three million or however many million true believers there are in the United States all go up in a rapture, that would certainly destabilize the United States. People would have all kinds of explanations as to what happened to these people. Most people would be glad we’re gone, but at the same time, it could cause a lot of disruption.
There’s another reason and that is the need for oil. After all, the United States desperately needs foreign oil and it could be that as the years progress, the United States begins to ally itself more specifically with the Arab States than it does with Israel. Even in recent years it is evident that our support of Israel seems to be in decline.
Another reason might be terrorism. You could imagine a terrorist attack and how it would take out so much of our infrastructure. One of our leaders has said that the greatest threat the United States has to fear is not terrorism but rather it is the collapse of the economy, a total financial meltdown that could be caused by severe terrorist attacks.
At any rate, I’m going to be discussing today a huge battle that is going to take place in the Middle East, a coalition of nations that are going to march against Israel, and there’s no evidence that the United States is involved or trying to help Israel repel the attack. The attack will be repelled in a way that is going to give you goose bumps, but the United States will not be a part of that.
I want you to take your Bibles and turn to the book of Ezekiel and we’re going to begin in chapter 37 just to give you a bit of context, and then we are going to spend time in chapter 38. It’s always important that you follow along in the Word.
Notice that the Scripture says in Ezekiel 37:1-5, “The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the middle of the valley. It was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ and I answered, ‘O Lord God, you know.’ Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you.’”
So these are Ezekiel’s dry bones, and as he prophesies over the bones the sinews begin to come together, and the bones begin to connect. I must hurry because we have much territory to cover in this message, but you’ll notice that eventually he begins to prophesy and not only does the body come together but something else happens and that is that it actually has life and the bones live.
Fortunately, it’s not up to us to try to figure out the mystery of what Ezekiel saw. It’s right here in the Scripture. The Lord says in verses 11-14, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are clean cutoff.’ (Isn’t that a picture of the Jewish nation throughout the centuries?) Therefore, prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people, And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.”
The bones are the House of Israel. Many people think that when Israel became a nation in 1948 that’s when the bones started to come together at that period of time, but they are dry bones. Israel today does not recognize Jesus to be the Messiah, for one thing. For another thing, many of the Jewish people have left their faith, and many of them have even become atheistic and very unbelieving.
So the nation is there as a nation that is a heap of dry bones but God says, “I am going to give you life, and I will even put my spirit within you,” and later on in this chapter God says, “I am going to cleanse you, and I’m going to give you a new heart.” It’s a reference to the time when Jesus Christ comes when the nation Israel shall look on him whom they have pierced, and they shall believe. A whole host of Israelites will believe on Jesus, and if you are wondering about the millennial kingdom just know that I am dedicating a message in this series to the millennium and what happens there.
So here’s this prophecy of the restoration of Israel with a new spirit, a new understanding of God, and the fulfillment of the prophecies that go back even to the time of Abraham.
Now it’s in that context that we read in chapter 38 about an amazing invasion of Israel. This has never happened historically. In fact, the Scripture says that it will happen in the latter times–in the latter days. So let’s look at chapter 38:1-6 very quickly: “The word of the Lord came to me.” Now this is amazing because Ezekiel is writing 2,600 years ago, and he has intelligence because he is plugged into God, and he’s going to say some things that are just amazing, and now there is some evidence that we are seeing the fulfillment of this prophecy.
He said, “The word of the Lord came to me: ‘Son of man, set your face toward Gog, of the land of Megog, the chief princes of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him and say, 'Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. And I will turn you about and put hooks into your jaws, and I will bring you out, and all your army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed in full armor, a great host, all of them with buckler and shield, wielding swords. Persia, Cush, and Put are with them, all of them with shield and helmet. Gomer and all his hordes; Bethtogarmah from the uttermost parts of the north with all his hordes—many peoples are with you.’”
Well, it’s time for us to stop here and take a breath. What is this all about? When it comes to interpreting this passage you have to understand that he is using names that are very ancient, and today we have different names for these geographical locations. You say, “Well, how do you connect them?” Well there are scholars that have looked at these names, connected them with a table of nations in the book of Genesis, and so far as we know, the interpretation that I am giving you is accurate. If you were to look at a map the first country that you would want to look at in this context is Russia. When it speaks about Gog that really is to a ruler. It’s talking to a ruler, and when it speaks about Megog, if we identify that ruler as the Russian ruler (and I’ll give you some evidence for that in a moment), Megog would refer to those countries that are south of Russia, the countries that became a part of the Soviet Union or were a part of the Soviet Union—the Muslim countries that are in that region.
You say, “Well, Pastor Lutzer, why do you believe that this is Russia?” Notice that three times God says, “I’m going to bring you out from the far north.” Verse 6 says “from the uttermost parts of the north.” Verse 15 says, “You will come from your place out of the uttermost parts of the north, you and many peoples with you.” You’ll notice the same battle in chapter 39. Verse 2 says “the uttermost parts of the north.”
Now if you were to look at Jerusalem and go straight north toward the North Pole you would be drawing a line that goes right past Moscow. I don’t think that there is any other country that fits that description. Furthermore, Russia has been the great seat of atheism, and Russia has had a great deal of impact, and it is going to want to take its borders now and expand them to recreate the Russian Empire.
Maybe you are aware that Putin said on one occasion that the dismemberment of the Soviet Union was one of the greatest geopolitical disasters that has ever happened. There will be within Russia the desire to recreate a union, and this union is going to go against Israel.
Now you have to understand that it is difficult to put all this together, but when we talk about antichrist, which is the next message in this series, antichrist will have a European coalition of western nations. And so you can see the world aligning itself up. You have antichrist, who has in his hip pocket the western nations. You see Russia now, and it is going to align itself with Arab nations.
You know, people always ask, "How close are we to the Lord’s return?" I don’t know. Maybe it’s still fifty years or a hundred years, but if there are any "signs," one would be Russia’s affinity, its desire to connect with Arab nations.
Now let’s look at the text and let’s find out what some of these other nations are. You have Russia and its satellite countries–the former Islamic countries, and then you have Mesha and Tubal. The best identification is Turkey, and also Gomer and Bethtogarmah would also be a reference to areas of Turkey. If this identification is correct, a couple of things follow. First of all, always expect in the days ahead that Russia is going to have closer and closer ties with Turkey. Turkey is a secular Islamic state. Some of us have been there and we see its secularism. Also in the recent year or two it has taken a very fundamentalistic turn toward a more rigorous Islam, but expect Turkey to be aligned with Russia. They are going to continue in their alliances.
And then you have the country of Persia. Persia is modern day Iran. We all know, and it’s listed there of course in verse 5, what Iran thinks of Israel, its president wanting to exterminate the Jews and saying that the Holocaust didn’t happen. All of these things have been said by Ahmadinejad. He said that the Holocaust didn’t happen. What they want to do is to align themselves with those nations that are opposed to Israel and wipe Israel off the map. Isn’t it interesting that Russia has trained more than a thousand nuclear scientists—Iranians, and Russia has helped them build a nuclear power plant—billions in arms deals? Expect that to continue. Russia says that it is willing to defend Iran, so Iran is part of the coalition.
Then you have three countries that are really in Africa today. You have Cush, which is Ethiopia, and the Sudan, and Put, which is Libya. Now I have to tell you that ancient Ethiopia, when it is mentioned in the Scriptures (Cush–Ethiopia) was really what we call today the Sudan. It was south of Egypt. And so you have these countries becoming part of the coalition. If you ask the question, “If the troops are coming from the north, are there ways that these countries can participate?” there are many theories about how that shall happen. I shall not go into those today because we don’t know for sure, but they are a part of this coalition, and the Sudan today, by the way, is a strong Muslim country, and anti-Christian—very deeply so. So these countries are going to ally themselves against Israel.
Now, you say, “Well what about Saudi Arabia?” We’d certainly expect Saudi Arabia to be a part of this, wouldn’t we? But you know it’s interesting that most scholars believe that Sheba and Dedan there in verse 13 of the chapter we’re looking at is best identified as Saudi Arabia. And Saudi Arabia gives a mild protest and says, “Are you going to get the spoil, etc.?” Saudi Arabia, though a Muslim country, has oftentimes been allies with the West, so it is possible that it will join the Western coalition that belongs to those that are under the thumb and the heel of antichrist, because it is not listed in this coalition.
Now with that background, why are they doing this? Well, verses 11 and 12 tell us. They want to destroy, to seize the spoil, to carry the plunder, to turn your hand against the waste places that are not inhabited. They want to destroy the people who are gathered together from the nations, etc. etc. What they want to do is finally crush Israel and they are going to come together in hordes.
Now if you ask the question, “Where are nuclear weapons in this?” I’ll comment on the weapons issue in just a few moments, but notice that it says in Ezekiel 38:15, “You will come from your place out of the uttermost parts of the north, you and many peoples with you, all of them riding on horses, a great host, a mighty army.” It was written, of course, in the language that Ezekiel would have understood. That may be symbolic, but nonetheless, this group of armies comes together. If we read the text correctly we are talking about millions of soldiers coming against Israel to finally overrun the place, to finally crush the place, and do everything that this coalition has always wanted to do in its hatred of the Jews and to finally take care of the issue.
Now you say, “Well, Pastor Lutzer, when would this happen?” Well, you know, scholars differ on that point. I always say that when it comes to prophecy, we might not be accurate in terms of the timeline. We do the best we can to fit this in and ask where this would make more sense, but we wish that there would be a whole book just devoted to the sequence, and there isn’t. The book of Revelation helps us but we need to insert these events within it. But let me say that it’s a time when Israel is at peace. If you read the text it says that they will be in unwalled villages. They will be secure in their land. That certainly isn’t true today most assuredly, so it refers to some future time when Israel is at peace.
Now here’s a possibility that is widely held. It could be wrong but I’ll give it to you. If you have the rapture of the Church, after that antichrist begins to arise in Europe. He begins to get a coalition together, which will be my message next time, and he will have a secure covenant with Israel. Daniel 9 says that he makes a secure covenant. He is so powerful. Nations are unified behind him. He becomes so strong that actually even the temple may be built next to the Dome of the Rock, if you can imagine that, which may be another reason, by the way, why this coalition wants to wipe Israel out.
So antichrist does that and the covenant is firm and at last peace comes to Israel. It could be that it’s during that period of time that all of these nations gather together over a period of months, or over the period of a year or two, or whatever it takes to finally say we’re going to resolve the Middle East crisis in our way, maybe also going against the forces of antichrist.
Now if I could just anticipate the message of next week for a moment, just imagine this. When God destroys this coalition, as we’ll discover, wouldn’t that be a good time for antichrist to go into the temple of God and declare himself to be God in Jerusalem? Virtually all of his opposition is wiped out, but I’m ahead of the story aren’t I?
So let’s look at the text. What happens? Well, you’ll notice that this coalition comes against Israel and God doesn’t like it. That’s to put it mildly. You will read here things that will just make your head spin. Notice in Ezekiel 38:15-16 it says, “You’ll come out from the north, riding on horses, a great host, a mighty army. You will come up against my people Israel, like a cloud covering the land. In the latter days (another reason why we know this has never happened) I will bring you against my land, that the nations may know me, when through you, O Gog, I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.” Verse 18 says, “But on that day, the day that Gog shall come against the land of Israel, declares the Lord God, my wrath will be roused in my anger. For in my jealousy and in my blazing wrath I declare, on that day there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel. The fish of the sea and the birds of the heavens and the beasts of the field and all creeping things that creep on the ground, and all the people who are on the face of the earth, shall quake at my presence. And the mountains shall be thrown down, and the cliffs shall fall, and every wall shall tumble to the ground. I will summon a sword against Gog on all my mountains, declares the Lord God. Every man’s sword will be against his brother. With pestilence and bloodshed I will enter into judgment with him, and I will rain upon him and his hordes and the many peoples who are with him torrential rains and hailstones, fire and sulfur. So I will show my greatness and my holiness and make myself known in the eyes of many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord.”
And we want to say, wow!
God says, “I’m going to cause problems from the earth below—a huge earthquake. It’s going to disrupt everything. I’m going to cause a judgment also, not only from the earth below, but confusion within.” When the earthquake happens they are going to start to kill one another, and then if that isn’t enough God says, “I’m going to rain down from heaven and I am going to rain judgment on this army, and they will be wiped out.” Unbelievable, because we’re talking really I think if you put it together about hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people.
If you were to read chapter 39, which I am sure you will do after listening to this message, you’ll discover some more details about what happens. For one thing it will take seven months just to bury the dead. In fact, there’s going to be a whole valley and that valley is going to be filled with dead bodies, and it would even take longer than seven months were it not for the fact that the fowls of the air come and they take care of the people and they eat, and the vultures come and eat human flesh. It’s a gory story. It’s a story of awesome judgment.
There’s something else though in the text that has puzzled us for a long time, and this leads me to the whole issue of weapons. You’ll notice in Ezekiel 39:9 it says, “Then those who dwell in the cities of Israel will go out and make fires of the weapons and burn them, shields and bucklers, bow and arrows, clubs and spears, and they will make fires of them for seven years, so that they will not need to take wood out of the field or cut down any out of the forests.” What in the world is going on there? How are you going to burn a spear or a club? I think that when it comes to the way in which Ezekiel got the vision, we need to understand something, and that is that this vision came to him in a way that he was able to understand. The vision came with horses and spears and so forth. Now there are those who say that as a result of the fact that some judgments will have already happened on the earth they will have to revert to primitive methods of warfare because all of the modern methods may be paralyzed by huge attacks and by bombs and what have you. If the infrastructure needed to run modern weaponry it could be wiped out. That’s a possibility. The other possibility is that Ezekiel was seeing this in ways that were meaningful to him 2,500 years ago, and meaningful to his own people. There is no way that God could have revealed to Ezekiel jet planes, bombs, and missiles, so it’s been suggested (and again we’re only facing a text here and it’s only a suggestion) that maybe these are unexploded bombs that take place and they can get the uranium and the titanium from some of these weapons and use them for fuel. I don’t know. All that I know is this, that God is talking here about a battle that clearly has never happened, and that God is winning a huge victory and is going to wipe out certainly many of the countries that sponsored terrorism, many of the countries that have officially proclaimed that there is no God, such as Russia, and those who have insulted Jesus Christ by claiming that He is not the Son of God, by claiming that He is not Deity, by rejecting Him, and Jesus said that if you don’t know Me you don’t know My father.
So I’d like to give you a couple of things to think about. First of all, I want you to look at the text and see very clearly the sovereignty of God.
You know God says regarding this coalition, “I’m going to put my hooks in your jaws and I’m going to bring you into my land, the mountains of Israel.” What’s that all about? God is able to work in such a way that people will voluntarily do what he wants them to do. I choose those words very carefully. If this were a classroom in theology I’d expound on them for a long time, but God is able to direct the nations in such a way that they do it voluntarily. They have hatred for Israel. They want to finally wipe Israel off the map, and they do this, but ultimately God says, “I’m doing it,” and he explains why in just a moment. We see here that God is sovereign. At the end of the day we must always know that God is the one who has the nations in His hand.
Isaiah said, “The nations of the earth are like a drop in a bucket.” God looks at the nations, it says, as fine dust. That’s all that they are, and when God has had enough, He can judge them in whatever way He wishes. That’s the sovereignty of God.
Secondly, as I look at this text I see also very clearly the terror of God. You’ll notice that God says in chapter 38, “I am against you, oh Gog.” He’s talking about the leader of the coalition, and here we see God just raining judgment. Now, this judgment may offend our sensibilities, but it is interesting that when you read the book of Revelation you see similar judgments. When we talk about the return of Christ, and I will be giving a message on the glorious return of Christ to be distinguished from the rapture (we’re indicating that it comes in two stages) it says inflaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Wow!
You know the Jesus that is presented, the Jesus that is so meek and mild and all that He talked about is love—that is true. Jesus is loving, but have we forgotten that God is a God of severe justice when finally He’s had enough? And that’s exactly what He says. This is what He says in Ezekiel 39:7, “And my holy name I will make known in the midst of my people Israel, and I will not let my holy name be profaned anymore.” He’s saying, “I’m tired of the atheism. I’m tired of being neglected. I’m tired of being denied. I’m tired of being rejected in favor of another god who does not recognize my son. And so the nations will know that I am the Lord.” You can be sure that when this happens people are going to say, “You know, I think He is God.” You can be assured that’s going to happen. “Behold it is coming and it will be brought about,” declares the Lord. “That is the day of which I have spoken.”
So we have, first of all, the sovereignty of God. We have also the terror of God. You say, “Well, Pastor Lutzer, for us what is really the bottom line here?” I think that we have to also see in all of this judgment. We also have to see the mercy of God. God is merciful. You say, “Well, where’s the mercy?”
First of all, in the countries that we have listed, there are many believers, and their place in heaven, of course, will be secured despite what happens here on earth. They will know that they belong to God. When we talk about these armies being destroyed, always understand that there are many people who are also worshippers of the true God. Some of them may even be in these armies. Certainly many of them may be left behind in their countries. God will show mercy to them.
God will also show mercy to Israel. Do you know why this battle takes place? It is because God is preparing Israel to accept Jesus as the Messiah, and that will happen, and God is bringing the nation into the land as indicated. God is bringing them to the point where they see his glory, preparing them for the glorious return of Christ. Actually Israel deserves the same kind of judgment that these other people receive. In fact, all of us do, but God is showing them mercy.
When we talk about God’s grace that means that you and I are actually receiving forgiveness that we don’t deserve. When talk about mercy we’re speaking about God actually withholding judgment that we do deserve, and you and I deserve judgment, but the good news is that in Jesus we are exempt. Mercy has been shown.
There is a story that a woman came to Napoleon and said, “Would you pardon my son? You have the ability to do that.” Napoleon said, “He is not worthy to be pardoned.” She said, “I know he isn’t worthy, but I am appealing to your mercy,” and Napoleon said, “He doesn’t deserve mercy.” And she accurately said, “If he deserved mercy he wouldn’t need it. I’m asking for mercy.”
Today I want to ask you if you have received the mercy of God. What good is this message unless those of you who have never trusted Christ as Savior may do so and unless you flee to him to receive mercy?
Mercy there was great and grace was free.
Pardon there was multiplied for me.
There my burdened soul found liberty at Calvary.
The prophet prayed in wrath and we see that here. Remember mercy, and today we stand with the prophet and we call on God for mercy for ourselves and for others.
Father, we ask, in Jesus’ name, that as we have attempted to expound these awesome chapters that You might help us to be able to anticipate what shall take place, but also to cry to You in the midst of a world that has lost its way. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.