20 Studies in Bible Prophecy
Study 9 - The King of the North
Turning our attention to the age of Gentile dominion, we must take a look at the expression "the times of the Gentiles" (Luke 21:24). This phrase refers to the era of Gentile world domination, which commenced with the ascendancy of Nebuchadnezzar, and will terminate with the advent of Christ to reign. The time limit of this dominion is lucidly penned in the Scofield Reference Bible. It reads:
"The times of the Gentiles is that long period beginning with the Babylonian captivity of Judah, under Nebuchadnezzar, and to be brought to an end by the destruction of Gentile world-power by the 'stone cut out without hands' (Dan. 2:34, 35, 44) i.e. the coming of the Lord in glory (Rev. 19:11,21), until which time Jerusalem is politically subject to Gentile rule".
During the closing stages of this period, when man is doing his best to govern, the Bible predicts world chaos, with wars on a universal scale, and men's hearts failing them for fear as they contemplate international confusion and economic crisis. Indeed the Bible confirms that "mystery of iniquity" doth already work (2 Thess. 2:7), but as noted in the last study, there is a restraining hand. When the church is taken out of this world, that hindering influence will be removed, and out of the confusion and turmoil there will emerge the devil's superman, the "future Fuehrer" or the Antichrist. He will be the head of a ten-nation confederacy, or the resuscitated Roman Empire. Beyond this ten-kingdom federation of other nations under the dominion of the Beast (Rev. 13 : 1-10), there will be a federation of other nations which will contest the Antichrist's rulership of the Holy Land.
Prof. Walvoord states here: "Expositors are by no means agreed as to the precise details of these events or their place in the sequence. It is possible, however; to be sure about such facts as the geographic origination of military forces which converge upon the Holy Land described as coming from the north, the east and the south. All of these forces seem to be in opposition to the Roman ruler who may be called the king of the west, although the Scriptures never assign him this title".
There will be three such federations,
(a) The king of the north, or the northern confederacy, Russia and her allies,
(b) The king of the south, which, by general agreement has reference to Egypt. This will be the subject of the next study,
(c) The kings of the east, the vast oriental army, possibly China, Japan, India and countries of S.E. Asia (Rev. 16 : 12). This is dealt with in a later study.
The King Of The North
This king from the north is the northern bloc, or Russia and her allies. This great enemy will challenge the authority of the Antichrist, who will have made his seven-year covenant with the Jews. Such passages as (Ezek. 38: 1-39; Dan. 11 : 40 and Joel 2:1-27) described this confederacy. There is little doubt that the Gog of Ezekiel's prophecy is Russia. One writer who seeks to perpetuate the mistake of Origen and St. Augustine in failing to distinguish between the spiritual as it relates to the church, and that which concerns the earthly people, Israel, bluntly suggests that the teaching of the battle of Armageddon is so much "careless prophetism and apocalypticism", or the result of literalising what was a spiritual vision for Ezekiel. So he derisively states, "... the Russian tale prevails." He goes on to unravel his naive nonsense by stating concerning the future Armageddon, ". . . this great revolt is not a solitary event at the end of time, but the entire history of the church's conflict with the powers of evil over the last 2,000 years, concentrated and figured in one idealistic campaign representative of the whole".
However, strange that may sound, it becomes even more confusing when in the same article he says, "The reign of Christ is NOW or it is never". That is to suggest that we are waging our Armageddon and enjoying the millennium at one and the same time. To reason in such a fashion one must suffer from either "a hardening of the heart or a softening of the head", to borrow the words of C. S. Lewis.
While (Dan. 11:40) refers to "the kings of the north", and (Joel 2:20) to "the northern army", the inevitable question arises — Is this Russia ? We cannot ignore the contribution of Ezekiel's prophecy in chapters 38 and 39 to this subject. Prof. Walvoord writes, "The word Russia is not found in the English Bible, and at first glance it would seem that there is nothing in the Bible that would give any information about Russia. A more careful investigation, however, reveals that there are two long chapters in the Bible which seem to concern themselves with the nation of Russia, with certain other portions of Scriptures which cast added light on the whole subject. Not only has the Bible something to say about Russia, but what it reveals is of tremendous significance in God's prophetic programme".
Our first investigation concerns:
(1) The Identification of Russia as the power referred to by Ezekiel and Daniel.
Let us look at the Ezekiel picture carefully and note the names given in that ancient prophecy. The Bible scholars agree that these ancient names of Gog, Magog, Meshech and Tubal have their modern equivalents. Says one, "If modern lexicographers are consulted as to what nation now represents 'Rosh', nearly all of them, together with most expositors, say Russia".
If we compare these place names with (Gen. 10:2) we find that they are all the sons of Japheth, one of Noah's sons. These are listed as Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal and Meshech. Ethnologists tell us that the Japhethites, following the flood, migrated from Asia Minor northwards, beyond the Caspian and Black Seas in the area of Rosh, known today as modern Russia.
Beyond the philological conviction we have the geographical description. In (Dan. 11:40 and Ezekiel 38:6, 15 and 39:2), the invading army is said to come from the north. Russia and her satellite peoples alone can fit this geographic picture.
But beyond the linguistic and geographical arguments, we cannot ignore the theological. This latter-day power was to be characterised by godlessness, and states Dr. John Wesley White, "Never before has a monolithic political system been superstructed on the foundation of atheism as International Communism". In 1924 Zinoviev declared, "We will grapple with the Lord God in due season. We will vanquish Him in His highest heaven". Of a confrontation between God and Russia, the Bible assures us, and it is equally emphatic as to the outcome when God intervenes to establish His beneficent and long-looked-for kingdom on the earth.
(2) The Intentions Of Russia with a view to the Middle East.
Israel is under no illusions as to where the real threat lies, and in 1968 Mosha Dayan declared, "The next war will not be with the Arabs but with Russia". As it turned out, the Arabs have openly attacked Israel, but behind this continued threat there lies the hidden hand of Soviet Russia. Says one writer, "The Soviet Union sits astride the Arab world like a colussus, with one foot planted in Cairo and the other in Baghdad".
Russia's military aid to Egypt, Syria and Iraq is but her long-term plan aimed at Soviet penetration and ultimate domination of the Middle East. Russian aims seem to be twofold:
(i) A commanding position in the Mediterranean. It is held that the power which controls the Mediterranean controls the civilised world. Richard Wolff states that "In July 1967 the Russian navy paid a courtesy visit to Port Said and Alexandria ... From this modest beginning a large Russian fleet entered into the Mediterranean for the first time in history". Nor has this build-up escaped the notice of the Press. The Daily Telegraph of October 18th, 1973 carried the following: "A substantial build-up of Russian and American warships is taking place in the Mediterranean at the same time that huge quantities of arms are being poured into Egypt, Syria and Israel".
(ii) The control of Middle East oil. It is not new that one of the interesting attractions of the Middle East is its tremendous oil deposits. Indeed it is estimated that more than two-thirds of the world's oil reserves is located in this area. Therefore, avers Dr. Tatford, "Oil is a major sinew of war, and if Russia was contemplating an armed conflict with other powers, her most probable first step would be to move into the oil-producing countries and take control of them". It is not without significance that God interprets the mind of this "latter day" invader of Israel, making it known centuries before, "I will go up to take a spoil" (Ezek. 38:12).
There can be no doubt that events in the Middle East will depend largely on the influence of Russia. Behind the disturbing and painful events of the present unrest of Israel we can descry the hand of Russia. It is also evident from the Scriptures that at some future period in time Israel will have to face invasion from the north.
(3) The Invasion of Israel by this latter-day power.
The actual invasion is described in (Ezek. 38:8-16). The more we examine the passage, the more we are convinced that present events closely resemble the situation described.
As we interpret the Scriptures it appears that certain stages of unfolding must take place ere this drama begins. Of one thing we are certain, the stage is set and the curtain will rise in due course. As one writer says, "In our day the nations seem to be breathing hard with unrest and excitement. Armageddon could be just round the corner".
This is not just the conclusion of the Word of God, but of politicians and militarists. What the prophet foresaw centuries ago seems to be falling into our contemporary scene and tells us that time is getting short. As Canon Gordon M. Guinness writes, "Today we see for the first time a nation with the motive and power to launch just such an attack as Ezekiel describes." These chapters have known no fulfilment in the past; therefore the holocaust is still ahead of Israel.
(4) The Intervention of God resulting in the complete and utter defeat of Russian communism.
God cannot stand by and see His people crushed and broken. He will take a hand from the air (Ezek. 38:22). Actually the prophet's words do not make pleasant reading. This invading force is crushed on the mountains of Israel, like Sennacherib of Assyria, an earlier king of the north. Some 80% of his army will be destroyed, and so great will be the slaughter that it will take seven months to bury the dead (Ezek. 39:12).
That is the picture as we see it in the Word of God. When this power from the north will attack we cannot be sure, but we know that for the Christian the next great event will be the rapture of the church. That is our hope, and it was not given to gender theological debate, states one, but rather as "a magnetic goal, attracting the pilgrim saint as he struggles, stumbles, and yet climbs upward". The return of the Lord for His church may be very near.