A woman and her daughter stopped by the church office this week, looking for information about the Hispanic Church that rents from us. After I gave her the info, she began walking out the office door, then she stopped, turned and said to me, “Jesus is coming soon!”
I always feel awkward when people say that. People don’t know if Jesus is coming soon. Jesus taught us that no one knows the time of his return. I feel awkward because I think to myself, “Should I disagree with her, or just nod my head and let it go?” I decided to say what Jesus taught, “No one knows the time of his return, but I agree that he is coming again.” She doubled-down and said, “He is coming soon!” I felt even more awkward. I didn’t want to a theological discussion with a stranger, so I attempted to conclude with another one of Jesus’ teachings, namely that “We need to be ready at all times,” but she beat me to it, saying, “So we should be ready!” That I can agree with. Why was she so adamant, though, about her belief that Jesus is coming soon?
Well, Jesus also taught us to observe the signs of the times. The woman’s words revealed that she was was looking around the world, and her conclusion was that Jesus is coming soon. She is certainly entitled to her opinion. I have to admit, if you watch the news, she has a point. I still think she has no idea if Jesus is actually coming soon or if his return is thousands of years in the future, but there are signs of the times that can make you wonder.
Think about the major international news of the day. What do you think of the Russian military build-up on the border of Ukraine? Every day the news gives us an update with pictures of tanks and missile launchers and soldiers with guns. Will Russia invade or won’t they? Are they increasing their troop strength or are they just doing military exercises and heading home? Should the United States send soldiers to help Ukraine? Does it get you thinking about the end of the world? Maybe this is the beginning of the end! Maybe Russian president Vladimir Putin is the antichrist. Are we about to be raptured? Will we have to go through the tribulation? It can be very scary if we allow our minds to dwell on it. Are we living in the book of Revelation?
How many of you wonder what the Book of Revelation means? I grew up learning that Revelation talked about the future, and that its wild images of beasts and dragons and blood moons and global war were about the end the of world. For example, open a Bible to Revelation 20, and read verses 1-8, a passage about the final war. Let me summarize. In Revelation 20, we read that an angel comes down out of heaven and locks Satan in a place called the Abyss. There Satan stays for 1000 years. For those thousand years Jesus reigns as King on earth. The vision continues by describing that after the millennium, Satan is released from imprisonment, he goes to earth where he deceives the nations all over the earth, gathering them up as a great army for battle. This global army surrounds the city of God, but fire from heaven devours the army and Satan and his minions are banished in a lake of burning sulfur where they are tormented forever.
That is the story of God’s final victory over Satan. Even if you haven’t read those details or might not have remembered them, what I suspect might be familiar to you is the idea that in the end God wins the victory over Satan. But what might not be so familiar are the two names mentioned in Revelation 20, verse 8. Gog and Magog. The vision in Revelation 20 describes a world-wide army that Satan deceptively forms from all the nations of the world, and that army is called Gog and Magog. What does that mean? Gog and Magog. Who or what are they?
Now I invite you to turn to Ezekiel 38. That’s right, the prophecy we just read about in Revelation has a connection to the prophecy of Ezekiel. This week we are studying Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39, and we begin by reading Ezekiel chapter 38, verses 1-6.
Notice in verse 1 that the prophecy starts with Ezekiel’s final Prophetic Stare of the book. The Prophetic Stare is when God tells Ezekiel to set his face against something. To perform the Prophetic Stare, I imagine Ezekiel would walk out of his house in front of his neighbors and people walking down the road. As they are watching him, Ezekiel would stop and stare at something. The Prophetic Stare had no power in and of itself, but it was instead a symbolic shining of the light of God’s truth on something. We don’t know how long Ezekiel would stare at things when he was performing the Prophetic Stare. Probably long enough to get people’s attention, because then, in addition to the Prophetic Stare, God would give him a spoken word to prophesy, and that spoken word would explain what Ezekiel was staring at and why he was staring at it. In verse 2, we learned that Ezekiel is to stare at Gog, of the land of Magog.
Those are the two names we read in Revelation 20, verse 8. Who or what are Gog and Magog? Does Ezekiel’s prophecy give us the answer? We heard in the prophecy that Gog is the chief prince of Meshek and Tubal. Did that bit of information help you learn who Gog is? If you had asked me before this week if I knew about Gog, Magog, Meshek and Tubal, and you even gave me the clues that Gog and Magog are mentioned in both Ezekiel and Revelation, I would have told you that I had no idea who or what they are. Only that they had something to do with prophecy. And if I’m honest, even after researching it this week, I still don’t know who they are. Guess what I learned from the biblical scholars who write books and commentaries about this stuff? The scholars don’t know who Gog and Magog are either! They might be a real king and a real land. See Genesis 10:2 where most of these names are mentioned as grandsons of Noah…but that was thousands of years prior to Ezekiel’s era. What could this mean? We don’t know. Given what we read in Revelation, Gog and Magog might be names God gives to a demonic army. We don’t know. It’s very cryptic.
If we don’t know the identity of Gog and Magog, should we just throw these chapters of Ezekiel into the dustbin of history? No! In fact, we’re going to find out through the rest of this five-part series that Ezekiel 38 & 39 are quite important for us in 2022. Check back in to the next post, as we’ll start to learn how.