With all that's going on in the world right now, many people are asking themselves, "Is Russia specifically named in the Bible's blueprint of the last days?" Or, for those a little more well-versed in the arguments: "is Russia equivalent to Gog and Magog?" That's the question that we're answering in today's blog post.
To answer this question, let's turn to the central place that folks use to claim that Russia is, in fact, explicitly named as a significant player in the end times tribulation: Ezekiel 38. A little background: Ezekiel 38 is all about Armageddon, the last battle that will take place when Jesus returns. There are two textual reasons contained in this pericope that cause some to equate Russia with Gog and Magog. The first can be found in verse two.
Ezekiel 38:2 "Son of man, set your face toward Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him."
In this passage, God is telling the prophet to prophesy against this nation Gog, in the land of Magog, who also happens to be the "prince" or "leader" of Meshech and Tubal. However, the word translated "chief" in the phrase "chief prince" is the Hebrew word, rosh. The word rosh, commonly meaning "chief" or "head," carries with it a translation variation – it is possible to transliterate the word as opposed to translating it– in which case it would be a reference to a specific place, namely, Rosh, or modern-day Russia. An alternate translation is even offered in the footnotes of the English Standard Version translation of the Bible:
"Son of man, set your face toward Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him."
In short: if Rosh is referring to a specific place and is not being used as a description of the word that immediately follows it (prince), then that place could be referring to modern-day Russia. This argument is supported by the description we're given of Gog/Magog later on in Ezekiel's prophecy:
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.
If you put these two things together, Rosh as a place-name and not a description of the prince of Magog, and the fact that Gog comes from the North, you have a pretty good argument that Russia could be a part of the end times gameplan laid out in Scripture.
There is also another, less popular reason why some say modern-day Russia is equivalent to Magog. It has to do with the naming of Magog as one of Noah's grandsons in Genesis 10. According to some genealogists, the descendants of Magog settled around the Black and Caspian seas. However, there is nothing close to a consensus on this fact, and it is a much less popular argument for Gog/Russia equivalency than the textual reasons stated above.
So, what do I make of this evidence? Do I think this proves that Gog/Magog can be equated to modern-day Russia? For starters, whenever we're answering a question like this, I prefer to take a wide-lens approach to Scripture. I want to try and take into account everything that the Bible says on a given subject. When it comes to the last days and the Battle of Armageddon, we're told in many places, including by Jesus himself in the Olivet Discourse, that all the nations of the world will be united against Jerusalem and the people of God. Not one nation or two nations, but all the nations.
The prophet Daniel tells us that it's not just the King of the North that will rise up against the people of God, but the Kings of the North and South. Kingdoms from all directions.[i] The prophet Zechariah, one of the most important prophets to speak about the last days and the second coming of Jesus, tells us that God will gather all the nations against Jerusalem on the very day when Jesus touches down on the Mount of Olives:
Zechariah 14:1-4 "Behold, a day is coming for the Lord, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in your midst. 2 For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped. Half of the city shall go out into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. 3 Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. 4 On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward."
And finally, in Revelation 20, the only other place in the Bible where Gog and Magog are named together (besides Ezekiel 38), they are synonymous with all the nations of the world.
Revelation 20:7-8 "And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea."
So, is Russia explicitly named a key player on the world stage during the last days?
Yes and No. Maybe. Sort of…
If Russia, as we know it today, is still on the world scene when that day comes, then yes, they will undoubtedly be a part of the end times assault on Jerusalem. However, contrary to what many folks today are saying, there are still several signs that need to be seen before saying unequivocally that Jesus is at the door and that his return is imminent. The entire witness of the Bible is clear that whenever that day comes, all the nations of the world will be gathered against Jerusalem and the people of God, as the world will be divided into two groups: the people of God and everybody else.
Regardless of whether or not Russia, as we know it today, is on the scene during that time, my prayer for all of God's people is that He would strengthen us with the courage and faith necessary to stay faithful until the end.
Tell me what you think in the comments below, listen to our podcast episode on this topic, or check us out on YouTube.
Listen to this episode: https://open.spotify.com/episode/6yCbZigVtn4evDnu21qGu6?si=2a6874c8da3f49a2
Watch us on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQj8J9HlcMgTA7Z5raVpeEA
[i] See Daniel 11-12.