January 11, 2014

The Imminent Return of Christ and the Invasion of Israel by Gog

Tony GarlandBy Dr. Tony Garland
SpiritandTruth.org

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Q. I have been studying Ezekiel 38-39 and am now wrestling with the timing of these events. In searching the scriptures I find many details which lead me to believe the Battle of Gog-Magog must occur before the Tribulation Period. I believe the latest it could take place is three and half years before the Tribulation.

Since I also have a belief the Rapture will happen before the Tribulation starts, I struggle with the Doctrine of Imminency. I am not saying the Battle of Gog-Magog must occur before the Rapture, but scriptures seem to indicate this.

Will you please share your thoughts and insights?

Gog-Magog

Gog-Magog Before the Rapture?

A. As you know, there are numerous views as to the relative timing of the events mentioned by Ezekiel 38-39, the Rapture, and the Tribulation.

In my course Israel Through the Eyes of Scripture, I discuss some of the issues related to chapters 38 and 39 of Ezekiel in the 11th session titled Gog of the Land of Magog. Andy Woods also has an excellent presentation on the topic titled Islamic Invasion of Israel.

The fact that serious students of God's Word reach different conclusions as to the timing of Ezekiel's invasion in relation to other prophetic events helps illustrate how we can think about this question in relation to Scripture's clear teaching of Christ's imminent return for the Church. [1]

Although Scripture gives numerous clues regarding the timing of the invasion of Israel by Gog, I'm not aware of any clear passage which would conclusively prove it must take place before Jesus returns for His Church. If there were such a passage, it would contravene the New Testament teaching of imminency since any event which has yet to occur that could be conclusively shown must occur before His return would be incompatible with an imminent return. In fact, I would argue just the opposite: the clear teaching of imminency precludes the possibility of establishing any other event as necessarily being before the Rapture. (In other words, an interpretation of prophetic events which requires this—such as the mid-tribulation or pre-wrath Rapture positions—should immediately be suspect in light of the many imminency passages.)

For those of us who may be bedazzled or dazed by the current blizzard of alternate theories, positions, and prophetic perspectives blowing our way, there is a simple test we can use to check for truth. It involves one word: Imminence. What does the purveyor of a new, novel, or absurd approach to end-times events have to say about the imminent return of Christ, which the Scriptures declare to be the watchword of the church? Any proposition that ignores, delays, or mutilates the clear meaning of the word and the way in which the early church understood imminence—the any-moment return of Christ—should be immediately discredited. [2]

It also bears remembering that imminency does not mean that no other prophetic event described in Scripture could possibly occur prior to the Rapture—only that this cannot be known from what God has clearly revealed in His Word. If other prophesied events were to actually take place before the Rapture, this would not destroy imminency because it could not have been known with certainty in advance, from Scriptural revelation, that these events must occur before the Rapture. Once again, the clear teaching of the imminence of Christ's return argues against any claim someone might make to know with certainty of such a prerequisite based upon Scriptural teaching.

We must also be careful not to assume that the removal of the Church coincides with the beginning of the 70th seven of Daniel. The event which Scripture ties to the beginning of the 70th seven is the covenant made by the Antichrist with "many" in Israel, not the Rapture (Dan. 9:27). Although the gap between the 69th and 70th seven of the prophecy includes the church age, the age of grace in which we presently live, no interpreter that I'm aware of takes the end of the 69th seven to be the Day of Pentecost, the birthday of the Church. [3] Therefore, it would appear there were at least 50 days between the end of the 69th seven and the creation of the Church. This infers there could also be an indeterminate period of time between the Rapture—when the Church is taken out of the world—and the start of the 70th seven, when the covenant is signed. [4] If the invasion by Gog actually occurs prior to the Tribulation (the last seven years of the prophecy in Daniel 9:24-27) this would not prove it must also precede the Rapture and thereby overthrow imminency. To destroy imminency requires unambiguous Scriptural evidence of an unfulfilled prophetic event which must precede the return of Christ for His Church.

For more on the topic of imminency, see the related section in my Revelation Commentary. I can also highly recommend Dr. Renald Shower's discussion of imminency in Maranatha—Our Lord, Come!: A Definitive Study of the Rapture of the Church (chapter 7, "The Imminent Coming of Christ").

Endnotes

[1] Concerning Christ's imminent return: Mark 13:37; John 21:22; 1 Cor. 1:7; 15:51-52; Php. 3:20; 4:5; 1 Th. 1:10; Tit. 2:13; Heb. 10:37; Jas. 5:7-9; 1 Pe. 4:7; Rev. 3:11; 22:7,20.

[2] Elwood McQuaid, "Expecting a Call Any Moment," Israel My Glory (Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry), January/February 2005, p. 10. See Isa. 46:13.

[3] Among those who hold a Christological interpretation of the prophecy, there are a variety of views concerning the identity of the event which marks the terminus ad quem or end of the 69th seven: the birth of Christ, His baptism, His presentation to Israel as King, His crucifixion, His resurrection, and even His ascension. However, the prophecy implies that the end of the 69th seven is connected with His appearance or arrival rather than His death since it explicitly states that Messiah is cut off after (וְאַחֲרֵי [weʾaḥărê], "and after" [KJV, NKJV, ESV], "then after" [NASB], "now after" [NET]) the 69th seven. This would seem to call into question views which identify the terminus ad quem as the crucifixion or any event thereafter.

[4] There is considerable discussion on the issue of whether the Rapture will be closely synchronized with the signing of the covenant which begins the final seven year period. This writer knows of no clear statement or requirement within Scripture which necessitates such a correlation.


 


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