Revelation, Part 1 of 4 – The World Before the End of the World

“…And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and …drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus…” (Revelation 17:3-6)

uh… what?

Undoubtedly, The Book of Revelation is the most cryptic book in the Bible, best known for its foretelling of the end of the world.  As the narrative unfolds, there’s a lot in it that seems to make no sense at all.  And on its own, maybe it wouldn’t.  But Revelation is the last “chapter” in one single book, a book written down by 40 different people, across 1400 years and three continents.  And while Revelation is really the single book most focused on the end of the world, many of its prophecies are more deeply explained in earlier books of the Bible.  When you look at Revelation through the lens of the books that precede it, a lot of it becomes clear.

I say “a lot” (as opposed to “all”) because some aspects are still hidden from our understanding. That’s the challenge with prophecy: looking back on it, it makes perfect sense, and it almost seems too obvious.  Looking forward at prophecy is a little tougher.  With that in mind, this and the following three blog posts will unpack some of what the book says, provide some of the supporting context (from other books of the Bible), and share a perspective of how it all matches up with current events.  Check my sources, read Revelation for yourself, and draw your own conclusions.

The Backstory:

Revelation was written by the apostle John around 90 AD.  At that point, John was an old man, and the last surviving of the original 12 Apostles.  According to Church tradition, the Roman government told him to quit talking about Jesus, and when he refused, they brought him into the Colosseum to be executed (likely with lots of other people).  The plan was to boil him in oil.  The soldiers heated the pot, tied him up, and lowered him in.  Nothing happened.  So they pulled him out, and tried again.  And again, nothing.  They tried a third time, and still, nothing.  So the officials overseeing the event gave up on the idea and instead exiled him to live out his days as a slave working in the mines on the Greek island of Patmos.  He was there for a few years before being allowed to return when the Roman emperor died.  It was during this exile that John wrote Revelation.

The book itself contains 404 verses, and about 278 references to the Old Testament.  That won’t be on the test, but it’s extremely helpful in understanding some of the imagery, as a lot of the imagery has been explained explicitly in other books of the Bible.

For a present-day explanation, the most exhaustive resource I’ve found has been from the Calvary Chapel church, specifically the books taught by Pastor Chris Swansen in Philadelphia.  It’s about 39 hours of recorded lecture, going verse-by-verse through the entire book, referencing dozens (if not hundreds) of preceding scripture, alternate translations, historical texts, and current geo-political headlines.  (This is why I haven’t published more blog posts lately – it was a lot of material.)  Taught more like a college-level course, Pastor Chris’s teachings do a good job of explaining “what is known” vs. “what is conjecture”… a lot of pastors teaching Revelation cross that line, and I believe it dilutes from the message.  So as I share what I’ve learned, I will make every attempt to clearly note “what scripture says” vs. anything coming from a purely human influence.

These recordings began in December 2019 and conclude in October 2020.  As they continued into March 2020 and COVID hits, you can see that there are less than 5 people in a church that holds 750.  The pastor talks optimistically about the future, and it’s heart-wrenching to think about how much death and destruction (physical, mental, emotional, familial) still lies ahead.  I want to point out that we look back on that time and know what’s coming for the people in the video; it’d be great to be able to warn them.  Similarly, God knows what’s coming at the end of the world, but He is able to warn us through Revelation.

The Bible is the only book that explains – in detail – how the world will end.  (Spoiler alert: it’s not one giant meteor strike, like in the movies.)  It gives us a (general) timeline of events, and it even describes some of the key players by name.

To make this easier to consume, I’ve broken up my explanation into four posts:

  • The first covers the introduction to the Book of Revelation, along with the prophecy articulating what leads up to the End of the World (which, let’s face it, is the most interesting – and maybe most relevant – part.)
  • The second covers the details around how everything begins to unfold as the world as we know it comes to an end, up to the rise of the anti-Christ.
  • The third section covers the reign of the anti-Christ, and his downfall.
  • The final section explains what the world will look like after the end of the world as we know it.  (Again, spoiler alert: it’s amazing)

If you’re looking for a great infographic that explains how all the end-of-world events unfold throughout the book, click here.

If you prefer an outline, it goes like this:

  • Sometime before this all starts (and we don’t know when), multiple countries invade Israel from the north for some financial gain, God supernaturally intervenes and kills 5/6ths (83%) of their forces. Israel heats their homes for seven years by somehow repurposing the weapons of the invaders. (This is the first of three major, end-of-world battles. Again, timing is unknown, though most likely before the Jews build their Third Temple.  Ezekiel 38-39)
  • Jesus’s followers are somehow removed from the Earth in what’s called “the Rapture”.  (Again, timing unknown.)
  • As part of the process to pay the sin-debt of the Earth, the “Seven Seals” are opened:
  1. the anti-Christ goes out and conquers nations
  2. war and violence
  3. scarcity, inflation, and famine
  4. widespread death
  5. martyrdom
  6. cosmic disturbances
  7. a warning about what comes next
  • Then comes what are known as the Seven Trumpet Judgements.  In Bible history, trumpets have been used to “gather” people to God.
  1. 1/3 of all vegetation dies
  2. 1/3 of the seas turn to blood, 1/3 of marine life dies, and 1/3 of all the ships sink
  3. 1/3 of all fresh water goes bad
  4. the sun, moon, and stars were darkened by 1/3
  5. demonic stinging locusts
  6. four “somethings” (demon-like) come out of the Euphrates river and kill 1/3 of everyone left alive at this point
  7. a warning about what comes next
  • At this point, we hear about measurements of the Third Temple (in Jerusalem… it hasn’t been built yet. The anti-Christ goes into the Temple, demands to be worshipped, demands that people accept his name/mark so they can take part in the economic system he sets up, and tries to kill anyone who doesn’t.  Then come the “Seven Bowl Judgements”, where things get really bad:
  1. painful sores
  2. the entire sea turns to blood, and everything in it dies
  3. the rivers and springs turn to blood
  4. the sun severely burns people on Earth
  5. a painful darkness falls over the territory controlled by the anti-Christ
  6. the Euphrates River dries up, preparing the way for an invasion from the East
  7. a massive earthquake splits Jerusalem into three parts
  • Now, the armies left on the world will come to Israel to fight the anti-Christ.  As they go into battle, Jesus appears in His Second Coming, and the armies turn on Him.  He destroys them all.  (This is the battle of Armageddon.)  Jesus has Satan locked away for 1,000 years.
  • Jesus rules and reigns over the Earth’s governments for the next 1,000 years.  This is the Millennial Reign.
  • Then, for a short time, Satan is allowed to tempt the nations left on the Earth.  Satan musters an army to try and overthrow God, and they all gather outside Jerusalem, ready to invade.
  • Fire comes down from Heaven and destroys them all.
  • Jesus judges everyone, living and dead.
  • Finally, the new Holy City of Jerusalem is set up for eternity.

Most of this sounds pretty terrible, and I don’t want to be around for it.  But, if you’re not a Christian, I suggest printing this out and keeping it nearby to use as a checklist once these things start happening.  That way, you’ll know what’s coming next.  Or, better yet, repent, accept God’s lifeboat of salvation through Jesus, and watch this all unfold from the comfort and safety of your own cozy spot in Heaven.

One more thing.  There’s no shortage of people out there who are saying this is all BS – those who say, “oh, people have been talking about the end of the world for hundreds of years.  It didn’t happen then, and it’s not happening now.”  Just keep in mind 2 Peter 3:1-4:
“Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.’”

Read on, and make up your own mind about how different the world is now, than it was when people first started fretting over The End.

Brace yourself. This and the subsequent posts will be long reads (about 30 minutes each).

Chapter 1

Revelation is the only book in the Bible that gives a blessing at the beginning, and at the end.  (“Blessed if you read… blessed if you’ve heard”)  but it’s hard to understand, and so it’s often ignored.

This first blessing was Ch.1:3
“Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.”  No one knows just how “near” it is, but as we get into it, you can make up your own mind on whether it’s close or far.

Chapter 1 begins with John seeing a vision of Jesus in His glory, and he receives the command to write “the things you have seen, the things that are, and the things that are to come.”  And that’s how the book is arranged – it describes things of the past, things current in John’s world of 90 AD, and the prophecies about the end of the world.  John seeing Jesus in His glory is something that John had already seen when He was transfigured on the mountain with Peter and James (and Moses and Elijah), back before Jesus’s crucifixion.

In the next two chapters (2-3), Jesus dictates letters to seven churches in the area we now know as Turkey.  These are “the things that are,” as they’re current to John’s life at the time.

In these letters, Jesus talks about His own attributes, and they are all things that those specific churches are lacking.  More interestingly, some scholars view these seven letters as addressing three groups:  1.) the specific churches in 90 AD, when this was written; 2.) the personal journey that Christians have as their relationship with God evolves throughout their lives; and most relevant to us now, 3.) the different “ages” of the Church (from 33 AD to modern times):

  1. The Church in Ephesus – the age of the early apostles.  God encouraged them to continue the hard work of building the Church.
  2. The Church in Smyrna – the age of the martyrs.  God encouraged them as they were facing persecution and rooting out false leaders.
  3. The Church in Pergamos, a town that was heavily involved in idol worship.  300-600 AD, Christianity became accepted, then it became a state-sponsored church, and then the “catholic” (common) church started involving all the local pagan traditions. God reminds them to stay pure.
  4. The Church in Thyatira – Thyatira was a wealthy commercial city.  God warns against the Church becoming a “business”, around years 800-1500, when corruption ran rampant through the Church.
  5. The Church in Sardis – around 1500-1700.  God reminds the Church to remain faithful as The Reformation splits off denominations from the Catholic church.
  6. The Church in Philadelphia – the “missionary” age of the Church, 1700-1900.  God promises that “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.”  (Rev 3:10)
    • Note: the word “keep” here is from the Greek word “ek”… meaning “out of”.  If He wanted to say, “I’ll keep you through the hour of trial…” the word would have been “dia”. The Greek word for “The Church” is “eklasia,” literally, “the called-out ones” this only matters in the debate about whether we as Christians will have to go through the Judgments listed here.
  7. The Church in Laodicea – the current age, 1900 onward.  Laodicea was a city far away from its water supply, and because it was far from its source, it never had any strength to resist invaders.  The parallel to the modern church is that because it has strayed from God’s word, it can’t resist the societal pressures coming against it.

After this letter, and for the next 16 chapters, there is no mention of God’s Church on the Earth. And this is where John writes about “the things that are to come” as he gets called up into Heaven to see what’s happening.

Between the time when John finished writing this to modern day 2022, there is a near 2,000-year “break” in prophecy. (In the Old Testament, the longest previous prophetic “break” was 400 years, between Malachi and John the Baptist.)  John has written about things that “are” (in 90 AD), and then he’s shown what “will be” at some unknown time. If you were to read Revelation only, you’d either gloss over this step, or it’d make no sense as to how we (the reader, and John the writer) go from talking about the Churches to what he sees in Heaven.

Thankfully, through other books of the Bible, God explains a lot of the book of Revelation. Through the other books – or, more accurately, “through earlier prophets” (Daniel, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Jesus Himself) – God gives multiple signs that the end is coming.  And let’s be clear, this area has been the subject of lots of speculation, bad interpretations, and crackpot theories.  So again, I will do my best to 1.) relay what the Bible says, 2.) provide common (or, hopefully common sense) interpretations and real-world, modern-day examples, and 3.) clearly identify opinions as opinions.

Okay, so what are these “signs” that the end is near?

First – Israel is Back in the Land

The first, and by far most important, sign of the End Times is that the people of Israel (the Israelites, the Jews, the Hebrews) are now back in the land that was originally promised to Abraham and his descendants 4,000 years ago.  None of the other “signs” are possible without the Israelites being back in their homeland.

Two-thousand, seven-hundred years ago, Isaiah (66:8) predicted exactly how it would happen: “Who has heard such a thing?  Who has seen such things? Shall the earth be made to give birth in one day? Or shall a nation be born at once? For as soon as Zion was in labor, She gave birth to her children.”

In Isaiah’s time, nations grew over decades (if not centuries) as tribes became villages, then cities, then territories, then countries.  But, on May 14th, 1948 at 4:30 pm, the United Nations (and the US) officially recognized the creation of Israel as its own country. The Bible continues: (Ezekiel 37:21-22) “Then say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; they shall no longer be two nations, nor shall they ever be divided into two kingdoms again.”’”

Second – Israel is Blooming, and their Produce is Filling the World

Here’s the verse Isaiah 27:6: “Those who come He shall cause to take root in Jacob [a.k.a. Israel]; Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit.”

For as long as we have a record, Israel has been a desert.  When Mark Twain visited the country in 1867, he described it as “Desolate and unlovely”… where “rags, wretchedness, poverty and dirt… abound…  A hopeless, dreary, heart-broken land…  The further [into Israel he] went the hotter the sun got, and the more rocky and bare, repulsive and dreary the landscape became…There was hardly a tree or a shrub any where. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country”.

But, in the 1960’s, Israel figured out drip irrigation. Now, Israel’s produce is exported internationally.  Years ago, I’ve seen Israel rank as high as 3rd in the world for produce exportation, though I’ve struggled to find more current rankings. Regardless, a quick search on Israel’s agriculture shows how the country has absolutely bloomed.  And, since 1900, about ¼ of a billion trees have been planted in Israel.

Third – Earthquakes in Diverse Places, Famines, and Pestilence… and Persecution of Christians

Here’s the verse: Matthew 24:7-9 “For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in diverse places.  All these are the beginning of sorrows.  Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.”

Live Science ran an article a few years back titled, “Earth’s Moving Mantle Leads to Earthquakes in Unusual Places.”

U.S. Geological Survey scientist Thomas Pratt described the 2011 earthquake in Washington DC as the “largest and most damaging earthquake that’s happened in the eastern U.S. in over 100 years.”  There are others (like Boise, ID), but I haven’t seen a lot of coverage of earthquakes on the news.  The “nation rising against nation” could be the conflicts of the 20th century, or more wars yet to come.  Currently, there are 20 million people starving in Africa. And of course, it’s hard to dispute COVID-19 as a “pestilence”.

As for Christians “being afflicted”, internationally, Christians have been persecuted more in the 21st century than at almost any other time. Again, internationally, about 120k are martyred each year. In the same conversation, Jesus says, “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars…”

Does this count as a “rumor of war”?  I would say so.

Before Russia’s invasion, I had asked a coworker in Serbia if they were concerned about Russia.  He responded, “No, we love Russia, and we’re tiny.  They wouldn’t bother with us.  Now Bosnia and Hercegovina, there is a possibility of conflict between Muslims and Orthodox, but right now, they’re just rumors.  Rumors of war.

Fourth – A Falling-away of the Church

Here’s the verse: speaking about the Last Days, the Apostle Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 “Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first…”

This can be interpreted a few ways:

  1. People leaving the church (fewer and fewer people identify as “Christian” now, from both Pew and Gallup.)
  2. Or, the church diverging from the Word of God – take your pick from any of the pop-culture stories of churches and church leaders… “falling away”.  Back in the 1960’s, the Catholic church transformed the old Latin mass into the current mass that we know today. (The conference where this decision was made was called Vatican II.) Some may consider that to be a “falling away.”

Fifth – Knowledge Greatly Increases, and Many Will Travel To and Fro

Here’s the verse: Daniel 12:4 “But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.”

You could interpret this “increase of knowledge” to reference the invention of the Guttenberg printing press in 1440, but I think the more shocking picture starts in the 1980’s.  Considering the explosive growth of microchips and their memory capacity, any graph showing the increase is comical: it’s tiny on the left, enormous on the right.  All of them have to be shown on a logarithmic scale to have any relevance:

A better way to consider it is that for the last ~15 years, people all over the world have been able to find out almost anything they want to know, just by speaking into a small box in their hand.

And as for “going to and fro”… look at the explosive growth of air travel since its inception:

Unless we’re still holding out hopes for teleportation, I think the “going to and fro” box is checked.

Sixth – Potential to Destroy all Flesh

In Matthew 24:22, Jesus speaks about the last days, “And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved…”  For the first time in history, humans now (arguably since the 1980’s or 90’s) have the capacity to completely annihilate the human race with nuclear weapons.  Accounting for nuclear fallout in addition to the initial explosions, this could literally be true today.  That wasn’t the case 100 years ago.

Seventh – Strange Natural Happenings

Here’s the verse:  Luke 21:25 “And there will be strange signs in the sun, moon, and stars. And here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides.

When international leaders get together nowadays, what do they always seem to have on their agenda?  Climate change.  And, along with that: sea level rise.  Twenty years ago, no one was talking about sea level rise. 

And (almost) Finally – Cultural Changes

Read this from 2 Timothy 3 and see if any of it describes US or international culture today:
“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power…”

When I read “having a form of godliness, but denying its power,” I can’t help but think of the way that society wants to believe in “some higher power”, but they refuse to call it “God”: My lucky stars.  Cosmic energy.  Karma.  Sending you ‘good vibes’.

This also includes the rise in the universal acceptance of drug use. Revelation 9:21 says “they did not repent of their murder or their sorceries or the sexual immorality.”  The Greek word used here for “sorceries” is “pharmakeos”, from which we get “pharmacy.”  And it doesn’t refer to aspirin or gout medicine, but rather the heavy drugs (narcotics, opioids) or the practice of groups going off into the woods, taking the same drugs at the same times, and having the exact same experience of things coming out of the woods… the demonic practice of “seeing the beast” in your “trip”.

So, yes, all these things have come to pass… but to me, the jolting part is the timeframe.  John wrote this around 90 AD, and for the next 1,860 years, nothing happened. It was as if Israel and the world lay dormant.  Then, after the tremendous birth pangs of the Holocaust, Israel was born, and over the next few decades, almost every other end-times prophecy was fulfilled.

I say “almost” because as of 2022, there’s one major prophecy left unfilled, but the Bible is unclear about when exactly it happens – before the beginning of The End, or as everything unfolds?  We don’t know.

And so what’s that prophecy?

Israel gets invaded, God supernaturally intervenes, 5/6ths of the invading armies are destroyed, and Israel plunders the abandoned weapons and uses what they find to heat their homes for seven years.

Let me elaborate…

Chapters 38 and 39 of the book of Ezekiel prophesy a coming invasion of Israel.  In the prophecy, God calls out who it will involve (by name, no less), how it will begin, and how it will end.  (Looking at the detail it contains, I can’t help but think of the basketball analogy of God sinking a full-court shot, from 2,600 years out.)  With today’s geopolitical climate, we’re seeing the Middle Eastern world move toward fulfilling this prophecy.

Ezekiel 38 begins:
“Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him, and say, ‘Thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold, I am against you, O Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal. I will turn you around, put hooks into your jaws, and lead you out, with all your army, horses, and horsemen, all splendidly clothed, a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords. Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya are with them, all of them with shield and helmet; Gomer and all its troops; the house of Togarmah from the far north and all its troops—many people are with you.’”

Just to be clear, God is naming Israel’s enemies 2,600 years in advance.  If you think the Bible was written by a couple guys just crafting a story, they’d have to be really, really lucky (unbelievably lucky?) to make all these predictions with any degree of accuracy. Some of these names are very obvious to us now… others have evolved a little over time, but historically, we can identify the regions mentioned.

Okay, so, exactly who are these countries?  From Strong’s Concordance, the most exhaustive reference index of the Bible:

  • Gog – the word means “head prince, chief, or top”.  Some say it means a people from “the north”, others say it’s simply a title.
  • Magog – the area around the Black Sea / Caspian Sea.  Southern Russia.  Magog is also the second son of Japath, grandson of Noah and patriarch of the tribes north of Israel.  The historians Josephus and Heroditus identify them as the Scythians, again, in southern Russia.
  • Rosh – some people interpret it to literally mean “Russia”, but others say that it’s only a title meaning “high”, or “great”, as in: “rosh prince” = “high prince”. Interestingly, “Russia” was first called “Rus”, after the initial inhabitants, and the name was likely a reference to either rowing boats or “red” people.
  • Meshech – eastern Turkey, Armenia.
  • Tubal – Asia Minor, or what we know as Turkey.  As recent as 15 years ago, Israel and Turkey were close allies. Now, Turkey’s trying to distance itself from Israel and be more of a player in the Middle East.
  • Persia – Iran. The name changed in 1935.
  • Ethiopia – in the Bible, “Ethiopia” refers to the southern part of the Nile, below Egypt.  There, the Nile splits, so it could either be the Ethiopia we know today, or the countries of Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda or Kenya, or a combination thereof.
  • Libya – Northern Africa, Egypt’s neighbor to the west and maybe part of Algeria.
  • Gomer – eldest son of Japhath and a grandson of Noah. This refers to land up into Europe, most likely Turkey and its northern neighbors in the Balkans.
  • Togarmah – another son of Japhath and grandson of Noah.  This is the area around Armenia and Georgia, east of Turkey and north of Iran/Iraq.

There are a few maps that show slightly different interpretations of how this invasion will happen:

Again, some of the countries we know with relative certainty, some are debatable.  Right now, this is all prophecy. One day, though, it’ll be history, and when it’s happening, it’ll be very obvious who’s involved.

We can already see some examples of these countries collaborating against Israel:

In 2019, then-President Trump signed a proclamation officially recognizing the highlands on the Israel-Syria border as Israel’s territory. Turkey, Iran, and Russia all condemned the proclamation.  (Here’s the article.)

I need to be very clear about something: the Bible says nothing about Russia invading Ukraine, so as of March 2022, this prophesy has not been started.  But look at how quickly things evolved over the last six months.  And do you know which nearby country has offered to step in and try to mediate between Russia and Ukraine? Israel.

So we know who’s involved… what happens next? Verses 10-12:
Thus says the Lord God: ‘On that day it shall come to pass that thoughts will arise in your mind, and you will make an evil plan: You will say, ‘I will go up against a land of unwalled villages; I will go to a peaceful people, who dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates’ – to take plunder and to take booty, to stretch out your hand against the waste places that are again inhabited, and against a people gathered from the nations, who have acquired livestock and goods, who dwell in the midst of the land.’”

First, 2,600 years in advance, God knows what the rulers involved will be thinking: “thoughts will arise in your mind, and you will make an evil plan”.  Second, notice the words in the last sentence: “the waste places that are again inhabited… a people gathered from the nations.”  This implies that 1.) Israel had been a desert but is now flourishing, and 2.) the inhabitants where previously dispersed around the globe.  When Ezekiel wrote this, neither of those were the case.

Why would those countries want to invade the tiny land of Israel?  I doubt it’s for the produce…  Israel doesn’t have much oil, though in the last decade or so, they’ve found a significant amount of natural gas. Interesting note… sanctioning Russia’s energy exports have been a major topic of debate, especially in Europe with the Nord Stream pipeline carrying natural gas from Russia to Germany, under the Baltic Sea (into Europe from the north.)  Now, with companies distancing themselves from Russia and their energy, I doubt anyone would be in a hurry to rebuild the Nord Stream pipeline if it somehow ruptured… either accidentally or by sabotage.  I don’t think it would be a stretch to imagine that European leaders might be interested in a replacement underwater pipeline project connecting Israel’s natural gas into Europe from the south.

Oh, wait… governments have already started talking about this.

From the article: “The Israel-Europe gas pipeline will allow Israeli gas to reach every home in Europe. There has never been such an ambitious infrastructure project in Israel… The planned 2,000-km pipeline will cost approximately 20B ILS and is expected to be completed by 2025.” This would change quite a few dynamics in the region, especially as Russia gets cut out, and Turkey gets left out.


Currently, it looks like this project has been shelved, and for geopolitical reasons.  As one article put it, the “U.S. says it doesn’t want to anger the leaders of Russia and Turkey by going ahead with the EastMed project; Israel has no choice but to comply.”  That was back in January, well-before the idea of a Russian invasion of Ukraine was on the world’s collective mind.  Now, things may be a little different.

Whether Israel possess enough resources (and backing) to get this pipeline built and break the economic stranglehold that Russia & Friends has over Europe remains to be seen. Israel could find something else of key strategic value in the region (like lithium for batteries) that causes its neighbors to want to invade. Or, it could also be retaliatory.  Syria and Israel are constantly skirmishing, and if Israel one day decides to make a bold statement in the region and levels the Syrian capital of Damascus, that could trigger a multinational reaction.  (Why Damascus? Isaiah 17 prophesies that one day, Damascus, which is arguably the oldest inhabited city in the world, “…will cease from being a city, and it will be a ruinous heap.’”  Some versions add, “…and will be abandoned forever.”  Damascus is still inhabited, so this hasn’t happened yet, and it may not be a part of this, but it’s on the table.)  Whatever the real motivation, the point is the same: nearby countries plan an invasion of Israel to take something of value.

And so how does the world respond?

Well, not too differently from how the world responded when Russia invaded Ukraine: “hey, don’t do that!”

And this is the part that blew my mind… and kept me up for more than a few nights.

Ezekiel 38:13: “Sheba, Dedan, the merchants of Tarshish, and all their young lions will say to [the invading countries], ‘Have you come to take plunder? Have you gathered your army to take booty, to carry away silver and gold, to take away livestock and goods, to take great plunder?’”

So these other countries [Sheba, Dedan, and Tarshish] complain, criticize, and condemn, but please note: the Bible doesn’t say that any of them actually do anything.

This raises two very important questions:  First, who are Sheba, Dedan, the merchants of Tarshish, and all their young lions?  Again, from Strong’s Concordance:

  • Sheba – southern Saudi Arabia, as in Yemen, Oman, and UAE. 
  • Dedan – Saudi Arabia

Why would these Arab countries care about Israel being invaded?  On August 13, 2020, then-President Trump brought about and signed the Abraham Accords, an historic peace deal normalizing relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors. UAE and Bahrain were the first two to sign it, with Sudan and Morocco following later that year. (Now, why on Earth Morocco would care at all about Israel is beyond me.  They didn’t even recognize Israel as a nation until 2020.  The two countries are 3,000 miles apart, at opposite ends of the Mediterranean Sea.  Common opinion is that both Saudi Arabia and Oman are expected to join as well.  That accounts for Sheba and Dedan. But what about…

  • Tarshish – In literal terms, Tarshish is at the other end of the Mediterranean Sea from Israel: the area around Gibraltar, with Spain to the north and to the south… Morocco.  Yes, the same Morocco that signed the Abraham Accord above. So even though it makes no sense to us now and probably less sense to John as he wrote this, it’s literally happening. Speaking figuratively, Tarshish also includes lands beyond that, and the word “Tarshish” has been used occasionally in the Bible to describe any place that’s really far away, like when we’d say “that place is out past Timbuktu.” The country England would fall into this category as being “out past Tarshish.”  (Go to literal Tarshish, take a right, and it’s up that way.)
  • Young Lions – Unfortunately, there’s no real guidelines on this one. Most people think it refers to the young offspring nations of Great Britain (whose symbols include lions): USA, Australia, Canada, etc.

The second major question is this: the US is a sworn ally of Israel – why aren’t we doing anything?

The answer?  Who knows… this is prophecy. It could be that by the time this all goes down, we have an administration in office that doesn’t strongly support Israel. (Based on current politics, that seems pretty likely.  Remember, as of January 2022, the US no longer supports the project to bring Israeli natural gas into Europe.)  It could be that we’re kept in place by a threat of nuclear war (again, Putin has threatened this over Ukraine – it makes sense someone like him would play the same card over Israel.)  Or, the threat could be activating terrorist sleeper cells in the US.  It could be that by the time this happens, we’re economically or geopolitically too weak to help. Or, (God forbid), we as a country end up on the wrong end of a few nuclear attacks.  Or, more optimistically, it could mean that the Church has already been raptured, and the only people left don’t give a damn about Israel.  Who knows why, but what’s important is what happens next.

Verse 19: “Surely in that day there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel… every wall shall fall to the ground… Every man’s sword will be against his brother [the invading nations will turn on each other] and [God] will rain down on [them] flooding rain, great hailstones, fire, and brimstone.”

So these nations will all align to attack Israel for some financial gain, and it seems like God will supernaturally intervene.  Why?

Verse 23: “Thus I will magnify Myself and sanctify Myself, and I will be known in the eyes of many nations. Then they shall know that I am the Lord.”

By protecting His people against insurmountable odds, God is revealing Himself to the world. It is my opinion that God will perform such a grand, visible demonstration of His power to reach those who don’t yet know Him before the Rapture. And not just that He protected His people, but that it all happened exactly as prophesied 2,600 years ago.

Chapter 39 (of Ezekiel) explains how it all unfolds:
{the invading armies} “shall fall upon the mountains of Israel, [they] and all [their] troops and the peoples who are with [them]; I will give [them] to birds of prey of every sort and to the beasts of the field to be devoured.”  (Israel is a major migratory funnel for birds traveling between Europe and Africa.)

Verse 2: “And I will turn [the invaders] back, and leave but the sixth part of [them], and will cause [them] to come up from the north parts, and will bring [them] upon the mountains of Israel”  (In other words, 5/6ths of the invading armies will be destroyed.)

Verse 9: “Then those who dwell in the cities of Israel will go out and set on fire and burn the weapons, both the shields and bucklers, the bows and arrows, the javelins and spears; and they will make fires with them for seven years.”  Whether they’re taking the gasoline/diesel from the machines, the wood from the gun stocks, or repurposing the nuclear weapons, Israel will heat their houses for seven years.

Please note, this battle is not Armageddon.  Here, 1/6th of the people are allowed to retreat.  Those fighting in Armageddon aren’t so fortunate.

This invasion from the north is the first of three major battles at the end of the world.

So, back to real-time for a minute… if all these countries come against Israel, and 5/6ths of their armies are destroyed, that would leave them all very weakened, and it would leave Israel very strong in the region.

One opinion is that this new power dynamic finally gets the other Arab countries to give Israel the one thing Israel hasn’t been able to get for itself: the opportunity to build a temple for worship.

And that definitely makes sense, because after Ezekiel 39 (the chapter about the battle), comes Ezekiel 40.  And Ezekiel 40 is the chapter in which God shows Ezekiel The Third Temple. And for all the other “stuff” to happen around the end of the world, The Third Temple must be standing.

But wait, a “third” Temple?

The original Temple was built by King Solomon in 957 BC.  It was designated by God as the place to worship Him, and it was destroyed in 587 BC.  The Second Temple was built on the same location in 515 BC, only to be destroyed in 70 AD.  Since that time, the Israelites haven’t had a place to worship God as He originally instructed Moses when He brought them out of Egypt.  With the Third Temple, that will all change.  The problem (for the Israelites) is that the Muslims control the location where the Temple will have to be built.  And geo-politically, there is no earthly way (at present) that the Muslims will allow an Israelite temple to be built on the grounds of one of their most sacred mosques, the Dome of the Rock.

So this is it.  This is the world that was prophesied about thousands of years ago, and it’s also the world that (for the most part) exists now.  And if you look at this, put together the pieces in your mind, and have the same kind of OMG moment that I did, good.  It had the same effect on me, and the more I read into it, the more I see the connections.

This can be scary.

If you’ve allowed Jesus Christ into your heart, believe that He’s the Son of God, and asked Him to forgive you for the crap that you’ve done wrong, He offers some encouragement, as He spoke about this specifically in Matthew 24: “The disciples asked Jesus, ‘what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?’ And Jesus answered and said to them: ‘Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet…  for as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.’”  (And the ‘Coming of the Son of Man’ is our ticket home.)

…and Paul wrote about it, too in 1 Thessalonians 5:9: “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.”

…and about the coming Judgment, Jesus also said in John 5:24: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”


If you haven’t opened your heart to Jesus – and all this stuff scares you – brace yourself, as it gets worse.  And that all unfolds in the next chapters of Revelation.

…so with all of that as a backdrop, what does John see in Heaven next?  That’s Part 2 of this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s