Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine
A Biblical Perspective
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“There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks when decades happen.” This quote is attributed to Vladimir Lenin, the founder of the Soviet Union. It certainly fits the times.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in March has set in motion events that might not have happened for decades to come. Throughout Europe and beyond, governments are nervously reassessing aspects of the global order that have prevailed since the end of the Cold War, and even the end of World War II.
As this article is being written, Russian troops are largely in a stalemate in Ukraine, meeting stiff resistance from the Ukrainian army and citizen volunteers who have taken up arms. Russian troops are using missiles to indiscriminately bomb cities, seeking to create fear in the civilian population leading to collapse of the nation. Millions of citizens have fled to neighboring countries for safety. Europe’s worst humanitarian scenario since 1945 is taking place.
Many wonder whether Bible prophecy tells us anything to help us understand what is occurring. Yes, it does. In this article we will discuss a passage from the book of Daniel that gives a prophetic perspective on events taking place.
This invasion is a big event, one that demands we pay attention with respect to the Word of God and a sobriety regarding the human impact of this war. The scenes we have watched of missile attacks on hospitals and public buildings sheltering civilians show the vicious ferocity of the Russian invasion. Coming without just cause, it drives home the cold, hard forces at work here. The underlying reality is that there are spiritual forces at work from another dimension. The war we see here is born in the mind of the devil, the original murderer and liar (John 8:44).
Jesus Christ’s overview of end-time events
Near the end of His ministry on earth, Jesus’ disciples asked Him, “What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age” (Matthew 24:3). In His response, Jesus listed several major trends or conditions. The first four of these correspond to the first four seals of Revelation 6, the opening of each revealing a rider and horse representing a major trend that builds in intensity in the end time. Together these are often simply called the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse—the latter term being the Greek name of the book.
Let’s note how Jesus listed these in Matthew 24, starting with the first: “Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (verses 4-5, King James Version, emphasis added throughout unless otherwise noted).
Then continuing: “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all thesethingsmust come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows” (verses 3-8).
False religion, war, famine and plagues of pestilence and disasters are listed as the beginning of sorrows or, as other versions translate, “birth pains”— which increase in frequency and intensity.
All these problems have been a part of the world condition throughout human history. However, the setting of the end of the age and the opening of the seals by the Lamb (Revelation 5:9) indicate increased severity preceding even greater judgments of God and the wrath of the devil during the time of global turmoil known as the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:21).
Two years ago we saw a forerunner of disease pandemic when the world shut down with the Covid virus. Millions are reported to have died from this global plague. However, this is nowhere near what prophecy shows will come on the world when the fourth horseman, representing pestilence and other deadly plagues, begins its ride. What we have lived through is in some ways a minor dress rehearsal for much worse to come.
Europe awakens from slumber
And now war has broken out in Europe. This is different from recent conflicts in other places like Iraq or Afghanistan. Historically, Europe was the center of the two catastrophic world wars of the 20th century. Many millions of people died in those conflicts, and the world order was changed. Those wars were part of the story foretold of the succession of the geopolitical powers and their rulers described as different “beasts” with prophetically significant heads and horns in Daniel 7 and Revelation 13 and 17.
America’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, and now Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, have forced European states to rethink their security relationships. Germany announced its intention to massively increase defense spending and the size of its armed forces. Anyone with an understanding of history knows
a powerful armed Germany in the heart of Europe has always cast an ominous shadow.
Europe since the days of the Roman Empire has played a key role in world affairs and Bible prophecy. Russia’s action has stirred other European nations out of slumber. Big events leading to key prophetic developments are taking place quickly.
A Wall Street Journal article clearly laid out this development: “In Europe, Mr. Putin’s aggression achieved virtually overnight what decades of haranguing by American presidents could not. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz killed Nordstream 2, the $11 billion pipeline that would have carried gas to Germany, and pledged to diversify away from Russian supplies. He announced that Germany would immediately boost defense spending by 100 billion euros and pledged annual defense outlays amounting to 2% of German GDP, up from 1.4%. He also pledged to ship weapons to Ukraine, including antitank rockets and Stinger missiles that can take down Russian aircraft.
“Neutrality is waning. Non-NATO member Finland and neutral Sweden both aligned firmly with the West against Russia, and for the first time, majorities in both countries now favor NATO membership. Both are sending weapons to Ukraine” (Richard Fontaine, “The World That Putin Has Made,” March 11, 2022).
Referring to this momentous action as Europe having “crossed its own Rubicon,” the article went on to show the truth of the saying, “There are weeks when decades happen.”
It further stated: “Mr. Putin sought to stop NATO expansion, roll back the alliance’s deployments and dominate what he considers Russia’s sphere of influence. But the opposite outcome is more likely. His war could ultimately leave NATO larger, more unified, better armed and with military deployments placed closer to Russia. For decades, EU members divided largely on east-west lines over how to deal with Russia. Now that problem is a source of common action. A land war on the continent may well have helped to birth a new Europe.”
Food shortages on the horizon?
Another difference between this Russian invasion and other recent conflict is the potential for massive food shortages around the world. Ukraine and Russia grow more than 20 percent of the world grain crops and account for about 30 percent of world wheat exports. Poorer developing nations in Africa, Asia and the Middle East depend on this for much of their food supply. Nations like Kenya and Egypt import vital grain from this region.
But Ukrainians will not be planting much, if anything, this year as they fight for their very survival. Sanctions on Russia will hinder what they will be able to ship. The food supply chain will be further disrupted, and people will suffer and starve. Further exacerbating the problem is that fact that Russia and Ukraine are also among the world’s largest fertilizer exporters, and those supplies will shrivel for the same reasons. Fertilizer costs are already skyrocketing around the globe, which will lead to higher costs and lower crop yields.
Geopolitical strategist Peter Zeihan wrote this in his column of March 7, 2022: “Russia is the world’s largest exporter of wheat, and it has invaded Ukraine, the world’s fifth-largest exporter. Russia’s war strategy uses techniques pioneered in the flattening of Groznyy in the Second Chechen War, that were then honed during the destruction of Aleppo in the Syrian Civil War. Russia’s artillery is now obliterating Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure one city at a time.
“We are being treated to a feast of visual violence in the ongoing destruction of Ukrainian cities we have recently become familiar with: Kyiv, Kharkiv, Mariupol. But lost in the noise of the burning of Ukraine’s large population centers is Russia’s far more methodical, downright Hitlerite, annihilation of Ukraine’s towns and villages. The towns and villages that are the bone and sinew supporting the Ukrainian agricultural sector. Ukraine will not plant crops this spring or summer. The world has lost one of its largest and most reliable sources of wheat, sunflower, safflower and barley.
“Nor will Ukraine return to the ranks of major food suppliers anytime soon. Russia’s wave of deliberate destruction will soon reach the port city of Odessa. Not only is Odessa Ukraine’s commercial capital, not only will its fall signal an end to Ukraine’s maritime frontage, Odessa is also the export point for nearly all of Ukraine’s agricultural bounty. Until it is freed from Russian control and rebuilt, large-scale Ukrainian exports will remain beyond reach” (“The Ukraine War: Agriculture Edition,” Zeihan.com, emphasis in original).
Again, this is a forerunner of what we see in Christ’s prophecy and Revelation’s scenario. War leads to disruption, which leads to food shortages, which leads to famine, which leads to disease epidemics—which then leads to more of all these things.
It should give us all pause to consider what the Bible tells us will happen in the years ahead. Prophecy is as real as anything in today’s headlines—in fact more real, as there are so many lies being told by media and governments. The more we understand about prophecy, the better equipped we are to deal with upset and turmoil. God gives us advance warning of what will take place in the world so that we may repent and embrace the gospel of His coming Kingdom of peace and salvation.
So what’s next?
Daniel 11 contains the longest, most detailed prophecy in the Bible. Beginning at verse 40 it specifically describes end-time events: “And at the time of the end shall the king of the south [in relation to Jerusalem] push at him [a future king of the north]: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over. He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon” (verses 40-41).
This key prophecy details the invasion of the Middle East by a power called the king of the North. History and prophecy identify this power as a successor to the Syrian Greeks and Romans—an end-time Roman revival centered in Europe. The king of the South is a power based in the Middle East and North Africa and likely applies to a confederation of Arab/Muslim states that make a “push” (attack) at this northern power, provoking a retaliation. This European power from the north then sweeps into the “glorious land,” the Holy Land of Israel and Jerusalem. Likely there will be a religious connection to this act, as indicated by other prophecies.
This scenario follows a long pattern in history dating back to the rise of Islam and its penetration into the regions formerly part of the Roman Empire—Israel, Egypt, North Africa, Spain and Gaul (France), where they were stopped at the Battle of Tours in A.D. 732 by the armies of Charles Martel, grandfather of Charlemagne. Later in the 12th century Christian Europe launched the Crusades by sending armies to recapture Jerusalem from Muslim control. Twice in the Middle Ages through the Renaissance, Muslim armies tried again to take Europe but were stopped at Vienna by armies of the Holy Roman Empire. Daniel’s prophecy shows yet another clash between these two powers at the time of the end.
Many have long wondered how this could occur. For decades Europe has lacked the military capability and the will to do something like this. How could this geopolitical reality change to allow such things to happen? With Russia’s attack on Ukraine, a sovereign nation next door to the European Union, we can now see Europe stirring and rising out of slumber, like a beast awakening. Europe has had a jarring wakeup call.
Russia apparently plays a part in Daniel’s prophecy. Verse 44 says, regarding the king of the North, who will then be in the Middle East, that “news from the east and north shall trouble him.” That could mean the two directions of east and north or
the combined direction of northeast, for which there was no specific word in the Hebrew language in which Daniel wrote. Either way, Russia is north of Israel and the surrounding region as well as northeast, stretching all across Asia.
The king of the North’s invasion of the Holy Land has ripple effects in other parts of the world. The Muslim nations surrounding Jerusalem near and far will likely consider this another “Crusade” against Islam and will react. Muslim tradition still sees conflict with Europe and the West as part of the ages-long jihad, or struggle, for supremacy.
Beyond these Muslim nations to the north there is only one major power and that is Russia. The prophecy does not limit the likelihood that China could be involved in this action, particularly if “east” is meant separately—and Revelation shows multiple kings from the East moving against Europe’s Mideast occupation.
These other prophecies in Revelation describe two major troop advances from the east involving the Euphrates River, the eastern boundary of the ancient Roman Empire. Armies will advance on the Holy Land in preparation for what is described as the “battle of that great day of God Almighty” (Revelation 16:14). For more details on these important prophecies, download or request our free study guide The Middle East in Bible Prophecy.
Why does this matter?
For most of us Ukraine may seem far away and mostly irrelevant. Are other nations rushing to spill the blood of their soldiers in Ukraine? After last year’s disastrous abandonment of Afghanistan, most analysts believe that America would not send troops, and it seems likely that other European nations would not either.
Beyond the terrible human toll and economic fallout in other nations, why does this international crisis matter? Why should a student of the Bible be concerned with an event such as this?
The general thought among many is that this has nothing to do with the Bible and one’s spiritual life. But that would be wrong. As we have shown, what is happening now in Ukraine is changing the face of Europe. And it could further alter the rapidly evolving world we know into something radically different, with consequences that could affect many countries and millions of people.
When the Cold War ended with the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union, the world entered what some have called “a holiday from history.” The following year political scientist and economist Francis Fukuyama wrote a book called The End of History and the Last Man. It was thought major world conflicts would finally end and a period of benign global order would emerge.
That dream was shattered on 9/11. Today, two years after the unleashing of Covid-19 as a global pandemic, China seeks to replace America as the global leader in every major category. America is going through internal upheaval that threatens its historic role among nations. In a matter of weeks we are watching a new Europe awaken from decades of slumber. The world will be shocked at the final picture that emerges. It may not be immediate, but it is coming.
The corollary to “a holiday from history” is “a holiday from prophecy.” You may not think you have any real need to understand Bible prophecy and its relevance to today’s world scene. But nothing could be more wrong. You cannot take “a holiday from prophecy” and be a serious student of the Bible.
World events do not go on holiday, nor does God. Bible prophecy is the only tool to properly understand what is happening in our current geopolitical, cultural and religious scene. With a sound foundation of prophetic understanding, you can have a calm confidence and assurance that God controls history and major world events.
When properly understood, Bible prophecy should motivate us to a serious understanding of life and to godly conduct (2 Peter 3:11). We are living at a serious moment in modern history. The weeks are rushing by. Events of the past two years have drastically changed the world, and in our lifetime it will be further and devastatingly upended. You need to be prepared!
Let these events serve as a wake-up call for you personally, as the apostle Paul wrote to fellow believers in Romans 13:11: “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.”