With the continued aggression by Russia against former Soviet bloc countries Georgia and Ukraine, Europeans and other neighbors are quite alarmed, fearing it might spill over to other European territories neighboring Russia, such as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
God’s “time machine”
Naturally, many readers will want to know what the Bible has to say about Russia. This country is one of the great world powers, with one of the world’s most formidable, modern and well-equipped militaries.
It also has by far the largest territory of any nation on earth—with almost twice the land mass of the world’s second-biggest country, Canada.
We don’t have a crystal ball, but we do have something far better—God’s Word. As God said in Isaiah 46:9-10, “Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure’”—that is, whatever He pleases. Only He knows for sure what the future holds!
The apostle Peter wrote of “the prophetic word . . . which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation [or origin], for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:19-20).
So the Bible can be viewed as a sort of time machine in a sense, faithfully describing from God’s point of view events in the past, present and future. Although prophecy had much to say about events that followed in ancient times, there is one period still ahead that it refers to more than any other. That time is referred to in Scripture by several terms, such as “the end time,” “the time of the end,” “the latter days” and “the last days.”
God reveals what will happen during this period immediately before the second coming of Christ. Of course, He is able to know what will happen far in the future and knows what nations will be involved during this crucial time. And one of them, from the historical and geographical description given in the Bible, appears to be Russia.
In this regard, it’s important to note than when prophecies are mentioned in the Scriptures, they are usually given from the reference point of the Holy Land, the land of Israel and its capital Jerusalem. God describes this as the place to which Jesus Christ will one day return to rule all the earth.
The prophet Zechariah even mentions where Christ will place His feet when He descends to this planet: “Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east . . . And the Lord shall be King over all the earth” (Zechariah 14:3-4, 9).
So where does Russia fit in? From the geographical description given in a biblical prophecy, there is strong indication that Russia will play a significant role in end-time events.
Armies arrayed for battle
Let’s see a description of the end time in the book of Daniel, which refers to a number of the nations involved.
Notice what it says in Daniel 11:40 to 12:3: “At the time of the end the king of the South [from the perspective of the Holy Land] shall attack him [a king of the North]; and the king of the North shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter the countries, overwhelm them, and pass through. He shall also enter the Glorious Land, and many countries shall be overthrown; but these shall escape from his hand: Edom, Moab, and the prominent people of Ammon.
“He [the king of the North] shall stretch out his hand against the countries, and the land of Egypt shall not escape. He shall have power over the treasures of gold and silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt; also the Libyans and Ethiopians shall follow at his heels. But news from the east and the north shall trouble him; therefore he shall go out with great fury to destroy and annihilate many. And he shall plant the tents of his palace between the seas and [or at] the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, and no one will help him.
“At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt.”
It’s important to include these last few verses in the context because some Bible interpreters believe this section is actually talking about a time in the past. But as you can clearly read, these events are referring to the last days, from shortly before Jesus Christ returns to the resurrection of the dead at His coming (compare 1 Corinthians 15:22-23; 1 Thessalonians 4:16), something that has not happened yet.
So we have in this section a glimpse of end-time conflict between several alliances of nations, one led by a ruler called “the king of the South,” another known as “the king of the North,” and then forces to “the east and the north” (or possibly “northeast,” for which there is no equivalent Hebrew term) of the Holy Land that will eventually enter the fray.
We cover this prophecy of Daniel in more depth in our free study guide The Middle East in Bible Prophecy. Here we will note some highlights.
The kings of the North and the South
During the time in which Daniel wrote this prophecy, the region of the king of the North was governed by the Persian Empire. Then it was conquered by the Greek Empire, which was subsequently absorbed by the Roman Empire. Although the original Roman Empire collapsed in A.D. 476, there have been periodic revivals in Europe all the way up through the 20th century (often called “the Holy Roman Empire” or an equivalent term).
For instance, the alliance of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini (who proclaimed in Italy that he was restoring a version of the ancient Roman Empire) eventually led to the worldwide bloodbath that was World War II.
So this “king of the North,” the final revival of the European-centered Roman Empire called the Beast in the book of Revelation, is destined to arise, as we understand it, one last time—at the time of the end (to learn more, read our study guide The Final Superpower). After being provoked, the European ruler’s forces will sweep down and occupy the lands of a final king of the South.
We can see from Daniel 11 that the end-time king of the South will be a leader commanding a confederation of nations predominately to the south of Israel, but also stretching to the east and west since the Scriptures name several of them—Edom, Moab, Ammon (their ancient territory now making up a large part of modern Jordan), Egypt, Libya and Ethiopia.
Note that Scripture says of this region that “many countries will be overthrown” (including Israel), implying it can encompass other nations in the general vicinity east, south and west of Israel that are not mentioned by name. The two common factors in the particular countries mentioned, excepting the Glorious Land of Israel, are that they are mostly of Arab descent and their religion is Islam.
It appears that this confederation of the South is made up mainly of Arab nations with Islam as their religion—perhaps a reborn Islamic caliphate, long the dream of millions of Muslims. It is also the dream of many Muslims to conquer Europe—reliving the glory days of earlier Islamic empires that invaded and in some cases held for centuries parts or all of Spain, Portugal, France, Eastern Europe, Sicily and Italy.
Over recent years several Muslim leaders and religious figures have boasted of their desire to capture Rome, which they see as the seat of Europe and Christianity—the conquest of which in their minds would prove the superiority of Islam over Christianity.
Other non-Arab countries like Pakistan, possessing dozens of nuclear warheads, and Iran, which may soon have them, are also almost entirely Islamic—as are the Arab nations that could come together to prevent Iranian dominance over them. It should be recalled that several militant strains of the Islamic religion took many in the West by surprise, such as al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State (commonly referred to as ISIS), for a while disrupting a large swath of the world stretching from the Atlantic coast of North Africa all the way to Afghanistan and India. Their power and reach was greatly diminished and nearly crushed by Western intervention, in some cases after years of bloody conflict against both local populations and foreign fighters. Nevertheless the swift rise of ISIS illustrates how the right conditions can summon believers from all over the globe into a major force if they believe the cause is righteous.
“News from the east and north”
Where Russia seems to come into the picture in Daniel’s prophecy is the indication that after the king of the North invades the Holy Land, “news from the east and the north shall trouble him” (Daniel 11:44). Since several nations in this region will be invaded and conquered by the king of the North, there is naturally going to be a reaction from major powers to the north and to the east (or, again, possibly northeast) of that region.
To the east of the Holy Land lies a large swath of Muslim nations that would be incensed at a takeover of Islam’s third-holiest city, Jerusalem. Among them are Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and several predominately Muslim nations from the former Soviet Union, plus India and Indonesia with their 200 million Muslims each. To the north of the Holy Land are yet more Muslim nations—Lebanon, Syria and Turkey, plus areas of Russia with large Muslim populations.
Any European-led invasion of the Holy Land, as foretold in this prophecy, would be viewed by Muslims in these regions as another “Crusade” against Islam. Although that sounds odd to Western ears, this is exactly what many Muslims termed the U.S.-led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. In the minds of millions of Muslims, the Crusades never ended, and Islam remains at war against Christianity in a battle for supremacy—as we see reflected in the words and actions of many jihadists today.
No doubt a Western takeover of Jerusalem and the Holy Land would rally many Muslims to fight and throw out the “Crusaders”—exactly as happened in Iraq and Afghanistan, leading to humiliating Western withdrawals and resulting chaos as militant Islamic groups swept into the void.
A look at a map shows that beyond these Muslim nations and above the Middle East (and east of the area of the European king of the North) there is only one major power, and that is Russia. Moscow is almost due north of Israel. And if the correct translation of the verse in question is the “northeast,” that still fits Russia, as its territory stretches farther to the east than any other Asian power. But the prophecy does not limit the involvement to one nation, and it seems likely that a group of Asian nations would be involved—those mentioned above plus what is now the dominant nation in Asia, China. We’ll see more about this in another prophecy momentarily.
It should be added that Russia has an intense interest in the Middle East for political, economic, military and religious reasons. In the last 200 years, a historical pattern has emerged when European powers have sought to conquer the Middle East—sooner or later, Russia will usually get involved, since this region significantly affects its national interests.
“Kings from the east”
Again, Daniel 11:44 tells us that “news from the east” (if that is a single direction), will greatly trouble the king of the North. What might this be referring to?
The book of Revelation, expanding on aspects of Daniel’s prophecy, describes two major troop advances involving the Euphrates River, the ancient boundary between the Roman Empire and adversaries to the east. No doubt these movements from the east will be in response to the takeover of the Holy Land by the king of the North—and in retaliation for a months-long campaign of torment with apparently advanced weaponry conducted by the European Beast forces, referred to in Revelation 9 as the first of three woes (verses 1-12; compare 11:7; 17:8).
The eastern powers will form a massive 200-million-man army and will launch an apparent counterattack called the second woe, when a third of mankind will be killed—evidently through the unleashing of weapons of mass destruction (Revelation 9:13-18). Then later, just before the returning Jesus Christ descends to the earth, a force led by “the kings [rulers] from the east” will cross the Euphrates, then dried up, in the sixth of the seven last plagues, these collectively referred to as the third woe (Revelation 16:12).
As noted above, to the east of the Holy Land are a large number of Muslim nations. Even further east are the major powers of India, China and Japan, plus other Islamic nations such as Indonesia and Malaysia. Some of these nations could likely form an alliance since the Middle East also concerns their national interests. Middle Eastern oil is very important to some of them, and those of the Islamic faith in Asia look to Jerusalem and Mecca and Medina, in Saudi Arabia, as their holy cities.
Clearly it would be unacceptable to them to see their holy cities threatened with takeover by a European power. Also with a European force ruling at least a part of the Middle East, the balance of power and wealth would now be shifted and tilted against these powers.
Another possibility for the identity of these eastern forces could be China and its Asiatic allies, including Russia, that often share common economic, political and economic interests. In fact, a great many of these Asian nations, including the Asian Muslim nations, are already formally aligned together in a bloc called the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, dominated by China. It should be noted that a prophecy in Ezekiel ties many of these countries together in a coalition against Israel some while after Christ’s return, but it’s reasonable to see them tied together even prior to His coming.
Any number of factors could draw these Asian powers into a Mideast conflict, such as a threat to oil supplies and vital sea lanes, or any sense that a powerful Europe is bent on expanding its power eastward. China and India, with populations of around 1.44 and 1.38 billion respectively, could certainly contribute to a huge military force, and Russia’s military power and technology are still formidable.
It should be noted that the Asian powers and others around the world may initially submit to European economic and military dominance to an extent, as Revelation presents all the world as effectively worshiping or being prostrate before the Beast, or Babylon as it is also called. But that will not last.
Regarding the European king of the North, the Bible says he will contend with those who eventually form an alliance against him and will “go out with great fury to destroy and annihilate many” (Daniel 11:44).
Again, we see two major movements of geopolitical forces to the east and north of the Holy Land, beyond the Euphrates River, and several leading candidates to form these forces. These will likely include the vast number of Muslims across southern Asia as well as the people of Russia, China, India and Japan.
The final march to vie with European forces in the Holy Land will lead them to gather at Armageddon, or Megiddo in northern Israel, but they will not fight each other there. Rather, with Christ then coming down to Jerusalem, they will fight Him there, seeing Him as their common enemy—and in that great battle both the European and eastern forces will be destroyed. (To learn more, download or request our free study guide The Middle East in Bible Prophecy.)
It thus appears that the rise of Russian power and Russian entanglement with China and other Asian powers are destined to have a major impact on these end-time events leading to Christ’s return. So it behooves us to be alert in watching world news dealing with these leading nations.
Good news in the end for Russia and the rest of the world
Yet there is good news in the end for Russia—and the rest of the world. Jesus Christ is returning to put an end to human politics, greed and war.
One of the most encouraging scriptures in this regard is found in Isaiah 2:2-4, which describes what will happen after this time of global turmoil ends and Christ comes to rule the nations.
It is our hope and ultimate goal to be part of His coming Kingdom—for then there will finally be peace and harmony on the earth. Would you like to be part of that Kingdom as well? That is what Beyond Today is ultimately about.
We offer you these verses from Isaiah 2:2-4 to meditate on, since they describe that wonderful coming solution to war: “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it.
“Many people shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
“He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”
Remarkably, the Soviet Union presented a statue representing this passage to the United Nations. But man, despite his best attempts, has not been able to achieve peace on his own. Thankfully God will bring the peace man has long sought.
Gog, Magog and the Prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal
by Tom Robinson
Besides more general prophecies we’ve seen in this chapter of powers north and east of the Holy Land advancing against a final revival of the Roman Empire in Daniel 11:44 and Revelation 9:13-19 and 16:12-16, there is evidently a specific mention of Russia alongside other Eurasian nations in a prophecy recorded in Ezekiel 38 and 39. Here we read of a massive end-time invasion of the land of Israel by a coalition of forces coming out of the far north under the direction of “Gog of the land of Magog” and the further distinction “the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal” (verses 2-3). Some believe this invasion will precede the return of Jesus Christ and look for it to happen any day now. But the wording of the prophecy should make clear that what it describes will transpire a short while after Christ has come—though the coalition here may come together before His arrival and could well be represented in the eastern powers mentioned above.
Let’s notice more about the particular people groups laid out here. This Gog of Magog and prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal is allied with Persia, Cush and Put (the latter two typically denoted as Ethiopia and Libya), as well as the nations of Gomer and Togarmah. These various peoples are listed in the table of nations in Genesis 10, which shows the families descended from Noah. From his son Japheth came several peoples, including Gomer, Magog, Tubal and Meshech. And from Noah’s son Ham came the peoples of Cush and Put, which do seem to be the origin of the African peoples, yet there is more to their story.
Magog means the country of Gog, perhaps denoting a high ruler, the Assyrians calling these people Mat Gugi. Through ancient writers and geographical studies we can trace the movements of these people over the steppes of southern Russia across to the land of China. From them came some of the Central Asian Turkic peoples along with the Mongols and Moghuls and others in the area of China. Many of the eastern Turks also appear to descend from Togarmah, mentioned above—these having earlier lived in eastern Asia Minor and Armenia in early biblical times. Bordering them at that early time were the Mushki and Tabali, mentioned on Assyrian monuments. At length these people made their way north of the Caucasus Mountains into the area of Russia. The Scofield Reference Bible notes that the “reference to Meshech and Tubal (Moscow [the Russian capital] and Tobolsk [in West Siberia]) is a very clear mark of identification.”
And then there is the name Rosh. Some see it as the Hebrew word for “head” and translate here “chief prince” rather than “prince of Rosh.” Yet many see Rosh as a name, especially as the Mitanni kingdom next to the ancient Mushki and Tabali became known as the land of Rashu, a word denoting blond. Again, ancient historians help us to trace the people of Rashu up into southern Russia. It’s commonly believed among Western scholars that Russia derived its name from the Varangian Rus, Swedish Vikings, but Soviet historians contended that the Rus were Slavs from the southern steppes. It’s possible there was a combination of factors. In any case, it’s reasonable to conclude that Rosh, Meshech and Tubal as mentioned in Ezekiel denote western, central and eastern Russia ranging to western Siberia, with eastern Siberia containing many of the Turkic people of Togarmah.
Gomer mentioned in the end-time alliance is evidently the people of southeast Asia, the Khmer Empire centered in Angkor in Cambodia lasting hundreds of years in medieval times, the name preserved in the Khmer people of Cambodia and numerous other regional distinctions.
Persia is modern Iran as well as certain areas to which some of the ancient Persians migrated. We have so far accounted for much of Asia except for the Indian subcontinent of South Asia. But the people of that area are evidently mentioned too. Cush and Put might seem to be the odd men out in denoting peoples of Africa. It helps when we realize that the people of ancient Cush migrated out of ancient Babylon in two directions, some going to Africa as the Ethiopians and others journeying to India, giving their name to the Hindu Kush mountains and other places. Likewise the same appears true of Put, becoming not just the Libyans in the west but leaving their name to the Rajputs (meaning rulers of Put) in India. Thus, Cush and Put in this prophecy might not denote the African branches of these families at all but could rather exclusively concern the Asian branches in India and Pakistan—thus rounding out the vast Eurasian coalition.
As for the timing of this end-time invasion headed up by China and Russia, consider that they contemplate the land of Israel, with its exiles returned, as a land at peace without walls, bars or gates—easy plunder for an invader. That definitely does not describe Israel today, which has an actual wall and defense installations protecting it. And Israel is armed to the teeth. The time that best fits what is described in Ezekiel 38 and 39 is after the Israelites have been regathered to their land at the beginning of Christ’s millennial rule, when they will need no material armaments, being under the direct protection of Christ and His saints and angels.
How will this come about? We know from Revelation 16 and 19 that as Christ returns, eastern forces will come down into the Holy Land to confront the European Beast forces but that both will be destroyed together when they attempt to fight Christ at His coming. Yet consider that the Eurasian army is incredibly vast and will likely still be ranging far across Eurasia, with only the vanguard of this force having made its way down into the Holy Land when Jesus destroys those fighting against Him there.
Apparently these forces will regroup and attempt to assess what has happened, still not grasping or believing that the divine Messiah has taken over the rule of the planet. After some time, seeing the returned exiles seemingly weak and unprotected, the Eurasian powers will swarm into the Holy Land for conquest. But the invasion does not end well for these peoples of Magog, Rosh, Meshech, Tubal and their allies. People will be burying their remains and burning their equipment over a lengthy period.
We can see here that evidently the conquest of the world by divine forces will be in stages. Jesus will not take over the world all at once. It starts with Israel and then expands to the surrounding nations and finally the whole world, but it’s a process that will take some time. There will be this one last battle and then peace for the rest of the Millennium. There’s no indication in the Bible of any major military resistance during the Millennium after that. Scripture does talk about rebuking peoples far off and bringing discipline through withholding rainfall in some cases—so there may be occasional problems here and there in the early years of the Millennium. But soon the whole world will be at peace, with none causing hurt or destruction throughout God’s Kingdom, the earth then being as full as the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:9-10).
It should be noted, however that there will be one last battle against God at the end of the Millennium when Satan is released from imprisonment to again deceive the nations, as described in Revelation 20:7-10. Those who follow him to attack God’s people are referred to as “Gog and Magog.” Some believe the invasion in Ezekiel 38 and 39 is the same as that in Revelation 20, but there are several indications that these are different conflicts. Note, for instance, that the nations in Revelation 20 are said to come from “the four corners of the earth,” meaning the whole world and not the particular geographical region of Eurasia pointed to in Ezekiel. It seems we are meant to understand the Gog and Magog invasion near the beginning of the Millennium as a type and forerunner of the final rebellious invasion by people of all ethnicities at the end of the Millennium. In both cases, the enemies of God are vanquished, with His people delivered.
While the invasion described in Ezekiel 38 and 39 is not imminent as some proclaim, since it will follow the return of Christ, that does not mean we should ignore signs of this developing coalition. As already noted, it may well be that it will form prior to Christ’s return in opposition to the European Beast power that will rise in Europe. In fact, we could be seeing the beginnings of this coalition even today with the strengthening ties between Russia, China, India, Iran and other Asian powers. The membership listing of the China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization yields virtually the same roster of nations presented in Ezekiel’s prophecy. There is much to be alert to in this regard even now.
For more details about the identities of Gog and Magog and Rosh, Meshech and Tubal, and their allies, read our online commentary on Ezekiel 38 and 39 at our website (available at ucg.org/bible- study-tools/bible-commentary/bible-commentary-ezekiel-38-39).