Where Does Russia Fit in End-Time Bible Prophecy?

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Where Does Russia Fit in End-Time Bible Prophecy?

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Russia has been in the news a lot lately—mostly for negative reasons. Ukraine, once a part of the Soviet Union, has been rocked by turmoil from Russian-backed factions. In 2014 the Crimean peninsula, also part of Ukraine, was taken over and annexed by Russia, violating a 1994 treaty in which Russia had committed to respecting Ukraine’s existing borders.

There is good news for Russia—and the rest of the world. Jesus Christ is returning to put an end to human politics, greed and war.

Now a part of Eastern Ukraine is in armed conflict, and Ukrainian troops are fighting pro-Russian forces aided and armed by Russia. Europeans and other neighbors are quite alarmed by this aggression, and they fear it can spill over to other European territories neighboring Russia, such as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Fearing more Russian aggression, the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, recently called for the formation of a united European army, since “a common army among the Europeans would convey to Russia that we are serious about defending the values of the European Union” (Andrew Sparrow, “Jean-Claude Juncker Calls for EU Army,” The Guardian, March 8, 2015).

God’s “time machine”

Naturally, many readers will want to know what the Bible has to say about Russia. It 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.’” 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 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, Zechariah 14:9).

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 11:40-45 - Daniel 12:1-3 :

“At the time of the end the king of the South shall attack him; 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 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 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 right 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.

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 476 A.D., there have been periodic revivals all the way up to the 20th century (normally 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” is destined to arise, as we understand it, one last time—at the time of the end. After being provoked, his 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 these countries, excepting 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 taking 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, widely assumed to be pursuing nuclear weapons, are also almost entirely Islamic. Moreover, several militant strains of the Islamic religion are presently disrupting a large swath of the world stretching from the Atlantic coast of North Africa all the way to Afghanistan and India.

“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 are going to 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 with its 200 million Muslims. 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 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,” there is still only one powerful nation northeast of the Holy Land, and that is Russia, its territory stretching farther to the east than any other Asian power.

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”

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.

The eastern powers will field 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, as the time comes for Jesus Christ’s return, 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 political and economic interests.

As a recent article from The Economist magazine highlighted, “Relations with China, Russia’s biggest neighbor and Asia’s greatest power, are thriving, buoyed by a 30-year deal agreed last May [2014] to supply Siberian gas to China by pipeline . . . China has a huge demand for Russian energy; and as another permanent member of the UN Security Council, it is an important diplomatic shield” (“Banyan: Bear With Us,” Feb. 21, 2015, p. 41).  

So a threat to the Middle Eastern oil supplies and its vital sea lanes could provoke a reaction by any of these nations. China, with its population of more than 1.3 billion, could certainly field a huge military force, and Russia’s military power and technology are still first-rate.

Regarding the 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).

So 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 Armageddon and the great battle at Christ’s return—in which both the European and eastern forces will be destroyed. (To learn more, read our free Bible study aid The Middle East in Bible Prophecy.)

Therefore, it appears that the rise of Russian power seems destined to have a major impact on these end-time events leading to Christ’s return, so it behooves us to be alert by watching world news, especially 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 this magazine is ultimately about.

We will leave you with 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.”