The final battle (part 2)

It will be obvious when the end of the world is near because the events that take place will never have occurred before. For instance, there will be a worldwide earthquake that will change the geographical structure of the earth (Ezekiel 38:20). As Ezekiel described the circumstances leading to the final battle between God and mankind, he made it clear that it would come at a time that was unique and identifiable in advance. Ezekiel was told, “Therefore, son of man, prophecy and say unto Gog, Thus saith the Lord GOD; In that day when my people of Israel dwelleth safely, shalt thou know it?” (Ezekiel 38:14). God’s question was a rhetorical one, implying that Israel dwelling safely would be a rare circumstance that everyone would recognize as being out of the ordinary. Israel has been a nation known for its continual conflict with the rest of the world. Even today, we can see that Israel does not dwell safely among her neighbors. In fact, nuclear war has made it possible for Israel’s enemies to annihilate it with little effort, and yet, Israel continues to exist.

The Lord GOD is portrayed as Israel’s personal defender. When the final battle begins, God will immediately step in. Ezekiel said, “And it shall come to pass at the same time when Gog shall come against the land of Israel, saith the Lord GOD, that my fury shall come up in my face. For in my jealousy and in the fire of my wrath have I spoken. Surely in that day there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel; so that the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the heaven, and the beasts of the field, and all creeping things that creep upon the face of the earth, and all that are upon the face of the earth, shall shake at my presence, and the steep places shall fall, and every wall shall fall to the ground. The Hebrew word translated shake, ra‘ash means to undulate or to have a continuous up and down motion like waves on the sea (7493). In other words, when God shows up on the scene of the final battle, nothing will be left standing, no one will be able to fight against him.

Revelation 6:12-17 gives further insight into what it will be like when God finally faces his foes in battle. It says:

And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; and the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scrole when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?

An important aspect of the day of God’s wrath was linked to “the Lamb” who was pictured as the sacrifice for sin and as the mighty conqueror. Jesus’ victory over death was necessary for him to overcome God’s enemies in the final battle.


The final battle (part 1)

A common topic of Old Testament prophecy was the latter days or latter years which represented a period of time when God would bring judgment on all mankind. Jeremiah spoke of God’s wrath during this time period. He said, “Behold, a whirlwind of the LORD is gone forth in fury, even a grievous whirlwind: it shall fall grievously upon the head of the wicked. The anger of the LORD shall not return, until he have executed, and till he have performed the thoughts of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly” (Jeremiah 23:19-20). Basically, what Jeremiah was saying was that things might not make sense right now, but there would come a time when God would settle accounts with his enemies and his people would then understand why he waited to bring judgment on the world.

In order to understand the latter days, you have to look at the beginning of history when God first judged the world. A flood covered the face of the earth and wiped out every sign of life, leaving only one family remaining; Noah and his three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth (Genesis 7-8). At that time, God made a covenant with every living creature and promised never again to destroy all life on earth (Genesis 9:16-17). It was then that Noah’s sons went forth and began to repopulate the earth, each having a designated territory to develop. The descendants of Noah’s son Ham settled in northern Africa and the land known as Canaan. It is believed that 14 nations came from Noah’s oldest son, Japheth. The Japhethites lived generally north and west of Canaan in Eurasia. The people of Gomer (the later Cimmerians) and related nations lived near the Black Sea. Magog was possibly the father of a Scythian people who inhabited the Caucasus and adjacent regions southeast of the Black Sea.

Some Bible scholars believe the descendants of Japheth occupy the territory formerly known as the USSR or modern Russia. Russia has been associated with Bible prophecy and the latter days when a final battle will occur between God’s army and the kingdoms of this world. The LORD told Ezekiel, “Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophecy against him…And I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed with all sorts of armour, even a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords… Gomer, and all his bands; the house of Togarmah of the north quarters, and all his bands: and many people with thee” (Ezekiel 38:2-6).


God used a dramatic illustration of dead bones being brought back to life to show Ezekiel the miraculous nature of the resurrection the LORD planned for his people. Ezekiel started the recount of his vision by saying, “The hand of the LORD was upon me and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones.” Ezekiel did not give us the name of the valley, but it can be assumed that it was an actual location where bones existed, most likely the valley of the son of Hinnom which was renamed the valley of slaughter in Jeremiah 7:32. Hinnom was the site of child sacrifice during the days of kings Ahaz and Manasseh. Jeremiah proclaimed that this place of human sacrifice would become their cemetery when the people  of Judah were slaughtered by the Babylonian invaders (notes on Jeremiah 7:31-32).

Jeremiah declared, “At that time, saith the LORD, they shall bring out the bones of the kings of Judah, and the bones of the princes, and the bones of the priests, and the bones of the prophets, and the bones of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, out of their graves: and they shall spread them before the sun, and the moon, and all the host of heaven, whom they have loved, and whom they have served, and after whom they have walked, and whom they have sought, and whom they have worshipped: they shall not be gathered, nor be buried; they shall be for dung upon the face of the earth” (Jeremiah 8:1-2). Although it is uncertain whether or not these were the bodies brought back to life in Ezekiel’s vision, it seems to be a fitting illustration of the rebirth that takes place when a sinner is saved by grace.

Ezekiel’s description of the resurrection of the bones included the restoration of life through the spirit of God. He said, “And I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them. Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army” (Ezekiel 37:8-10). The Hebrew word translated both wind and breath in this passage is ruwach (roo´ – akh). “It is clear that the wind is regarded in scripture as a fitting emblem of the mighty penetrating power of the invisible God. Moreover, the breath is suppose to symbolize not only the deep feelings that are generated within man, such as sorrow and anger: but also kindred feelings in the Divine nature” (7307).

The apostle John taught that in the resurrection, Jesus will bring everyone back to life. He said, “Marvel not of this: for the hour is coming, in which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:28-29). The Greek term resurrection, anastasis literally means “to cause to stand up on one’s feet again” (386). The resurrection is associated with the millennial reign of Christ, which will take place sometime in the future. Ezekiel was told, “Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel, and ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves” (Ezekiel 37:12-13).


Ezekiel’s prophecy to Israel contained “new covenant” terminology similar to that which was foretold by the prophet Jeremiah before the nation of Judah was destroyed. Jeremiah said specifically, “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah” (Jeremiah 31:31). The basis or foundation of the new covenant was forgiveness of sins. God said through Jeremiah, “I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:34). Ezekiel used the term sanctify to identify the process whereby God’s people would be set apart to do his work on earth (Ezekiel 36:23). Ezekiel described four stages of restoration (Ezekiel 36:24-30) that would lead to God’s people being sanctified and specifically detailed a point of regeneration that was necessary for them to be saved. He said:

A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh, and I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. (Jeremiah 36:26-27).

Jesus referred to regeneration as being “born again” (John 3:7) and said, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). The idea that a person could be born a second time confused the religious leader, Nicodemus. He asked Jesus, “How can these things be?” (John 3:9). Jesus told Nicodemus that he had to understand heavenly things in order to enter into God’s kingdom and revealed that the only way he could do that was by believing in him (John 3:15-16).

A key to understanding the concept of regeneration was the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Before Jesus’ birth, God used Israel’s return from captivity and restoration of the Promised Land as an illustration of what was yet to be done by his Messiah. Ezekiel recorded, ” Thus saith the Lord GOD; In the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities, I will cause you to dwell in the cities, and the wastes shall be builded. And the desolate land shall be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by. And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fenced, and are inhabited. Then the heathen that are left round about you shall know that I the LORD build the ruined places and plant that that was desolate: I the LORD have spoken it, and I will do it” (Ezekiel 36:33-36).

Mount Seir

Mount Seir represented a significant obstacle that the Israelites had to overcome in order to enter the Promised Land. Mount Seir was the home of the Edomites, descendants of Jacob’s twin brother Esau. The name Seir means rough (8165), but it is formed the same as the word sair which means “devils” (8163). Sair was used to describe Esau’s hairy skin in the book of Genesis where it talks about Jacob deceiving his father in order to obtain his brother’s blessing. It says, “And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man” (Genesis 27:11). Rebekah disguised Jacob by putting the skins of the kids of goats upon his hands and neck. When Isaac felt Jacob, it says in Genesis 27:23, “he discerned him not, because his hands were hairy, as his brother Esau’s hands: so he blessed him.”

The word sair is used in Leviticus 17:7 in connection with demon worship. It says, “And they shall no more offer their sacrifices unto devils, after whom they have gone a whoring. This shall be a statute for ever unto them throughout their generations.” The interchangeability of the words Seir and sair may have been an intentional effort to connect Jacob’s brother Esau with pagan worship or to remind Jacob and his descendants of the deception he used too obtain God’s blessing. Either way, mount Seir was like the apostle Paul’s thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan that was used to buffet God’s people, lest they should be exalted above measure (2 Corinthians 12:7). Most of the time the Israelites spent in the wilderness was spent circling mount Seir. Moses recorded in Deuteronomy 2:1-3, “Then we turned, and took our journey into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea, as the LORD spake unto me: and we compassed mount Seir many days. And the LORD spake unto me, saying, Ye have compassed this mountain long enough: turn you northward.”

Ezekiel’s prophecy against mount Seir revealed the continued animosity between the descendants of Jacob and Esau. It says in Ezekiel 35:5-6, “Because thou hast had a perpetual hatred, and hast shed the blood of the children of Israel by the force of the sword in the time of their calamity, in the time that their iniquity had an end: therefore, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, I will prepare thee unto blood, and blood shall pursue thee: sith thou hast not hated blood, even blood shall pursue thee.” God’s use of the words perpetual hatred to describe the Edomites’ attitude toward the Israelites indicates that Esau never forgave his brother Jacob for stealing his birthright. Instead of accepting the outcome of the situation, Esau sought revenge and tried to recover what he felt was rightfully his. In response, God said:

Because thou hast said, These two nations and these two countries shall be mine, and we will possess it; whereas the LORD was there: therefore, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, I will even do according to thine anger, and according to thine envy which thou hast used out of thy hatred against them; and I will make myself known amongst them, when I have judged thee. (Ezekiel 35:10-12)

The good shepherd

The leaders of Israel, kings as well as prophets and priests, were sometimes referred to as shepherds because they were responsible for the safety and well-being of God’s people. God condemned the shepherds of Israel and said, “Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flock? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock” (Ezekiel 34:2-3). King Zedekiah in particular proved to be a worthless shepherd. When Jerusalem was attacked by Nebuchadnezzar, the desperate king fled by night with his army into the desert and left the people of Jerusalem to starve to death (Destruction of Jerusalem 586 B.C.).

Using the metaphor of sheep that were scattered (Ezekiel 34:5), Ezekiel blamed the exile and dispersion of the Jews on a lack of leadership in God’s kingdom. He said, “because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock…Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock” (Ezekiel 34:8-10). God promised to seek out his flock and to himself become their shepherd (Ezekiel 34:11-12). He said of the Messiah, “And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd. And I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David a prince among them, I the LORD have spoken it” (Ezekiel 34:23-24).

Jesus referred to himself as the good shepherd and talked about entering in by the door of the sheepfold (John 10). In order to differentiate himself from the leaders of the Old Testament, Jesus said, “But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out” (John 10:2-3). Jesus’ reference to calling his own by name implied the existence of a relationship, a personal relationship in which a recognition of his voice was possible. The leaders of the Old Testament did not associate with the common or average people with the exception of king David who was himself a shepherd before he became king. It is possible God chose David to be the king of Israel for that very reason.

Jesus’ explanation of his role as the good shepherd pointed to the salvation of his people. He said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture” (John 10:7-9). Although Jesus’ reference to being saved included both Jews and Gentiles, his primary concern was the nation of Israel which had been lost due to mismanagement of God’s kingdom. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Ultimately, Jesus’ death served the purpose of setting God’s people free from the political and religious influences that blinded them to God’s love. Ezekiel concluded, “Thus shall they know that I the LORD their God am with them, and that they, even the house of Israel, are my people, saith the Lord GOD” (Ezekiel 34:30).

Israel’s watchman

Ezekiel was identified as a watchman for Israel. In that role, he was expected to keep a close watch on events leading up to the fall of Jerusalem. For seven years, from 593 B.C. to 586 B.C., Ezekiel delivered numerous messages from the Lord indicating that the end was near. In his final warning, Ezekiel’s role as Israel’s watchman was emphasized so that there would be no misunderstanding as to what was happening. He was told:

Son of man, speak to the children of thy people, and say unto them, When I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman: if when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people; then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul. (Ezekiel 33:2-5).

God’s attempt to warn his people showed that he still cared about them, even though they had abandoned him. He told Ezekiel, “Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel” (Ezekiel 33:11). God’s plea for repentance was a sign that he still wanted to have a relationship with his people. His motive in bringing judgment was to restore, not to severe his ties with Israel. The only way God could reconnect with his people was through conversion. “The process called conversion or turning to God is in reality a re-turning or a turning back again to Him from whom sin has separated us, but whose we are by virtue of creation, preservation and redemption” (7725).

On August 14, 586 B.C., Ezekiel received word from someone that escaped that Jerusalem had fallen (Ezekiel 33:21). The news not only vindicated Ezekiel, but also validated him as being Israel’s watchman and a true prophet of God. At the start of Ezekiel’s ministry, when he was first commissioned as Israel’s watchman, God made him dumb, or unable to speak, except for the messages he received from God. In connection with the news of Jerusalem’s fall, Ezekiel said, “Now the hand of the LORD was upon me in the evening, afore he that was escaped came; and had opened my mouth, until he came to me in the morning; and my mouth was opened, and I was no more dumb” (Ezekiel 33:22). Ezekiel’s ability to speak indicated that he was no longer Israel’s watchman. From that point forward, Ezekiel would have a new mission, pastoral comfort or the job of a shepherd.