Fruchtenbaum says, “The Great Tribulation [meaning all seven years] is not imminent. The world stage has to be set in a certain way before the Tribulation can actually begin. A number of events are clearly stated to precede the Tribulation period” (The Footsteps of the Messiah, p. 91). This post is dedicated to the first few birth pangs leading up to the Tribulation.
Jesus, in the famous Olivet Discourse, says, “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs” (Matthew 24:7-8, NASB1995). These labor pains begin when nation rises against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. Fruchtenbaum says, “In Jesus’ day, the expression of nation against nation, kingdom against kingdom was a Jewish idiom of a world war preceding the coming of the Messiah” (The Footsteps of the Messiah, p. 95). World War 1 & II are the beginning of birth pangs. Jesus also warned that famines and earthquakes would accompany these wars and we know historically that is true. Earthquakes have increased exponentially since the turn of the century, and famines are sadly increasing as well.
The second labor pain is the re-establishment of Israel. We touched on this in “The Times of the Gentiles.” “1948 marked another birth pang of the last days. The restoration of the Jewish State is a fulfillment of those prophecies that spoke of a regathering in unbelief in preparation for judgment. It is another event leading up to the Tribulation and so sets the stage for several other pre-tribulational events” (Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of the Messiah, p. 104).
The third labor pain is Jerusalem coming under Jewish control. Prophecies regarding this labor pain can be found in Daniel 9:27, Matthew 24:15, 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, and Revelation 11:1-2. Fruchtenbaum points out that “the Six Day War brought about the fulfillment of the prophecy regarding the Jewish control of the Old City of Jerusalem. This is the third major pre-tribulational event” (The Footsteps of the Messiah, p. 105).
I am amazed that these first three labor pains started in 1914, and have all been fulfilled as I write this in 2022. Somehow, I never realized the significance the last 100 years have had in Biblical prophecy. Just in the last 100 years, Scripture has been fulfilled! This astounds and humbles me. We are living in amazing times! The next few pre-tribulational events in our discussion have not yet happened. The next big labor pain to watch for is the Gog & Magog War of Ezekiel 38-39.
Ezekiel tells us in chapter 38:1-2 who will head up this alliance. “And the word of the LORD came to me saying, “Son of man, set your face toward Gog of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him” (NASB1995).
According to Fruchtenbaum and several other conservative writers, Gog is a title for the leader of Russia. “Gog is not a proper name but a title for the ruler of Magog, just as the terms ‘pharaoh,’ ‘kaiser,’ and ‘czar’ were titles for rulers and not proper names. Whoever is ruling this alliance at the time of the invasion will be Ezekiel’s Gog” (The Footsteps of the Messiah, p. 107). As to the identity of Magog, Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, “these tribes of the ancient world occupied the areas of modern-day Russia” (p. 107). He goes on to say that, “Magog, Meshech, and Tubal were between the Black and Caspian Seas, which today is southern Russia. It also includes part of Iran and Turkey” (p. 107). There is evidence that Meshach and Tubal are the modern day Russian cities of Moscow and Tobolsk. We are told in verse 15 that Gog will have an alliance. If you track each of these Biblical names, you end up with Persia (modern day Iran), Cush (modern day Ethiopia), Put (modern day Somalia), Gomer (present day Germany), and Togarmah (present day Armenia). Ezekiel 38:13 suggests there are other nations that protest this alliance.
Ezekiel 38:15 says that Gog will come from his place out of the remote parts of the north, [he] and many peoples with [him]. “From Israel the uttermost parts of the north is Russia, with Moscow being almost a straight line due north from Jerusalem” (Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of the Messiah, p. 107). What drives Gog to attack Israel is seen in Ezekiel 38:10-13, “to capture a great spoil.” We don’t know what type of “spoil” Gog will be after in the Gog & Magog War, but whatever it is will be to serve Russia’s own self interest (p. 111).
But God is against Gog (Ezekiel 38:3). He draws Gog out to attack Israel in the mountains, but God says, “when Gog comes against the land of Israel,’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘that My fury will mount up in My anger. In My zeal and in My blazing wrath I declare that on that day there will surely be a great earthquake in the land of Israel” (Ezekiel 38:18-19 NASB1995). God will totally annihilate Gog and his army. God will not only destroy the armies in the mountains of Israel, but He will utterly destroy Russia itself (Ezekiel 39:6). God’s purpose in this is to make His holy name known in the midst of His people Israel and to show the nations that He is the LORD, the Holy One in Israel (Ezekiel 39:7).
After God’s amazing victory over Gog & Magog, Fruchtenbaum suggests that many Jews will be saved. I love the faithful heart of God in pursuing the hearts of His people and the world. Before the ultimate judgment of the Tribulation, He sanctifies His name not only in Israel, but to all the nations. No one will be without excuse once the Tribulation starts.
As to the timing, there are many reasons why to place this war BEFORE the Tribulation. Fruchtenbaum suggests the primary clue is in the time required for the burning of the weapons (7 years) and the burying of the armies of Gog & Magog (7 months) (The Footsteps of the Messiah, p. 122).
Fruchtenbaum notes that “since the armies are destroyed in the mountains of Israel, many of the bodies will fall in crevices where they will not be easily found, and so special details will be employed by the government for the seven months to search out these bodies for burial in the special valley (v. 14-15). Overlooking the cemetery, a new city will be built and named Hamonah, which means ‘multitude'” (The Footsteps of the Messiah, p. 116).
Regarding the 7 years of burning weapons, Ezekiel 39:9-10 says, “Then those who inhabit the cities of Israel will go out and make fires with the weapons and burn them, both shields and bucklers, bows and arrows, war clubs and spears, and for seven years they will make fires of them. They will not take wood from the field or gather firewood from the forests, for they will make fires with the weapons; and they will take the spoil of those who despoiled them and seize the plunder of those who plundered them,’ declares the Lord GOD” (NASB1995). The NLT says the people will use the weapons for fuel.
Both Fruchtenbaum and Tsarfati believe that the seven year burning of weapons cannot overlap exactly with the seven year Tribulation. This is because during the last 3.5 years of the Tribulation, Israel will be in no position to be burning weapons for fuel. They will instead be running for their lives to the mountains (Mark 13:14, Matthew 24:16). “Therefore, the [timing of Gog & Magog] ‘before the Tribulation’ view is the only one which has no problems with either the seven months or the seven years. The Jews continue to dwell in the Land after this invasion and remain there until the middle of the Tribulation. Hence, the seven months of burial is no problem. The seven years also create no problem since they would begin before the Tribulation and can extend as far as the middle of the Tribulation if at all necessary. According to this view, this invasion must take place at least 3.5 years or more before the Tribulation starts” (The Footsteps of the Messiah, p. 122).
An important thing to remember is that although the Rapture is imminent, it is not what starts the Tribulation. The Bible teaches that the Tribulation begins when the Antichrist signs the seven year covenant (which marks the beginning of Daniel’s 70th week, Daniel 9:27). So we see that “the Russian invasion is another birth pang that will occur before the Tribulation begins” (Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of the Messiah, p. 125).
Will we still be here when Gog & Magog happens? Only God knows, but given the thought that there are probably not “years” separating the Rapture and the Tribulation, I think there’s a good chance we are here to see at least the start of it. Have you noticed what is happening in the Ukraine? Have you noticed how Russia is hoarding fuel? Keep watching for Putin’s next move. He may not be the Gog of Ezekiel 38-39, but he might be! Now that you know the nations of the alliance, keep watch on them too. More than anything, keep your eyes FIXED on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of your faith (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Week Four: Homework Reflections
This week, read Ezekiel 38-39:16 and make the following observations:
- List everything you learn about Gog. What does he do and what does God think about him?
- List everything you learn about Gog’s alliance and the nations that protest the alliance.
- List everything you learn about the specific place the battle takes place.
- List everything you learn about the destruction of the invaders.
- List everything you learn about what God accomplishes by defeating Gog & Magog.