Some people are wondering if the current war between Russia and Ukraine is a part of Bible prophecy. The short answer to that is, no, at least not specifically. It is only a part of Bible prophecy in the sense that Jesus said, “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet” (Matthew 24:6, N.K.J.V.).
However, I do understand that the question is a reasonable one. I say that because Russia itself will indeed be a major player in the events that will lead up to Christ’s Second Coming. The proof passage on that is Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39, and by way of explaining those chapters I’ll close this post by using an extended section from my post entitled “The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse.” That post is found in the series “Bible Prophecy in Chronology.” Here goes:
I need to explain Revelation chapter 5. The apostle John, who has just experienced what we might call a “Revelation rapture” (Revelation 4:1-2), watches as Jesus – symbolically depicted as “the Lamb” – takes a certain scroll from the hand of God the Father (Revelation 5:1-7). The mere transfer of this scroll from the hand of God the Father to the hand of Jesus prompts a great heavenly worship scene (Revelation 5:8-14). The ones doing the worshiping are the four living creatures (most likely cherub angels) that surround God’s throne, the 24 elders (a group that symbolically represents the entirety of the church), and many other angels. Clearly, this scroll is a big deal, and Jesus now having it is an even bigger deal.
And so what is this scroll? In the ancient world, such parchment scrolls served as the title deeds in land purchases (Jeremiah 32:6-15). Therefore, this scroll has been called the title deed to the earth. The scroll has writing not only inside it but also on its back, and it is sealed with seven seals (Revelation 5:1). In such scrolls, the writing on the back was a summary of the writing found inside the document, and the writing on the inside contained the details of the transaction. The seals all had to be broken before the entire scroll could be read.
As for the scroll that Jesus takes in hand, the way it works is simple: Whenever Jesus breaks one of the seven seals, a corresponding event takes place down on earth. These events are commonly called “the seal judgments.” At the beginning of chapter 6, Jesus starts breaking the seals, and thus begins The Revelation’s record of the tribulation period. The breaking of the first four seals produce the riders that are known as “the four horsemen of the apocalypse.” These riders will be our subject for this post.
Seal #1 (Revelation 6:1-2): The Rider on the White Horse
Christ’s breaking of the scroll’s first seal causes a rider on a white horse to ride out “conquering and to conquer.” This rider is the Antichrist. In the symbolic imagery, he carries a bow but no arrows. This shows that he will initially play the role of a man of peace. I have explained in previous posts how he will come to power by overthrowing three of the kings of an alliance of ten kings that will constitute a revived Roman empire in the end times (Daniel 7:8,24). Following that coup, the other seven kings will give their power and authority over to him (Revelation 17:12-13), which will give him complete control of the entire empire.
At some point very shortly after the Antichrist comes to power, he will sign a seven-year treaty with Israel (Daniel 9:27). These seven years will be the tribulation period, the last “week” of “The 70 Weeks Prophecy” (Daniel 9:20-27). While it can be argued that the clock on the tribulation period starts ticking at the moment of the Rapture, the better understanding is that it starts ticking the moment the Antichrist signs that treaty. What the Bible doesn’t tell us is how much time elapses between the Rapture and the signing of that treaty. Clearly, though, it can’t be long. My guess is a few days or a few weeks at the most.
Christ’s most extensive teaching on the end times is called the Olivet Discourse because He gave it while He was on the Mount of Olives. The teaching is found in Matthew chapters 24 and 25, Mark 13:3-37, and Luke 21:5-38. It is noteworthy that Jesus opens the teaching by saying, “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many” (Matthew 24:4-5). We can easily imagine that as He spoke to His apostles in general terms about false messiahs, He had in mind the ultimate false messiah that would one day come. It isn’t a coincidence that the Antichrist is depicted as riding a white horse. In Revelation 19:11-21, we find the account of Jesus returning to this earth for His second coming, and that account puts Jesus on a white horse as well.
Seal #2 (Revelation 6:3-4): The Rider on the Red Horse
With Christ’s breaking of the scroll’s second seal, a rider on a fiery red horse heads out to “take peace from the earth.” This rider is the symbolic embodiment of war. So, at this point in the early days of the tribulation period, peace is taken from the earth and the killing begins. Jesus, in the Olivet Discourse, described it this way: “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom…” (Matthew 24:6-7)
A good question to ask, though, is, “Why does warfare break out at this particular time?” After all, if the Antichrist comes in as a man of peace, he won’t be the one stirring up this hostility. What then is the trigger that starts it? The Bible doesn’t give us that answer, but by reading between the lines a bit we can come up with a couple of possibilities.
First, the effect of millions of people suddenly vanishing off the face of the earth in the Rapture really can’t be overstated. Think about the confusion. Think about the chaos. Think about the news reports. Think about the fear. Think about the paranoia. Think about the attempted explanations. Think about the world’s leaders panicking. Think about the different nations accusing each other of being behind the disappearances. That is a setting ripe for countries to go to war. It’s also ripe for individuals to perpetrate violence on other individuals, which might also be a part of the words “that people should kill one another” (Revelation 6:2).
Second, remember that 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 teaches that a great “falling away” will accompany the revealing of the Antichrist. This makes perfect sense in the wake of the Rapture. You see, the Rapture will remove all the authentic Christians from the world’s churches. This will leave only fake Christians and spiritually lost church members to carry on the services of organized religion. And how long will it take for the attendees to realize the hollowness of the post-Rapture “churches”? Not very long. Rather than provide people with answers for the current state of things, these spiritually bereft “churches” will help escalate people’s tensions, anxieties, and fears. Think of it this way: If the world has known the warfare that it has known with Christians here playing the role of salt and light, what kind of a powder keg will it become when they are gone?
But does the Bible name any specific war that might break out in the earliest days of the tribulation period? It would seem so. Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39 describe a war that will take place in the “latter days” (Ezekiel 38:16). For this war, the nation “Magog” will head a coalition force that comes into the land of Israel “like a cloud” (Ezekiel 38:16) and goes to war against Israel. “Magog” will be led by a prince identified as “Gog,” which literally means “ruler.” According to Ezekiel 38:5-6, the other countries in the coalition will be Persia (Iran, east of Israel), Ethiopia (south of Israel), Libya (southwest of Israel), Gomer (Germany, northwest of Israel), and Togarmah (Turkey, north of Israel). What’s most impressive about this coalition is that it’s far flung enough in scope for the locations of these nations to form a clockwise ring around Israel. The only gap in the ring is the Mediterranean Sea to Israel’s immediate west.
Since the leader “Gog” is described as coming from a place “far north” of Israel (Ezekiel 38:14-15, 39:1-2), most commentators identify him as the leader of that land we now call Russia. This goes along with the Jewish historian Josephus, who identified Magog as the land of the Scythians, which was located in what is now Russia. For that matter, “Magog” is the translation of the Hebrew word “Rosh,” and according to Wilhelm Gesenius, a famous expert in Hebrew, “Rosh” should actually be translated as “Russia.”
And how will this war go for Russia and her allies? Fatally. For starters, God will strike the land of Israel with a mighty earthquake that will throw the coalition forces into confusion (Ezekiel 38:18-20). That earthquake will then be followed by “pestilence” as well as “flooding rain, great hailstones, fire, and brimstone” (Ezekiel 38:22) as God slays every last soldier of the coalition forces (Ezekiel 39:1-5). The slaughter will be so great that it will take the people of Israel seven months to bury the bodies of all the dead foreigners (Ezekiel 39:11-16). In addition to all this burying, the people of Israel will gather up the weapons from the slain armies and somehow use those weapons as fuel for their fires for seven years (Ezekiel 39:9-10).
Okay, so when will this infamous invasion of Israel take place? It will occur at a time when Israel will be dwelling in safety and peace in its own land and operating with its guard down (Ezekiel 38:10-15). I promise you that none of that applies to Israel’s current state, and so we must be dealing with a future event. And what could cause Israel to feel safe enough to uncharacteristically drop its guard this way? I would suggest that it’s that peace treaty Israel signs with the Antichrist and his revived Roman empire. If this interpretation is correct, it means that very, very shortly after the signing of that treaty, Russia’s coalition army will roll into Israel and quickly meet its doom. This would explain how the people of Israel could use that weaponry as fuel for seven years (the seven years of the tribulation period), with the number seven being only slightly rounded up and used generally. Then again, it’s also possible that Israel using those weapons as fuel for seven years might extend into the time of Christ’s 1,000 year reign upon the earth, which will begin with His Second Coming to walk the earth again at the conclusion of the tribulation period following His victory over the Antichrist, the False Prophet, and all the armies of the world at the Battle of Armageddon (Revelation 19:11-21; 20:1-4).