“I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them  from me.”
(Ezekiel 33:7) “Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against  him, And say, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal: 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: Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya with them; all of them with shield and helmet: 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)

Several generations of Christadelphians were very familiar with these words from Ezekiel from their regular use in Sunday evening lectures about God’s prophetic plan. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 followed soon after by a rapid decline in Sunday evening lectures has led to a declining familiarity with Ezekiel 38. Its message, however, probably is more relevant today than it has ever been.

The rapid rise of Russian power under the despotic stewardship of Vladimir Putin since the beginning of this century has taken the world by surprise. It has also surprised some expositors who had concluded from the abject state of Russia in the immediate post-Soviet years that the traditional view under which Ezekiel 38 presents a Russian led invasion of the Middle East could not be correct. At the end of 1991 it did seem unlikely that Russia would ever be in a position to lead a confederacy of nations as portrayed in this passage. But as 2011 draws to a close such a move seems a distinct possibility.

Gog rules

Gog is portrayed by the prophet as the leader, presumably rather charismatic, of a vast horde of hostile nations. Russia will take the lead but she will not be alone. The language of Ezekiel 38:2 suggests two very important points:

Gog is the leader of Rosh (rv), Meshech and Tubal, which appears to indicate at least the Russian Federation but probably also some of the adjacent republics such as Ukraine and those in the Caucasus region which once formed part of the Soviet Union[1]; and
while Gog is not necessarily the personal leader of “the land of Magog”, this nation is in league with and central to Gog’s power, his alliance and his freedom to act.
Along with Magog, the nations identified as confederated with Rosh under Gogian leadership include Gomer. Essentially Magog and Gomer represent the heartland of central and western Europe[2], a region now largely incorporated in the European Community and dominated by Germany and France.

Germany’s phoenix-like rise

Just as many commentators – both Biblical and political – wrote off Russia as a power of note following the events of the 1990s, Germany was seen by many as a spent force with no significant future after her humiliating defeat in 1945. This assessment also was short-sighted. The postwar divided state of Germany held her back for longer than it took Russia to recover, and the parlous state of East Germany at the time of German reunification also checked her growth. Notwithstanding those difficulties, the years since reunification of Germany in 1989 have seen her once again assume centre stage in Europe.

The early years of this century in Europe were dominated by the establishment of the Euro as a common currency for the European Community. All member states other than Denmark and the United Kingdom committed to adopting the Euro: many have already replaced their former national currencies with the new continent-wide currency. The debt crisis enveloping Greece in particular, but also threatening Ireland, Portugal and now Italy, has undermined confidence in the Euro, but every problem can become an opportunity for those with vision, nerve and wherewithal.

Germany’s economy has benefitted enormously from the introduction of the Euro: its adoption has helped to move her into a dominant position in Europe. While there have been misgivings among German voters about the cost of bailing out essentially insolvent nations to the south, the fact that Germany has been in a position to do so is due in part to the benefits the Euro has delivered to her economy. This is only part of the reason, however, that Germany has been prepared to prop up the Greek economy.

The image on feet of clay

A recent Stratfor analysis entitled “The Divided State of Europe” (28 June 2011), when commenting on the economic crisis in Greece, observed that “the real crisis is the more fundamental question of how the European continent is to be ruled in the twenty first century.” It went on to point out that “Since the 1990s, Europe has dabbled with institutional reform but has left the fundamental question of political integration off the table, even as it integrated economically. This is ultimately the source of the current sovereign debt crisis, the lack of political oversight over economic integration gone wrong.”

The debt crisis has undermined confidence in the long-term viability of the Euro. Whether it will survive the crisis remains to be seen, but Germany remains committed to its viability. In fact, notwithstanding the current crisis, Germany continues to pressure those member states who have not yet done so to join the Eurozone. With ominous overtones of the 1930s, Germany has in particular been pressuring Poland and the Czech Republic to adopt the Euro. Given their experience of German “diplomacy” under the Nazis it would not be surprising if they viewed this pressure with some concern.

Germany has neither the desire nor the capacity, however, to save the Euro on her own. She needs the support of other European powers committed to the currency, and the only one of these with any real capacity to help is France. Thus it was not surprising to read an article about Europe under the headline “Franco-German pact is key to survival” in The Australian on 1 July 2011. The article was written by Joschka Fischer, German Foreign Minister from 1998 to 2005. In it he argued that the resolution of the Euro crisis requires more not less integration in Europe – the very point that was made in the Stratfor analysis. “Germany and France, the two crucial players in this crisis, will have to devise a joint strategy, because only they, working together, can push through a solution”, he wrote.

Even more bluntly, Mr Fischer stated, “If we Europeans want to keep the Euro, we must forge ahead with political union now – otherwise, like it or not, the Euro and European integration will be undone. Europe would then lose nearly everything it has gained over a half-century of transcending nationalism. In the light of the emerging new world order, this would be a tragedy for Europeans.” There is something chilling about a leading German politician invoking Hitler’s much-used phrase “new world order”, although in this context he is clearly referring to trends emerging outside of Europe itself and in which a united Europe would be better placed to participate. Might a multi-national military foray into the Middle East fit the bill?

In early August what seem to have been somewhat baseless market rumours undermined confidence in the French economy which had serious ramifications for global share markets. In response to this crisis French President Nicolas Sarkozy interrupted his annual vacation (an extremely significant sacrifice for a Frenchman!) to return to Paris on 16 August to hold talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Some commentators described the outcomes of the summit as tentative but time may show that the decisions taken were part of a larger trend towards a major re-alignment of power in Europe.

The leaders of France and Germany proposed that the heads of the 17 nations that use the Euro as their currency should meet twice a year as a first step to institutionalising “economic government” of the Euro. They also proposed a range of financial and fiscal reforms such as tax harmonisation and better budget co-ordination. These are all consistent with the view that the debt crisis enveloping Europe can only be solved through greater political integration to reflect the economic integration that has already been effected. Because the United Kingdom has stood aloof from the Euro there would seem to be no reason why she will be a player in Germany’s and France’s efforts to strengthen the political integration of Europe. On the other hand, Russia, while not a member of the European Union, may well be very interested in these developments. Some eastern European nations occupying the space between Germany and Russia and with memories of what happened to them during and following World War 2 remain rather wary of Russia – especially in her resurgent form at present. Having seen what Russia did to Georgia in a short-lived war in 2010 their fears are justified. Some who are members of the European Union have looked to Germany and France, the two most powerful members committed to the European ideal (probably recognising that the United Kingdom is somewhat ambivalent in this regard), for a sense of security in relation to the potential threat posed by Russia. And what have they found? That Germany and France are moving ever closer to Russia!

Courting the Russians

In June, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, accompanied by his Deputy Prime Minister and his Defence Minister, visited Paris to sign a deal for two French Mistral-class amphibious assault ships. These ships will be built in France, but the deal also provides the option for a further two ships to be built in Russia. This is the most significant transfer of western military technology to Russia since World War 2. This deal is part of a wider French drive to build ties with Russia in areas like energy, military equipment and space technology. A key driver for this renewed French interest in Russia is the desire to balance the growing strength of the ties between Berlin and Moscow. The Germans have long cultivated ties with Russia. In recent times they cooperated with Russia in diplomatic efforts to resolve tensions in Moldova – the leader of Russia and the nation of Germany cooperating in territory that straddles the border between ancient Magog and Rosh. Germany also is building an advanced military training centre in Russia – just the type of facility that would facilitate military cooperation in a future joint invasion of the Middle East as outlined by Ezekiel. Germany has long relied on Russia for the supply of natural gas. The recent tsunami-induced nuclear power crisis in Japan has shaken the confidence of many nations in the long-term viability of nuclear energy. In the wake of the Japanese problems Germany made a decision to eschew any further nuclear power stations. This will only increase Germany’s dependence on Russia for her energy needs, ensuring even stronger strategic ties between the two nations. The angels are always busy in the councils of men to manipulate events in accordance with God’s plan. We see only hints of their machinations and cannot predict in detail the twists and turns that nations might make as they are positioned for the places they will play at the time of the end. What we are seeing in Germany and France today in relation to Europe and Russia is, however, entirely consistent with what Ezekiel 38 leads us to expect in the lead up to the Master’s return. As we watch and wait, let us be attuned to the urgency of our times and prepare to meet our Lord while we have the opportunity

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References

[1] Detailed discussion of the identity of Rosh, Meshech and

Tubal may be found in Bro John Allfree, Ezekiel, CSSS, pages

389 to 395. See also Bro John Thomas, Elpis Israel, The

Christadelphian, pages 424 (14th edition)

[2] Bro John Allfree, Ezekiel, pages 385 to 388 and 396 to 400.

Bro John Thomas, Elpis Israel, pages 427 to 428