In the early years of my interest in the dispensational interpretation of Bible prophecy I was captivated by the possibility that Ezekiel 38-39 predicted an imminent war against the modern state of Israel. Most of us are familiar with this prophecy, which predicts an alliance of nations coming against “My people Israel,” who have been regathered from the nations back to their homeland.
In my book Red Moon Rising my timeline hinged on connecting the events in Ezekiel 38-39 with the Rapture and the beginning of the Day of the Lord as I saw described in Revelation by the sixth Seal and first four Trumpet judgments. The parallels are there and it does seem clear that John the Revelator made conscious use of the apocalyptic descriptions found in Ezekiel 38-39. However, over the years as my study of the New Testament has deepened my faith in the literalistic dispensational model has been almost entirely shattered. I now recognize that the best interpreters of the Old Testament “kingdom” prophecies are the writers of the New Testament, and Jesus and the Apostles simply do not hold to the literalistic view upheld by dispensationalists. I now view the great sweep of the Bible’s end-times predictions more like one great parable, meant to obscure the truth just as much is it is meant to reveal the truth to sincere seekers (see Matthew 13:10-17). I am far from arriving at a dogmatic and precise view of the future such as I once held, but I do believe that I am on the right track when I connect the Great End-Time Parable with the biblical predictions of a New Exodus.
What if Jesus Christ Himself is recognized as our best Teacher of what will take place during the “End Times”? What if we made His Word our foundation, and then moved forward carefully from there? This is the position taken by Dean Davis in his book The High King of Heaven. He comes from an amillennial perspective but he shows how this is supported by the very words of Jesus. Does this mean I have completely adopted the amillennial view? No, the amillennial view is not without problems, so I don’t think I can say that. It simply means that I am no longer smug and self-assured about what I think the Bible teaches about the future. I am humble enough to expand my horizons and to give an honest look at interpretations that I once completely dismissed without a second thought, such as amillennialism.
I must say that dispensationalism, as a package, does make sense if you can accept the underlying assumptions. In the same sense amillennialism makes sense. Yet it is hard for me to completely dismiss a future earthly millennium or a future seven year tribulation. I’m still working it out…
Consider once again the predictions of Ezekiel 38-39. If we simply allow the New Testament to place this event on our future timeline many of us will arrive at the same position that is now held by Bible prophecy scholar Chris White. He says that these events must take place at the end of the earthly millennium according to Revelation 20:7-9.
Back in the 1980s and 90s it was widely taught that Ezekiel 38-39 must be pre-millennial. But that was before the Wall was built surrounding the West Bank. Here is a picture of the town of Bethlehem today:
This modern-day reality in Israel, combined with the continuous cycle of Jewish/Palestinian violence, completely contradicts any possible near-term fulfillment of Ezekiel 38-39.
Ezekiel 38:10-16 “Thus says the Lord GOD: On that day, thoughts will come into your mind, and you will devise an evil scheme (11) and say, ‘I will go up against the land of unwalled villages. I will fall upon the quiet people who dwell securely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having no bars or gates,’ (12) to seize spoil and carry off plunder, to turn your hand against the waste places that are now inhabited, and the people who were gathered from the nations, who have acquired livestock and goods, who dwell at the center of the earth. … (14) “Therefore, son of man, prophesy, and say to Gog, Thus says the Lord GOD: On that day when my people Israel are dwelling securely, will you not know it? (15) You will come from your place out of the uttermost parts of the north, you and many peoples with you, all of them riding on horses, a great host, a mighty army. (16) You will come up against my people Israel, like a cloud covering the land. In the latter days I will bring you against my land, that the nations may know me, when through you, O Gog, I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.
I know that there are many good bible scholars who do their best to explain away the present reality in Israel and still maintain a belief in the imminent fulfillment of Ezekiel 38-39. But I cannot. Forget it, the facts on the ground are simply too concrete.
Yet for me the whole thing remains an enigma, because I also recognize that the post-millennial view of Ezekiel 38-39 has major problems as well. But I am fine with that!
Perhaps those of us who have been captivated by “End Times” must pass through a period of LESS clarity on end-times events before we can receive the wisdom of God that will lead us to the truth.