The Visions and Oracles of the Prophet Ezekiel (29)
Biblical Research Monthly, January 1947 thru September 1950 — by Dr. David L. Cooper
- Some Preliminary Observations
- The Call and Commission of Ezekiel
- The Beginnings of Ezekiel's Ministry
- The Final Collapse of Judah Under the Babylonian Siege
- Jehovah's Withdrawal from the City and it's Downfall
- The Flight and Capture of the King Symbolically Represented and Warning Against a Wrong Attitude Concerning Prophecy
- Prophecy and Idolatry
- Israel, the Burnt Vine and the Unfaithful Wife
- The Riddle of the Two Great Eagles and the Messianic Reign of Christ
- God's Reply to the Proverb, “The Fathers have Eaten Sour Grapes, and the Children's Teeth are Set on Edge”
- The Young Lions and the Rods of Judah
- Israel's Past and Future Experiences
- The Sword of Jehovah
- Sinful Jerusalem and Her Punishment
- The Lewdness of Oholah and Oholibah
- The Boiling Caldron
- Oracles Concerning Ammon, Moab, Edom, and Philistia
- The Oracle Concerning Tyre
- The Oracles Concerning Egypt
- The Watchman on the Wall (Chapter 33)
- The Untrue Shepherds of Israel
- The Flock of Jehovah and its Shepherd
- The Judgment upon Edom
- The Curse Removed from the Land of Israel
- Israel's Restoration to the Land of the Fathers and Her Conversion
- The Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones
- The Scattered Nation of Israel Reunited under King Messiah
- The Overthrow of the Russian Forces that Invade Palestine (Chapter 38)
- The Overthrow of the Antichrist's Forces Invade Palestine (Chapter 39)
- The Millennial Jerusalem
- The Millennial Temple
- The Prince and the Glorified Millennial Temple
- The Land of Israel in the Millennium
The Overthrow of the Antichrist's Forces Invade Palestine (Chapter 39)
Our study this month is a continuation of the study of Russia's invasion of Palestine and the one by the Antichrist at the end of the Tribulation.
You will bear with me while I call your attention to a very important fact regarding this prophecy that is so very greatly misunderstood. Because of a misunderstanding on this point, this prophecy has been the occasion of much confusion. Remember, the trouble and difficulty is not with the Word of God, but with our failure to notice carefully what it says. May I remind you, dear friends, that if we ignore even small words, which might seem very insignificant, we may fail to get the proper slant upon a passage and thus miss its meaning. Moreover, if we are to understand the Word of God correctly, especially the prophecies, we must know the fundamental principles that underlie them.
There are two principles of prophetic interpretation recognized by all interpreters. These basic principles find an application in this prophecy. The first one is called the Law of Recurrence. Remember that name, for it will stand you in good stead as you read your Bible. The Law of Recurrence what is it? The prophet very frequently described in a general way something which he saw as being fulfilled in the future. He described what he saw, omitting, however, some details. After thus fixing in our minds the thing in a general way, he filled in the details, or added new features, that clarified the first part of his oracle.
A simple little illustration will stamp this principle indelibly upon your mind. I once saw a famous artist paint the portrait of a lady. It took him quite a time to get the light in the room right. Moreover, it took him some time to satisfy himself with her pose and the expression on her face. Finally, when every condition was satisfactory, he did what artists call “blocking-out” the portrait. In about ten minutes he had transferred to the canvas the likeness of the lady. Then to my surprise he said, “This is enough for today. When may we have the second sitting?” The date was set. At this second sitting, when everything was ready, he began to bring out more clearly certain features and to add new ones. Thus he was going over the portrait that he had blocked out at the first sitting. Remember, friends, this illustration sets before us one of the basic principles of interpreting prophecy, which is known by Bible expositors as the Law of Recurrence.
In Ezekiel, chapter 38, the prophet, in terms of my illustration, blocked out the portrait, the picture of the invasion of the land of Palestine by Russia. We saw last month that, when she does that, she meets God Almighty, who in an open and manifest way completely destroys all of the Russian forces — both those invading Palestine and those remaining at home, together with all the war potential, and the Soviet spy system throughout the world. These are the things which we saw painted into the portrait or picture at the first sitting, that is, in chapter 38.
In chapter 39:1-16 we see the work which Ezekiel, our artist, did at the second sitting, as he completed his picture.
What did he do? Or what details then did he add? He touched up in lurid colors the main feature which I discussed last time, namely, the liquidation, the annihilation of all Russia's forces — first those invading Israel. Then he added new details — the destruction of the forces in her homeland and her war potential, together with the Soviet spy system throughout the whole world. This is seen in verse 6 of chapter 39.
Another detail which Ezekiel adds in the work at the second sitting is an account by the prophet of the vast amount of combustible material that will be left on the open fields of Palestine after the invading, besieging host have been completely destroyed by the Lord. I said “combustible” material. When you read this account in the 39th chapter of Ezekiel, you will see that the prophet speaks of it as wood. Wood was the fuel for warming the homes and for the cooking of the food in the prophet's day and time. Some have erroneously thought that this passage presupposes the discontinuance by the armies of the world of modern steel weapons and a reversion to primitive weapons, bows and arrows and the like. I have been unable to see any justification for such an interpretation as this. Everyone knows that much wood is used in the boxing and the crating of the munitions of war. It is altogether possible that other material that may be burned, same as wood, will be used in the manufacture and the boxing of ammunition and other ordnance of that vast army. After its overthrow, this fuel will be left upon the open field. There will be a sufficient amount of it to supply fuel for seven years for the population that will survive that time. Let us remember that, in Palestine, very little fuel is consumed. Its climate is similar to that of Southern California. Moreover, the people are accustomed to the strictest economy in the use of fuel. Thus I have no difficulty with understanding this prophecy literally, as referring to the great amount of wood and combustible material that would be left by the destroyed armies.
Another detail is added in the work that the artist Ezekiel performs at his second sitting. This new information comes in the form of a prophecy that, for seven months, guards and groups of men will be employed in removing the dead bodies of the destroyed army and of burying them in a place east of the Jordan that will be known as Hamon-gog, or, “the company and host of God.” Men will diligently search for the bones of those whose flesh has either been eaten by the vultures or birds of prey, or has decayed. Thus ceremonially, according to the law of Moses, the land will be cleansed during a period of seven months.
Thus by reading chapter 38:1 — 39:16, that is, the entire 38th chapter and the first sixteen verses of chapter 39, we get a full and complete prophecy — all that the Lord has seen
fit to reveal to us — in this one block of Scripture. This part of the prediction will be, as we saw a week ago, fulfilled before the Tribulation, that period of judgment consisting of seven
years, following the rapture of the saints.
There is another principle of prophecy that is operative at this point in Ezekiel's prediction, which we call The Law of Double Reference. Did you ever hear of that expression — The Law of Double Reference? I'm sure you have! What does it mean? I shall be very glad to tell you — but I believe that an illustration will make it clearer, bring it into sharper focus in your mind. You have attended lantern lectures, haven't you? Yes, many times of course! There are lanterns that give what we call the “dissolving effect.” A picture is thrown upon the screen. The observer looks at it, studies it, is perhaps entranced and thrilled by it. But presently he notices that it begins to fade, to become dim, and then to vanish. At the same time there appear, indistinctly, new features that were not there at first. As the old picture fades out, the new features become clear and distinct; and presently an entirely different picture is occupying the screen. This is a perfect illustration of The Law of Double Reference. Now notice, Ezekiel, chapter 38:1 to 39:16 gives us the first portrait for a picture that is thrown upon the screen. We have already sat and looked at it and found it very absorbing.
When we begin to read at verse 17 of chapter 39, we see this first picture — the invasion of Palestine by the Russians and their complete annihilation by God Almighty himself — becoming dim. It is at this point that the dim outlines of another picture begin to appear. Do you want to see these outlines? All right, let us read Ezekiel 39:17:
And thou, son of man, thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Speak unto the birds of every sort, and to every beast of the field, Assemble yourselves, and come; gather yourselves on every side to my sacrifice that I do sacrifice for you, even a great sacrifice upon the mountains of Israel, that ye may eat flesh and drink blood.”
Here is a picture of a banquet which God prepares for the birds of the heavens, and beasts of the fields. The table is set; the invitation is given; and that which is placed before the birds and the beasts is spoken of as a sacrifice, “Even a great sacrifice upon the mountains of Israel, that ye may eat flesh and drink blood.” Such language reminds one of passages like Isaiah, chapter 34, verses 6 and 7. But we find language almost identical to this in Revelation 19:17,18. Here it is:
And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in mid heaven, Come and be gathered together unto the great supper of God; 18 that ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses and of them that sit thereon, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, and small and great.”
Since Ezekiel in this passage is speaking of something that is out in the future — something that obviously has never come to pass — and since John, in the passage from Revelation which I have just read, uses similar language to describe the Lord's slaughtering the armies of the kings of the world under the leadership of the Antichrist, we here obtain a possible clue to the interpretation of Ezekiel 39:17-29. When we read the 18th verse, we see the picture more clearly: “Ye shall eat the flesh of the mighty, and drink the blood of the princes of the earth.”
Here we see the destruction by the Lord of an international force: “Ye shall eat the flesh of the mighty, and drink the blood of the princes of the earth.” The princes of the earth, all of them, are in this picture. A realization of this point is absolutely necessary. Remember that, in 38:1 — 39:16, the prophet has been talking about the invasion of Palestine by the nations behind the iron curtain — a local operation — and of their being destroyed directly by the Lord. Beginning with verse 17 of chapter 39, on the contrary, we have a prophecy concerning the overthrow of an international force by the Lord God himself.
Confirmation of this position and further light may be gleaned from verse 21. “And I will set my glory among the nations; and all the nations shall see my judgment that I have executed, and my hand that I have laid upon them. So the house of Israel shall know that I am Jehovah their God, from that day and forward.”
From the flow of thought we see that, after the destruction of this inter-national force which invades Palestine, God sets His glory among the nations and all peoples see His judgment that He has executed upon this international force, the armies of the Antichrist.
What is meant by God's setting His glory among the nations? When this statement is read in the light of others of the Sacred Word, it becomes apparent that the prophet was talking about the Messiah, who is the glory of the invisible God, and who will appear upon earth to reign in the city of Jerusalem for a thousand years, over all the earth — among all nations. God thus sets His glory among the nations by our Lord's return and by His creating Jerusalem the joy of the whole earth.
Further information that assists us in identifying this prophecy is found in verse 22: “So the house of Israel shall know that I am Jehovah their God, from that day and forward.'' From what day? From the day of God's destroying this international force that will invade Palestine and that will be overthrown by the Lord himself. When this passage is laid beside Revelation, chapters 19 and 20, a person can see that Ezekiel, in the latter half of chapter 39, was speaking of the same thing, namely, the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ at the end of the Tribulation. His destroying the forces of the Antichrist, and of His establishing His reign of righteousness upon the earth. The two passages run parallel and are unmistakably predictions of the same events.
When we look at Ezekiel 39:25 we see still further confirmation:
Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah:
Now will I bring back the captivity of Jacob,
and have mercy upon the whole house of Israel;
and I will be jealous for my holy name.”
At that time the Lord will complete the second restoration of His people as He brings them back from among the nations where they have been scattered throughout the Christian centuries, and they will be established in their own land. The Lord will bring the judgments of the Tribulation upon the world, and especially upon Israel, in order to break the power of the Holy People (Daniel 12:7), with this purpose in view, that they will repudiate all of their sins, especially their national sin of rejecting Him, and will plead for Him to return. When they do this, they will be restored to their own land and become the head of the nations, instead of being the tail as they are now.
With this little survey of this most interesting and informative prophecy, we have seen the two pictures thrown by the inspiration of the Spirit upon the canvas before us: the invasion of Palestine by the forces of Gog, the nations behind the iron curtain, and their being overthrown, which mighty catastrophic event occurs before the Tribulation. We have seen the invasion of the land of Palestine at the end of the Tribulation by the Antichrist and all of his hosts, which are overthrown at the very end of the Tribulation. Thus the two invasions and their overthrow by divine interposition are blended in these two chapters.
If the reader wishes to pursue this little study further, read such a passage as Zechariah, chapter 14. There you see the invasion of Palestine by the armies of the world, Jehovah's appearing, and His feet standing at that day upon the Mount of Olives, at which time He completely destroys all of these nations. Then there will dawn a new day — that day which is compared to a cloudless day after a rain, with its clear shining: (II Samuel 23:4).
Friends, we who know God in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, who have washed our robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, have every occasion to rejoice in the revelations which God has given to us in His Word. We may be in the minority now, we may be numbered among those who are accounted as the offscouring of the earth, but then — when He comes — it will be seen that we are on the winning side. Then the glory of the Eternal One will burst forth upon the world from which the curse will be snatched by the power of the Lord Jesus Christ. At that time He will establish His reign of righteousness, peace, and justice upon the earth. For this coming day, we most ardently look.