Category: End-time Nations


Many students of Bible prophecy consider Revelation 16:12–16 to possibly refer to China in the end times:

“The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East. Then . . . demonic spirits that perform signs . . . go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty. . . . Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon” (Revelation 16:12–16).

This passage predicts a massive, climactic conflict known as the Battle of Armageddon. It occurs at the end of the tribulation, after the sixth bowl judgment. At that time, the Euphrates River will be dried up, allowing the “kings from the East” to invade the Near East and march toward Israel. It is the “kings from the East” identification that many associate with China. The Chinese army, or a Chinese-led coalition, will take advantage of the removal of a natural barrier and sweep westward to meet up with the forces of the Antichrist.

When the end-times’ force from China joins with the armies of the Antichrist, the seventh and final bowl judgment will be poured out. The Lord Jesus will return, the most violent earthquake ever will shake the world, and the forces of the Antichrist and the armies of the East will be destroyed (Revelation 16:17–20; 19:11–21).

It is impossible to know for sure if the Eastern confederacy of the end times will include China; however, it seems likely that China will be involved. Recent years have seen a dramatic rise in China’s power and influence. The development of enormous military strength; intimidation of Hong Kong, Tibet, Taiwan, and other regions; pursuit of global economic dominance; aggressive rhetoric on the world stage; and, of course, the persecution of Chinese Christians—all this has been characteristic of China. It is not hard to imagine that the “kings from the East” who one day march into Israel will include China.

Some people identify another battle, mentioned earlier in Revelation, as a prophecy of China in the end times. The association hinges on the mention of an army of 200 million (Revelation 9:16) and occasional reports of China’s capability of equipping such a vast army. There are a couple problems with this view. One is that Revelation 9 says nothing of an army from the East; rather, it speaks of a demonic horde that destroys a third of mankind. The “horses” these beings ride are definitely not normal horses (verse 17). Also, the battle of Revelation 9 occurs after the sixth trumpet judgment; the battle of Revelation 16 involving the kings of the East occurs after the sixth bowl judgment, probably about three and a half years later.

In the end times, many nations, likely including China, will try their hand at conquest. Ultimately, their fight will be against God. The tribulation will be a tumultuous time of warfare, disasters, and divine judgment. But God has it all under control, as Psalm 2:2–6 assures:

“The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
‘Let us break their chains
and throw off their shackles.’
The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
the Lord scoffs at them.
He rebukes them in his anger
and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
‘I have installed my king
on Zion, my holy mountain.’”

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There are several biblical prophecies of the end times that mention Iran, called Persia or Elam in the Bible. Given the fact that Iran is often in the news as a nation seeking armaments (possibly nuclear) and repeatedly issuing threats against Israel, students of Bible prophecy are taking note.

Iran does have a role to play in the end times, but, first, a little history of Iran and its neighborhood, as it relates to biblical history. Jeremiah prophesied that Elam, a nation east of Babylon, west of Persia, and south of Media, would be conquered and then rise to power again (Jeremiah 49:34–39). True to that prophecy, Babylon conquered Elam in 596 BC. But then Persia, under Cyrus the Great, took control of that area, and the Elamites and Medes became part of the Persian Empire. The Medo-Persian Empire ascended to power and conquered Babylon in 539 BC, fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 21:2. This happened during the time of Daniel (Daniel 5); in fact, Daniel later resided “in the province of Elam” in Persia (Daniel 8:2). Persia is the setting for the book of Esther and the first part of Nehemiah.

Alexander the Great’s conquests put an end to Persia as a world power, fulfilling the prophecy of Daniel 8. In the following centuries, Persia was ruled by the Seleucids, the Parthians, the Sassanians, the Romans, the Byzantines, and finally, in AD 636, the Muslims. In 1501, the state of Iran was founded.

In the New Testament, men from Iran are mentioned indirectly as “Parthians, Medes and Elamites” were present in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:9). All three of these people groups were Jews who lived in the area of ancient Persia, modern-day Iran, and they were present in Jerusalem to witness the birth of the church.

Iran’s involvement in the end times will be as one of the nations involved in the battle of Gog and Magog, which probably occurs during the first half of the tribulation. Ezekiel 38:5 specifically mentions Persia as an ally of Magog/Russia. Other nations included in this coalition will be Sudan, Turkey, Libya, and others. This vast army will come against Israel, who at that time will be “a peaceful and unsuspecting people” (verse 11).

The outcome of this end-times invasion is predicted: God supernaturally intervenes, and Gog’s coalition is utterly destroyed. “On the mountains of Israel you will fall, you and all your troops and the nations with you. I will give you as food to all kinds of carrion birds and to the wild animals” (Ezekiel 39:4–5). Iran, allied with Russia, will think their invasion of Israel is a sure victory, but God has different plans. In protecting Jerusalem, God will send a strong message to the world: “I will make known my holy name among my people Israel. I will no longer let my holy name be profaned, and the nations will know that I the Lord am the Holy One in Israel” (verse 7).

As civil war rages in Syria and other nations ponder potential involvement, some Bible teachers believe we can see biblical end-times prophecy unfolding right before our eyes. The Middle East is a religious-political powder keg and has been for years, but the Syrian Crisis seems to be making the situation that much more explosive. Because of Syria’s proximity to Israel, Egypt’s troubles, Iran’s threats, and the United States’ ultimatums, there is talk of the end times, Armageddon, and World War III.

It is true that, with every passing day, we draw closer to the Second Coming of Christ (James 5:8). And the prophecy of Isaiah 17:1 has yet to be fulfilled: “A prophecy against Damascus: ‘See, Damascus will no longer be a city but will become a heap of ruins.’” Damascus, the capital of Syria, has a longstanding reputation for being the oldest continuously occupied city in the world. It has never been without citizens or totally destroyed. But Isaiah’s prophecy still stands; there is coming a day when Damascus will be nothing but a “heap of ruins.” The current war in Syria could indeed be one of the events leading up to the capital’s destruction.

There are other verses in the Bible tethered to Isaiah 17:1, but the idea of a ruinous heap suggests that not one building is left standing in Damascus. The city will no longer be a city. Some students of prophecy believe a nuclear bomb could be the means of fulfilling this prophecy; others suggest the possibility of an earthquake. Regardless of exactly how or when it happens, two things we know for sure: God is sovereign and His Word will stand (Isaiah 40:8).

There is much unrest in the Middle East, and the war in Syria is capturing the attention of the whole world. However, this particular conflict, even if it expands to other nations, cannot be associated with Armageddon. That battle occurs near the end of the Tribulation, during the bowl judgments, as the nations of the earth gather to fight against the Lord (Revelation 16:12–16). The war in Syria, if it is indeed part of end-times prophecy, is more likely part of the “birth pains” described in Mark 13:7–8.

In 700 BC, Isaiah wrote of the demise of Damascus. Today, 2,700 years later, many believe that we are close to seeing that long-standing prophecy fulfilled. However chaotic the events on the world stage appear, we know that all things are working toward the fulfillment of God’s Word.

“The Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17)—are you ready for His coming?

With Russia back in the news in a big way, many people are wondering if recent events in eastern Europe have anything to do with end-times prophecy—and, if so, how? Much of the discussion has to do with an ancient prophecy from Ezekiel: “The word of the Lord came to me: ‘Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshek and Tubal; prophesy against him and say: “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against you, Gog, chief prince of Meshek and Tubal”’” (Ezekiel 38:1–3). The identities of “Gog,” “Magog,” “Meshek,” and “Tubal” are the key to fully understanding the prophecy.

Gog is a person. Whoever Gog is, he is from the land of Magog and is the leader of Tubal and Meshek (some translations add “Rosh” to the list) and a confederacy of other nations: Persia, Cush, Put, Gomer, and Beth Togarmah (Ezekiel 38:5–6). And, whoever he is, he will have plans to “attack a peaceful and unsuspecting people,” viz., Israel (verses 11, 14, and 18). But, regardless of Gog’s plans, the Lord God is against him and will defeat him soundly (Ezekiel 38:4, 19–23; 39:3–5).

Magog is a land “in the far north,” from Israel’s point of view (Ezekiel 38:15; 39:2). Most Bible commentators interpret “Magog” as Russia—and, indeed, Russia is straight north of Israel, all the way up to the Arctic Circle. According to this view, “Rosh” is a reference to Russia, “Meshek” is either Moscow or the people north of the Black Sea (the area of southern Russia and Ukraine), and “Tubal,” which is always listed with Meshek in Scripture, is identified as a city in Siberia or an area in central Turkey.

Others see “Magog” as a general term used in Ezekiel’s day to identify barbarians living near the Black and Caspian Seas. Regardless of the exact locations of Magog, Tubal, and Meshek, there is no doubt that the general area includes portions of Russia and the former Soviet Union, and possibly some Arab countries.

So, yes, the Bible does mention Russia, although not by that name, in connection with the end times. Ezekiel 38—39 definitely refer to a nation coming from northern Asia to attack Israel. After the Cold War, Russia lost its superpower status, making the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy seem unlikely in some people’s eyes. However, recent events have shown that Russia is gaining strength, and many believe that the invasion of Crimea is just a first step in Russia’s plan to restore its dominance in that hemisphere. It is also interesting to note that, in the Soviet era, Moscow was solidly aligned with several Muslim countries in opposition to Israel. Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russia has continued to make overtures to the Muslim world.

According to the Bible, there will come a time when Russia, in alliance with several other countries, will amass a huge army against Israel, with a view to plunder the Jews’ land. The nations aligned with Russia for this military endeavor are Persia (modern-day Iran), Put (modern-day Sudan), Cush (modern-day Libya), Gomer (part of modern-day Turkey), and Beth Togarmah (another portion of modern-day Turkey or possibly Syria). Most of these nations are currently militant Islamic states with an express hatred of Israel. Ezekiel says that, when the aggressors move against Israel, a few other nations (“Sheba and Dedan and the merchants of Tarshish”) will remonstrate, as will “all her villages”—possibly colonies (Ezekiel 38:13). Sheba and Dedan are associated with areas of northern Africa. Tarshish could be a reference to Spain (which colonized much of South America), Britain (which colonized the United States), or somewhere in eastern Africa. The objections to Magog’s aggression will fall on deaf ears, however, and the invasion will continue.

Some commentators believe this war is one of the events leading up to beginning of the tribulation. Others believe it will occur close to the midpoint of the tribulation, since Israel will be “dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates” (Ezekiel 38:11)—in other words, Israel will feel secure at that time, possibly because of the covenant they have signed with the Antichrist (Daniel 9:27). Either way, this battle is distinct from the Battle of Armageddon, which occurs at the end of the tribulation.

God promises to destroy Gog’s army: “I will execute judgment on him with plague and bloodshed; I will pour down torrents of rain, hailstones and burning sulfur on him and on his troops and on the many nations with him” (Ezekiel 38:22). The bodies of the fallen army of Magog will be buried, but it will take over seven months to complete the macabre task (Ezekiel 39:12, 14). This supernatural judgment will have the effect of preserving Israel and turning many hearts to God: “And so I will show my greatness and my holiness, and I will make myself known in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 38:23). Many will be saved during the tribulation (Revelation 7), and the fulfillment of Ezekiel 38—39 will be one means by which God will bring people to a knowledge of Himself.

There is much we do not know for certain about Ezekiel’s prophecy, including the timing of these events. However, it is clear that Russia will be involved and will in fact lead an end-times league of nations to seize Israel’s land. The prophet Ezekiel comforts Israel in much the same way as Moses had centuries ago: “The LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory” (Deuteronomy 20:4).