Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Pets in Heaven? 3 Views: No

Nathan JonesPDFBy Nathan Jones

Rolph, named for the "rolph!" sound he made when barking, was my boyhood pet dog. I found the stray puppy outside our home on a spaghetti night and skipped the meal to make a new best friend. He grew up to be a big, lovable part of the family.

With nearly half of the homes in the U.S. having pets according to a 2004 ABCNews/Beliefnet poll, this question is a bone chewed on by many pet lovers. Nearly 9 in 10 of those surveyed believe there is a Heaven. When the poll went on to ask if pets also go to Heaven, 43% responded yes, 40% responded no and 17% were undecided.

Many authors and theologians have also chased their tails over this topic. An entire book titled Will My Pet Go to Heaven? has been written, and even the famed Christian writer Randy Alcorn devoted a whole chapter to answering the question in his book Heaven.

Before continuing, let's shift the focus from pets to all animals. We should even include insects, amoebas, bacteria, plants and all other living things to be fair. Just because we make an animal a pet doesn't grant it an exclusive status over the rest of the animal kingdom. So, the question we should be really asking is not whether our pets go to Heaven, but whether every living creature ever created is going to Heaven.

So, what does the Bible say about non-human living creatures going to Heaven? Well, nothing outright.

Supporters of animals going to Heaven look to the picturesque Isaiah 11. "The wolf will live with the lamb... and a little child will lead them" (Isa. 11:6). A scene of peace and tranquility, taken in context, Isaiah is describing a state of harmony during Jesus' upcoming earthly reign. It is not a scene from the afterlife.

Supporters also go to Ecclesiastes 3:18-21. "Man's fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other" (Ecc. 3:19a). Taken in context along with Ecclesiastes 3:11b, "He has also set eternity in the hearts of men," this chapter is describing physical death in a meaningless world and states that mankind alone lives forever past the grave.

If animals were to go to Heaven, that would also beg the question whether animals go to Hell. Would animals that had mauled people, stung babies and killed children go to Hell? What about viruses and diseases, as they are also part of the Creation? My wife has had some parakeets that I'm sure if there was a Hell for animals they'd be there!

The Bible makes these points very clear. Mankind is made special in God's image: "So God created man in his own image" (Gen. 1:27a). Animals are a food source (Gen. 9:3). When sin entered the world, all of creation fell under a death sentence (Gen. 3:14; 6:7; Rom. 8:20). The only reprieve to escape eternal death has been offered to mankind alone through Jesus Christ (Isa. 53:5; Tit. 2:11; Heb. 9:28). And, only the Church experiences the Rapture to become the Bride of Christ (Jn. 14:1-4; 1 Cor. 15:51-58; 1 Thes. 4:13-18; Rev. 19:7-9).

The Bible clearly indicates that in the very end the Creation will be restored to the condition of the Garden of Eden. It will be filled with animals, possibly even ones based on extinct species or new ones mankind has never seen. Maybe God will even allow some of them to be cared for as pets. But, will Heaven and the New Earth be populated by all the creatures that ever existed, including pets? I don't think the Bible supports such a conclusion.

We do love our animals. But, before you spend another dime on a can of gourmet cat food, remember the third-world child eating dirt. Which does the Lord love more and want you showing His compassion with your time and money? "So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows" (Matt. 10:31).

Monday, March 30, 2009

Pets in Heaven? 3 Views: Maybe

Dr. David R. ReaganPDFBy Dr. David R. Reagan

Some are convinced that animals go to Heaven, and maybe they're right. The eternal fate of animals is a question the Bible does not directly answer.

God loves His creation, including the animals, and He is determined to restore all of creation — both the plant and animal kingdoms — to the original perfection they enjoyed before being corrupted by the sin of Man.

Jesus died not only to redeem Mankind, but to redeem the creation. This was emphasized prophetically in the Hebrew Scriptures in two ways. First, it was taught symbolically. When the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies once a year to sprinkle blood on the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant, the book of Leviticus tells us that he would take a step back and sprinkle some of the blood on the ground in front of the Ark (Lev. 16:15).

Why did he do this? The blood on the mercy seat was a prophecy that one day the blood of the Messiah would make it possible for the grace of God to cover the law of God (the tablets of law rested in the Ark under the lid called the mercy seat). The blood on the ground was a prophecy that the sacrifice of the Messiah would also make it possible for God to lift the curse that rests on creation and redeem all of it to its original perfection.

We know for certain that animals will exist on earth during the millennial reign of Jesus (Isa. 11:6-9), and we are told that all animals will become herbivorous once again. The wolf will lie down with the lamb. The lion will eat straw with the ox. A little child will play in the cobra's hole because the cobra will no longer be poisonous (Isa. 11:8). I have a picture of the "peaceable kingdom" hanging behind my desk. It shows a little boy in a white robe walking down a road with a lion on a leash. The lion will be a pet instead of a threat.

The Bible tells us very little about the eternal state that will follow our Lord's millennial reign. All we know is that the redeemed will live in new bodies on a new earth in the presence of Almighty God, serving Him and experiencing intimate fellowship with Him. The book of Revelation says we will "see his face" (Rev. 22:4). Animals are not mentioned in the eternal context.

But that does not mean they will be absent. I suspect that one of the many delightful surprises God will give to the redeemed will be the joyful companionship of the pets they knew and loved here on this earth. I hope so.


In the next of this "Pets in Heaven?" series, we'll look at the answer "No."

Friday, March 27, 2009

Pets in Heaven? 3 Views: Yes

Nathan JonesPDFBy Nathan Jones

I was zipping through the TV channels in the typical male fashion the other night and came to a screeching halt (more like a crash, really) on Jack Van Impe's television show "Jack Van Impe Presents." In the 2-3 seconds I give per channel, hearing the words "your pets will definitely be waiting for you in Heaven" caused my rapid channel changing to immediately cease.

What actually did feel like watching a car crash, I was frozen spellbound as Jack and his wife continued to explain that everyone's Rex, Fluffy and Mojo that had ever died now reside in the hearafter, ready to pick up the ball once more and play with their old masters. They then presenting a video they had made that supposedly proves everyone's pets are waiting for them in the afterlife, and stated that over 500 noted theologians agree with them.

Can this be true — are my dearly departed pets waiting for me up in Heaven? And if so, what kinds of theological problems do I now have to contend with? What if not just pets, but every animal, tree and microbe that ever lived since Creation is waiting for me in Heaven as well? Will the New Earth be big enough to house all of these creatures? Am I going to have to share my heavenly mansion with cows and chickens and rhinos and things? Are animals also going to be raptured, as every fish I've ever owned and snakes and squids and aardvarks fly up with me to meet Jesus in the clouds? And on the flip-side, shouldn't animals that trample people, sting babies and devour children go to Hell?

All I had wanted to do was cool my brain watching that cute Shaun the Sheep, and instead my mind was left racing over whether Shaun has a soul or not. (Well, actually, Shaun is claymation, so at least that problem's solved.)

Because of the afterlife and eschatological boondoggles the Van Impe's had put me in, I decided to seek answers by watching a "Christ in Prophecy" Dr. Reagan had made a few years back based on a letter from Michelle Shannon of Houston, Texas, titled Will Our Pets Be in Heaven? Mrs. Shannon has done a lot of good research into the subject of whether pets go to Heaven, and has written the following article in support of the view that, yes, pets do go to Heaven.


View #1: Yes

Our dog, Sable, died when she was just over 9 years old.

We had taken her to the vet just six days earlier and a tumor was found. But the vet said she was otherwise in great health. So, we decided to have the tumor removed after our camping trip that weekend.

When we returned Sunday, Sable was dying. She struggled to greet my husband, Steve, and then slumped down, breathing laboriously. She would not get up again.

We knew she would not make it through the night, so we stayed with her, gently stroking her fur and scratching her favorite places, until she was gone — just before midnight.

What a blessing it was to us to be able to be there for her in her last moments. We are greatly comforted that she was not alone.


Seeking an Explanation

It's been a long time since we lost a pet. This time, though, we had a 5-year-old who would need an explanation. But, we knew what to say. It would be "easy," regardless of our tears because we ourselves believed what we would say: "Yes, honey, Sable is in heaven with the Lord Jesus, and He is taking great care of her. And, yes, one day we will see her again."

Over the past few years, it has been very disappointing to hear what other Christians have to say about animal death. One source said, in referring to the New Earth (our eternal abode), "there will be no animals at all..." Another said, "The Bible does not give us any reason to say yes to the question of whether or not a pet goes to heaven."

Well, I have a problem with these conclusions. While it is true that the Bible is about Man, not animals, and that there is much about animals we are not told, God has given us just enough to comfort us.

God cares for the animals He created:

  • Revelation 4:11 tells us that all things were created for God's pleasure.

  • Matthew 10:29 says that even when a little sparrow falls to the ground, God notices.

  • Luke 12:6 says that God never forgets about the animals.

  • Psalm 104:21-30 and Matthew 6:26 describe how God Himself feeds the animals.

  • Proverbs 12:10 declares that a righteous man cares for the needs of his animals.

  • Job 12:10 assures us that "In His hand is the life of every creature."

Man's sin brought death and suffering to animals. God had decreed in Genesis 1:29-30 that green plants and fruit were to be the diet for all creatures. People and animals alike were to be strictly herbivores. Carnivorous activity necessitates death and suffering, which, of course, in the beginning, would have had no part in the beautiful creation God had called "very good" (Genesis 1:25).

Man was given the responsibility of serving as overseer of the animals. In fact, it wasn't until after the flood experienced by Noah that animals became afraid of people (Genesis 9:2). When Man chose to rebel against God, Man brought down not only himself but also all those for whom he was responsible. In Genesis 3:17 God told Adam: "Cursed is the ground because of you..." According to Hosea 4:3 this curse affected animals too: "Because of [the sins of Man], the land mourns, and... the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the fish of the sea are dying." Paul confirmed this in Romans 8:20 when he wrote: "For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it..."

But there is good news! Animals share in and even look forward to the redemption of Mankind accomplished by Jesus on the Cross. Because God cares for His animal creations, as seen above, they also reap the benefits of the redeeming Cross of Jesus. When He returns, the creation will be restored to its original "very good" state, and carnivorous activity will cease. This promise is found in Isaiah 11:6-11 where God says, "the wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox... They will neither harm nor destroy on all My holy mountain for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord..." (Isaiah 65:25).

In his allegorical book, The Great Divorce, C. S. Lewis gives us a beautiful picture of a redeemed lady arriving in Heaven with a glorious processional of animals. An observer asks his angelic teacher:

"And how... but hullo! What are all these animals? A cat — two cats — dozens of cats. And all those dogs... why, I can't count them. And the birds. And the horses."

"They are her beasts."

"Did she keep a sort of zoo? I mean, this is a bit too much."

"Every beast and bird that came near her had its place in her love. In her they became themselves. And now the abundance of life she has in Christ from the Father flows over into them."

I looked at my teacher in amazement.

"Yes," he said. "It is like when you throw a stone into a pool, and the concentric waves spread out further and further. Who knows where it will end? Redeemed humanity is still young, it has hardly come to its full strength. But already there is joy enough in the little finger of a great saint such as yonder lady to waken all the dead things of the universe into life."1

And, so, Sable, we know exactly where you are... in the caring palm of your Maker, bringing Him the pleasure for which you were created.

We look forward to seeing you in our processional.


Notes

  1. C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996), pp. 106-107.


In the next of this "Pets in Heaven?" series, we'll look at the answer "Maybe."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Dave Wilkersons Visions

Dr. David R. ReaganPDFBy Dr. David R. Reagan

Dave Wilkerson, the pastor of Times Square Church in New York City, has spoken out once again concerning God's impending judgment upon this country.

He has called on Americans to stock food and water in preparation for "an earth-shattering calamity" that will cause even the most godliest among us to tremble. Once again, as he has done several times before, he tells of visions he has experienced in which he has seen New York City burning, as well as other major cities across the United States.

Many have called or written to ask what I think of Wilkerson's alarming warning.

First, let me say that I have the highest respect for Dave Wilkerson. His track record over the years of service in the Lord's Kingdom has shown beyond doubt that he is a man mightily anointed by God's Spirit. The accomplishments of his amazing ministry in New York City are beyond human capability.

And although he is a Pentecostal, he has spent a good portion of his ministry speaking out against the emotional excesses and doctrinal errors of both the Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements.

I personally began supporting Dave Wilkerson's ministry in 1974 and have continued to do so to this day, for 35 years, by sending him a donation each month. It is the only ministry I have supported that long. After the 9/11 attacks, our ministry raised over $30,000 for emergency relief, and we sent all the money to Dave Wilkerson's church.

For years Wilkerson was the darling of the Pentecostal Movement because of the fame that came his way through his remarkable book, The Cross and the Switchblade — the story of how God worked through him to convert one of the violent gang leaders of New York City.

But in 1974, many Pentecostals and Charismatics washed their hands of him because he published a hard-hitting book called The Vision in which he condemned the sins of America, called the nation to repentance, and warned of God's coming judgment if we failed to repent. He was immediately condemned as a "doom and gloom" prophet. Those church leaders who were seeking pillow-prophets with only a positive message decided to pull Wilkerson's books from their church book stores. And the non-Pentecostal and non-Charismatic community wrote him off as some sort of nut case.

Since that time his distracters have harped over and over on two points: 1) His visions concerning America's destruction have not come true, and 2) There is no need for prophetic words apart from the Bible.

My first response to these criticisms is to point out that seldom ever did the prophecies of biblical prophets come true in their lifetimes. For example, many of the prophecies of Isaiah, such as those pertaining to Babylon, did not come true until 150 years after his death. Some were fulfilled 700 years later during the lifetime of Jesus. And most are still waiting for fulfillment 2,700 years later and will not be fulfilled until Jesus returns.

My second point is that the Bible teaches that God never pours out His wrath on a nation without warning, and He warns in two ways — through prophetic voices and remedial judgments.

I believe Dave Wilkerson is God's Jeremiah to the United States, and I believe we should pay close attention to his warnings. Wilkerson believes that our nation has reached the critical point where God has decided — because of our continuing stubborn rebellion — to deliver us from judgment to destruction.

The Bible says that in the end times God will give visions to many people, both male and female, young and old (Joel 2:28-29). All such visions must be tested against the Word. The visions God has given to Dave Wilkerson showing our major cities burning, with civil rioting in the streets, do not violate any biblical principle. In fact, such destruction and rioting could be the product of any of the end time scenarios I have outlined for America in my book, America the Beautiful? The United States in Bible Prophecy.

I think Wilkerson's warnings are biblically sound. I think we should heed his warnings to prepare for the worst, and I believe we should respond to his call to pray as we have never prayed before for our nation and our leaders.

We need to pray also for our churches. We are living on the threshold of the Tribulation. Jesus is at the very gates of Heaven waiting for His Father's command to return. The signs of the times are shouting from the heavens that our time is short. Yet, the average church is totally oblivious to the fact that we are living on borrowed time. Rather than preaching repentance, the preaching is focused on feel-good themes in response to the desire of people to have their ears tickled.

I am not a Pentecostal or a Charismatic, but I am a person who knows God's Prophetic Word and how God deals with nations. Dave Wilkerson's warnings are right on target, and we would be foolish to dismiss them out of hand. I praise God for Wilkerson's courage to proclaim an unpopular message. He is being crucified in the press — even by Evangelicals. That's exactly what happened to Jeremiah, except that his people tried to go one step further by attempting to kill him. True prophets are never popular.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Timing Gog-Magog: Final Analysis

Nathan JonesPDFBy Nathan Jones

In this series of articles called Timing Gog-Magog, we are looking to the Bible to discover when the great battle the prophet Ezekiel described in Ezekiel 38 and 39 is going to take place.

The Gog-Magog Battle involves a coalition of nations led by a ruler from the ancient lands once covered by the former Soviet Union and modern-day Turkey which consist of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Russia, Turkey, Iran, Sudan, Libya, and possibly Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Algeria and Tunisia. They are united in their fervor to loot and destroy Israel. The invading coalition comes to the mountains of Israel to discover not an easy victory, but a setup by God who utterly destroys them with unearthly weather. The supernatural defeat of the invading hordes reveals to the world that God is real and indeed protects the nation of Israel. Israel spends the next seven months burying the dead invaders and seven years expending the leftover fuel and weapons.

In review, we analyzed the Battle and looked into the history books and determined that Ezekiel's reference to Rosh is modern-day Russia. Ezekiel's General Timing Clues were listed to demonstrate that the Gog-Magog Battle is yet future. We also looked at the two views that place the battle before the Tribulation, the two views that place the battle during the Tribulation, and the three views that place the battle in relation to the Millennial reign of Jesus Christ. In our study we utilized what I believe is the best written book on the subject — Northern Storm Rising by Dr. Ron Rhodes.

I'll conclude this series by analyzing the views and stating when I believe the Gog-Magog Battle will take place.

Let me go on the record, though, by stating that I am not dogmatic about this end time topic, nor should anyone be. The study of the end times (eschatology) is non-primary. Since God has given mankind merely an overview of His future plans, He has left us with nothing concrete enough to pinpoint the exact timing, probably so that we Christians will not just sit quietly by, but get out there and witness with all our energy until the Lord's return. The study and debate over when the Gog-Magog Battle will take place should never divide the brethren.


Analyzing the Views

Each of the Gog-Magog Battle timing views appear to revolve around dealing with two yet-to-be fulfilled key prerequisites:

  1. Israel is in a state of unsuspecting peace before the invasion (Ezek. 38:11).

  2. Israel has the seven months to bury the dead invaders bodies (Ezek. 39:12-16) and the whole seven years to expend the leftover fuel and weapons (Ezek. 39:9).

The three views that time the Gog-Magog Battle in relation to the Millennium do great justice to the first prerequisite in putting Israel at a time of peace due to Jesus' victory and reign, but cannot overcome the obstacles of the second prerequisite. With Jesus having subjected all His enemies before the start of the Millennium, there would be no invaders to invade. With no invaders, there are no bodies to bury nor weapons to burn.

The best of the three Millennial views is the one placing the timing at the end of the Millennial Kingdom, which Revelation 20:7-8 describes as an uprising of unbelievers born during the Millennium that are led be Satan to his final defeat. While there are some similarities to Ezekiel's account of the Gog-Magog Battle, the dissimilarities prove Ezekiel is talking about a different Gog-Magog Battle than the battle the Apostle John is describing. I agree that John's use of "Gog" and "Magog" in Revelation 20 is more likely to draw a comparison between Ezekiel's Gog-Magog Battle as a type of what the battle will be like at the end of the Millennial Kingdom.

For the two views that place the timing during the Tribulation, they both wrestle with the same prerequisites.

Like the view that proposes Ezekiel's Gog-Magog Battle is the uprising of Satan at the end of the Millennial Kingdom, the view that places the timing at the end of the Tribulation proposes that Ezekiel's Gog-Magog Battle is Armageddon. While similarities exist between Gog-Magog and Armageddon, their differences far outweigh their similarities. Also, placing the battle at the end of the Tribulation violates the first prerequisite that Israel is living in peace, a condition which would be impossible under the intense persecution by the Antichrist and Israel's subsequent flight into the desert.

Placing the timing at the beginning, but not by the middle, of the Tribulation gives Israel the seven months to bury the dead invaders and the full seven years to burn the fuel if they have a reserve of it where they flee to. This view would need then to settle the peaceful condition of Israel by resting it on either the peace covenant with the Antichrist (Dan. 9:27) or a Psalm 83 subjugation of Israel's surrounding hostile neighbors.

The two views that place the timing of the Gog-Magog Battle before the Tribulation can perfectly grant the time needed to burn the weapons — the full seven years if the Jews have a reserve of it where they flee to, or at least 3 1/2 years before the Tribulation to the middle of the Tribulation before the Jews flee. But, since the Tribulation begins with the peace covenant between the Antichrist and Israel, the only viable scenario for a peaceful prerequisite would be a Psalm 83 fulfillment or to take Ezekiel's description of Israel being at peace to mean they're militarily secure, which with the world's fourth largest military they are today.

As we can see, all the views struggle over some issue.


My View

Which view one holds probably rests more on what one sees is the view that provides the most logical answers to the prerequisites. To me, timing the Gog-Magog Battle just before or at the very beginning of the Tribulation can best fulfill these prerequisites and makes the most logical sense in my mind.

This is how I see the timeline most likely playing out:

  1. The Rapture of the Church removes the Restrainer.

  2. Israel subjugates their surrounding neighbors in fulfillment of Psalm 83.

  3. The Gog-Magog Battle destroys the Russian and Muslim influence in the Middle East, makes the world aware of God's presence, and restores Israel's belief in the God of the Torah.

  4. The Antichrist conquers what's left of the Middle East and makes a peace covenant with Israel to complete the Revived Roman Empire.

  5. Israel spends the seven years of the Tribulation burning the weapons.

  6. Jesus returns at the end of the seven years to defeat His enemies at Armageddon resulting in Israel acknowledging that Jesus is God's Son.

  7. Jesus gathers the people from all over the world for the Sheep/Goat Judgment, which results in only believers entering the Millennial Kingdom.

Time will tell when the Gog-Magog Battle will truly take place. But, the players are already in place and the scene is just about all set for this epic battle to be waged in the not-too-distant future.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Timing Gog-Magog: Millennial Kingdom

Nathan JonesPDFBy Nathan Jones

In this series of articles called Timing Gog-Magog, we are looking to the Bible to discover when the great battle the prophet Ezekiel described in Ezekiel 38 and 39 is going to take place.

To recap, the Gog-Magog Battle involves a coalition of nations led by a ruler from the ancient lands once covered by the former Soviet Union and modern-day Turkey which consist of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Russia, Turkey, Iran, Sudan, Libya, and possibly Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Algeria and Tunisia. They are united in their fervor to loot and destroy Israel. The invading coalition comes to the mountains of Israel to discover not an easy victory, but a setup by God who utterly destroys them with unearthly weather. The supernatural defeat of the invading hordes reveals to the world that God is real and indeed protects the nation of Israel. Israel spends the next seven months burying the dead invaders and seven years expending the leftover fuel and weapons.

We have looked at the General Timing Clues given by Ezekiel that demonstrate that the Gog-Magog Battle is yet future. We also looked at the two views that place the battle before the Tribulation and two views that place the battle during the Tribulation.

We'll continue by looking at three views that place the Gog-Magog Battle in relation to Jesus Christ's 1,000 year reign on earth called the "Millennium Kingdom." Each view will have listed their pros and cons, utilizing what I believe is the best written book on the subject — Northern Storm Rising by Dr. Ron Rhodes. Of the 687 respondents who voted on our "When will the Gog-Magog Battle take place?" poll, 47 (6%) voted for "End of the Millennium."


Between the Tribulation and the Millennium

Supporters of this view place the events of Ezekiel 38 and 39 in an interlude time period between the Tribulation and the Millennial Kingdom.

Pros:

1) This is a consistent argument with the view that an interlude time period could exist between the Rapture and the Tribulation.

2) The fifth general timing clue (Ezek. 38:11) that requires Israel living unsuspecting and in peace before the Gog-Magog Battle could easily be attained after Christ's Second Coming.

3) An interlude time could be any length of time, granting the seven years given in Ezekiel 39:9 to Israel to burn the invading enemies' weapons for fuel.

Cons:

1) With Jesus having defeated all the armies of the world at Armageddon (Rev. 19:19), no army would be left to invade Israel so soon.

2) With Jesus' return at the Second Coming, no Gog-Magog invasion would be needed to get Israel to again acknowledge God (Ezek. 39:22,29).

3) Only one interlude time is given in the Bible. Three time indicators are given describing 3 1/2 years of the Tribulation. Daniel 12:12 (NIV) reads, "Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days." Revelation 11:2-3 reads, "But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months. And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth." The difference between the two books is 75 days. These 75 days will most likely be used by Jesus to judge the world in the Sheep/Goat Judgment (Matt. 25:31-46) and rebuild the planet.

4) The interlude time limited to 75 days does not give Israel the seven months they need to bury the dead invaders' bodies from the Gog-Magog Battle (Ezek. 39:12).

5) With Jesus present to provide everyone's needs, the curse partially lifted (Isa. 11:8) and the Earth reformatted by earthquakes (Rev. 6:12-14; 16:17-21), there would be no need for Israel to have to burn any weapons for fuel into the Millennium.


At the Beginning of the Millennium

Supporters of this view, such as Arno Gaebelein, place the Gog-Magog Battle at the beginning of the 1,000 year reign of Christ.

Pros:

1) The fifth general timing clue (Ezek. 38:11) that requires Israel living unsuspecting and in peace before the Gog-Magog Battle could easily be attained after Christ's Second Coming.

Cons:

1) With Jesus' return at the Second Coming, no Gog-Magog invasion would be needed to get Israel to again acknowledge God (Ezek. 39:22,29).

2) With Jesus having defeated all the armies of the world at Armageddon (Rev. 19:19), no army would be left to invade Israel so soon.

3) No wicked people will have survived the Sheep/Goat Judgment (Jer. 25:32-33; Matt. 25:31-46; Rev. 19:15-18) to enter into the Millennial Kingdom to start a war. Only believers who survived the Tribulation enter the Millennium and they have no reason to declare war on Christ.

4) No weapons would be available to the invaders of the Gog-Magog Battle, nor be left to burn for seven years, for as Isaiah 2:4b states, "They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks."

5) No war exists until the end of the Millennium. Isaiah 2:4b (NIV) describes the Millennium being a time of world peace — "Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore." Revelation 20:7-9 describes the only war that will happen during the Millennium, and that is at the end of the thousand years when Satan is let loose from the pit to rally unbelievers in that age against Jesus Christ.

6) With Jesus present to partially lift the curse (Isa. 11:8) and reformat the Earth from the ravages of the Tribulation (Rev. 6:12-14; 16:17-21), the Millennial Kingdom will begin in an almost holy state. Ezekiel 39:12 describes the land after the Gog-Magog Battle needing cleansing from the defilement of the dead invaders' bodies. Defilement contradicts the pristine condition the Millennial Kingdom will begin with.

7) Islam will not exist during the Millennial Kingdom. The unifying theme today among the coalition of nations that attack Israel in the Gog-Magog Battle is their satanically inspired Islamic hatred of Israel and desire of its wealth. Since Satan will be bound (Rev. 20:1-3) while Jesus will be reigning directly over the Kingdom, no opposing satanic religion like Islam will exist to unite those nations during the Millennium.

8) With Jesus' newly returned to rule from Jerusalem with "a rod of iron" (Ps. 2:9), no invader would dare invade Israel.


At the End of the Millennium

According to Dr. Rhodes, the majority of supporters for this view tend to come from a non-evangelical background (p.189).

Pros:

1) Revelation 20:7-8 places a Gog-Magog Battle at the end of the Millennial Kingdom. "When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth — Gog and Magog — to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore."

2) Similar terminology exists between Ezekiel 38-39 and Revelation 20 concerning the great number of invaders involved.

3) The prosperity described in Ezekiel 38-39 that Israel possess would be fulfilled by God's blessings on Israel during the Millennial Kingdom.

4) God uses supernatural weather in both accounts to destroy the invaders.

Cons:

1) Ezekiel's chapters would be out of order with this view. Ezekiel 33-39 cover the restoration of Israel and are followed by chapters 40-48 which describe Israel during the Millennial Kingdom.

2) Revelation 20's chronology doesn't harmonize with Ezekiel's chronology. Revelation 20 describes the Millennial Kingdom, which is immediately followed by chapter 21 concerning the eternal state.

3) The Gog-Magog invaders wouldn't have bodies to require Israel to bury for seven months (Ezek. 39:12). Revelation 20:9's account records the invaders being incinerated by fire from out of the heavens.

4) Israel would have no reason to use seven months to bury the dead invaders (Ezek. 39:12) when God is just going to resurrect them at the end of the Millennium, judge them at the Great White Throne Judgment, and then throw them into the Lake of Fire.

5) Israel would have no reason to burn the invaders' weapons into the eternal state.

6) Ezekiel's and Revelation's descriptions of the invading armies do not match. Ezekiel describes a coalition of Russia and Muslim nations attacking Israel. Revelation 20:8 describes a much larger scope, with the invaders coming from the "nations in the four corners of the earth."

7) Ezekiel's and Revelation's descriptions of the battlefields do not match. Ezekiel describes the Gog-Magog Battle taking place on the "mountains of Israel," while the Revelation 20:9 account (in some versions like the NAS) states the battle takes place "on the broad plain of the earth."

8) Ezekiel's and Revelation's descriptions of Israel's rulers do not match. Ezekiel 38-39 follow chapters 36-37 which describe the rebirth of Israel, a nation not yet in belief in God nor has accepted Jesus as Messiah. The Revelation 20 account has Jesus already ruling from Jerusalem for 1,000 years.

9) Ezekiel's and Revelation's descriptions of the invader's rulers do not match. "Gog" is in control of the coalition against Israel in Ezekiel's account, whereas Satan is in control of the coalition against Jesus in Revelation's account. While Satan is clearly mentioned in Revelation's account, it is unknown if Gog is possessed by Satan or is a man possessed by Satan.

10) Ezekiel's and Revelation's descriptions of Israel's faith does not match. In Ezekiel 38-39, God uses the Gog-Magog Battle to make Himself known to Israel and the world. In Revelation 20, Israel has acknowledged Jesus as God and King for 1,000 years.

11) John's use of "Gog" and "Magog" in Revelation 20 is more likely to draw a comparison between Ezekiel's Gog-Magog Battle and the one John is describing at the end of the Millennial Kingdom.

12) The unbelieving children of the Tribulation saints who have survived to live into the Millennial Kingdom will be the ones who wage war against God at the end of the Millennium, as opposed to the children from the age of the "time of the Gentiles" who wage war in Ezekiel and Jesus' accounts (Luke 21:24).


In the final article in this "Timing Gog-Magog" series, I will end with some of my thoughts on when I believe the Gog-Magog Battle will take place.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Timing Gog-Magog: During the Tribulation

Nathan JonesPDFBy Nathan Jones

In this series of articles called Timing Gog-Magog, we are looking to the Bible to discover when the great battle the prophet Ezekiel described in Ezekiel 38 and 39 is going to take place.

To recap, the Gog-Magog Battle involves a coalition of nations led by a ruler from the ancient lands once covered by the former Soviet Union and modern-day Turkey which consist of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Russia, Turkey, Iran, Sudan, Libya, and possibly Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Algeria and Tunisia. They are united in their fervor to loot and destroy Israel. The invading coalition comes to the mountains of Israel to discover not an easy victory, but a setup by God who utterly destroys them with violent weather. The supernatural defeat of the invading hordes reveals to the world that God is real and indeed protects the nation of Israel. Israel spends the next seven months burying the dead invaders and seven years expending the leftover fuel and weapons.

We have looked at the General Timing Clues given by Ezekiel that demonstrate that the Gog-Magog Battle is yet future. We also looked at the two views that place the battle before the Tribulation.

We'll continue with the study of the views that place the Gog-Magog Battle during the Tribulation, looking at what each view believes are their pros and cons, utilizing what I believe is the best written book on the subject — Northern Storm Rising by Dr. Ron Rhodes. Of the 687 respondents who voted on our "When will the Gog-Magog Battle take place?" poll, 248 (36%) voted "During the Tribulation."


In the First Half or Middle of the Tribulation

Supporters of this view are John F. Walvoord, J. Dwight Pentecost, Charles Ryrie, Herman Hoyt and Mark Hitchcock.

Pros:

1) The fifth general timing clue (Ezek. 38:11) that requires Israel living unsuspecting and in peace before the Gog-Magog Battle could easily be attained by the peace covenant the Antichrist makes with Israel that starts the seven year countdown of the Tribulation (Dan. 9:27).

2) With the more christianized nations in tatters due to a Pre-Tribulation Rapture and the Islamic world in ruins from the Gog-Magog Battle, the remaining European world power could fill the vacuum in the Middle East and fully revive the Roman Empire. The only remaining world powers would be East-Asian, and the Bible records their continued existence (though under the control of the Antichrist) until the end of the Tribulation (Rev. 16:12).

3) By placing the timing of the Gog-Magog Battle early in the Tribulation, the defeat and disillusionment of Muslims worldwide would destroy the strength of Islam. With the Church removed in a Pre-Tribulation Rapture, Christianity would also be removed. The resulting polytheistic and pantheistic religions would integrate well into the apostate one-world religion that the False Prophet promotes (Rev. 13:11-15). The only monotheistic religions left to reject the Antichrist would be Judaism and the newly growing Jesus movement, both of which the Antichrist persecutes greatly during the second half of the Tribulation (Rev. 6:11).

Cons:

1) Ezekiel 39:9 describes Israel burning the invading enemies weapons for seven years. Placing the Gog-Magog Battle at any time during the Tribulation would push the burning right into the Millennial Kingdom. With Jesus then present to provide everyone's needs, the curse partially lifted (Isa. 11:8) and the Earth reformatted by earthquakes (Rev. 6:12-14; 16:17-21), there would be no need for Israel to have to burn any weapons for fuel.

2) The tremendous persecution of the Jews during the second half of the Tribulation would not grant them the freedom to bury the invaders dead bodies for seven months (Ezek. 39:12) unless the Gog-Magog Battle occurred earlier than the mid-point.

3) If the Gog-Magog Battle happened closer to the mid-point, the question is raised as to why God would rescue Israel so dramatically from the Gog-Magog nations only to hand Israel immediately over to the intense persecution by the Antichrist.


At the End of the Tribulation (Armageddon)

Supporters of this view believe the Gog-Magog Battle and the final battle of Armageddon are one and the same.

Pros:

1) Both the Gog-Magog Battle (Ezek. 38-39) and the Battle of Armageddon (Rev. 19:19) are described as taking place during the first general timing clue "latter years" (Ezek. 38:8) and "last days" (Ezek. 38:16) of the Tribulation.

2) Ezekiel 39:4,17-20 and Revelation 19:17-18 both describe dead invaders being eaten by birds and wild animals.

3) Ezekiel 39:22,29 declare at the defeat of the Gog-Magog invasion Israel will again acknowledge God. These references if coupled with Zechariah 12:10 explaining an acknowledgment by Israel of their true Messiah at the end of the Tribulation would make the Gog-Magog Battle and Armageddon one and the same, if the acknowledgment of God the Father and Jesus the Messiah are also one and the same.

Cons:

1) The players in the two battles do not match. The Gog-Magog Battle involves the specific nations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Russia, Turkey, Iran, Sudan, Libya, and possibly Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Algeria and Tunisia against Israel (Ezek. 38:1-6). The references to Armageddon include the nations of the entire earth against Israel (Joel 3:2; Zeph. 3:8; Zech. 12:3; 14:2).

2) The locations described for the two battles do not match. Armageddon takes place in a valley — the Valley of Jezreel by the plain of Megiddo (Judges 5:19; 2 Kings 23:29; 2 Chron. 35:22; Zech. 12:11). Ezekiel 38:8 describes the Gog-Magog Battle taking place on the mountains — the "mountains of Israel."

3) The account of the defeat of the invaders does not match. The Gog-Magog invaders are defeated by God who uses "torrents of rain, hailstones and burning sulfur" as well as in-fighting (Ezek. 38:22). The invading nations at Armageddon are defeated by Jesus who uses "a sharp sword" from His mouth, meaning mere words (Rev. 19:15).

4) The peaceful precondition of Ezekiel 38:11 in which Israel has to be living unsuspecting and in peace before the Gog-Magog Battle (Ezek. 38:11) cannot exist under the Great Tribulation by the Antichrist.

5) Ezekiel 38:13 describes some nations questioning the Gog-Magog invasion. At Armageddon, all the nations are involved in the invasion so none protest (Joel 3:2; Zeph. 3:8; Zech. 12:3; 14:2).

6) Ezekiel 39:9 describes Israel burning the invading enemies weapons for seven years. Placing the Gog-Magog Battle at the end of the Tribulation would push the burning right into the Millennial Kingdom. With Jesus then present to provide everyone's needs, the curse partially lifted (Isa. 11:8) and the Earth reformatted by earthquakes (Rev. 6:12-14; 16:17-21), there would be no need for Israel to have to burn any weapons for fuel.

7) The leaders of the invasions are not the same. Gog is the prince and ruler of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal (Ezek. 38:3). The invading leader at Armageddon is the Beast who controls the whole earth. While it is known that Satan the Dragon possesses the Antichrist (Rev. 13:2), it is unknown if Gog is possessed by Satan.

8) The armies find themselves fighting two different opponents. The Gog-Magog invaders look to conquer a peacefully unsuspecting Israel (Ezek. 38:11). The Armageddon invaders gather to make war against the returned King — Jesus Christ (Rev. 19:19).


The next article in this "Timing Gog-Magog" series will look at views that place the timing of the Gog-Magog Battle in relation to the Millennium.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Timing Gog-Magog: Identifying Rosh

Nathan JonesPDFBy Nathan Jones

In this series of articles called Timing Gog-Magog, we are looking to the Bible to discover when the great battle the prophet Ezekiel described in Ezekiel 38 and 39 is going to take place.

We've identified the nations in the Gog-Magog Battle as a coalition of nations against the nation of Israel. Ezekiel states that the invading coalition consists of nations from the ancient territories of Rosh, Magog, Meshech, Tubal, Persia, Cush, Gomer and Beth-togarmah (Ezek. 38:1-6). We've also gone to the history books and tracked down what the modern equivalents are to Ezekiel's list of ancient national lands. The nations that inhabit those lands now are:

  1. Rosh = Russia

  2. Magog = Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan (and possibly Afghanistan)

  3. Meshech + Tubal + Gomer + Beth-togarmah = Turkey (and possibly Azerbaijan, Armenia)

  4. Persia = Iran

  5. Ethiopia = Sudan

  6. Put = Libya (and possibly Algeria, Tunisia)

Before continuing on with looking at the different views in the timing of the Gog-Magog Battle, though, I want to revisit Rosh being claimed as modern-day Russia. Because Russia doesn't seem to fit into the Islamic national identity that the other coalition nations now share, the historical debate over the identity of Rosh, and the questions readers have been asking, it is important to identifying the timing of the Gog-Magog Battle that we look at why Rosh is indeed properly identified as Russia. We'll look at the research given by Dr. Ron Rhodes in his authoritative book on the topic called Northern Storm Rising (Harvest House Publishing, 2008), and I'll add some of my own points.


The Translations

Looking at Ezekiel 38:3 in the New International Version, the King James Version, the English Standard Version and others — the word "Rosh" is missing from the list. If one looks at the New King James Version, New American Standard Version, Amplified Version, the Darby Translation and others — Rosh is present in the list of nations. Why the differences in translation?

The difference, Dr. Rhodes reports, is the challenge for the translators to interpret the word "Rosh" or "Ros" as a noun based on the actual land, or as an adjective based on the Hebrew word "Rosh" which means "head," "top," "summit," or "chief" (p.105). The NAS translators went with the noun form of "Rosh," while the NIV translators went with the adjective form. Translations based on the Greek Septuagint (LXX) follow the noun form, while those based on the Latin Vulgate follow the adjective form.


Support for Rosh = Russia

While I love studying in the NIV, for the following reasons I believe that the noun interpretation of "Rosh" as a distinct land that is modern-day Russia is the valid interpretation.

1) Various Hebrew scholars such as G.A. Cook believe the noun form of "Rosh" is true to the original Hebrew (p.106).

2) The Septuagint (LXX) translation predates the Latin Vulgate by 700 years and is only three centuries removed from the time of Ezekiel, making it a translation more contemporary with Ezekiel.

3) Tenth Century Byzantine writers such as Ibn-Fosslan identified a group of Scythian's dwelling in the northern parts of Taurus upon the river Volga as the Ros (p.108).

4) Ninth Century B.C. Assyrian texts that predate Ezekiel's time also refer to the Rosh or Rashu (p.108).

5) Even farther back in time as early as 2600 B.C., ancient Egyptian and other Middle-Eastern B.C. inscriptions and texts such as in Sargon's inscriptions, in a cylinder by Assurbanipal, in an annul by Sennacherib, and five times in Ugaritic tablets record the existence of the Rosh/Rash/Reshu people (p.109).

6) The early Byzantine Church claimed that the Ros peoples are the people who live far north of Greece in the area today we call Russia (p.109).

7) Ezekiel 39:1-2 claims Rosh to be "from the remotest parts of the north." No other nation exists more directly north and is more remote than modern-day Russia.

8) Current news reports repeatedly show that Russia has very quickly solidified economic and military ties with the nations involved in the Gog-Magog coalition. Russia is building a nuclear reactor in Iran and arming Islamic nations. Russia has also made known their expressed interest in getting a foot-hold into the Middle East to help control its vast oil reserves. Israel's newly found gas deposits are a direct threat to Russia's hold over the natural gas supply line.

9) Russia nationally has a long and historic violent streak of Anti-Semitism that God won't leave unresponded to.

10) When all arguments for or against Russia as being Rosh are put on the table, pure "Vulcan" logic would dictate that Russia can be the only logical descendent of the Rosh people.


We will continue exploring more views on the specific timing of the Gog-Magog Battle in the next installment of this series titled During the Tribulation.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Timing Gog-Magog: Before the Tribulation

Nathan JonesPDFBy Nathan Jones

In this series of articles called Timing Gog-Magog, we are looking to the Bible to discover when the great battle the prophet Ezekiel described in Ezekiel 38 and 39 is going to take place.

To recap, the Gog-Magog Battle involves a coalition of nations led by a ruler from the ancient lands once covered by the former Soviet Union and modern-day Turkey which consist of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Russia, Turkey, Iran, Sudan, Libya, and possibly Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Algeria and Tunisia. They are united in their fervor to loot and destroy Israel. The invading coalition comes to the mountains of Israel to discover not an easy victory, but a setup by God who utterly destroys them with violent weather. The supernatural defeat of the invading hordes reveals to the world that God is real and indeed protects the nation of Israel. Israel spends the next seven months burying the dead invaders and seven years expending the leftover fuel and weapons.

We have looked upon the General Timing Clues given by Ezekiel that demonstrate that the Gog-Magog Battle is yet future. The first clue was the use of the terms "latter years" (Ezek. 38:8) and "last days" (Ezek. 38:16). The second clue is the historical record that shows no such battle in Israel's history has fit the description. The third is that Israel is a nation once more. The fourth is that the nations that comprise the invading coalition are finally united today by their hatred of the Jews. And, the fifth clue from Ezekiel 38:11 is that Israel has to be living unsuspecting and in peace.

We'll continue with the study of the views that place the Gog-Magog Battle before the Tribulation, looking at what each view believes are their pros and cons. The following two views lie heavily on the Pre-Tribulation Rapture viewpoint.

We'll continue utilizing what I believe is the best written book on the subject — Northern Storm Rising by Dr. Ron Rhodes.


Before Both the Rapture and the Tribulation

Of the 687 respondents who voted on our "When will the Gog-Magog Battle take place?" poll, 101 (14%) voted "Before the Rapture" and 245 (35%) voted "Before the Tribulation." Combining those views would be the "Before Both the Rapture and the Tribulation" view.

Supporters of this view are Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins of the Left Behind series, and Joel Rosenberg who wrote the currently popular Epicenter.

Pros:

1) Israel using seven years to utilize the weaponry of the invaders for fuel (Ezek. 39:9) matches the seven years "Seventieth Week of Daniel" (Dan. 9:27) that the Tribulation will last. The "sevens" compliment each other in a timeline.

2) With the Muslim world in ruins and their faith in Allah shattered from their defeat in the Gog-Magog Battle, the Muslim world would no longer be an impediment for the Jews to rebuild the Temple which the Antichrist will later desecrate (Dan. 9:27 and 2 Thess. 2:3-4).

3) God declaring Himself to the world is in character with His willingness to warn the world before impending judgment. A great multitude could come to God before the Rapture due to God revealing Himself more fully by His victory in the Gog-Magog Battle, and so more would be included in the Rapture and avoid the wrath of the Tribulation.

Cons:

1) Placing the invasion before the Rapture would contradict the first general time clue of the terms "latter years" (Ezek. 38:8) and "last days" (Ezek. 38:16). Old Testament prophets like Ezekiel used these terms to indicate a specific "time of Jacob's trouble" for Israel, which is the Tribulation.

2) Placing the invasion before the Rapture would contradict the fifth general time clue which tells of Israel living in unsuspecting peace before the attack. Unless the peace is derived from a Psalm 83 scenario where Israel has subjugated its surrounding neighbors, true peace may only come to Israel by the peace covenant made between the Antichrist and Israel (Dan. 9:27). That covenant starts the seven year countdown of the Tribulation.

3) The New Testament teaching that no prophetic event has to occur before the Rapture, called "imminency." Imminency precludes such prophetic events like the Gog-Magog Battle from happening before the Rapture.

4) The removal of the "Restrainer" (2 Thes. 2:6-8) causes the Antichrist to emerge. Because the Church is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16), the Rapture has to happen before the Antichrist can come on the scene and provide the peace Israel's looking for.

5) A timing problem exists for Israel in that midway through the Tribulation the Antichrist's abomination in the newly built Temple will cause the Jews to flee into the desert (Matt. 24:15-16). The Jews will no longer have access to the Gog-Magog invader's weapons to burn. And so, the seven years of Tribulation can no longer match the seven years of burning the weapons.


After the Rapture but Before the Tribulation

A popular supporter of this view is Dr. Tommy Ice of the Pre-Trib Research Center.

Pros:

1) With the world in chaos from a Pre-Tribulation Rapture, Russia and its Muslim coalition could seize the opportunity to attack a friendless Israel.

2) With the Muslim Gog-Magog nations out of the picture just before the Tribulation, the Antichrist would have an easier time of making good on a peace covenant with Israel.

3) With the more christianized nations in tatters due to a Pre-Tribulation Rapture and the Islamic world in ruins from the Gog-Magog Battle, the remaining European world power could fill the vacuum in the Middle East. By making a peace treaty with Israel and easily conquering the lands of the once Middle-Eastern Muslim countries, the Roman Empire could truly be revived once more. The only remaining world powers would be East-Asian, and the Bible records their continued existence (though under the control of the Antichrist) until the end of the Tribulation (Rev. 16:12).

4) With the Muslim world in tatters, Israel would have no resistance to their rebuilding the Temple.

5) The Rapture does not start the Tribulation, but rather the signing of the peace covenant between the Antichrist and Israel does (Dan. 9:27). This fact would allow a 3 1/2 year or more time delay between the Rapture and the Tribulation, giving Israel the full seven years to burn the weapons from the Gog-Magog Battle before being forced to flee into the desert (Matt. 24:15-16).

Cons:

1) Placing the invasion before the Tribulation would contradict the first general time clue of the terms "latter years" (Ezek. 38:8) and "last days" (Ezek. 38:16). Old Testament prophets like Ezekiel used these terms to indicate the specific "time of Jacob's trouble" for Israel, which is the Tribulation.

2) The peaceful precondition of Ezekiel 38:11 in which Israel has to be living unsuspecting and in peace before the Gog-Magog Battle may only occur because of the peace covenant with the Antichrist, who can't be revealed until the Tribulation begins.


The next article in this "Timing Gog-Magog" series will take an interlude to identify Rosh as modern-day Russia.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Timing Gog-Magog: General

Nathan JonesPDFBy Nathan Jones

In this series of articles called Timing Gog-Magog we are looking to the Bible to discover when the great battle the prophet Ezekiel described in Ezekiel 38 and 39 is going to take place.

To recap, the Gog-Magog Battle involves a coalition of nations led by a ruler from the ancient lands once covered by the former Soviet Union and modern-day Turkey which consist of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Russia, Turkey, Iran, Sudan, Libya, and possibly Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Algeria and Tunisia. They are united in their fervor to loot and destroy Israel. The invading coalition comes to the mountains of Israel to discover not an easy victory, but a setup by God who utterly destroys them with violent weather. The supernatural defeat of the invading hordes reveales to the world that God is real and indeed protects the nation of Israel. Israel spends the next seven months burying the dead invaders and seven years expending the leftover fuel and weapons.

We have already addressed the possibility that the Gog-Magog Battle never will happen and dismissed that view for its blatant spiritualization of the Scriptures. We've also dismissed the view that the battle already happened some other time in Israel's past history because no such battle has yet happened that fits the Ezekiel 38-39 description of nations.

For our study of the remaining views of when the Gog-Magog Battle could take place, we're going to utilize what I believe is the best written book on the subject — Northern Storm Rising by Dr. Ron Rhodes. Dr. Rhodes is the president of Reasoning From the Scriptures Ministries, author of over 40 books, and was the Bible Answer Man before Hank Hanegraaff. Personally, Dr. Rhodes is an overall great guy who I had the pleasure of co-interviewing for the upcoming April "Christ in Prophecy" television shows on answering tough questions. Dr. Rhodes is an expert on the Gog-Magog Battle, and his book excellently lays out each timing view's pros and cons.


General Timing Clues

While there is debate on the specific timing of the Gog-Magog Battle, the student of Bible prophecy can be positive about the general timing. General timing is clearly spelled out in Ezekiel's account as events that must happen to set the stage for the battle.

1) The first general timing clue is Ezekiel's use of the terms "latter years" (Ezek 38:8) and "last days" (Ezek. 38:16). The Gog-Magog Battle must happen in the prophetic scheme of the end times as it relates to the nation of Israel. The key verse to understanding what these terms mean is Deuteronomy 4:30 which reads, "When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to the LORD your God and obey him." "Distress" is also translated as "Tribulation." It is the Tribulation of Daniel's 70th week that brings the Jewish people as a nation back into the belief in God, and later to accept Yeshua as their Messiah. The Tribulation leading up to the Millennial reign of Christ is what the Old Testament prophets consistently and repeatedly taught about. And so, we can know from these key phrases that the Gog-Magog Battle happens in relation to the Tribulation and Millennial Kingdom.

2) The second general timing clue was discussed in the rejection of the claim that the battle already happened in history. Never in the history of the Middle East have the nations described in the coalition been united in an attack against Israel. In no time has such a specific group of nations been destroyed by inclimate weather. And, in no time in history has Israel named a valley Hamon Gog (Ezek. 39:11), nor the adjoining town called Hamonah existed where the Jews buried the invaders. History just does not show such a battle has ever happened, which only leaves a future timing for it to occur.

3) The third general timing clue is given in Ezekiel 36 and 37 — the regathering of the Jewish people back into their homeland "from all the countries" (Ezek. 36:24) of the world. Like the dry bones reanimated into a living person that Ezekiel envisioned, Israel did indeed become a nation once again on May 14, 1948, after nearly 1900 years since the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D and scattered the Jewish people across the globe. After all these centuries, this prophecy has been fulfilled in our modern generation. Because this prophecy has been fulfilled and Israel is a nation once more, that piece of the set-up is in place for the prophecy concerning the Gog-Magog Battle to begin.

4) The fourth general timing clue involves the developments nationally that have to occur to make the nations of the coalition unite in an invasion of Isreal. Two factors have made this coalition possible today. The first is the religion of Islam uniting these nations in satanic hatred of the Jewish people. The second is the economic bounty that Israel now has with its revitalized land and newly discovered gas deposits. Today, the nations of the coalition are united in the single purpose of destroying Israel and plundering its wealth. The daily news is resplendent with stories in support that this general timing clue has been fulfilled in just the last few years.

5) The fifth and only unfulfilled general timing clue is given in Ezekiel 38:11 which reads, "You will say, 'I will invade a land of unwalled villages; I will attack a peaceful and unsuspecting people — all of them living without walls and without gates and bars.'" Israel must be living without walls, peacefully and unsuspecting of an attack. Israel today lives in constant fear of attack and is always prepared for an invasion by the 60-plus million hostile Muslims surrounding their borders. Because of this most unpeaceful climate, this part of the prophecy cannot have yet been fulfilled. Perhaps a Psalm 83 scenario where Israel has subjugated their surrounding neighbors previous to the Gog-Magog invasion so that they are finally in the peaceful situation Ezekiel describes is the most likely possibility.


With general timing pointing to the fulfillment of the Gog-Magog Battle in relation to the Tribulation and Millennial Kingdom, we will try to pin down a more specific timing in the next installment of this series called Before the Tribulation.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Timing Gog-Magog: The Battle

Nathan JonesPDFBy Nathan Jones

The Prophecies

A long 2,600 years ago the great Hebrew nabi Ezekiel unveiled the prophecy the Lord God had divulged to him concerning the future of the nation of Israel. Recorded in The Book of Ezekiel chapters 36 and 37, the prophet revealed that God would fulfill His promise to regather the Jewish people "from all the countries" (Ezek. 36:24) of the world where they had been dispersed and bring them back to the land promised to their forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Gen. 17:7; 1 Chron. 16:17-18; Ps. 105:8-11; Rom. 9:4).

Like dry bones reanimated into a living person, Israel did indeed become a nation once again on May 14, 1948, after nearly 1900 years since the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D and scattered the Jewish people across the globe. After all these centuries, this prophecy has been fulfilled in our modern generation!

God wasn't done unveiling the future of Israel to Ezekiel and the world, though, for the following two chapters portray a great trial for the newly established nation of Israel — the Gog-Magog Battle. Because of the unique characteristics and the great detail in which chapters 38 and 39 describe this battle, history shows the Gog-Magog Battle is a prophecy yet to be fulfilled.


The Details

The Gog-Magog Battle is set between a massive coalition of nations descended from Noah's sons Japheth and Ham against Israel (Gen. 10:2-7). The nations are from the territories of ancient Rosh, Magog, Meshech, Tubal, Persia, Cush, Gomer and Beth-togarmah. Their leader is called "Gog, prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal" (Ezek. 38:2-3). The battlefield is on the "mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate" (Ezek. 38:8). The purpose of the invasion is to "plunder and loot" and destroy the people of Israel (Ezek. 38:12, 16).

The end result of an invasion by such a seemingly invincible army on a seemingly unprotected Israel will surprise the invaders and shock the world. The invading nations are in truth being manipulated by God, pulled out of their lands as with "hooks in [their] jaws" (Ezek. 38:4), so that those nations can feel the "hot anger... [of] the Sovereign LORD" (Ezek. 38:18). God drags these specific nations to the "mountains of Israel" to "execute judgment upon him [Gog] with plague and bloodshed... torrents of rain, hailstones and burning sulfur on him and on his troops and on the many nations with him" (Ezek. 38:22). God's purpose of personally interceding using the supernatural destruction of so massive an army is not just its destruction, but "so I [God] 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" (Ezek. 38:23).

By His supernatural victory in the Gog-Magog Battle, God reintroduces Himself to the world and declares in no uncertain terms that He is personally defending Israel. Should the peoples of the world doubt they only have to look on Israel who "will go out and use the weapons for fuel and burn them up... for seven years they will use them for fuel" (Ezek. 39:9) and "for seven months the house of Israel will be burying them" (Ezek. 39:12) in the newly named "Valley of Hamon Gog" (Ezek. 39:11) by a newly built "town called Hamonah" (Ezek. 39:16).


The Leader

Ezekiel 38:2-3 gives the prophetic name of the leader of this coalition of nations: "Gog, prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal." Whether Gog is a real name like in 1 Chronicles 5:4 or is a title for a supreme position such as king or president remains to be seen. Whether Gog is the Antichrist or not depends on when one places the timing of the Gog-Magog Battle, which will be addressed later in this series.


The Nations

Ezekiel 38:1-6 gives the ancient names of the territories that comprise the invading nations in the Gog-Magog Battle: Rosh, Magog, Meshech, Tubal, Persia, Cush, Gomer and Beth-togarmah. If only Ezekiel had gone the extra mile and given the names of the invading nations contemporary to the battle, a lot of debate over their modern identities would have been saved. Never-the-less, God prefers students of Bible prophecy to do their historical research, and the following list of equivalent names is the fruit of that research.

  • Magog = Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan (and possibly Afghanistan)

  • Rosh = Russia

  • Meshech + Tubal + Gomer + Beth-togarmah = Turkey (and possibly Azerbaijan, Armenia)

  • Persia = Iran

  • Ethiopia = Sudan

  • Put = Libya (and possibly Algeria, Tunisia)

Noticeably absent from this list of Middle Eastern nations are those surrounding modern-day Israel, such as Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Gaza, the Arab nations and Iraq. Ezekiel 38:13 describes these nations as just observing, for many of them originate as "Sheba and Dedan [Arab nations] and the merchants of Tarshish and all her villages." Why these nations are not also actively involved in the Gog-Magog Battle is open to speculation, but a Psalm 83 scenario where Israel has subjugated their surrounding neighbors previous to the Gog-Magog invasion so that they are finally in the peaceful situation Ezekiel describes (Ezek. 38:11) is the most likely possibility.

One glaring similarity among all the Gog-Magog invaders put in a scenario today is that all but Russia claim their national religion to be Islam. Islamic religious fervor to destroy the Jewish people would unite the fractious Muslim nations into a coalition which has never existed in this form before. The obsessive drive for economic wealth would be the draw for Russia to join in and lead this doomed coalition.


The Poll

The question of when the Gog-Magog Battle will happen was put to the reader in February's poll titled "When Will the Gog-Magog Battle Happen?" The 687 respondents cast their vote among a number of categories. The result showed a wide range of opinions as to when they thought this battle would occur in time. The results are as follows:

February Poll

The answer "Already Has" which 7 (1%) responded in the affirmative is incorrect. That the Gog-Magog Battle was fulfilled in Ezekiel's day by an invasion of the Scythians, Babylonians or Greeks fails to fulfill the roster of nations that compile the Gog-Magog invasion force. Also, it fails to address Ezekiel chapters 36-38 which prophesy a regathering of Jews to Israel from all over the world using the end-timing clues given as the "latter years" (Ezek 38:8) and "last days" (Ezek. 38:16). A past historical invasion just doesn't fit the Ezekiel 38-39 description.

Also, the answer "Never" which 37 (5%) voted for can be discarded as incorrect. A literal interpretation being replaced with a metaphorical interpretation that postulates that Ezekiel 38-39's description is somehow a symbolic struggle between good and evil is Replacement Theology spiritualizing. Prophecy fulfilled is always prophecy fulfilled literally, and the prophecy concerning the Gog-Magog Battle is no different.


The Series

The remaining answers each have their own pros and cons, and so each will be addressed more in detail in the following articles in this "Timing Gog-Magog" series. After identifying Rosh, different views will be categorized as General Timing, Before the Tribulation, During the Tribulation, and in relation to the Millennium. I'll end with my own view in a final analysis.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Further Thoughts About A Muslim Antichrist

Dr. David R. ReaganPDFBy Dr. David R. Reagan

The January-February 2009 issue of our magazine, the Lamplighter, was devoted to the issue of whether or not the Antichrist could be a Muslim. I argued that there is no possibility.

Several readers questioned one of the points I made in the article, and I would like to respond to the question they raised. In the article I pointed out that those who believe the Antichrist will be a Muslim argue that he will be received by the Muslim world as their long-awaited Mahdi, or Messiah. I took the position that this is a misleading to believe "that all the Islamic world is living in breathless anticipation of the appearance of the Mahdi, when the reality is that 90% of all Muslims — the Sunnis — are not looking for a Mahdi. In fact the concept of a Mahdi is not even found in orthodox versions of the Hadith like Sahih al Bukhari and Sahih Muslim." I further observed that "the Sunni Muslims are looking instead for the appearance of the Antichrist, whom they call the Dajjal. If a person were suddenly to appear on the world scene claiming to be the Mahdi, he would be automatically rejected by the vast majority of Muslims."

Those who questioned my position on this matter all pointed to two pieces of evidence which they said prove that Sunni Muslims do believe in the concept of a Mahdi. One was a fatwa issued by the Muslim World League, a Sunni organization, in 1976 which proclaimed that belief in a Mahdi is "obligatory." The other was a long article on the Internet entitled "The Twelfth Imam." In that article the author points out that there have been Sunni theologians throughout history who have believed in a Mahdi.

On the surface, both of these items seem to prove that the concept of a Mahdi is central to Sunni eschatology. But I would argue that both give support to my position.

Let me explain.


The Fatwa of the Muslim World League

First, let's consider the fatwa. For those who are not familiar with Islam, let me begin by explaining the meaning of this concept. In the Islamic faith a fatwa is a religious opinion on Islamic law issued by an Islamic scholar. In Sunni Islam any fatwa is non-binding, whereas in Shi'a Islam it could be, depending on the status of the scholar.

Now, it is true that the Muslim World League issued a fatwa in October of 1976 commanding Sunni Muslims to believe in the concept of an Islamic Savior called the Madhi. But this League does not speak for the Sunni world, despite its very pretentious title. It is a council located in Saudi Arabia that dictates theology for a radical and violent sect of the Sunnis called Wahhabism. This is the sect that produced Osama ben Laden. At most, there are probably about 30 million Wahhabis in the world. That may sound like a lot, but it is not. The Wahhabis constitute about one-half of one percent of the Sunnis, who number over 900 million.

Further, the very fact that the leadership of this radical sect felt it necessary to command its followers to believe in the concept of a Mahdi is evidence that such a belief is not widespread among Sunnis.

Arguing that this fatwa is evidence that the Sunni world embraces the concept of a Mahdi is equivalent to someone arguing that because the Council of Apostles of the Mormon Church has proclaimed Joseph Smith to be a prophet of God, all professing Christians believe he was a prophet.


The "Twelfth Imam" Article

The second piece of evidence, the long article on the Internet entitled, "The Twelfth Imam" also falls short of proving that Sunnis have embraced the concept of a Mahdi. To begin with, the article was written by a Shiite who is trying to convince Sunnis that they should believe in a Mahdi. In the process, he points to a number of Sunni theologians throughout history who have accepted the concept.

The equivalent of this article would be one written by a Messianic Jew to the Jewish world trying to convince them that they should accept the idea that Jesus was the promised Jewish Messiah — and in the process quoting Jewish sages throughout history who did accept Jesus as Messiah. Would such an article prove that most Jews believe in Jesus as their Messiah? No, it would prove just the opposite. If the Sunni world embraces the concept of the Mahdi, then why is a Shiite trying so desperately to convince them that they should do so?


An Impossible Idea

Finally, I would contend that even if both the Sunnis and the Shiites believed in the concept of a Mahdi and were living in anticipation of the arrival of this Islamic Savior, there still would be no possibility that they would ever unite behind such a person, regardless of how charismatic and dynamic he might be. The very moment he declared himself to be the Mahdi, one question would enter the minds of all Muslims: "Is he a Sunni or a Shiite?" And if he were a Shiite, which he would most likely be, the 90% of the Islamic world that is Sunni would have nothing to do with him.

The idea of all Muslims uniting behind a Mahdi is about as absurd as the idea that any time before the Rapture all Christians in the world will one day unite behind the Pope.

Let me conclude by giving you my sources for my contention that the concept of a Mahdi is not something that is characteristic of Sunni end time thought:

1) Dr. Samuel Shahid, The Last Trumpet: A Comparative Study in Christian-Islamic Eschatology

(Dr. Shahid is a Middle East native who serves as director of Islamic Studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas.)

This book contains the most detailed treatment of Islamic eschatology in the English language. In the book, the author devotes an entire chapter to the Shiite concept of a Mahdi. He states: "The messianic Mahdi is the embodiment of the earnest longing and hope of the Shi'ites who have been oppressed and persecuted through the course of history..." He points out that a major point of controversy between Shiites and Sunnis is the interpretation of Sura 43, verse 61 in the Quran which states "and he shall be the sign for the Hour." Shiites argue that this refers to the Mahdi. Sunnis claim it refers to Jesus. He points out that Shiites "emphatically argue that Islamic messianism is an essential part of Islam, a concept that is alien to orthodox Islam."

2) Riffat Hassan, Journal of Ecumenical Studies, "Messianism and Islam," Spring 1985

(Riffat Hassan is a Pakistani Muslim who has taught at Harvard University. She currently serves as professor of religious studies at the University of Louisville.)

In this article she emphasizes that one of the distinctive characteristics of the Shiite branch of Islam is its emphasis on the messianic concept of a Mahdi, even though there is no direct reference to such a person in the Quran. She sums up her discussion with this observation: "Shi'a Islam has developed a network of intense messianic expectation around the idea of the Madhi's return."

3) Encyclopedia Britannica

Mahdi: (Arabic: "divinely guided one"), in Islamic eschatology, a messianic deliverer who will fill the Earth with justice and equity, restore true religion, and usher in a short golden age lasting seven, eight, or nine years before the end of the world. The Qur'an (Islamic sacred scriptures) does not mention him, and almost no reliable Hadith (sayings attributed to the Prophet Muhammad) concerning the Mahdi can be adduced. Many orthodox Sunni theologians accordingly question Mahdist beliefs, but such beliefs form a necessary part of Shi'i doctrine.

4) Wikipedia

In Islamic eschatology the Mahdi ( also Mehdi; "Guided One") is the prophesied redeemer of Islam who will stay on earth seven, nine, or nineteen years (depending on the interpretation) before the coming of the day, Yaum al Qiyamah (literally "Day of the Resurrection" or "Day of the Standing"). Muslims believe the Mahdi will rid the world of error, injustice and tyranny alongside Jesus. The concept of Mahdi is not mentioned in the Qu'ran nor in the Sunni Hadiths such as Sahih al Bukhari. Many orthodox Sunni theologians accordingly question Mahdist beliefs, but such beliefs form a necessary part of Shi'ite doctrine.

According to scholar Cyril Glasse, the advent of Mahdi is not a universally accepted concept in Islam and among those that accept the Mahdi there are basic differences among different sects of Muslims about the timing and nature of his advent and guidance. The idea of the Mahdi has been described as important to Sufi Muslims, and a "powerful and central religious idea" for Shia Muslims who believe the Mahdi is the Twelfth Imam, Muhammad al Mahdi who will return from occultation. However, among Sunni, it "never became a formal doctrine" and is neither endorsed, nor condemned "by the consensus of Sunni Ulama." It has "gained a strong hold on the imagination of many ordinary" self described orthodox Sunni though, thanks to Sufi preaching. Another source distinguishes between Sunni and Shia beliefs on the Mahdi saying the Sunni believe the Mahdi will be a descendant of the Prophet named Muhammad who will revive the faith, but not necessarily be connected with the end of the world, Jesus or perfection.

Among Shi'a Muslims "the Mahdi symbol has developed into a powerful and central religious idea." Shi'a Muslims believe that the Mahdi is the Twelfth Imam, Muhammad al Mahdi, the Twelfth and last Imam, who was born in 868 AD and was hidden by God at the age of five. He is still alive but has been in occultation "awaiting the time that God has decreed for his return."

The coming of the Mahdi is a disputed notion within Sunnis. The concept is not mentioned directly in the Quran or Sahih al Bukhari; however, the Mahdi is mentioned in the Sahih Muslim collection of Hadith [depending on interpretation]. According to scholar Cyril Glasse, "Belief in the Mahdi has been rejected by noted Sunni authorities as being a Messianism... various Hadith about the Mahdi appear to be inventions to support political causes."

5) LookLex Encyclopedia

The Mahdi is a saviour figure in Islam, for which there are several different interpretations in Sunni Islam, and one dominant interpretation in Shi'i Islam.

In Sunni Islam, the "Mahdi" is just one of several important figures, while the "Mahdi" of Shi'i Islam has a real eschatological importance, and is in the future the most important figure for Islam as well as the world.

The Arabic term "Mahdi" is best translated with "divinely guided one".

The main principle of the Mahdi is that he is a figure that is absolutely guided by God. This guidance is stronger form of guidance than normal guidance, which usually involves a human being willfully acting according to the guidance of God. The Mahdi on the other hand, has nothing of this human element, and his acts will be in complete accordance to God's will.

The figure of Mahdi, and his mission, is not mentioned in the Koran, and there are practically nothing to be found among the reliable Hadiths on him either. The idea of the Mahdi appears to be a development in the first 2 3 centuries of Islam. In the case of the Shi'i Mahdi many scholars have suggested that there is a clear inspiration coming from the Messiah figure of Christianity and its ideas of a judgement day in the hands of a religious renewer.

While there are many similarities between the Mahdi and Messiahs, there are also many variations over the Mahdi theme, which have differed from time to time and from region to region.

The first time we hear of the term "Mahdi" is in 686 CE, by the Muslim leader Mukhtar Thaqafi, for Muhammad bni l Hanafiya (see below).

Shi'i Islam

Even in Shi'i Islam, there are variations, but these all give the Mahdi an elevated and unique position. In Shi'i Islam, the Mahdi is central to the creed, contrary to Sunni Islam.

Sunni Islam

There are more than one way of defining the Mahdi in Sunni Islam, but never is it given such an importance as we can see it in Shi'i Islam. He is generally a restorer, the one who will secure a system where Muslims can live according to the principles of Islam.

6) New World Encyclopedia

The Mahdi, according to Shi'ite tradition, will arise at some point before the day of judgement, institute a kingdom of justice, and will in the last days fight alongside the returned Jesus against the Dajjal, the Antichrist.

However, like most religious concepts, various Muslim traditions have ascribed different characteristics to the Mahdi. Also, as Mahdiism is closely related to the leadership of the Ummah, it has had the potential to be abused as some leaders of secularly focused politico religious movements in the name of Islam who have claimed to be the Mahdi.

Of those Sunnis that hold to the existence of the Mahdi, some believe the Mahdi will be an ordinary man, born to an ordinary woman. Umm Salamah said: "I heard the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon Him) say: 'The Mahdi is of my lineage and family."

The Shi'a belief is that Mahdi has been alive and in occultation for 1200 years and is eleven generations down from Muhammad, i.e. the twelfth Shi'a Imam Muhammad al Mahdi.

The coming of the Mahdi is a disputed notion within Sunnis, with the claim being denied by some Muslims who regard the Qur'an as the sole authority in Islam. Mahdi is not mentioned in the Qu'ran and there are few authentic hadiths that mention him in detail.

7) Dr. J. Dominguez

"Branches of Islam"

Asserts that one of the fundamental differences between the Shi'ite and Sunni branches of Islam is that the Shi'ites believe in a Messianic Mahdi.

8) Dr. Jim Eckman

"Sunnis versus Shiites: What's the Difference?"

Finally, permit me a review of the major theological differences between Shiites and Sunnis.

  • Shiites and Sunnis agree on core beliefs of Islam—the Quran and the Five Pillars.
  • Shiites believe that the original Imams were divinely inspired and infallible in their judgments.
  • Shiites clerics (imams) hold an elevated spiritual status forbidden by the Sunnis.
  • Sunnis reject the teaching of a "hidden" imam but do accept the end time beliefs of the Quran.
  • Shiites have a deep regard for martyrdom, incorporating many rituals and demonstrations absent in Sunnis.
  • Shiites are more eschatological than Sunnis.
  • Shiites believe that the Imam al Mahdi, the "Expected or Awaited" leader, will herald the end of time when he returns. The Mahdi and his army of followers will in effect be the army of Jesus before he returns. They will join Jesus in defeating the Antichrist, liberate Palestine and unite the world under Islam. Again, this belief is what drives the current Iranian president.

9) Mideast and North Africa Encyclopedia

In Arabic, the term al Mahdi means "the guided one." For Islam, the term developed through medieval Shi'ite thought into a concept charged with genealogical, eschatological (referring to the end of the world), and political significance. By the eighth century, the Mahdi would be characterized as a descendant of the prophet Muhammad, whose appearance as the redeemer, or messiah, presaged the end of the world and all earthly political and religious corruption.

Today, in Iraq and Iran, and in portions of Arabia and the gulf, the Shi'a branch of Islam is represented by Twelver Shi'ites, who believe in the return of the hidden twelfth descendant of Muhammad as the Mahdi. Until he reappears, Twelver Shi'ites believe that only their mujtahids (an elite group among their religious learned) have the power as the Mahdi's intermediaries to interpret the faith.

The concept of the Mahdi is not central to the beliefs of Sunni Islam, but it has popular appeal.