The Russian-Persian Alliance
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, many said, “The bear is dead!” But the Russian bear did not die; it simply hibernated, and today it has awakened with great fury as Prime Minister Vladimir Putin attempts to restore to the modern nation the former glory of Mother Russia.
The Russian “bear” has been busy making new friends. The most significant are Russia’s emerging alliances with Islamic nations bent on Israel’s destruction. Most notable of these is Persia, that is, modern-day Iran.
Looking thousands of years ahead through the lens of prophetic history (prophecy is simply history in advance), the prophet Ezekiel saw several amazing events (Ezek. 36—39), some of which warn us to keep our eyes on the bear.
First, Ezekiel said Jewish people the world over will return to their ancient, God-given homeland of Israel. And return they have. They have come back from Europe, Russia, Ethiopia, America, the nations of the former Soviet Union, and a host of other countries to which they were scattered.
And second, on May 14, 1948, a miracle happened that scholar and skeptic alike said was impossible: Israel was reborn as a nation.
The Coming Invasion
However, Ezekiel wrote of a yet-future war in which Russia (called “Magog,” 38:1–4) and a coalition of nations (all of which are now Islamic) will come against Israel in an attempt to destroy it: “Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya are with them, all of them with shield and helmet” (v. 5).
The first nation Scripture mentions in the coalition is Persia, meaning Iran. Wrote Bible scholar David Jeremiah:
The next country Ezekiel names is Persia, a name that appears thirty-five times in the Old Testament. Persia is easy for us to identify because it retained the name it had held since ancient times until March 1935, when it became the nation of Iran. Nearly four and a half decades later, Iran officially changed its name to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Today, with its population of 70 million people, Iran has become the hotbed of militant Islam and anti-Semitic hatred.1
The reality of the Russian bear’s warming relationship with Iran is evident from media headlines:
- “Russia Plans 5 More Nuclear Power Plants in Iran” by Peter Baker, The Washington Post, July 27, 2002.
- “In Israel, Putin Defends Syria, Iran Deals” by Molly Moore, Washington Post Foreign Service, April 29, 2005.
- “Kremlin Ready to Defend Iran” by Mikhail Zyar and Dmitry Sidorov, Mosnews.com, September 13, 2005. They say Iran wants “reliable allies like Russia and China.”
- “Russia Agrees to $1 Billion Arms Deal With Iran” by the Associated Press, December 2, 2005. This article, posted on the FOX News website, calls Russia “a key Iranian ally.”
For years, Russia has not been happy sitting in the back of the bus, so to speak. Last year, after Russia invaded Georgia, Robert Baer wrote in Time magazine that Russia wants an empire:
Russia’s invasion of Georgia has less to d o with South Ossetia than with a Russia that never reconciled itself to losing an empire—or to being treated like a second-rate power all these years. Russia’s resentment has only grown as oil prices have risen….By invading its neighbor, Russia has crossed the Rubicon….The question now is what else Russia is prepared to do to make up for those 17 years of humiliation. One thing we should pretty much count on is that Moscow right now is casting an eye toward Iran, the most direct route to restoring its influence in the Middle East.2
Rescue and Redemption
What chance would tiny Israel have against the Russian bear and its many Islamic cubs? The answer is in Ezekiel 38:18: “‘And it will come to pass at the same time, when Gog comes against the land of Israel,’ says the Lord Gᴏᴅ, ‘that My fury will show in My face.’” God will be enraged, and He will rise in Israel’s defense and utterly crush the coalition (38:18—39:10).
The result of this divine rescue will be Israel’s redemption:
“Then they shall know that I am the Lᴏʀᴅ their God, who sent them into captivity among the nations, but also brought them back to their land, and left none of them captive any longer. And I will not hide My face from them anymore; for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,” says the Lord Gᴏᴅ (39:28–29).
God will not forsake His covenant promises, and He will not fail His covenant people.
Russia and Iran are on the march, and they have evil intentions when it comes to Israel. But the God of Israel’s return will be the God of Israel’s rescue and redemption.
- David Jeremiah, What in the World is Going On? (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2008), 167.
- Robert Baer, “The Russian Empire Strikes Back,” Time magazine, August 12, 2008 <time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1831857,00.html>.