Dispensationalist John F. Walvoord (1910-2002)
was Professor of Systematic Theology at Dallas Theological Seminary for
over fifty years. Walvoord was President of the seminary from 1953
to 1986. His web site says "He is considered perhaps the world's
foremost interpreter of biblical prophecy."
Walvoord's views on the role of Russia in a future invasion of Israel are presented in "The King Of The North," chapter 10 of "The Nations in Prophecy," at: http://www.walvoord.com/.
In Ezekiel 38 and 39, a description is given of a war
and a nation which many have identified as Russia. The two chapters
mentioned describe the invasion of the land of Israel by the armies of
Russia and the nations that are associated with her. The Scriptures are
plain that this is a military invasion and reveal many details about
the situation existing at the time of that invasion. The dramatic
outcome of the battle is the utter destruction of the army that invades
the land of Israel.
Consider Walvoord's statement that "the scriptures are
plain that this is a military invasion." The scriptures, in Revelation
20, provide an interpretation of Ezekiel's prophecy about the hordes of
Gog and Magog. Here, the invasion involves all nations, who are
deceived by Satan, and come against the "camp of the saints," the
And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,
And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog, and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.
And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.
Paul says in Ephesians 6 that the saints do not war against flesh
and blood, but they are involved in a spiritual struggle, and this is
depicted in Revelation 20 where the nations compass the camp of the
saints. The struggle of the church is against "spiritual wickedness in
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
There never has been a war with Israel which fulfills the prophecies of Ezekiel 38 and 39. If one believes that the Bible is the Word of God and that it is infallible and must be fulfilled, the only logical conclusion is that this portion of Scripture, like many others, is still due a future fulfillment. ... the only nation which could possibly fulfill the specifications of these two chapters is the nation Russia.
Again, Walvoord ignores John's interpretation of Ezekiel's prophecy
in Revelation 20, where the Gog Magog invasion involves all nations,
not Russia, or
any other nation in particular.
According to Ezekiel, the invading armies come to the land of Israel
from "the uttermost part of the north" or as we would put it from the
far north. In the Authorized Version the expression is translated
merely "from the north," but in the more literal translation of the
Hebrew found in the American Standard Version it is rendered, "the
uttermost parts of the north," i.e., the extreme north. The important
point is that it designates not merely the direction from which the
army attacks Israel, but specifies the geographic origination of the
army from a territory located in the far north. The house of Togarmah,
one of the nations that is associated with Russia in this invasion,
also comes from "the uttermost parts of the north" (Ezekiel 38:6).
We need to look in the scripture for the interpretation of
the symbolic meaning of the "north."
In Joel's prophecy, the invading army of locusts is called the
But I will remove far off from you the northern army, and will drive him into a land barren and desolate, with his face toward the east sea, and his hinder part toward the utmost sea, and his stink shall come up, and his ill savour shall come up, because he hath done great things.
The four chariots described in Zechariah 6:1-8 describes four chariots,
each with horses of distinct colors. These were directed to go in
various directions. The second chariot has black horses, and the
third chariot has white horses. These two chariots and their horses
went to the north country,
where they "quieted" the spirit of God.
The Psalmist identified the "sides of the north" with mount Zion,
where the temple was located.
Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King.
In Isaiah's prophecy, the king of Babylon, called Lucifer, is spoken of as aspiring to sit "upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north." Commentators have interpreted this prophecy as an allusion to Satan. He evidently desires to rule over God's saints, called the "stars of God."
For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
These scriptures about the "north country," and "the sides of the north," together with John's interpretation in Revelation 20:8-9, suggest the Gog-Magog invasion is an assault against the church, by those who oppose the saints, and who resist the truth of the Gospel. The armies of Gog and Magog are armies of the antichrist. They come against the saints in all parts of the earth. The "north" is a symbolic location in these prophecies, because the saints are scattered in all nations. The spirit of God is "quieted" or suppressed in the church. Would the spirit of God be anywhere else?
Ezekiel's prophecy obviously could not have been
fulfilled prior to
1945, for the nation Israel was not regathered to their ancient land.
Until our generation, Israel's situation did not correspond to that
which is described in Ezekiel's passage. Ezekiel's prophecy of
twenty-five hundred years ago seems to have anticipated the return of
Israel to their ancient land as a prelude to the climax of this present
Another important aspect of the prophecy is found in verse eleven where it states that the people of Israel will be dwelling "securely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates." It was customary in ancient times, whenever a city prospered, to build a wall around it. One can go to ancient lands and see the ruins of walls around most important cities. They would, at least, have a fortress with a wall around it to which they could retire if the houses themselves were scattered and a wall about the houses was impracticable. In other words, it was customary to build walls about cities. In our modern day, this custom has been discontinued for the obvious reason that a wall is no protection against modern warfare.
If one goes to Israel today, though one can see many fabulous cities being built and marvelous developments taking place, one will not find a single new city with a wall built around it. They are cities without walls. How did Ezekiel know that at a future time the war situation would be such that cities would be built without walls? Of course, the answer is a simple one. He was guided by the inspiration of God, and it was not a matter of his own wisdom. But in this scene he is describing a modern situation, something that could not and would not be true back in the days of old, before Christ. This detail is very important because un-walled villages point to Israel's situation today.
The construction of the Separation Wall or security barrier in
Palestine, that separates Jewish settlers from their Palestinian
neighbors, discredits Walvoord's comments, along with his
interpretation of Ezekiel's prophecy. The above comments may have
appeared valid when Walvoord was alive, but they are certainly not true
today. The Separation Wall thwarts Walvoord's interpretation of
prophecy, and similar interpretations by other dispensationalists!
The army's destruction is portrayed in Ezekiel 39:4 ff. God declares:
"Thou shalt fall upon the mountains of Israel, thou, and all thy
hordes, and the peoples that are with thee: I will give thee unto the
ravenous birds of every sort, and to the beasts of the field to be
devoured." In other words, the army is completely destroyed, and the
means used are earthquakes, hailstones, fire and brimstone. It seems
also that parts of the army begin to fight each other, so that every
man's sword is against his brother.
Some natural questions are raised about this. Some have suggested that the description of hailstones, fire and brimstone might be Ezekiel's way of describing modern warfare, such as atomic warfare. There is a possibility that Ezekiel was using terms that he knew to describe a future situation for which he did not have a vocabulary. The language of Scripture indicates, however, that the victory over this invading horde is something that God does. It is God, Himself, who is destroying the army.
Walvoord's comments above probably influenced other
dispensationalist writers, such as Hal Lindsey, who have suggested
"horses" could represent modern military vehicles such as tanks, or
In any case, regardless of the means, the army is completely destroyed and chapter 39 goes on to describe the aftermath. For months thereafter they have the awful task of burying the dead. For a long period after that men are given full-time employment as additional bodies are discovered, and the process of burial continues. Attention is also directed to the debris of the battle. It is used as kindling wood for some seven years. The general character of this battle and its outcome seems to be quite clear, even though we may have some questions and problems about the details.
A careful study of the details Ezekiel provided of the fate of the
invaders is needed. The rain, hail, fire, and brimstone that they
suffer may be symbolic of God's word.
For example Isaiah compared God's word to rain, and snow.
For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:
So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
Hail may be symbolic of God's word too, perhaps coming as a severe judgment. Similarly, fire is also symbolic of God's word in several scriptures. Jesus said he came to send "fire on the earth."
I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled?
There are some other problems in the passage which
merit study. A reference is made to bows and arrows, to shields and
chariots, and to swords. These, of course, are antiquated weapons from
the standpoint of modern warfare. The large use of horses is
understandable as Russia today uses horses a great deal in connection
with their army. But why should they use armor, spears, bows and
arrows? This certainly poses a problem.
There have been two or more answers given. One of them is this that Ezekiel is using language with which he was familiar--the weapons that were common in his day--to anticipate modern weapons. What he is saying is that when this army comes, it will be fully equipped with the weapons of war. Such an interpretation, too, has problems. We are told in the passage that they used the wooden shafts of the spears and the bow and arrows for kindling wood. If these are symbols, it would be difficult to burn symbols. However, even in modern warfare there is a good deal of wood used. Possibly this is the explanation. We are not in a position today to settle this problem with any finality.
The wooden weapons, bows and arrows, spears, bucklers, of the invaders all discredit Walvoord's interpretation of Ezekiel 38 as a modern military invasion. Modern armies do not use bows and arrows! And the armies of Gog and Magog all ride upon horses [Ezekiel 38:15]. It is hard to imagine how an army on horseback could defend itself against modern weapons such as machine guns. The horses of Ezekiel's prophecy should have provided Walvoord with a clue. If he had searched for an interpretation founded in scripture , he may have discovered that they could represent people who lack understanding. Their riders, the horsemen, may represent the dogmas (some suggest they are spirits) that "ride" upon them and direct them, as a rider rides upon a horse.
Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.
The armies of Gog and Magog invade a land that was "brought back
from the sword," and they come against "the mountains of Israel" which
were "always waste." [Ezekiel 38:7-8]
The "mountains of Israel" that have been always waste are symbolic of the promises of God to his saints. The promised land, its mountains, hills, and valleys, are symbolic of the promises of God that are contained in the prophecies of scripture, promises that Peter called "exceeding great and precious." (2 Peter 1:4)
Ezekiel says the armies of Gog and Magog come against the "prophets of Israel."
Thus saith the Lord GOD; Art thou he of whom I have spoken in old time by my servants the prophets of Israel, which prophesied in those days many years that I would bring thee against them?
A military invasion would not be a threat to the prophets of Israel.
2:20, where the church is compared to a temple built by God, Paul
says the prophets are included in its foundation, together with the
apostles. Jesus Christ is its chief corner stone.
Those who misinterpret Bible prophecy, and mislead Christians, come
"prophets of Israel." They seek to "take a spoil," Ezekiel said.
Art thou come to take a spoil? hast thou gathered thy company to take a prey? to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to take a great spoil?
Publishing flawed interpretations of Bible prophecy has become very
lucrative for dispensationalists. Some authors revise their
works periodically, to bring them more up to date with current news
events, and republish them.
The fruits of those flawed interpretations of Bible prophecy have been unfortunate, and tragic for some. Nicole Balnius wrote:
Walvoord wrote and published more than thirty books with more than three million copies in print. His New York Times bestseller, "Armageddon, Oil and the Middle East Crisis", sold over 1.5 million copies. Originally written in 1973, it was revised in January of 1991 before the Gulf war. When Desert Storm was still in its infancy, John received a request from the White House for a copy of the book. Members of President Bush's staff were reading it together and apparently grasping the importance of Biblical prophecy and how it relates to this present day.
It seems that former U.S.
George W. Bush, like his father, may have been influenced by John F.
Walvoord, and his flawed interpretation of Ezekiel's prophecy of
and Magog. Bush's views on Ezekiel 38 may even have influenced his 2002
decision to invade Iraq, according to some reports. See for example:
Bush, God, Iraq and Gog, by Clive Anderson, CounterPunch
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