Hello and welcome to another Bible in the News. This week we look at the notable movements of Russia from a Bible perspective and see how recent news reports are signs of the times. This is Matt Davies joining you.
Notable signs of the times predicted in the Scriptures of truth
Bible student John Thomas wrote this in 1850 in the preface of his book “Elpis Israel”:
"The future movements of Russia are notable signs of the times, because they are predicted in the Scriptures of truth. The Russian Autocracy, in its plenitude, and on the verge of its dissolution, is the Image of Nebuchadnezzar standing upon the Mountains of Israel, ready to be smitten by the Stone. When Russia makes its grand move for the building-up of its Image-empire, then let the reader know that the end of all things, as at present constituted, is at hand. The long-expected, but stealthy advent of the King of Israel, will be on the eve of becoming a fact..."
This statement summarises the Christadelphian understanding of many Bible prophecies.
The word of truth
The term “scriptures of truth” refers to the claim of the Bible to have been inspired by God and that it is this word only which can be trusted as it has not been tampered with by human fallibility.
We read in Peter:
“For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” 2 Peter 1:21
The word for “moved” there is the greek “pherō” which means to carry or to move by bearing, to be carried along. This verse is describing the method of inspiration. The pen-men of scripture were moved and compelled to write down specific words of God. God chose the men, their circumstances and the words which they would be moved to write.
In Hebrews chapter one, quoting from the Psalms of David in many places, we read that it was not David speaking - but God!
This is why the scriptures are indeed God’s word and indeed true.
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15
So the word of God is truth. What a privilege we have then to have it so readily accessible to us. What a responsibility we have to look into its pages to seek to understand its divine revelations.
Prophecy and the gospel
Prophecy is, of course, a huge part of what is written in the Bible. Many prophecies have come to pass, most notably the return of God’s people of Israel back to their land. However there are prophecies though that are yet to be fulfilled, especially those which are connected with the great theme of scripture, the gospel message.
The gospel message is set out in scripture as having two key themes. We read of these themes in Acts:
“And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.” Acts 28:30-31
So the two themes then which made up the preaching in the first century were: “the kingdom of God” and “the Lord Jesus Christ”. Both of these aspects of the gospel contain prophecy.
The theme of the Kingdom is all about the future restoration of the Kingdom of Israel on the earth (Ezekiel 21:27, Acts 1:6, Luke 1:32). It is all about God’s ultimate purpose to fill the earth with his glory - with men and women who manifest His characteristics. They will be rewarded with immortality in a future age (Isaiah 11:9, Habakkuk 2:14, Psalm 72:19, 2 Peter 1:4).
The theme of the things concerning Jesus Christ is all about the principles of God. These principles were enacted and demonstrated by Christ (John 17:6, 2 Corinthians 4:4, Hebrews 4:15) and it is by understanding and believing in these things that God has declared he will save us in the future from sin and death (Romans 1:16. 3:21-22, Mark 16:15-16, Colossians 1:20, Galatians 3:26-29).
Prophecy then is a very important aspect of the scriptures of truth. In both of these key themes of the gospel things in the future are promised and prophesied.
Prophecy and the nations
One of the amazing things about Bible prophecy is that God has revealed to us how the nations will be positioned just before Jesus Christ returns to the earth.
In Ezekiel 38 we read of a great confederacy of nations headed up by Russia who will attack the people of Israel in the land of Israel. These nations consist of European, North African, Far Eastern and of course, Russian territories. By comparing this scripture with other scriptures such as Zechariah 12-14, Joel 3 and Revelation 16 we discover that it is at this time that Jesus will return to the earth. He will defeat the invading forces, save Israel, show himself on the world stage and establish God’s kingdom on the earth.
With him will be a group of people, who will have been raised from the dead, gathered from the nations, judged and rewarded with immortality. This “cloud” of people will be with Christ to assist him in establishing the Kingdom, to rule with him as “kings and priests” for a thousand years. At the end of the thousand years another resurrection and judgement will take place, and then the globe will only be filled with immortal men and women. Indeed “the earth will be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea”.
We have seen the return of the Jews to the land of Israel. This part of the picture is firmly in place. We are now looking at the gathering of the nations to attack them with Russia (the Rosh, Meshech and Tubal of Ezekiel 38) taking a leading role.
In Daniel chapter 2 the king of the Neo-Babylon empire, was given a dream which was an amazing prophecy of the kingdom of men down through time. This kingdom of men was represented by a statue of metals, each metal representing a ruling power. The image of the rulership of man stayed the same but the ruling powers which controlled it changed.
The image had a head of gold, representing the Babylonian empire. This gave way to the Medo-Persian empire represented by the chest and arms of silver. Then the Greeks took the power from the Medo-Persians and they are represented by the belly and thighs of brass. Then came the rule of Rome which took the power from the Greeks and is represented by legs of iron. The Roman Empire eventually broke up into stronger and weaker territories and these are represented by the feet of the image which was made of clay and iron. This is our time today.
One of the interesting features about the prophecy is how it is destroyed. Daniel describes this moment to the King as follows:
“Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.“ Daniel 2:34-35
Associating himself with this stone power the Lord Jesus Christ states this in Luke 20:
“And he beheld them, and said, What is this then that is written, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner? Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” Luke 20:17-18
So Jesus Christ will destroy the Kingdom of men when he returns and sets up a new Kingdom represented by a mountain in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. As Daniel tells King Nebuchadnezzar:
“And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.” Daniel 2:44
The uniting of the territories of the Kingdom of men
United territory of the Kingdom of men in Daniel 2
What is fascinating about all this, though, is the detail given to us in Daniel 2 that all of the metals are “broken to pieces together”. This is an interesting thing to meditate upon. How is it that the various metals, representing rulership structures of the past are broken together at one moment in time? The answer to this is that each successive ruling system obtained its power from the previous one and so they all represent the same thing - the power of man opposed to the power of God.
Also represented in these things, though, is the territory over which these systems governed. If one was to make a map of all of the territories of the various phases of the empires of men depicted in the image and joined all of the territories together, we would get a complete picture of the territory of the kingdom of men which was described in the prophecy. If one was then to compare this map with the territories listed in Ezekiel 38 you would find that the two match.
Territories of Ezekiel 38
We therefore conclude, because these things are written in the scriptures of truth, that these territories have to be united somehow at the time when Jesus returns. They have to be heavily influenced and controlled by a “Russian Autocrat” as John Thomas termed it. The movements of Russia then are indeed extremely relevant and interesting to the Bible student of prophecy because they give us indications that the prophecies held within the gospel message will soon be realised.
Signs of the times
Having then briefly reviewed the scriptural basis for considering the movements of Russia we look up from our Bibles and into the current political landscape. What do we see?
We see a resurgent Russian power which is not scared of throwing its weight around. This power is aggressive and involved in military operations south of its borders. We see it incredibly infuriated by the nations in the West as it looks to stamp its authority on the Eastern frontier of Europe. According to Bible prophecy we expect this authority will grow as it will eventually unite the nations of Europe under its leadership along with those already under its influence such as Libya, the Sudan and Iran.
We have seen Russian interest and influence growing in the Middle East with recent military involvement in Syria and infrastructure developments in Syria and Egypt. We have seen its relations with Turkey turn hostile.
In recent times we have seen Russian military amassing on the border with Europe. Since the annexing of Crimea in 2014 Russia has made several military incursions into the Ukraine parts of which are currently under control of pro-Russian groups.
Last week on 27th of May, Reuters ran a report entitled; “Putin says Romania and Poland may now be in Russia's cross-hairs.” The report went on to state:
“Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday warned Romania and Poland they could find themselves in the sights of Russian rockets because they are hosting elements of a U.S. missile shield that Moscow considers a threat to its security. Putin issued his starkest warning yet over the missile shield, saying that Moscow had stated repeatedly that it would have to take retaliatory steps but that Washington and its allies had ignored the warnings. Earlier this month the U.S. military -- which says the shield is needed to protect from Iran, not threaten Russia -- switched on the Romanian part of the shield. Work is going ahead on another part of the shield, in Poland. "If yesterday in those areas of Romania people simply did not know what it means to be in the cross-hairs, then today we will be forced to carry out certain measures to ensure our security," Putin told a joint news conference in Athens with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. "It will be the same case with Poland," he said. Putin did not specify what actions Russia would take, but he insisted that it was not making the first step, only responding to moves by Washington.”
In another article the Telegraph reported Poland’s response to these threats. On June 3rd a report was published entitled “Poland to recruit 35,000 strong paramilitary force to combat threat from Russia.” The report stated:
“Comprising civilians who have had military training, the force is intended to deter Russia from seizing Polish territory by infiltration, as it is perceived to have done in eastern Ukraine. "The territorial defence force is our response to the threat associated with hybrid warfare," said Grzegorz Kwasniak, in charge with setting up the force, referring to the stealth tactic. Each of Poland's 16 provinces are expected to have a brigade-level force, and Mazovia - the biggest and most populous region in the centre of the country - will have two. Priority in deployment will be given to eastern provinces… deemed to be the most exposed to Russian pressure.”
We see then the Russian bear looking to possibly obtain control over these Eastern European counties. We watch these events with interest.
The coming of Christ
John Thomas had stated in 1850:
“When Russia makes its grand move for the building-up of its Image-empire, then let the reader know that the end of all things, as at present constituted, is at hand. The long-expected, but stealthy advent of the King of Israel, will be on the eve of becoming a fact..."
John Thomas looked forward in faith to these times and it is our privileged to be living in them. But in this time when amazing events are unfolding on the world stage we find that it is also a time when the truth of scriptures is undermined or unheard of. We who have faith in these things therefore watch and wait. The world around us is fearful of the wars and rumours of wars. However we have the assurance that God is in control and that His righteousness and His peace will soon be in this earth.
“Because God hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness…” Acts 17:31
This has been Matt Davies joining you - come back again next week God willing for another Bible in the News