Prophecy Letters

"Blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them." Matt. 13:16-17

The Prophecy Letter is a circular letter that we send out relating to the development of latter-day prophecy.

September 2022

Putin's Misfire and The Traditional Christadelphian View on Gog

TGP Prophecy Letter - September 19, 2022

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We have said it before, but it is even more true now: the war in Ukraine is not going as Putin expected. The original “three-day takeover” of Ukraine is now in its seventh month, and Russia is far from a victory. In fact, the situation looks fairly dire for Putin.

This brings up a topic that we’d like to address relating to other interpretations of prophecy. We comment on this not out of a spirit of contention, but out of sincere and brotherly regard. We want to stress this point to any who may ascribe to other interpretations. It is merely the fear of our Brethren being caught off guard by the events to come to pass and the timing of our Lord’s return that compels us to write on this subject. We do not pretend to have a perfect knowledge of all Scripture, and we recognize the fallible nature of our mortal frame. For these reasons, we try to uphold an appropriate amount of reserve in our speech. However, the evidence that we find in the Scriptures on this subject has proven to us in ways so numerous and consistent that our conscience compels us to “speak up” and offer words of appeal to those of differing understandings. We reluctantly admit that we will not have space to cover all aspects of this topic, nor to address all of the questions that may arise. These we hope to do in the future, Lord willing, but for the time being, we hope to at least give cause for thought.

At the outset of the invasion, we heard many Brethren declare, “The Russian Bear is making its move! Get ready everyone, for Russia is about to conquer and come against Israel!” Exhortations were given that spoke of Russia’s military superiority, forecasting an awe-striking Russian invasion. The Russian bear was now reared up on its hind feet, and we were about to see the fulfillment of Ezekiel 38 (so it was said). This stance was often substantiated and followed by a quotation from our Brother John Thomas in Elpis Israel, which reads,

“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 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. . .”

John Thomas, Elpis Israel, Preface, Pg. 18

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was touted as “its grand move.” However, the situation up to this point has not gone as predicted. We realize that things can change quickly, but please carefully examine the following news items from the past few weeks to see the reality of the situation. We recognize that there are many headlines, but please consider each one. Together, they provide a fairly comprehensive picture of Russia’s current position in the war:

Russian Soldiers Riot, Refuse To Fight Over Lack of Supplies—Kyiv - Newsweek

Putin Forces 'Confused' by Ukraine Strikes, Headed for Surrender: General - Newsweek

Russia Loses 25 Tanks, 37 Armored Vehicles in a Single Day: Ukraine - Newsweek

Ukraine updates: Ukraine counteroffensive reaches Russian border – USA Today

The Russian Army Is Losing A Battalion Every Day As Ukrainian Counterattacks Accelerate - Forbes

Ukraine Breaking Russian Lines in Surprising Battlefield Move – Business Insider

Fleeing Russian Troops Left Behind so Much Ammo, Weaponry for Ukraine – Business Insider

The rot runs deep in the Russian war machine. Ukraine is exposing it for all to see - CNN

Putin Scrambles to Marshal Russian Forces as Ukraine Army Reaches Border - Newsweek

Russian TV Host: Generals Should Be Shot Over Ukraine Counteroffensive – Business Insider

Ukraine Just Captured One Of Russia’s Most Capable Aerial Electronic Warfare Pods – The Drive

Ukraine updates: Zelenskyy visits Izium after Russians flee the city – USA Today

Russian Reserves Refusing to Sign Contracts Amid Counteroffensive: Ukraine - Newsweek

Russia in Ukraine sees breakdown in command and control as troops withdraw in 'panic': UK intelligence - Fox News

Russia news: Rattled Putin warns US 'entering Ukraine war' if Biden crosses 'red line' - Express

Putin in denial as Russia runs out of troops with best soldiers ‘thrown into meat grinder' - Express

West warned of ‘total disaster’ if leaders fail to prepare for the collapse of Russia - Express

After Russia retreats in Ukraine, what could Putin do next? - NBC

- This last article discusses some of the options that Putin seems to have left. We quote:


“His military is on the retreat, his rivals are increasingly bullish, and even his supporters are voicing rare unease: Russian President Vladimir Putin may be in his weakest position since he launched the full-scale invasion of Ukraine more than 200 days ago.

In Washington, Europe and even Moscow, the question now is what Putin might be planning to regain an initiative that seems to be slipping away from him with every new battlefield update.

Could the Kremlin order full military mobilization, press harder in its energy war or even countenance a drastic move like a tactical nuclear strike? Western officials and military analysts agreed that Putin appears to have few good options available.”

The headlines across countless platforms speak a unified message: Russia’s war machine is not as deadly and fine-tuned as many thought it would be. Instead of functioning like a well-oiled machine, the Russian military has been generally cantankerous and disorganized.

We firmly agree that Russia’s movements and actions should be watched carefully, for they are certainly a player in the latter-day events. However, our studies have brought us to the conclusion that Russia’s role in the latter-day wars has been vastly overstated and is not nearly as significant as many have made it out to be. We have also found there to be a tremendous number of Scripturally defined criteria that show the precise conditions and reasons which bring Russia against Israel; things which we have written about fairly frequently on in the past months. Allow us to briefly explain the reason for our understanding of Russia’s role:

The only passages that clearly and specifically talk about Russia (Gog) and explain their role are Ezekiel 38-39 and Revelation 20:8, all of which we believe refer to the same exact event. There are a few others that have potential (and likely) reference, but these are the few indisputable passages and should therefore be given the greatest weight. Since we know that Gog is the subject of these passages, we must compare all other potential references back to these two main chapters to see how they fit. If they do not agree or speak completely different messages, then we must conclude that they are not parallel passages.

What has been called the “traditional view” is illustrated by this map (or at least a popular version of the traditional view). The involvement of Gog is broken down into four phases. According to the map, they are described as

Phase One: Russia takes Turkey.

Phase Two: Russia takes Egypt.

Phase Three: Russia advances on Jerusalem.

Phase Four: Christ and the saints.

The problem is, none of these things can be found in the chapters explicitly talking about Gog: namely Ezekiel 38-39 and Revelation 20:8. The only aspect that is somewhat correct is the fact Russia will come against Jerusalem, but this map shows it being from the south. There is no hint of this in the passages.

There is also no hint of Russia coming against Turkey. In fact, we find the opposite, for Turkey is allied with Gog in Ezekiel 38:6.

It is also significant that we find no mention of Egypt in these chapters, but the map shows them playing an integral role in Gog's battle plans.

The illustrated sequence is a conglomerate of Ezekiel 38-39, Daniel 11:40-45, and Isaiah 19. Each of these chapters deserves its own consideration, but time will not permit. We will at least, however, share our conclusion:

Daniel 11:40-45 has already been completely and perfectly fulfilled, bearing nothing on the times to come.

Isaiah 19 is assumed to be all future and to refer to a time when Russia invades and oppresses Egypt, but a careful study brings out a different conclusion that spans a much longer time period. Lord willing, we will attempt to explain each in detail in the future.

There are other difficulties that the view presents. We will cite merely two:

- What is the role of Israel’s Arab neighbors? They have been waging perpetual war against Israel since before the nation was even born. Do they really play no role in the conflict? If so, what is it?

- Britain is shown as fortifying Jerusalem, finally to retreat to Jordan.

The problem is, Britain does not have a commanding presence in Jerusalem anymore. It is true that they are an ally of Israel (though not to the degree as in times past), but it is incredibly difficult to see how Britain could play this role in today’s atmosphere of the Middle East. Their presence in the region and their ties with Israel are simply not what they used to be.

How did this understanding come about? Like you and I, the Pioneer Brethren interpreted things according to the political scene of their day. In Brother Thomas’ time, “Israel” did not yet exist. In his day, the land was under the Ottoman control. Brother Thomas believed that the Ottoman power would cease and the British would control the land, “Israel” then emerging as a British colony. He was very close in his prediction, particularly given the times in which he lived, but events did not come to pass as expected.

The Ottomans were in fact defeated by the British in World War 1, Jerusalem being liberated in December of 1917. The Balfour Declaration, penned also in 1917, defined the nature of Britain’s control of the land, holding it with a view to support “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” This, however, is where things began to digress from Brother Thomas’ view. In 1947, 30 years later, the United Nations voted to partition “Palestine”, showing national support for the creation of a Jewish state alongside and Arab one. The British then pulled out of “Palestine” in 1948, and the very next day is when Israel declared their statehood. Since that moment, Israel has been its own sovereign nation and incessantly fighting her Arab neighbors to sustain it.

Israel was never a British colony, but its formation was due in part to British control of the land. Consider this though: Brother Thomas fell asleep in 1871, 26 years before the first momentous sign of Israel’s national reemergence occurred: the First Zionist Congress. It would be 76 years from his falling asleep before the UN vote took place which resulted in the pull out of Britain. It is also worth noting that the Arabs, which so persistently assault Israel, did not assume such vehement positions until Israel began forming as a nation. They hated the Jews in Brother Thomas’ day, but it was the struggle for the rights to the land that intensified this hatred to the proportions that we see now. Brother Thomas was remarkably close in his understanding of these events given how far they were in the future, but events progressed in ways different than he could foresee, and other factors (particularly the Arabs) grew to be more significant players than he anticipated.

The fact is, Brother Thomas did the very best he could with what he had, but he simply did not have the benefit that we do of being able to look back on how things actually came to pass. This is no discredit to him. In fact, it is incredible that he was correct with as many things as he was.

This does not mean that we should disregard his prophetical commentaries, but it does mean that we must take this factor into account when understanding his understanding of latter-day events. He was a portrait Bible student who was continually learning and updating his understanding, and had he lived long enough to see events unfold, we have no doubt that his understanding would have changed accordingly. It is our duty as Bible students to do the same, and not only this, but to learn the lesson of our fallibility and understand that in all likelihood, none of us have everything completely correct. Our goal in looking into prophecy is not to make ourselves the wisest or greatest, to be able to say, “Aha! I finished the puzzle!”, but to understand the signs that we have been given, be strengthened and moved by them, and “exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).

Now, back to the Gogian passages. While the simple fact of omission of the factors of the traditional view illustrated by the map is not in and of itself proof that it is incorrect true, it is certainly worth noting and urges further investigation. The only clear picture we are given of Gog is of him coming against Israel and only Israel when the time arrives, and that when Christ and the saints are in Jerusalem as is clearly highlighted in Revelation 20:8-9. This same thing is apparent in Ezekiel 38-39, and though it is not stated as clearly as the other passage, a simple consideration of a few cross references and word studies results in compelling evidence.

We, therefore, would like to encourage a careful, basic reading of these chapters to simply follow and identify what the Scriptures say about Gog. The picture that we gain from Ezekiel 38-39 and Revelation 20 is merely that Russia, along with her prophesied allies, will come against Israel at a time when Israel dwells safely and is greatly increased with riches and spoils. Once Gog begins her descent, it is said in

Ezekiel 38:18, 21-23 And it shall come to pass at the same time when Gog shall come against the land of Israel, saith the Lord GOD, that my fury shall come up in my face… (21) And I will call for a sword against him throughout all my mountains, saith the Lord GOD: every man's sword shall be against his brother. (22) And I will plead against him with pestilence and with blood; and I will rain upon him, and upon his bands, and upon the many people that are with him, an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone. (23) Thus will I magnify myself, and sanctify myself; and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the LORD.

The information we are given tells us that Gog is destroyed before it can make too much progress. We do not read of them conquering Israel or taking them into captivity. The most that can be honestly seen of their progress is that they will have penetrated some of Israel’s future borders, only to be utterly destroyed by fire from heaven. The main purpose of God’s Divinely-guided descent appears to be serve as an example to the nations as to what is in store for those who refuse to submit to Christ’s Gospel. The Papal power will be working to incite the nations against Christ (Daniel 8:24-25, Revelation 17:11-16), but the world will be given clear warning and admonition from the Lord:

Psalm 2:10-12Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. (11) Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. (12) Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

See also Revelation 14:9-11.

It is evident that many nations will not heed this warning, and Gog himself is crystal clear evidence of it. We learn this in Revelation 20:8, that other chapter that specifically mentions Gog:

Revelation 20:7-8And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, (an event which we believe in 1517 with the unloosing of Paganism) (8) 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.

If we combine this fact of Gog’s deception with the purpose of Gog’s destruction that we learn from Ezekiel 38:23, it appears to us that Gog and his confederates are used to substantiate the Lord’s warnings and thus serve as an example to the rest of the nations, giving them tangible evidence that the Lord means what he says! When he says that he is the Christ, he means it. When he warns not to war against him, he means it. We believe that Gog’s destruction will play a role in helping some of the nations of the world to see through the Papal deceit and wisely submit to Christ, for the Lord is still “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

What does all this mean? We suggest that Russia’s descent against Israel is still relatively far into the future. As we have recited before, the conviction we have gained from Scripture is that you and I will only see Russia come against Israel if we have been granted the grace and mercy of our Lord at his judgement seat. We believe that we will have already been gathered, judged, immortalized, helped conquer the Promise Land, and begun establishing the Kingdom with our Lord in Jerusalem when Gog descends.

Our intention in bringing up these topics is to not only humbly warn of things to come, but to also excite further study and challenge all to understand why you believe what you believe. Do not take anything at face value, but “try the spirits whether they are of God” (1 John 4:1). The same goes for everything that we pen. Do not simply believe every word that we write. Challenge it and search the Scriptures daily to determine whether these things are so (Acts 17:11). In doing so, we will all not only grow in our individual understanding and faith, but together as a Household.

So, what might we be looking for in the days ahead for Russia? We’ll try to make it quick! In essence, Putin isn’t happy. For a while, it seemed that he was in somewhat denial of the situation, but he has recently admitted (somewhat) that the latest conflict was not as successful as he wished. The following news items bear on these topics, and we suggest reading the articles for all who have time:

Will Ukraine's advance have consequences for Putin? - MSN

Ukraine counter-offensive won't change Russia's plans – BBC News

Bitter Vladimir Putin 'may strike Ukraine with nukes after crushing battlefield losses' - Mirror

Ukraine news: UK warned Putin is plotting ‘something absolutely atrocious’ - Express

Russia warns US will be dragged into war if they give Ukraine more missiles as Putin, Xi & Iran meet in new Axis of Evil – The Sun

In short, Putin is growing desperate, and that means that he can be more dangerous. Will he use nuclear weapons? Time will tell. We personally believe that he is also looking for a way to get out of the conflict and paint Russia’s involvement as a “win”. If there was a way to do this that would be plausible to the Russian people, we believe he would do it. Either way, he is certainly concerned about his image, and his pride (or more accurately, the Lord) will dictate his actions.

Is it possible that things could change that result in a Russian victory? Of course. It’s certainly possible, but the state of the war at present makes this conclusion illogical and unwarranted. Time will tell!

One brother commented that we are possibly seeing the necessity of the Ezekiel 38 confederacy. Russia’s struggling in the Ukraine war might be the driving force that causes the Russian leader to seek stronger ties with the other countries in Ezekiel 38, resulting in the full formation of the coalition. We already see this confederacy in the formation stages (The Jerusalem Post). We await further development!

We close all Prophecy Letters with a slight pang of dissatisfaction. Certainly, we could always explain better. We could always exhort more effectively. We could always strengthen more. It is, however, our heartfelt hope and prayer that at least some small benefit is derived from this labor of love, for all of these feeble efforts are focused upon one message: our loving, tender-mercied Master is descending to the earth once again, and he is doing so to deliver his faithful, devoted Brothers and Sisters from the woes and pains of this life and establish that perfect, everlasting Kingdom upon this beautiful earth. May we wait for him and be found earnestly watching for his coming, for he will only come once!

Tanner Hawkins

Note: Our title picture for TGP Prophecy Letter reflects our purpose with it. It depicts a watchman on top of the city walls blowing the shofar to warn and announce to the people the great signs of the Lord. The wall bears the Hebrew inscription "Prophecy Letter."