Pat Robertson, the founder of The 700 Club on television, said this week on his program that Russian President Vladimir Putin has been “compelled by God” in ordering the current Russian invasion and destruction of Ukraine. He said, “he’s being compelled by God. He went into Ukraine, but that wasn’t his goal. His goal was to move against Israel, ultimately.” Pat Robertson sounds like he knows more about what’s in Vladimir Putin’s head that Putin does. We need to examine what’s in Pat Robertson’s head in order to learn why he would say such an outrageous thing.
Robertson further explained that this Ukraine war is a “staging area” in preparation for “Armageddon.” By this he refers to the supposed war of that name in the Bible, in Revelation 16.16. Robertson continued, “And he will link up with Turkey across the little [land] bridge, and they will come together. And then, you look down into North Sudan, you’ve got a Muslim country down there, and there they all are. Persia, of course, is Iran.” Robertson now referred to the end times prophesy in Ezekiel 38-39 about “Gog,” which is surely a title, marshaling vast armies and invading the nation of Israel, where they all will be destroyed.
Thus, Robertson further explained, “And there is the land that is set up in Ezekiel 38 and you see how Ukraine is key because you see the land bridge between Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey. And all of that area is going to be mobilized against Israel in the latter days. And God says, ‘I am going to deal with it.'”
Robertson is like a lot of Bible prophecy believers who like to think that its end times prophecies are being fulfilled in the present, during their lifetimes. It gets them excited, pumped up emotionally. But they have to get reckless with interpretation in order to get on that high.
But then, we could just give Mr. Robertson a pass about this due to his age, which is now 91. However, this week’s Newsweek has an article about this that further informs, “This isn’t the first time Robertson has predicted signs on the world’s end. In 1976, he predicted the world would end in 1982. And in his 1990 book, The New Millennium, Robertson said the world would be destroyed on April 29, 2007, according to USA Today. None of those predictions were ever fulfilled.” Ha! Yeah, to say the least.
Pat Robertson is a Baptist turned Charismatic. He has been a major figure who has preached the Christian gospel and thereby seen many people believe in Jesus and develop in Christian faith. But I believe he sometimes succumbs to the temptation to say things to get recognition and look smart, if I can say that, and he does that with Bible prophecy. Of course, he’s not alone. Harold Camping–who died in 2013 and was the president of the popular evangelical program on radio called Family Radio–predicted the exact day of the second coming of Christ and/or the end of the world more than once. But Jesus taught against that in Matthew 24.36/Mark 13.32.
People like Robertson are reckless in their interpretation of biblical prophecies. And frankly, I would go so far as to say that they don’t believe what they are reading. They do that for two reasons: (1) they obviously don’t have the God-given skill to interpret documents very accurately, and (2) despite this lack they are tempted to speak authoritatively about something they are not that qualified to speak on.
How so? Both Robertson and I believe, as most evangelicals do who claim to believe in the Bible, that Ezekiel 38-39 is a prediction that has not happened yet and that it will happen in the so-called end times, meaning at the end of this age, also called the end of the world. And Robertson probably says Putin is “compelled by God” because Ezekiel says on behalf of God concerning Gog, “I will turn you around and put hooks in your jaws, and I will lead you” (Eze 38.4 NRSV). Ezekiel later says similarly, “I will turn you around and drive you forward, and bring you up from the remotest parts of the north and lead you against the mountains of Israel” (Eze 39.2).
Many end times biblical prophecies can be connected to the Exodus, when the ancient Israelites fled from bondage in Egypt, probably in the 14th or 12th century BC. Pharaoh’s armies then chased after them and drowned in the sea (Exodus 13-15). And that was preceded by the ten plagues, when God “hardened” the heart of Pharaoh. He did so because Pharaoh had already hardened his own heart numerous times (e.g., Exo 7.3; 8.15, 19, 32; 9.7, 12; 10.1, 20, 27). The same will surely be the case with Gog. Thus, God hardening Pharaoh’s heart is comparable to God “compelling” Gog to gather his armies and attack Israel as Pharaoh’s armies attacked the ancient Israelites.
But this text in Ezekiel 38-39 says repeatedly that those soldiers who will invade the land of Israel to destroy the nation of Israel will use primitive weapons, not those rifles, tanks, and missiles that Putin’s soldiers are using. Plus, Ezekiel says Gog and many or most of his forces will invade Israel on “horses,” not those trucks in convoy that Mr. Putin sent. For Ezekiel predicts on behalf of God, “I will lead you out with all your army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed in full armor, a great company, all of them with shield and buckler, wielding swords” (Eze 38.4). And Ezekiel further says on behalf of God concerning Gog and his armies, “I will strike your bow from your lefthand, and will make your arrows drop out of your right hand” (Eze 39.3).
Do you think Ezekiel was just a bit confused, so that he said “horses and horsemen” but he really meant the mobilized trucks and tanks that Putin’s Russian soldiers are using for transportation to invade and attack Ukraine? I don’t know any Bible believer who believes that. Then what about those swords, bows and arrows, shields and bucklers? Many evangelicals have been taught by people like Robertson that those weapons can be understood as really being guns, rifles, missiles, etc. Some of them call it “language of accommodation.” They mean by this invented terminology that whereas Ezekiel says primitive weapons, it must be understood as our advanced, modern weapons. Some Dispensationalists interpret the horses literally, but the weapons non-literally. No, to be consistent in interpretation, if the horses are literal, the weapons are literal.
Ezekiel said horses and swords and so one, and that’s exactly what he meant. But people like Robertson have to interpret otherwise because of their doctrine of imminence concerning the second coming of Christ. This gets a bit complex. They mean by it that the second coming of Christ, or what they call “the rapture,” could have occurred at any moment throughout church history, describing it as always being “imminent.” Folks, I used to be there with them, believing that. But it is DEAD WRONG! That’s was why I named my series on biblical prophecy STILL HERE.
The teaching that Jesus could return at any time was taught by John Nelson Darby beginning in 1831 and popularized his Plymouth Brethren. It involves a whole theological system known as Dispensationalism. I was a Dispensationalist, thus a believer in the any moment rapture of the church, for 11 years until I read myself out of that in the Bible. That’s why Robertson can say that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is an end times precursor of Armageddon. He believes that because he believes that Jesus can return at any moment for the rapture and the second coming (Advent) will occur seven years later, called pretribulationism. But it is wrong; Jesus will return only one time, and that at the end of the age, called posttribulationism.
So, Robertson and most Dispensationalists have a wrong theology about the end times that causes them to not believe exactly what the prophet Ezekiel says here, and change it to something else, such as changing horses, swords, and bows and arrows to trucks, tanks, rifles, and missiles.
Folks, if you believe the Bible, and you believe what Ezekiel is saying here in Ezekiel 38-39, it is quite obvious that Jesus cannot return soon because the world must disarm itself of all modern weapons and use only primitive weapons to fight wars before that end of the world will come. And that’s going to take a while to happen. How will such disarmament happen? Maybe it will be only through the continuation of the disarmament movement that has occurred in the past. But it has been stalled for some time. I think the likely scenario is that there will be nuclear war or wars or perhaps worse, and because of that the nations will finally wise up and get rid of all of their technologically advanced weapons and prevent them from being made any more, all before the second coming of Christ. That, to me, is the only way you can believe that Ezekiel 38-39 is true and therefore will really happen in the future, thus in the end times.