JERUSALEM—With the Russian invasion of Ukraine, resulting in the biggest land war in Europe since World War II, there has been a great deal of speculation about whether any of this has prophetic implications.
Specifically, many Christians – as well as others – are speculating whether we are likely to see the “War of Gog & Magog,” as described in the biblical book of Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39, actually unfold in the not-so-distant future.
Secular media outlets have published stories about this.
So have Christian media outlets.
That said, curiosity over the eschatological “War of Gog & Magog” is by no means a recent phenomenon.
The prophecy itself was written nearly 2,600 years ago, and has not yet come to pass.
But perhaps the modern era's most high-profile believer in the prophecy’s legitimacy was none other than former U.S. President Ronald Reagan.
In 1971, Reagan – then governor of California – attended a banquet to honor State Senator James Mills. After the main course, he asked Mills if he was familiar with “the fierce Old Testament prophet Ezekiel.” He went on to explain that Russia was the Magog described in Ezekiel’s prophecy and was thus doomed to destruction.
“In the thirty-eighth chapter of Ezekiel it says God will take the children of Israel from among the heathen [where] they’d been scattered and will gather them again in the promised land,” Reagan told Mills.
“Ezekiel says that . . . the nation that will lead all the other powers into darkness against Israel will come out of the north,” Reagan continued. “What other powerful nation is to the north of Israel [besides Russia]? None. But it didn’t seem to make sense before the Russian revolution, when Russia was a Christian country. Now it does, now that Russia has become communistic and atheistic, now that Russia has set itself against God. Now it fits the description perfectly.”
At the time, Reagan conceded that “everything hasn’t fallen into place yet,” but he strongly believed the end of the Soviet empire and the second coming of Christ were increasingly close at hand.
In his 1997 book, “Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan,” Edmund Morris – the president’s official biographer – revealed that Ezekiel was actually Reagan’s “favorite book of prophecy.”
Morris also recounted an intriguing scene he personally witnessed in the Oval Office in which Reagan discussed the Ezekiel option with White House Chief of Staff Howard Baker and National Security Advisor Colin Powell.
“We talk mainly about religion,” read the notes from Reagan's meeting with Morris on Feb. 9, 1988.
“I have been reading a book about his Armageddon complex, and, when I mention the subject, am rewarded by an animated speech, full of jovial doom, that lasts the rest of the half hour,” Morris continued.
When Baker and Powell arrived, impatient for their own thirty minutes, Morris told them, “We’re having a cozy chat about Armageddon.”
“They stand grinning nervously as he [Reagan] continues” to discuss the topic of the book of Revelation, Morris continued.
Then Reagan turned the topic to the prophecies of Ezekiel 38 and 39, Morris noted.
Reagan explained to his senior staff that “the man who comes from the wrong side, into the war, is the man, according to the prophecies, named Gog, from Meshech, which is the ancient name of Moscow.”
“I tell you, Mr. President,” Baker replied. “I wish you’d quit talking about that. You upset me.”
But Morris wrote that Reagan continued to talk about such things, as he had for many years.
I once asked Michael Reagan, the president’s son, if such accounts rang true.
He confirmed that they did, noting that his father firmly believed he was living in history’s last days and thought that he might even see the return of Christ in his lifetime.
Ronald Reagan was a devout Christian, his son told me. He was a student of the Bible and was fascinated with end-times prophecies. He believed they were true. He talked about them with friends and colleagues. They helped shape his view that the Soviet Union, and the system of evil it advanced and perpetuated, was not long for this world.
For a movie actor-turned-president like Ronald Reagan, the Bible was indeed the greatest story ever told.
Reagan had read the prophecies in Ezekiel, Daniel, Isaiah and Jeremiah.
Reagan had also read the last book of the Bible – the book of Revelation.
He knew for certain that a day of reckoning – a day of justice – was coming.
And he wasn’t afraid to talk about it.
Joel C. Rosenberg is the editor-in-chief of ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and the President and CEO of Near East Media. A New York Times best-selling author, Middle East analyst, and Evangelical leader, he lives in Jerusalem with his wife and sons.