Ungodliness is the greatest and the central sin.
It is the cause of all our other troubles.
— D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (The Plight of Man and the Power of God)
Our English versions all seem to tone down the force of the Hebrew idiom in v. 16.
- NIV: “days to come”
- NAS: “last days”
- KJV, NRSV, AMP: “latter days”
The Hebrew is transliterated: bĕ’ahărît hayyāmîm. While the English versions capture the general meaning of this phrase, they miss the literal force of the expression: “at the end of the days”.
This epic, cataclysmic, apocalyptic, <insert superlative here> battle will happen when the earth runs out of days.
. . .
You might ask, “What’s the big deal?” Themes of a final Armageddon-style battle are common knowledge. What makes Ezekiel’s vision different?
Ezekiel and his hearers are in exile. They have just been given an unimaginable glimmer of hope: not only will their bones be reconstituted, they will be reunified with their Northern siblings before returning to their land. That fact in itself would have been almost more than they had dared to hope for.
With this prophecy, Ezekiel is essentially saying: “You will join with your Northern neighbours. You will return to the land. Yahweh will live with you. You will live in peace. You still won’t be an adequate witness for God, so he will bring one more enemy against you!”
. . .
I snowshoed 46km along the Bruce Trail up by Wiarton, Ontario last weekend. The landscape is a series of peninsulas and bays. As soon as you cross one peninsula, you are faced with an open body of water followed by another peninsula that you know you will have to hike across.
Ezekiel is doing equivalent of seeing past the next few peninsulas straight to the end of the trail.
How would the exiles feel about this message?
- You will be revived by God – Hurray!
- You will be reunified with your Northern siblings – Huh?
- You will live in peace in the land – Finally!
- There will be one more assault on your land – What?
Why one more assault? Daniel Block says it well:
Why would Yahweh bring Gog against his own people after the covenant relationships had been fully restored? Because an element in the divine agenda, the universal recognition of his person, remains unfulfilled. (Ezekiel 25-48, 451)
. . .
This should make us pause. We’re living in the new covenant. God lives within us. He has given us the entire world for his kingdom. If there is a cataclysmic even coming, it is because the people around us do not know by our lives that Jesus is Lord.
. . .
Lord God, thank you for the peace you have given Christians in the West. Help us to not become complacent, but to exemplify your life—love, joy, and peace—in our lives. In Jesus’ name, Amen.