‘The enemies of Israel have unleashed a massive air attack on the Promised Land. Hundreds of fighter jets streak across the sky. But before Israel can be destroyed, fire rains from the heavens and the enemy jets explode in mid-air with no explanation. Hailstones the size of golf balls follow the fire. The ground shakes. Birds pick clean the bodies of the fallen attackers. The enemy is vanquished without a single Israeli casualty, and the country is saved.
These are some of the opening scenes of the bestselling 1995 book Left Behind: A Novel of the Earth’s Last Days, by Jerry B. Jenkins and the late evangelical minister Tim LaHaye. But don’t mistake this scenario for a mere action sequence: It’s based on the war of Gog and Magog, a biblical conflict prophesied in the Book of Ezekiel. In the Bible, Gog is the leader of Magog, a “place in the far north” that many evangelicals believe is Russia. According to Ezekiel’s prophecy, Gog will join with Persia—now Iran—and other Arab nations to attack a peaceful Israel “like a cloud that covers the land.” LaHaye, like many evangelicals, believed this battle would bring on the Rapture, the End Times event when God spirits away the good Christians to heaven before unleashing plagues, sickness, and other horrors on the unbelievers remaining on Earth.
Meanwhile, the Antichrist reigns supreme.The story of Gog and Magog is central to the bloody eschatology long embraced by millions of American evangelicals. In recent years, End Times has gained special political currency as believers have seen any number of Middle East conflagrations as fulfilling Ezekiel’s prophecy, notably the US invasion of Iraq and the war in Syria. Gog and Magog took on fresh relevance earlier this month, when the Trump administration assassinated Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force.’