In July, Turkey announced its plan to move forward with the purchase of a Russian S-400 air defense system. In response, the U.S. expelled Turkey from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, cancelling their previous order of 100 F-35s. Furthermore, Turkey’s announcement opened the door for more penalties under a 2017 act that calls for sanctions on any nation that buys a major defense article from Russia. Currently, relations remain strained as the two nations work to find a resolution. But far from an isolated incident, this is just the latest dispute between the United States and Turkey. The relationship between these two countries has been volatile for several years now. But this wasn’t always the case. Up until a few years ago, Turkey was a reliable ally for the U.S., Israel, and NATO.
Following World War I and the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk led a Turkish War of Independence. When the war ended, the victors established the Republic of Turkey in 1923. Ataturk served as the new nation’s first president. He oversaw numerous reforms to modernize Turkey. He established a secular western democracy and made the nation a model democratic republic in the Middle East. In 1949, Turkey became the first Muslim majority nation to recognize Israel. In 1952, it joined NATO. For the latter part of the 20th Century, Turkey was a strong ally of Israel, the U.S., and other western nations. As the 21st Century dawned, Turkey explored membership in the European Union. This would have further solidified the nation’s western ties. Instead, an event took place that reshaped the future of Turkey.
A New Direction for Turkey
In 2003, Turkey elected Recep Tayyip Erdogan as prime minister. A former member of a banned Islamist political party, Erdogan’s administration has been hostile toward Turkey’s secular and democratic institutions. Under Erdogan, Turkey has turned from its traditional western allies and cultivated relationships with nations that oppose western democracy. In July 2016, Erdogan cracked down on his political opponents following what he claimed was a coup attempt. He imprisoned thousands of citizens and consolidated his grip on power. A 2017 referendum further extended that power. Now the president, Erdogan is the undisputed ruler of Turkey. The nation, once hailed as a model of freedom and democracy in the Muslim world, has quickly devolved into a totalitarian regime eager to befriend America’s enemies.
What’s Happened Under Erdoğan
To see the drastic changes brought about under Erdogan’s rule, one need look no further than the current state of U.S.-Turkish relations. The recent dispute over the Russian S-400 air defense system is only the latest point of contention. In recent years, we’ve seen a long list of such developments under Erdogan. The list includes, but is not limited to:
In July 2016, Erdogan jailed thousands of political opponents following a failed coup against his regime.
That same year, without evidence, Turkey accused the U.S. of harboring a Turkish cleric (Fethullah Gulen) whom they say orchestrated the failed coup.
In 2017, Turkey jailed three Turkish citizens who worked for the U.S. State Department under accusations they helped orchestrate the 2016 coup.
In May 2017, seven bodyguards for Erdogan beat up protesters in Washington, DC.
In October 2017, the two countries announced the mutual suspension of non-immigrant visa services.
In October 2017, a Turkish court convicted a Wall Street Journal reporter and sentenced her to 25 months in prison for publishing an article they deemed “propaganda.”
In September 2018, Turkey met the leaders of Russia and Iran in Tehran to discuss the future of Syria.
In October 2018, Turkey released American pastor Andrew Brunson after holding him hostage for two years.
In February 2019, Turkey met the leaders of Russia and Iran in Sochi to coordinate joint military plans in Syria.
To any objective observer, it’s clear Turkey has drifted away from its western democratic ties and into the arms of nations like Russia and Iran who are hostile to the west. Making matters worse, the U.S. allied itself with Turkey’s longtime enemy, the Kurds. Since war erupted in Syria in 2011, Kurdish forces have come to control large areas of Syrian territory, including areas along the Turkish border. This poses a threat to Turkey and puts them in direct conflict with the United States, further straining U.S.-Turkish relations.
Why This Matters
So why should you care? Aside from diminishing freedom and liberty for Turkey’s citizens, these events have enormous prophetic significance. Why? Because Turkey is a key member of the Gog of Magog alliance. Six centuries before the crucifixion of Jesus, Ezekiel foretold of a future invasion of Israel (Ezekiel 38-39). He said it will occur in the last days (Ezekiel 38:16). It will come from north of Israel (Ezekiel 38:15; Ezekiel 39:2), and it will involve a coalition of nations led by Russia (Ezekiel 38:2). The nations Ezekiel cited include:
Rosh = Russia
Magog = Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Afghanistan
Persia = Iran
Cush = Sudan
Put = Libya
Meshech, Tubal, Gomer, and Beth-togarmah = Turkey
For years, those who study Bible prophecy have wondered how Turkey fits into this alliance. After all, Turkey is a longtime ally of Israel. Also, as a member of NATO, the idea of Turkey joining a Russian invasion of Israel is hard for many to imagine. In 2014, I noted in my book Signs of the Second Coming:
“Turkey is another interesting member of this military alliance. Since the restoration of Israel in 1948, those who understand Bible prophecy have struggled to figure out how Turkey fits in. Why? Because in 1949, Turkey became the first Muslim majority country to officially recognize the state of Israel. Turkey and Israel have a long history of diplomatic, economic, and military cooperation. Turkey is also a member of NATO. And what is the purpose of NATO? Its purpose is to defend member nations against Russian aggression. So why would Turkey join a Russian alliance to invade another country?
While it hasn’t made sense in recent years, that idea doesn’t seem so far-fetched today. In May 2010, Turkey and Russia signed a series of agreements enhancing their energy ties, including an agreement to build Turkey’s first nuclear power plant. And in recent years, Turkey’s domestic politics – historically secular in nature – have been heavily influenced by Islam. And that gives Turkey more than enough motive to join the Gog of Magog Alliance.”
And here we are. Erdogan has consolidated power in Turkey. Ataturk’s Turkish Republic is dead. The relationship between Vladimir Putin and Erdogan is strong and growing. All that’s left to permanently move Turkey into Russia’s sphere of influence is a clear break between Turkey and NATO.
While we wait for that moment, the military forces of the three most powerful members of the Gog of Magog alliance – Russia, Iran, and Turkey – are now cooperating in Syria. This puts their joint military forces right on Israel’s border. And not just any border – Israel’s northern border. This is where Ezekiel said the invasion force will come from – north of Israel (Ezekiel 38:15; Ezekiel 39:2). Is this a mere coincidence? I don’t think so. Never in history have these three nations formed an alliance. Now, they’re stationed directly to Israel’s north.
The stage is now set for the fulfillment of the Ezekiel 38-39 prophecies. Turkey has made a strategic choice to align itself with Russia and Iran. Eventually, Russia, Iran, Turkey, and the other nations in the Gog of Magog alliance will send an overwhelming invasion force against Israel (Ezekiel 38:8-9). When they do, God will destroy them and display His power and glory for all the nations to see (Ezekiel 38:22-23). It’s one more sign of how close we are to the Second Coming of Jesus.
Britt Gillette is author of the free ebook Coming to Jesus as well as the books Signs of the Second Coming and Racing Toward Armageddon. Receive his book 7 Signs of the End Times for free when you sign up for his monthly newsletter.