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The Case Against Steven Collins’ Revisionist View of Eschatology




Eric V. Snow


            Traditionally, we in the Church of God movement (meaning, those directly or indirectly influenced by the teachings of Herbert W. Armstrong and the old Worldwide Church of God) have interpreted Biblical end time prophecy to predict that God will punish the descendants of the tribe of Joseph (i.e., the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) by a German-led invasion of Europe.  Because we (I write as an American as well as a COG member) have received the birthright blessings promised through the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, but then have sinned greatly, we (meaning here, the COG) have traditionally taught that our nations are prophesied to be punished through famine, war, and captivity.  Steven Collins, a fellow laymember of the United Church of God, has proposed a revised view of prophecy that maintains we (as Americans/British/Canadians/Australians/New Zealanders) will be united by alliance with the continental European powers of the European Union (EU) in the end time.  Instead of being attacked by Assyria again, in a dual fulfillment of prophecy about Assyria attacking the northern Ten Tribes of Israel, we will be united with Assyria (i.e., Germany) by alliance when a Russian-led Asian alliance attacks us suddenly without warning.  Using especially such texts as Ezekiel 38-39, Numbers 24:14-24, and Genesis 49, Mr. Collins argues for a revisionist, more futurist view of prophecy, which certainly has the old, musty odor of British-Israelite triumphalism about it, than we in the COG have traditionally taught.  Instead of being defeated in war by the Beast Power (a/k/a, the European Union ruled by a future dictator, also a/k/a the king of the north, as supported by Babylon the Great), we descendants of the tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim will united by alliance with the European Union when Russia and other Asiatic powers will launch a giant, Pearl-Harbor-style sneak attack on us.  In Mr. Collins’ scenario, God will come to our rescue, and save us from defeat during the Great Tribulation to come.  By emphasizing the dual nature of prophecy and Biblical texts that Mr. Collins has overlooked or misinterpreted, this essay will argue for our traditional view of prophecy in which we warn our fellow Manassites and Ephraimites about an attack by the Assyrian-led Beast power (i.e., a future dictatorial European Union led by Germany), not about an attack by Russia and other Asian powers.




            A central assumption of Mr. Collins is a complete denial of duality in prophecy, at least for the purposes of his revisionist views of what nation(s) the modern house of Israel should fear being attacked by.  The only relevant prophecies, he believes, are those that explicitly state that they’re going to be fulfilled in the end times (his emphasis, “A New Look at Prophecy,” p.7):  “In order to avoid the mistake of turning human assumptions into prophetic dogmas, this article will construct a new prophetic scenario based solely on those prophecies which clearly state that they do pertain to the latter days.”  This procedure of only citing prophecies that explicitly use a formula, such as “in the latter days,” Mr. Collins himself doesn’t always follow, such as with Jer. 51:48.  This Scripture appears in a context plainly about the (now) ancient past also (see ANLAP, pp. 30-31).  Mr. Collins believes that the ancient wars between Assyria and the house of Israel won’t have a future counterpart (his emphasis, A New Look at Prophecy, p. 3):  “It was assumed that even as the ancient Israelite-Assyrian wars continued until Assyria conquered and ‘took captive’ the ancient Israelites, that modern Assyria [Germany] would keep fighting the nations of modern Israel [primarily the USA and UK] until ‘modern Assyria’ conquered ‘modern Israel’ and took it captive.”  But this is no mere “assumption” when dual prophetic fulfillments repeatedly appear in Scripture.  Duality can exist even when the term “latter days” doesn’t show up in a given text.  The Olivet Prophecy of Christ in Matt. 24 and Luke 21 is a case in point, which described what occurred during the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 as well as what will happen in the times preceding and following the Second Coming.   More specifically, Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 167 b.c. set up the Abomination of Desolation (Matt. 24:15; Dan. 9:27; 11:31;12:11), then Titus’ Roman Legions in A.D. 70 repeated this by destroying the Temple, but it will appear once again.  The regathering of Israelites to the Promised Land is a case in point:  It occurred after the Babylonian Captivity (Jer. 29:10, 14; Ezra 1:1-5), during the Zionist movement of the twentieth century that culminated in the birth of the modern State of Israel in the time before the Second Coming (Zech. 12:2, 10-14; 14:2-3, 14), and will be fulfilled in the most complete form after the millennium’s beginning (Isa. 11:11-13; Jer. 50:4-5, 20).  Such a text as Jer. 29:14 is ambiguous, and could well have multiple fulfillments without its explicitly saying anything about “the latter days”:  “’And I will be found by you, ‘ declares the Lord, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’”  The broad universality of its terms (“from all the nations,” “from all the places”) implies it isn’t just about returning from Babylon, although the context of v. 10 would point to this as (presumably) its main meaning.  Other dual fulfillments in prophecy could be given, such as the identity of the “Elijah to come” (Mal. 4:5-6; Luke 1:17; 7:27-28).  But the foregoing shows the duality principle shouldn’t be casually cast aside as a mere assumption of the old WCG when considering who is prophesied to be Israel and Judah’s end time enemies.




            Do the repeated failures of the Worldwide Church of God’s predictions about a German-led invasion prove it will never happen?  Mr. Collins thinks so (A New Look at Prophecy, pp. 1-2): 


“Old-timers” who remember the WCG in the 1950s and 1960s can recall the prophetic dogma that a rearmed Germany would lead a “United States of Europe” in an invasion of the USA and Great Britain. . . . The WCG taught that this expected invasion would lead to a “Great Tribulation” of national captivity for the USA and Great Britain. . . .  Nevertheless, it is now a well-established fact of history that the prophetic expectations of the “old” WCG failed repeatedly. . . . This article will not only examine the assumptions on which the church’s failed prophetic dogmas were based, but it will also offer a new look at prophecy, based on a literal application of biblical prophecy to modern world events.


See also ANLAP, p. 32-33, for a forceful restatement of this argument as he winds up his essay.  But the penchant of Herbert W. Armstrong (the past main leader of the WCG) for setting incorrect dates for Jesus’ return[1] proves little about the identity of what group of nations is destined to invade the modern house of Israel in the (presumably) immediate near future.  HWA and others in the WCG could have spent the past half century and more predicting a Russian-led invasion, and have equally dismal results to show for their efforts:  That hasn’t happened yet either!   Ironically, with the economic and military collapse of Russia since the end of the Cold War (1989) and second Russian revolution that overthrew the Soviet Union and communism (1991), Russia looks less threatening than ever.  They even cooperated (1990) when we threatened to invade Iraq by selling their erstwhile ally down the river when they had failed to oppose the United Nations’ resolution to use force against Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait.  They’re cooperating even now with our present war on terrorism and didn’t squawk too loudly when America’s present administration unilaterally scrapped the ABM treaty.  Russia is presently cooperating with America more than it has in two generations (back to 1917, before the communist coup during WWI). 


On the other hand, Europe is closer today to a lasting and full political and economic union than it has been since the time of Rome.  Such treaties as those of Maastricht (1992), Amsterdam (1997), and Nice (2000) have increased the control of Brussels and weakened the power of the European Union’s old national capitals.  Many regulations issued on business activities show time and time again that the “Eurocrats” in Brussels are flexing their political muscles.  The introduction of the euro as a common currency and the retirement of time-honored currencies such as the mark, franc, and lira mean that the 12 nations of “euro-land” have ceded control of monetary policy to a new supranational European Central Bank based in (ahem) Frankfurt.  Furthermore, the proposals for a common European Defense Force (EDF) are blossoming into reality, although Europe presently still remains militarily weak compared to the United States technologically and quantitatively (percent of GDP spent on defense).  Most recently, at the Laeken (December 2001) summit, the plans put forth for a common European constitution and for the direct election of the president of the European Union (which would greatly increase the office’s legitimacy, and thus power) show the Europeans aren’t blowing smoke about achieving full political union.  The recent mild animus shown against America by the European Union’s left-center governments over such cultural and political issues and values as the infliction of the death penalty, trade policy, government control and regulation of the economy, the present Bush administration’s general tendency to reject multilateralism in diplomatic action, etc., will become more serious in the years to come.  It may seem “divorced from reality” (ANLAP, p. 4) to predict the presently friendly German nation would “lead a European attack on the USA (or any other nuclear power) any time soon,” but (to use an HWA analogy) this reasoning is like looking at the present thermostat reading upstairs in the living room while ignoring what’s going on downstairs in the boiler room.  Although it remains unclear what would humble the world’s sole remaining superpower and its English speaking allies such that a takeover from the Continent would become feasible, let alone actually come to pass, Biblical prophecy (as will be examined below) shows we should warn our nations about it.


Furthermore, the old WCG predictions that Britain would be outside the final coming reunification of Europe have been prescient.  Britain, more than any other EU nation, has dragged its feet about ceding political control to common Euroland institutions.  Although the present Labour Blair government isn’t intrinsically hostile to the European Union, unlike the euro-skeptic wing of the out-of-power Conservatives, Blair’s own exchequer’s criteria for replacing the pound with the euro shows his government is in no rush to give up the pound, any rhetoric to the contrary notwithstanding.  Britain has persistently shown a willingness to cooperate with America militarily (Korea, Falklands, Iraq, and now Afghanistan) that makes it unique among the European Union’s members.  The ties of a common culture (language, law, history, constitution, popular government, etc.) inevitably tend to draw Britain closer to its dominions largely settled by its colonists (Canada, Australia, New Zealand) and America, and away from its old traditional enemies on the continent (Germany, France, and Spain).  Although the old WCG wrongly predicted the United Kingdom would never join the Common Market based on its view of prophecy about a future German-led invasion of the house of Israel, its overall paradigm will be proven correct despite certain specifics are mangled upon occasion, especially concerning timing. 




            Given the above recent political developments over the past decade and a half, Mr. Collins is paradoxically counseling trading in the old WCG’s prophetic paradigm about a German-led invasion for a Russian-led one just as the former is becoming more possible than since World War Two and the latter is the most unlikely it has been since World War One.  Although Mr. Collins scoffs at the notion that anyone would (ANLAP, p. 19) “attack and destroy trading partners on whom one’s own economy depends,” World War I was precisely this.  (Nationalism can easily trump economic self-interest, you see).  Indeed, in some ways, the world of 1913 was more integrated economically than today’s is, precisely because of the colonial economic (not just political) domination, of (what is now called, perhaps optimistically) the developing world.  It would be most tragic (and ironic!) for the Church of God to adopt for its prophetic proclamations the view that the Beast, the king of the north, the house of Israel, and Babylon the Great are united against a future Asian invasion led by Russia and China just when Europe is (finally!) becoming truly politically united.  The mistaken predictions in the past didn’t come from belief that a German-led invasion of the house of Israel would come, but from Christians being so eager in their expectations of Jesus’ return that they set dates.  Had Mr. Armstrong or others in the old WCG had routinely predicted a Russian-led invasion of Israel and Judah instead of a German-led one, they equally would have had “egg on their faces” (cf. A New Look at Prophecy, p. 2) since that hasn’t happened to date either.  Following Mr. Collins’ logic here, that the repeated false predictions of a German-led invasion prove it won’t ever happen, I could equally reason that all the false predictions of Jesus’ return down through the centuries by true and traditional Christians prove that it won’t ever happen either. Likewise, the past failed predictions about the timing of the house of Israel’s humbling by Assyria can’t prove its impossibility.  The children raised in the WCG didn’t leave mainly because predicted “ghoulish scenarios” (A New Look at Prophecy, p. 3) never took place, but because of a desire to be like the world and not different from their peers, a desire to escape obeying the Sabbath, Holy Days, tithing, and the laws on sexual morality, etc.  So, as Mr. Collins himself does, we have to turn to Scripture, and see who is prophesied to invade the house of Israel and Judah, so we can then correctly warn our nations about their immediate future.




            Mr. Collins heavily leans upon Numbers 24:14-24 and Genesis 49:22-26 (ANLAP, pp. 4-5, 8) to prove God would protect the Houses of Israel and Judah in the end time.  But is it ever a wise procedure to take one Scripture or text on a complex subject or doctrine, and then believe it settles the matter against all objections?  If other texts can be cited that show the Houses of Israel and Judah will be humbled in the end time, then Numbers 24:14-24 can’t be seen as giving the full story.  For example, in Jer. 30:14, God doesn’t promise to help Israel versus its enemies, but is a literal “enemy” against His chosen people because of their sins:  “For I have wounded you with the wound of an enemy, with the punishment of a cruel one, because your iniquity is great and your sins are numerous.”  In the plainly millennial context of v. 11 (see v. 9), God promises to destroy the nations that Israel was scattered to, but still rebukes His people (the “you” in this text):  “‘For I am with you,’ declares the Lord, ‘to save you; for I will destroy completely all the nations where I have scattered you, only I will not destroy you completely, but I will chasten you justly, and will by no means leave you unpunished.’”  Since the promises of Israel’s restoration often appear cheek and jowl with predictions of his nation’s punishment, it’s a distortion to quote one side of this story while omitting the rest.  What’s described in Num. 24:14-24 could have occurred long before “the latter days,” at least in a preliminary fulfillment, which gives credence to the NASB’s rendering of v. 14 as “I will advise you what this people will do to your people in the days to come.”  For example, in v. 17, “a scepter shall rise from Israel,” includes the promise that the Messiah would come from the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10), a promise fulfilled in the first centuries b.c. and A.D.  Now the defeat of Moab, prophesied in v. 17, shouldn’t be seen as contradicting Jer. 48:47, which predicts its restoration in the latter days.[2]  Obviously, one occurs before the other during the time called “the latter days.”  But if Moab can both be punished and restored in “the latter days,” then couldn’t Israel be also? 




            Let’s consider some texts[3] that prophesy the house of Israel’s defeat or captivity in the latter days, or at least at some time other than the eighth century b.c.  Isaiah 10:20-22 reads: 


Now it will come about in that day that the remnant of Israel, and those of the house of Jacob who have escaped, will never again rely on the one who struck them [Assyria, vs. 5-12, 15)] but will truly rely on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel.  A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God.  For though your people, O Israel, may be like the sand of the sea, only a remnant within them will return; a destruction is determined, overflowing with righteousness.


Now did a remnant return (v. 22) after the captivity of the house of Israel in the eighth century?  None that’s recorded (although Anna was of Asher, Luke 3:36).  The Ten Lost Tribes indeed did stay lost, so far as most of the world perceives.  Therefore, this text’s prophecy has to be fulfilled in the future, in the events surrounding the Second Coming.  Additional evidence for the same time setting comes from the statement that Israel never again relies on Assyria/Germany, which would be after a disastrous dependence in the end times, not before.  There’s no way the largely apostate northern kingdom after going into captivity learned back then to depend on “the Lord, the Holy One of Israel” instead of just as the millennium began.  Furthermore, in a section that may well have a dual fulfillment (vs. 24-27), notice that God warns Israel not to be afraid of Assyria despite the damage it inflicts on His chosen people (vs. 24-25):  “O My people who dwell in Zion, do not fear the Assyrian who strikes you with the rod and lifts up his staff against you, the way Egypt did.  For in a very little while My indignation against you will be spent, and My anger will be directed to their destruction.”  God then will break the yoke of slavery off Israel’s back:  “So it will be in that day, that his burden will be removed from your shoulders and his yoke from your neck, and the yoke will be broken because of fatness” (Isa. 10:27).  Since Assyria anciently never enslaved Judah, this has to be a reference to Israel.




Isaiah 11:11-13, 15-16 predicts Israel will return from living in many nations, including Assyria.  The time setting here plainly is millennial, not the sixth century b.c. or even (mainly?) the twentieth century A.D.:


Then it will happen on that day [when Jesus returns, v. 10] that the Lord will again recover the second time with His hand the remnant of His people, who will remain, from Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath, and from the island of the sea.  And He will lift up a standard for the nations, and will assemble the banished ones of Israel, and will gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.  Then the jealousy of Ephraim will depart, and those who harass Judah will be cut off; Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah, and Judah will not harass Ephraim. . . .  And the Lord will utterly destroy the tongue of the Sea of Egypt; and He will wave His hand over the River with His scorching wind; and He will strike into seven streams, and make men walk over dry-shod.  And there will be a highway from Assyria for the remnant of His people who will be left, just as there was for Israel in the day that they came up out of the land of Egypt.


Since those who harass Judah haven’t been cut off (i.e., eliminated and/or conquered, as per v. 14) decisively in the past century, it’s hard to see this as mainly applying to the regathering resulting from the Zionist movement in the twentieth century.  Notice that for v. 11, the word the NASB translates “recover” means, according to the Brown-Drivers-Briggs Hebrew-English lexicon,[4] that God here was “victorious redeeming his people.”  If someone is in need of redemption, that implies they’re under someone else’s power, like a servant to a master or a debtor to a creditor.  Verse 16 is particularly interesting, since it makes a comparison between when Israel came up out of Egypt (and slavery) to when they’ll come up out of Assyria.  But, of course, the return of the exiles from the Babylonian Captivity in the sixth and fifth centuries b.c. concerned Judah’s return from Babylon, not the house of Israel’s return from Assyria. The defeat of Israel and Judah’s enemies described in verse 14 only takes place after the return from exile, not before, so it renders little service to Mr. Collins’ cause.  Although Isa. 11:11-16 doesn’t explicitly mention Israel’s deliverance from national captivity and slavery as the millennium dawns, it still shows Israel’s disadvantageous, non-controlling position at that time, which hardly fits an Israel that God helps to win on the battlefield when the Great Tribulation begins.




            Another text pointing to Israel’s rescue from a disastrous state as the millennium gets underway is Isaiah 27:12-13: 


And it will come about in that day, that the Lord will start His threshing from the flowing stream of the Euphrates to the brook of Egypt; and you will be gathered up one by one, O sons of Israel.  It will come about also in that day that a great trumpet will be blown; and those who were perishing in the land of Assyria and who were scattered in the land of Egypt will come and worship the Lord in the holy mountain at Jerusalem.


This hasn’t happened to date, since Israel never returned from Assyrian captivity as a people.  Those “perishing” in Assyria can’t be seen as successful conquerors of their enemies.  Nor could Israel be “perishing” in Germany if we were allied to them, as in Mr. Collins’ scenario.  Mr. Collins (ANLAP, p. 7) maintains those “perishing” in Assyria and “scattered” in Egypt are the Assyrians and Egyptians themselves.  But if the previous verse mentions Israel being “gathered up one by one,” in order to “come and worship the Lord” in the next verse, those “scattered” in verse 13 logically aren’t Egyptians but Israelites.  In the immediately following context (Isa. 28:1-8) the unrighteousness of Ephraim is described and the Second Coming (v. 5) occurs.  So it’s no surprise to deduce that Israel and Judah are the ones suffering in the immediately preceding verse (i.e., Isa. 28:13).




Zechariah 10:6-11 is yet another Scripture that portrays Israel’s return from Assyria at the millennium’s inauguration:


‘And I shall strengthen the house of Judah, and I shall save the house of Joseph and I shall bring them back, because I have had compassion on them; and they will be as though I had not rejected them, for I am the Lord their God, and I will answer them. . . . I will whistle for them to gather them together, for I have redeemed them; and they will be a numerous as they were before.  When I scatter them among the peoples, they will remember Me in far countries, and they with their children will live and come back.  I will bring them back from the land of Egypt and gather them from Assyria; and I will bring them into the land of Gilead and Lebanon, until no room can be found for them.  And He will pass through the sea of distress, and strike the waves in the sea, so that all the depths of the Nile will dry up and the pride of Assyria will be brought down, and the scepter of Egypt will depart.


The context of this return is obviously millennial.  Modern-day Israel could only end up in Assyria (i.e., Germany) or Egypt involuntarily.  If it were voluntary (how?), it wouldn’t be necessary for Jehovah to (v. 6) “save the house of Joseph.”  Furthermore, the Ten Tribes never ended up in Egypt because the eighth century b.c. Assyrian deportations took them to the north, not to the west or south of the Holy Land.  Therefore, the mentions of Israel returning from Egypt, such as Isa. 27:12-13, Zech 10:10; Hosea 11:9-11; cf. Hosea 9:3; Micah 7:12, can’t be about what has happened historically, but must refer to events that will shake the earth in the future.  Since Egypt was a place of slavery for Israel before the Exodus, the principle of duality supports the view that bondage will come Israel’s way again according to these texts saying Israel would end up there again (in part) before the millennium.


The texts that refer to a second regathering of Israel and/or Judah from exile are potentially deeply problematic to Collins’ position.  For example, is Jer. 16:14-16 only about Judah?:


“Therefore behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when it will no longer be said, ‘As the Lord lives, who brought up the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ but, ‘As the Lord lives, who brought up the sons of Israel from the land of the North and from all the countries where He had banished them.’  For I will restore them to their own land which I gave to their fathers.”


Was verse 15’s affirmation proverbially ever said of the Jews after returning from the Babylonian Captivity?  I think not.  Verse 16 shows that God mounts a determined operation to find all of His chosen people:  “’Behold, I am going to send for many fishermen,’ declares the Lord, ‘and they will fish for them; and afterwards I shall send for many hunters, and they will hunt them from every mountain and every hill, and from the clefts of the rocks.’”  Amidst such a single-minded effort, would He neglect hunting down the Ten Tribes?  Furthermore, much of Judah never returned from the Babylonian Captivity anyway; only the most zealous went back to rebuild the Temple, Jerusalem, and other cities in the Promised Land.  This promise overall apparently can only be fulfilled in the future.  Therefore, verses 17-18 gain still more significance, since they (Israel/Judah) will be punished for its sin, not protected in the end time as Mr. Collins hopes: 


“For My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from My face, nor is their iniquity concealed from My eyes.  And I will first doubly repay their iniquity and their sin, because they have polluted My land; they have filled My inheritance with the carcasses of their detestable idols and with their abominations.”


A similar return from exile, which is plainly millennial, appears in Jer. 23:5-8:


“Behold the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I shall raise up for David a righteous Branch; and He will reign as king [which wasn’t fulfilled by Christ in the first century A.D.] and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land.  In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely; and this is His name by which He will be called, ‘The Lord our righteousness.’  Therefore behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when they will no longer say, ‘As the Lord lives, who brought up the sons of Israel [both Judah and Israel, judging from verse 6] from the land of Egypt,’ but, ‘As the Lord lives, who brought up and led back the descendants of the household of Israel from the north land and from all the countries where I had driven them.’  Then they will live on their own soil.”


The context of verse 8 points to Israel’s return from exile happening shortly after the millennium begins, after a time when God had punished Israel.  The end of the Babylonian Captivity and the return of Judah to the promised land under Ezra, Nehemiah, and Zerubbabel simply don’t fit such a statement as “from all the countries where I had driven them.”  Therefore, this statement’s prophetic fulfillment should lie in the years ahead.  Obviously, if Judah and Israel return from exile just as the millennium begins, God didn’t save them from military defeat during the Great Tribulation.


            Isaiah 28:1-8 describes Ephraim’s condition of drunkenness in the latter days since it mentions the Lord’s return as happening at that time.  Notice that verse 4 ominously compares Ephraim’s fate to the ripe fig that’s swallowed as soon as it’s seen.




            Other texts describing Israel’s conquest by Assyria could well be dual in nature, and describe not only what happened in the eighth century b.c., but also what is to come for the house of Israel at the hands of the Beast power.  For example, take Isa. 7:17-20, which was immediately preceded by the prophecy to King Ahaz of Judah about the Virgin Birth of the Savior:


The Lord will bring on you, on your people, and on your father’s house such days as have never come since the day that Ephraim separated from Judah, the king of Assyria.  And it will come about in that day, that the Lord will whistle for the fly that is in the remotest part of the rivers of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria.  And they will all come and settle on the steep ravines, on the ledges of the cliffs, on all the thorn bushes, and on all the watering places.  In that day the Lord will shave with a razor, hired from regions beyond the Euphrates (that is, with the king of Assyria), the head and the hair of the legs; and it will also remove the beard.


Now someone could easily reply by saying this prophecy was only about the House of Judah and events during Ahaz’s reign.  But we know that the prophecy about the Virgin Birth foretold an event in the (then) far future, not just about what happened in the late eighth century b.c. (cf. Isa. 8:3).  The same may well be true about verses 17-20, especially when the language about “such days as have never come since the day” is reminiscent of the references to the Great Tribulation in Scripture (Matt. 24:21; Jer. 30:7; Dan. 12:1).   Remember, neither Assyria nor Egypt conquered the House of Judah, but rather Babylon did.  So the prophesied occupation of the Holy Land here included not just Ahaz’s kingdom, but also Israel’s to the north, since Assyria never did succeed in fully subjugating Judah. Such texts as Isa. 10:5-12; Hosea 9:3, 10:6, 11:8-12; Micah 5:4-15; 7:11-17 could well be dual in nature, a principle Mr. Collins denies categorically in this general context, but it’s unwise to dismiss it lightly.  Since other sections of prophecy in Scripture plainly manifest duality, such as the Olivet prophecy of Matt. 24 or the Abomination of Desolation of Daniel 8:13-14; 11:31; 12:11; 9:27, applying this principle here is worth careful consideration, even if no clearer texts were available about the house of Israel’s upcoming defeat and captivity.


            In a prophecy predicting Babylon’s doom, Jeremiah 50 also makes statements about Israel’s regathering that are dual in nature.  Since the enemies (Assyria and Babylon) mentioned in this context had caused the earlier scattering of Israel and Judah, they correspondingly could figure as their end-time enemies as well.  Consider this set of verses (Jer. 50:17-20):


Israel is a scattered flock, the lions have driven them away.  The first one who devoured him was the king of Assyria, and this last one who has broken his bones is Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon.  Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel:  “Behold, I am going to punish the king of Babylon and his land, just as I punished the king of Assyria.  And I shall bring Israel back to his pasture, and he will graze on Carmel and Bashan, and his desire will be satisfied in the hill country of Ephraim and Gilead.  In those days and at that time, declares the Lord, ‘search will be made for the iniquity of Israel, but there will be none; and for the sins of Judah, but they will not be found; for I shall pardon those whom I leave as a remnant.”


Although the passage above could easily be dismissed as only a reference to the Babylonian Captivity and its reversal under Ezra, et al, verse 20 shows otherwise.  Only in the millennium could a search be made for sin among God’s chosen people, and none be found.  So, as Judah and Israel return to Canaan, who were their enemies?  Babylon and Assyria!  There’s nothing about Gog and Magog and their Asiatic hordes here.  The preceding context of verses 4-5 points to Babylon as the enemy, which would be problematic for Collins’ view (ANLAP, p. 28) that Babylon is New York (i.e., the economic heart of Israel):


“In those days and at that time [i.e., the beginning of the millennium],” declares the Lord, “the sons of Israel will come, both they and the sons of Judah as well; they will go along weeping as they go, and it will be the Lord their God they will seek.  They will ask for the way to Zion, turning their faces in its direction; they will come that they may join themselves to the Lord in an everlasting covenant that will not be forgotten.”


The “everlasting covenant” has to be the new covenant foretold in Jer. 31:31-33 (cf. Heb. 8:6-13).  Therefore, the return described here has to be during the early part of the millennium, especially since the house of Israel never did go back to the Holy Land as a nation after Assyria “ethnically cleansed” the northern tribes’ land in the eighth century.  But Babylon is the enemy that God is going to punish here on Israel’s behalf (verses 1-3, 6-10, 41) by using nations from the north.  While this surely includes the sixth-century b.c.  Persian-Mede conquest of the neo-Chaldean Empire by Cyrus the Great, it also must refer to a future punishment of Babylon as well.  It may well be a relatively cryptic reference to Gog and Magog’s attack on the European Union in the years ahead, not just about ancient Babylon’s punishment and desolation (cf. Isa. 13:19-22).  Likewise, this description of Israel and Judah’s captivity might be about what Assyria and Babylon did anciently instead about the triumphant Christ’s deliverance of His people in the years to come (Jer. 50:33-34):


Thus says the Lord of hosts, “The sons of Israel are oppressed, and the sons of Judah as well; and all who took them captive have held them fast, they have refused to let them go.  Their Redeemer is strong, the Lord of hosts is His name; He will vigorously plead their case, so that He may bring rest to the earth, but turmoil to the inhabitants of Babylon.”


But since this chapter also refers to the far future, it’s hard to dismiss the idea that, like the Olivet prophecy of Matthew 24 and Luke 21, Jeremiah 50 refers to both the far future and the (then) immediate future of Babylon’s fate at Cyrus’ hands in 539 b.c.   (Incidentally, if New York IS Babylon, yet also the commercial capital of the house of Israel, how could Babylon and Israel ever be enemies?  And where does our traditional identification of Babylon as the Roman Catholic Church figure in here at all?)  The duality of Jeremiah 50 definitely poses problems for Mr. Collins’ prophetic scenario about who will be Israel’s main enemy in the end times.




Perhaps the most challenging text for Mr. Collins’ revisionist take on prophecy is Jer. 30:7-10:


‘Alas!  for that day is great, there is none like it; and it is the time of Jacob’s distress, but he will be saved from it.  And it shall come about on that day,’ declares the Lord of hosts, ‘that I will break his yoke from off their neck, and will tear off their bonds; and strangers shall no longer make them their slaves.  But they shall serve the Lord their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up for them.  And fear not, O Jacob My servant,’ declares the Lord, ‘and so not be dismayed, O Israel; for behold, I will save you from afar, and your offspring from the land of their captivity, and Jacob shall return, and shall be quite and at ease, and no one shall make him afraid.’


Although he quotes Jer. 30:7’s statement that Jacob “will be saved from it,” Mr. Collins apparently hopes nobody goes on to read verse 8 (see ANLAP, p. 24).  For what is Jacob specifically to be saved from?  From slavery and captivity!  Instead of victoriously emerging from a future war by the force of their own arms, Israel will be rescued from utter defeat by God’s power.  The statement in verse 9 about King David’s resurrection shows the previous verse isn’t about the ending of the Babylonian captivity since Jeremiah foresees this event’s occurrence in a millennial context.  Furthermore, the church has long identified verse 7’s statement about no time equaling Jacob’s time of trouble as being the great tribulation, of which Jesus spoke on the Mount of Olives:  “For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall” (Matt. 24:21; cf. Dan. 12:1).  Two separate and “greatest” periods of trouble ever aren’t possible, so the great tribulation and the time of Jacob’s trouble have to be one and the same.  Thus verse 7 is about end time events also. God plainly only rescues His people here after they’ve been totally humbled and defeated militarily, instead of “strengthening” them during this time to help them save themselves by their own military efforts against attack.



            Another text that has been cited to show the houses of Israel and Judah collapse during the great tribulation is Hosea 5:5-14.  Verses 5-7 are particularly suggestive:


Israel and Ephraim stumble in their iniquity; Judah also has stumbled with them.  They will go with their flocks and herds to seek the Lord, but they will not find Him; He has withdrawn from them.  They have dealt treacherously against the Lord, for they have borne illegitimate children.  Now the new moon will devour them with their land.


The last verse implies the houses of Israel and Judah will fall in the same month.  Since this event has never happened historically (over a century looms between when Israel went into exile in the late eighth and Judah in the early sixth century b.c.), it must still be in the future.  Furthermore, in the same general context, God promises to punish Israel and Judah (v. 12, 14):  “Therefore I am like a moth to Ephraim, and like rottenness to the house of Judah. . . .  For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, and like a young lion to the house of Judah.  I, even I, will tear to pieces and go away, I will carry away, and there will be none to deliver.”  Ephraim at this time foolishly tries to form an alliance with Assyria, instead of repenting and coming back to the Eternal (v. 13):  “When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah his wound, then Ephraim went to Assyria and sent to King Jareb, but he is unable to heal you, or to cure you of your wound.”  Therefore, it would appear England’s alliance with Germany through the EU and NATO is destined to fall apart.  Likewise, since King Jareb can’t cure Judah’s wound, the modern state of Israel will ultimately try, and fail, to make an alliance with the EU as well.  Therefore, the king of the north would be an enemy of Ephraim and Judah, not an ally.


Herbert W. Armstrong, in his article “Why Russia Will Not Attack America,” argued that Ezekiel prophesied to the house of Israel, not to Judah, since the northern tribes had gone into captivity about 130 years earlier than when he wrote.  Ezekiel received his revelations from 593 b.c. to 571 b.c., but house of Israel had gone into captivity in 722 b.c.[5]  Now I Kings 13:20-21 shows that the term “House of Judah” refers to the southern kingdom, especially the tribe of Judah, but “house of Israel” refers to the northern kingdom of ten tribes:


And it came about when all Israel heard that Jeroboam had returned, that they sent and called him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel.  None but the tribe of Judah followed the house of David.  Now when Rehoboam had come to Jerusalem, he assembled all the house of Judah and the tribe of Benjamin, 180,000 chosen men who were warriors, to fight against the house of Israel to restore the kingdom to Rehoboam the son of Solomon.


So when Ezekiel prophesies against the sins of the house of Israel, this terminology would indicate the northern tribes, taken into captivity about four generations earlier, were his primary concern.  True, it would seem Ezekiel uses “house of Israel” differently, so as to refer to Judah, since he prophesied against the sins of Judah using this term before it went into full captivity (see Eze. 8:3, 6, 17; 11:5, 15-16; 12:2, 9-11, 13).  But here again the need to consider duality in prophecy arises, about which the terminology issue should make us think.  For example, after God told Ezekiel to prophesy towards the “mountains of Israel” (Eze. 6:3), he predicted, “because of all the evil abominations of the house of Israel, which will fall by sword, famine, and plague!” (v. 11).  Now was this prediction strictly limited to the Jews of the sixth century b.c.?  A similar issue comes up when Ezekiel prophesied:  “One third of you will die by plague or be consumed by famine among you, one third will fall by the sword around you, and one third I will scatter to every wind, and I will unsheathe a sword behind them.”  Is it a safe notion to dismiss this as merely pertaining to those living in Judea at the time Ezekiel wrote?  Is “every wind” merely a reference to the exile to Babylon, instead of to all the world?  In the “Watchman” chapter, God warned the house of Israel:  “’I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live.  Turn back, turn back from you evil ways!  Why then will you die, O house of Israel?’”  When the millennial regathering of Israel happens, we know it will include the Ten Tribes (Ezek. 48:1-8).  So when Ezekiel describes the house of Israel as having been scattered among the nations as a punishment, followed by their restoration, it points to a severe humbling of the descendants of the northern tribes beforehand.  As Eze. 36:19, 24 foretells:  “I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed throughout the lands.  According to their ways and their deeds I judged them. . . . For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands, and bring you into your own land.”  The dire predictions found in Eze. 7:17, 19 use terminology also appearing in prophecies of the time of the end (see Isa. 13:6-8, Zeph. 1:14-15, 17-18).  Since it’s known Old Testament prophets can suddenly jump centuries without warning (see Isa. 61:1-2; cf. Luke 4:18-19), we should be wary of dismissing all of Ezekiel’s warnings against the house of Israel as applying only to Jews and the associated tribes of Benjamin and Levi over 2500 years ago.




            One “contradictory concept” Mr. Collins identifies with the traditional WCG view of the house of Israel’s end time enemy is that the Beast will have Israelite nations as allies when it attacks Britain and the United States (ANLAP, p. 5):  “The dogma of a German-led European attack upon the USA and Great Britain required the ‘nations of Israel’ to attack ‘the nations of Israel’ in the latter days.”  Mr. Collins’ “solution” actually entangles him in a still worst predicament.  Although he never puts it so baldly or crudely, he effectively makes the Beast, the King of the north, Babylon the Great, NATO, Israel, and the European Union into references to the one and same alliance that will face down a Russian-led Asiatic invasion by God’s power (cf. ANLAP, pp. 10, 12, 24, 27-28, 31, 33).  Mr. Collins attempts to escape the web of his own weaving by reasoning (ANLAP, p. 31):  “God allows the cities and institutions linked to ‘Babylon the Great’ to be ‘burnt’ and destroyed in the attack of Gog, but He then rescues the people of Israel and Judah from their attackers at the end of this age.”  Hence, God punishes Israel (“Babylon is burnt and destroyed”) and God delivers Israel, a conundrum resembling the “Israel attacking Israel” Mr. Collins finds for the traditional WCG view.  Mr. Collins, having cited Jer. 51:48 in support, now has to deny that Babylon and Israel are (nearly) identical.  He made this claim earlier by saying they have different fates (somehow).  Hence, New York is destroyed, but the house of Israel is rescued—huh?  Elsewhere, Mr. Collins cites Jer. 18:5-6; Isa. 64:8 to justify identifying clay in the feet of Nebuchadnezzar’s dreamt of image in Dan. 2:42-43 with Israel (ANLAP, p. 17).  But if God’s going to rescue Israel, and Israel is the clay here, then why does the stone strike the clay and iron in a punishment that causes utter destruction?  (Dan. 2:34-35)  If the clay represents a nation or power that hadn’t been part of the previous empires, GERMANY would be the best candidate.  Rome never succeeded in conquering the Germans during its heyday, and by having it in the EU it would be an area Rome never dominated, unlike the case for France (or England, for that matter).  The clay might also be a reference to the Slavic areas north of Romania, especially Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia, which Rome never ruled either.  Importantly, we know that this vision, as well as the description of the four beasts in Dan. 7 and the Beast in Rev. 13, 17 concern gentile powers of the Middle East and Europe (Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome).  They certainly aren’t about Israel in any primary sense, even if the modern coming resurrection of the Beast will include a number of people descended from the Ten Tribes.  Remember, the great false church presides over “peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues,” which certainly can’t primarily refer to Israel or Judah (Rev. 18:15).  Another way to see how “the house of Israel” could attack “the house of Israel” comes from the typological principle that events in the lives of the patriarchs in Genesis will be repeated in future history among the nations descended from them.   For example, just as Joseph unveiled his identity to his brothers after they had sold him into slavery years earlier, the identity of Joseph (i.e., the modern tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh as Britain, the United States, etc.) will abruptly be revealed in the (probable) near future to a shocked world.  Likewise, it shouldn’t be considered mere coincidence, as one local church member observed to me, that the European Union’s continental membership, which includes the tribes descended from the brothers that sold Joseph into slavery, have their strong disagreements with Ephraim and (especially) Manasseh today.[6]  It isn’t idle speculation that Joseph’s brothers just might “sell” Joseph into captivity once again, only on a much grander scale.  Several more problems intrude with identifying the United States and Canada (in particular) as being part of the Beast power to come.  Since legs of the image Nebuchadnezzar saw symbolized Rome’s two halves, but these areas were contiguous (through the border area of Illyria/modern Croatia), the nations/kingdoms symbolized by the toes of the feet need not be physically separate either.  Since each toe represents a nation or kingdom/king, but only two nations are on the western side of the Atlantic in NATO, where are the other three on this side of the “pond”?  More importantly, the image’s four metals only would represent areas conquered by or near the four empires (Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome) they symbolically represented (including the lattermost’s various resurrections).  The United States and Canada (even Britain) were never ruled over by the Holy Roman Empire, which repeatedly became the resurrected Beast before its dissolution in 1804 at the tip of Napoleon’s sword.  So although various tribes of Israel will be part of the Beast power (such as Reuben, northern France), this doesn’t prove Ephraim, Manasseh, or even Judah will be part of this combine.  After all, doesn’t Jer. 50, which is undeniably dual in places, portray Babylon and Israel/Judah as enemies, not allies or one and the same (i.e., New York)?  Furthermore, it could well be that those tribes that are part of the Beast become forcibly dominated by the non-Israelite nations within this combine, such as (say) France and Denmark falling under the sway of (especially) Germany and (the False Prophet’s probable homeland) Italy.  Plainly we should question the claim that we have met the Beast, and he is us.




            When do the events described in Ezekiel 38 and 39 happen? Much like Hal Lindsey, Collins believes that Gog and Magog’s invasion will take place just before Christ’s return during the great tribulation:  God plainly states that it will be fulfilled during the ‘latter days’ of this age . . . The Bible, when taken literally, states that Ezekiel 38-39 will be fulfilled in our age, just prior to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ” (ANLAP, p. 10; cf. p. 9).  The old WCG taught that either this invasion will occur at the end of the millennium (based on Rev. 20:7-10) or just after its beginning, believing Jesus hadn’t immediately tamed all the gentile nations at that point.  Concerning the timing of Ezekiel 38, Herbert W. Armstrong wrote:


This invasion will not come until after the Second Coming of Christ—will seem preposterous to many, at first thought. . . . Many have blindly assumed that when Christ comes, there will be no opposition.  Every person and power on earth, some have thought, will simply submit meekly and instantly to him and his power.  But that is not true!  Some gentile nations understandably shall not submit until forced to.  The final restoration of the Roman Empire shall be subdued and conquered at a battle commonly called “Armageddon.”  But the populous nations of Eurasia that the Almighty God up to this point has not dealt with shall still have to be brought to submission.[7]


So then, is Mr. Armstrong’s viewpoint self-evidently absurd?  Would Christ leave some major gentile nations untamed for some years after His return?  Or, instead, could Ezekiel 38-39 and Rev. 20:7-10 both be about the same events?  Mr. Collins maintains that no warfare will happen during the millennium based on Isa. 2:4; Micah 4:3, so Mr. Armstrong’s interpretation is wrong (ANLAP, p. 32).  However, where does it say Isa. 2:4; Micah 4:3 will be totally fulfilled the moment Christ returns and defeats the armies gathered against Him?  After all, doesn’t Isaiah 9:6 prophesy that “there will be no end to the increase of His government,” which implies it won’t be installed everywhere fully at once when He returns?  Furthermore, at the end of the millennium, Gog and Magog apparently encounter few obstacles against turning plowshares into swords, right?


            For questionable reasons, Mr. Collins (see ANLAP, pp. 9-10) argues that Ezekiel 38-39 won’t be fulfilled at the end of the millennium.  For example, does the term “latter days” have to refer to the period just preceding the millennium?  Wouldn’t the end of the millennium (or its beginning) also qualify as “the latter days,” especially when these days would be even more “latter” than those of a thousand years earlier?  Dan. 2:28, which Collins cites, does a poor job of supporting his claim that the term “the latter days” has to exclude any time after the millennium begins because v. 44 includes any “mopping up” exercises as the kingdom of God takes over the whole earth.  That doesn’t have to take place all at once, as hard as it may seem to believe.  Dan. 10:28 provides no explicit support at all since no specific prophetic events follow Michael’s mention of “the latter days” to Daniel.  The claim that “non-Israelite Semitic nations (‘Asshur’) will be allied to the Israelite nations (‘Eber’) in the latter-days” (ANLAP, p. 10) is preposterous, given the total grudge-match between the Arabs, especially the Palestinians, and the Jews of the modern State of Israel.  The homicide/suicide bombings reveal a level of hatred and passion on one side that’s utterly irreconcilable to alliance making.  Since 9-11, I doubt many in the “oil-rich Arab nations” feel “a natural common-interest with their customers in the Western, capitalist nations,” at least with the United States.  Their hard feelings simply aren’t going to vanish any time soon before Jesus returns.  The Muslims, the faith that most Arabs uphold, are also broadly opposed to the West, the infidels of “the House of War,” including the United States, for being (purportedly and decliningly) “Christian” nations.  The Islamic/Western “clash of civilizations” is one reason why the Turks, for example, will never receive full membership in the EU.  The fear of Arab/Muslim immigrants from the east and south, punctuated by the occasional riot or local crime wave, is enough to make the nations in the European Union keep up the walls against newcomers settling in their midst. The events of 9-11 have added to this fear in Europe, since Muslims there, much as in the United States often, are seen as more likely sources of terrorism than average citizens are.  Importantly, Numbers 24:24 doesn’t prove as much as Mr. Collins believes because verse 14, which mentions the “end of the days” (NASB, literal rendering) is interrupted by changes in subject in vs. 20 and vs. 21.  Nor does it explicitly describe “what this people [i.e., Israel] will do to your people [i.e., Moab].”  Numbers 24:24 doesn’t necessarily describe events during the latter days nor (clearly) what Israel does to some Arab nation on its eastern frontier in the end times.




            But why should anyone believe that Ezekiel 38-39 occur during the early part of the millennium?  Carefully consider the last clause of Eze. 38:8:  “In the latter years you will come into the land that is restored from the sword, whose inhabitants have been gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel which had been a continual waste; but its people were brought out from the nations, and they are living securely.”  Obviously enough, with suicide bombers blowing themselves up in public places and rockets raining themselves across the northern border, the Jews of the modern State of Israel today do not live securely, and haven’t since even before the proclamation of independence in 1948.  Similarly, notice verse 11:  “You [Gog] will say, ‘I will go up against the land of unwalled villages.  I will go against those who are at rest, that live securely, all of  them living without walls, and having no bars or gates.’”  The modern State of Israel, which is busily building a literal fence (i.e., defensive perimeter) near its eastern border to keep out Palestinian terrorists, and already has one along its border with the Gaza strip, hardly is living without walls, bars, or gates.  With the Yom Kippur War’s close call as a reminder to stay on a hair-trigger alert, the Israelis are hardly at rest, since its reservists, both men and women, can be swiftly mobilized on short notice.  A country with universal military training, even for women (but excluding its Arab and Ultra-Orthodox citizens if they wish), is certainly not turning swords into plowshares and not learning war any more (Isa. 2:4).  Verse 14 reinforces the millennial picture drawn here:  “Thus says the Lord God, ‘On that day when My people Israel are living securely, will you not know it?’”  Gog and Magog attack people who are plainly portrayed as enjoying millennial, peace-like conditions.  Even if one attempts to shift the scene of the attack to North America, as Mr. Collins does, the large military establishment America has maintained for (by now) two generations and the general sense of alert about terrorism since 9-11 hardly means we’re at rest either. 


Ezekiel 39:22-23, 25-29 are deeply problematic for Collins’ position because they not only portray Israel enjoying peace without anxiety, but they describe Israel as having just returned from exile and a time of national punishment after losing in war:


And the house of Israel will know that I am the Lord their God from that day [of rescue from Gog’s attack] onward.  And the nations will know that the house of Israel went into exile for their iniquity because they acted treacherously against Me, and I hid My face from them; so I gave them into the hand of their adversaries, and all of them fell by the sword. . . . Therefore thus says the Lord God, “Now I shall restore the fortunes of Jacob, and have mercy on the whole house of Israel; and I shall be jealous for My holy name.  And they shall forget their disgrace and all their treachery which they perpetrated against Me, when they live securely on their own land with no one to make them afraid.  When I bring them back from the peoples, and gather them from the lands of their enemies, then I shall be sanctified through them in the sight of the many nations.  Then they will know that I am the Lord their God because I made them go into exile among the nations, and then gathered them against to their own land; and will leave none of them there any longer.  And I will not hide My face from them any longer, for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,” declares the Lord God.


This passage poses several major challenges to Mr. Collins’ position.  First, this section portrays Israel as losing in war and then being rescued by God’s own power, not by the force of their own arms, since they (v. 23) “fell by the sword” after God “gave them into the hands of their adversaries.”  Second, verse 27 describes Israel as having been brought “back from the peoples” and “gathered from the lands of their enemies,” which means Israel had been punished recently before Gog and Magog’s attack, if this chapter’s context is taken seriously.  After all, the typical American, Briton, Canadian, or Australian today has no sense of being an “exile” to date, so this passage can’t be talking about what happened to their ancestors in the early eighth century b.c. at the hands of the Assyrians.  We today don’t live in the lands of our enemies since we (the Israelite people in question) control the lands we live in politically and economically.  (Notice that this is not true of the whites today in South Africa).  Verse 29 also shows the attack occurs early in the millennium, since the pouring out of the Spirit on the house of Israel is part of the widespread national implementation of the new covenant for all of Israel (Jer. 31:31-34), not just a few scattered true Christians among the nations.  Clearly, the last section of Ezekiel 39 poses a major challenge to Mr. Collins’ overall thesis.




            A key point in dispute between Mr. Collins and the traditional WCG view of Eze. 38-39 concerns where, not just when, Gog and Magog attack.  Mr. Collins interprets the phrase “the mountains of Israel” metaphorically.  Consequently, he believes the attack will be against where most of the people who compose the tribe of Joseph now live (i.e., North America, Britain, etc.) since a “mountain” can represent a nation prophetically.  But Mr. Armstrong, citing Ezekiel 38:8, takes the expression “the mountains of Israel” literally:  “After many days you [Israel] will be summoned; in the latter years you will come into the land that is restored from the sword, whose inhabitants have been gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel which had been a continual waste.”  This text has to be a reference to the Holy Land in the Middle East, not the landmass of North America, etc.  The tribes of Israel will migrate back to the Middle East after the millennium begins.  After all, the land area of the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Britain is overall among the world’s most blessed, and certainly generally can’t be called a “continual waste” or an area that has been (to date) “restored from the sword.”  But there are relatively large areas in the modern State of Israel and nearby (i.e., the Negev desert, the area surrounding the Dead Sea, etc.) which are very desolate indeed.  Furthermore, “its people were brought out from the nations,” which describes the results of a relatively recent migration and regathering.  This can’t be a description of any place currently in the world besides the modern State of Israel, since the Jews have returned from many nations to that spot.  It’s important here to remember the general context of the Old Testament here, which time and time again returns to the subject of the regathering and restoration of Israel, which isn’t anywhere else than Palestine/Judea/Samaria/Israel/the Holy Land.  Mr. Collins’ position, that the United States, as the melting pot of immigrants from around the world (ANLAP, p. 13), fulfills this verse, won’t work because the immigrants into America were and are of many different races, ethnicities, and nations.  Many of these people, especially in the great wave of migration now occurring, and those whose ancestors arrived here involuntarily (i.e., black Americans), certainly can’t be seen mostly as descendants of Joseph or even of Jacob.  This verse is actually about descendants of Joseph or Jacob migrating out of the nations they were scattered into, a gathering of one nation, one ethnicity, into one place (the Holy Land), having come from amidst many nations of different ethnicities.  Immigration “from many nations” to the U.S. over the centuries is a poor interpretation here, since this text is about the people descended from Jacob migrating to a certain spot, not all nations, races, and ethnicities moving a few of their people into the North American continent.  So if this verse isn’t about the period soon after Christ’s return (a position Mr. Collins rejects), it has to be about the Holy Land since the beginning of the Zionist movement, not North America. 


Mr. Armstrong himself perfectly sensibly concluded, when citing Ezekiel 38:8:  “The place of the battle is not Britain or America or Canada—it is the Holy Land.  . . . The “mountains of Israel” is an expression used all through the book of Ezekiel, and refers to the literal mountainous land of ancient Israel.”  Interestingly enough, Mr. Collins has had his predecessors in the world of British-Israelism who interpreted Eze. 38-39 to be an attack on Britain and North America, which Mr. Armstrong’s opening description of different interpretative positions on Ezekiel 38-39 records: 


Some who claim to be authorities of prophecy assure people a war involving the United States, Canada, and Britain is prophesied in Ezekiel 38.  The United States and Canada and the democracies of northwestern Europe they recognize as the nations descended from the so-called lost Ten Tribes of Israel.  Therefore, they conclude, the prophecy of Ezekiel 38 of Gog attacking the land of Israel foretells a military invasion of the North American continent from the Soviet Union.[8]


Indeed, as Solomon notes (cf. Eccl. 1:10), there is nothing new under the sun!


            Mr. Collins’ citation of Joel 2 as a parallel to Ezekiel 38 (see ANLAP,  p. 15) actually damages his position concerning where this battle happens.  Joel 1:1, 15 both say the battle happens in Zion, which has to be the Holy Land:  “Blow a trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm on My holy mountain!  Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming . . . Blow a trumpet in Zion, consecrate a fast, proclaim a sacred assembly.”  Still worse, v. 32 makes Jerusalem part of the general setting:  “And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be delivered; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be those who escape, as the Lord has said, even among the survivors whom the Lord calls.”  Given this setting, verse 20’s mention of the eastern and western seas has to be the Mediterranean and the Dead seas, not the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans surrounding the United States.  Joel 2, which clearly describes the Day of the Lord, is about end-time events just before the millennium begins, not about what occurs (say) twenty years into the millennium, which is the best understanding of Ezekiel 38-39.


            Other reasons exist for believing that the battle described in Eze. 38-39 unfolds in the Middle East, not North America.  The people of Israel, when attacked, “live at the center of the world” (Eze. 38:12; cf. Ps. 74:12).  The Holy Land, which is at the crossroads for three continents (Asia, Africa, even Europe), is much more central geographically than Australia, New Zealand, Canada, America, even Britain.  In the Medieval era, the city of Jerusalem was sometimes portrayed as the center of the earth on maps, an insight a modern computer study has helped to confirm.  According to Henry Morris, the most central area for the world’s landmasses is an area 39 degrees latitude and 34 degrees longitude, near modern Ankara, Turkey.  From the Biblical viewpoint, the most central spots for humanity include Jerusalem, from which Christ will rule during the millennium, Babylon, the capital of the first anti-god world system under Nimrod, and Mount Ararat, where Noah’s ark landed and from where the animals and humanity were dispersed to fill the earth.  These are all in the Middle East.[9]  Furthermore, the “beloved city” of Rev. 20:9, which Gog and Magog attack at the end of the millennium, is undoubtedly Jerusalem (cf. Ps. 87:2; Matt. 23:37; Dan. 9:16-19; Zech. 1:14, 17; 8:2-3).  Hence, the weight of Biblical evidence points to the “center of the world” being in the Middle East, not elsewhere, which makes it the place where Gog’s invading armies aim for.  Furthermore, it’s hard to see how Gog and Magog would leave behind enough booty and spoil where the modern English-speaking nations live today to fulfill the following verses even in a semi-literal way (Eze. 39:9-10):


Those who inhabit the cities of Israel will go out, and make fires with the weapons and burn them, both shields and bucklers, bows and arrows, war clubs and spears and for seven years they will make fires of them.  And they will not take wood from the field or gather firewood from the forests, for they will make fires with the weapons.


It’s possible to see how this could occur in a geographically confined area (i.e., the Holy Land by the Mediterranean Sea), but certainly not in the vast, sparsely populated regions of Canada, Australia, and America.  Furthermore, it’s likely the population of the tribes of Israel in the early millennium may be much lower than it is today, which would also make this more understandable.  It’s one thing for a defeated army to leave the spoils of war to support  (say) 10 million people in the Middle East; it’s quite another to provide firewood for around 400 million (the population of America, Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand today).  In addition, the specificity of the place where Gog’s army is buried makes it hard to believe it isn’t in the Middle East (Eze. 39:11):  “And it will come about on that day that I shall give Gog a burial ground there in Israel, the valley of those who pass by east of the sea [i.e., the Mediterranean], and it will block off the passers-by.  So they will bury Gog there with all his multitude, and they will call it the valley of Hamon-gog.”  The objection that the term “Judah” never appears in Eze. 38-39 means little (ANLAP, p. 13).  The term “Israel” is often inclusive of “Judah,” as Ezekiel’s usage (noted above concerning the “house of Israel”) shows.  The students of prophecy can easily end up taking metaphorically what is literal; the opinion that Eze. 38-39 is more about North America than the Middle East is a good example.




            As part of his analysis of Eze. 38-39, and in opposition to such texts as Matt. 5:43-48; 26:52; John 18:36, Mr. Collins believes that God wants the modern nations of Israel to use their weapons in actual war against the Russian-led Asiatic hordes (ANLAP, p. 16):


The returning Jesus Christ . . . rallies the forces of the Israelite nations against their invaders.  That Jesus Christ urges the nations of Israel to use their ‘swords’ against the invaders also confirms this attack is at the climax of this age, not at the end of the millennium as in Revelation 20.  The Israelites of Ezekiel 38-39 are armed with weapons and armies of their own.


See also ANLAP, p. 31. Remarkably, no evidence supports Mr. Collins’ interpretation here.  Repeatedly God says “I” will do this and that when defending Israel from its attackers.  For example, Eze. 39:3, which Mr. Collins himself cites, says:  “And I shall strike your [Gog’s] bow from your left hand, and dash down your arrows from your right hand.”  As a possible interpretation, he reads the American, British, French, and Israeli use of nuclear weapons into the following passage:  “And I shall send fire upon Magog and those who inhabit the coastlands in safety; and they will know that I am the Lord.”  But for God to use the weapons of the nations of Israel to deliver them would undermine the lesson that He wishes them to learn:  His people ultimately should depend on Him alone for protection.  Here Mr. Collins seems to slip into the old vice of many British-Israel advocates, of triumphalism, that God will always favor and protect His people despite their sins.  Such an ambiguous passage as Eze. 38:21, “Every man’s sword will be against his brother,” proves nothing about Israel physically fighting Gog and Magog’s army.  Instead, it could well be God will turn the Russian-led Asiatic hosts against one another, as he made the combined armies of Ammon, Moab, and Edom fight each other when Jehosaphat faced them (II Chron. 20:23; see also Judges 7:22; I Sam. 14:20).  And in that battle, Jahaziel proclaimed, “You need not fight in this battle; station yourselves, stand and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.”  Likewise, God Himself will fight for His People when Gog and Magog attack early in the millennium (Eze. 38:22-23): 


And with pestilence and with blood I shall enter into judgment with him; and I shall rain on him, and on his troops, and on the many peoples who are with him, a torrential rain, with hailstones, fire and brimstone.  And I shall magnify Myself, sanctify Myself, and make Myself known in the sight of many nations; and they will know that I am the Lord.


By contrast, note that although nothing is said about Israel bearing the sword in battle, there’s a lot about Israel burying the corpses of Gog’s host and gathering the spoils of war (Eze. 39:9-14).  Clearly it’s unwise to read into Ezekiel 38-39 Israel’s use of weapons when God says He will do all the work of war, but leave Israel with (nonviolent) cleanup duty afterwards.


            When discussing the Ten Sleeping Virgins of Matt. 25, Mr. Collins simply reads in his desired meaning (ANLAP, p. 18).  There are any number of reasons why true Christians may not be fully alert when Jesus returns that have nothing to do with the identity of who we should fear will invade our nations. An obvious parallel to Matt. 25:1-13 is the seventh letter to the churches in Rev. 2-3.  If the main meaning of the letters concerns the overall spiritual tendencies of the church in successive chronological eras, then the seventh church—Laodicea—will be the last church before Jesus returns.  The implications of the belief that we’re in the end times, which most Christians in the Church of God movement would accept, is that we’re Laodicea!  Christians could be lulled into sleep because of modern materialism and consumerism, the previous failed predictions of Mr. Armstrong and others that have “turned off” many about prophecy in general, personal energy absorbed by trials, tests, and troubles from work, family, and church, etc.  Indeed, the reason why many are turned off from being concerned about prophecy may well extend to the overemphasis the church placed on this subject in the past.   Spiritual sleep hardly need be caused by misidentifying in prophecy whether Russia or Germany will be leading the invasion forces against modern physical Israel.




            Could the Persian Gulf War fulfill Dan. 11:40-43?  If it does, which Mr. Collins argues for in considerable detail as a possibility (see ANLAP, pp. 20-24), obviously we’re the king of the north, instead of a gentile power as in the prior verses of this prophecy.  Mr. Collins’ analysis makes a key mistake when arguing the prophecy can’t be about an Arab-Israeli War because the two groups aren’t mentioned in these verses.  We have to look at the preceding context to know more about the identity of the king of the north and the king of the south.  The king of the north initially was the ruling dynasty of the Seleucid Empire, which controlled the area of modern Syria, Iraq, and Persia, while the king of the north was the Ptolemaic dynasty that reigned over Egypt.  It’s hard to believe that the Arabs aren’t involved with either side, given these prior identifications in earlier verses.  But since Mr. Collins proceeds to identify the King of the South as the Islamic world, the Arabs obviously are included under the latter label anyway.  A major problem with Mr. Collins’ hypothetical interpretation of Dan. 11:40-45 is the belief it could be fulfilled by some minor, superficial war that had no lasting effects (besides the liberation of Kuwait, a small, rather artificially separate nation).  After all, Saddam Hussein is still there, hanging onto power and posing a threat with would-be weapons of mass destruction.  Apparently “43” plans to finish off what his father “41” started on but didn’t complete.  This leads to the question, incidentally, of whether we really ultimately “won” the Persian Gulf War, even if Saddam Hussein’s army was militarily crushed by Allied forces.  Mr. Collins’ attempt to list and play up major military aspects of this campaign (see ANLAP, p. 21) simply isn’t persuasive when the consequences of this war were so ephemeral compared to (say) WWI or WWII.


Perhaps the biggest problem with Mr. Collins’ interpretation comes from when the king of the north in these verses is identified as being the Beast elsewhere in Scripture.  Consequently, placing the war of Dan. 11:40-43 before the Great Tribulation simply becomes nonsense.  In Mr. Collins’ scenario, the king of the north ultimately wins since he is identified with the leader of the nations that include Israel (i.e., the United States, Britain, etc.) in the Persian Gulf War.  But v. 45 shows the king of the north will lose:  “Yet he will come to his end, and no one will help him.”  Unlike Judah in the last extremity (Zech. 14:1-3), it doesn’t look like God is going to help the king of the north any!  So if the Beast and the king of the north are one and the same, and we know the Beast is going to go down for the count prophetically (cf. Rev. 18:8; 19:19-20; 20:10), then this means Israel and Judah (who are allied to the Beast and even are the Beast/king of the north in Mr. Collins’ scenario) will lose, not win!  But we know God ultimately redeems and restores Israel physically, so his semi-tentative identification of the United States as the king of the north during the Persian Gulf War just doesn’t hold water.


Mr. Collins also argues that the word “enter” in v. 40 doesn’t have to mean “invade,” so that the king of the north’s army need not militarily occupy the areas it “entered” (see ANLAP, p. 21-22).  But these words overlap in meaning in English, as Webster’s Ninth Collegiate Dictionary tells us (p. 415):  “ENTER, PENETRATE, PIERCE, PROBE mean to make way into something.  ENTER is the most general of these and may imply either going in or forcing a way in.”  Hence, a strong denial that the word “enter” never means “invade” is also out of order.  More importantly, the word translated “enter” here is “boh,” which is a generic basic word in Hebrew for “come in, come, go in, go,” according to Brown-Driver-Briggs (p. 97), a point with which Mr. Collins would readily agree. So how may this ambiguity be resolved?  Now in a few places Scripture uses this word to describe the movements of an army with hostile intent (II Sam. 5:18; I Chron. 14:9; II Chron. 20:1).  But more importantly, consider the general description of the actions of the king of the north’s army:  “He will enter countries, overflow them, and pass through.  He will also enter the Beautiful Land.”  Since the preceding general context concerns the movements of armies with hostile intent, why should verses 39-40 be any different?  This same word appears (in its various states/tenses) in verses 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 13, 15, 16, 21, 24, 29, and 30 in the same chapter.  Notice how verse 10 uses the same general terminology as v. 39 when describing an army engaged in hostile action:  “And his sons will mobilize and assemble a multitude of great forces; and one of them will keep on coming and overflow and pass through, that he may again wage war up to his very fortress.”  HWA said, basing his account on Rawlinson’s Ancient History, that this described Antiochus the Great, the king of the north, recovering his fortress and former capital, Seleucia, and conquering the land of Syria all the way to Gaza, including Judah itself.[10]   A few stray American troops that showed up in Israel during the Gulf War (hardly composing the bulk of overall Allied forces) to set up (probably ineffective) Patriot missile batteries barely then constitutes an “entering” of the “Beautiful Land” (see ANLAP, p. 22).  Verse 42 shows force is used by the king of the north as well:  “Then he will stretch out his hand against other countries, and the land of Egypt will not escape.”  Did Allied forces invade Egypt in 1991?  Obviously not.  What other countries did the American-led coalition invade besides (albeit briefly) Iraq and a (liberated) Kuwait?   Given this prophecy’s preceding context, it’s very dubious to assume verses 40-41 concern an army that isn’t engaged in hostile action as it enters, overflows, and passes through.   


            Mr. Collins’ argument that “countries” was mistakenly added by the translators in v. 41 is undermined (again) by the context of the statement:  “Many countries will fall; but these will be rescued out of his hand:  Edom, Moab and the foremost of the sons of Ammon.”  The latter are all countries, which has its implications for what the “many” of the same verse actually is.  The translators were sensible to see “countries” as the implied word in verse 41, as the next verse shows:  “Then he will stretch out his hand against other countries, and the land of Egypt will not escape.”  The word “other” is added, but “countries” isn’t here.  It’s a dubious reading in of a desired meaning to say these three nations that are rescued out of the king of the north’s hand concern those not hostile to the “king,” i.e., the Allied coalition.  Instead, a plain reading of v. 41 indicates something will stop or prevent the king of the north’s army from militarily attacking or invading these three countries while Egypt will succumb to his assault.  Being merely “allied” to or neutral towards the Allied coalition doesn’t sound like a way to be “rescued” when this word implies an attempted attack failed.  Furthermore, it’s rather absurd to say these three nations will be rescued, but Egypt did not escape, when all of them were on the same side during the Persian Gulf War (i.e., allies of the alleged “king of the north,”) or at least as a semi-hostile neutral (i.e., Jordan).  Now when Mr. Collins can’t find a clear way to fit the Libyans and Ethiopians of v. 43 into his Persian Gulf War reconstruction of this prophecy, it fails to make him reconsider whether he’s completely on the wrong track (see ANLAP, p. 23).  After all, the “Libyans,” led by Qaddafi, haven’t caused much trouble for the United States since Reagan had Tripoli bombed in 1986, which was before the Persian Gulf War.  Since this war put the many of the Arabs and the nation of Judah (passively) on the same side, the Persian Gulf War helps him support the idea that all of the Semites end up on the same side against the Russian-led Asiatic hordes during the great tribulation (see ANLAP, p. 26; cf. p. 10).  But, as the events of 9-11 and the recent low-intensity guerrilla war between Judah and the Palestinian Arabs (a mere 1% of all Arabs, incidentally) reminds us, the Allied Coalition of 1990-91 was a ephemeral, superficial coalition.  The real grudge match of Middle Eastern politics, between the Israelis and the Arabs, will not be resolved humanly until the king of the north (the EU turned dictatorial) intervenes militarily in the Middle East (cf. the controversy over Dan. 9:27’s application).  It’s blindness to think such an emotionally passionate conflict, with the exclamation points supplied by suicide bombings, will conveniently disappear during the great tribulation and be of no consequence.  The Arab thirst for Judah’s blood and land will ultimately overcome its desire for American petrodollars.  I predict that the Arab-Israeli conflict will be one of the leading (human) causes of the great tribulation based on these same verses (Dan. 11:40-45).


            Is there a break in thought between Dan. 11:43 and verse 44?  Mr. Collins, in order to shoehorn the Persian Gulf War into Dan. 11:40-43 has to assert vs. 44-45 are about a separate war that will be the hallmark of the great tribulation (see ANLAP, p. 23).  Admittedly, in such a long prophecy, it’s certainly possible the prophet could suddenly switch time periods without warning.  But the phrase “and at the end time” that begins v. 40 we know implies a time period shift from v. 39.  And no such transitional hint appears within verses 43-44.  After his unqualified military successes in verses 40-43, the king of the north faces rumors of the invasion by the kings of the east, and goes off to defeat after having occupied or pacified Judah (verse 45).


            Did the alleged king of the north “gain control over the hidden treasures of gold and silver, and over the precious things of Egypt” during the Persian Gulf War?  Identifying the “gold” and “silver” as oil strikes me as a massive reading in of a desired meaning since it’s hardly literal.  Furthermore, the United States (or the other Western nations allied to it during the Persian Gulf War) hardly gained direct control of the oil of the Middle East.  OPEC, which is dominated by the Arab/Muslim oil producers, is still free to set monopoly prices and to exploit us economically, even if the Russians (in particularly) have made their racket harder to pull off recently.  As for Egypt itself, it is a poor country today, as Mr. Collins notes himself, despite its traditional agricultural bounty coming from the waters of the Nile.  It has little oil, unlike the nations surrounding the Persian Gulf.  Calling the Suez Canal one of the “precious things” of Egypt is another real stretch, especially since (again) the king of the north (a.k.a., the United States and its allies) didn’t take control of it, but were merely allowed to use it.  Given the above objections which have been spelled out in detail, it is a real stretch to interpret Dan. 11:40-43 as a prophecy about the Persian Gulf War.




            So in conclusion, Steven Collins’ interpretation of end-time prophecy that the house of Israel would easily triumph over its end-time enemies by God’s power has been called into question.  There are good reasons to believe that God will punish America, Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, the nations that mostly make up the tribe of Joseph, through defeat in war and national captivity.  Our main end-time enemy will be a revived Roman Empire in the form of a dictatorial European Union, not Russian-led Asiatic hordes.  A foundational error of Mr. Collins comes from his rejection of duality when interpreting the Scriptures’ eschatology.  This makes it possible for him to dismiss decisively all texts that may be fulfilled in the end-times, not just in the ancient past.  Another error comes from the assumption that because a German-led invasion hasn’t occurred in the past 57 years, therefore, one will never come.  But by the same reasoning a Russian-led invasion could be dismissed:  That hasn’t happened yet either.  Nobody should deny that the Second Coming will occur despite frequently mistaken predictions by all sorts of people about how soon it would happen.  Furthermore, Russia today is about the friendliest it has ever been since the period of Kerensky’s leadership before the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917.  By contrast, while our European allies are strengthening themselves by unifying politically and economically, they fill the air with complaints about American unilateralism, American pop culture and business icons (such as McDonald’s), and America’s more pro-capitalist and more pro-death penalty politics.  Mr. Collins’ attempt to read the ephemeral Persian Gulf War into Daniel 11:40-43 has been weighed and found wanting.  His view that physical Israel could righteously wage war totally contradicts any serious attempt to apply practically the meaning of Matt. 5:38-48.  The idea God will bail out the house of Israel despite its manifest moral rottenness in the end time has the odor of triumphalism about it.  It’s better to be humble and to warn of a coming punishment at God’s hands for our peoples if indeed that’s what Scripture teaches.  Perhaps above all, Mr. Collins’ thesis that America, Britain, and Judah in the Middle East are all one and the same effectively as Babylon, the king of the north, the Beast, NATO, the European Union, and Israel is simply too incoherent and unwieldy to be believable.  Above, the “heavy ‘burden of proof’” (ANLAP, p. 34) that Mr. Collins imputes to the traditional WCG view that God would punish America and Britain nationally by national captivity and defeat in war through a German-led European invasion has been readily lifted.  It now remains for Mr. Collins to plug the holes that are sinking his eschatological ship about America and Britain being victorious by God’s power against Russian-led Asiatic hordes during the great tribulation and the Day of the Lord in our immediate future.  So instead of shouting, “The Russians are coming!  The Russians are coming!,” the church should still be willing to proclaim, “The Germans are coming!  The Germans are coming!”



Eric V. Snow

July 18, 2002




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[1] Collins exaggerates this some for the post-1972 period since I’ve never heard anyone in the church say anything about 1979 or 1991 being significant dates.  In early 1971 I’ve heard that the WCG started having some speak to lower expectations about 1972 being the year the church would be “raptured” to Petra.

[2] For one interesting interpretation of this prophecy, see Josh McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict (San Bernardino, CA:  Here’s Life Publishers), 1: 286-87.

[3] Many of these texts were helpfully gathered in a list made by Steve St. Charles and/or Phil Schafer of the Ann Arbor, Michigan UCG congregation.

[4] F. Brown, S. Driver, and C. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Peabody, MA:  Hendrickson Publishers, 1996), p. 888.

[5] For these dates, see Geoffrey W. Bromiley, gen. ed., International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 2, p. 262, and vol. 4, p. 296.

[6] I thank Ken Miller of the UCG—Ann Arbor, Michigan congregation for this insight.

[7] Herbert W. Armstrong, “Why Russia Will Not Attack America” (1948), as reprinted in Russia & China in Prophecy, pp. 23-24.

[8] HWA, Why Russia Will Not Attack America, p. 15, 23.

[9] Henry Morris, The Biblical Basis for Modern Science (Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Book House, 1984), pp. 252-4.

[10] HWA, The Middle East in Prophecy, p. 5.