Book Write-Up: Clash of Kingdoms, by Charles Dyer and Mark Tobey

Charles Dyer and Mark Tobey.  Clash of Kingdoms: What the Bible Says About Russia, Isis, Iran, and the End Times.  Nashville: Nelson Books, 2017.  See here to purchase the book.

Charles Dyer is an associate pastor and a Bible professor at Moody Bible Institute, and he has a Ph.D. from Dallas Theological Seminary.  Mark Tobey is a pastor, and he has a B.A. from Moody and a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary.  Clash of Kingdoms speculates about how current events could lead to the end-time scenarios described in the Bible.

Here are some of my thoughts about the book.

A.  As far as end-time scenarios go, the scenario presented in this book is roughly the same as that of Hal Lindsey and Tim Lahaye.  Russia, with Iran and other nations, attempts to attack Israel, only to suffer a devastating defeat at the hands of God.  The Antichrist, as head of the European Union, fosters a peace agreement between Israel and the Arab nations, only to betray and persecute Israel.  This is the overall model in the book, and what is irrelevant to this model is somewhat marginalized.  ISIS, for example, is irrelevant to this model, and Dyer and Tobey seem to forecast that Russia and others (i.e., Syria) will defeat ISIS early on.  Dyer and Tobey do not appeal to Bible verses or passages to support that piece of speculation, as they do for their overall scenario; rather, their assumption seems to be that, because ISIS is irrelevant to their overall prophetic scenario, it will be destroyed early in the game.

There are some differences, though, between this book and what I have read in Lahaye’s books or Hal Lindsey’s works.  For one, for Dyer and Tobey, Russia and Iran’s defeat entails much more than Russian planes being destroyed in the sky, as is depicted in the first Left Behind movie. Drawing from Ezekiel 38-39, Dyer and Tobey argue that earthquakes, pestilence, and fiery hail from the sky will play a significant role in the defeat of Russia, and that God will attack the country of Russia itself (see Ezekiel 29:6).  According to Dyer and Tobey, Russia and Iran will be destroyed as nations, with profound economic and geo-political consequences.  Second, China is notably absent from this book, whereas Hal Lindsey presented China as the Kings of the East of Revelation 16:12.  Dyer and Tobey may still regard China as the Kings of the East, but their book does not discuss that matter.

B.  If I were to attach a political label to this book, it would probably be “neoconservative,” with some reservation.  Dyer and Tobey believe that Russia has imperial or expansionist objectives, that the Iran nuclear agreement has severe limitations and negative consequences, and that the UN is unfair to condemn Israel repeatedly, while being sparse in its condemnation of nations with worse records.  Such a perspective coincides with neo-conservatism, or at least the perspective of the interventionist wing of the Republican Party.  My reservations about applying this label occur because Dyer and Tobey in this book never advocate an interventionist or belligerent stance on the part of the United States; in one place, they actually say that U.S. intervention can result in drawbacks.  Their stance may be to let God work things out.

C.  Dyer and Tobey highlight and discuss the divisions and agendas within the Muslim world.  Sunnis are against Shiites, Saudi Arabia is against Iran, Iran supports Syria rather than ISIS, and the Kurds have their own agenda.  Dyer and Tobey do not lump all Muslims together but recognize complexity and nuance.  While Dyer and Tobey believe that ISIS is seeking to recover some past Islamic glory, they acknowledge that Al-Qaeda was upset at the U.S. for placing troops in Saudi Arabia, a point that non-interventionist Republican Ron Paul makes in discussing blowback.  Dyer and Tobey’s description and analysis of current events were insightful and informative.

D.  Dyer and Tobey are trying to argue that current events are setting the stage for the end-times, and yet the information that they present is sometimes at variance with that.  The Antichrist will rule over a United States of Europe, yet Dyer and Tobey acknowledge that the European Union today is rather fragmented.  Dyer and Tobey believe that the Arab world will unite after the fall of Iran, but, as I noted in (C.), they realize that such union is non-existent today.  Dyer and Tobey maintain that Russia will attack Israel, but they observe that, nowadays, Putin is forming a friendly relationship with Netanyahu.  Dyer and Tobey’s end-time scenarios sometimes look plausible, in light of current events, and sometimes they do not.

E.  Regarding biblical interpretation, the book had hits and misses.  Let’s start with the positives.  Dyer and Tobey believe that the eighth-seventh century B.C.E. figure Gyges of Lydia is relevant to the identity of Gog in Ezekiel 38-39, that Ezekiel is saying someone like Gog will come on the scene in the last days (as some Christians may call the Antichrist another Hitler).  Dyer and Tobey do well to bridge a historical-critical reading of the Bible (one that interprets Ezekiel 38-39 in light of people and events close to its own time) with a prophetic and eschatological interpretation (one that sees Ezekiel 38-39 as a prophecy about the future, beyond Ezekiel’s time).  Dyer and Tobey also mount an effective biblical defense for their position that the city of Babylon will be rebuilt in the last days, contra the view that Babylon will never be rebuilt, a la Isaiah 13:17-20 and similar passages.  And they do well to pay attention to the details of Ezekiel 38-39 about how God will defeat Magog.

As far as negatives are concerned, there are three.  First of all, Dyer and Tobey are dogmatic in identifying Magog as Russia, for Gyges was Gyges of Lydia, which is in what is modern-day Turkey.  (Note: Dyer and Tobey see Gog as a person of Magog, rather than treating Gog and Magog as two separate countries.)  Dyer and Tobey should have justified their identification of Magog as Russia, as some modern Christian end-times books do.  Second, while Dyer and Tobey’s interpretation of Ezekiel 38-39 is literal, in many cases, they do not deal with aspects of the chapters in which a literal interpretation would be awkward.  Ezekiel 39:9 states: “Then those who live in the towns of Israel will go out and make fires of the weapons and burn them–bucklers and shields, bows and arrows, handpikes and spears– and they will make fires of them for seven years” (KJV).  People will still be using shields, spears, and bows and arrows in the last days?  How would Dyer and Tobey account for that?  Third, while Dyer and Tobey did well to incorporate some historical-criticism into their interpretation of Gog in Ezekiel 38-39, they should have done the same with Daniel 11.  Instead, they treat elements of Daniel 11 as a prophecy about the end-times, without mentioning or interacting with the historical Ptolemaic and Seleucid conflicts that are the subject of at least parts of the chapter.

I am giving this book five stars, however, because it was an informative and engaging read.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through BookLook Bloggers.  My review is honest!

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About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. I study the History of Biblical Interpretation at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio, as part of its Ph.D. program. I have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting.
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