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In order to understand many end-time biblical prophecies we must identify major nations by their modern names. Today, the United States of America is a superpower and in the 19th century Great Britain was the largest empire in the world. Are these nations ignored in the Bible?
The story begins with God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God made a covenant with Abram and his descendants and told Abraham he would be the father of many nations. He also changed Abram’s name to Abraham, meaning father of multitudes or many nations (Genesis 17:5-7).
God’s promises were subsequently passed along to Abraham’s son Isaac and the following generations of Jacob, Joseph and then to Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manesseh (Genesis 48). God also changed Jacob’s name to Israel, meaning “prevailer (or prince) with God” (Genesis 32:28, 35:9-11 King James Version), resulting in his descendants becoming known as Israelites.
Shortly before Jacob (Israel) died, God pronounced special birthright blessings on Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. He prophesied Manasseh’s descendants would become a “great” nation and that Ephraim’s descendants would “become a multitude of nations” (Genesis 48:19). In essence, Jacob was adopting his grandsons as his own sons (Genesis 48:5). He said, “Let my name [Israel] be named upon them” (Genesis 48:16).
After King Solomon’s death, Israel split into two kingdoms, with the northern 10 tribes seceding from Israel, but keeping the name Israel. The southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin, along with part of Levi, became known as the kingdom, or house, of Judah and were called “Jews.”
It might seem surprising, but the first time “Jews” are mentioned in the King James Version of the Bible, they are at war with Israel (2 Kings 16:5-6). The Israelis of the modern nation of Israel are mostly Jews. When the Bible speaks of Judah in the end-time, it is referring to this present-day nation of Israel and other dispersed Jews.
Eventually after years of disobeying God, the northern ten tribes become known as the lost 10 tribes of Israel after they were conquered by the king of Assyria and transported to foreign lands where they lost their identity. Because these 10 tribes had previously abandoned the keeping of God’s Sabbath and Holy Days, they no longer had those identifying signs (Exodus 31:13) linking them to their roots as descendants of Abraham and Jacob.
Over the years many of their descendants continued to migrate, mostly in a westerly direction toward what is now Europe. Because they had lost their original identity, many historians have thought they were completely assimilated into other peoples or died out. But although the ten tribes had lost the knowledge of their true identity God fulfilled His promise of sifting the Israelites through other nations and keeping them intact (Amos 9:9).
In contrast, when those of the house of Judah were taken captive to Babylon more than a century later, they retained their language and beliefs, including Sabbath-keeping. And when later permitted, some of them returned to Judea (which the Romans much later renamed Palestine). Thus, a large part of the Jewish people never lost their identity.
Indications the Israelites did not cease to exist are provided in the New Testament, when Jesus said He was sent “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). He also told His disciples to go preach “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:6), and many years later, the Apostle James, the half-brother of Jesus, addressed his letter “to the twelve tribes . . . scattered abroad” (James 1:1). Obviously, Jesus and James expected to reach descendants of all 12 tribes, not just the Jews in Palestine.
While most historians haven’t actually tried to “find” the so-called “lost tribes,” some have been able to trace the Israelites’ migrations. As God promised in the book of Amos, He would not forget the northern 10 tribes of Israel, and neither would He allow them to be absorbed by other nations to the point of ceasing to be an identifiable people (again, see Amos 9:9).
So, where are the United States and Britain named in the Bible? Bible prophecy, when properly understood, not only foretells the rise of Britain and the United States, but it also reveals what will happen if they reject the true Source of their blessings. For a more in-depth explanation, providing historical evidence and a complete overview, we encourage you to read our study guide The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy.