There is a titanic conflict going on around us

Part 1 of an interview with Terry Brennan,
Author of Ishmael Covenant

The inspiration behind Terry Brennan’s Ishmael Covenant started with one idea: that three ancient empires of the East—Persian, Ottoman, and Islamic—appeared to be on the cusp of rising again. The idea caught fire when he was introduced to the Vilna Gaon, Rabbi Elijah ben Shlomo Zalman, who was the most revered Talmudic scholar of the late eighteenth century Brennan took the idea of the rising empires and the premise of an unexpected treaty between Israel and all its Arab neighbors, wrapped it up in the Vilna Gaon’s messianic prophecy, speculated about a second prophecy that was yet to be revealed, and started writing.

Not only does Empires of Armageddon borrow from numerous threads of actual history, Brennan did an extensive amount of research into the US State Department, NATO policy, and the Diplomatic Security Service to make sure all aspects of the story were as accurate as possible. However, Brennan hopes readers will find even more within the pages of Ishmael Covenant.

Learn more about the message Brennan hopes readers glean from the new Empires of Armageddon series in part 1 of his interview.

Q: Is there a scriptural or spiritual theme that inspired the writing of Ishmael Covenant?

My Bible is an NIV Study Bible with extensive explanatory notes on almost every page. One of the longest notes and—for me—one of the most impactful refers to Ephesians 1:3 where Paul writes about “heavenly realms.” In part, the note explains that Christians are in a real, tangible war, what it calls a “titanic conflict”: “In the Christian’s union with the exalted Christ, ultimate issues are involved. . . . At stake are God’s eternal eschatological purpose and the titanic conflict between God and the powerful spiritual forces arrayed against him. . . . As a result, the spiritual struggles of the saints here and now are not so much against ‘flesh and blood’ as against the great spiritual forces that war against God in heaven.”

I was struck by the idea that there are great spiritual forces that war against God in heaven. More sobering is the idea that my spiritual struggles here on earth have, in some way, an impact on that war in heaven. Not all of us will come face-to-face with evil incarnate, as Brian Mullaney and the other characters of Ishmael Covenant do. However, agents of evil are at work in the world today, just as they have been since Lucifer’s rebellion was crushed and banished to earth.

Q: How did your studies while writing the book change your thoughts on the spiritual warfare we face in daily life as Christians?

I don’t generally live my daily life conscious of the part I play in this great spiritual battle in heaven. I most often perceive the evil I face as personal. So, my wife and I pray against the spirits of evil that try to steal, rob, and destroy in our lives, in our family, and in our marriage, which is good to do.

Through digging deeper into the concept of spiritual warfare for this book, I’ve learned that I need to reach beyond the personal conflict of good and evil in my life and be more conscious of the vastness of this titanic conflict around me. I need to be an example, a reflection, of Jesus and his love for all souls. And I need to stand up for light—to be a warrior-ambassador for light—in a dark world that often seems to be getting darker.

But the bottom line is inevitable. Good triumphs. The end of the Book will never change.

Q: What are some of the faith struggles your main character, Brian Mullaney, faces?

Right from the outset, Mullaney is grappling with a great chasm in his life. He desperately desires the forgiveness and affirmation of his father, but now it is impossible to attain because the elder Mullaney has died. Even though he is a man of character and integrity, admired by many, reliable and effective in his career as an agent for the Diplomatic Security Service, Mullaney struggles personally and spiritually with the insecurity that he’s just not good enough.

Now, unfairly accused and banished to Israel from his post in Washington, Mullaney is emotionally crippled by the fractures occurring in his marriage. Add to that, he’s enlisted in a tangible, life-threatening conflict with evil incarnate. A devoted, mature Christian, Mullaney openly wrestles with and challenges God’s plan as he tries to save the lives of the ambassador and those around him in the field while desperately trying to save his marriage back home. His trust in God’s faithful provenance is ultimately tested when he is tasked to obey an implausible heavenly command—hand over the box of power while face-to-face with Satan’s emissary.

As Christians, one of our foundational beliefs is that Jesus Christ will return. Many believe his second coming will usher in the final countdown to the end of time as we know it. There are many parts of the Bible that prophesy about the second coming. Many scholars believe the creation of the nation of Israel in 1948 started the “end-times clock” ticking. So, most likely we are in, or on the cusp of, the end of days. The end really is near—whatever “near” means in God’s timing. I believe any novel that weaves into its plotline elements relating to how or when Christ will return, or its impact, qualifies as end-times fiction.

It’s important to remember that end-times fiction is not the book of Revelation. It’s not theologically deep or hard to understand.

Ishmael Covenant can be characterized as an end-times thriller because there is a strong thread connecting the plot of the book, and the series, to last-days events such as how the quest of the protagonist may ultimately affect biblical prophecies. But primarily it is simply a story of the conflict between good and evil, and how that conflict plays out in the life of an ordinary guy.

At its core is an everyman protagonist—a Christian man, accomplished and successful in his career, who is enlisted in a life-threatening situation beyond his sphere of experience and understanding. This lethal danger, projected not only against the man himself but also against his family, is perpetrated by the Turk and his disciples, a shadowy gang of murderous thugs who ruthlessly pursue our hero from one country to the next. One complicating factor is that our protagonist realizes the spiritual implications and consequences of the deadly conflict into which he was recruited. As a result, his faith and character are challenged to the utmost as he confronts a relentless string of obstacles to fulfilling his call.
Q: Can you give us just a tease of what to expect from the rest of the series?

The entire series takes place in the span of a few days, so each book in the trilogy picks up right where the other left off. The fight for power and dominion between the empires escalates. The theme of spiritual warfare expands as the series progresses and intensifies as the battle for the Gaon’s second prophecy continues. And readers will find Brian Mullaney torn apart by conflicting loyaltiesprotecting the ambassador, salvaging his marriage and his family, unmasking a traitor in the highest echelons of the State Departmentwhile entangled in a lethal battle with the emissaries of incarnate evil.  

More on Brennan can be found at He is also on Facebook (Terry Brennan) and Twitter (@terrbrennan1).