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Left Behind: Kingdom Come, the Final Victory (c2007) discussion topics
(Added August 2007)
Discussion topic: Do you believe in an earthly Millennium? If yes, what version? (Examples: pre-millennial dispensationalist-rapturist leading to tribulation then millennium; post-millennium leading to rapture and tribulation, etc.) Do you believe in a literal 1,000-year reign, an unspecified finite, or a never-ending era? The “Peaceable Kingdom”? How many resurrections do you believe in? How many judgments? Who participates in any or all, and why? How does Left Behind: Kingdom Come, the Final Victory conform to and deviate from your interpretation of the end times?
Discussion topic: After the Rapture, the once 12-year-old Raymie Steele skips over his formative teen years to adulthood. Some readers liked this idea, in that “children” like Raymie, Bahira and Zaki did not lose their childhood trust and wonder when they became adults. Other readers found this plot point puzzling, even creepy. (Sample quotes included, “Did God conclude that our human birth-and-growth process was a glitch in the system that He deleted from the next software release and hardware upgrade?” and “Does God have template personalities to plug into our unformatted hard drives/dry husks?” See also Montgomery’s Anne’s House of Dreams and the theological debate raised by the subplot about whether Anne and her dead baby would recognize each other in Heaven.)
Personality shapes and is shaped by experience, habits, education, talents, travel, memories, hopes and dreams, choices, and relationships. What would it be like for the 12-year-old Raymie, or an unborn child, to skip their formative years and emerge into our view as adults?
Related: The novel is structured in a certain way for a certain reason. From Volume 12, page 355:
“If God did not allow Satan one more chance to deceive the nations, all the people who are born and live during the millennial kingdom would be exempt from the decision to follow God or follow Satan. By releasing him one more time, all people are given equal standing before God.”
Children who died or were raptured before an “age of accountability” are exempt from this “equal standing” requirement. They have been to Heaven and received their glorified bodies and minds. They never made a decision and indeed cannot make a decision. They are forever fixed as belonging to Jesus, because He claimed them when they were too little to claim Him. What do you think about the series’ decision to grant this exemption, particularly in light of this new volume portraying a millennial kingdom full of children?
Discussion topic: The characters cite Zephaniah 3:9 as source for the novel’s plot point that the characters can speak pure Hebrew. One could posit that an earthly Kingdom of God heals the disunity of Babel, among other things. The TLB footnote to Genesis 11 comments, “Language is the basis upon which science feeds upon itself and grows. [Babel] was the beginning of an explosion of knowledge, nipped in the bud because of wrong motives and wrong use of the knowledge gained. Similarity with today’s world is significant.”
Babel was only three generations after Noah. Why were the people of Babel building a walled city as an expression of unity? Who were they walling out? Their own relatives! (Trivia alert: Genesis 9:28-29 states that Noah lived for 350 years after the Flood. The Scofield Reference Bible, c1917 (“SRB-1917”) dates the Flood as the year 2348 B.C. and Babel as 2247 B.C. By Scofield’s reckoning, Noah was alive at the time of Babel. Was he locked out too? Or was he locked in? The characters should have asked him.)
Many Biblical scholars argue it is Pentecost which fulfills Zeph. 3:9. The argument is that the prophet said “pure speech,” not “Hebrew language.” “Pure” speech would be “purity in speech,” i.e. no lies, no faithlessness (supported by verse 13). This is why Pentecost did not turn humans back into monolingual speakers. Instead, languages became additional instruments to spread the gospel. It was not only about tongues being loosed, but about ears and hearts being opened. The talking was important, but the listening was equally or more important. When strangers believed at Pentecost, they were restored to one family: the family of God. The sundering of minds, hearts, and family begun at Babel was ended. And for believers, the Spirit prays for us, in groanings too deep for words (Rom. 8:26), surely a “pure speech” or possibly the purest form of speech.
Discuss the novel’s decision to have the characters speak Hebrew. How would the story have been different if they spoke “a pure speech” in the sense of being incapable of deception, of words that are spoken only in right use?
Discussion topic: Rayford wonders why the Jewish people must sacrifice animals in the Millennial Kingdom. Jesus answers by quoting Col. 2:17; Heb. 9:26b, 28a; Heb. 10:1, 4, 12-14. In between these verses, King Jesus adds, “But in these [restored, physical] sacrifices [in the temple], there is a reminder of sins every year, just as the celebration of My supper is in remembrance of the price paid of My body and of My blood …. My chosen ones [i.e. the living Jewish inhabitants] must continue to present memorial sacrifices to Me in remembrance of My sacrifice and because they rejected Me for so long” (pages 22-23).
(We call this version of Jesus, “King Jesus,” because He is an earthly king in the novel, and because we need to distinguish Him from the Jesus-of-the-Gospels. The title may sound slightly flippant, but it isn’t intended to be. The character Chaim used the term in Volume 12, page 269.)
The SRB-1917 footnote to Ezekiel 43:19 (page 890) states: “Doubtless these offerings will be memorial, looking back to the cross, as the offerings under the old covenant were anticipatory, looking forward to the cross. In neither case have animal sacrifices power to put away sin (Heb. 10:4; Rom. 3:25).”
Non-dispensationalists, such as amillennialists, reply that Ezekiel 46:13-15 describes a lamb and cereal offering with oil (i.e., Lamb, loaf/body) that are offered up every day, forever. Do you consider this a reference to the holy feast, when believers all over the world approach the Lord’s Supper? When Gentiles partake of the body and the blood, do we do it to remember that we too rejected Christ for so long? What are our motives for partaking of the holy feast?
Consider Hebrews 10:17-18, which says that where there is forgiveness of sin, there is no longer any offering for sin. Isn’t the whole point of Hebrews 10 that the new sacrifice is superior to the old, and therefore Heb 10:3 was written down to show what the sacrifice of Christ has replaced? Even Jer. 31:34 says God will remember their sin no more. If so, why would Jewish citizens of the Millennium “bring it up again in conversation,” so to speak, at the altar every day?
What about the Dispensational belief that converted Jews are not part of the Church? The SRB-1917 footnote to Hosea 2 (page 922) states:
”That Israel is the wife of Jehovah (see vs. 16-23), now disowned but yet to be restored, is the clear teaching of the passages. This relationship is not to be confounded with that of the Church to Christ (John 3:29,refs.). In the mystery of the Divine tri-unity both are true. The N.T. speaks of the Church as a virgin espoused to one husband (2 Cor. 11:1, 2); which could never be said of an adulterous wife, restored in grace. Israel is, then, to be the restored and forgiven wife of Jehovah, the Church the virgin wife of the Lamb (John 3:29; Rev. 19:6-8); Israel Jehovah’s earthly wife (Hos. 2:23); the Church the Lamb’s heavenly bride (Rev. 19:7).
If the Bride of Christ is a “virgin,” and the Bride of Christ consists of those who are born again, born of the Spirit, born from above (John 3:5-8), this would seem to mean that believers have died to sin (Rom. 6:3-8) and are born again as spiritually pure, or virginal. The novel, and Scofield, could be interpreted to be saying that this does not happen with converted Jews, only with Gentiles. If a Jewish believer was baptized into Christ, baptized into His death, “became like Christ in newness of life, a new creation” would not this person be a member of the virginal Bride of Christ? Don’t Jews get “born again,” or do they do so in a way that looks different than it does on Gentiles?
Why do the novel’s Jewish characters have to sacrifice animals instead of (or, for all we know, in addition to) partaking in the Lord’s Supper? Didn’t every Gentile who entered the tribulation alive also reject Jesus their whole lives? Additionally, Tsion says that every Jew who made it alive to the Millennial Kingdom will “know the Lord” (page 33). The novel states that Passover will continue to be observed—with no lamb, because the Lamb is among them. Otherwise Mosaic law is to be observed (pages 26-27). Why?
Did King Jesus answer Rayford’s question? Did King Jesus answer your questions?
Discussion topic: Kenny is willing to wait 2-3 years until his 100th birthday exonerates him. But is the team really so inept that they cannot solve this problem any other way? If Kenny cannot depend upon family and friends, then in theory this would be an opportunity to bring back Hattie Durham: she witnessed so many conspiracies (some as perpetrator, some as victim) that she might have identified patterns or even suspects. Who would you recommend that Kenny go to for guidance?
In the series, saved characters receive the seal of God on their foreheads. Rev. 22:4 reminds us that the blessed have The Name on their foreheads in Eternity. In Volumes 4-12, these signs are physical and visible to other believers. Why doesn’t Kenny have a Saved Seal?
Discussion topic: What is your impression of the Millennium Force as a team, in terms of their mission statement, and in terms of their priorities? Compare and contrast the Millennium Force to their parents’ Tribulation Force.
Discussion topic: Like the MF, TOL suffers from infighting and a lack of focus. Most or all of TOL’s characters are runaways from believing households, and at times they appear to treat their cult as merely a form of teenage rebellion against parents and King Jesus. What does the novel do or fail to do to explore why children from good families grow up badly? Did you or someone you know misspend your youth and turn to God as an adult? What is your reaction to the plot point that all “bad kids” die young without a chance to turn their lives around as adults?
Related: Where are the children of the Goats? Both volume 12 and volume 16 insist that all living humans attended the Sheep and Goats Judgment. The idea that King Jesus would doom small children because their parents were Goats would not be consistent with Volume 1, in which children were raptured regardless of the “Saved Status” of their parents. However, if these children of the Goats were spared, where are they?
(Until the reader was more perfectly informed by later details, it was reasonable to suppose that COT was an orphanage. Chloe and Cameron were promised many children to compensate them for their separation from Kenny. Chloe and Cameron were not Kenny’s babysitters or schoolmarms but his parents. A like compensation would make them parents to more children. However, as the novel progresses, it speaks of “day care” services and children bringing their parents to the guest appearances. No mention is made that Rayford, who built COT’s campus, ever built COT any dormitories.)
If Goat orphans (born and unborn) were spared, who raised them? How much do they remember and understand? What was their reaction to when they heard about TOL? (All TOL who identified their parentage are children of Sheep. Their parents are alive!) Should the novel have included a few characters who identified themselves as children of the Goats?
Discussion exercise (optional): As much as believers enjoy a good Bible story, even devoted fans of the series have called it excessive to devote dozens of pages to reprinting the Bible narrative of four Hebrew heroes of faith. It reminds readers of Matt. 8:28-29. (“Jesus taught as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.” The scribes only quoted the Scriptures and did not presume to present any fresh revelation.) Not only do the children never meet a First-Century hero of faith—are these role models out of a job?—but the reader learns nothing new about the Hebrew heroes of faith.
(Indeed, critics comment that, between the lengthy reprinting of the four Bible stories, the extensive reprinting of material previously published in Volume 12, and the leisurely implosion of the Millennium Force—torn apart by anonymous memos, also called “office politics”—it makes some readers wonder what the TOL is doing these days. Didn’t Tsion predict “war, murder, drugs,” and so forth on page 36? To be fair, it is difficult to write an interesting utopia.)
Sometimes the best way to meet a person is to meet the person next to them. Since most readers already know the stories of Noah, Joshua, Caleb, and David, consider having your book club compose a testimony of the people next to them. (Examples: David’s life, told from Samuel, Bathsheba, or Nathan’s point of view.) Alternately, compose a testimony of some lesser-known Biblical individuals. (Examples: Ebed-Melech of Jer. 38; the four lepers of 2 Kings 7; the apostle Peter’s wife, etc. What about Mary and Joseph? Ever since the release of Prince of Egypt your host has had a soft spot for Jethro. [See Exodus 2:18-21; 18:1-27.] Why did Jethro have to teach Moses how to organize a government? Didn’t Pharaoh teach Moses how to run a government? Isn’t that the whole point of “heir and a spare”?)
Using Scripture, flesh out the story of a Biblical “supporting character” in some way that is “not as the scribes.”
(Note: if your book club is uncomfortable with the idea and calls it “Biblical fan-fiction,” one need not press the exercise. Remember Romans 14 and do not hinder your brother. It might be acceptable to discuss whether the series itself would qualify, if all participants are comfortable.)
Discussion topic: If “the shoemaker’s children go barefoot” and “the farmer’s children go hungry,” Cendrillon works at a Saved Store but she doesn’t move any product and never tried it for herself. Bahira calls Cendrillon a critical, doubting scoffer, but one of these things is not like the others. Traditionally our Lord has been gentler with doubters than with overly-confident people. (Example: Job’s doubt sprang from his sense of justice and decency, and that they didn’t reconcile with his experiences; his friends actually got the sterner rebuke in Job 42:7-9. Example: “Doubting Thomas” needed proof, and got it in John 20:24-29. No one calls the others The Doubting Ten, even though they also did not believe without proof. See Luke 24:10-11.) Maybe Cendrillon is one of those “Thomas” types who needed more proof than she was given. That’s a problem, because King Jesus is never recorded as having visited COT, and no one else is really keeping an eye on her.
The Amish have a custom called rumspringa, “to run loose.” This does not mean “sowing wild oats.” It is related to “informed decisions.” The Amish acknowledge that some teenagers are naturally more restless than others, asking hard questions as they struggle with their faith. Their church lets them take time to work through their concerns. Otherwise, when young adults take vows of church membership, those vows would lack integrity, because there would be only recitation, not declaration. (See also the “Sister Lily” arc in Joan of Arcadia.)
Cendrillon and Kat needed to see for themselves that “not all that glitters is gold.” Kat seized her chance; Cendrillon backed down. Yes, Cendrillon probably wanted to use Bahira as an alibi, to legitimize their activities. But there also is the possibility that she felt intimidated to go away alone with her wild cousins. (They certainly intimidated Kenny. Also, Rayford can’t be the only kidnapped person out there; who’s in the brothels, after all?) Whatever her motives, for a moment Cendrillon felt she could confide in Bahira. Bahira could have welcomed her by counter-suggesting an activity they both would enjoy. Could they have gone water-skiing on the Once-Dead Sea? Go to a concert of their favorite resurrected composer? (Bach has probably written something new by now.) Cendrillon has never been more than 300 miles from home. King Jesus supposedly created a beautiful new world; why don’t the girls take flying lessons or scuba lessons or take a backpacking tour and go see it?
Instead, Bahira slaps her down. Bahira claims she never intended to “lord it over her,” but Bahira really did not need to list all her credentials to say No. It’s a little like the overwhelmed mother who confides that she aches for a vacation and intelligent adult conversation—and the second woman replies, “I had twice as many children as you; they all grew up to be doctors, lawyers, and Indian chiefs; and I was never bored with my children.” To which the probable response would be, “How nice for you, but I’m not being spiritually fed here.” Cendrillon saw others being fed but was so hungry herself that she considered consuming something that was bad for her, simply to fill that void. Cendrillon was alone, and TOL was the only faction wooing her.
What was your reaction to Cendrillon’s death? To what extent is this young person responsible for the choices she makes, and to what extent are the adults around her responsible to ensure that her needs are being met?
Discussion topic: Consider the social ramifications of Cendrillon’s death. Her funeral is actually much closer to the funerals in Jesus’ day than in our own. Her relatives prepared the body, organized the events, and buried their loved one by hand. Jesus’ own death was attended by the women who would prepare his body for burial. (Nowadays we farm out the business of death to professionals.)
One of the most distressing factors is that Cendrillon died one of The Types Of Death That People Don’t Talk About. Her parents are under enormous pressure to respond “correctly,” even if it increases their suffering. As this is a Left Behind novel, the parents yield to Cameron and Rayford’s request (to turn the funeral into an altar call), and as this is a Left Behind novel, the altar call is extremely successful. (Characters resist repenting in ones and twos but readily convert in hundreds and thousands.) Are Cendrillon’s parents being asked to renounce their daughter to retain their place in the worship community? Why or why not? They slink away and are seen no more, but did they choose to slip away or did their community fail to nurture them?
Sometimes we find it hard to give ourselves permission to feel grief and hurt. Some of the pressure is external (our need to be acceptable in the sight of other people), and some is internal (when we struggle to trust God and ourselves with strong emotions). Often we must remind ourselves that God does not condemn us, even though others might, when we do not immediately put on our “company faces” or resume normal routines after a life-shattering experience. What did you need from others when something bad happened to you? What did you and your worship community do to nurture someone?
Related: Cameron says that he does not know what to do. This makes sense: Cameron’s family is saved. And the Steeles are saved and the Whites are saved and the Ristos and Zekes and “Smittys” are saved. This actually is one of the criticisms leveled against the series: that there is a difference between “free” grace and “cheap” grace, and critics claim the easy “say the magic words” conversions followed by minimal discipleship and sacrifice qualify as the latter. The truth is that the characters have never been tested in this fashion. Of course Cameron does not know what to do.
Only two major characters (three, if Ming Toy counts as a major character) lost their next-of-kin to forever-death and to Cendrillon’s eternal fate: Leah Rose and Hattie Durham. (Hattie’s sister and Leah’s husband both died unsaved in Volume 6.) Should Cameron have demurred in favor of one of these characters instead? How would the narrative have been different if someone who knew what the family is going through had handled this situation?
Discussion topic: The portrayal of King Jesus troubles some readers. Many believing characters say that Jesus speaks to them. The rebels say Jesus “speaks” through actions they dislike. Both sides conclude that they have all the information they need to make a decision. None of this really helps the Undecideds. They would have to actually go to COT; rarely does anyone go seeking them.
It is suggested that King Jesus did not attend Cendrillon’s funeral because it would be “inappropriate.” The Jesus of the Gospels constantly disregarded human notions of propriety. He ministered to Samaritans (John 4:40-42); talked to strange women (John 4:27), let women sit at his feet (where men sat before their teachers at the university; Luke 10:38-42), and got a doomed woman’s death sentence commuted (John 8:2-11).
Jesus let his disciples “work” on the Sabbath, and joined them (Mk. 12:1-13, Luke 13:10-17). He forgave sins (Mark 2:5-12). He let a woman anoint him with an alabaster jar and wipe his feet with her tears (Luke 7:37-50). (This was egregious because of the custom for women to keep alabaster “tear jars,” filled with the tears she shed over her lifetime, shed for her children. Thus the jars were considered holy, as a mother’s acts and love were holy. Some Biblical scholars wonder if the woman poured out her lifetime supply of tears on Jesus in addition to the new tears and the ointment.) As for Jesus’ habit of raising the dead, the authorities were so upset that they plotted to kill Lazarus and make him dead again (John 12:10).
Jesus was in trouble with someone most of the time. Yet so many times Jesus was in trouble because He was illustrating the Father’s extravagant generosity and hospitality (Matt. 9:10-13; 20:1-16, Luke 15:11-32), and people said that it offended propriety. This may have been the reason that the Canaanite woman was the only person who ever won an argument with Jesus (Matt. 15:22-28). When Jesus said that it was not right “to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs,” Jesus was proffering a common attitude of the day, dating back to Isaac. (The patriarch did not have enough blessings for all of his children. A blessing for Thee means none for Me.) When the woman replied that the puppies eat the crumbs that fall from the children’s table, she was pointing out that God has enough blessings for everyone—which was a message Jesus had been trying to impart to the people for His whole ministry. Together, this woman and Jesus refuted the all-too-common notion of God being as limited as man. Her great faith allowed her to help Jesus make this case to the people.
The Jesus of the Gospels confronted death, including His own. His compassion was stronger than religious piety. He did not heed its ritual uncleanness or shrink from its grief and pain. Where the dead went, He went too. Luther put it that God’s proper work is bringing life. Indeed, Jesus empowered the disciples to raise the dead (Matt. 10:8)—which meant all the disciples, which meant even Judas Iscariot. We do not know how many people Jesus raised from the dead, or how many the disciples as a group raised, or how many a specific disciple raised, or how many of those raised from the dead had been, shall we say, taking the express elevator in the wrong direction. Jesus was not in the habit of asking whether a person deserved to be raised from the dead. He simply did it, and what they did with the second chance was up to them.
Obviously if the novel is to take Isaiah 65:20 literally, someone had to die, and someone had to die first. Cendrillon happened to be that one, and the fact that she was an Undecided sinner rather than a vile one is probably intended to prove a point (possibly Luke 16:30-31?). At the same time, Jesus repeatedly raised children from the dead (Matt. 9:18-26, Luke 7:11-15). If only because Jesus has a history of raising the dead, should this issue have been dealt with in the novel?
Perhaps the reason that readers wonder why King Jesus did not appear at Cendrillon’s funeral is because they wonder whether or not the Jesus of the Gospels would have agreed with this decision. What do you think?
Related: Modern expectations have changed over the past centuries. In truth some people might find it easier to adjust to a “King Ralph” than to a king who truly has the might and right to rule over them. We are accustomed to monarchs who obey us. (Your host is not much of a royal-watcher, but even your host heard something about a monarch and her daughter-in-law, the latter of whom died in August 1997. At first, the mourners gathered at the monarch’s door as a community of grief. Four days later, the mourners were holding up angry slogans saying, Show us you care. At this point the monarch surfaced briefly to say that they had been privately mourning as a family, because there were small children involved. This mollified the crowd somewhat, but still they had expected their monarch to be there for them; it was part of the job, as they perceived it. In the novel, only the bad guys would say such a thing to or about the king. Particularly this King.)
The novel’s King Jesus disappears into the Temple some time in chapter 4 and does not physically reappear in the novel until chapter 33, the last one. The authors ask readers “to see the Millennium as yet another of God’s efforts to reach the lost (page xiv). Yet King Jesus is not recorded as visiting COT, TOL, or any place where lost people might be found. Some readers wonder, would the Jesus of the Gospels take a second job as earthly king if it interfered with His first job, “to seek and save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10)? Is it in fact interfering? Why or why not?
The Jesus of the novel is also a type of leader, not a business leader but a leader of men nevertheless. Four crises are named (Cendrillon’s death, Egypt’s rebellion, the woman assaulted, Kenny’s innocence), and King Jesus is absent from all of them. In Organizational Behavior studies, it is noted that aloof people tend to justify their remoteness, their inaccessibility, by claiming that it is a calculated tactic to teach other people to think for themselves. The problem is that it is one thing for a leader to encourage initiative and good judgment. It is quite another thing to wait until “after the fact,” and then try to justify one’s own lack of involvement. A career coach would ask, why can’t the leader just admit that this is who he is? If the leader ignores people and they learn to make do for themselves, the leader should not credit himself—to say that it is because of his behavior—but should admit that the follower’s success is in spite of the leader. At the same time, constantly bringing in King Jesus to solve other people’s problems runs into the same difficulty as constantly bringing in, say, Hattie Durham to solve other people’s problems: the characters will find it hard to grow if everything is done for them. Where does one draw the line? Why didn’t Kenny, Abdullah, Cendrillon, or the rest go to Jesus with their problems? Is it that they cannot go to Him, or that they always are welcome but never thought of it?
What about as a politician? King Jesus calls no press conferences. He issues no written statements, no sound bites. He is not recorded as having weekly “Fireside Chats” on the radio. The media is not recorded as airing any “60 Minutes” or “Nightline” special presentations to address any crisis, and if such programs survive, neither King Jesus nor any official spokesperson is known to have appeared on them. Jesus sort of invented the concept of “kissing babies” on the campaign trail. (At that, the Jesus of the Gospels took the time to bless children individually, rather than blessing the group. See Mark 10:13-16.) But King Jesus is not seen kissing the babies now, at COT or anywhere else. For twenty-nine chapters Jesus is not seen, well, anywhere.
When we see the Lord face to face, what do you think He will be like?
Discussion topic: Many readers, both critics and fans alike, found Abdullah’s agape mission to TOL to be their favorite part of the novel.
Dick Staub, author of Too Christian, Too Pagan once said:
Some people who are too Christian befriend pagans only because they intend to convert them …. “Rick” was straightforward regarding his motivation. He wanted to “win these guys for Christ.” This is certainly a worthy desire. But what, wondered “Alex,” is the true nature of relationship in such a situation? And so Alex, keen of mind and full of curiosity, asked a profound question. “Rick, if you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that not one of these guys would ever become a Christian, would you continue playing racquetball with them?” Given the seriousness of the question, Alex was surprised at the rapidity and intensity of the reply. “Absolutely not,” Rick said. Further discussion revealed Rick’s belief that his sole purpose on earth was to fulfill the Great Commission, and any investment of time that could not contribute to this purpose was vain and frivolous.
Before criticizing Rick, I want you to stop for a moment and ask yourself if you share Rick’s passion for the lost. It is commendable and all too rare among today’s disciples.
But I also want to acknowledge the trap laid for those of us who are type-A, goal-oriented, management-by-objective achievers. Given our evangelistic zeal, we can view people as targets for our efforts instead of relating to them as fellow humans created in God’s image. We are embarrassingly capable of becoming ministry machines, clustering people into categories and then intentionally organizing our time with them to accomplish our purposes.
This happened to me early in my life with Jesus. After starting as a “don’t ask, don’t tell” Christian, I swung to the other extreme and became totally calculating and strategic in my passion to share Jesus with my friends. As presumptuous as it sounds, I would invite people for dinner and then prior to their arrival would think through where they were in their walk and where they should be. I would then develop communication goals for the evening. The joy of relationships became dulled by the obsessive-compulsiveness of a well-intentioned but misdirected Christian. Eventually I realized that relationships are spontaneous and grow out of the serendipity of long, aimless stretches of time with another human. I then understood that a calculating and mission-driven Christian often is not a very good friend at all.
Although it has been 93 years since Abdullah was an active member of the Tribulation Force, his mind and spirit bear the scars of that struggle. He wheedles and sneaks, giving the audience a chance to reunite with some old friends, but not really accomplishing anything. He second-guesses himself from beginning to end. In a paradise of peace, he thinks in terms of war. He has to unlearn almost as much as the TOL does. Abdullah’s willingness to acknowledge his mistakes, to befriend people who threaten him, to make himself vulnerable by sharing his wife’s letters, and to follow Jesus’ example in Luke 5:29-32 is not only refreshing, but startling in its originality—almost as if Abdullah had wandered into a Janette Oke novel.
As Abdullah ministers to the spiritual needs of others, describe the character’s own socialization progress and spiritual growth.
Discussion topic: For the Steeles, one of the pleasures of the Millennium is the chance to eat together again as a family. Raymie and his mother pick vegetables, and Rayford does the cooking. (Rayford got a new toy.) Irene collects milk from a cow and makes fresh butter. The Steele-Williamses then sit down to a dinner of “steaming piles of produce, drenched in butter” (page 2). This unfortunate choice of words does not do justice to their celebration, or to Irene’s talent and hard work. (When the Gentle Browser hears the expression, “That is some steaming pile of [fill-in-the-blank],” the word “produce” is probably not the first word that comes to mind to fill in the blank. Future descriptions sound better, if didactic in a “remember to floss” sort of way.)
Irene loves to cook, and she is good at it. This new world should be a chance for Irene to teach her craftsmanship, to share her gift. (If the Gentle Browser has read Volume 1, you’ve seen her desserts.) Irene might serve fruits and vegetables for their first meal, for the novelty of it, but by this time tomorrow, they’re appetizers. Irene would be working her way through lists like this one, or compiling them.
Why do we mention mere food? Well, it is not “mere,” given that cooking was one of Irene Steele’s foundational attributes, and one that Rayford especially cherished about her. Recall that in Eden, God took special care to provide Adam and Eve with two things: honest labor, and food. Recall that Esau sold his birthright for food. Recall that God fed the Israelites with daily manna to teach them to trust Him. Recall that Daniel’s vegetarianism was an intentional witness to his captors (Dan. 1:8-16). Recall that Jesus left us a sacrament of loaf and cup. Recall that the miraculous Feeding of the Multitudes is recorded in all four Gospels. Recall also that many of Jesus’ followers abandoned Jesus after the incident of John 6:22-66. (Strange but true: linguists claim that there is a word for “bread” in every known language. When Jesus said, “I am the bread of life,” it was no random sentence. The message would translate to everyone on earth.)
It is said that the characters turn vegetarian because of a belief that Eden was a vegetarian era, but the novel never really explores what that means. (The economic implications alone are staggering.) Also, the novel does not “sell” the vegetarian menu very well. (Try it for yourself: when a character invites another character to supper, do you think “peach-bread pudding, twice-baked potatoes, chocolate-covered cherry tarts, and butternut-squash soup” [or at least “cheese fries without guilt!”]—or do you think, “oh, goody! Fiber! Brussels sprouts every day for life”?)
If Volume 11 includes food as a worldly blessing and/or temptation for individuals, Volume 16 hints at the communal aspects of abundance, how our choices affect those around us. Discuss how diet affects our spiritual lives, our health, our livelihoods, our planet, our town, our children, our attitude toward animals, and other factors as appropriate. If desired, also discuss why the vegetarian characters do not go all the way and become vegan. (As to whether the resurrected dead will eat at all, this question is addressed in another discussion topic.)
Discussion topic: It’s not just food. It is commendable that the authors celebrate the dignity of labor, but why not let us see it? Rayford builds “housing,” but does he build log cabins, Fallingwater, brownstones, split-level ranch, skyscrapers, why not treehouses for grown-ups? What does Farmer Zeke grow? Chloe and Cameron work at COT, doing what, exactly? The narrative (finally) mentions baptism on pages 44-45, but why do they never mention the form they practice, contemplate its meaning, or invite the audience to one such celebratory milestone, particularly Kenny’s? What would it be like to live in a world without pollution, poverty, weather-related calamities, or a need for charitable giving or uplift organizations? King Jesus (re)created a beautiful planet; what does it look like?
There is a difference between, say, an Amish farmer’s paradise and a stagnant society. As another writer observes, this healed world should be bursting with wonders and delights. What aspects of this brief paradise would you like to have seen developed and explored?
Discussion topic: Rayford Steele (page 241) Kenny Williams (page 45) and Bruce Barnes (page 132) have implanted their cellular phones into their bodies. Now, it would not be a Left Behind novel if the characters were deprived of their telephones, but is this variation acceptable?
The “mark” or “implant” theme is widespread (to the point of being formulaic) both in science fiction and in rapture fiction. As is the formula in rapture fiction, Kenny’s parents were pursued by a Beast who wanted to “mark” them, the better to subject them to mind control. (Rayford Steele adds to this interpretation when he tells Krystall that she lost her free will when she took the mark. See Volume 11, page 40.)
Meanwhile, in science fiction stories, protagonists often accept a Seemingly Innocuous Body Implant, usually a communicator. Evildoers then transmit Mind Control Signals through the implant’s radio frequency. Examples: Justice League Unlimited, episode “Grudge Match”; Star Trek:TNG, episode “The Mind’s Eye.”
(Personal aside #1: Your host is embarrassed to admit that, upon broadcast of the “Grudge Match” chickfight-fest, your host’s insta-reaction was, “You dummies, Hal Lindsey told you not to take Implanted Brain Cellphones!”—the term TOM coined for this invention. When the novel’s protagonists opted for Implanted Brain Cellphones, your host waited for the TOL to take advantage of the situation as per the rapture fiction/Sci Fi checklist. But nothing happened. It feels kind of unresolved.)
(Personal aside #2: Now that the series is concluded, your host would ask, why this deep and abiding love for telephones? They may be convenient and unique inventions, but so are socks and spoons. TOM leans toward the Judith Martin approach instead: “Miss Manners has always been given to believe that the one who is truly important, the one who has ‘arrived,’ is the one who cannot be readily summoned by a bell.” Those who can—those who accept and respond to a telephone interrupting their leisure, marital relations, slumber, or thoughts—they merely work for that person.)
On a more serious note, in the Bible the Israelites were forbidden to cut themselves or to apply the local equivalent of tattoos (Lev. 19:28, Deut. 14:1, 1 Kings 18:28). These were ways of marking themselves. The monotheistic revulsion for being “marked” pre-dates Christianity. The reason for the ban was that Israel’s neighbors did those things to honor strange gods. Some would say that Christians shouldn’t do it either, because of Romans 14 in general and 1 Cor. 6:19-20 in particular. Would this Implanted Brain Cellphone be acceptable, or would it come too close to honoring strange gods (in this case, Ma Bell)? What boundaries should we set out of respect for our bodies and the One who created them?
Discussion topic: The resurrected characters and their mortal ex-spouses frequently move into one house, where they live as brother and sister. Why do the Glorified women move in with their ex-husbands? Don’t Irene, Chloe, Amanda, Yasmine, Mrs. Barnes (who still doesn’t have a first name) have callings of their own? Why are the Natural ex-husbands called, and the Glorifieds defer and tag along? When Rayford moves to Indonesia, Irene joins him (page 41). When Prince David assigns Rayford to Egypt, it simply is assumed that Irene will go (page 101). Mrs. Barnes is assigned to Mac McCullum (page 108). Abdullah moves to another city, and Yasmine follows him (page 109.) David the Lord’s Prince refers to the couple as “he and his wife,” although they are not married, twice over: Yasmine is Glorified, and he divorced her under the “Pauline privilege” of 1 Cor. 7:12-16. By David’s logic, where (and who) is Prince David’s wife? (And the reunion of Bathsheba with her husband Uriah the Hittite—what must that have been like?)
Chloe is the only glorified woman whose calling is actually printed for us to read—Jesus implied she and Cameron should be equal founders of COT—and even she defers to her relatives. She doesn’t name COT, speak for it, or invite its hero guest speakers. Twice she defends an underdog (Cendrillon, Kenny), but when Cameron disagrees with her, she falls silent then quietly adopts his position. Is she COT’s co-founder, or just its chief file clerk?
Readers propose that, with the debatable exception of Chloe, all of the Glorified women used to be housewives and, without husbands, they are all out of a job. Individually, the novel clearly intended to show that they associate with their “brothers in Christ” because of agape love. Cumulatively, the effect is that the women seem to linger in their ex-husbands’ houses because they can still get a job as housekeepers. Such readers cite as proof the deafening silence around Hattie Durham and Leah Rose, who were never housewives and have no men to go home to. (Well, maybe Hattie can see if Floyd Charles will take her back. As his sister, of course.) Where are these women in the Millennium? What do they do with themselves all day?
Discuss the living arrangements of the Glorifieds in their reunited families. Is this what you think the afterlife might look like? Why or why not?
Discussion topic: Consider the reasons for marriage. Marriage is a common grace bestowed upon all people in all times and places. Christians believe that marriage gives us a glimpse into the self-giving love between Christ and His Church. Secondly, marriage gives us a built-in partner to help us get into Heaven. Thirdly, because it often results in children, marriage gives us the privilege of helping to populate Heaven. When we get to Heaven, these things will be fulfilled. That’s why we won’t need marriage anymore.
In this volume, we already know that Rayford is going to Heaven. There are many plot points to prove this. He lives in a series which subscribes to “once-saved, forever-saved” teachings; he had a Saved Seal on his forehead; and he survived the Sheep-and-Goats Judgment.
Rayford also doesn’t need quite the same glimpse of the afterlife as we would need. After Irene Steele returns from Heaven, she tells him stories all about it. (This includes the time that the Church and Jesus Christ had an actual marriage ceremony [page 9], and now the Bride and the Bridegroom are One.)
As for the third privilege, Rayford the Rapture-widower has produced no children since Irene was raptured, and has had no marital relations since wife number two Amanda White Steele was killed. Because Rayford never remarries, he can only help to populate Heaven by helping other people. In other words, it’s over 1,000 years of celibacy for Rayford. (This isn’t a criticism—as another celibate, TOM also doesn’t have a horse in this race.)
Regarding these brother-and-sister relationships, the novel never addresses whether this arrangement is fair to the Naturals (usually men like Rayford, Abdullah, Zeke Jr., Mac, and Chaim). Consider the meeting of the Natural Zeke Jr. and the Glorified Yasmine:
The big man greeted Yasmine with a bear hug. “I heard all about you, ma’am,” he said. “I sure did. Tell you what—I’da been your husband, you’d have changed MY mind.” As soon as he said it he appeared to realize how it sounded, blushed, and apologized. “I just meant … you know … never mind.”
Clearly Zeke believed that “how it sounded” was something for which he needed to apologize. Well, how it sounded was that Zeke noticed Yasmine as a woman.
And that’s just a fleeting incident between strangers. What would it be like to live with a beloved mate with whom one can never again consummate? Could those longings and memories become an occasion of sin? Are these living arrangements in fact fair to the Naturals?
Obviously Rayford is getting something from his reunion with his Glorified former spouse—something that satisfies him to the point that he never remarries. However, he will never live a normal life with a mate who shares his weaknesses and his needs. For example, Rayford has no one to grow old with. That’s a big deal even in our world, let alone in a world where the righteous live hundreds of years. This is why he asks Cameron to “free up a building [on Cameron’s estate or COT’s campus] where you young ones can keep an eye on us oldsters and make sure we’re not warehoused somewhere else” (page 341). He may call it what he likes, but Rayford lives to be about 1,050 years old, and he spends the last of those years—or decades, or centuries—parked in front of the television (page 343) with the rest of the wheelchair-bound residents. It’s a coin toss as to whether Irene left him for a new assignment; she disappears from the story when he retires.
Nevertheless, Rayford seems to be held up as an ideal. Every known Saved adult character in Version 1.0 bodies also keeps celibate. Not one of the pre-Millennial adults marries or remarries. Why do you think that might be?
Discussion topic (in three sub-topic discussions): What is the nature of the glorified body? We sampled this subject in the foundational sections, before the Volume 16 novel was written. Let us refresh our notes from post “Applied theology II: the life.”
Because the mortal body dies, Christians say it will be resurrected in a “glorified” or eternal and imperishable form. The glorified body is designed to live in the eternal realm. [One of our foundation critics, David] Currie (pages 412-413) says that the glorified bodies of the righteous will have incorruptibility, clarity, agility, and subtlety.
Incorruptibility means that the glorified body is not susceptible to the elements, whether external (such as weather) or internal (such as pain or hunger).
Clarity means that the body becomes luminous with the glory of God. See any passage on the Transfiguration, such as Matt. 17:2.
Agility means that the body will have powers that at present belong only to the mind. As mortals, we may think of a distant place but our bodies do not go there. As glorified beings, we will think of a distant place and the body will go there at the speed of thought.
Subtlety. The body still will be physical, but it will do what the spirit nature wants it to do. The resurrected Jesus could pass through walls (John 20:10) but Jesus also could eat fish (John 20:26). Currie calls it the Christian version of “mind over matter.”
We do not yet know all that this could be. However, what we already know is inspiring. (See Phil. 3:21, 1 Cor. 15:42-49.)
Angels rescued Lot by blinding his attackers (Gen. 19:11). Jesus eluded people who wanted to stone Him by becoming “hidden” from them (John 8:59) in some miraculous way that affected their eyes. Was this Agility (to think “be blind for a while”) or Clarity (to shine with the glory of God), or both? (The old hymn “Immortal, Invisible” refers to God being “hidden” by light.)
The resurrected Jesus met some friends on the road to Emmaus. When they recognized Him, Jesus vanished from their sight (Luke 24:31) and went to see Simon (verse 34). In this instance, we may suggest Agility because we are specifically told that Jesus went from Point A to Point B.
Subtlety may be more difficult to define. One school of thought is that “mind over matter” should be taken literally—that the body is the primary beneficiary of this gift. Others suggest that the mind is the primary beneficiary; thus this is a type of discernment, of spiritual insight. (Purportedly the original word for subtlety was related to “pierce, penetrate,” which includes room to sift words, hearts, and thoughts.) The most popular definition is that Subtlety means that the body is completely under the dominion of the transfigured or glorified soul, but that this is not the same as arguing that the body is refined into an ethereal form.
When the friends from Emmaus visited the Eleven, Jesus appeared to all of them (Luke 24:36-43). To satisfy them that He was not a ghost, Jesus ate some fish … which when combined with John 21:25 gives us two Gospels to witness. However, notice that John 20:19, 26 often is translated differently: that Jesus “came” to the disciples, whereas in Luke’s gospel Jesus “appears” and “disappears.” When someone “comes up to you,” they usually walk up to you. If Subtlety is primarily physical, the resurrected Jesus could walk through the door—the same door that John repeatedly mentions was locked. It could be Subtlety, the Christian version of “mind over matter,” for Jesus to be able to walk through a door yet also be substantial enough to eat fish.
Other interpretations suggest that Jesus used Agility to think His way into the locked Upper Room, and that Jesus used Subtlety to walk upon the water (Matt. 14:25-32; Mark 6:48-52; John 6:19-21). In Matthew’s account, Peter joins Jesus on the surface of the water. In Matthew and Mark’s accounts, Jesus calms the sea after He gets into the boat. In John’s account, Jesus gets into the boat, and immediately the boat is at their destination. This makes sense if kept within its school of interpretation; Agility is useful for things to be done at the speed of thought, whereas Subtlety sounds useful for things to be done in a more leisurely manner.
If Jesus used Subtlety to walk upon the water, then that also could be the gift Jesus radiated to let Peter walk upon the water, as if both were the wind. (The Spirit appears in Gen. 1:2, John 3:9, Acts 2:2-4 as a force of wind or something compared to it.) And Peter did walk on the water, like the wind, until he took his eyes off Jesus. Then, suddenly, it’s as if Peter’s young faith is Wile E. Coyote suspended in mid-air, and Peter’s doubt is Roadrunner in the boat, holding a sign saying, LOOK DOWN. If Jesus used Agility, Peter resisted it. We know what Peter was thinking (“I don’t wanna sink!”), and he sank anyway.
If Subtlety manifests primarily in the mind, we ascribe physical feats to the other gifts—walking on the water being Agility, for example. Augustine and Gregory were particularly passionate advocates of the Subtlety Is Not Rarefaction interpretation. They argued that a body that could be penetrated by anything, even something as innocuous as air, would not be truly Imperishable. (They also believed that Clarity would not necessarily be perceived by outsiders, and that different humans would have different levels of glorified manifestation. For example, the resurrected would be Impassable, i.e. none would be Passable. But some would be more glorified in Impassability than others, according to their merits.)
How this ties in with the novel is this: the novel proposes a world in which Natural unsaved mortals (who die on their 100th birthday), Natural saved mortals (who age but never die), and Glorified immortals live side by side. The Glorified characters sometimes exhibit curious behaviors. We will divide those behaviors into three categories: the daily routines, the nightly routines, and the dangerous routines.
In the introductory sections, the authors state that the sun and moon will become so bright that humans will have to wear sunglasses (page xli). Cameron Williams has fitted his home with “heavy draperies” to exclude “the glare” of natural light (page 37). Irene opens her blinds, then shields her eyes (page 317). Why would they do that if the light did not bother them? Shouldn’t a glorified, imperishable body be able to endure any created source of light? Otherwise, the “incorruptible” body would be corruptible, because it could be injured; in this case, by burning the retinas. Wouldn’t it?
(Possibly one might avert one’s eyes when in the presence of God, and at that, it probably would be out of awe. The alternative is to conclude that God will spend eternity surrounded by loved ones who turn their backs when they talk to Him, because they can’t look Him in the face.)
Do the blessed breathe? If humans could die without air, would they still be Imperishable? If creation is glorified, then air may exist for its own sake in the afterlife. Air carries sound, making our hymns beautiful. Air refracts light in ways that makes light even more beautiful. But must resurrected humans have air to live? (It would answer the question of whether the blessed and the angels will be playing volleyball on the moon, after all.)
As we have mentioned, the characters eat. If the resurrected righteous could starve to death, would they be Imperishable? Do angels eat? Several times in Scripture, humans feed them (cf. Gen. 18:8, 16), and so some Biblical scholars say angels eat. Others say that angels only appear to eat, and that they really eat “angel bread,” a heavenly manna that is hard to describe in mortal terms. (Too many speakers make it sound like a machine sipping electricity.) We humans were created with bodies, and when Rev. 22 describes food and drink in heaven, it may be valid to interpret the chapter literally.
(Of course, this makes for interesting discussions when one attempts to describe the afterlife to children, and we all know why: Do the blessed poop? This is why Noah was so popular in the novel’s Chapter 16: he told poop jokes. “Imagine the smell!” he says.
There is a theory that our glorified bodies will be so efficient that there will be nothing left of our meal. Obviously we have no proof, but it spares parents the burden of questions such as, Do the blessed fart. As to belching and armpit farts, your host has done all that one can to help … probably falls under the category, “They could, but they don’t.”)
Other Biblical scholars argue that the resurrected Jesus ate fish to demonstrate that He could eat, not to prove that we would eat. If we need not eat to survive, would that be eating purely for pleasure? Would that make it off-limits, by reason that one could better devote oneself to contemplating the glory of God? Would it be retained, since the sharing of meals nurtures social bonds, which could make it holy? The resurrected do not practice the animal, survival function of procreation—but would the blessed eat?
Like Rayford and Kenny Bruce, Bruce Barnes has a cellphone implanted in his body (page 241). Why does a Glorified have an Implanted Brain Cellphone? Would an angel accept an Implanted Brain Cellphone? Would Jesus? If Bruce has Agility, wouldn’t he simply go to Kenny’s location and talk to him?
Chloe and Bahira cry. What do you think about that?
On page 332 Irene learns that Rayford has been abducted by TOL. Could she have rescued him? Consider: using Agility, could Irene think that she wants to be where he is, and go there? Using Agility, could she open the lock on his cage? Using Subtlety—if Subtlety is primarily physical—could she walk through the bars and then walk out again with Rayford? Using Subtlety—if Subtlety is primarily mental—could she discern who was sympathetic to the faith and discern the best words to say to this person, thus securing both a soul and Rayford’s release? If the villains tried to arrest or remove Irene, could they? (Maybe Irene is not living with Rayford—maybe Rayford is living with her because it’s like having Superman for a bodyguard, only better. No Kryptonite in this world.) Jesus rescued Peter from the sea; the angel Anis rescued the novel’s thirty captives. Why didn’t Irene do the same?
Irene sleeps (page 317). Cameron has a bed and a “bedchamber;” presumably he too sleeps (page 37). Would a resurrected human need to sleep? Do angels sleep? (If so, which ones?)
What else do mortals do at night that (one would think) Glorifieds need not do? That’s right: marital relations. If the Gentle Browser thinks that terminology is mechanical, consider how the characters describe it.
“It’s bizarre. I still love and admire and respect you and want to be near you, but it’s as it I’ve been prescribed some medicine that has cured me of any other distracting feelings.” (Chloe Williams, explaining to her former husband that she has no romantic or sexual interest in him; page 3.)
“Why do you think that among the glorified there is no marrying or giving in marriage? The glorified bodies of women must have no child-bearing capabilities, because they are not even interested in reproductive activity.” (Abdullah Ababneh, observing that no Glorified woman has ever become pregnant; page 122.)
Critics note that the authors do not “sell” celibacy as a desirable and joyous future; they actually do worse than they did in “selling” a vegetarian future. Celebrating marital love is like having a disease, and in Heaven people are “cured” of that disease? Oh really? Being celibate is like being strung out on medication? One should hope not!
Two, the notion of celibacy as “chemical castration” conjures up unpleasant images; there are societies and judges which prescribe “chemical castration” to punish the local sex offender. (Your host is eating lunch, and therefore is disinclined to pursue this unappetizing thought at the moment.)
Thirdly—and this is where it stops being creepy and starts being funny—it does not escape critics’ notice that baby Kenny was a “surprise” baby, the product of recreational marital activity. (The novels made things sound so … dutiful, until that happened.)
Fourthly, there may be some truth to the critics’ snarks that it had to be Chloe who says, “It’s as it I’ve been prescribed some medicine that has cured me” of wanting to have sex with her husband. Based on the established characterizations in the series, would Cameron, a man, publicly proclaim that he is delighted to be “cured” of sex with his bride? Could we realistically expect Abdullah, a man, to confess that Glorified men also seem “uninterested,” and therefore they must be sterile, impotent, Not Getting Any For All Eternity, and they like it like that? If this presentation does not make the men in the audience shout, Yes, yes, sign me up!, then it is just as unpleasant to say it about and to women. The authors do not even have a little fun with their “medical cure” proposal: no more menses for Glorified women, and for men, no more prostate exams! Those poor Natural women and their 500 years of periods! Those poor Natural men and their 500 years of being sent by their wives and daughters to go “shopping down The Pink Aisle!”
Celibacy can indeed attract converts when it is “sold” as “better than sex.” The Shakers made it work for more than 100 years. (They also enforced gender equality more strictly than does this novel, which in itself was a major selling point.) Saint Andrew purportedly gave a believing woman the right to say No to her pagan husband. Andrew was martyred for that. Despite its flaws, even the Everybody Loves Raymond episode “Tasteless Frank” acknowledged marital sex as a good thing that people sometimes trade for something even better.
Jesus confirmed that the Glorified human will be celibate, like the angels in heaven (Mark 12:25). So this is something the novel gets right. It just has difficulty communicating the idea that it is anything we would want. How would you explain celibate glory and joy to a person who has not heard of it?
But all these diversions pale in comparison to the most astonishing examples. A Natural male attempts to rape a Glorified female (pages 122-124). His futile scheme is to impregnate the victim and become founder of a “super mongrel race” to advance TOL. The incident is written as titillating gossip, which Abdullah hears at third remove, at best.
Only once in the Bible has a human fought a superhuman to a standstill: Jacob wrestled “a man” by night (Gen. 32:24-30). At that, most Biblical scholars state that Jacob was the one being tested, and that “the man” was never in any danger. (George Robinson [Essential Torah] offers a particularly intriguing interpretation: that God answered Jacob’s prayers by causing Jacob to wrestle either with “a dark emissary” of his brother, or with his own vivified conscience which Jacob had avoided all his life. After “the man” beat him up, he would have been a bruised and crippled mess when he groveled before his brother. The sight might make Esau pity and forgive him.)
In the novel, the gossiper describes the attempted rape in the words, “Her story is that she fought him off, but he subdued her” (page 123). How could a Natural “subdue” a Glorified? This woman should be Incorruptible, Imperishable. Isaiah 40:31 reminds us that “they who wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not be faint.” There always have been disagreements on the “wings” part. We have enough material for a literal interpretation on the rest of the verse, and the verse about outrunning the evildoer is supported by the verse in front of it. Granted, we have few specifics—how fast is fast, how strong is strong—unless an immortal such as Jesus or an angel would care to bench-press something or run a few laps as a demonstration. Nevertheless, a Glorified human probably should not be beaten up so easily. Do angels get beaten up? Can the resurrected Jesus get beaten up?
(It doesn’t help matters that Kenny [page 260] and Rayford [page 308] both speak of saved Naturals as “invulnerable.” This is not to question Invulnerability precedents such as Acts 28:3-6 but to inquire why a Glorified woman is, well, vulnerable.)
Shouldn’t this Glorified woman have Clarity? Jesus said that the righteous will shine like the sun (Matt. 13:43). A few chapters later, Jesus did just that (Matt. 17:2). Peter, James, and John were tough men, and they trusted Jesus, and they were still scared half to death (Mark 8:6). (Actually, we do not know what would happen if a mortal touched a body radiating Clarity. Would that be like a moth touching a flame? If so, the woman still had nothing to do with her assailant’s death. The man turned to ash, but only after she fled the room. We may observe that, whenever a Biblical figure shines with Clarity, the mortals around them never get close enough to them to conduct an experiment. They’re usually too busy running away.)
Shouldn’t the Glorified woman have Agility? We need not even explore offensive applications versus defensive applications, because this ability is so powerful. Could this woman do something neutral, like thinking her assailant belongs in the nearest jail? Instantly, he goes there. Could she do something defensive, such as thinking she would rather be on the other side of the planet, right now! and instantly she goes there? So we need not advance to discussions about “responsible use” of her power, such as whether it is acceptable to dispose of her attacker by, say, thinking him into a volcano, or thinking to stop his heart. She doesn’t need to. (In any event, the text makes plain that she did nothing to cause his death.)
And then there’s Subtlety. If this woman was in the middle of something and did not want to flee—it is her house, after all—couldn’t she use Subtlety? If Subtlety is physical, the man could no more clutch hold of her than he could grasp the wind.
Alternately, could she harden her skin to become as strong as Superman’s skin? When her assailant punches her, he breaks every bone in his hand. It ties in nicely with Incorruptibility. (Offhand, your host cannot recall a Biblical example of “Superman skin.” The closest example is locked up in “geek debates” over whether the Samson of Judges 16:14 had Christopher Reeves’ “Superman IV hair,” because the loom snapped instead of the hair in it.)
If Subtlety is primarily mental, then shouldn’t she already have so many other Agility abilities that she would still be safe? Could she elude her attacker by leaping into her home’s fireplace and departing in the pillar of fire, smoke, and heat (cf. Judges 13:20)? Or why not just walk through walls?
When Daffy Duck falls off a cliff in “The Million-Hare”—Bugs Bunny quips, “I wonder if that silly duck will remember he can fly”—it is intended to be funny. This incident is not funny. It should not have been possible for this unsaved Natural, mortal man to assault a woman who has been resurrected and glorified like Christ. The characters never perceive any of this. All Abdullah cares about is exulting in the “message” the man’s death will send to evildoers. What about the message it sends to the reader about the nature of the resurrection?
Additionally, what message does it send to female characters, both Natural and immortal? The message that even a Glorified woman is an unimpressive creation compared to a Natural man? The message that, even in the presence of the living Christ on earth, it will never really be over? Oh, someone (God? Jesus? a passing angel? no one takes responsibility for it) smites the evildoer dead, eventually, but this woman had to take a few punches first. What message does that send to the reader?
Related to this problem is the nature of the Glorified characters’ minds. Science fiction fans sometimes ask if, in the afterlife, we will all have telepathy or something. If Subtlety is primarily about discernment, these characters seem to lack it. If we are resurrected like Jesus, shouldn’t we be able to do what He can do, namely discern the truth? Even as mortals, we have a little discernment. (Job 12:11 comments that the wise try words the way the palate evaluates food. Then again, we mortals sometimes “eat” flattery and hearsay the way we eat unhealthy snacks. This seems to be a persistent weakness for the characters. The tamest example is when Chloe must scold her [mostly Glorified] staff for gossiping. See pages 187-189.)
The Bible states that God looks upon the heart (1 Sam. 16:17). Jesus discerned human thoughts and intentions (Matt. 22:18, Mark 2:8, Luke 6:8, 9:47). People did not fool Jesus. (They betrayed Him, but that’s entirely different. He knew about that. See John 6:64, 70-71.)
In contrast, the glorified Cameron asks the natural Rayford for advice. The resurrected and glorified Chloe, Cameron, Raymie, Bahira, and Zaki are fooled no less than three times (Cendrillon’s situation, Kenny’s innocence, Qasim’s guilt). The weeping Chloe temporarily sides with Kenny, but she is made to apologize for her 1 Cor. 13:7-styled faith in him, whining that her emotional response is “typical” of mothers (page 293). As for the Glorified woman who was assaulted in her own home, should she have been attuned to the fact that an evildoer was thinking about her and approaching her? Could an angel be taken by surprise? Could Christ?
The Bible tells us that Jesus is both the first-born of creation and the first-born of the dead (Acts 26:23, Col. 1:15, 18). The other humans in the Bible who were raised were revivified, healed of whatever killed them, and healed of decomposition, but they remained in mortal bodies. In time, they all died. Jesus was the first human actually resurrected in Glorified form. Are Kingdom Come’s immortals glorified, revivified, both, neither, or other?
Discussion topic: TOL’s manifesto proposes, “Perhaps the new ruler [i.e., Satan] will resurrect us and allow us to reign with him” (page 121.) The characters do not put forward any Bible verses to support their notion that Satan could raise any human soul from Hell, let alone give them resurrection bodies. However, there is an internal consistency in the series. Specifically, the authors allow Satan to resurrect Nicholae Carpathia in Volume 7, The Indwelling. This is why TOL believes that Satan could do it again. In the novel, this is fiction. How would you address this rather serious problem in real life?
Discussion topic: Now that you have concluded the series, discuss the long-term development of a character of your choice. Looking at their words and behaviors, what might we say that they value? Would what we say we see match what they say they believe? What can we learn from their example?
Discussion topic: Now that you have concluded the series, what do you think of the portrayal of the Bible, “the Jews,” the Church, and the future?
Discussion topic: Now that you have concluded the series, what do you think of the portrayal of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit in the Left Behind series?
(Spoilers will appear in a separate post.)