(The post formerly known as http://oldmaid.jallman.net/entry.php?id=26 )
(Added February 2007)
Left Behind: Tribulation Force Spoilers
Spoiler: As the novel opens, what are the major characters doing?
Answer: It has been “two weeks” since Irene Steele and all real, true Christians disappeared (page 2). Rayford Steele is piloting a plane from Baltimore home to Chicago and trying to witness to Nick Edwards, the new co-pilot. Nick insists, “Delude yourself, but leave me out of it.” Rayford replies, “You wouldn’t respect me if I hadn’t tried.”
Chloe Steele is waiting for her father at the terminal. She has spent the day trying to pass along a message: Bruce Barnes wants Rayford and their friend Cameron “Buck” Williams to attend an emergency meeting that evening. Chloe stammers that maybe Rayford should be the one to call Buck. “Rayford suppressed a smile” (page 10).
Chloe has been thinking about Buck again. She frets, “Sitting here talking about my love life, or lack of it, seems pretty juvenile at this point in history, don’t you think?” For his part, “Rayford felt privileged that she would talk to him about things like this. He didn’t remember that she had even talked to Irene much about guys. He knew he was her only port in a storm, but still he enjoyed her confidence.” He advises Chloe to give Buck time and to go get a good night’s sleep. Otherwise, he jokes, they’ll just have to get Buck kicked out of the Tribulation Force (pages 38-39).
Buck is adjusting to his new circumstances in Chicago. He has purchased a “brand-new” car (page 19) and a “beautiful” condo with phones included (page 5). He tries not to think about Chloe. He realizes he is just stalling going to work. His new co-workers “felt sorry for him …. but they were also aware of Buck’s credentials. Many, no doubts, would still consider it a privilege to work with him” (pages 5-6).
Buck immediately fights with his new supervisor Verna Zee. Buck snorts that he will not “sit for long under the thumb of someone who didn’t belong in journalism, let alone in Lucinda Washington’s old chair and supervising him” (page 11). He asks Verna why she insists on being called by her last name, because to him, “Ms. Zee” sounds like “Missy.” He announces that he will work from home from now on. He informs Verna that she “has no subordinates in this office” and “dares” her to call Stanton Bailey, the magazine’s owner (pages 11-14).
Meanwhile, Buck befriends Alice, the “spiky-haired young secretary.” Alice gives Buck a “mischievous” look and activates her speakerphone. Thus they overhear Stanton Bailey inform Verna that yes, Buck should be allowed to telecommute, and no, Buck is not really Verna’s subordinate. Buck is being punished in name only. His paycheck is trimmed, nothing more. Verna icily informs Buck that she is assigning him to work at home herself, and that Stanton Bailey supports her disciplining of Buck’s “shenanigans.” Alice cheers Buck’s triumph, and Buck gives her a ride home (pages 16-19).
Bruce called the meeting because Nicolae Carpathia is trying to unify all existing religions into one religion (pages 27-28). Chloe asks how Carpathia could think this could ever work. “Some of those religions are so far apart they would never agree.” Bruce replies, “Carpathia is making deals.”
Bruce feels he has been called to travel, to preach against Carpathia (page 46). He must prepare the church for his absence before he leaves next month. Part of this preparation includes building a secret shelter. He will rent an earthmover and order a huge water tank. Observers would conclude that any digging in the ground is meant to house the water tank. When the Trib Force Four finish construction, Bruce will have the tank taken away. People who saw the tank being returned would assume it was defective. People who did not see it disappear would assume it was in the ground (pages 31-32). The shelter will hold only the members of the Trib Force team (page 425). Bruce urges the rest of the congregation to build their own.
Spoiler: Chloe mentioned in Volume 1 (pages 187, 288, 442) that she might drop out of Stanford and take a few classes locally. Rayford’s colleagues specifically ask if she will return to college. Does she?
Answer: No. She decides to look for a job instead (page 142). Chloe wonders “what’s the point” of returning to college (page 31). Bruce replies that she “can go to college right here, every night at eight.” He means by attending his Tribulation Force meetings and Bible study classes.
Bruce eventually hires Chloe to do research and help him develop his curriculum (page 159). Chloe agrees with Bruce that “I learned more today than I learned in college last year” (page 233). Rayford celebrates her new job by cooking one of her favorite meals, shrimp scampi (page 225). It reminds him of how Irene lovingly cooked for him.
Spoiler: Buck realizes he is developing a conscience. What are Buck’s worries?
Three things weigh on his mind: his work ethics, Hattie, and Chloe.
On the job, Buck feels guilty for having listened to the private conversation between Verna Zee and Stanton Bailey. Guilt, Buck admits, is new to him (page 19). “He would never have given eavesdropping a second thought in the past. The tricks and schemes and outright lies he had told just to get a story would have filled a book. Would he be as good a journalist now with God in his life, seeming to prick his conscience over even little things?” (page 22).
Secondly, Buck regrets introducing Hattie Durham to Carpathia. Bruce reminds him that Hattie has made her choice. Buck repeats that Hattie did not and does not know how dangerous Carpathia is. She would not have become Carpathia’s “plaything” if Buck had never introduced them. Buck wants to “rescue” her. Does Bruce have any advice? Bruce replies that, “If you’ve prayed about it and feel a leading from God to talk with Hattie, then do it.” But Bruce warns Buck about the consequences. Carpathia will have Buck killed if Hattie repeats such a conversation to him (pages 46-48).
Thirdly, Buck likes Chloe. He doesn’t understand her, though. “She was not quite twenty-one yet, and he admitted he had no idea about the customs and mores of her generation. Maybe she saw him as a big brother or even a father figure and was repulsed by the idea that he might be interested in her. [But] that didn’t jibe with her look and body language from the night before” (page 56).
When Chloe says that college is pointless, Buck wonders if it would be similarly “pointless” to date when the world is ending. Chloe is hurt by his “let’s be friends” reversal. Buck realizes he still wants her. If “only a fool” would begin a relationship now, surely he qualified as such a fool. Being left behind is proof of that (pages 31, 41, etc.). Therefore he approaches her again, and she gives him a “let’s be friends” dismissal. (This pattern repeats about four times. Variations include phone tag and Rayford-in-the-middle.)
Spoiler: Who is Peter Mathews? What is Buck’s connection to him?
Answer: Peter Mathews is a leading archbishop of Cincinnati. He is in his late fifties, “a beefy, jowly man” with still-black hair (page 269). Buck interviews him as one of many sources for the Global Weekly Magazine’s cover story on the disappearances.
It is suggested (page 53) that the old pope’s teachings “coincide[d] more with the ‘heresy’ of Martin Luther than with the historical orthodoxy” of Catholicism. (The text is unclear as to whether Peter Mathews called his predecessor a Lutheran, or whether the authors called him one.) Since John XXIV (name from page 273) and his followers have vanished, real Catholics should consider it as a “winnowing” or cleansing, says Archbishop Mathews.
“So the fact that we’re still here proves we’re the good guys?” asks Buck. Well, yes, says the archbishop. “What does that say about all the wonderful people who vanished?” asks Buck. Perhaps they were not so wonderful, Mathews replies. But the children? asks Buck. This question makes Mathews uncomfortable. He supposes that God took them to protect the innocents. The archbishop adds, “Many of the little ones who disappeared I baptized myself, so I know they are in Christ and with God.” Finally, Buck asks, if the vanishings were a “winnowing of evil” comparable to Noah’s flood, then why were so many non-Catholics left alive? Mathews shrugs. “God knows. He knows hearts. He knows more than we do.” (Buck mutters, “That’s for sure.”)
One more issue troubles Buck. He asks the archbishop to comment on Ephesians 2:8-9. (“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”) Mathews replies that “people have been taking verses like that out of context for centuries and trying to build doctrine on them.” Buck protests that there are other passages just like it. Mathews says, “I understand that,” but Buck isn’t Catholic. “You don’t understand the broad sweep of the historical church.” Buck knows that he has “left his personal comments and opinions out of the article, but he was able to work in the Scripture and the archbishop’s attempt to explain away the doctrine of grace.”
Overall, Buck believes that his article on the disappearances is the best work he has ever done (pages 53-55). Others agree. When Buck’s cover story is published, Carpathia is so impressed that he has Mathews invite Buck to Cincinnati and to ride with him to the one-world-religion press conference (page 261). Mathews describes what this new religion believes … which is this: “Our logo will contain sacred symbols from religions that represent all, and from here on will encompass all. Whether we believe God is a real person or merely a concept, God is in all and above all and around all. God is in us. God is us. We are God.” (See page 275.)
Since Peter Mathews and Carpathia support each other, the Enigma Babylon religion will establish its headquarters in the Vatican (i.e., Rome). There are hints that Carpathia will cause Mathews to become the new pope. Buck asks if this would make Mathews “‘the pope of popes.’ Mathews smiled and nodded. ‘P.M.,’ he said” (page 279).
Soon there is “pressure from the Global Community North American government outpost in Washington, D.C. to convert all churches into official branches of what was now called Enigma Babylon One World Faith.” “Pontifex Maximus Peter” makes the following declaration: “To say arbitrarily that the Jewish and Protestant Bible, containing only the Old and New Testaments, is the final authority for faith and practice, represents the height of intolerance and disunity.” Any “adherents to this false doctrine” henceforth shall be labeled as heretics against the Enigma Babylon religion (page 401).
Mathews loathes the Orthodox Jews and new Christians equally. He doesn’t like the Christians rejecting Enigma Babylon Religion, and he doesn’t like the Orthodox Jews opening the Temple and returning to “the system of sacrifices.” And, “ironically, the supreme pontiff had strange bedfollows in opposing the new temple. Eli and Moishe … often spoke out against the temple” (page 402).
Spoiler: What are the “two witnesses” doing in this volume?
Answer: They are being formally introduced to the reader. They stand, and apparently live, by the Western Wall (always called the Wailing Wall in the novels) day and night. Bruce calls them the fulfillment of Rev. 11 (page 174). Tsion and Buck revisit them under cover of darkness (pages 339-46). The two witnesses call each other Moishe and Eli (Moses and Elijah). “Buck was struck by their ragged robes. The scent of ashes, as from a recent fire, hung about them. In the dim light from a distant lamp their long, sinewy arms seemed muscled and leathery. They had large, bony hands, and were barefoot. Eli said, ‘We will answer no questions as to our identities or our origin. God will reveal this to the world in his own time.’ …. [Moishe] stepped close and put his bearded face between the bars. He stared at the rabbi with hooded eyes and a sweat-streaked face” (page 342). Buck had anticipated telling them that he considers Jesus to be Messiah, to see their reaction, but he never gets the chance. Instead, the two witnesses re-enact John 3:1-21 with Tsion.
The witnesses are being mocked. Marge Potter calls them “kooks” (page 251). In rapid-fire succession, religion writer Jim Borland calls them “weirdos,” “coots,” and “those two homeless guys” (page 351). Peter Mathews calls them “elderly Torah students who are pretending to be Moses and Elijah. Their costumes are bad, their preaching is worse.” Mathews supposes that they have accomplices in the crowd who “miraculously” kill anyone who threatens them. Buck asks what Mathews thinks of the fact that it has not rained in Jerusalem since the two witnesses began to preach. “Maybe not even the clouds want to hear what they have to say. It hardly ever rains [t]here anyway” (pages 308-9).
The witnesses are being threatened. When a young Muslim runs at them with a machine gun, they stand “rock solid, not speaking, not moving, arms crossed over their ragged robes.” The man slams into a sort of invisible forcefield and almost knocks himself out. One preacher/witness (the text uses the terms interchangeably) rebukes him. The other breathes a column of fire from his mouth. The attacker is reduced to “a charred skeleton,” his weapon melted and fused to the cement, his necklace a molten puddle in his remains. That makes seven known attackers who have died in this manner (pages 323-24). The witnesses reassure the audience that “those who come to listen to our testimony to the living God” have nothing to fear. When these incidents happen, the soldiers evacuate everyone for a few hours just to be safe. Otherwise, they decline to take action “against two people who have no weapons, have touched no one, and who have themselves been attacked” (and are behind a metal fence; page 339).
The witnesses are earning Carpathia’s anger. Steve warns Buck that Carpathia will punish him if Buck disobeys Carpathia’s order to avoid them (page 309). (Steve also complains that Carpathia has started to take out his anger on him. The job isn’t fun anymore; page 350.) Chaim worries that Carpathia might kill the two witnesses, what with their “howling about the injustice of the [treaty] signing, about how the covenant signals an unholy alliance between a people who missed their Messiah the first time and a leader who denies the existence of God” (page 353). Chaim squeaks that Carpathia is no atheist, more like an agnostic like himself.
The witnesses are converting many people, including Orthodox Jews (page 313). Tsion says that the cost is “great” and “they are very much in the minority. No matter how impressive are these witnesses of Christ, you will not see significant numbers of Jews convert to Christianity” (page 333). Nevertheless, before the end of volume 2, they have converted “144,000 Jewish evangelists,” who represent every country and have a particular affinity for “infiltrating colleges and universities” (page 401).
From pages 402-404: The witnesses are “ablaze with anger the day the temple was dedicated and presented to the world. [snip] For the first time they had preached other than at the Wailing Wall or at a huge stadium.” Instead they go to “the temple side of the Golden Gate, much to the consternation of the crowd.” As onlookers jeer, boo, and hiss, the two witnesses declare that Carpathia will one day defile and desecrate this temple. Carpathia angrily asks if there is no military leader in Israel to silence these two. The prime minister replies that they are now a weaponless society, thanks to Carpathia.
The witnesses roar, “Israel has rebuilt the temple to hasten the return of their Messiah, not realizing that she built it apart from the true Messiah, who has already come! Israel has constructed a temple of rejection! Do not wonder why so few of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists are from Israel! Israel remains largely unbelieving and will soon suffer for it! …. God does not dwell in temples made with hands! The body of believers is the temple of the Holy Spirit!” Moishe concludes, “Your blood sacrifices shall turn to water, and your drawing water to blood!” This indeed happens. “The blood let from a sacrificed heifer had indeed turned to water. And the water drawn in another ceremony turned to blood in the pail. The Israelis blamed the two witnesses for debasing their celebration.” Buck refuses Carpathia’s suggestion that he edit out that part in the news the next day.
Spoiler:When Rayford thinks that Chloe has “become enamored of Buck,” Rayford asks Pastor Barnes for advice as to whether he should encourage her, or wait to see if it “didn’t work out” and “someone else might come along.” Rayford asks, “Does the Bible say anything about marriage during this period?” What is Bruce’s answer?
Answer: Bruce says, “Not specifically, as far as I can tell. But it doesn’t prohibit it either … Imagine having a baby now. You wouldn’t have to think about junior high school, let alone high school or college. You would be raising that child, preparing him or her for the return of Christ in just a few years.” When Rayford replies that it would also “guarantee a child a life of fear and a 75 percent chance of dying during the judgment to come,” Bruce admits that this is true. He advises “a lot of caution, prayer, and soul-searching” before proceeding (page 169).
Spoiler: Buck and Chloe send each other mixed signals but have only one big fight. Why are they fighting?
Answer: Chloe thinks Buck already is engaged to Alice. Buck invited Chloe to visit his new condo (page 77), and apparently Chloe did so (off-screen). Chloe said she saw Alice with the keys and a stack of moving boxes. (On pages 13 and 82 Buck tells Alice that his personal goods are being shipped from NYC to Chicago, and would Alice please deliver them to his condo.)
Chloe wants to be certain, so she decides to confront Buck at work (page 105). The first thing Chloe sees is Alice at the secretary’s desk. Chloe mentions she saw Alice earlier in the day. Alice replies that she spent most of the day with her fiancé. (She must have met him before or after she delivered Buck’s boxes.) Chloe concludes that the fiancé and Buck must be the same person. Chloe walks out before Alice can clarify that Buck was called out of town. Chloe cries in her car, cries at home, cries in her father’s arms, and cries alone. Anonymous flowers arrive at the Steele house, presumably from Buck.
The bewildered Buck “ache[s] to reconnect with her. Something told him this was not just a mood, a part of her personality he would have to get used to” (page 172). He calls the Steele residence. Rayford answers but cannot get Chloe to come to the phone. Buck asks him directly if he can come to the house tonight. Rayford tells him Yes by speaking in “coded banter” that the listening Chloe won’t recognize as a Yes.
Rayford recalls a time when Irene had told him not to contact her again, and his mother had advised him to do what Buck is doing now. That morning Rayford had believed Chloe. By bedtime he is starting to think “her evidence seemed thin, at best.” So he prays that what worked with Irene will work on Chloe, because Rayford thinks they make a good couple (pages 178-79).
Rayford pretends to shower and go to bed. This leaves Chloe to either let Buck in the door, or convince him to leave. Appeals to her father—“get rid of him! You’re my dad! It’s your duty!”—are met with, “I don’t want him to leave!” The exasperated Chloe finally lets Buck in for ten minutes, while Rayford eavesdrops. After the trying times Rayford has had at work, this is “the most fun he’s had in weeks” (page 183).
Terse discussion leads to a series of small revelations. Chloe did discard her flowers. Buck didn’t send any flowers. Chloe accuses him of giving a rehearsed speech to get out of trouble. Buck still thinks about their ages, and still thinks he is overthinking it. Alice is engaged to someone else. Buck is not engaged to anyone (pages 185-96).
Chloe starts crying from embarrassment. Buck “wanted to laugh, but poor Chloe!” He admits that “I invited you, my plans changed, and I never told you” (page 195).
Chloe rushes upstairs to get dressed and wash up before she and Buck take a walk. She catches Rayford eavesdropping and laughing. He calls it “a comedy of errors.” He says she ought to thank him. She grudgingly agrees. But she says no when he jokingly asks if he can tag along on their date with them (pages 196-97).
Spoiler: Buck and Chloe rebuild their relationship in what ways?
Answer: They take a walk by moonlight. Buck and Chloe discuss their romantic pasts: neither of them have one (pages 200-203). Both had opportunities with the opposite sex, but their previous partners found them too “backward,” “slow,” and “conservative.” Chloe chuckles, “What are the odds that two unmarried people are taking a walk at midnight in America and both of them are virgins.” Buck adds, “Especially after all the Christians were taken away.” Buck finds Chloe’s frankness uncomfortable. (He doesn’t like hearing this talk about sex.) Chloe asks if he doesn’t hear this much and worse on talk shows. Buck says she doesn’t remind him of a talk-show guest. They spend the evening walking and talking about the future, particularly Buck’s troubles on the job.
Later (pages 266-68, 273-75, 283), Buck and Chloe buy cookies to eat “together,” even though Buck is leaving for work. Chloe wonders what he means. When she sees Buck sneak a cookie during the televised announcement of the one-world religion, she runs to get her cookie so they can eat their cookies together. (Stanton Bailey roars at Buck not to eat on TV. “No sack lunches!” / “It was a cookie.” / “No cookies either!”)
Finally, Buck slips into town to surprise Chloe so that he and Rayford can propose to Chloe and Amanda simultaneously (pages 420-422).
Spoiler: Who’s stalking Chloe?
Answer: There are two correct answers: Hattie, and no one. Hattie is “stalking” Rayford by proxy. Carpathia asked Hattie to recommend a talented pilot, and Hattie recommended Rayford (page 289). Carpathia arranges for Rayford to become pilot of President Gerald “Fitz” Fitzhugh’s plane. Then Carpathia seizes the pilot and plane for himself. (Rayford knows none of this, and thinks Hattie tried to sabotage him [page 154]. But he doesn’t want the job anyway.) Hattie (literally) slept with the Antichrist for such privileges, and now Rayford rejects the privileged job that Hattie secured for him.
At first, Hattie “files a bogus charge of religious harassment” against Rayford and calls it a practical joke (page 153). (When Rayford challenges her, Hattie shrugs and says, “You gave it [the “big pitch” i.e. conversion speech] to me, to your own daughter, to Cameron Williams, to Earl Halliday, to just about everybody you’ve worked with …. The odds were in my favor.”) She continues, “I still like you in spite of how you dumped me, all right? I would never do anything to hurt you” (page 284). Rayford protests that a false complaint in his personnel file does hurt him. Hattie says a few words of apology but does not seem particularly sorry.
Next, Hattie employs a standard “woman-in-danger” formula to persuade Rayford through Chloe. (“[Rayford] would be worried that [Chloe’s stalker] would be someone from Chicago, so [Rayford] would be inclined to move and take another job;” page 286.) This plan fails for three reasons. One, Rayford’s co-workers claim that his daughter is being “hassled” and “stalked” (pages 247-48) long before Rayford notices or believes them. Two, Rayford argues that he is sufficiently famous that any “stalker” would simply follow the Steeles to their new home; therefore there is no point in moving (page 248). Three, Rayford has his own interpretation of events:
Hattie: “We did it anonymously. That should have seemed a little dangerous, a little upsetting.”
Rayford: “It was.”
Hattie: “Then we did our job.”
Rayford: “Why would someone pursuing my daughter make me want to run? She’s almost twenty-one. It’s time she was pursued.”
Hattie: “But we did it anonymously,” et cetera. (page 286).
The scheme is exposed when Hattie switches from sending anonymous flowers to sending anonymous candy (pages 254-55). This development upsets Rayford, because Chloe is more likely to eat (poisoned) candy than to eat flowers. The candies are “Windmill Mints from Holman Meadows … How many times had Rayford mentioned to Hattie that he had to get those mints from that store during layovers in New York. She had even accompanied him more than once.” (Since the candy proves not to be poisoned, Rayford decides that they might as well eat it; page 262.)
Rayford accepts the pilot’s job—but not because of pressure from Hattie, or from Earl Halliday, his boss, and Len Gustafson, president of Pan-Con (pages 244-50), or from Bruce and Buck (pages 236-38). Rayford yields (as does Buck re. his job) because Chloe recommends it (pages 238-39).
Spoiler: Besides the fact that Rayford does not want to be the pilot of the presidential/global airplane, why else does he feel badly about it?
Answer: His boss Earl Halliday desperately wants that job, but he keeps getting passed over for promotion because he is ten years older than Rayford. The best he can hope for is that his favorite employee gets the job. “I could enjoy it vicariously through you,” says Earl (page 145).
As Carpathia prepares to battle the uprising, he tells Rayford that he wants a second pilot to fly the plane on a wild-goose-chase. Rayford recommends Earl. Earl admits that flying the empty plane is not as prestigious as “carting around” the dignitaries who would be on it, but it’s still a favor he will never forget (pages 436-8). Rayford realizes, too late, that Earl may be killed in the cross-fire (page 442).
Spoiler: Buck also is under pressure to accept a new job. What is it?
Answer: Carpathia wants to begin a one-world newsmagazine or newspaper, with Buck as its owner/operator. Buck can still assign himself the best stories. He can write and fight for his values: truth, justice, “and the American way, just like Superman,” adds Carpathia. Buck says he prefers to be Clark Kent, reporter (pages 131-32).
But doesn’t Buck want to move up in the world? Buck demurs, saying he wants to stay in Chicago. This is agreeable, says Carpathia. He will simply buy The Chicago Tribune for Buck. After it has been renamed as an arm of the GC, Buck can operate it as he pleases. Even if this means Buck might have to criticize the GC as part of the role of the independent news source? Carpathia shrugs. “I welcome the publicity … and the accountability.” Buck knows that Carpathia will never give anyone on his payroll complete freedom “unless he believed he had total control of their mind” (pages 148-49).
To Buck’s frustration, Chaim Rosenzweig and Steve Plank urge Buck to accept the job. Carpathia will soon own all the other news media anyway. So, technically Buck will operate all of them someday. Chaim pleads that if Buck does not take the position, “someone else will, and it will not be as good a paper” (page 154).
Buck throws out a few more futile arguments, but it makes the trio praise him all the more. “You make me want to turn you down, just to show I cannot be bought,” Buck frets. But that is the very reason Buck is “the man for the job” (page 155).
In Volume 1, Buck declined the job of becoming Carpathia’s press secretary. (Steve Plank accepted the job.) At Chaim’s urging, Carpathia has offered a second job. Buck can no longer say No. (“I know the origin of your nickname, and it is part of what I admire so much about you. But you cannot keep bucking me … people ignore me at their peril;” page 124). Buck can only negotiate, not outright refuse, or he will be exposed as being immune to Carpathia’s brainwashing powers.
Ultimately Carpathia expects Buck to move to New Babylon, but Buck stalls for time. New York is still the global publishing capitol. Buck moves back to New York, albeit with an “outrageous salary” (page 404). Being forced to move, being separated from his church, worrying that Chloe would move with her father to New Babylon, and finding that his New York colleagues (Stanton Bailey, Marge Potter, and Jim Borland) have been fired leave Buck anxious and glum. The one bright spot in his day is a rumor that President Fitzhugh and “the militia” are preparing an armed assault on the GC. “Buck was all for it and had secretly studied the feasibility of producing an anti-Global Community Web site on the Internet. As soon as he could figure out a way to do it without its being traced back to his penthouse apartment on Fifth Avenue, he would do it” (pages 404-405).
Spoiler: What else is Carpathia doing in this volume?
Answer: First, he tests Buck to see what Buck remembers of the events of Volume 1. Buck believes that Carpathia has his doubts that the brainwashing worked. This must be why Carpathia made everyone forget that Buck had been in the room at all (pages 58-9). (When Steve the editor forgot that Buck really was there, Steve accused Buck of skipping work. This is the reason Buck was demoted and transferred to Chicago.)
Carpathia confides that the multibillionaire Stonagal named him the sole beneficiary of his estate. Carpathia tells Buck that he settled out of court with the family, purchasing their silence for a mere $100 million each (page 127).
He gives Hattie Durham a makeover: “a tailored suit that made her look like a classy, wealthy, sophisticated woman. The look only enhanced her stunning beauty. Even her speech seemed more cultured.” Buck marvels that her exposure to Carpathia “seemed to have improved her presence” (page 109).
Carpathia charges “the international financial community” to settle on one currency (page 27). (They choose American dollars.)
He persuades the United Nations to rename itself the Global Community, and to pass a law allowing itself to buy things, such as media outlets. He then buys ESPN, CNN, The Chicago Tribune, The Global Weekly, at least one Christian network, and 21 other newspapers, magazines, and television/cable networks, all in one day. (Rayford tunes out from shock when the number of purchases reaches 26, so it could be more [page 338].)
Carpathia the self-professed pacifist “assign[s] task forces to implement the disarming of the nations of the world and to confirm that it has been done.” He is having the 10 percent of the weaponry that is not destroyed from each nation shipped to Babylon, which he has renamed New Babylon (page 27).
He deputizes U.S. President Fitzhugh to verify the destruction of other countries’ weapons, to the anger of other nations. Carpathia explains that the States “has long been a keeper of the peace.” Besides, anyone who wants to inspect the proceedings can just come visit any time (pages 257-58). Bruce has no explanation for this choice: “As much as I study, I don’t see America playing a role during this period of history” (page 29).
Carpathia makes the aforementioned president almost burst a blood vessel (pages 361-66). Buck and “Fitz” agree that Carpathia is too smooth, too good at playing the reluctant hero, “and is making me [Fitzhugh] look like an overgrown wuss!” Fitzhugh takes Buck into his confidence and asks Buck to do the same. It seems that “the militia” is hoarding weapons, and Fitzhugh is increasingly tempted to let them. At this point Carpathia now “makes” Buck do something: lie. Fitzhugh wants to know where Carpathia got his money. Buck knows, but he is too is scared that news might travel to Carpathia that Buck told anyone, so he lies.
Carpathia persuades Israel and the world to come to an “understanding” (page 29). Bruce states plainly, “If that announcement says anything about a promise from Carpathia that Israel will be protected over the next seven years, it officially ushers in the Tribulation.” (Bruce calls it “The White Horse” of prophecy.) This “covenant” is indeed signed in Jerusalem, on a Monday (pages 221, 313, 374).
At the treaty signing, Carpathia makes Fitzhugh swallow the anger Buck saw brewing. Instead, Fitzhugh recites a litany of praise to Carpathia, and genuinely appears to mean it. “Buck felt the clear presence of evil, and nausea nearly overtook him” (page 371).
Carpathia announces that the Jewish Temple will be rebuilt. As regarding the Dome of the Rock, Carpathia replies, “Our Muslim brothers have agreed to move not only the shrine but also the sacred section of the rock to New Babylon, freeing the Jews to rebuild their temple on what they believe is the original site” (page 277).
Carpathia complains to Steve, and to Israel, that he wants the Two Witnesses arrested, tried for murder—or, if they will not let themselves be arrested, let them be shot or even blown up: bullet, grenade, missile, whatever it takes. “Spoken like a true pacifist,” Rayford mutters (page 329).
There is one endorsement he cannot obtain: Tsion Ben-Judah endorses Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. (On page 393, Chaim makes a feeble joke which suggests how events could have gone if Tsion had been brainwashed like Chaim himself: “Nicolae, you were born in Bethlehem and moved to Cluj, right? Ha, ha!”) Carpathia reacts to Tsion’s declaration for Jesus with bored disappointment; he has heard that old, old story before (page 397). “So they [the Christians] have a primo Hebrew rabbi convert. Big deal.” Rayford walks away, thinking, “It sure is.”
Spoiler: Where, when, and how do the characters get saved?
Answer: Dr. Tsion Ben-Judah, age 44, was born to an Orthodox father and grew up in Haifa. He is “middle-aged, trim, and youthful with strong, angular features and only a hint of gray in his dark brown hair” under his black felt hat. He married six years ago and has two teenage stepchildren, a boy and a girl.
Tsion thinks, prays, and reads mostly in Hebrew. Although he knows English grammar and syntax “better than most Englishmen and certainly most Americans,” he has a thick accent which embarrasses him. (He assumes that Buck cannot pronounce his name either, so he gives Buck permission to call him Zion.) He has mastered 22 languages, most recently “Greek and Aramaic,” which he learned studying messianic texts. “A little over three years ago, I was commissioned by a state agency to conduct an exhaustive study of the messianic passages so that the Jews would recognize Messiah when he comes” (pages 317-19). Chaim, who has not seen the report, says that “it wouldn’t surprise me if [Tsion] wins a Nobel Prize for it” (page 106).
Chaim says that Tsion was his student 25 years ago. Chaim calls Tsion “an unabashed religious Jew, Orthodox but short of a fundamentalist. Of course he became a rabbi, but certainly not because of anything I taught him” (page 107). (Chaim is non-practicing, and considers the Scriptures symbolic.)
Chaim has been lobbying Carpathia to hire Tsion as “spiritual advisor” (page 108). However, Tsion is refusing all news contacts (and most human contact) until after a televised broadcast to present his conclusions (page 252).
Meanwhile, Buck is struck with the idea to see the two witnesses, and to interview them if possible. Having exhausted all other options, Buck implores Chaim to ask this Tsion fellow if he would help Buck get close to them (pages 310-15).
Tsion not only agrees to take Buck, but calls Buck from the hotel lobby to drive to the Wall that instant. (He had been told Buck was in some kind of hurry.) Tsion is curious to meet them too. He mentions that no individual has spoken with them; crowds listen, but there is no individual contact (pages 320, 336).
On pages 320-325 Buck and Tsion join the crowds at the Wall. Since Tsion can communicate with so many visitors, he realizes that all visitors are hearing the witnesses in their own languages. (Buck’s tape recorder can only “hear” the original Hebrew, not the divine translation; page 328.) After attacker number seven is “incinerated,” they are unable to get close enough, and decide to come back later.
Tsion tells Buck that “Jews have learned to skeptical of what appears to be divine intervention in their lives. Those who know the Scriptures know that while Moses had the power to turn a stick into a snake, so did Pharaoh’s magicians. They could also imitate Moses’ turning water into blood. Daniel was not the only dream-interpreter in the king’s court. I tell you this only to explain why these two preachers are being looked upon with such suspicion. Their acts are mighty and terrible, but their message is an anathema to the Jewish mind …. The idea of Jesus having been the Jewish Messiah is thousands of years old. His very name is as profane to the Jew as racial slurs and epithets are to other minorities” (page 332).
Tsion and Buck return to the Wall at night (pages 339-46). In the darkness, and with Buck standing silently, the three others re-enact verbatim the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus at night, with Tsion voicing the words of Nicodemus. (See John 3:1-21.) Tsion concludes, “God forgive us.” The two witnesses reply, “God forgive you. Thus ends our message. We wish you God’s blessing, the peace of Jesus Christ, and the presence of the Holy Spirit.” Buck can only stammer, “Goodbye, and thank you.” Tsion sings a chant of blessing. As they depart, both men begin to weep. Tsion silences Buck by saying they must not “debase” this moment by talking it to death. He puts Buck in his chauffeured car and sends it away, leaving Buck to watch the receding figure in the darkness (page 346).
Tsion will make his long-anticipated broadcast on CNN, on a Monday, the same day that Carpathia signs a 7-year treaty with Israel. Tsion hides in the background during the treaty ceremony. Chaim still has not managed to get Carpathia and Tsion in the same room.
Before the broadcast begins, Tsion invites Buck to eat with him (pages 383-86). Tsion admits he needed a little “cheerleading.” Buck reassures him that being nervous before a speech is normal. Tsion specifically asks about who Buck thinks is Messiah. Buck witnesses to Tsion and nervously waits for a response. It is a quiet, “I deeply appreciate your sharing that with me.”
Tsion proves an “enthusiastic, passionate, and engaging communicator” (pages 387-96). Even Carpathia is stilled, seeming “almost embarrassed by the attention Ben-Judah had commanded.” With the world watching, Tsion states the specific words: “Jesus Christ is the Messiah” (page 396). He says he had already come to that conclusion but was afraid to act upon it until after he was left behind. “[Jesus] is coming back in seven years! Be ready for it!” Pandemonium breaks out in the studio. Buck cheers and shouts as the screen goes blank and people swarm the room. Then Tsion and Buck run for the exit.
Tsion takes Buck home to meet his family (page 398). His wife is sobbing. “I support you, Tsion, but our lives are ruined!” At that instant, Tsion gets a phone call … from Elijah.
“This is Eli. I spoke to you last night.”
“Of course! How did you get my number?”
“I called the one you mentioned on the broadcast, and the student who answered gave it to me. Somehow I convinced her who I was.”
“It’s good to hear from you.”
Eli asks Tsion to address a meeting of new believers at the Teddy Kollek Stadium. Tsion says he fears for his safety and that of his family. Eli reassures him that “Moishe and I will make clear that anyone who threatens harm to you will answer to us. And I think our record is plain on that account.” This meeting will occur in a future volume of the series.
Amanda White, an executive (page 409) is a tall, handsome woman of about fifty with streaked hair and impeccable taste in clothes (page 407). She wears the occasional fur and, lately, fine jewelry brought from Paris by Rayford (page 418). She recently changed jobs, and is currently the chief buyer for a retail clothier (page 407). (After she remarries, she starts yet another career: a new but indeterminate “import/export business;” page 433.)
Amanda gives her testimony to Rayford and Chloe on pages 407-12. She said her family had been in “a dead church” all their lives. Her husband was invited to an outing at a friend’s church, and he insisted that the Whites try it next Sunday. Eventually they switched.
Amanda was uncomfortable there—“they made a big deal all the time about being saved”—and it became clear to her family that she was the only one who was unsaved. “To tell you the truth, the whole thing sounded a little white trashy to me. I didn’t know I had a lot of pride. Lost people never know that, do they?”
Her family kept encouraging her to attend the women’s Bible study, but Amanda put it off. Besides, she would have to take the morning off work. “I was just sure it was going to be more of the same—frumpy middle-aged women talking about being sinners saved by grace.” To her surprise, “They all looked so normal and were wonderful to me.”
But Amanda was especially drawn to Irene. “She was just radiant … There was a peace, a gentleness, a kindness, a serenity about her that I had never seen in anyone else. She had confidence, but she was humble. She was outgoing, yet not pushy or self-promoting. I loved her immediately.” Amanda sums up, “She was the sweetest little woman, so soft-spoken, so totally in love and devoted to you” (page 408).
Irene told her how to receive Christ. “I told her I wasn’t ready, and she warned me not to put it off and said she would pray for me. That night my family disappeared from their beds.” Amanda lost her husband and two grown daughters. She switched to New Hope Village Church after making some calls to see what churches were still open (page 312). (The meeting between Amanda and the surviving Steeles takes place in a flashback, six months after the Rapture. Rayford begins to notice her at church functions, particularly her “servant’s attitude” and diligent prayer life [page 412].)
Amanda credits Irene as the one who led her to Christ. Amanda apologizes for having taken so long to find the Steeles and express her appreciation for Irene’s hospitality, but Amanda could never quite get the name right. (She said it sounded something like iron and steel, and then she couldn’t match it to the 40-year-old Irene, because “Irene” sounded like an old-lady name.)
Amanda insists upon paying for their dinner. Rayford can pay next time. After a year of admiring Amanda from afar, Rayford realizes he never returned her dinner invitation. They start dating shortly thereafter.
Hattie is not saved in this novel.
Spoiler: Describe Buck and Chloe Steele Williams’ wedding. Describe Rayford and Amanda White Steele’s wedding.
Answer: In its entirety, from page 425: “The double ceremony in Bruce’s office two weeks later was the most private wedding anyone could imagine. Only the five of them were in the room. Bruce Barnes concluded by thanking God for all the smiles, the embraces, the kisses, and the prayer. Buck asked if he could see the underground shelter Bruce had constructed …”
In the shelter, the characters compare schedules. They will next meet at “four in the afternoon, six weeks later” for a Bible study session and a “nice dinner somewhere.” The five of them hold hands and Bruce prays one last prayer of thanks for “this brief flash of joy.” Bruce is leaving in a few hours for a world tour. It will be the last time the reader sees Bruce alive.
When the Steeles and Williamses hear that Bruce is sick, they try to visit him in the hospital (page 439). “Despite their concern for Bruce, Rayford felt a little more whole. He had a four-person family again, albeit a new wife and a new son. [snip] Chloe leaned against Buck and slipped her hand into his. He was grateful she was so casual, so matter-of-fact, about her devotion to him.” (The “hold hands” motif appears at least five times in this volume.) The new family remains aware of the danger of their crumbling world, but “for the moment they simply enjoyed being together.”
Spoiler: Is there a better description of Buck and Chloe Steele Williams’ wedding, and of Rayford and Amanda White Steele’s wedding?
Answer: Yes. See Left Behind: The Kids: Volume 8: Death Strike (c2000).
Judd [Thompson, Jr.] and Vicki [Byrne] crept to Bruce’s office and listened outside the door. Bruce told the couples where to stand and led them through the double ceremony.
“I’m not going to preach a sermon,” Bruce said. “You’ve heard enough of those. But I do want to challenge you. With what lies ahead, with the uncertainty all around us, cling to each other. Love each other. Forgive each other. Put each other’s needs ahead of your own, as Christ did. And let no one, no one come between what God has divinely joined.”
Judd heard Buck say his vows. Buck’s voice was trembling. “Chloe, I promise to love you, and you only. I will honor you above all others, above even my own life.” Chloe responded with her vows.
Then Rayford pledged himself to Amanda, saying, “I will treasure the gift God has given me in you.”
“And I am yours, Rayford,” Amanda said, “whether in sickness or in health, for richer or poorer, until death separates us.”
Bruce finished by praying, “For this brief flash of joy” [continues the prayer found in the original version].
(Trivia alert: In the original series, the couples say their vows and Bruce Barnes thanks God for all the smiles, the embraces, the kisses, and the prayer. Buck immediately asks to see the secret shelter. The five adults leave Bruce’s office and go to the shelter. There, Bruce prays his “flash of joy” prayer. In the alternative version starring Judd and Vicki, the eavesdropping teens do not hear any reference to the secret shelter; no adult mentions it; and the adults never go there.)
Spoiler: Carpathia “seems thrilled” about Rayford’s marriage and insists upon meeting the new Mrs. Steele. Carpathia has a surprise of his own. What is it?
Answer: Hattie is pregnant (pages 427-28). In her delight she congratulates Rayford and “Amelia.” The Steeles do not congratulate them back. Rayford only stammers, “Well, isn’t that something!” and tries to hide “his disgust and loathing.”
Amanda has had the mood spoiled for her as well. “Rayford had told Amanda all about Hattie Durham, and apparently the two were not going to become soul mates.” Instead Amanda says “sweetly” that she didn’t realize Hattie was married. “‘Oh, we will be,’ Hattie said, beaming, ‘He’s going to make an honest woman of me yet.’”
Chloe breaks down when she reads her father’s e-mail. “Buck, we have failed that woman.” Buck knows it, but what more can be done? “What are you going to do, Chloe? Tell her she’s carrying the Antichrist’s child and that she ought to leave him?” Chloe replies, “It may come to that.”
Spoiler: How does Bruce Barnes die?
Answer: Bruce “picked up a bug in Indonesia” (page 438). He answers a few e-mails (off-screen) when he arrives home, but suddenly his condition deteriorates. Hours after his arrival at Northwest Community Hospital’s emergency room, Bruce slips into a coma. The Steeles and Williamses try to drive to Arlington but are stopped by traffic.
A radio broadcast states that an indeterminate “militia” has tried to eliminate Carpathia. The attackers were aided by “the United States of Britain” and “the former sovereign state of Egypt.” In retaliation, “the Global Community peacekeeping forces destroyed a former Nike center in suburban Chicago.” Many civilians have died. Bruce’s hospital is on the same road as this supposed target. A bystander cautions, “Most people think it got hit first” (pages 440-445).
Bruce Barnes’ age is given as “in his early thirties” on page 19. He died at under 35 years old.
(Bonus) Spoiler: Was Bruce murdered?
Answer: Yes. Volume 2 has given sufficient hints that the Chicago attack was unique among the actions that happened that day. It doesn’t really spoil Volume 5 to reveal that Hattie states that Bruce was poisoned in Indonesia. When Bruce survived long enough to get home, Carpathia bombed Chicago, to kill one man. Carpathia bombed so many other targets that day, he expected no one would know the difference.
Spoiler: What else happens that fateful day?
Answer: Carpathia claims that the States, Britain, and Egypt have conspired to kill him (pages 440-449). He continues to insist that he is a pacifist, but to him that means he has a responsibility to stop all “enemies of peace.” To that end, he has dropped a 100 meg ton bomb on Heathrow/London. (He claims their attack planes pointed their nukes at him first.) A “foray of Egyptian ground forces” allegedly try to cross the desert to lay siege to New Babylon. GC air forces eliminate them in the Egyptian desert and turn toward Britain (where they might get caught in the Heathrow nuke, or not). Chicago was hit with ordinary weapons. No fallout is expected. Washington is “obliterated.” (The text does not specify what weapons were used.) Finally, “militia forces” allegedly threaten to nuke NYC. Carpathia’s forces reassure people that they can “intercept” any flying nuke, but residents should beware “residual damage to outlying areas.” Since Carpathia can corrupt the news reports, all details are suspect. The only details that are beyond dispute are that entire cities of people are dead. “The Red Horse” of prophecy has arrived.
When Rayford finds Bruce’s body beside the partially “vaporized” hospital, he, Amanda, and Chloe begin to weep (page 449). Chloe whispers that this is the end of the world. Their pastor is dead. They are alone.
(Discussion topics will appear in a separate post.</I)