38. Bonus: Volume 13-called-Prequel-1 (L.B. Rising) spoilers

Spoiler (Volume 13-called-Prequel-1): Why do we call “The Rising” Volume-13-called-Prequel-1?

Answer: Some readers enumerate the Left Behind series as a twelve-volume set, three prequels, and one sequel. Other readers—such as your host—count sixteen volumes, based strictly upon order of publication.

When readers use different methods of counting, there can be two books taken or mistaken for Volume 13 (either Prequel 1 or Sequel 1). Thus your host numbers the post-Volume 12 books as follows:

The Rising=Volume 13-called-Prequel-1;
The Regime=Volume 14-called-Prequel-2;
The Rapture=Volume 15-called-Prequel-3; and
Kingdom Come=Volume 16-called-13 (Sequel-1).

Volume 12 was published c2004. Therefore we choose to list the first prequel (c2005) as Volume 13 of the series.

Spoiler: Meet Rayford Steele.

Answer: A scene from the life of Captain Rayford Steele of Pan-Con Airlines makes a framing device, a set of bookends (pp. ix-xiv; 360-368).

Pilot Steele and co-pilot Christopher Smith are flying a Pan-heavy from Chicago to Los Angeles. A check-engine light comes on. Rayford and Chris backtrack. The maintenance log notes that Engine One’s air filter should have been changed in Miami, Florida. The mechanic on duty had noticed metal fragments in the filter. Nevertheless they must have been within safety tolerances, as the log had been signed off.

Rayford and Chris are unable to resolve the alert. They shut down Engine One and increase power to the other three engines. It makes more work for Rayford, but he can handle it. As a courtesy, Rayford informs the passengers. He doubts they would have noticed any change in speed. The plane updates its transponder to warn other planes not to crowd them, as their maneuverability may be affected.

Today LAX has poor visibility. As they prepare to land on instruments, they cannot see anything until they are only thirty feet above the runway. To their horror, a US Air 757 is taxiing on to the same runway. The second plane claims they were given clearance to take off.

The Pan-heavy is about to hit the US Air’s rudder, all four stories of it. If somehow they avoid it, the Pan-heavy’s left wingtip will strike the ground. If somehow they avoid that, they will bottom out. If they try nothing, they will strike all three. Pilot and co-pilot frantically try to ascend on three engines. Rayford, manipulating the rudder, feels a slight roll and realizes he may have made a fatal mistake.

The tower shouts and swears. Chris Smith shouts and swears. Rayford’s family flashes before his eyes: his love for them, his regrets. He thinks about the passengers on the two planes. Rayford shouts, “God, help me!” Chris replies, “Amen! Now fly!”

[ …. one volume later …. ]

Rayford’s mind pleads, I’ll never miss another Sunday at church as long as I live. And I’ll pray every day. The Pan-Con misses the US Air by inches. Chris Smith says, “Your prayer musta been answered, Cap. Praise the Lord and pass the diapers.”

They receive a new runway assignment and land on auto-pilot without incident. Rayford wonders if God had answered his prayer by making him make the mistake with the rudder. “Strange kind of intervention, Rayford thought, but he had made a bargain. This time he just might have to make good on it” (p. 368).

Spoiler: Describe Rayford Steele’s childhood.

Answer: Nine-year-old Rayford Steele of Belvidere, Illinois, scores a goal in a game of soccer. He finds the whole business annoying. His teammates want to lift him on their shoulders, as if a blowout against the worst team in the league is worth anything. His father cheers too loudly. His old man really is an old man. Other parents mistake Mr. Steele for Rayford’s grandfather. And Rayford hates soccer. He hates playing it, he hates watching it, and being the best player in his league does not make him stop hating it. He only plays to keep fit for other sports during the off-season.

Rayford likes football, basketball, and baseball. He is tall for his age, has good endurance, and does well in fourth grade. “He had it all. Smartest, best athlete, fastest, cutest” (p. 13).

But Rayford “feels like the brat he is.” It hurts him to be “a popular kid and not have the stuff that should go along with it” (pp. 16-17). His parents are in their late fifties and not at all glamorous. They are frugal. Their car was six years old when they bought it, and they intend to keep it for many years. “It’s plenty good for the likes of us. We’re plain and simple people.” The family tool-and-die small business provides well enough. They may live in “the seediest house in the neighborhood, but at least it was paid for and his dad wasn’t in debt and yeah, we may live paycheck to paycheck, but there are people a lot worse off than we are in the world” (p. 16). Rayford knows the speech and hates it.

Rayford never invites friends to his house. He prefers to visit them at their homes. There he can see the possessions and lifestyle he wants. Someday, he tells himself. At least he can personalize his room. His bedroom ceiling is filled with model planes, “from ancient props to tiny fighter jets to massive modern supersonic transports” (p. 17).

Rayford plans to work hard both at sports and at aviation. Both careers would make a lot of money. He is aware of the condescending smiles when he mentions sports, but a career in aviation is considered realistic (p. 18). He would not have to go into debt if he can make enough money to buy the nice things he wants.

Rayford saves his allowance for nearly a year to buy a flight jacket. He feels like a pilot, albeit a nine-year-old one. He is stunned when his friends laugh at his new jacket. Moreover, his father praises him, “which normally would be the death knell of any outfit.” Mr. Steele likes both the new look and the self-discipline Rayford showed with his money (pp. 119-120).

Rayford asks if his father will help him come up with enough money for flying lessons. A student can fly before he can drive. Mr. Steele looks at his son admiringly. Yes, he will help (p.120).

Mr. Steele tells his son that when Rayford is thirteen, Mr. Steele will give him a part-time job at the tool-and-die. It will be clean-up work: sweeping, trash, etc. If Rayford works hard, he can earn enough money to pay for half of a set of flying lessons when he is fourteen (p. 164). Mr. Steele will pay the other half of the cost (p. 133).

Rayford is overjoyed until his father adds that Rayford will be taught how to operate the machinery—how to operate the business. But why? asks Rayford. Mr. Steele intends that Rayford will take over someday. He is the obvious and only heir. Rayford asks, “Are you going to make me do it? Do I have to promise to take over the business to keep this deal, the work, and the flying lessons?” His father sighs. He will not force Rayford, but it is what he wants for Rayford.

Rayford thought his father wanted him to be honest. Mr. Steele wants him to be grateful. Rayford protests that he is grateful. But he asks his father to keep an open mind—that his father will not be insulted if Rayford does get a sports scholarship or does become a pilot. Mr. Steele asks his son to keep an open mind—that a boy who is “not yet ten” cannot yet know what he wants if he has not tried it. Besides, no one will love the family business like family. It is Mr. Steele’s life’s work (pp. 134-135).

Spoiler: Describe Rayford Steele’s religious upbringing.

Answer: At the Sheep-and-Goats Judgment, Jesus Christ gently takes Rayford’s face into His hands and says, “I was there when you were born. I was there when you thought your mother had abandoned you. I was there when you concluded that I made no sense” (Volume 12, p. 297).

As a youngster Rayford becomes aware of things that trouble him. He is invited to a sleepover at Bobby Stark’s house. They have laser hockey, video games, and movies. But Rayford does not enjoy his visit. Mr. Stark asks Rayford, as the guest, to say grace at supper (pp. 31-33). Rayford prays, “God is great; God is good. Now we thank Him for our food. Amen.” Bobby and his little sisters laugh at him.

Mr. Stark asks, “Is that how your father prays over a meal? I mean, I’m just curious. It’s a child’s prayer. Uh, you’re a child, but you’re becoming a man.” (Rayford Steele is nine years old.)

Rayford tries again, this time praying like his father: “For what we are about to receive, may we be truly thankful. Amen.” Rayford realizes the other children want to laugh again but have decided not to humiliate him further. No way will he be talked into praying again at breakfast. He only knows three prayers, and the third is Now I lay me down to sleep; I pray thee, Lord, my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray thee, Lord, my soul to take. He can only imagine their reaction to that (p. 33).

[Trivia alert: the Stark family never do provide their version of a “real” or “appropriate” prayer.]

Bobby Stark becomes very quiet. Then he witnesses to Rayford (pp. 33-37). Which church does he attend? Do they believe in Jesus? Some churches don’t believe. (Answer: “Yeah, they’re called synagogues.”) Do you have Jesus in your heart? (Answer: “what does that mean?”)

Bobby is concerned. Does Rayford have Jesus in his heart, really? Rayford replies, “My dad grew up in Central Church. He’s real religious …. [My mom] grew up in Michigan, but yeah, she’s religious too …. I’ve been going to Central Church since I was born, and I never heard anything about getting Jesus in your heart. But there’s pictures of Him everywhere, even in the windows, and He’s what the pastor preaches about. Just because we don’t call it what you do doesn’t mean we’re not religious” (p. 35). Bobby replies that it is not about religion. It is about being a true Christian.

Bobby asks, doesn’t Central teach that everyone is a sinner? Without Jesus in his heart, Rayford is going to hell. It’s in the Bible. “It says everyone has sinned.” Rayford says confidently, “Not my mom.” Bobby says, “Bet she has.”

Rayford retorts that he may not know everything his church teaches. “But I think we believe everybody’s good at heart. We try to do good things all the time, do what God wants us to do.” Bobby shakes his head. He is sad. Rayford sins. Everyone sins. Bobby doesn’t want Rayford to go to hell. Rayford asks if Bobby is going to be a missionary or something. Bobby shrugs: whatever God wants him to be (pp. 36-37).

Rayford says Bobby sounds “wacky.” Bobby says Rayford is. After all, Rayford won’t even admit he is a sinner. Bobby admits he has sinned. So, is Bobby going to hell? “I was,” said Bobby, “till I got Jesus in my heart.” He still sins, but he has been saved by grace. Bobby starts to talk about why Jesus died, but Rayford cuts him off. Bobby invites Rayford to his church. Rayford thinks, not in a million years (p. 37)

Mr. Stark asks what Rayford will be when he grows up. Rayford replies: pro athlete, or airplane pilot. Mr. Stark give Rayford an attaboy. “You can serve the Lord in a profession like that. You don’t have to be in full-time ministry like Bobby’s probably going to be.” Rayford has never heard the term “full-time ministry.” As for “serve the Lord,” Rayford cannot make it compute. “Surely God didn’t need to be flown anywhere” (pp. 42-43).

But the sleepover disturbs Rayford. He asks his parents, “are we Christians?” His mother replies: of course they are. Where did he get the idea that they were not Christians? Rayford repeats what Bobby Stark told him.

“Fundamentalists,” his father concluded. “Holy Rollers. Wouldn’t surprise me if they were snake handlers …. Some people, some churches, just take everything a little too far. They take every word of the Bible literally, believe Jesus has to crawl inside you, that you have to bathe in His blood. If the Bible says you can handle poisonous snakes if you trust the Lord, they do it just to prove the point.”

“I don’t think Bobby’s family is into any of that.”

“Maybe not, but keep your distance. Those people think they’ve got the inside track on the truth.”

Ray had no more idea what his dad meant than he did about what Bobby had talked about.

(—Volume 13-called-Prequel-1, p. 47)

But the incident continues to trouble him. The Steeles go to a fast-food restaurant. Rayford asks why they do not pray over their food when they are out in public. They pray over meals at home. Mrs. Steele replies, “That would be showy, dear. The Bible says we’re supposed to pray in secret, not to be seen by men” (p. 53).

Rayford replies that the Bible says “a lot of things we don’t agree with.” The Bible says that all are sinners; all are born that way. It says “that God told the children of Israel to kill every man, woman, and child of nations that didn’t believe in Him.”

To his surprise, Mr. Steele agrees: the Bible does say those things. It also says that “when the children of Israel disobeyed, God slaughtered a bunch of them. Now you tell me. If that’s true, if that’s literal, what does that say about God?” asks Mr. Steele. The God Who “is willing that none should perish” seemed so willing in the Old Testament for many people to perish—if one take the whole Bible literally (pp. 53-54).

Mr. Steele adds that people who “take everything [in the Bible] literally” get confused. Bobby Stark “probably thinks Jesus is the only way to God.” Rayford asks, isn’t that what their family believes? Why else would they go to a Christian church? Mr. Steele replies, they go there “because that’s what we know. That’s how we were raised. But the minute we start thinking our way is the only way, well, if you ask me, that’s not godly.” He thinks that all religions worship the same God. “It’s like God is at the top of a mountain.” Any religion “that makes you want to be a better person, help your fellow man, that kind of stuff—will get you there.” Different paths, one mountaintop. To Rayford this finally seems reasonable (pp. 55).

Mr. Steele concludes that the Old Testament stories which are troubling Rayford cannot be taken literally. They must stand for something else. Then what does it mean, asks Rayford. Mr. Steele admits, “I don’t know. I just know it can’t mean what it says.”

Mrs. Steele adds, “Some things are not for us to know this side of heaven. You can ask God when you get there.” And Rayford’s parents are sure that they are going to Heaven? “Of course,” says Mr. Steele. “By doing the best we can, treating people right, following the Golden Rule, making sure our good outweighs our bad.”

“Ray got a new view of his father that day. He could be an embarrassing old guy, but he sure was smart” (pp. 55-56).

Rayford finds himself listening more carefully to the things he hears at Central Church. He repeats his father’s comments about the “judgmental and fearsome” God of the Old Testament. Does that sound fair? Does that sound loving? His questions “rattle” his Sunday School teacher. Their quarterly lesson kits are about New Testament stories and parables. Maybe Rayford “should save those questions for—[pause in the text; no dialogue].”

Rayford notices that the pastor only preaches from the New Testament. “His point usually was that ‘believers in Christianity ought to exemplify godly virtues in this world.’”

That was fine with Ray, except that if God was God and God was perfect and God was love, what about all that ugly stuff in the Old Testament? If Ray was “a believer in Christianity”—and he was starting to wonder if he really was or if he had just been dragged to church all his life—was one of those godly virtues murdering people who disagreed? (—Volume 13-called-Prequel-1, pp. 66-67)

Mr. Steele finally summarizes, “your mother believes I shouldn’t have gotten into all that stuff with you.” He agrees with Rayford’s mother. At Rayford’s age he does not need to be thinking about “the major issues of life and God and all that.”

“Listen, I was born and raised a Christian, and I don’t understand it all. All we can do is the best we can and try to be good people. Respect other people. Don’t talk politics or religion with them. I mean, you’d rather be a good person than a bad one.”

“’Course.”

“And you are a good person, Rayford,” his mother said.

“And that’s all you need to worry about,” his dad said. “Some stuff just isn’t for us to know.”

“This side of heaven,” his mother said.

(—Volume 13-called-Prequel-1, pp. 67-68)

Rayford never has a Rapture-induced panic attack, but only in the sense that he has never heard of the Rapture. He does have a Rapture-styled panic attack (pp. 77-84).

When Rayford is still nine years old, still in fourth grade, his mother brings him along on her errands. She goes into one store while sending him to purchase batteries in another store. In this way they can finish quickly and return home in half an hour. Rayford buys the batteries and takes a nap in the back of the car (both because he is tired and because he doesn’t want anyone to see him sitting up in that old beater).

He awakens with a start. His mother has been gone for an hour. He is unable to reach either of his parents on their telephones. He searches the store and cannot find her.

Rayford berates himself for being a fourth-grade “baby” and “wuss” and “fool” (pp. 77, 80). He is acting like Mommy’s Little Raymie, like a six-year-old, like a four-year-old (p. 78). He starts crying. He prays, “God, help me! Please bring my mother back. I’ll do anything you want. I’ll quit swearing. I’ll quit sassing. I’ll go to church and really listen” (p. 81)

He imagines horrible things. Kidnapping. Murder.

And, he was shocked to admit to himself, he found one other option even worse. What if Ray’s mother had abandoned him? Simply left him? She and his dad had had it with him and had taken off. If and when he called the police and made his way home, he would discover the house empty and his parents gone forever.

What was the matter with him? That was ludicrous. Yet why did it seem so logical and possible? And why did it seem so absurdly worse to him than his imaginings of horrible fates befalling his mother?

(—Volume 13-called-Prequel-1, p. 80)

Only after he loses his mother does he realize how much he loves her (p. 80).

As he sobs in the car, Mrs. Steele returns. She had caught her foot in the door of the store. The employees led her to the staff lounge and tended her bleeding foot. She felt silly, and was relieved to suppose that Rayford had napped through the whole thing (p. 82).

But Rayford is furious. He swears at his mother, calls her “scatterbrained,” then “turns his guns” on his father (pp. 83-84). Why didn’t Dad answer the telephone? (Answer: Mr. Steele was on the phone with an important supplier—and it was long-distance from Ohio.) And why didn’t God just let Rayford find his mother? “Maybe there was a God, but He sure didn’t seem to make any sense, not in the Bible and not here and now in real life” (p. 83).

Rayford feels himself “retreating farther and farther into his shell. He felt guilty about making promises to God that he may have meant at the time but now seemed crazy and empty. He had no intention of keeping them” (p. 85).

For as long as Rayford lives at home, Rayford’s parent make him attend church and Sunday School and youth group. He mostly tunes it out (p. 170).

Nevertheless, enough of it permeates his consciousness that he feels guilty when he adopts collegiate “values and attitudes that violated every sensibility he had been raised with.” Those include credit-card debt, lying, underaged drinking, and premarital sex (p. 292).

Spoiler: Describe Rayford Steele’s early teenaged years.

Answer: Rayford’s twelfth birthday brings growth spurts. No matter how many times his mother purchases new clothes, too much sock is always showing at the end of the pants (p. 163). He also endures three years of acne, severe enough that Mom and his doctor do not hit upon the right medication to treat it until his sophomore year in high school (p. 190).

His prowess at sports stagnates. Other students are catching up with him. As football quarterback, he throws more interceptions than touchdowns. The only reason he does not get replaced is that Fuzzy Bellman, the football coach, still believes he has potential (p. 203). In basketball Rayford sits the bench all season, having lost his position to a younger player (p. 204). In baseball he hurts his pitching arm. He never throws a 90-m.p.h. fastball again. He merely plays first, bats eighth, and cannot hit .300 all year (p. 204).

Without his good looks and his sports celebrity, the girls disappear. His guy friends change too. He becomes the butt of teasing instead of the one dishing it out. Rather than laughing it off the way the other guys did, Rayford is humiliated. He becomes defensive and obnoxious (p. 205).

Rayford’s parents try to counsel him, but he drifts away from them. They could not possibly understand him. Besides, he is “a good citizen, if nothing else.” He is not into smoking or drugs or sex (though he wishes and hopes for that last one). He mostly just sneaks an occasional beer. It’s illegal, but that is why he loves it (p. 205).

At thirteen Rayford duly begins working at Steele Tool and Die. The six adult workers accept him. They do not care about his awkward appearance. He is deferential. He works hard. And his father shows him no favoritism. Mr. Steele also assures the workers that their jobs are secure. “By the time he’s old enough [to operate the machines alone], he plans to be on to other things,” says Mr. Steele. Rayford does not know if his father has really resigned himself to that eventuality, but it is nice to hear him acknowledge it (pp. 164-165).

Rayford gets his piloting lessons. They go well. He cannot fly as often as he would like, with his busy schedule. But his instructor assures Rayford that he will get his private license by the time he is eighteen, a senior (p. 204).

Spoiler: Describe Rayford Steele’s later teenaged years.

Answer: At age sixteen, Rayford takes his first solo flight (pp. 195-199). His instructor asks, “What if I told you that I misadjusted something [on the checklist] on purpose, just to see if you’d find it?” Of course the instructor will not let Rayford launch if the instructor knows there is something wrong with the aircraft. But Rayford has to check every list, every time, as if his life depends upon it (which it does).

As the prop plane takes off, Rayford thinks there is something on the runway. A small animal? A tool? He does not know. He hits it hard but takes off. Rayford tells the radio that he thinks he hit a bird. Whatever it was, he knows it was not a bird. (Birds don’t rattle.) If he tells the truth, he will be asked to land immediately for maintenance.

Half an hour later, Rayford lands. The right tire is flat. The plane spins upon touchdown—but the fuel gauge reads empty; reduced danger of fire. The mechanic announces that Rayford has been flying for half an hour with a flat tire and a severed fuel line. Was a solo flight worth the lie? Was flying solo worth his life? Rayford tells no one—because he does not know what to say (p. 199).

By his senior year, Rayford grows into his long limbs (p. 190). He reaches six-feet-four-inches. He finally finds a flattering haircut. He is elected president of the student council, narrowly defeating a popular cheerleader. The pair get elected king and queen of Homecoming (pp. 205-206). Rayford is popular again, big man on campus again.

He enjoys the renewed attention, but it all seems so shallow, so phony, so “surfacy.” He worries that he might be that way too. He hopes not. He is so suspicious of the motives of others that he cannot maintain a boy-girl relationship for more than a few weeks (pp. 213-214).

Rayford’s arm heals. He becomes football quarterback again and has a good year—but not good enough for Belvidere High to make the playoffs. He doesn’t even make all-conference; the league is loaded with good quarterbacks. There is too much competition at the university level as well. Coach Fuzzy shops Rayford everywhere but gets no response from Division I colleges. He tries second-tier. All he can get for Rayford is “form letters from three small schools where I wouldn’t even recommend you go, unless all you want is to play football.”

Coach Fuzzy advises Rayford to get an academic scholarship. Rayford can always try out for the football team at whatever college he attends. He might even make the team. But he will not be a quarterback (p. 206).

Rayford renews his efforts in basketball. He returns to a starter position and leads the team in scoring. But Belvidere finishes third in their conference. Again no college recruits Rayford (p. 213).

After these disappointments, Rayford is more realistic about baseball. He doubts he can hit .400 anymore. In fact, the last baseball player in his league to get a Division 1 college scholarship had to hit .600 to get recruited. The elder Mr. Steele still remembers little Raymie the sports star, and naively believes that Rayford could hit .600 now. What do coaches know, dad says (p. 220).

Rayford finds his only solace in flying. There is nothing phony about it. It is the perfect case of cause-and-effect. He knows what to do and how to do it. The plane responds. And the plane does not care about his looks, his athletic ability, his grades, his popularity—or his parents’ plans (p. 214). He gets his private license at eighteen (p. 219).

Rayford signs up for Reserve Officer Training Corps (p. 219). The ROTC will pay his way through college in exchange for a few years of service in the Armed Forces.

“The fireworks” come when Mr. Steele outlines a scenario for Rayford’s future that still includes Steele Tool and Die. Now that high school graduation has come, they cannot postpone this argument any longer. Mrs. Steele smiles sadly. She has been dreading this day. “She was a lot of things, but dense wasn’t one of them” (p. 221). Her husband is going to lose this battle, and she knows it.

Mr. Steele enthuses, “What do you think, Ray? Good education. More hours in the planes. A little military training. Job waiting for you. Future secure, huh?”

Mr. Steele always has assumed that a pilot can own and operate Steele Tool and Die. He explains, “I wish I could fly, own my own plane, jet myself to my suppliers and customers. You could do that, have yourself a fun life” (p. 134). Rayford has never wanted that.

[Rayford:] “I’m not coming back to the tool and die, Dad.”

[Mr. Steele:] “What, you know that already? You hate me and my business so much that—”

“C’mon, Dad! You know that’s not true. I admire what you’ve done with it, but you can’t force me to—”

“If I was paying for your education I could, couldn’t I? But you made sure you didn’t need that.”

“You TOLD me you couldn’t put me through college! That’s why I’ve tried all these different ways to get help! …. I just want you to know now so you can make other arrangements. Groom someone else.”

“My people are too old. And none of them has what it takes.”

“So hire an heir apparent.”

“YOU’RE the heir, Ray! You! It’s been my dream all my life!”

“But not mine, Dad. You wouldn’t want me in the saddle if I didn’t want it, would you? What kind of a job would I do then?”

[snip]

“And you’ll come back to the tool and die only if all your dreams are shattered somehow.”

“I wouldn’t come back anyway, Dad. If for some reason I couldn’t fly, I’d want to teach aviation. Or coach. Or both.”

“You really do hate me.”

(—Volume 13-called-Prequel-1, pp. 221-222)

Rayford Steele graduates high school “with more accolades than anyone else—scholar, athlete, athlete of the year, and a couple of peer-voted honors: best-looking male and most popular” (p. 250). He enjoys being congratulated, although such trappings leave him feeling empty inside. And whenever someone congratulates his parents, he can hear his father mutter, “Of course I’m proud of him, but a lot of good it does me.”

In the fall Rayford will attend Purdue University [Indiana] on academic and ROTC scholarships. He hopes to be admitted to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, but he does not want to make the military his career. He plans to be a commercial pilot. It will give him the money, the house, the cars, and the wife, that he wants (p. 250).

Spoiler: Who is Katherine “Kitty” Wyley? What is Rayford Steele’s connection to her?

Answer: At the Sheep-and-Goats Judgment, Jesus Christ tells Rayford that He was there for all of the days of Rayford’s life. “I was there when you almost married the wrong woman” (Volume 12, p. 297). Kitty Wyley is that woman.

Rayford mostly enjoys Purdue University. He feels like he “might as well have been on one of the coasts, as far as he felt from Illinois” (pp. 279-281). The “best part” is that he has fully grown: “six-feet-four-inches and 220 pounds of muscled, in-shape, square-jawed man.” He had always thought that it was guys who ogled girls. Now that he is “the most attractive and popular guy outside the scholarship athletes and frat brothers,” he realizes that women also look.

The students all have “riffs” [elevator-speeches; monologues] of their lives. Rayford’s speech is:

“Belvidere, Illinois; only child; son of self-made, hard-working parents; high school sports star (resigned to intramurals now); studying liberal arts with some mechanical subjects thrown in; aiming to be a commercial pilot; and active in ROTC” (Volume 13-called-Prequel-1, p. 280).

But other students react strangely to that last point. “Anything connected with the military, with discipline and uniformity and the establishment, was viewed with suspicion by the modern collegian.” Rayford defends ROTC at first. It offers scholarships, training, careers, and a future. But “no one was buying” except for other ROTCs. He soon stops talking about it.

Now Rayford must invent a second riff as to why he is not in a fraternity. He says dismissively that “I was rushed by all the houses” and could not decide. “Anyway, I’m the type of person who gives his all once he’s committed, and I don’t have the time to be the kind of fraternity brother I would want to be.” Katherine-call-me-Kitty is the first person to call him out on it: “Well, aren’t we impressed with ourself [sic].”

Kitty is a former cheerleader. Even in jeans she is impeccably stylish and “irresistibly” beautiful. “She reminded him too much of the high school girls who had ignored him as an underclassman and angled for dates when he was a senior and big man on campus.” Rayford suspects that if she had seen a photo of his gangly, pimply teenaged years, she would have done what the other girls did (pp. 282-283). But the Purdue ladies are all “New York wannabes” with “severe shoes and all-black outfits,” short blunt haircuts, and no makeup (p. 282). “Katherine-call-me-Kitty” at least is easier to abide than these.

Kitty is a business major, who yet strikes Rayford as “shallow” (p. 283). In his mind Rayford also calls her “impudent” (p. 283), a “thin-sliced character” (p. 284), and “skin-deep” (p. 285). She whines (p. 285), uses baby talk to him (p. 298), cajoles, begs, and plays to his vanity (p. 295). She makes fun of Rayford’s parents behind their backs—and Rayford adds his own embarrassing stories to please her (pp. 292-293).

Kitty is forward. She giggles at Rayford’s name and promptly renames him “Ray.” Kitty fetches them drinks, although she is three years under legal drinking age and he a year away. [Trivia alert: therefore the legal drinking age is 21 years.] They start drinking as part of their socializing. Rayford is never carded, and Kitty has a phony ID (p. 299).

Kitty enjoys the mild notoriety of dating an ROTC man—a man outside of her social circle. She comes from a wealthy family and makes Rayford “her arm candy.” He may be middle-class now, but they both know that he too is “on the path to a comfortable life, and she was excited to be along for the ride” (p. 295).

“It took Rayford almost a month to realize he had stumbled upon an irresistible formula. He hadn’t meant to do it. The whole thing had been a product of his deep distrust, spawned by the way he had been treated in high school.” Rayford fears that “something was damaged inside him. He couldn’t trust anyone, especially someone trying to compliment him” (p. 283).

Rayford and Kitty play games with each other. “Somehow his disdain for Kitty Wyley’s manipulative approach made him come across as mysterious, aloof …. It took him a while to realize that the very reason Kitty was pursuing him was that he didn’t seem to care …. [It] had merely made him appear unattainable to her” (p. 284). Kitty in turn invites him on a date when she knows he already has a date—with a lowly freshman named Irene [Nameless]. Kitty decrees that he must end the evening with Irene as soon as possible. Rayford complies.

It doesn’t help that Rayford and Irene have an awkward date. Rayford compares it to dancing with “his ugly old aunt” (p. 287). Dancing with Kitty feels entirely different. “He gathered her in gently, and they seemed to fit. She was warm and soft. She laid her head on his shoulder and hummed with the music as they moved together, and she was on key.” She wraps her arms around his neck, as if they were made for each other. Rayford “breathed in her essence and fell in love” (p. 290).

“The year Ray Steele spent in love with Katherine Wyley proved the worst of his life …. He learned what addiction was” (p. 291). He enjoys being seen with “one of the most dramatic lookers on campus.” He loves the idea of being in love. But his grades suffer. He rarely spends time with the ROTC or even with the other students in his dorm (p. 291).

Only Irene remains. “Dowdy Irene,” Kitty calls her. “A nice girl with no sense of fashion,” Kitty decrees. “Bet she winds up with one of the ag students. She’ll make a nice farm wife.” This is a rotten thing to say, thinks “Ray.” After all, “some of the ag students had gorgeous girlfriends” (p. 292).

“Ray” feels he is losing himself. Is Kitty that strong a personality? Or is it the sex? “They had quickly fallen into that routine, and there was no denying she was fun to sleep with. Could he have become as shallow as she, putting up with values and attitudes that violated every sensibility he had been raised with, all because he enjoyed the sex?” (p. 292).

He wonders what other people think about it. The couple visits their intended’s parents. Mr. and Mrs. Steele put Rayford and Kitty in separate bedrooms. Kitty’s two households (father with stepmother; and mother with stepfather) put the couple in one bedroom. None of the three families think there is anything unusual in their house rules. But Rayford notices (pp. 292-293).

Irene is the only one who calls him out on it: “is the sex that good?” Rayford laughs and says, “it’s awful good.” But Irene does not think it funny (p. 325). If Rayford cannot tell the truth to his own parents, then what is he doing?

Mrs. Steele dotes on Kitty and seems to love everything about her. Mr. Steele is distant and formal, especially after Kitty-the-business-major cannot hide her boredom at the tour of the Steele tool-and-die business. For his part, Rayford is “disgusted” by the Wyleys. He dislikes the country clubs and their members. Also, Rayford (the former child athlete) proves to be “spectacularly bad” at golf (pp. 292-293).

Nevertheless, Rayford and Kitty seem to be on the same path. “He had not formally proposed, but after six months of dating they talked about the future as a foregone conclusion. They discussed his career, the fastest route to becoming a commercial pilot, where they would live, whether she would work.” (Answer: no.) “He felt as if he were sliding down a mountain on his rear end with nothing to stop him but jagged rocks …. But he also wanted many of the trappings required to keep a woman like her happy …. And didn’t houses and cars like that come with trophy wives?” (pp. 294-295).

Only once do they talk about God, and then only because Rayford’s conscience is bothering him. (He and Irene had been talking about God earlier that day. –pp. 296-299). At that, Rayford wonders if he and Kitty can only talk about a serious subject because they both have been drinking (pp. 300-301).

“God helps those who help themselves,” says Kitty with a smile. “Ray” realizes that his father says the same thing. Kitty admits that she prays about Rayford. Specifically, she prays that she will please him.

[Kitty:] “I promised God a lot if I could have you … And She came through.”

[Rayford:] “So what was your end of the bargain?”

[Kitty:] “That I would keep myself in shape, never get fat, never embarrass you by being sloppy or dressing bad.”

Ray couldn’t even force himself to smile …. No promise to go to church, be a better person, do something for the poor or the handicapped? Nothing like that? If God gave Kitty what she wanted—Ray himself—she promised to be more of what she already was, basically a self-possessed nothing.

[snip]

[Kitty:] “Talk to me, Ray, You’re scaring me. I need you to tell me how I’m doing.”

[Rayford:] “How you’re doing?” he said, loathing himself. “Who could do better than you?”

It was a nonanswer, a skate, but of course she had heard what she wanted to hear. “You love me, don’t you,” she said, telling rather than asking.

And feeling like the world’s greatest liar, Ray reached for her and pulled her toward him across the table. “With all my heart,” he said.

(—Volume 13-called-Prequel-1, pp. 300-301)

Rayford is twenty when he meets Kitty (p. 284) and twenty-one when their relationship ends. Kitty is eighteen when they meet and nineteen when their relationship ends.

Spoiler: Who is Irene [Nameless]? What is Rayford Steele’s connection to her?

Answer: Irene [Nameless] is an ROTC freshman at Purdue University.

Irene might not turn heads like Kitty, but she didn’t put on airs either. She had been an army brat, living in bases all over the world before her dad was killed in combat. She wasn’t even in ROTC for a military career. Irene was just comfortable with the type of people who joined because she had been raised around them.

(—Volume 13-called-Prequel-1, p. 285)

Rayford and Kitty have not yet been on a date—they had just met three weeks ago; p. 284—and so Rayford and Irene make a date to attend an ROTC dance. They agree in advance to meet at the dance. He does not actually know where she lives, and she does not volunteer the information.

They linger for about ninety minutes. It is a long, awkward, and stilted ordeal between a quiet girl and a poor dancer. Irene does not dance with anyone other than Rayford, and no man asks her. Rayford wonders if it is because he is “so physically imposing and they appeared to be together.” Perhaps her luck will improve after he leaves. When Irene releases him to go meet Kitty, both appear relieved. But to his chagrin Rayford watches Irene leave alone. He realizes she really was there only to be with him (pp. 287-288).

Compared to Kitty, Irene is “plain.” But she looks nice with makeup. Irene also is trim, athletic, smart, funny, and warm (p. 305). Their date may have been undignified, but as friends they become comfortable enough to talk about anything. “In some ways, the provincial Irene reminded Ray of his own mother.” She is a put-your-feet-up kind of gal, like himself. She calls him by his real name. When she does shorten it, it is “Rafe,” a name that is unique to the two of them. She has depth. Because she has lived in so many places, she has learned a lot about people. “And because of the loss of her father, a soberness deep within her seemed to give her earthy values” (pp. 295-296).

Irene is the first outsider to discern that Rayford does not like Kitty, whom he claims to love. Rayford shrugs and says he is not going to find anyone better than Kitty. Irene protests and lists his accomplishments. Rayford asks, has he been bragging? Irene shrugs: perhaps. That is why she noticed when he sells himself short now (p. 296).

One day Irene thoughtfully brings Rayford a cookie and a cup of coffee, done the way he likes it. He realizes that Kitty has never done anything nurturing for him, not even little things like this (p. 298). They both fetch coffee for each other as needed (pp. 302, 324).

Rayford first realizes he has feelings for Irene when he becomes “obsessed” with her date with ROTC Commander Bodil Olsson. Rayford claims he thinks of her as a sister, and he does not want to see her get hurt. Olsson may be an upstanding officer, but he is twice-divorced and twice Irene’s age. “Good grief, she was probably a virgin. No wonder the poor thing was susceptible to an older man’s attention.” Bodil and Irene “have no business” with each other, Rayford thinks (p. 305).

This bothers Rayford so much that he looks up the military regulations (p. 306). Alas, Irene is a civilian. Her scholarship came from her father’s service; she herself has no plans to join the military. She can do what she wants. Rayford realizes that he has never seen her date anyone. He has never heard her speak of boyfriends from her past. He has never seen her wear makeup—until now. And now he is “driving himself nuts,” worrying that one date could lead to marriage.

Rayford does not realize how much he is preoccupied with Irene until he mentions it to Kitty. Kitty replies, “Hey, good for her.” After all, who else would have “Dowdy Irene”? (p. 306). Rayford reflexively thinks that “anything that looked good from Kitty’s perspective had problems written all over it” (p. 307).

Spoiler: How does Rayford and Kitty’s relationship end?

Answer: Kitty takes Rayford to shop for rings (pp. 307-316). She informs him that she already has ordered her wedding dress and chosen her bridesmaids. Her father and stepfather will share the expense of the dress. As for the date, she has it narrowed down to summer.

The sales clerk knows Kitty by name and has seen pictures of her wedding dress (the better to select a matching ring set, of course). Rayford realizes that the cheapest diamonds in the marquise category cost triple the amount he anticipated. Unfortunately, Kitty and the clerk have selected a 2.5 carat marquise diamond, for which “Ray” is expected to pay. The horrified groom replies, “That’s half my starting salary if I got a job flying jumbo jets tomorrow,” an event which of course is many years into the future.

Some hours later (and many pages later), Kitty and the clerk have exhausted “Ray” into purchasing the ring at four (4) percent down payment. Kitty offers to make the down payment herself. She says that Rayford can repay her later. “Ray” asks her plainly: “You want to buy your own ring?” Yes, she does (p. 314). Her dad and stepdad can help. Rayford feebly protests that they should buy their own ring. Kitty still agrees.

But when the bill is presented, Kitty makes no move. Rayford makes the crucial down payment. He never kneels, never proposes, and never “asks one of her dads for her hand.” She just puts on the ring and rejoices all the way back to Sorority Row.

Rayford declines to walk her to the door. What about his “reward,” murmurs Kitty. Rayford decides he is too much of a “coward” either to claim “the reward” or to outright refuse it. “All Ray could think of was that he had taken pride in never before having paid for sex. So what, now he was engaged to a high-priced [pause in the text; no dialogue]. There was nothing he wanted less than to sleep with her tonight” (p. 316).

Rayford returns to his dorm and contacts Irene. He confesses to Irene that he has begun praying again (sort of). He admits freely that he prays only for himself. He prays to know whether he should marry Kitty. What answer does he hear? asks Irene. Rayford laughs. “I’m getting nothing! Shouldn’t be surprised. Last time I was in church was when Kitty and I were at my parents’ [house]. They just assumed we would go [to church]. First time in almost two years for me. Kitty said it was her first time since junior high, when some Holy Roller girlfriend talked her into going.” Rayford affects a high-pitched voice and mimics Kitty: “‘Never again, I swear!’” (pp. 296-297).

Irene asks what he thinks an answer from God would be, if he had gotten one. Rayford admits he feels “rotten, like it’s the wrong thing to do and I know better.” Irene wonders, “Maybe that’s what God is. Our conscience.” To Rayford, this makes sense. He does know better. Therefore, he has his answer (p. 298).

This is why, when Rayford asks Kitty if she ever prays, he is repulsed by her answer (pp. 300-301). She does not say anything that reminds him of a conscience.

As for Rayford’s own conscience, he secretly is pleased that Irene and Bodil had an awkward date. He tells Irene that if she will reject her gentleman friend, he will reject Kitty for her (pp. 316-317).

Irene tells Rayford flatly that she will not be a “rebound” fling. She also is not interested in being Rayford’s mother, making him do what he ought to do (p. 329). Rayford must break up with Kitty properly, and then remain single for at least two months (pp. 317, 329, 338). That should give him time to learn both honesty and grown-up behavior.

Irene (p. 339) and Rayford (p. 328) agree that “Kitty never hid who she was.” It was Rayford who pretended that he loved and liked Kitty. Honesty is very important to Irene (pp. 324-329). Irene is so honest that when Rayford says, you have lost respect for me, she cannot deny it. She respects his honest confession. But he wants to tell Kitty, I’m in love with someone else, and Irene considers that tactic dishonest (p. 327).

Rayford visits Kitty the next morning. The tearful Kitty asks if she has done something wrong. Was she too hasty? Whatever she did wrong, she can learn, she says. Will he give her another chance? Rayford tells the truth: he does not want to marry her. Kitty protests, “Where did you think this relationship was going? You think I was sleeping with you for fun?” And why did they plan Rayford’s future if she would not be in it? (pp. 334-335).

They agree that they cannot be friends. “We’ve been way too close for that to ever work,” says Rayford. “This has to be it, and we have to become a memory of something that almost worked” (p. 335). Kitty even returns the ring (p. 336).

Within a week, Katherine-call-me-Kitty Wyley drops out of Purdue University and returns home (p. 338). Three of her four parents call Rayford to tell him exactly what they think of him. To Kitty’s mother and stepfather, Rayford is a “scoundrel.” Only Kitty’s father seems to understand. He had been the one who had an affair and abandoned Kitty’s mother, “probably inflicting upon himself many of the same travails Rayford faced.” Rayford takes it quietly, telling them, “I accept the blame. I handled it all wrong. She’s a wonderful girl, and I wish her only the best.”

“Word soon came from northern Indiana that Kitty Wyley was engaged” (p. 338).

Spoiler: Describe the courtship of Irene [Nameless] and Rayford Steele.

Answer: Irene is true to her word. She makes Rayford wait for two months before he may ask her out on a date. They do socialize now that Rayford no longer has “an obligation,” which is what they call the departed Kitty (pp. 338-339). Other than that, Irene will not allow Rayford to speak poorly of his former girlfriend. Irene reminds him that Kitty never hid who she was, and that Rayford made his own mismatched choices (pp. 338-339).

Rayford decides it is love when he stops seeing Irene as “plain” (p. 305). “What but love could make him see [Irene] in his mind’s eye as prettier even than Kitty?” (p. 330).

Rayford’s undivided attention has some effect upon Irene. She always has a spring in her step now, and she always looks her best. Their first real date goes well (offscreen). Soon they are both deeply in love (p. 339).

But Irene is unapologetically strict about physical contact. The most she will allow are the occasional embrace or a peck on the cheek. She will not even hold his hand. As for sex: not until they are married. They are not planning that until the end of his senior year. And if Rayford is twenty-one when he breaks up with Kitty, then his graduation is another year away. That’s a long time.

As the months pass, the “amorous” Rayford tries to “wear her down, weaken her defenses, make her succumb to her own love and desires” (p. 339). When she refuses, Rayford becomes “sullen.” Finally Irene tells him,

“If this is going to become an issue, I’m going to quit looking forward to being with you.”

“Because I want to love you?”

“There are all kinds of ways to show your love for me, Rayford. Including waiting. We’re going to talk about this, because it’s important to me. And what I care about, you need to care about, or this will never work.”

“Since when did you become a virgin, Irene? I mean, in this day and age? You’re not telling me …”

“I didn’t say I was a virgin. But I can’t say I was ever really in love before either. I just want us to wait. And if you love me—”

“Got it,” he said. At times he still tried to push her, but he soon realized she was resolute.

(—Volume 13-called-Prequel-1, pp. 339-340)

Rayford and Irene give some thought to their life after their wedding. Irene’s mother and new stepfather go through a difficult time in their marriage for an unspecified reason. Rayford wonders if the military life might have had something to do with it. Again he decides to spend as little time as possible in the Air Force (p. 340). Besides, the real money is in civilian commercial piloting, which always has been his ultimate goal.

For her part, Irene considers going back to church when they have children (p. 323).

Spoiler: Describe the wedding of Rayford and Irene Steele.

Answer: In its entirety from page 340: “Because Irene had been a military brat and had never sunk roots anywhere else, she was content to be married in Indiana. They had the wedding in the spring of Rayford’s final year of school, so the crowd at Wayside Chapel [ca. 13 miles from Purdue University] was made up mostly of school and ROTC friends.”

At the wedding Rayford notices the early stages of dementia in his father. Mr. Steele keeps getting lost in the tiny church, and he repeats the same stories. Mrs. Steele bursts into tears. Having parents who are almost seventy years old had been “an embarrassment” when Rayford was young, but now the family has real problems.

“I suppose it would be too much to ask,” [Mrs. Steele] said, “that you help your father sell the tool and die.”

Of all the things to bring up on his wedding day. “Yes, it would be too much,” he said. “I know nothing about the business end. And with me there he would get it into his head that he didn’t have to sell. He would be on me every day to just take it over, and that’s the last thing I want. Mom, if his mind is fading as fast as it appears, you’re going to need me making as much money as I can to help take care of him.”

(—Volume 13-called-Prequel-1, pp. 340-341)

“Rayford could have had no idea how prophetic that was.” Within six months of the wedding, Irene is pregnant and the elder Mr. Steele has to be placed in a memory-care facility. Rayford logs as many hours as he can at the small Air Force installation near Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. The newlyweds do indeed provide “as much of Rayford’s monthly income as he could afford to bridge the gap between the cost and his parents’ insurance” (pp. 345-346).

Spoiler: Why does Rayford feel restless and guilty?

Answer: The elder Steeles make it to their thirtieth wedding anniversary. “What a sad event that turned out to be.” The doctor suspects Alzheimer’s disease (p. 344). Distant relatives who had not attended Rayford’s wedding somehow manage to attend this gathering, “believing they were seeing the last of the elder Mr. Steele as they knew him. Saddest for Rayford was watching his parents sit for the formal photo. He read panic on his mother’s face …. The best photo showed Mr. Steele with a childlike smile of wonder, and Rayford knew he would likely not remember posing for it” (pp. 341-342).

Mrs. Steele begs Rayford to pray for something. From the day they fell in love, Mr. and Mrs. Steele had hoped to celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary. If they live that long, then they will be almost ninety years old. No, he no longer notices or cares, but she cares. It is Mrs. Steele’s last goal in life. It is all she has left of the man she loves. She implores Rayford to pray that his parents will live twenty more years to see that day. “I believe in prayer,” she says. I don’t, thinks Rayford (pp. 341-346).

“It wasn’t that Rayford begrudged helping” his parents. But he and Irene “slog through their days” in a tiny apartment. He feels no closer to obtaining the big house, cars, and “all the other things that made life worth living.” He loves his family, of course, but his life is not yet what he dreamed it could be (p. 346).

As much as he enjoyed his wedding day, his honeymoon, and the birth of his daughter, “the happiest day of his life” is the day Pan-Con Airlines hires him to become a cockpit flight engineer on the 747-200. (He had trained on “the monsters” in the Air Force.) The Steeles have been married for five years. Within a month Rayford is “dreamily, satisfyingly, as deep in debt as he could afford.” Although Irene protests the expense, they both know she loves their first house. “A woman on a mission,” Irene makes a house into a creative, precise, neat, and gorgeous home (pp. 348-349).

But the elder Mrs. Steele deteriorates. The fact that her husband does not recognize her or even acknowledge her crushes her spirit. Worse, Rayford and Irene detect the same symptoms in Mrs. Steele that Mr. Steele had manifested before he was diagnosed.

Rayford’s mother also is placed in the memory-care facility. Rayford finds himself “drowning in the details” of selling his parents’ house, trying to salvage something from the sale of the tool-and-die business, and trying to keep his own family solvent. He actually buys their two best cars after institutionalizing his parents: a sedan for Irene and a BMW convertible for himself. He tells Irene, “Don’t deny me the pleasure of buying you something nice” (pp. 348-349). Although there is “too much month at the end of the money,” he cannot deny himself either.

Though it racked him with guilt, Rayford began wishing his parents would die. He told himself it would be better for them. His father had long since been virtually gone, unaware of his surroundings, enjoying hardly anything resembling quality of life. And his mother was hard on [her husband’s] heels. They would be better off, and so would Rayford and his family.

(—Volume 13-called-Prequel-1, p. 349)

Irene talks about having another child, but Rayford will not hear of it. Their finances are delicate enough as it is. Nevertheless in their eighth year of marriage, Irene has to tell him they are having another baby. Rayford is mollified somewhat when she tells him it is a boy. She has already named him Rayford Junior, nicknamed Raymie (p. 355). Rayford suggests that they purchase a bigger house, but Irene says no. As long as they are providing for Rayford’s parents, they cannot afford it (p. 350).

Spoiler: When does Rayford Steele first start showing gray in his hair?

Answer: Little Chloe is seven years old (p. 350). Irene became pregnant within six months of the marriage (p. 341). Therefore, Rayford and Irene have been married for eight years.

The series tells us repeatedly that Hattie Durham is fifteen (15) years younger than Rayford Steele (Volume 3, pp.154-155; Volume 15-called-Prequel-3, p. 140; etc.). If Hattie the newbie flight attendant cannot be younger than eighteen (18) years old when they meet, then Rayford cannot be younger than thirty-three (33) years old when they meet. However, they meet when the Steeles have been married for “a dozen years” (p. 360), and Rayford is going gray four years before that time. Therefore Rayford is approximately twenty-nine (29) years old when his hair starts to go gray.

Rayford and Irene both like the tips of silver. It makes him look distinguished (p. 350).

Spoiler: In Volume 1 Irene presses Rayford not to drink so much. Name two times in a month that Rayford had too much to drink.

Answer: Both incidents happen during Irene Steele’s second pregnancy. Raymie will be born very soon. Chloe is seven years old (p. 350). Therefore, Rayford and Irene have been married for eight years.

Rayford has just been made a Pan-Con captain. He is getting his finances under a modicum of control. He now welcomes the upcoming birth of his son. He takes pride in his “perfect safety record …. Rayford was proud he had never allowed his love for alcohol to impede his work” (p. 355).

One December afternoon, a snowstorm shuts down O’Hare Airport. Rayford assumes that he will be sent home, so he and a few colleagues drink martinis in the pilots’ lounge. But the snow stops. Planes will fly in half an hour. The other pilots state that they feel fine. Rayford also feels fine. Nevertheless Rayford tells his supervisor, Earl Halliday, that he is grounding himself. He is willing to accept the loss of the day’s pay. Halliday seethes at the short notice. (“Are you sure two martinis are going to have an effect on a big guy like you?”) Rayford holds firm and leaves the premises.

“On Rayford’s way home—confident to drive himself but not to be responsible for hundreds of passengers—he took a call from Earl.” Halliday has decided to pay him for the lost workday. “You did the right thing, Steele, and I’m proud of you. You gave me a headache, but the alternative could have been a nightmare. Good man.”

Irene loves to tell this story. Secretly Rayford is thrilled that she is proud of him (pp. 355-357).

“That was why his brush with infidelity would have flattened her. He could never tell Irene, and he lived with the guilt of it—even though, thankfully, it stopped short of actual adultery—for years.” Two weeks after Rayford grounds himself for drinking, he drinks at Earl Halliday’s Christmas party. “He wasn’t scheduled to fly that night, of course, and knowing he could get a cab home, Rayford did not temper his thirst” (pp. 356-357). The result of this “thirst” is the next spoiler.

Spoiler: Who is Trish the intern? What is Rayford Steele’s connection to her?

Answer: Trish the intern is the Christmas party girl with whom Rayford had a “private necking session” (cf. Volume 1, p. 3.)

Rayford attends Earl Halliday’s Christmas party (pp. 357-359). Irene stays home; she is so pregnant it is making her sick. She tells her husband to go and have a good time.

(Trivia alert: in Volume 1, page 3, Irene is “uncomfortably past her ninth month carrying their surprise tagalong son Ray Jr.” Technically Irene is ten months into her pregnancy. Here in Volume 13-called-Prequel 1, page 357, Irene is described as being “two weeks from delivery” i.e. 8.5 months pregnant with Raymie. Either way, she is great with child, ill, and probably miserable.)

Trish, a beautiful young intern in Earl’s office, flirts with Rayford all evening. They regularly notice each other at work, and she has always smiled at him.

Rayford is not “the type to dance on tables, but he sensed himself getting louder and friendlier as the night wore on.” Tonight, Trish’s boyfriend is out of town. She keeps saying that she “would love to get Rayford alone.” When she says it “one too many times,” Rayford says, “You’d better quit advertising if you’re not selling.” Trish replies, “Oh, I’m selling, if you’re buying.” She grabs Rayford’s hand and leads him into a secluded closet.

Five minutes later, after some heavy necking, Rayford pulled away. “I’m not going to do this.”

“Oh come on, Captain, I won’t tell.”

“Neither would I, but I would know. And I’d like to be able to face myself tomorrow. Irene is—”

“I know,” she said. “Go home to your pregnant wife. There are more where you came from.”

(—Volume 13-called-Prequel-1, pp. 357-358)

Two days later they discuss it at work. Rayford, “racked by a guilt he would never fully shed,” dreads the encounter. But Trish apologizes.

“Don’t give it another thought,” said Rayford. “We were both drunk.”

“Not as drunk as I got later, thinking about my boyfriend. He’s about to pop the question, and I feel terrible.”

“Imagine how I feel, Trish.”

“Forgive me,” she said.

“It never happened,” he said.

But it happened over and over in his mind for the next several years. The pangs hit him at the strangest times. It might be when he was frolicking with Raymie or playing with Chloe or just talking with Irene. At times he felt such a compulsion to confess to his wife that he had to find other things to distract himself.

Nothing had really happened, and while it had been stupid and would have infuriated him if it had been Irene with some guy, he knew telling her would only hurt her and that nothing positive could come of it besides getting it off his conscience. Trish had long since left the airline, married, and moved away.

(—Volume 13-called-Prequel-1, pp. 358-359)

Rayford’s only consolation is that his church does not make him feel guilty. They are inspirational, friendly, and generic. He never feels like “a worthless sinner” with them. “No wonder people enjoyed going there” (p. 359).

Spoiler (Volume 13-called-Prequel-1): Who are Viviana Ivinsova [Viv Ivins] and Marilena Titi Carpathia? What is their connection to each other?

Answer: Viv Ivins is a thirty-something Russian émigré to Bucharest (p. 3). She teaches a self-help workshop that invites students to use the occult to solve their problems. She is drawn to Marilena Carpathia, a new student.

Marilena has a companionate marriage with Sorin Carpathia. She is “reasonably” happy. She loves books, and he is so smart that he is “a god” to her (p. 6). Viv asks how happy Marilena can be in a sexless, loveless, childless marriage (pp. 1-11).

Somehow Viv becomes part of Marilena’s life. When Marilena insists she saw a car run over a little girl—but no one else sees it—Viv interprets it as a vision that Marilena wants a child (pp. 22-23, 92-94; 96-100, etc.). When Marilena’s husband abandons her for another man (pp. 71-73), Viv comforts her. When Sorin refuses to give her a baby as a parting gift (pp. 90-91, 93), Viv suggests sperm donation (p. 115). When Marilena wonders how she can support a child without a husband, an income, or a home, Viv announces she has wealthy friends (p. 138) who own real estate (p. 110). Viv even moves in with her to help her raise the child (pp. 147, 151, etc.)

This approach would alienate other women, but it is what Marilena knows. Marilena has a history of idolizing her teachers and letting them run her life for her. Sorin Carpathia was Marilena’s favorite college professor, and she was his Teacher’s Pet (p. 6).

Spoiler: How did Nicolae Jetty Carpathia get his name?

Answer: Nicolae’s surname is Carpathia because his legal father Sorin’s surname is Carpathia (pp. 1, 91, 94). Marilena admits she would be embarrassed to have a child under her maiden name. Sorin ponders whether she should sign a contract “to abandon [the Carpathia] name should the child ever do anything to embarrass me.” As a college professor, he is concerned about his reputation (p. 91).

[Trivia alert: If Marilena Titi Carpathia had been single when she gave birth, her son would have been named Nicolae Titi; as in, “Nicolaitans.” See Rev. 2:6.]

Marilena’s handlers—who turn out to be Satanists—inform her that the child is to be named Nicolae “because it means ‘victory of the people’ and was thus prophesied” (pp. 105, 130). At minimum, it is predicted in the sense that the bills are paid by Jonathan Stonagal (pp. 181-183, 253, 352-353)—and Stonagal named the enterprise “Project People’s Victory” (pp. 58, 69).

Marilena chooses the middle name “Jetty” because her son was born on a jet-black night (pp. 154, 157-158).

Thus the Antichrist, the rival to Jesus Christ (“JC”), has the initials “NJC”. On the night Jesus was born, the angels filled the skies with glory and song (Luke 2:13). On the night Nicolae was born, his mother had never felt a more ominous silence, had never seen a darker night than this.

Spoiler: Is it true that Nicolae has two daddies?

Answer: It is true. Nicolae Jetty Carpathia has three biological parents (pp. 115, 137, 252). Viv Ivins finds a sperm bank that can splice the sperm of multiple men. Viv reassures Marilena that the sample is “not likely [to have] more than two” contributors. “Don’t thumb your nose at science, dear. Imagine [your child] having the best physical traits from one donor and the best intellectual traits from another” (pp. 115, 252).

Marilena’s handlers know that she is “so grateful that she will not be contributing to the child’s appearance” (p. 254). They show her a computer-generated image of what her son might look like. The picture shows a “more than gorgeous … blonde with a square jaw, perfect teeth, and piercing blue eyes” (p. 137). As an adult, Nicolae Carpathia will be described as “handsome as a young Robert Redford” (Volume 1, p. 232). The actor Robert Redford had intense blue eyes and strawberry-blonde hair.

But Nicolae’s three parents are:

1. a black-haired woman with a thick and plain frame; a “dowdy” thing who looks like “a domestic working woman rather than a professional” (pp. 1-2; 60, cf. p. 254);
2. a “strange-looking,” short, wiry, red-haired man with male-pattern baldness (pp. 1, 6); and,
3. a “tall, dashing blonde” with fair skin and aging freckles (p. 20, 252).

Baby Nicky is blonde with olive skin (p. 160). Aside from hair color, Nicolae does not look much like any of his biological parents.

For further proof, Marilena does not recognize the face of the fathers in the computer-generated image, or in the face of her son. Unbeknownst to Marilena, she already knows all of the sperm donors. She would have recognized them if Nicolae looked like them.

As an aside, the sperm sample in question cost approximately ten million U.S. dollars (p. 138).

Spoiler: Are we certain that Nicolae has three parents rather than two?

Answer: Marilena herself asks this question. At first, she asks only if Nicolae will be her son, or “will he belong to” the Project (p. 138). They respond that her son will be her son until he attains twenty-one years of age (p. 139). That doesn’t truly answer her question.

Marilena’s handlers tell her that she “would be impregnated at the optimum opportunity during her reproductive cycle” (p. 137). The first attempt works (p. 145). She is content and stops asking.

But when her child attacks her, Marilena’s doubts revive. “Was it possible her own son had never connected with her, never returned her affection, because he was not hers at all? Was he merely a product of the spirit world—a pseudo cheap imitation of the Christians’ Incarnation—and not flesh of her own flesh? She could not accept it, not abide it. She was bonded to Nicky as if he were part of her—an organ, a limb, an extension of herself” (p. 256).

That is to say, Jesus was Incarnate of the Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary (Matt. 1:18-25; Luke 1:31-35). Jesus had no biological father. Marilena—and the Gentle Browser—must ask if Nicolae has no genetic mother. Did the Project contribute hybrid sperm which joined with Marilena’s egg? Or did they implant a mutant zygote which never needed an egg? That is the question for which Marilena seeks an answer.

When Marilena is abandoned in the Cluj cottage, she examines the files that Viv Ivins and the Satanists have withheld from her. One document states: The carrier of the chosen child must be bright, well-read, and at least agnostic, if not one of us. According to the spirits, the looks may come from your lover, but the intellect must come from you and whomever you choose to bear the child (p. 252) [emphasis added by your host the poster].

This is the closest thing we have to evidence. Page 252 suggests that Nicolae has three biological parents. The Satanists wanted an intelligent mother who would contribute her genetic predisposition toward producing intelligent children. It also explains why they persisted with Marilena—who refused to give her heart either to God or to Satan (p. 142)—when the Project had “countless other candidates” (p. 139) who might be ordinary but would be more loyal and cooperative.

Spoiler: Who is Star Diamond? What is Nicolae’s connection to him?

Answer: Star Diamond is Nicolae Carpathia’s first pony (p. 167) or horse (p. 251, 267, 269).

When Nicky is five years old (p. 167), he reads a book of short stories about a girl who had her own horse. He badgers and badgers until Viv Ivins buys him a pony. Marilena yields, on the condition that she can obtain riding lessons for her son. He refuses. “[Marilena] watched in horror as he entered the makeshift corral and the animal stiffened and backed away. Nicky stood in front of the pony and spoke to it. ‘Your name is Star Diamond, and I am going to ride you.’” Within minutes, he does exactly that.

In fact Nicky proves to be a very competent owner. He reads everything he can find about horsemanship. He looks as if he had been born in the saddle. Marilena describes him as “a five-year-old teenager” (p. 167). That is, his years do not reflect his advanced abilities. He even appears to have diligently mucked out the stall.

Four year later, when “Aunt” Viv removes nine-year-old Nicolae from Marilena’s custody, Marilena finds herself stranded in the Cluj wilderness with only Star Diamond for company (p.251). Marilena is under the impression that they might visit in a week. “Was the horse now her responsibility? She hadn’t thought of that. She had never mucked out a stall and wondered how cruel it would be to leave Star Diamond wallowing in his own waste for a week. But why should he have it any easier than she? And what made her think it would only be a week?” Marilena is very ill. None of these things are the innocent horse’s fault. When she can, she will find a shovel and do her duty.

When a stranger arrives unannounced, Marilena realizes that her life is in imminent danger. She turns to Star Diamond (p. 267). She clumsily gets a bridle on him but lacks the strength to lift the saddle. She crawls onto his bare back and tries to ride him. He is curious but willing.

But the new doctor appears in the stable doorway. Star Diamond stiffens. At Marilena’s urging, the horse stamps and tries to move out. The man steps in front of him and orders Stea Diamant to Whoa and halt. This stranger should not know his name. “The horse clearly was spooked but seemed to look to the man for instruction” (pp. 268-269).

Marilena yanks at the reins, “trying to get the horse to move, to rear, to buck, to do anything. She would rather die being thrown against the barn wall than be captured by this pretender.” But Star Diamond is not the kind of horse to throw her or trample him. Marilena half-dismounts, half-falls off the horse and feebly runs for her life (p. 269).

When Viv Ivins informs Nicky that they will be moving to Bucharest, he “will have none of it.” What about Star Diamond? Viv shrugs: he can get another horse someday. No, says the boy. Nicky wants him. If the only way they can keep the horse is to stay in the cottage in Cluj, then that is what Nicky intends to do. “For some reason, people did what he wanted.” And that is what they do now (p. 277).

At eighteen, “Nick Carpathia” is ready to attend the University of Romania at Bucharest. But he will not be staying in a dormitory. “I want to stay at the InterContinental. And I want Star Diamond boarded as close by as possible” (p. 349). He does not care that the cost of his wishes will be exorbitant. Viv Ivins apparently has been put on earth to do Nick’s bidding (p. 350).

The horse/pony Star Diamond could not have been younger than a yearling when Viv Ivins purchased him. (He probably is older. A horse is considered an adult at four to six years old.) “Nicky” is five years old when he gets his horsie, and Nicolae will be over forty years old at the Glorious Appearing. Therefore Star Diamond is not one of the horses that Jesus Christ melted to death (Raiders of the Lost Ark-style) in Volume 12 (pp. 273-274). Star Diamond would have had to be a minimum of 36 years old, and horses usually do not live that long. We never do learn what happened either to Star Diamond or to the “huge” horse that Nicolae Carpathia was riding at the Glorious Appearing. The text is very specific that Jesus Christ did not melt either Carpathia’s or Fortunado’s horses (Volume 12, pp. 274, 277, 285-286).

Spoiler: Name five normal things about young Nicolae Jetty Carpathia.

Answer: That many?

• He learns to walk and talk at the average age for these milestones (p. 160). It is only after he can speak that he learns languages, etc., at an accelerated rate (p. 166).

• His mother loves him very much (p. 172).

• His mother reads to him every night and sings to him (pp. 159, 165-166).

• He is endlessly curious. At five years old he becomes fascinated by nature: dirt, roots, bugs, and small animals (p. 166). He loves to play soccer, to hike and climb in the mountains, and to ski (pp. 168-169). At the country art fairs, he asks how people make things and what they do with them (p. 169).

• He has a normal puberty in the sense that most children have the puberty that is normal for them. In Rayford’s case, it is embarrassing but normal to have growth spurts, acne, and a defensive and obnoxious attitude. In Nicky’s case, it is normal that he grows gracefully, always in proportion, and never experiences facial blemishes on his “glowing” skin (p. 349).

Spoiler: Name five things about young Nicolae Jetty Carpathia that are unpraiseworthy but normal (or at least realistic, unsurprising).

Answer: Only five?

• Nicky is a docile child when he gets his way, but his temper is truly explosive (pp. 157-160, 166).

• He got that temper because he is spoiled by Viv Ivins and her allies. Of course he acts presumptuous and entitled. He eats what he wants, disobeys when he wants, and speaks disrespectfully even to “Aunt” Viv, his favorite (pp. 166-167).

• He asks his mother about their religion (pp. 199-203). Unfortunately their religion is devil worship. It is one of the only times he truly listens to her.

• He thinks he can become Teacher’s Pet by being a notorious tattletale (p. 217).

• Teacher adds that Nicky is so obsessed with winning that it becomes no fun for his teammates. He encourages and cajoles—but he also badgers and belittles. He plays children against each other. The other children do what he says, just to get him to stop (p. 218).

Spoiler: Name five abnormal things about young Nicolae Jetty Carpathia.

Answer: Just five?

• Nicolae Jetty Carpathia never moves in the womb, at all (pp. 105, 146-147, 150-152, 154-155, 157). The OB/GYN explains various reasons a baby might not move: “paralysis; retardation; brain dysfunction.” Viv Ivins says she “was told” the baby would not move; there is no need to worry. Marilena believes her OB/GYN. Viv replies, “Ye of little faith.” Although the baby never moves, “Marilena felt tiny protrusions here and there. Only occasionally did they feel normal, as if she could make out his position and form. Most of the time it seemed she detected too many bones, too many limbs, and good grief, sometimes what felt like two heads. What if she was carrying a monster?” (p. 148). She has a painful delivery. At the instant Nicolae emerges from Marilena’s body, Viv Ivins kills (sacrifices) a mouse. The baby squalls and moves normally (pp. 156-157).

• Teacher calls Nicolae a “pathologically manipulative” nine-year-old (p. 216). As an example, Nicky recently tampered with a school election. The teacher had nominated a different boy and a girl to run for Class President (to prevent Nicolae from being one of the candidates). Nicky promptly became the girl’s campaign manager. Somehow she won unanimously. Even the opponent voted for the girl. Next, the girl chose Nicolae as her vice president. The girl then resigned from office. (“She said she realized she would be better as a helper than a leader.”) Nicky is now class president. Why did the candidates do what they did? asks Marilena. Answer: Nicky promised that the losing candidate would be vice president. Nicky kept that promise. As for the girl, she gets to be Nicky’s girlfriend (pp. 216-217). Marilena winces at the prospect of having to give her son The Talk About Girls (p. 223). It never happens. The next day is the day that Marilena’s handlers move against her.

• Nicky never loved his mother. His mother does not suspect this—she knows this (pp. 172, 256). Even as an infant, he stiffened and pulled away from his mother’s touch, resisting all contact other than nursing.

• In fact, nine-year-old Nicky devises the plan for her death and sets it in motion (p. 260). Even Viv Ivins admits she will miss Marilena a little (p. 276). Nicky replies, “Good. At least someone will.” Viv tells Nicky that his mother loved him. He shrugs. “Everybody does” (p. 276).

• Nicky knows that Marilena’s doctor has died at the Cluj cottage. He can sense the death before anyone tells him. He knows that his mother killed the doctor. “Excellent,” he says (p. 279).

• When Nicolae is twenty-four (p. 374), a robed and hooded “spirit” manifests on his rooftop at night. Nicolae awakens, points a Glock, and is transported (unarmed and in pajamas) to a desolate wasteland. He loses the creature comforts of his spoiled life. He notices the heat of the day, the bone-chill of the night, every crawling second, the howling of wild beasts, hunger, fear, darkness. He would walk home, but he does not know the way (pp. 370-371). His hair and beard grow. He becomes bony, his teeth filmy. He screams for hours. He curls up in fetal position. He cannot keep track of the days. Filthy and miserable, he surrenders to his fate. He has had a good run. But he is important! He doesn’t deserve this (pp. 373-374). After 40 days in the wilderness, the entity returns to test him (pp. 376-379). Nicolae accepts the temptations that Jesus rejected (Matt. 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13). When he opens his eyes, Nicolae is back home, in bed, still filthy. Viv Ivins summons a cook, a barber, and other staff to attend him (p. 380).

Spoiler: How do Nicolae Jetty Carpathia’s parents die?

Answer: Marilena tells her son (now nine years old) to fasten his car seat-belt. He refuses. They get into a shoving match and swear at each other. Nicolae bites her forearm so ferociously as to require fourteen stitches (pp. 222-228). Their handler “Aunt” Viv Ivins scolds Marilena and declares that she is taking custody of the boy. Viv leaves with Nicolae, never to return.

As Marilena’s condition deteriorates, she breaks into Viv Ivins’ bedroom and reads the files that the Satanists had collected on her. Among other surprises, Marilena learns that the conspirators were grooming her for at least three years before she even met Viv Ivins (p. 9, cf. p. 254). The words “vessel” and “expendable” convince Marilena that she was provoked into fighting with her son so that her doctor could poison her (pp. 250-256, 259, 262, 265, 271-273). She shoots the doctor, but not in time to save her own life (p. 279).

Marilena remembers hearing voices from someone other than Satan and his followers, but she thought it was “megalomania. Only someone thoroughly insane would believe that God and Lucifer were competing for her soul” (p. 108). She remembers when three British college students came to her door as missionaries (pp. 120-125). She found them cheerful and engaging, and she spent hours with them enjoying the debate as an exercise. At the time she had said, “No, not tonight.”

But the voices in her head had persisted (p. 127). She had challenged the God of the Bible to “show Yourself. Do something. Compete.” Instead, God kept telling her what she should do: resist the devil and he will flee from you (p. 127). Marilena finally told the “still, small voice” to leave her alone. “And Marilena got her wish. Silence. Blessed silence” (p. 143). She had never heard from God since.

Marilena frantically calls for a taxicab (pp. 241, 258, 260-261), a church (p. 245), her ex-husband (p. 246), and a doctor (p. 263). All of these options somehow go wrong. She even a calls for a God Who might answer a Sinner’s Prayer (pp. 243-244, 261, 263). “If the dark side of the spirit world was real, then God was real. And if God was real, how could He ignore such a request?” She has made a cry of the heart before, although not in Sinner’s Prayer form (p. 119). She felt and heard nothing then. She feels and hears nothing now.

As Marilena is dying, she again calls the Christ Church (pp. 256-257) but only reaches the answering machine. Marilena prays and begs the Christian God to save her (pp. 243-245, 274). Fade to black.

When Nicolae is told that his mother has died, he shrugs and tells Viv to make him breakfast (p. 276).

(Trivia alert: In Volume 7, Nicolae’s childhood is falsified for public consumption. A video montage purports to show him at his fifth birthday party and later “hugging his parents at high school graduation” [Volume 7, p. 328]. Neither event happened. Sorin Carpathia left Marilena. Marilena acquired her baby via sperm donation. Marilena and “Aunt” Viv brought up Nicolae with no participation of either a father or a father-figure. No family parties are mentioned; Marilena always thought Viv was too indulgent. [Viv bought him a pony.] Also, as just mentioned, Marilena was murdered a decade before the purported graduation.)

When Nicolae is nineteen, he demands to learn the identity of his sperm-donor father (p. 351). The fictional Antichrist never knew until now that he has two biological fathers. They are a homosexual couple who deceived Marilena to become their unsuspecting rent-a-womb. Their sperm had been spliced through experimental genetic engineering (pp. 115, 253). They are Sorin Carpathia (Marilena’s husband) and Baduna Marius (Sorin’s husband; pp. 148, 247, 252). Nicolae is blasé about having two biological fathers, but he is displeased that the Satanists have paid them a lavish pension for two decades. He gives orders that his fathers shall be killed immediately (p. 352). Fade to black.

Spoiler: Why are there more spoilers about Rayford’s world and fewer spoilers about Nicolae’s world?

Answer: The Gentle Browser is most perceptive. About two-thirds of the novel describes Team Antichrist. Only one-third of the novel describes Team Rayford. The spoilers in this post do not reflect that balance.

There are two theories behind this imbalance:

Theory #1: the Team Rayford chapters tend toward biographical fiction. The Team Antichrist chapters tend toward psychological thriller; i.e., Marilena Titi Carpathia is gaslighted slowly and inexorably until she realizes she is in way over her head. These are very different genres. One of these genres is a lot easier to write up as spoilers.

Theory #2: it creepeth us out.

Spoiler: How does Irene [Nameless] Steele get saved?

Answer: Irene [Nameless] grew up as an “army brat.” She lived in army bases all over the world until her father was killed in combat (p. 285). The unspoken but obvious corollary is that Irene did not grow up under the guidance of one particular church, one denomination, one congregation, one Sunday School teacher, or one pastor. Her church life would have been as nomadic as her home life.

Irene tells Rayford, “I don’t pray anymore. I miss it …. [I used to go to church.] Raised that way. Never seemed to work for me, though. I prayed and prayed for stuff that never happened. I don’t know. Maybe they were selfish prayers” (p. 297).

Irene lost her little brother. [Nameless Nameless] was born with spina bifida cystica—“the bad kind. Myelomeningocele.” It was unfair. What did he ever do to deserve that? “I prayed—and I mean prayed hard—that he would be healed. Some victims live to young adulthood. He died before he was ten” (p. 297).

Then Irene’s father was killed.

“Guess I should have prayed harder for my dad too. When he went into combat it seemed we prayed all the time. At the base church they prayed for all the people who were over there, but nobody seemed to mention that it worked for some and not for others. When moms and dads and sons and daughters came back, people would say their prayers were answered. But when soldiers came back in boxes, nobody said their prayers WEREN’T answered. That’s how I felt.

“My mom couldn’t drag me back to church after my dad’s funeral. And I haven’t prayed since.”

[Rayford:] “But you miss it?”

She nodded. “Don’t know why. I never got any answers, but I have to say it seemed like when I prayed, I was sort of communicating with God. I couldn’t hear him, and nothing ever worked out the way I asked. But sometimes it felt like He was there and listening.”

(—Volume 13-called-Prequel-1, pp. 297-298)

As Irene and Rayford talk about Rayford’s dilemma, Irene wonders if God has been trying to tell Rayford what she has been trying to tell Rayford—and what Rayford’s conscience has been trying to tell him. Irene suggests, “Maybe that’s what God is. Our conscience” (p. 298).

Rayford thinks about this. He asks, “So, you don’t believe in God anymore?”

Irene pauses. “I still believe in Him, I think. Of course I do. I’m just not sure I like Him much. I sure don’t trust Him” (p. 299).

One day Irene wears makeup to the ROTC drills. Rayford is thrown, taken aback. The ROTC commander teases her about having a date. She simply smirks. Irene tells Rayford that she is “trying to impress someone.” She refuses to name the man. Rayford sniffs that maybe it is Cadet Janie. Irene replies, “I’m not gay and you know it.” Her date is with the twice-divorced ROTC Commander himself. Bodil Olsson asked. She accepted. Apparently he is interested in her. She blushes at the thought (pp. 301-304).

Irene soon finds herself red-faced for a very different reason. She tells Rayford all about it. Bodil Olsson took her to a fine restaurant. He was chivalrous in the sense of holding doors and pulling out chairs. But in terms of conversation? “Bottom line: it was like church,” she groans. “He kind of grossed me out, really. First, he said I should not be alarmed—because even though this was a real date, he wasn’t looking for a wife” (p. 319). Irene had replied that at his age, she sees him as a father figure. Bodil Olsson had appeared “crestfallen” (p. 320).

Rayford crows, “So he really was looking for a wife?” Irene felt badly about it—but that quickly changed. Bodil told Irene that he dares not seek even a potential relationship. “I don’t believe I’m free to marry again as long as my former wives are still alive” (p. 320).

Irene winces that “he did everything short of having me sign a paper, stipulating that our evening was going to be totally civilian in nature and that nothing he said or did should be construed as ROTC or military related.” She tells him to his face that “you’re creeping me out” (p. 320). He laughs and apologizes. The truth is that Bodil only invited her to dinner to witness to her (pp. 321-323). He cannot do that in any official capacity.

Irene does make note of his story. Last year, a man on a street corner had given him a leaflet which changed his life. He read it, found a Bible, looked up the Bible verses, and got saved. It sounded Baptist to her, all this emphasis on getting saved. Rayford asks, does the Commander think he is a chaplain now? Irene replies that Bodil Olsson indeed plans to become a chaplain. So he was trying to get Irene saved? Yes, he was.

Irene says she would consider religion again if she ever got married and had children. “I can’t imagine raising kids without church in their lives. It at least makes you think about being a better person” (p. 323). But this is not that day.

“I told [Bodil] that God and I had some deep problems because of my brother and my dad. He tried to tell me that God knew what it meant to have a family member die. That was kind of creative. But I always thought if that whole Jesus-on-the-cross thing was true, that was God’s choice, right? And He raised His Son from the dead after that. No such luck for me with my dad.

“The commander told me I should talk to God about it. I told him I had done that till I was sick of it. He said God could take it and that I should be honest with Him, tell Him I disagreed with Him, hated Him, whatever I felt. Have to admit I hadn’t heard that one before.”

(—Volume 13-called-Prequel-1, p. 323)

Since Irene has no home church, she is content to marry at Wayside Chapel (p. 340). [Trivia alert: it is not Rayford’s church either. They choose it because Rayford has led his parents to think that Rayford attends that church; pp. 323-324.].

After Chloe is born, Irene selects a church for her family. “All I’ve learned is that I don’t know so much,” admits Irene. “I miss the best things about it, and I told you years ago that I didn’t want to raise a child without religion in her life” (pp. 323, 347). Irene picks a big church where Rayford can get lost in the crowd and slip out afterwards if he wishes. And Irene is pleased enough.

But when Irene is close to delivering Raymie—after her husband’s incident with Trish the intern—Irene grows restless. “There has to be more,” she keeps saying. She used to feel connected to God when she was little, until He didn’t answer her prayers. Rayford is cautious. He does not want to become “some fundamentalist or literalist or whatever they call those people who talk to God every day and think He talks to them too” Irene does not want to be called names, but otherwise she thinks that sounds great (p. 359).

When Raymie is in prekindergarten, Irene’s restlessness is noticed. Irene has been fighting “to inject deeper meaning” into her family’s lives. All she has gotten for her trouble is a life of sleep deprivation. Rayford is bored by family picnics or family walks. He does well enough with the children, but his days off tend toward golf and television. She always knew he would travel for a living. He had never hidden his materialistic streak (p. 371). Maybe this was life.

Carpathia’s forty days are written as if simultaneous with Irene’s forty days. One day another young mother named Jackie asks Irene if she is happy with her church. Is she very involved with it? Well, they are “big … lots of stuff for the kids … have outings for the men: golf, fishing tournament, a [Chicago] Bears game … women’s circle collecting stuff for inner-city moms.” Jackie offers that if Irene is unhappy—if she wants something more or different—she is invited to New Hope Village (Jackie’s church). It is “smallish, just a couple of hundred people. Nondenominational. Just a bunch of born-again Christians trying to get other people to heaven.” Irene sighs. Jackie sounds Baptist (pp. 372-373).

Irene declines the offer. “Jackie seemed to relax, as if she had fulfilled an obligation and could get back to being a friend.” Jackie chatters on about her peace of mind, reason for living, purpose, where she is going …. But she doesn’t expect Irene to answer, and Irene does not ask, “despite the fact that she was dying for her own answers to those very questions” (p. 373).

Irene and Jackie have been acquaintances for a year. Now Irene endures her own forty days of spiritual trial in the city park and marriage-wilderness. Jackie brings up the subject every day, and Irene’s “politeness” seems to encourage her. “It wasn’t good enough for [Jackie and her church] that you were a Christian and a churchgoer. You had to be their kind of believer. Next thing you knew, you’d be rolling in the aisles, speaking in tongues, and getting healed” (p. 374).

Jackie asks if Irene’s church really teaches salvation. Irene replies, “We’re going to church because we believe in God and want to go to Heaven.” Jackie protests, “But that’s not how you qualify for heaven. It’s not something you earn. It’s a gift.”

Irene will not admit it to Jackie, but “the fact was that Irene’s church did not emphasize salvation. It was assumed they were all Christians, all on their way to heaven, all doing the best they could in the modern world.” Irene does not feel it offers “something deeper, something more personal, a way to connect with God.” Irene is torn. She wants to hear more. But if she asks, “she could imagine the floodgate of sermonizing” that would follow (p. 375).

Jackie finally asks, “If I promise to never bring this up again unless you ask me to, can I just give you a piece of literature and leave it at that?” Irene is moved at Jackie’s new approach. Is it pride that keeps Irene from blurting out her questions? She cautiously accepts the brochure. Late that night, she reads it (pp. 375-377).

“Irene felt unworthy. The idea that she had been born in sin, was a sinner, had always repulsed her. Now it seemed to reach her. Something deep within told her it was unfair to hold against God what had become of her brother and her dad. If what the Bible said about her was true, did she deserve any better? In fact, she deserved worse. She deserved death.” The Bible verses reach her: John 1:10-12, Acts 16:31, and unspecified others (pp. 377-378).

Silently Irene weeps. She reads the brochure again. Could it really be this easy? “Confess to God that you are a sinner. Ask Him to forgive you. Receive His gift of salvation through the death of Christ on the cross. And then you are saved?” Irene is smart enough not to be swayed solely by emotion, but something is happening to her. She kneels and prays. She does not care if Rayford or her children walk in on her.

“God,” she says aloud, “I know I’m a sinner and need Your forgiveness and Your salvation. I receive Christ” (p. 379). Fade to white.

Spoiler: How does Rayford Steele meet Hattie Durham?

Answer: In its entirety from Volume-13-called-Prequel-1, page 361:

The only other newbie on the [Pan-Con 747-400] crew was a young flight attendant named Hattie Durham, who looked enough like the infamous Trish that Rayford had to once again slug it out with his conscience over the Christmas party fiasco a few years before [i.e., four years ago].

Hattie was introduced to him by his favorite senior flight attendant, Janet Allen. When she sent Hattie back to her chores, Janet whispered, “Just between you and me, Captain, she’s a little ditzy. Ambitious, though, I’ll give her that. Wants my job on an international route.”

[Rayford:] “Think she’ll make it?”

[Janet:] “I’m not sure she knows when we’re in the air or on the ground just yet.”

(—Volume 13-called-Prequel-1, p. 361)

Rayford and Irene have been married for “a dozen years.” Chloe is eleven, and Raymie is three years old (p. 360). Since Chloe is 20 at the time of the Rapture (Volume 1, p. 373), and Raymie is 12 at the time of the Rapture, the math shows that Rayford meets Hattie nine years before the Rapture.

The series tells us repeatedly that Hattie Durham is fifteen (15) years younger than Rayford Steele (Volume 3, pp.154-155; Volume 15-called-Prequel-3, p. 140; etc.). If Hattie the newbie flight attendant cannot be younger than eighteen (18) years old when they meet, then Captain Rayford Steele cannot be younger than thirty-three (33) years old when they meet.

This also means that Hattie Durham cannot be younger than twenty-seven (27) years old at the time of the Rapture. Rayford Steele cannot be younger than forty-two (42) years old at the time of the Rapture.

We later learn (pp. 361-368) that flight attendant Hattie Durham was aboard that Pan-heavy plane which almost crashed at LAX. The day that Rayford almost died is the day that Hattie joins Captain Steele’s crew—that it is the day Rayford and Hattie first met.

{[Almost the] End.}

NOTE: no Discussion Topics post for Volume 13-called-Prequel-1 is prepared or planned at this time.

{End.}

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37. Bonus: L.B., The crook of his neck (special feature on Hattie Durham)

(Because an awful lot happens on a single page of Left Behind, Volume 3, p. 179)

Special feature on Hattie Durham, a character in the Left Behind series

For an Antichrist, Nicolae Carpathia is something of a prude. Here is the “Sexiest Man Alive” (Volume 1, p. 270) who got the job after the reigning SMA shamed the name of People Magazine by trashing a hotel room. (If the real world aspired to the lofty standards of the fictional one, Justin Bieber would have been deported years ago.) And what does the Sexiest Monster Alive do? He who has his choice of beauties from Hollywood, Bollywood, Wellywood, and the Esther-and-Abishag Bureaucratic Beauty Contests selects, of all people, Rayford Steele’s girlfriend. Then, having gotten Hattie Durham pregnant, the Antichrist vanishes and never publicly takes notice of any woman, anywhere, ever again. Henry the Eighth, this tyrant ain’t.

Which leaves Hattie and Rayford spinning their wheels at the Global Bistro. For Hattie this is something of an info-dump, a dizzying rollercoaster of the twists and plunges through her forlorn lost romance. Her retconned “testing” of Nicolae with that televised Public Display of Affection. Her decision not to “force” Nicolae to marry his baby mama. Her contemplating an abortion “every day.” Her heretofore-unmentioned mommy issues—“guess who gave me this crazy name”—and her subsequent anxiety around Amanda (“I don’t recall your first wife being this possessive”).

Rayford’s response to all this—including, incredibly the abortion confession—is to send Hattie to Go Ask Your Mother. Oh, Rayford does have a fleeting holier-than-thou reaction:

Why did he expect Hattie to live like a believer when she was not?

To which Hattie asks Rayford plainly, “Don’t most of you church types consider [Nicolae Carpathia] the Antichrist?” Rayford’s answer? “He decided it was too soon to come clean.” Of course he did. Much as Buck and Chloe Williams fretted in Volume 2 whether to tell Hattie that her boyfriend is the Antichrist and she should leave him—and they chose not to do it. They all do this, despite the fact that Hattie says she has read Buck’s articles and she “likes his writing.” She chose to read Buck’s articles. She is looking for answers. Her self-professed friends are looking for reasons not to tell her. Like the fact that they almost all chose to work for the Antichrist and they don’t want to lose their jobs, for starters.

Here’s one reason they’ve overlooked: if Rayford comes clean, he will be forced to admit that as much as he searches his Bible, he is unable to find any reference to Satan having grandspawn. The sooner Hattie converts, the sooner the God of the series will see-to-Himself to delete this little plot hole. Honestly, though, there isn’t much that Saved Hattie could contribute to the story. There’s little enough for Chloe and Amanda to do as it is. For good or ill, Unsaved Hattie draws readers, and it may be purely coincidental that said readership dropped off somewhat after Volume 9, when Hattie was written out of the series.

Instead, Rayford urges Hattie no less than four times to adopt Amanda as a mother figure and let Mom discipline her. In Rayford’s mind, having his wife and his ex-girlfriend adopt each other is a really good idea. The parenting of women, after all, is a recurrent theme in this series. Buck speaks to Chloe “sternly” in a tone “condescending, even parental” (Volume 2, pp. 193-194). Chloe implores Buck “Don’t parent me” (Volume 4, p. 306).

Granted, the characters are not the only ones who do this. We can find many cultural examples. Deborah Tannen, (You Just Don’t Understand), upon reading the poetry of Cheryl Romney-Brown, invites us to count how many times in television and film an actor/adult man assumes the body language of a parent and the actress/adult woman the body language of a child. (Your host’s personal moment of Whaaat? was Eowellywyn laying her head in the crook of Farfromthebookamir’s neck.)

Hattie responds that she doesn’t need more exasperated, exasperating parents.

“ … You don’t know [Amanda],” Rayford said, “She’s the type who doesn’t even have to like you to love you, if you know what I mean.”

Hattie raised her eyebrows. “What an interesting way to say that,” she said. “I guess that’s the way parents feel about their kids sometimes. My dad once told me that, when I was a rebellious teenager. He said, ‘Hattie, it’s a good thing I love you so much, because I don’t like you at all.’”

The characters did not invent this line either. Psychologists spout this loving-versus-liking line to reassure children that no matter what they do, their parents’ love and care will not stop being a given. Such blithe promises can have unfortunate repercussions. For one thing, it won’t help when children believe, or even know, that it is not true. As Josh Turner might sing, “I might not know what love is, but I know what it ain’t.”

Janet Dight (Do Your Parents Drive You Crazy?) notes that parents are supposed to love their children, but no, they may not like them very much. A macho dad may not like his studious son, or a homemaker her career-focused daughter. You may remind the parent of a relative they dislike. They may feel that your birth trapped them into the life they now live. In Hattie’s case we have no idea why her dad disliked her enough to say it to a child’s face.

Then again, maybe we do. The authors imply that the family breach must be solely Hattie’s doing. Hattie calls herself a “rebellious” teenager, a word almost never used by children because it is so one-sided. One of the first things a writer learns is that almost no one considers themselves to be the bad guy, even when they admit to doing bad things. Also, it is possible for everybody to be the bad guy without anybody being the good guy. Dight’s examples include the stress of having a “saint” as parent. One interviewee complained, “When [Mom] and I had problems, I always assumed, and so did everybody else, that I was at fault. Throughout my childhood, it was my mother, the marvelous human being, versus me, her rotten kid. I didn’t have a chance.” Although we cannot prove it, it is possible that Hattie grew up in a similar situation.

But Hattie also is written as immature. The narrative consistently speaks as if Hattie is much younger than Buck, although they are approximately the same age. Fifteen years ago Hattie was a “rebellious teenager,” so she runs away now (Volume 5, 392, 397), behaves like a “teenager” now (Volume 5, p. 377) and even a “schoolgirl” now (Volume 3, pp. 169, 378). She even prays that way now. (“Hattie quickly entwined her fingers under her chin, like a little girl kneeling at her bedside” –Volume 3, p. 375).

The fact that Hattie clings to people who dislike or mistreat her suggests she also has boundary and abandonment issues. Maybe Hattie, who always has to earn the love of the men around her, originally wanted to have a baby for the same reason immature people have a baby: to have someone who will never leave them and who will love them unconditionally. They don’t always see the work involved or that children don’t always stay with parents. Children don’t always please their parents. Children don’t always love their parents. Hattie herself is proof of these.

There also is the loving-versus-liking issue itself. Much potential for confusion here, because it’s about not just feelings. You love someone, of course you have to like them! You like them, of course you have to love them! At least, that is what they say.

It’s not just the infamous “Nice Guy” who assumes that the obsession he feels for his target is both love and liking and who expects the target to feel the same. (Other people have the right not to fall in love with you.) Many decent people “fall in love” with someone they never would have chosen as a friend. There’s also the good guy and great gal who have no spark together but won’t let go, figuring they can find a way to love the consolation prize. Hattie, for one, is assuredly boundary-challenged.

So if Rayford wants to convert Hattie, he’s wasting his time reviving her mommy issues while dodging the Antichrist issues. (By the way, believing in the Antichrist is not the same as believing in Christ). Many threads in the series suggest that Rayford would have better luck (sort of) to try “father-wound theology”. This strategy urges potential converts to contemplate the failings of their earthly fathers to convince them that their Heavenly Father will treat them better.

Such an approach, like the Left Behind novels themselves, may get a newcomer into a church, but it also shapes their faith to be childish, simplistic, and often fragile. It’s judgmental. It holds grudges. “Your God is too small.” (Your host believes in a God Who can turn swine into pearls, tares into wheat, and Cain into an ancestor of the Son of David. By the way, did you ever notice how many Gentiles are fine with their personal Lord and Savior being descended from the Bible’s most notorious sinners, but they flip when they realize that they are too?)

Most of all, a “father-wound” foundation can breed a faith that staggers under the weight of the Crucifixion, the Akedah, Job, Noah, Abel, David’s baby, and Uriah. Say, about five seconds after the convert learns to spell “theodicy.” We can filibuster about the difference between the divine Permissive Will versus Ultimate Will until the Last Day, but there are times when it really does take a saint to love God under the circumstances.

It is worth noting that nowhere does the Bible command children to love their parents. They are commanded to honor them. Yet we as children of God have the Great Commandment to “love the LORD your God with all your heart and soul and strength and mind, and thy neighbor as thyself; in these are fulfilled all the Law and the Prophets.” How on earth can we do that? Part of it may be to see the statement as being also a promise and a hope. By any standards—love, like, honor, or trust—being in relationship with God is hard sometimes. But the hard times don’t last forever. And God is more present with us than we realize. Where is God when it hurts? As Pastor Fred Rogers said, “look for the helpers.”

None of this factors into Rayford’s calculations, however. Father-wound strategy won’t necessarily distract Hattie with the failings of Big Daddy Durham. It’s much more likely to open her eyes to the failings of the man who is trying to parent her now, Mr. Rayford Steele. And that just wouldn’t preach.

{End.}

36. Bonus: Volume 7 (L.B. Indwelling) discussion topics: Part 2 of 2

Left Behind: The Indwelling: The Beast takes possession: (Volume 7) discussion topics and study guide, Part 2 of 2

(Added August 2016; split into two parts September 2016)

Reader’s discretion is advised.

(Note: Volume 7 contains multiple references to The Types of Death That People Don’t Talk About. It is possible that members of your Bible study group have been touched by suicide, murder, abortion, the death of children, or combinations thereof, and have never mentioned it to you. Your host would ask that the group be allowed to proceed at their own pace, to skip questions, or to adjourn as desired. Above all, don’t take a survey or play “can you top this?” games. Rather, “be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” [Eph. 4:32].)

(Note 2: If you or someone you know is having intrusive thoughts and feelings like the characters’ thoughts and feelings, your host would urge the Gentle Browser to contact 911 or other first-responder, or a suicide prevention hotline. We are not alone; we live in God’s world. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ saith the LORD, ‘plans to help you and not to harm you, to give you hope and a future’” [Jer. 29:11]. Help is available. You are not alone.)

(Note 3: The spoilers already mentioned this. In Volume 7, Satan is given the fictional power to resurrect the dead in body, soul, and spirit. This plot point could upset the faith of some. Your host would ask that the Gentle Browser prayerfully consider whether your study group is ready or not yet ready for such advanced material.)

For the reasons listed above, Reader discretion is advised.

This concludes our introductory comments.

Discussion topics (Part 2 of 2)

Discussion exercise (optional): Fun with math. How long was Antichrist Carpathia dead, versus how long was Jesus Christ dead?

Antichrist Carpathia is assassinated on a Friday. Sculptor Guy Blod has approximately 29 hours to create the idol, and it has to be finished by Sunday sunrise. (It is.) Let us propose that sunrise is 6 a.m. (0600 hours). Carpathia was scheduled to be buried on a Sunday at 2 p.m. (1400 hours). Instead, Carpathia comes to life between 1330 hours (1:30 p.m.) and 1400 hours (2 p.m.). Tsion has not yet seen the indwelling when he has to abandon his television. Let us propose it was as late as 1359 hours (1:59 p.m.). Therefore Carpathia had been dead for 8 hours (less a minute) from Sunday sunrise. Guy’s deadline adds another 29 hours. Tsion Ben-Judah states that “two hours” after the assassination, GC-CNN news confirms the death. This gives us a total of 39 hours dead, less a minute. Your host calculates that Carpathia died at 11 p.m., on Friday night. (Sources: Volume 7, pp. xii, 65-66, 217, 292, 362, 364-366, 370.) Put it another way: Carpathia is dead for two “darks” and two “brights.” Perhaps the artificial darkness of idol-smoke in the midday sun counts as a “both,” a bright and a dark. Perhaps.

Regarding Jesus, most Christians observe Good Friday, Low Saturday, and Resurrection Sunday. Scripture tells us that Jesus died at 3 p.m. (1500 hours) (Matt. 27:45-50, Mark 15:33-37; Luke 23:44-46). The women went to His tomb to anoint Him. They arrived just before sunrise “on the first day of the week” i.e., Sunday (Matt. 28:1; Mark 16:2, 9; Luke 24:1, John 20:1). Again, let us name 6 a.m. (0600 hours) as sunrise. Since the women arrived just before sunrise, let us propose it was as late as 5:59 a.m. (0559 hours). From Friday at 3 p.m. (1500 hours) to Sunday sunrise at 5:59 a.m. (0559 hours) also is 39 hours, less a minute.

In both cases, the Gentle Browser is invited to check our math. Notice that we have sought the maximum number of hours (39 hours). It could have been less. That’s a bit of a problem, because Jesus said He would be dead for more. Jesus said “three days and three nights” (Matt. 12:40). Three days and three nights is 72 hours, not 39 hours. As a child, your host was told that two “brights” (part of Friday, all of Saturday), plus two “darks” (Fri/Sat overnight, Sat/Sun overnight), plus one “both” (sunrise Sunday) counted as three days and three nights. As a child, your host was told by another teacher that a 24-hour clock running on modern time can be divided into three days and three nights.

As an adult, your host became aware of alternate theories. A small but vocal minority argue that Jesus died on Good Wednesday, not Good Friday. Their argument is:

• The Jewish day runs from sunset to sunset, because “the evening and the morning were the nth day” (Gen. 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31).
• The first month of the Jewish year was called Abib (Exod. 23:15, 34:18; Deut. 16:1).
• Later, that same first month was renamed Nisan (Esth. 3:7).
• The Passover is to be observed on the 14th day of the first month (i.e., Nisan) of the Jewish year (Exod. 12:18; Lev. 23:5; Num. 9:1-3, 28:16).
• The Feast of Unleavened Bread following the Passover is to be observed for seven days (Exod. 12:15, 18, 34:18; Lev. 23:6; Num. 28:17).
• Therefore, The Feast of Unleavened Bread following Passover is to be observed from 15 Nisan through 21 Nisan.
• The lamb is to be slaughtered “in the evening” of the Passover, on 14 Nisan (Exod. 12:6; Deut. 16:2, 6; Mark 14:12; Luke 22:7).
• Jesus was and is the Lamb of God (Exod. 12:5, 46; Numb. 9:12; Psa. 34:20; Isa. 53:7; John 1:29, 13:1, 19:36; Acts 8:32-35; 1 Cor. 5:7; 1 Pet. 1:19; Rev. 5:6, 13:8).
• Most Gentile Christians know only of the weekly Sabbath: the day of rest. In Judaism, that day runs from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset (Gen. 2:2-3, Exod. 20:8-11, 23:12, 34:21; Deut. 5:12-15; Isa. 58:13).
• Most Gentile Christians do not know that there can be more than one Sabbath in a week.
• For example, there are three Sabbaths in Passover week. There is the regular weekly Sabbath (the day of rest). Also, the first day (15 Nisan) and the last day (21 Nisan) of the Feast of Unleavened Bread are High Sabbath days (Exod. 12:16; Lev. 23:7-8, Num. 28:18, 25)
• All four Gospels agree that Jesus was Resurrected on the first day of the week (i.e., Sunday). At that point, the weekly Sabbath day had ended. See Matt. 28:1; Mark 16:2, 9; Luke 24:1, John 20:1.
• John clarified for a Gentile audience that Jesus died before a High Sabbath (John 19:31).
• This “high” Sabbath and Day of Preparation referred to the onset of Passover. It actually was not customary to refer to an ordinary Friday as a capitalized Day of Preparation for an ordinary Sabbath (the day of rest).
• Therefore, Jesus may have died before one Sabbath and was risen after another Sabbath. (This was the first day—“the evening and the morning were the nth day”—of Passover/the Feast of Unleavened Bread.) Jesus definitely was Resurrected after that weekly Sabbath which is the day of rest.
• This gives us 72+ hours in the grave. It is a better fit for Matt. 12:40.
• So three days and three nights before Resurrection Sunday … gives us dead at 3 p.m. on Good Wednesday. (Ta-da!)

In the Left Behind series, there is a hierarchical disputation between the real Christ and the fictional Antichrist. (These are just big words meaning “one-upsmanship.”) Antichrist Carpathia wants to mock everything Jesus Christ did. To mock our Lord, Carpathia duplicates His work. That was why it was so important for Carpathia to be dead for 39 hours, Tsion and Annie’s doubts notwithstanding (pp. xiii, 204).

Unfortunately, Carpathia appears to exceed his rival (in the novels). Carpathia gets embalmed. Our Lord was not embalmed. Carpathia returns from the dead on international television. Our Lord declined to make a show in the skies. There was a show in the skies when Christ was born: two shows, in fact (Matt. 2:1-2, 9-12; Luke 2:8-15). After His Resurrection, our Lord Jesus Christ chose not to reveal Himself to the world. That always has been a stumbling-block for nonbelievers. It takes a leap of faith.

So, did Carpathia exceed Christ? In your host’s opinion, No, of course not. Jesus died and rose again for us and for our salvation. There is no parallel in Carpathia’s motives.

In this optional exercise, research whether Jesus might have died on Good Wednesday. Explore whether it makes a difference to the Left Behind scenario and teachings. (Tsion is called a rabbi; he really should have caught this one.) Also, explore whether it makes a difference to you. Sooner or later your church may be asked by a nonbeliever—or by a small child—how or why we equate 72 hours with 39 hours. Compose an answer in the spirit of 1 Peter 3:15, Col 4:6 of what you believe.

Red alert!

Danger, Will Robinson!

Here be dragons!

Discussion topic (in 11 sub-topics): We have delayed the inevitable. Now it arrives.

We noted that this post (the Volume 7 discussion/study) would contain advanced material. Your Bible study group may need more than one session to address this topic. Be willing to do research, homework. Your host may pause to say, “Cite your sources.” For example, Bible verses make excellent sources. Sometimes a reader just has to ask, “Where is that in the Bible?” We intend the citing of sources as an invitation, not as a challenge. (This is important stuff!)

As mentioned, the material may upset the faith of some. Romans 14 is kindly; 1 Cor. 3:2; Hebr. 3:12-15, 5:11-6:2 more harsh. Both should read Isa. 8:12-13. Your host would urge the group toward charity i.e., do not assume that sin is stopping the reader from proceeding. Respect the No. Also, do not assume that desensitization, insensitivity of conscience, is indulging the reader who proceeds. Respect the Meat Teeth. But do consider whether the No and the Meat Teeth need to separate into different classes.

(Note: this topic contains spoilers for Volumes 8-12).

Every writer has something, some quirk that trips the reader whilst the writer remains cheerfully oblivious. For some, it is being married to words like “merry” and “grim.” (Apparently J.R.R. Tolkien, the professor of 39 languages, had no word in any language for “thesaurus.”) For your host it is run-on sentences … we have done it for decades and keep getting called on it—it’s a problem; we’re aware of it; we’re working on it.

For the Left Behind series, it is repetition, the frequent-flyer-miles competition, the occasional malapropism, and hyperbole (among others). Of course the series draws on Revelation, so it’s going to be big. It illustrates Tim LaHaye’s interpretation of Revelation, so it’s going to be really, really big.

In Left Behind, everything is big. The tech and toys are big. Tsion’s website of “over a billion hits daily” is compared to 10,000 stadiums that each hold 100,000 people (Volume 10, p. 123). A GC squadron interrupts a manhunt to admire Buck’s car (Volume 7, pp. 201-202). Rayford’s Saber is a variant on Agent Jay’s Noisy-Cricket. Even Chaim apparently made Curare’s unique scimitar as practice for his shiv. (See Volume 6, pp. 256-257.)

The characters have been accused of being Mary Sue big. Almost everyone is the superstar of almost every possible occupation. “Informed attributes” and hero worship are commonplace. (Whenever a character is an average Joe, they’re probably Undecideds. Whenever a character is stupid, they’re probably bad guys.)

Finally, the plot points are big. That last item is why we are here. The proposal that Satan could resurrect the dead is a plot point so big that we need to test whether it fits into the Bible.

Definitions

Before we begin, a quick course on terminology: resuscitation, revivification, resurrection.

Resuscitation is a technique performed by first-responders, preferably within four minutes or brain damage begins. Before people knew what resuscitation was and how to do it, it must have looked miraculous. It really is a medical procedure.

Revivification is a miracle. It means that a human is raised from the dead, healed of whatever killed them, and healed of decomposition since death. The people who are raised in the Bible are dead. Really dead. “Lord, he stinketh” dead. Thus a person could be dead for four hours, four days, or for four thousand years and still be revivified. This miracle appears over nine times in the Bible. See 1 Kings 17:17-24; 2 Kings 4:18-37; 2 Kings 13:20-21; Luke 7:12-16; Acts 9:36-42; Acts 20:9-12. Mention of more miracles appears in Hebr. 11:35. The revivification of the daughter of Jairus is mentioned in three passages (Matt. 9:18-19, 23-25 and Mark 5:22-24, 35-43 and Luke 8:41-42, 49-56). Then of course Jesus revivified a dear friend, Lazarus of Bethany (John 11:1-44, 12:1-2, 9-11).

(Note #1: a literal reading of Ezek. 37:1-14 describes the revivification of a multitude. Some readers argue that this was only a vision and prophecy—that is, they argue it did not happen in a physical sense to physical people. Others say it was both revivification and a prophecy.)

(Note #2: Jesus empowered His disciples to raise the dead. See Matt. 10:8. Note that even Judas Iscariot was empowered to raise the dead! The Scriptures do not tell us which disciples revivified any dead, or how many dead they revivified. Scripture also leaves open the question of whether the dead who were revivified in Matt. 11:5 were revivified by Christ or by the disciples. It only specifies that there were more.)

(Note #3: Matt. 27:52-53 includes a fascinating raising of a multitude. After Jesus was Resurrected, many saints came out of their graves in bodily form and entered the holy city. Scripture does not clarify whether Christ revivified them or resurrected them. If the Lord revivified them, they would have lived out their lives and died in a different century than the one in which they were born. But if the Lord resurrected them, He probably took them to glory at the time of His Ascension. See Eph. 4:8-10; Psa. 68:18; 1 Peter 3:19.)

As we see, the majority of Biblical miracles of raising the dead are revivifications. Someday, every soul will experience something very different: resurrection.

Resurrection is a miracle. It happened first with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He rose from the dead in a resurrection body and resurrection nature: a forever-body and a forever-nature. This is why Col. 1:18, Rev. 1:5, Psa. 89:27 calls Christ the first-born of the dead: He was the first resurrected human. Death no longer has dominion over Him (Rom. 6:9). Any individuals who are resuscitated or revivified remain mortals in mortal bodies. They will live out their lives and die. In the resurrection, we will never die again.

Now you know enough to go on with.

The lowest common denominator

We mentioned in the Series General post that Leon Fortunado claims that Carpathia raised him from the dead. Read the discussion. Pause and discuss. Decide whether the off-screen Fortunado incident (whatever it was) has any bearing upon the on-screen, eyewitnessed events we are about to review now.

What we were taught as a child

Very simply, your host was taught as follows:

• Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except by Him (John 14:6).
• God the Father has given all judgment to the Son (John 5:22, 27).
• Christ holds the keys of Hell and of Death (Rev. 1:18).
• God the Father raises the dead and gives them life (Gen. 2:7; Job 19:26; Psa. 23:6; Isa. 26:19; Ezek. 37:13; Mark 12:26-27; Luke 20:35-38; Acts 26:8; Rom. 4:17).
• God the Son raises the dead and gives them life (John 5:21, 24).
• The Holy Ghost is the Lord, the giver of life. After Jesus became Christ glorified (John 7:39), Christ sent the Holy Spirit. Christ still gives the Spirit to all who abide in Him (John 16:14, 20:22; 1 John 3.24).
• The Father and Son are One (John 14:7-11, 17:1-5; 1 Cor 8.6; Phill. 2:6-11).
• The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are One (Deut. 6:4; Matt. 28:19; Luke 3:22; John 14:26, 15.26; Acts 2:33, 10:38; Rom. 8:9; 2 Cor. 3:14, 13:14; Eph. 1.17, 2.18, 2.22, 4:4-6; Titus. 3:6; Hebr. 9:14; 1 John 5:6-9). Compare also these three verses: Exod. 17:2 (the Father), 1 Cor. 10:4, 9 (the Son), Hebr. 3:7-9 (the Holy Ghost). Whom did the people tempt in the wilderness? They tempted the Triune God.
• The Trinity is a little like water. Go to a body of water during spring melt: ice, water lapping over the ice, steam rising. Three forms, one substance (water). Christians believe in Father, Son, and Holy Ghost—but we believe in One God.
• (But not modalism … never modalism. God is always one substance. God is always all three Persons at once. Always, simultaneously.)
• Anyone who can revivify the dead must have been given that power by God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. Only our Triune God can do it.

One other item we were taught is longer than a bullet point. Specifically, your host was taught there are only two destinations in the afterlife: Heaven, and Hell. The saved go the Intermediate Heaven. Someday it will be replaced by the New Heaven. The lost go to Hell. Someday Hell will be cast into the Lake of Fire. We were taught that there was no Purgatory; it could not work. Since our God is infinite, then any sin against God is an infinite offense. Therefore a soul could spend eternity in Purgatory without ever becoming ready for their resurrection-nature, their forever-nature. We only will receive our resurrection-nature by the same way we will receive our resurrection-body: God simply bestows it upon us. Let the Gentle Browser keep this bullet point in mind—that there are only two afterlife destinations. When Carpathia dies, where does he go?

If you were taught anything differently, pause and discuss. Cite your sources.

Tsion’s interpretation

Tsion Ben-Judah reflects:

Many sincere believers had questioned his teaching that the Antichrist would actually die from a wound to the head. Some said the Scriptures indicated that it would be merely a wound that made him appear dead. He tried to assure them that his best interpretation of the original Greek led him to believe that the man would actually die and then be indwelt by Satan himself upon coming back to life (p. 119).

We have called Tsion Ben-Judah the real “pope” of the series. By this we mean that when he interprets prophecy, his (fictional) voice is cathedra mea, regula meae (“my chair, my rules”). The character exists to teach what his creators teach. Also, since Tsion is using “his best interpretation of the original Greek,” the narrative implies that any other opinion is, by definition, reliant upon an inferior interpretation of said original Greek.

Naturally, one might inquire: what is that best interpretation? The nonfiction books of Tim LaHaye document Tsion’s probable argument.

We compared three versions of the best-known work:

Revelation Illustrated and Made Plain. LaVerne, CA: El Camino Press, c1973 “revised ed.” 449 pp. (Abbreviation: Rev. Illus./ECP).
Revelation Illustrated and Made Plain. Grand Rapids, MI: Lamplighter Books/Zondervan, 1975, c1973 “revised ed.” 322 pp. (Abbreviation: Rev. Illus./LLZ)
Revelation Unveiled. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, c1999. 378 pp. (Abbreviation: Rev. Unv.)

Consider this early quote:

Christianity is unique in that we worship a resurrected, living Lord. The power of this testimony is beyond description to men who are real seekers after truth. This power will be all but nullified by the nefarious work of Satan through the resurrection of the anti-Christ. As far as I know, this is the first time that Satan has ever been able to raise the dead. His power and control of man is limited by God, but according to His wise providence He permits Satan on this one occasion to have the power to raise the dead. When studied in the light of 2 Thessalonians 2, it may well be the tool he [sic] uses to deceive men. –(Rev. Illus./ECP, p. 245; Rev. Illus./LLZ, p. 180)

Compare this paragraph (c1973) to the updated (c1999) version:

Christianity is unique in that we worship a resurrected, living Lord. The power of this testimony is beyond refutation for those who are real seekers after truth. When studied in the light of 2 Thessalonians 2, it may well be the tool he [sic] will use to deceive humankind. –(Rev. Unv., p. 217)

Clearly there has been some rewording. The 1973 version is more specific that Satan does not actually have creative power similar to God and they are not in competition. Rather, Satan is not “autonomous” when he raises Carpathia, whatever that means. (Does it mean that God did it and let Satan take credit for it; or that Satan was given power to do it; or that Satan had just enough power that is native to his being to do it once; or other?)

As regarding the 1999 version, your host was unable to find a quote or reference to “this one occasion” or “just this once.” (We were very much hoping to find “just this once” just once more.) If the Gentle Browser finds the reference to “just this once,” do give the specific page number to the next Bible study class. It will prove relevant to the rest of this discussion topic.

Relevant quotes that are essentially identical include:

Revelation 17:8 indicates that [Antichrist]’s spirit will go down into the pit of the Abyss where it belongs, but he is/will be resurrected. One must keep in mind that this Beast is the anti-Christ. In other words, he tries/will try to duplicate everything Jesus Christ has done. This is significant in view of the fact that the sign of our Lord’s deity appears in His resurrection. He said that no sign would be given unto men except “the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt. 12:39-40). –(Rev. Illus./ECP, p. 245; Rev. Illus./LLZ, p. 180; Rev. Unv., p.217)

Since we already have seen that Satan will be cast out of Heaven, aware that his time is short, he will indwell the Antichrist and duplicate the resurrection. Thus he will come up out of perdition and again contrast the supernatural work of Christ. –(Rev. Illus./ECP, p. 238; Rev. Illus./LLZ, p. 174; Rev. Unv., p. 212)

Some Bible scholars suggest that when Chapter 13 is considered in comparison with Chapter 12, where Satan is cast out of Heaven in the middle of the Tribulation period, he actually indwells the body of the anti-Christ. This would account for his resurrection. –(Rev. Illus./ECP, p. 246; Rev. Illus./LLZ, p. 181)

Finally, quotes which appear in the 1999 version:

In the middle of the Tribulation, when Antichrist has been fatally wounded, Satan has just been kicked out of heaven and is free to take on the dead body of Antichrist and simulate the resurrection. –(Rev. Unv., p.218)

Satan will actually enter the body of Antichrist and bring him back to life” –(Rev. Unv., p. 219).

From this point onward, we will refer to the 1999 version, while testing the 1973 proposal of “just this once” against it and against the fiction series.

LaHaye continues, “The Abyss (“bottomless pit,” KJV) is not hell or Hades. It has been suggested that it may be at the bottom of the “great gulf,” fixed in Hades, that separates the place of torment and place of comfort” in Luke 16:26. In other words, the “great gulf” is the top of the “abyss” or “bottomless pit” of Rev. 17:8, 20:1-3 (Rev. Unv., p. 169).

Next, LaHaye seems to propose that (until Judgment Day, anyway) Satan has either authority or permission to come and go from this Abyss. It is true that an angel holds that key (Rev. 9:1, 20:1), and he (?) never loses that key. (The Left Behind novels choose to name Michael the Archangel as the one who holds both the key and the chain: Volume 12, pp. 316-317, 327-329. This would make Michael the one who lets Satan and the demons into and out of the Abyss—as well as the one who released the scorpion-locusts upon the earth in Rev. 9:2-3 [Rev. Unv., p. 171]).

Additionally, LaHaye cites Rev. 13:3-4, 13-14; 17:8 (Rev. Unv., pp. 211-212, 216-219). He states that the Antichrist (Nicolae Carpathia in the novels) will indeed die and become dead. The spirit and soul will depart into the afterlife—and will go into “the Abyss.” In other words, the spirit and soul of Carpathia went into an afterlife destination that was neither Hell nor Heaven. He went to a third location. The only explanation given is that he “belongs” there (Rev. Illus./ECP, p. 245; Rev. Illus./LLZ, p. 180; Rev. Unv., p. 217).

Finally, the Left Behind series proposes that Carpathia’s spirit and soul will return from the Abyss through resurrection. This is a crucial point, and one that required our inclusion of spoilers from throughout the series. After all, if the real Carpathia stays dead, and Satan merely wears his corpse like a glove, that would be a different sign and wonder.

But, as we mentioned in the Spoilers post, Carpathia’s spirit and soul and body do get resurrected from the dead. Satan indwells him. They live in the body together (Volume 12, pp. 81-91, 307-311). Hereinafter we will refer to this two-person entity in one body as CIBYS (Carpathia Indwelt By Satan).

Pre-LaHaye sources

The ubiquitous Strong’s Concordance is tied to the KJV translation. We used the twenty-first printing (June 1953), c1890 edition (1340 pp. + 262 pp. + 126 pp. + 79 pp.; Madison, NJ). Your host apologizes for lack of diacritics.

Luke 16:26: “And beside all this, there is a great (3173, megas) gulf (5490, chasma) fixed (4741, sterizo), so that they which would pass (1224, diabaino) from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass (*1276, diaperao) to us, that would come from hence.”

Rev. 13:3 “And I saw one of his heads (2776, kephale) as it were wounded (*4969-sphazo) to death (2288-thanatos), and his deadly (*2288-thanatos) wound (*4969-sphazo) was healed (2323-therapeuo).”

Rev. 17:8 “The beast (2342-therion; dimin. from 2399-thera) that thou sawest was, and is not, and shall ascend (305-anabaino) out of the bottomless (12, abussos) pit (5421, phrear), and go into perdition (684-apoleia).”

A glance at 2348 (thnesko) and its derivative 2288 (thanatos) will reveal that both words offer the option to interpret “death” as “(lit. or fig.)”—either literal or figurative. When Tsion selects the literal interpretation, that is a chair ruling. He probably did it because Christ was slain (*4969-sphazo) and alive (ezesen, derived from 2198*- zao) in Rev. 2:8. We know the Lamb of Rev. 5:6, 13:8 literally was slain and literally rose.

In fiction, Tsion can do that; he can make a chair ruling. In this he is largely supported by rapturist Charles Ryrie and the Ryrie Bible. But Tsion should be aware that this is not entirely consistent with Scofield/Darby.

Your host used the Scofield Reference Bible, 1917, c1909 (Oxford University Press, American Branch; 1362 pp.; atlas; 12 plates), hereinafter cited as the SRB-1917. Your host then diligently searched the verses listed up to this point. Points of interest included:

• The denial of a literal New Babylon rebuilt in the literal location such as Left Behind has created. (See Isa. 13:19:22). Rather, SRB-1917 (p. 1347) would have required Carpathia to build New Rome.
• “Two ‘Babylons’ are to be distinguished in the Revelation: ecclesiastical Babylon, which is apostate Christendom, headed up under the Papacy; and political Babylon, which is the Beast’s confederated empire, the last form of Gentile world-dominion” (SRB-1917, p. 1346). Again, both regimes are predicted to make their literal capitol in literal Rome.
• “The active interposition of Satan, “having great wrath” (Rev. 12:12), who gives his power to the Beast (Rev. 13:4-5)” (SRB-1917, p. 1337). And again, “To him Satan gives the power which he offered to Christ (Matt. 4:8-9; Rev. 13:4)” (SRB-1917, p. 1349).
• “The unprecedented activity of demons (Rev. 9:2-11)” (ibid.). (Note that this passage is regarded by the characters to have been fulfilled by the demonic locusts years ago, in Volume 5.)
• The emergence of an empire with ten “heads” or rulers. “Fragments of the ancient Roman empire have never ceased to exist as separate kingdoms. It was the imperial form of government which ceased: the one head wounded to death. What we have prophetically in Rev. 13.3 is the restoration of the imperial form as such, though over a federated empire of ten kingdoms; the “head” is “healed” i.e., restored: there is an emperor again—the Beast” (SRB-1917, p. 1342).
• An individual Antichrist, who “is to be distinguished from the “many antichrists” (1 John 2:18) and “the spirit of antichrist” which characterizes all …. The ‘many antichrists’ precede and prepare the way for the Antichrist, who is ‘the Beast out of the earth’ of Rev. 13:11-17 and the ‘false prophet’ of Rev. 16:13, 19:20, 20:10. He is the last ecclesiastical head, as the Beast of Rev. 13:1-8 is the last civil head” (SRB-1917, pp. 1342-1343). (In the novels, this is the character Nicolae Carpathia.)
• “For purposes of persecution, [the false prophet] is permitted to exercise the autocratic power of the emperor-Beast (Rev. 19:20, see note)” (SRB-1917, p. 1343). (In the novels, this is the character Leon Fortunado.)

However, your host was unable to find any Scofield/Darby reference to the death, descent, and resurrection of a personal, individual Antichrist such as Carpathia. (If the Gentle Browser can find such a citation, do bring it to the next Bible study.) Rather, the SRB-1917 predicts an empire with ten heads or rulers in the manner of a revived Roman empire. It predicts that the empire will be made of formerly Roman entities. (Carpathia’s empire includes previously unknown lands such as Australia and the Americas.)

The SRB-1917 then predicts a personal, individual Antichrist to rule that empire. It predicts that the “death” of a “head” afflicts the empire, rather than afflicting a personal Antichrist. In the novels, this already happened twice. Two of the empire’s figurative “heads” (Peter Matthews, Leon Fortunado) already died (literally in Peter’s case, indeterminate in Leon’s case.) Both “heads” revived in the sense that their work continues—their work being to persecute Christian and Jewish characters and to claim souls for Hell.

To be very specific, in the Scofield/Darby SRB-1917, no personal and human Antichrist is described as suffering any death-wound (or any harm whatsoever) to his one-and-only personal, human, biological, anatomical head. Carpathia does not have seven personal, human, biological, anatomical heads (with ten horns) on his one-and-only body. Carpathia has one head with no horns. This may be why “many sincere believers had questioned Tsion’s teaching.”

It is worth noting that John the Revelator would not know Jack Jeebs (Men in Black) or King Ghidorah (the Godzilla franchise). However, he would have heard of the Greek hydra. All three fictional creatures have many personal, biological, and anatomical heads. All three fictional creatures can survive the loss of a single head. But Carpathia has one head on his body, and Chaim Rosenzweig kills that head and that body. The Carpathian empire continues uninterrupted under Leon Fortunado. Then—according to the novels—Satan heals Carpathia’s skewered head, puts life and blood in the embalmed, bloodless corpse, and brings back Carpathia’s spirit and soul from the dead. Now they rule the fictional world as CIBYS, with Fortunado as false prophet.

At this point, pause to discuss Carpathia’s return from the dead. If you cannot agree, decide whether your group can agree to disagree. Decide whether to continue.

Just this once, but someone else

The apostle Jude declares that Satan already tried to get a body. He wanted Moses (Jude 1:9). Left Behind #12 includes that passage, and adds to it:

“Oh, no!” the being rasped. “The last time you contended with me, Michael, it was over the body of Moses, and you dared not even bring against me a reviling accusation, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’ I do not answer to you!” –(Volume 12, p. 318)

In the novels, if Satan had a power to raise the dead, but could only do it once, would he still want Nicolae Carpathia? Discuss evil’s goals in the Left Behind series, and in the real world. If he could only have one, would he try to abduct Moses instead?

Just this once, plus three

The Left Behind series suggests that it is more than just this once. In Armageddon, CIBYS and Fortunado calmly vomit forth three froglike demons named Ashtaroth, Baal, and Cankerworm. CIBYS tells the demons, “I confer upon you the power to perform signs and heal the sick and raise the dead, if need be” (Volume 11, p. 303). The demons depart and spend the rest of the series off-screen, recruiting armies for the confrontation in Volume 12. Your host cannot recall any eyewitness account of their signs and deeds. If the Gentle Browser can find such a citation, do mention it to one’s fellow Bible study participants.

Pause and discuss. Do you believe that demons have the power to raise humans from the dead? If not, do you believe that Satan, the Antichrist, the False Prophet, or any combination thereof, can bestow upon demons the power to raise humans from the dead? Cite your sources.

Just this once, plus three, plus one

In The Remnant, a ghastly performance unfolds in the presence of eyewitnesses Mac, Albie, and Smitty. A demonic apparition manifests as a “wonder-worker” in a “motivational-speaker” white suit (Volume 10, pp. 332-339). The speaker, who looks like a younger Leon Fortunado, declares, “I am not even from this world.” The apparition causes clouds to appear and disappear [changes of temperature and light], causes springs of water to arise in the desert, and feeds a multitude with five pieces of bread.

If the Gentle Browser has seen The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe starring Tilda Swinton, then said Gentle Browser would not be surprised to learn that (like Jadis’ hot chocolate) the bread vanishes when the demonic apparition vanishes. Both Jadis and the wonder-worker could change matter. However, the wonder-worker can do other things that are permanent, and lethal. It applies the Mark of the Beast to four people without touching them. Even as the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the saints on the day of Pentecost and bestowed upon them tongues of fire (Acts 2:1-4), so also this demonic apparition inexplicably can impose the Mark of the Beast upon every unsaved person in its presence. The demonic apparition then taunts the remaining Unsaveds:

“Why have you waited so long? What was the holdup? The one I serve wants me to slay you, and so, you’re dead.”

More than a hundred dropped to the desert floor, causing the rest to shriek and cry out.

“Silence! You do not think I could slay the lot of you? If I can slay them, can I not also raise them? These six, right up here, arise!”

The six stood as if they had just awakened. They looked embarrassed, as if they didn’t know why they had been on the ground.

“Think they were merely sleeping? in a trance? All right, they’re dead again.” They dropped again. “Now if you know them, check their vital signs.”

He waited. “No breath, no pulse, correct? Let that be a lesson to those who remain …. More of you should die before the vipers get here.” About three dozen keeled over. [snip] “Fools!” he said. “You’re all fools. Do you think a god like Nicolae Carpathia wants you as his subjects? No! He wants you dead and away from the clutches of his enemies [i.e. God, angels, believers].” –(Volume 10, pp. 335-337)

So now we have a demonic apparition who has the following powers:

• It applies the Mark of the Beast by speaking a word or thinking a thought.
• It slays more than 100 people by speaking a word or thinking a thought.
• It revivifies 6 people by ibid.
• It slays those 6 people (again) by ibid.
• It slays another three dozen people by ibid.
• It applies the Mark of the Beast to all remaining Unsaveds by ibid.
• It conjures poisonous vipers by ibid.
• It may have forced the Mark of the Beast upon the Unsaveds: none of them made any word or gesture asking for said Beast-Mark.
• If it did not force the Beast-Mark upon them against their will, then it is telepathic—it can read human minds. This is the only way it could have “heard” their thoughts of consent.
• If it could force the Mark of the Beast upon people, it would not need to be telepathic, since it would not be bound by their consent anyway.
• The text could be interpreted as if the demonic apparition is both telepathic AND can force the Mark of the Beast upon people who are fleeing (resisting).
• When the demonic apparition departs, the vipers evaporate—but the poison remains real (Volume 10, pp. 336-338). Everybody except the three Saveds (Mac, Albie, and Smitty) dies horribly.
• The demonic apparition threatens Mac McCullum. “I know who you are. I know you by name. Your god [sic] is weak and your faith a sham, and your time is limited. You shall surely die.” The apparition does not speak. Mac hears the threat as if communicated by telepathy (Volume 10, p. 337).

Pause and discuss. Lots of material here. Do you believe that a demonic apparition can do any of these things, let alone all of them? Cite your sources.

Related: the six people who died do not speak of any near-death experience (“NDE”). If they truly died, wouldn’t their spirits and souls go somewhere? Since they all are unsaved, wouldn’t they come back preaching, Hell is real; don’t go there. We know that Carpathia (Volume 7, p. 204), Fortunado (pp. 190-195), and presumably CIBYS (the source of their power) can hypnotize the unsaved living. What’s worse, their powers are increasing with time. In Volumes 1-5, Carpathia brainwashes Buck Williams, Chaim Rosenzweig, Hattie Durham, and President Fitzhugh. However, when they are separated from him, it wears off. He must repeat the process, in person. In Volume 6 (p. 339), Carpathia can hypnotize an unsaved character over the telephone. In Volume 7 (p. 358), Fortunado attempts to hypnotize four million people by asking them to look into his eyes on their television screens. CIBYS interrupts him, makes the same attempt, and succeeds.

Therefore, do you the demonic apparition hypnotized the people it revivified, so that they could not remember the afterlife and warn/preach about it? Do you think that a demonic apparition would have that power? Cite your sources. If you disagree, do you think this novel might be teaching “soul sleep”? If neither, why do you think the six people behaved as they did?

Just this once, plus three, plus one, plus thousands

As it happens, four empowered demons are not enough to satisfy CIBYS. He decrees:

“Leon, I want to fight fire with fire. I want Jesuses, Messiahs, Saviors in my name. Find them—thousands of them. Train them, raise them up, imbue them with the power with which I have blessed you …. I confer upon you all the power vested in me from above and below the earth.” –(Volume 10, pp. 82-83)

Fortunado promptly finds, trains, and empowered these “thousands.” He uses his powers of breathing upon them and laying on of hands to confer both power and authority.

“Magicians, sorcerers, wizards, demonic apparitions, and deputies of Leon Fortunado preached a false gospel. They set themselves up as Christ figures, messiahs, soothsayers. They lauded the deity of Carpathia. They performed wonders and miracles and deceived countless thousands. [The Undecideds] were lured away from considering the claims of Christ … but once they had made their decisions for the evil ruler, either [CIBYS] snuffed them out … or God slew them. –(Volume 10, p. 369).…

From everywhere came reports of miracles by thousands of deities who seemed loving, kind, inspiring, and dynamic. It was easy to watch them live on the Internet, reattaching severed limbs, raising the dead …. “False!” Ben-Judah preached every day. “Charlatans. Fakers. Deceivers. Yes, it is real power, but it is not the power of God. It is the power of the enemy, of the evil one. Do not be misled!” But many were, it was plain. –(Volume 10, p. 270)

We are left with the last-chance interpretation that these evil entities are all demons, demonic apparitions, and humans who are in communion with the spirit world, possibly even demonically possessed. Unfortunately we are denied even this forlorn hope:

CIBYS: “If your wizards can do all these tricks, Leon, why can they not turn a whole sea back into salt water?”

Chang sat listening through headphones.

“Excellency, that is a lot to ask. You must admit they have done wonders for the Global Community.”

“They have not done as much good as the Judah-ites have done bad, and that is the only scorecard that counts!”

“Your Worship, not to be contrary, but you are aware that Carpathian disciples all over the world have raised the dead, are you not?”

“I raised MYSELF from the dead, Leon. These little tricks, bringing smelly corpses from graves just to amaze people and thrill the relatives, do not really compete with the Judah-ites, do they?”

“Turning wooden sticks into snakes? Impressive. Turning water to blood and then back again, then the water to wine? I thought you would particularly enjoy that one.”

“I want converts, man! I want changed minds! When is your next television debate with Ben-Judah?”

–(Volume 10, pp. 307-308).

(An aside for some much-needed comic relief. Here is yet another nod to the invincible celebrity of Tsion Ben-Judah. CIBYS declares that defeating Tsion in a televised debate would be a more effective tactic and a more impressive feat than is raising the dead. We observed elsewhere that the believers are called Judah-ites, followers of Ben-Judah, not Christians, followers of Christ. CIBYS confidently believes he can defeat God the Father and God the Son [Volume 11, pp. 298-299], but he is exasperated by Ben-Judah.)

“Disciples.” All over the world, Carpathia has “disciples.” Unlike the human characters who have chosen to be in communion with the spirit world—the aforementioned wizards, sorcerers, magicians, deputies of Fortunado, false Christs/messiahs, and soothsayers—these are “disciples.” They are ordinary people. They are a fictional counterpart to the real-world Peter, James, John, Matthias, etc. (Chaim Rosenzweig has proclaimed himself Carpathia’s personal Judas Iscariot [Volume 7, pp. 226-227]).

Moreover, there are “disciples” “raising the dead” “all over the world.” Almost certainly these are a fictional counterpart to the 3,000 converts of Pentecost who came from “all over the world”, “with more being added every day” (Acts 2:41).

Think about this. These disciples think they have found the right man. They think they are doing the right thing. They have no idea of the wild ride they are about to take. All they know is that they have been given the power to raise the dead, and they are doing it. And who else but the real God could do that? (As far as they know, that is.) Perhaps their innocence, their sincerity, might be the most dangerous witness of all.

Therefore, when LaHaye’s nonfiction titles proposed that God would let Satan raise a single dead Antichrist, does that legitimize the “thousands” of demons, humans, and mixtures thereof—all of whom also are raising the dead in the Left Behind series?

Pause and discuss. Cite your sources. Because, believe it or not, we’re not yet done.

Science fiction theater

In the latter volumes of the series, apparently any devil-worshipper now can revivify the dead. There are so many humans being brought back from the dead “all over the world” that CIBYS is calling them “little tricks.”

How does CIBYS define little tricks? It certainly would ease our minds (well, your host’s mind) if these revivifications are unreal. In the novels, the evildoers are (at minimum) re-animating flesh. Let us propose and test that that is all they are doing. How might that be done? For example, are the corpses possessed by demons to trick the families?

Here we find sci-fi tales that might help us. In the film Men in Black, Bug kills and flays Farmer Edgar. Bug then runs around Manhattan Island dressed in an Edgar suit. In “The Magnificent Ferengi” (Star Trek: DS9), a Vorta is shot and killed. A Starfleet cadet then runs an electrical current through the corpse to make it twitch (and walk) as if alive. In both cases, the real Vorta and the real Edgar become dead and stay dead. We even see hints of decomposition around the edges. Bug and the Electric Vorta—(band name alert)—fail to fool Edgar’s wife or the Ferengi’s Moogie, but they can fool strangers for a moment, which is all the time they need.

So, are the “little tricks” of CIBYS, Fortunado, and their adherents naught but the tricks of the Electric Vorta, of Bug in an Edgar suit? Even if it is artificial, imposture, it is very dangerous. CIBYS could build an army of demons by empowering said demons to steal and inhabit dead bodies.

It gets worse. Nothing in the novels restricts these “little tricks” to the corpses of evildoers. In other words, Grandma could die as a Tribulation martyr—only to “return” as a demon wearing a Grandma suit. Tsion should have proclaimed that that is not Grandma! It’s a demon in a Grandma suit! or perhaps, It’s not Grandma! It’s a wind-up animatronic trick on her corpse; that is no more Grandma than is the Country Bear Jamboree. Does Tsion warn people that that is not Grandma? No. He warns Undecideds not to be deceived, but he does not define or explain the deception.

Imagine what it would do to the Tribulation Force if they encountered a demon wearing an Amanda White Steele suit. Imagine what it would do to believers and Undecideds all over the world if they encountered a demon in a Bruce Barnes suit. (Bruce Barnes was Tsion’s predecessor, though more short, balding, pudgy, workaday, and damaged.) Bruce must have converted people with his message, rather than with his decidedly non-existent charisma. Imagine Tsion appearing on television against demon-in-a-Bruce-suit. What would that debate be like?

This actually is the least-awful scenario. There are worse. We repeat: the proposal that CIBYS, etc. “merely” empower demons to wear human corpses is the least-awful scenario. Have the authors thought through the deeper implications?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer didn’t want to come back either

We noted that the fictional Antichrist imitates what Christ did in order to mock what Christ did. Hence Carpathia’s JFK-styled assassination, the eternal flame [furnace], and his public viewing. This is followed by Carpathia’s notorious resurrection at the hands of the Devil. But there is one more aspect of Christ that Antichrist Carpathia seeks to duplicate. That is power over other people who are dead.

Rayford and Carpathia already discussed this notion 21 months ago:

[Carpathia said,] “I know how difficult it is for loved ones to let go unless they see the body …. Next you will be asking me to resurrect [your wife, Amanda White Steele, who is dead].”

Rayford spoke through clenched teeth. “If you are who you think you are, you ought to be able to pull that off for one of your most trusted employees.” –(Volume 4, p. 89)

Since Rayford brought it up, let us test this proposal. What if CIBYS and his followers really are raising the dead, revivifying the dead? By definition, revivification includes restoring the spirit and soul to the restored body. Wouldn’t that mean that Satan can liberate souls from Hell? Wouldn’t it mean that Satan can abduct souls from the Intermediate Heaven?

Let us repeat: If Satan could bring back Carpathia from the Abyss—if Satan could—does it necessarily follow that he could abduct souls from Heaven or that he could empty Hell? Yet that is what he is doing. Again, this may be a reason that “many sincere believers had questioned [Tsion’s] teaching.” The narrative insists that Satan is raising the dead—other dead humans, besides Carpathia. Thousands of them.

Therefore, as a hypothetical notion, consider what would happen if Carpathia, Satan, Carpathia-indwelt-by-Satan (“CIBYS”), or one of their lackeys—Fortunado, Ashtaroth & company, a sorcerer, a wizard, a disciple, take your pick—raised some dead characters that we actually know. We could test whether they were the real people.

Specifically, let us propose that CIBYS wants to reward David Hassid: the “capable and loyal” David (Volume 7, pp. 252-253), the “beloved David” (Volume 8, p. 78). Therefore CIBYS decides to raise from the dead David’s two closest companions: Annie Christopher [Saved] and Guy Blod [Unsaved]. (We don’t know if Guy Blod died. We never see him again. Let us use him as an example as if he died.) Alternately, CIBYS decides to punish Rayford Steele for trying to kill him, and brings back from the dead Amanda White Steele [Saved] and Bo Hanson [Unsaved]. (He could have aimed for the murder-suicide pair of Chloe and Baby Kenny, but they’re not dead yet.)

Can CIBYS actually do it? Milton was wrong: Satan will not rule in Hell, and neither he nor his demons want to go there (Matt. 25:41, Mark 5:6-7; James 2:19; Rev. 20:1-3, 10). The cartoons are wrong: Satan will not be rewarded for his rebellion against God by tormenting God’s human children in Hell. Wouldn’t these facts suggest that the Devil cannot rescue his followers from Hell? Since no man can curse what God has blessed (Num. 23:20; Isa. 43:13), wouldn’t that suggest that no one can snatch the blessed out of Intermediate Heaven? But if the spirits and souls remain in the afterlife, then CIBYS and his followers are not raising the dead. They’re mutilating the corpses in some way, but they’re not raising the dead.

We stress this point because the series repeatedly insists that evildoers with evil powers are raising the dead. Can we imagine Annie’s spirit and soul, clawing at the portals of Heaven like a pet-at-the-vet in a desperate attempt not to be taken? Because that’s what it would take for anyone other than our Triune God to remove someone from His presence. Or is the Christ Who holds the keys of Hell and Death (Rev. 1:18) evicting them back to earth—and letting Antichrist take credit for it? When Annie looks to her Lord Jesus for deliverance, would He stop it? And what does the word “Heaven” even mean if believers still aren’t safe there? But that’s what it would take for CIBYS and the narrative’s declaration to work. If the dead that are raised are not imposters, not demon-in-a-Grandma-suit, then they are the real souls. Aren’t they?

Also, the “disciples” of CIBYS should have been challenged in public by the very people they revivified. If “thousands” of dead are being raised, there should be thousands of people shrieking, Hell is real; don’t go there. Revivified believers should be preaching Christ to the lost, proclaiming the truth about the afterlife. None of that happens. Why are the revivified characters silent? There must be some reason that these revivified “thousands” never speak, never preach, never cause CIBYS any trouble. What do you think might be happening?

Or, again, is the series teaching “soul sleep” for the dead? If the spirits and souls of the dead never reached the Intermediate Heaven or never reached Hell, then CIBYS and company would not have to break into those places to steal the spirits and souls out of them. The keys held by Christ (of Hell and Death) would not be needed or used. Would they?

Finally, since nothing else has been denied to them, do you think the series should have included an exchange in which a character begged CIBYS or his followers for the return of a raptured child? This would require seizing the spirit and soul and body of a Heavenly citizen. Could CIBYS do it? Would he dare? Would God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost at long last put a stop to it? Or would our Triune God do it and let CIBYS take credit for it? Unless we have misunderstood all of the above, the authors have come a long way from “just this once” in 1973. Where does the series set its limits?

The authors’ reason

Why would God allow such things? Rev. Unv. (p. 224-225) cites Matt. 24:24, 2 Thess. 2:9, Rev 13:13-14 as proof that evil also can produce signs and wonders. Granted. What the authors need to explain is why evil could also raise the dead (in the novels). If your host understands correctly, this may be the reason:

This predicted demonstration of supernatural, miraculous power should warn us of the significant truth that the mere display of supernatural power does not suffice as evidence that a matter or practice originates with God. All supernatural power is for the purpose of giving credentials to a person or a teaching. We have something far more important to stand as a test of all teaching, regardless of its accompanied signs—the Word of God. If a teaching is not in accord with that Word, it is false!

We may well ask ourselves, Why will God permit such power to be in Satan’s hands? It is because even during the Tribulation period men/people will be forced to worship God by faith. If all the supernatural power were on one side, it would not take faith but merely common sense to recognize the source of power. But the principle of salvation as a gift of God will still rest on the basis of faith: “And without faith, it is impossible to please him/God” (Hebr. 11:6).

–(Rev. Illus./ECP, p. 255; Rev. Illus./LLZ, p. 187; Rev. Unv., p. 225)

Summary

We have included spoilers for additional volumes in this series because Volume 7 has introduced a slippery-slope of plot points. Tsion Ben-Judah has told the audience that Satan will resurrect the Antichrist. This then happens (in the novel). It acclimates the reader for the revivifications of the dead that follow in Volumes 8-12, just as Volume 1-6 acclimated the reader to accept the premises of Volume 7 (this volume).

Scripture teaches that “God is not a man, that He should lie” (Num. 23:19; 1 Sam. 15:29; Titus 1:2). Put simply, if Satan could raise the dead, we should be able to find proof in the Bible. The authors (LaHaye and Jenkins) have Tsion teach that Rev. 13:3-4, 13-14; 17:8 are those verses.

Tsion declares that Jesus fulfilled 109 Old Testament prophecies (Volume 2, p. 393; Volume 10, p.320). Yet for all these verses, our Triune God still gave us four Gospels with verses that were more specific than metaphors about lambs and bruised reeds.

The Bible is extremely specific about our Lord’s life, death, Resurrection, and Ascension. If an Antichrist is to die and be resurrected, wouldn’t the Bible include verses more specific than metaphors about beasts and dragons?

(Aside: your host has heard it expressed that John the Revelator could not be too specific, because the Romans read his mail. This is true. The Romans also read the mail when the rest of the New Testament was being written. We ask so that we will know.)

Scripture teaches that “in the mouths of two or three witnesses let each word be established” (Numb. 35:30; Deut. 17:6, 19:15; Matt. 18:16; John 8:17; 2 Cor. 13:1). The death and resurrection of Nicolae Carpathia is modeled upon: 1) the metaphors of John the Revelator, and 2) the interpretation of the Left Behind authors. Is this enough? Why or why not? If there are additional witnesses, verses, or references, do bring them to the next Bible study session.

Regardless of any reader’s opinion, it is a fact that Carpathia died and was resurrected (in the novels). Some readers accept the explanation that Satan did it. (Certainly in the series he is never challenged when he takes credit for it.) For other readers, the only way Carpathia is coming back from the dead (even revivified, let alone resurrected) is if God did it. So, regardless of what the series claims, did God do it?

In conclusion, in the real world, do you believe that Satan can revivify the dead? Do you believe that Satan can resurrect the dead? Or do you believe that only God can revivify and resurrect the dead? Cite your sources.

Discussion topic: If you had known in advance that this was where the Left Behind series was leading, would you have read it?

{End.}

Return to Part 1 of 2. Return to Spoilers.

35. Bonus: Volume 7 (L.B. Indwelling) discussion topics: Part 1 of 2

Left Behind: The Indwelling: The Beast takes possession: (Volume 7) discussion topics and study guide, Part 1 of 2

(Added Added August 2016; split into two parts September 2016)

Reader’s discretion is advised.

(Note: Volume 7 contains multiple references to The Types of Death That People Don’t Talk About. It is possible that members of your Bible study group have been touched by suicide, murder, abortion, the death of children, or combinations thereof, and have never mentioned it to you. Your host would ask that the group be allowed to proceed at their own pace, to skip questions, or to adjourn as desired. Above all, don’t take a survey or play “can you top this?” games. Rather, “be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” [Eph. 4:32].)

(Note 2: If you or someone you know is having intrusive thoughts and feelings like the characters’ thoughts and feelings, your host would urge the Gentle Browser to contact 911 or other first-responder, or a suicide prevention hotline. We are not alone; we live in God’s world. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ saith the LORD, ‘plans to help you and not to harm you, to give you hope and a future’” [Jer. 29:11]. Help is available. You are not alone.)

(Note 3: The spoilers already mentioned this. In Volume 7, Satan is given the fictional power to resurrect the dead in body, soul, and spirit. This plot point could upset the faith of some. Your host would ask that the Gentle Browser prayerfully consider whether your study group is ready or not yet ready for such advanced material.)

For the reasons listed above, Reader discretion is advised.

This concludes our introductory comments.

Discussion topics

Discussion topic: Let’s start with an easy one. Volume 7 is rude. Of course it is the evildoers who use the racial slur (pp. 142, 166), but we never learn why it is included. (Guy’s “foul-mouth rantings” were not included.) Mr. Wong’s sense of entitlement leads him to make such a fool of himself that pilgrims mistake him for a sub-potentate (pp. 323-325). And of course Carpathia/Satan’s first act as a resurrected being is to give God the finger (p. 364).

But the Tribulation Force has its own unquestioned attitudes. Tsion commits an egregious rudeness, which we will address in turn. “Smitty” gives Mac McCullum the finger, and Mac teases Smitty about his broken English (pp. 90-91). Buck Williams thinks that Stefan’s “Middle Eastern maleness” should have “come to the fore” in some way that aligns with Buck’s expectations of him (p. 41). David and Guy’s mutual rudeness might be fueled by certain attitudes: some theirs, some ours. (Put it another way: is Guy the way he is so that the audience can laugh at him? Why or why not? If Guy were heterosexual, would their battles be the same, or would they be different? Would the plot point of building an idol be the same, or would it be different?)

Rayford even challenges Albie’s Saved Status, citing Albie’s recent behavior. By Rayford’s own reasoning, Albie has the right to check Rayford’s Seal. Neither Rayford nor Albie could see a Saved Seal on the other man during the entire 21 months of their acquaintance, and Rayford has behaved badly for several volumes. Additionally, Rayford could have told Albie that Ernie faked the Seal (Volume 5, pp. 302, 311-312, 320). Perhaps everybody ought to get spit-shine tested, as equals? But Rayford is the boss, and he neither apologizes nor explains. (Also unexplained: Albie is named in the Volume 8 cast of characters as a “Professed Believer,” not as a “Believer.” Why is that?)

Finally, Rayford calls Chloe’s excursion “monumentally stupid” (p. 210), which is not only rather brazen (coming from the man who just wasted four volumes trying to murder Carpathia) but also not even the dumbest thing the Trib Force has done today.

Only two characters comprehend what they have done. Chloe is rude to Nurse Leah (pp. 210, 322). Chloe finally admits that she snubbed Leah because Chloe has been stealing from her (pp. 333-334). Meanwhile, David Hassid’s conscience reproaches him (pp. 266-267). Guy is understandably suspicious of David’s apology (p. 273). Unfortunately Guy’s suspicions prove to be correct, as David chooses to placate the rude, rich Mr. Wong at Guy’s expense (p. 320).

“By this shall all (men) know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35). What would “all men know” about the characters, based on their words and deeds, both to outsiders and one to another?

Related: do you find that it is easier or harder to treat strangers as well as you treat your loved ones? Do you find it easier or harder to treat your loved ones as well as you treat strangers?

Discussion exercise (optional): The Trib Force characters are in hiding, including those who hide in plain sight. David thinks that it would be unsafe to declare himself a believer to a GC insider (p. 267); his apology won’t include that detail. But as the song says, “Evidence! Does your life give enough evidence? Would they put you away? What does your life say?” Choose a character in Volume 7 and develop whether the person would be convicted of being a Christian based on the available evidence—other than by using the forehead Saved Seal; the GC cannot see it. This is not intended to challenge a character’s salvation, but to explore whether the unsaved would notice the difference. It needn’t be as elaborate as a Mock Trial (e.g., “Trial and error,” Joan of Arcadia) unless you have enough interest and enough players.

Discussion topic: Guy Blod sniffs that David Hassid “obviously has some hang-up about the human body and can’t appreciate the beauty.” In other words, David is being called a prude who cringes at the indelicacy of a human in his birthday suit. When reading this passage, your host instantly thought of another David—the one by Michelangelo—a statue so iconic that even The Simpsons ran an episode about it. Next, we recall the portraits of our parents Adam and Eve, and how few of these paintings include clothes. Then there are the many “baby pictures” of the Christ Child, all of which show the Holy Prepuce intact. (Purportedly there are enough “authentic” relics of said skin to wallpaper a small room.) Finally, there was the time that the “art nun” Sister Wendy Beckett was invited (ambushed?) to evaluate the infamous painting P*ss Christ. Art, in short, is visceral. Then we get Guy and David using words like “thingies” and suddenly a fertility idol sounds like the starting point, with all roads going downhill from there. (If the “profane and anti-God” Guy Blod sculpts a “tasteful” nude, it would be his first.)

We all like to believe that we could resist reverencing the image of the beast if it were ugly. In the real world, our idols do not necessarily look as ugly on the outside as they are beneath the surface—and the things of God that could satisfy our souls do not necessarily look lovely in our eyes. Have you ever pushed away a messenger or message of the things of God because they seemed unlovely in your eyes? Can you describe a time when you were tempted by sin because it appeared pleasing and desirable in your eyes?

Related: There was a time when the best artists (painters, writers, musicians, etc.) worked for the church. Do you think that is still true today? What do you think has changed?

Related: “Modesty culture” has its own issues. There is far too much “code” in clothing. Even the Amish may show too much skin and polish for some cultures. Who decides what is modest and respectful? Who decided that a farmer should go to church dressed like a banker, but a banker gets to go to church dressed as himself? Who decided that women should wear heels which injure their bodies from foot to spinal column, or that men should wear nooses which increase their risk of stroke? Who decided that hazarding one’s health, or pretending to be someone else, is considered modest, proper, or respectful? And who decided that “sensible shoes,” which are more modest than heels that reveal (naked!) toenails, should have become code for women who are like Guy Blod, but they’re women. (See “Verna Zee,” Volumes 1-3). What is the difference between “modesty” versus “respectful, appropriate and in good taste”?

Discussion topic: In earlier volumes, Carpathia not only funds abortions but enacts mandatory amniocentesis of every pregnancy on earth. He intends to force an abortion of “any fetal tissue determined to result in a deformed or handicapped fetus” (Volume 3, pp. 132, 369-370). He also makes use of “assisted suicide and reduction of expensive care for the defective and handicapped” (Volume 3, p. 132). In other words, Carpathia is killing GOMERs and anyone else who is not dead yet. Why do you think Carpathia did not euthanize the purported stroke victim Chaim Rosenzweig when he had the chance? Also, how does your church respond to these issues and patients? What is it like to be sick or old in your church?

Discussion topic: Re-read Buck’s conversations with Chaim. Buck warns Chaim not to wait until God hardens his heart i.e. Chaim would become incapable of repenting. (Trivia alert: Buck’s cyberzine is called The Truth—but after God hardens the hearts of unbelievers, they could know the truth and it still won’t set them free. Compare John 8:32.) When Chaim challenges this as inconsistent with a loving God who is not willing that any should perish, Buck admits he doesn’t understand it but that Tsion says it is in the Bible (p. 186). Discuss this “hardening of heart” issue.

Buck gets Chaim to agree that Chaim is lost (p. 197). Chaim calls himself the Antichrist’s personal Judas (pp. 226-227) and declares that he would only be getting saved out of selfish motives. Buck responds that “we all come to faith selfish in some ways” (p. 227). Buck has “heard Bruce Barnes say people sometimes come to Christ for fire insurance—to stay out of hell—only to later realize all the benefits that come with the policy” (pp. 228-229). Buck tells Chaim that whatever Chaim’s motive might be for getting saved, it won’t change if they survive the plane crash. Chaim will still have the same motive (p. 230). So if nothing changes, why would Chaim delay? Why not be saved now?

To what extent is Buck saying that all contrition is imperfect contrition (selfish motives) versus perfect contrition (true sorrow and penitence)? Can there be both? Why or why not?

Discussion topic: Leon Fortunado suddenly has superpowers. For some reason, David Hassid is the only one who notices, let alone the only one who is surprised. (He cannot understand how the idol speaks: Guy insists he has nothing to do with it, and Fortunado is absent.) Fortunado can call down lightning upon his rivals. He can hypnotize people who are watching television. How would that work, exactly?

In Rev. 13, the “beast from the sea” has already been “wounded” and “healed” before the “beast from the earth” begins to perform signs and wonders. (Does the Mark of the Beast count? After all, at this point it is primarily bookkeeping.) Author Tim LaHaye’s nonfiction books confirm the timeline:

After the Antichrist has been slain and resurrected, the false prophet will cause men to build an image … and will demand that it be worshiped. By some mysterious means unknown in the previous history of the world, he will give life to this image. How long it will manifest life we are not told …. Its speech will be caused by the False Prophet, who in turn will get his authority from the Antichrist and the dragon Satan himself. He will issue an order that all who do not worship him will be killed. Revelation 20:4 tells us that many will be slain by the guillotine.

–(Revelation Illus./ELC, p. 255; Rev. Illus./LLZ, p. 187; Rev. Unveiled, p. 225)

In the novel, Fortunado manifests new powers at least two days before Carpathia comes back from the dead. Discuss the superpower of your choice and/or discuss the discrepancy in the timeline. Also, why do modern writers say “guillotine” when it had not been invented yet? The word in the Greek is “beheaded,” which is not the same. Thoughts?

Discussion topic: Tsion decides to devote himself to “intercession” for Rayford. The former rabbi (Orthodox Judaism) defines it as a discipline “largely a Protestant tradition from the fundamentalist and the Pentecostal cultures. Those steeped in it went beyond mere praying for someone as an act of interceding for them; they believed true intercession involved deep empathy and that a person thus praying must not enter into the practice unless willing to literally trade places with the needy person” (p. 77).

Left Behind is a rapturist series. The rapturist Scofield Reference Bible, 1917, c1909 describes intercession by quoting Col. 4:12:

Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand {g} perfect and complete in all the will of God. {where g = Matt. 5:48 plus note.}

The footnote states: “A touching illustration of priestly service (see 1 Pet. 2:9 with note), as distinguished from ministry of gift. Shut up in prison, no longer able to preach, Epaphras was still, equally with all believers, a priest. No prison could keep him from the throne of grace, so he gave himself wholly to the priestly work of intercession.” –(SRB-1917, p. 1265.)

Footnotes to 1 Pet. 2:9 state that:

In the dispensation of grace, all believers are unconditionally constituted a “kingdom of priests” (1 Pet. 2:9, Rev. 1:6), the distinction which Israel failed to achieve by works. The priesthood of the believer is, therefore, a birthright, just as every descendent of Aaron was born to the priesthood (Hebr. 5:1).

The chief privilege of a priest is access to God. Under law the high priest only could enter “the holiest of all,” and that but once a year (Hebr. 9:7). But when Christ died, the veil, type of Christ’s human body (Hebr. 10:20) was rent, so that now the believer-priests, equally with Christ the High Priest, have access to God in the holiest (Hebr. 10:19-22) ….

In the exercise of his office the New Testament believer-priest is: (1) a sacrificer who offers a threefold sacrifice: (a) his own living body (Rom. 12:1, Phil. 2:17, 2 Tim. 4:6, 1 John 3:16, James 1:27); (b) praise to God, “the fruit of the lips that make mention of His name (R.V.), to be offered “continually” (Hebr. 13:15, Exod. 25:22, “I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat”); (c) his substance (Hebr. 13:2, 16, Rom. 12:13, Gal. 6:6, 10, 3 John 1:5-8, Tit. 3:14).

The N.T. priest is also an intercessor (1 Tim. 2:1, Col. 4:12). –(SRB-1917, pp. 1313-1314)

Many Christians agree with much of the above interpretation but may disagree with specific interpretive sub-points. These would say that only Christ can offer the kind of mediation in which He willingly stands in our place and bears the costs of our sins. We are all priests, but only Christ is our High Priest. We can pray for the alleviation of the temporal consequences and punishments due to another person for that person’s sins. We can offer up our sufferings for the conversion of another. We can “rejoice in [our] sufferings for [another], and fill up that which is behind of”—[in many translations, “lacking in”]—“the afflictions of Christ in [our] flesh for [Christ’s] body’s sake, which is the church” (KJV, Col. 1:24). They would propose that this is what Epaphras was doing. But we cannot trade places with another person or offer up vicarious atonement for the sins of another in the way that Christ does.

Compare and contrast what Tsion is doing to what Epaphras was doing. How does Tsion’s practice of intercession conform to and deviate from what your church teaches about prayer in general and intercession in particular?

Discussion topic: Tsion also has two visions: one with Michael (pp. 232-235, 241-248), and one with Gabriel (pp. 300-304). The narrative cites Joel 2:28-32 as proof of their authenticity (p. 88). Tsion has detailed conversations with the archangels. He even describes their appearances.

In the Seventies, Christians had a great dread of anything “New Age,” including astral projection. The reasoning was that the fruits of the Spirit would abide always (Gal. 5:22-23), but the gifts of the Spirit were meant to establish the church. When they had done this, they would cease (1 Cor. 13:8-10). As a result, there were disagreements between believers who taught that all gifts had ceased, versus believers who taught that specific gifts (faith healing; speaking in tongues) would continue. Some proposed a compromise: that the church was established, but individuals might experience gifts of the Spirit.

Therefore, if one would determine if a new thing purportedly came too close to New Age infiltration, one should evaluate the message without the marvels. This was consistent with how Jesus did it. He performed miracles for a time. He had multitudes of followers for a time. Why did the cheering stop? Perhaps it was because He ceased performing miracles and started talking about commitment. Commitment led Jesus to a cross. New Age teachings had nothing to say about a cross. New Age buildings didn’t include them. Much has changed in the past forty years. Nowadays one can find “Christian yoga,” mega-churches in secular buildings, and Tsion visiting angels instead of angels visiting him.

Read the passages carefully. Is there any area where the visions speak where the Bible is silent? What do you think about Tsion’s visions? What does Tsion learn from them?

Discussion topic (in five sub-topics): After Chloe learns that children “no older than three and a half” are being taught to goose-step and reverence Antichrist Carpathia, and to pray a perverted “Our Father” to Satan in Antichrist’s name, Chloe and Tsion have a dark conversation (pp. 55-60). We must examine their debate and their reasons.

Chloe says, “I have been studying death.” She will kill herself and “commit infanticide.” Tsion insists that she is not being “honest” as long as she uses those words instead of the words he requires: “kill my baby.” Tsion has other responses, which we will address in turn. For now, we will start where he starts, and address his choice of words. What Chloe proposes is called “murder-suicide.” Tsion is trying to talk her out of it.

–“Masada shall not fall again”

It took almost three months for Masada to fall. The Sicarii Jewish rebels watched the Roman legions build a ramp up the very mountainside. Judaism prohibits suicide, so they drew lots. The selected few would kill the rest. Therefore, only the last man standing would be committing suicide. So they did. According to Josephus, 960 people died.

In Left Behind, it is true that Chloe is living in dark times. It is true that Baby Kenny could be captured and indoctrinated into beliefs and deeds that would honor Antichrist and the Devil. Alternately, the enemy could recognize Baby Kenny and, shall we say, do things to him. This could cause the Tribulation Force to yield up individuals and information that they otherwise would not have volunteered. Chloe claims that if such things happen, it would be Tsion’s fault, not hers.

Nevertheless, Chloe has certain advantages. She has proof that her side will win. She knows how future history will unfold according to prophecy (or at least, according to the outline of the authors). She even helps her side to win: she is in charge of the Co-op which will feed them enough to survive the entire Tribulation. Also, Chloe has a plane. Chloe has a chopper. Through her Co-op, Chloe has boats and ships and trucks and Land Rovers and Suburbans and puddle-jumpers and jets and planes and choppers.

Chloe also has guns. Ken Ritz had a Beretta (Volume 4, p. 342) and a 9 mm (Volume 4, p. 351), and he is very specific that he carries these weapons whenever he joins Chloe’s husband. When Ken dies in their presence, Tsion and Chloe claim his belongings (Volume 5, p. 233-234). Chloe’s got a gun. Babies, on the other hand, hate getting shots. Chloe has chosen a method that ensures that her baby dies crying. She will use the lethal-injection death penalty recipe—but she doesn’t have all of the ingredients. Kenny absolutely will die, but he may not be unconscious when he dies. (Your host did not specify the potion because a distraught reader who is overly fascinated with such things should contact 911 or other first-responder instead. Help is available. You are not alone.) If Chloe is convinced that she is doing the right thing, why don’t the authors remind Chloe that she has a gun? Maybe because it would be unpopular?

Chloe’s premeditation becomes the more blatant when we compare it to Leah’s impulsiveness. Leah Rose attempted suicide after the Rapture (Volume 6, p. 95). She “swallowed everything in the medicine cabinet … but apparently much of what I ingested countered whatever else I took.” Moreover, the 38-year-old Leah’s character has a history of suicide attempts stretching back to her teenaged years (Volume 6, p. 93). Consider: a head nurse fails to read the labels on her prescriptions, but Chloe who knows nothing about medicine methodically studies and steals until she has acquired what she wants. Chloe would only try once. Chloe has ensured that she would only need to try once.

Do you think Chloe is having a Masada moment? Why or why not? How long do you think Chloe has been planning to do this?

–Appeal to the masses

Next, Tsion informs Chloe that nobody else shares her point of view. In Logic Theory, this tactic is called “appeal to the masses.” Conveniently, it is a stratagem when you use it and a logical fallacy when your opponent uses it. Children learn this argument from an early age:

Appeal: “All of my friends are doing it.”

Correct answer: “And if all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it?”

Appeal: “Billy and Janey’s parents bought them one. Why can’t I have one?”

Correct answer: “Because Billy and Janey’s parents won’t buy you one.”

Appeal: “Everyone else is having sex.”

Correct answer: “Then you won’t have any trouble finding someone else. Lose my number. Bye-bye.”

Tsion recruits Kenny to help him Appeal to the Masses. (Whenever they say “baby” Kenny knows that they are talking about him. Tsion elicits the word “baby” so that Baby Kenny will run to Mommy and hug her.) Tsion claims that, by Chloe’s logic, “Cameron [i.e., Buck] and your father [Rayford] would be justified” in killing themselves. Then Tsion would have to do it as well. “Neither do I [Tsion] want to live without you and the little one …. Where does it end?”

Chloe, horrified, replies, “The world needs [them] …. They wouldn’t. They couldn’t …. Oh, Tsion, you would not deprive your global church of yourself.” When Tsion states that the world needs Chloe too, she ignores it. Apparently, the appeal to the masses has struck a nerve, but appeals to Chloe herself are ineffectual. Why do you think that is?

–Bad chicken

In the series finale of M*A*S*H* Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce chafes to be released from a sanitarium. Days earlier, he and some refugees had been hiding from an enemy patrol. Inexplicably, a refugee had brought a chicken. “Every time it made a noise, I was sure the Chinese would hear it and find us. Everybody’s life was in danger because of that [****] chicken!” Hawkeye continued to curse and revile the refugee until she silenced it. The patrol left, and the bus escaped. Since those events, Hawkeye has deteriorated physically and mentally. Therapy exposes the truth: the mother smothered her baby. Hawkeye is safe and free because of a child’s death. He repressed the memory, then blamed the woman and her imaginary chicken for putting him in peril.

Now despite the intensity of the performances, the episode is somewhat constrained. It’s all about Hawkeye. We never learn what the mother was thinking or feeling. We will never know if the baby was wanted, or thriving, or loved. All we know is that the baby was sufficiently inconvenient and insufficiently “good.”

Baby Kenny, in contrast, is a very good baby. He often sleeps through the night (p. 289). He asks for his parents (p. 231, 289), but he never whines for them. Baby Kenny is cute and obedient and convenient to tend no matter how many times he is passed around. The worst things anyone can say about him are that he was fussy once upon a time—in the swelter of August (Volume 6, p. 323)—and that Tsion, a man, thinks the baby’s diapers are too messy (p. 299). Kenny even sleeps through the evacuation (p. 380).

Tsion Ben-Judah argues that Baby Kenny should live because he is adorable, because he is sweet, because he is wanted and healthy and happy, because he “has brought so much joy to this house.” What about babies who are colicky, who have tantrums, who are not healthy, who are not whole, who are not wanted, and have brought a burden to their house? Are they less precious, less worthy of life? Should Baby Kenny’s life really be weighed on the scales against how “good” he is? As a bonus, Tsion mentions (p. 57) that if Chloe herself had been good, she would not have been left behind, and she wouldn’t be in this situation.

Chloe resists Tsion’s scattershot approach by keeping the debate circumscribed to her two ultimatums: she won’t let Baby Kenny fall into enemy hands; and “I cannot live without him.” Do you think Chloe’s insistence that Baby Kenny ought to be killed may be all about Chloe? What do you think about Tsion’s tactics of “good” baby and “good” mother? What do you think about Tsion’s attempt to appeal to guilt?

–You sank my battleship

In such a sprawling book series, it is possible to lose situational awareness. These are just big words that mean “losing track of your game pieces.” An example: previously, Hattie Durham was poisoned (Volume 5, pp. 23, 61, 76, etc.). She then miscarried (Volume 5, pp. 73-79). Second-hand exposure to this poison also killed Floyd Charles, who was Hattie’s and Chloe’s doctor (Volume 6, pp. 32-33; 41, 47). The authors must be blood donors: all donors know that anyone who partakes from a long list of prescription drugs cannot donate blood. This is because some drugs may cause certain birth defects in the unborn child of a pregnant recipient. Even when the drug has been diluted twice—once in the donor’s body, again in the recipient mother’s body—some drugs remain sufficiently potent to do third-hand damage.

In Volume 5, the reader never learns whether the poison was radioactive, chemical or biologic. The narrative eventually decrees something “like” but not actually “a time-released cyanide.” It “can gestate for months” before it “kicks in” (Volume 6, p. 32). The characters never do learn how it spreads from person to person; they cannot detect it; and they have no idea how or why it activates. It all sounds rather arbitrary. By these broad parameters, how would they truly know when it has claimed its last victim?

When Chloe has nightmares about “all the predictable stuff—convinced you’re going to have a monster, convinced the baby has already died, certain your baby doesn’t have all its parts” (Volume 5, p. 352), neither the characters nor the authors take her seriously. Now we have an agitated patient exhibiting an atypical mental state—a patient whose godchild (Hattie’s stillbirth; Volume 5, p. 371) and whose doctor died of a “timed-release” poison (Volume 5, p. 34). Someone probably should test Chloe for poison.

Just a thought.

–Tom & Brooke & Tsion & Chloe

In April 2005, model/actress Brooke Shields promoted her book Down came the rain which chronicles her experience with postpartum depression. In response, actor Tom Cruise swiftly retuned his own publicity tour. As a Scientologist, Cruise disagreed with Shields’ choice of treatment. Shields responded that Cruise had never been pregnant and so would do better to stick to fighting aliens (a reference both to his then-current film War of the worlds and to one of the tenets of Scientology). They eventually made peace.

As it happened, the controversy drew attention to new developments in the field. Until fairly recently, “everybody knew” that PPD could only manifest in a patient during the first few months post-partum but not beyond the first birth anniversary. We now know that PPD can manifest and linger for years. In retrospect, this makes sense. Puberty, peri-menopause, menopause, and senile dementias all take more than a year. Was it truly so unthinkable that PPD also might manifest for more than a year?

Obviously Left Behind #7: The Indwelling was released on March 30, 2000, five years before the Shields/Cruise debate. Still, the debate brought much-needed awareness to three PPD risk factors. These factors are: genetic predisposition; hormonal imbalance and other symptoms of a complicated pregnancy/birth; and environmental stressors.

Chloe certainly has experienced stressful life changes. During the Rapture, she is left behind. Since then, she has become a stay-at-home wife and mother—if a safe house counts as a home—while also running a business. In time her “Co-op” becomes so massive that it takes four people to replace her (Volume 11, p. 267). On a personal note, repeatedly Chloe is injured; now she no longer looks like herself. (“She was [Buck’s] sweet, innocent wife on one side and a monster on the other”—Volume 4, p. 252 …. “Chloe still had a severe limp, and her beauty had been turned into a strange cuteness by the unique reshaping of her cheekbone and eye socket”—Volume 5, p. 4.) And this is a truncated list! (Optional exercise: list additional stressors in Chloe’s life. Your host was able to count more than twenty.)

Secondly, Chloe had a difficult childbirth (Volume 5, pp. 363-397). The narrative refers to Chloe’s distressed breathing and need for oxygen no less than fifteen times. Dr. Charles detects a slowing fetal heartbeat for several days but cannot treat it. He contemplates performing a C-section, at home. He decides to induce labor, and then he is late in arriving. At least Dr. Charles believes in PPD (Volume 5, p. 111) and in hormones: “[Pregnancy and childbirth] floods the body with a hormone wash and turns a woman into a mother hen” (Volume 5, p. 367). To sum up, Dr. Charles confirms that Chloe experienced both hormonal changes and a difficult delivery.

Thirdly, there is the notion of genetic predisposition. Irene Steele was raptured before we could learn her medical history, but Rayford we know. Chloe’s father Rayford has gone (to use the technical term) action-hero-monomaniacal-nuts. He has been fantasizing, raging, craving the chance to murder the Antichrist—to assassinate him, to slay him, to whack him, to give him a dirt nap.

  • “Rayford had never dreamed that he might be an agent in the assassination, but at that instant he would have applied for the job” (Volume 3, p. 65).
  • A lethal head wound is “too good for [Carpathia]. Rayford imagined torturing the man” (Volume 4, p. 84).
  • Rayford wants to be “God’s hit man” (Volume 5, p. 100).
  • Rayford has “pleaded with God to appoint him. He wanted to be the one to do the deed. He believed it his destiny” (Volume 6, p. 2).

Rayford has been having these intrusive thoughts and feelings since before the Wrath of the Lamb Earthquake. That was 21 months ago. If there is a genetic component to mental disorders, Chloe has proof that the potential for murder runs in her family. Oh, and for thinking that God told them to do it. Maybe God has not specifically said Yes just yet, but they are pretty sure they can wear Him down.

During her illness, Shields learned that (in a few patients) post-partum depression can signal the onset of bipolar disorder. If Chloe has PPD or even bipolar moments, would anyone recognize it? They notice that her highs are so high and her lows are so low, but they don’t do anything about it. Rayford notices her “fierce determination that was more than just that of a protective mother” (p. 346). He calls it crazy to take on twelve soldiers, but he perceives that Chloe is looking forward to it. Rayford is right to be concerned.

Yet when Chloe reveals her fear and distress to Tsion, he asks her, “Is this a sign of faith, or a lack of faith?” Perhaps if she would just take more Vitamin F (faith) and do (spiritual) exercises, her problems would disappear. Tom Ben-Judah, meet Tsion Cruise.

Finally, the purported cure includes irony. When Chloe steps out in faith—or becomes inexplicably stimulated? discuss—and goes for a drive, people yell at her. They insist she will expose the safe house (pp. 181, 195, 210). The male characters are checking in and out of the safe house with the frequency of a Holiday Inn, but they blame Chloe (and Hattie, sixteen times). They forget that if Rayford and Buck never come home, it falls to Chloe to find the next safe house. (Tsion and the baby are new in town and wouldn’t know where to look.) They also fail to perceive that Baby Kenny may be in greater danger if Mom stays home (staring at him with those strange, sad, wrong eyes) than if she wanders the streets.

Altogether, Chloe qualifies to have post-partum depression, whether or not she has it. Do you think she has it? Why or why not?

What about depression in general? Her father has had explosive rages that include throwing furniture at Hattie (Volume 6, p. 57) and sobbing fits (Volume 6, p. 62). He wonders if he is clinically depressed (Volume 6, pp. 63-64) and calls himself “a sick man” (Volume 6, p. 65). Pop psychologists say that rage is depression directed outward, and that depression is rage directed inward. Do you think Chloe might be clinically depressed? Do you think Chloe is very angry? Both? Neither? Other?

–Section summary

This discussion topic is intended to evaluate Chloe’s competence, her mental state. Is Chloe operating under diminished capacity? To what extent is she under duress? As Chloe proposes the murder-suicide of herself and her child, to what extent do you regard Chloe as fully responsible and accountable for her decisions and actions?

Discussion topic: Tsion makes one more argument, one that bespeaks his state of mind more than it does Chloe’s.

“[Chloe, you are] buffering your convictions with easy words. You’re no better than the abortionists who refer to their unborn babies as embryos or fetuses or pregnancies so they can ‘eliminate’ them or ‘terminate’ them rather than kill them” (p. 58).

Abortion is mentioned frequently in the series, despite the fact that none of the characters actually have one. (Well, Nurse Leah had an abortion twenty years ago. It was awful.) For a more detailed exploration, see the anti-abortion and pro-life discussion topics in the Series Stray Spoilers/Discussion posts.

Jesus often told stories because He wanted people to understand Him. Established Christians may forget that. We sometimes speak in code, comfortable in our jargon, and we forget that guests and newcomers do not know that code. Chloe and Tsion have known each other for years and speak in code. The Gentle Browser who is new to Left Behind Land should be advised that “abortionist” is one of the worst things any character can ever call another character. Ever. “Abortionist” may be the ultimate obscenity, the 12-letter obscenity, the series equivalent of “ye who doth love the mother (or father) carnally and inappropriately—See also: Nero, Absalom, Tamar and Judah, Lot and both daughters, etc.”

(Aside: with the obvious exception of Nero, every one of those 12-letterers became ancestors of the Messiah, who is Jesus Christ our Lord. Even Absalom: his daughter Maacah—whom he named after his mother Maacah [2 Sam. 3:3]—married Rehoboam son of King Solomon and Naamah the Ammonite. King Rehoboam and Maacah’s son was King Abijah [1 Kings 14:31, 15:2, 2 Chron. 11:20-22, Matt. 1:7.]. As for the different spellings i.e., is it the same Absalom, see Judg. 12:6. And we all know King David, descendent of Tamar (probably a Canaanite like her mother-in-law), Judah, and the Moabite Ruth. Yes, the 12-letter word is a real word. Yes, words like “sin” and “death” are real words—but with our God, they are not the last word.

Does this mean, Let us sin, that grace may abound! Certainly not. When the Corinthians reported that a man was 12-lettering his father’s wife, Paul told the church to kick him out [1 Cor. 5:1-5]. Those who have died to sin ought not to live in it anymore [Rom. 6:1-11, Hebr. 10:26-31; John 20:19-23; 1 John 1:8-9, 5:16-17]).

Lest the Gentle Browser wonder if we are exaggerating the ferocity of Tsion’s statement and Tsion’s intent, consider the Catholic catechism and commentary on the Commandment: Thou shalt not kill. (If the Gentle Browser finds the font too small to read and would search other websites, the especially useful passages are CCC 2271, CCC 2272, CCC 2274, and CCC 2322.) Tsion of course is not Catholic. He would use the Left Behind Wiki, which compares abortion to child-burning, to the human sacrifice of children to the god Molech [Moloch] (Lev. 18:21, 20:1-5; Deut. 12:31, 18:10; 2 Kings 17:17, Ezek. 23:37, 39; Acts 7:43). As for the child-burners, there are a few of those in the Messianic line as well [Ahaz, 2 Kings 16:3, 2 Chron. 28:3; and Manasseh, 2 Kings 21:6, 16; 2 Chron. 33:6].

This is what Tsion is calling Chloe when he says she is “no better than an abortionist.” It is arguably the ultimate obscenity of the series. It’s bad. It is really, really, incredibly bad. It is so bad that the authors have to go back in the prequel mini-series and fix it. In its entirety:

Irene saw two women embracing and weeping. “Your child?” Irene asked.

One met Irene’s eyes and nodded. “I had her aborted sixteen years ago. She forgives me.”

–(The Rapture: Volume 15-called-Prequel-3, p. 179).

It is commendable that the authors acknowledge unborn children as people. Also, it is commendable in narrative and reasonable that the aborted child, in emulation of God, also would forgive and welcome their loved ones home. Yes, abortion is a real word—but with our God, it is not the last word. That is not a threat. That is grace.

But at this point Tsion and Chloe are ensnared in one of the darkest moments of their days. It says something about Chloe’s state of mind that the Ultimate Obscenity does not halt her in her tracks but the weakling Appeal To The Masses halts the conversation. It says something about Chloe’s state of mind that when Tsion calls her “no better than an abortionist,” it makes her cry but it doesn’t make her yield. Tsion may have silenced her, but he didn’t change her mind.

When Tsion calls Chloe “no better than an abortionist,” what do you think he thinks he is saying? What do you think he is thinking? What do you think Chloe is hearing? What do you think she is understanding?

Related: The series condemns abortion and makes life hard for Hattie Durham in particular for desiring one. Chaim is unapologetic about killing Carpathia. Buck struggles to know whether to condemn Chaim or to shrug it off, since Carpathia won’t stay dead. Tsion condemns Chloe’s plan to murder her son. He says that Chloe is “no better than an abortionist.” But Tsion shrugs at Rayford’s attempt to murder Carpathia. Tsion explains, “Off the top of my head, I believe we are at war. In the heat of battle, killing the enemy has never been considered murder” (p. 89). Rayford actually was not in the heat of battle; he has been premeditating this for years. Is Tsion referring to spiritual warfare? If so, is that what spiritual warfare looks like?

As the diverse characters seek abortions, plan to commit suicide (either directly or suicide-by-cop), plan to murder Baby Kenny, and plan to murder Carpathia, are the characters subscribing to the same line of reasoning: that the circumstances warrant it? Why or why not?

Discussion topic: “The bolt of Tash falls from above!” … except when it gets hooked on a watermelon halfway. Chaim Rosenzweig boasts of his scheme to kill Carpathia. (Off-topic and not required: see the brooding 21 Jump Street episode “Orpheus 3.3” to see if Chaim could have completed it before being shot by Carpathia’s bodyguards. Viewer’s discretion is advised.)

Chaim acts out of hatred. Hattie wants revenge. Rayford is driven by both revenge and rage. Technically Chaim and Rayford also could be committing “suicide by cop” because they know their actions will provoke the Antichrist’s bodyguards, and they don’t plan to be taken alive. Finally, Chloe wants to commit murder-suicide in despair. Interestingly, Chloe’s appetite to fight twelve soldiers might qualify as suicide-by-cop if we consider her frame of mind—but not if we propose the actions (separated from the emotions) as a fight-to-the-death to rescue her son.

Of all of these characters, the unsaved Chaim is the only one who ever contemplates, let alone expects, any afterlife consequences for his deeds. The premises of the series assert that this is because he is the only one who faces any afterlife consequences for his deeds. It is a foundational premise of the Left Behind series that saved characters will be unable to lose their salvation. They will be unable to fall away. The novels do not teach an understanding of salvation that includes state-of-grace and state-of-sin. A saved character may commit sins, because they are “not perfect, just forgiven.” However, a saved character cannot be in a state of sin.

This can be taken or mistaken to mean that saved characters do not believe in mortal sin. Volume 7 puts several characters in situations that seem designed to test that belief. This is why we had to evaluate Chloe’s mental state first. Chloe is losing her bearings. We had to determine if she also is losing her mind. If Chloe is sane, she might meet the criteria for mortal sin. These include:

• Full competence and personal responsibility (culpability)
• Full knowledge and foreknowledge (awareness and premeditation)
• Full and free will (without duress)
• Forewarning (Tsion—the unofficial “pope” of the series—prohibits it)

Note that Carpathia’s three pledged assassins meet an additional measure: “with malice.” This would be the most difficult to attribute to Chloe. She loves Baby Kenny. Yet one of the reasons she wants to kill him is the premise that it guarantees him entry into Heaven. The series premise of Age of Accountability is a temptation to her.

Chloe risks another temptation in “once saved, forever saved.” It is a premise of the novels that God will let Chloe into the Intermediate Heaven because she has the Saved Seal. If Chloe were to kill her baby and herself, is God still obligated to let her in? No matter what? To what extent must God comply? To what extent must God obey—even if a character wearing the Saved Seal deliberately disobeys? The Bible reminds us that “God is not a man, that He should lie (Num. 23:19; 1 Sam. 15:29; Titus 1:2). Therefore any problem must be in human understanding.

In the novels, the premise of Chloe’s Saved Seal would suggest that Chloe gets in—in the novels. Tsion Ben-Judah supports this conclusion.

“In later teachings I [Tsion] will elucidate on why the mark of the evil one is irrevocable. If you have already trusted Christ for your salvation, you have the mark or seal of God on your forehead, visible only to other believers. Fortunately, this decision, mark, and seal is also irrevocable, so you never need fear losing your standing with him.” (Volume 6, p. 327)

Tsion then quotes 1 Cor. 15:57-58 and especially Rom. 8:35, 37-39. These latter are the verses that remind the faithful that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Volume 8 adds a few crucial words that are not spoken in those verses. Your host has underlined the added material:

“The Bible says that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, and that has to include our own selves.” (Volume 8, p. 354.)

The saved characters assume that since nothing can separate them from the love of God through Christ (which is true), then nothing can separate them from the Body of Christ. Unfortunately there are multitudes of characters at the Great White Throne Judgment who are not separated from the love of Christ, but are separated from the Body of Christ:

Rayford once would have been horrified to hear these judgments. Now, as he saw Jesus’ tears as He pronounced sentence, Rayford understood as never before that Jesus sent no one to hell. They chose their own paths.”

–(Volume 16-called-13 a.k.a. Sequel 1, pp. 351-352).

Even Carpathia is not separated from that love. Carpathia admits that he knows Jesus loved him (Volume 12, p. 309). Jesus continues loving Nicolae Jetty Antichrist Carpathia even as Carpathia goes into the lake of fire. Nothing will separate Carpathia from the love of Christ—but Carpathia is separated from the Body of Christ. All characters who are separated from the Body of Christ are doomed, lost.

Jesus is shown crying over the lost. He is crying because He loves them. And Jesus didn’t wait for you to be saved before He started loving you, either. But the characters, and the reader, need to be saved and in the Body of Christ to be in Heaven with Him.

This is a grievous realization for the unsaved characters, but—unless your host is mistaken; discuss—we may have saved characters who are making the same error. The characters are so agitated about what an Antichrist might do to them that they forget what the Living God could do to them (Matt. 10:28; Isaiah 8:12-13; Hebr. 10:30-31). The characters are so fixated on an external Antichrist that they overlook a closer and greater danger: the spirit of antichrist that lurks in every human heart.

By chance or God’s grace the characters are prevented from reaping the consequences of what they would sow. The two Saveds (Chloe and Rayford) and one Unsaved (Hattie) are unable to kill their targets. Chaim does assassinate the Antichrist, but Chaim gets saved about 24 hours later. Therefore he receives a full and eternal pardon. What if the narrative had not intervened? Can a saved character commit a mortal sin according to the tenets of the Left Behind series?

Jesus said, “Thou shalt not tempt the LORD thy God” (Matt. 4:7; Deut. 6:16; Exod. 17:2, 7). To what extent would Chloe be tempting God with her proposed murder-suicide? Would your answer be different if this scenario had happened earlier in the series, before Chloe or any character received the Saved Seal? Would your answer be different if this scenario had happened before the Rapture?

To what extent would Rayford be tempting God with the murder of Carpathia? By Volume 11, pp. 147-149, Buck admits to one kill and Rayford admits to two kills, “both in self-defense.” Would your answer be different if it includes an examination of the other deaths credited to the Tribulation Force in the series? Would your answer be different if the scenarios had happened before Buck and/or Rayford received his Saved Seal and/or before the Rapture?

Discussion topic: Not all readers would agree with a proposal above that “the spirit of antichrist lurks in every human heart.” After all, when we get saved, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us (John 14:16-17; 1 Cor. 2:10-13, 3:16-17; Eph. 1:13-14, 4:30; 1 John 3:24, 4:2-4). The Holy Spirit will never lead us into error. Therefore, if we cannot feel the Spirit’s leading, either we are not listening, or we are not obeying. Where there is no obedience, there is no guidance.

Our enemy is a predator. We can eject a predator from our homes, without always successfully removing the individual from our lives. An enemy might peer or shout through the windows. He might send messages into our supposedly secure home through the telephone, or through the mail. He might send one of his own to befriend us; we then allow that trusted “friend” to enter into our home. A predator might not need to break a locked door—the goal is to break the targeted person.

The characters in Volume 7 really, really want to do what they are doing. Rayford even convinces himself (and tries to convince the reader) that his idea is of God. Before they act, none of them—Rayford, Chloe, Hattie, Chaim—truly care about God’s opinion, not enough to actually ask Him. Interestingly, Tsion does not mention God’s opinion either. Tsion gives only his own opinions (“off the top of my head”) and feelings (“Neither do I want to live without you and the little one”). Alternately, we could be looking at scenarios known as “it is easier to ask forgiveness than permission.” Why do you think there is so much sinning going on in the Tribulation Force? Discuss what they could do about it.

Discussion topic: Tsion Ben Judah is a celebrity, even a superstar. In the area of his specialty he has no rival: “the 28 percent of Scripture that is about prophecy” (LaHaye, Revelation Unveiled, p. 27). Tsion is charismatic—that is, he has the quality of being followed. Tsion is contagious—that is, other characters almost squeal with delight when they meet someone who has met the great man (Volume 4, p. 216; Volume 5, p. 22, 46; Volume 7, p. 12). Tsion is supreme—Antichrist Carpathia himself is stilled, cowed, “embarrassed” by Ben-Judah (Volume 2, pp. 387-396). Tsion is a Biblical superhero—he even gets a congratulatory phone call from Elijah the Tishbite (Volume 2, p. 398). (Moses says hi.)

Here in Volume 7 a nameless pastor gushes, “you can tell Dr. Ben-Judah that he has at least one church out here that could lose its pastor and never skip a beat. We all love him” (p. 310). Tsion is something else—he is an illusion, a mirage. Your host has attended the funerals of pastors, including our own. All we can say is that it is a pretty sorry indictment of Pastor Nameless and his church if Nameless can be replaced by a televangelist, however well-intentioned.

The matter is complicated by the fact that Left Behind is a rapturist series. Rapturists often have non-denominational leanings, though of course an occasional rapturist may surface in any congregation. This is because of soul liberty, also called soul competency. The problem is that non-denominational groups do not have a magisterium or equivalent. They have a marketplace. In their rejection of hierarchy (intermediaries) to uphold soul liberty and local control, they risk yielding to a different external force: money. The assumption is that if a preacher, a teacher, an author, a book, is popular, then it must mean that God is prospering that work. Discernment is required: both John the Baptist and Jesus were popular, for a time. So was disco. So was Carpathia.

It is true that the character Tsion is good at doing the things he is designed to do. He is telegenic in a media-saturated story. He teaches what his creators teach, but in more accessible vocabulary. He is growing his church. He is famous. He is always right about prophecy (in the novels). What he doesn’t understand is why none of this works on Chloe.

The truth is that Chloe’s purported spiritual director has gone from ancient scrolls to the Internet without ever passing through meatspace experience in pastoral care, much like the science-fiction characters who skip from the Stone Age directly to the Space Age because someone broke the Prime Directive. The truth is that Tsion is not a pastor, not really. Rather, he is a man who has been given so many pastoral responsibilities that he assumes he is one.

Tsion doesn’t do the marrying, the burying, the baptizing, the chastising. He doesn’t do the marital counseling, the pre-marital counseling, the bereavement counseling. He is not the one who gets the telephone call in the middle of the night. He doesn’t lead the flock, feed the flock, shepherd the flock, or protect the flock. And when was the last time Tsion led a weekly worship service? Tsion might be able to meet the “felt needs” of “a cyber-congregation of one billion people,” but can he truly meet the needs of a lost world?

It is interesting that a GC shill also mentions that the GC “is not meeting the felt needs” of the television audience (p. 290). Many churches fall into infotainment, infomercial, poll-driven entanglements. We want to attract new people; we want to “grow the church.” (We want to be like that church in Time Changer: the building is only five years old, and they’re expanding already. We are not saying that Christians should not enjoy each other’s company. We merely suggest that Scripture states, I was an hungred and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in; naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me (Matt. 25:35-36). It does not say, I was bored and ye took me bowling.)

Again, discernment is required. There are worse things Tsion could do than to drag Chloe and company to an (abandoned) bowling alley once in a while. (Even the characters in Susan Beth Pfeffer’s “moon” series who were starving to death found time to form a book club and to play football on their last Thanksgiving.) Rather, Tsion’s “parishioners” need more from him than to swell a progress i.e., to increase the number of hits on his website. They need spiritual nourishment. Growing the church is not just easier, but it also fits better into a management-by-objective, goal-oriented, one-and-done checklist. Feed the sheep, again? But they just got fed last week!

Perhaps the Gentle Browser noticed it in earlier volumes. Perhaps you only noticed it just now. Chloe needs someone who knows the other 72 percent of the Bible. She needs someone who knows her, personally. And Tsion needs to know his audience. He decides to use pop psychology on Chloe rather than using Scripture. But pop psychology carries its own risks. For example, when Tsion suggests that maybe they all should kill themselves, a Masada Chloe might suggest that she alone should kill the others, since she has made her decision. A despondent Chloe might claim that she deserves to die. A crowd-following Chloe might profess a misguided sense of comfort and gratitude that everyone else is going into death with her. On the other hand, a Stanford University Chloe might have read Tolkien, and might have responded to Denethor contemplated murder-suicide, but he was wrong and so are you.

Chloe has a job feeding millions of people (Volume 5, page 346). Millions of people (Volume 11, page 264). Has it occurred to Tsion that Chloe is overworked? That doesn’t include the added work of caring for a baby as a semi-single parent. Her husband comes and goes as he pleases, and it always is possible that he will not return. If Chloe had wanted to be alone, she wouldn’t have gotten married. For her part, Chloe plans to commit murder-suicide of herself and their child behind her husband’s back. She sees no need to inform him even after the crisis has passed. Has it occurred to Tsion that Chloe’s marriage might be in trouble? Finally, as we mentioned in a previous topic, has it occurred to Tsion that Chloe might be sick in her mind? And what could he do about it if she were? He uses pop psychology but that doesn’t make him a doctor.

Instead, Tsion calls her the worst thing he knows. He honestly believes this would work:

Chloe: “Behold, the earth is corrupt and all that dwelleth therein! Goodbye, cruel world!”

Officer Bob: “Lady, hand me that baby and climb down from there! If you do this, you’ll be no better than an abortionist!”

Chloe (*blinks*): “Oh, wow. I never thought of it that way. Here. I hand thee the baby. Verily, from on high I climb. See, again am I one height with thee. Give me back my baby.”

Officer Bob: “Absolutely, citizen. I could take the baby into protective custody, or take you to jail, or take you to a hospital for observation. But I’m not going to do any of those things. I know you were only sinning. That sort of thing will get you left behind. Go, and sin no more.”

(Exeunt.)

That approach would not work for Officer Bob, and it did not work for “Pastor” Tsion. Chloe has a plan. She has the will. She has the murder weapon. Furthermore, she still may have it as the novel ends; there is no indication that Tsion confiscated it.

What could a pastor do to protect Kenny and comfort Chloe? Could he baptize the baby? Not according to Tim LaHaye’s Revelation Unveiled (378 pp., c1999). Tsion’s co-creator states, “There is no scriptural verification for [infant baptism]” (p. 73). Actually, the series makes no mention that Chloe has been baptized. Should Tsion baptize one or both characters now? Why or why not?

Could Tsion enter into a season of prayer and fasting for Chloe’s healing and Kenny’s safety? Again, no, not according to Tsion’s creators. Rev. Unv. (p. 66) lists “fasting on Fridays and during Lent” as one of “the changes and doctrines that have their source in paganism [and were] added to the Church during the [Thyatira or Roman Catholic] period.” Did LaHaye object to the fasting, or to the choice of days upon which to do it? The text does not elaborate. Jesus approved of fasting under specific circumstances (Matt. 6:16-18, Matt. 17:21n; Mark 9.29n), but neither does our Lord elaborate. What do you think?

What about prayer? Tsion urges Chloe to pray for their loved ones to come home (p. 60). On the one hand, this is good. They should be praying for their loved ones. It might help to pull Chloe out of her personal downward spiral, by connecting her to the community of saints. On the other hand, one suspects that Baby Kenny’s enchanting yet uncomprehending mimicry of Mama is the prayer most pleasing to God that day. (One also suspects that Chloe’s secret prayers include asking how she can get God and Tsion to change their minds—and Tsion may well be praying, Please hurry up and bring home her husband and father who know how to handle this young lady).

Tsion goes to great lengths to conduct an intercession for Rayford (who, at the time, is asleep and contented in Pastor Demeter’s care; pp. 107-113). Tsion states that “true intercession involved deep empathy and that a person thus praying must not enter into the practice unless willing to literally trade places with the needy person” (p. 78). Without knowing it, Tsion offers to trade places with someone who is better off than he is.

Tsion only prays for Rayford and company (p. 60) and for himself (p. 57). Tsion never prays for Chloe or Kenny. It also never occurs to Tsion to perform intercession for Chloe and/or Baby Kenny. For Chloe, it may be the Batman Rule. (In the Timmverse DCAU, Batman defeats a telepathic attacker after warning him, “My mind is not a fun place to be.”) It’s understandable, but it’s still a problem. It gives the impression, however unfair, that Tsion did not try Chloe and find her hard, but rather that he found her hard and therefore did not try.

Baby Kenny is even more problematic. Is Tsion willing to literally trade places with the baby? The premises of the Left Behind series would suggest no, he would not. After all, Baby Kenny is unsaved.

“Sin isn’t necessarily just things we do,” [Chloe] had said. “It’s what we are and who we are. We’re all born in sin and need forgiveness.” –(Volume 16-called-13, p. 63)

To fix this, Baby Kenny must be able to lisp a Sinner’s Prayer (Volume 1, p. 216). He must understand it; he must be able to put it in his own words that would “cover the same territory” (Volume 1, pp. 446-447). He must assent to it. And he must tell the truth. (“Well, Mom, you have to mean it if you pray that prayer” –Volume 16-called-13, p. 290.) Unfortunately, the 14-month-old Baby Kenny cannot do any of these things he must do to be saved. (Unable to perform the works to be saved? discuss.) If he dies, he is safe in the arms of Jesus, but he cannot be saved alive—not until he is old enough. By the standards of Left Behind, Baby Kenny is not only unsaved but unsaveable. Why, then, would Tsion want to exchange places with him? (He doesn’t, and he doesn’t.)

When Hattie Durham threatens, “I’ll have an abortion before I’ll let him hurt me or my child,” Buck Williams replies, “You’re not making sense. You would kill your child so [Carpathia] can’t?” (Volume 4, p. 297). Now Chloe is threatening to kill her child so the GC can’t. From Baby Kenny’s point of view, Kenny would still be dead. Tsion fails to mention this little detail.

Chloe’s other worry is that the GC will not kill Kenny but will raise him as a Satanist. It is commendable that Tsion is willing to lay down his life to protect the child. But Chloe wants to know what happens next, after Tsion is dead and Baby Kenny is taken alive. Tsion doesn’t have an answer to that.

The truth is that Tsion does not have an answer to a lot of things. Tsion never addresses Fortunado’s claim (Volume 4, pp. 41-43) that Carpathia revivified him from the dead. (Tsion’s silence will lead to serious trouble in Volumes 7-12.) Tsion’s visions do not actually address anyone’s problems, including his own. Tsion calls Chloe “no better than an abortionist” but never addresses the paradox of the novels: if Age of Accountability is true, then it (unintentionally) could make abortionists into great missionaries who hazard their own souls to send little babies straight to Heaven, with no chance of the babies’ souls ever being damned. Sending Baby Kenny straight to Heaven is exactly what Chloe wants! (Metaphorically speaking, Tsion drops a nuke without tracking the fallout.)

Tsion believes in “claiming the promise in the passage” (p. 101). That is, he believes that if his Bible opens to a particular passage, it means that the prophet Joel predicted traveling mercies for Rayford Steele and Buck Williams thousands of years before they were born. (Is Tsion using the Bible for fortune-telling and/or treating it as a Magic 8 Ball? Discuss.)

It is true that there are Biblical passages which Tsion could apply to their immediate situation. Unfortunately the purported pastor, the former rabbi, has nothing Biblical (or even commonsensical) to say to a friend who would “curse God and die” (Job 2:9). Tsion the rabbi does not even recall, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me” (Psa. 23:4). Were not words like this written for such times as these?

The reality is that Tsion is less prepared to be a pastor than was Bruce Barnes, the “visitation pastor” who “was lazy,” who “cut corners,” who “smiled at” those he visited, and who sometimes did not arrive at all if the visitation conflicted with a movie he wanted to see (Volume 1, p. 196). (In the Volume 1 discussion, we asked whether Bruce had met anyone who was dying hard. It is unlikely that a mourning family would have tolerated such brazen neglect.) But Bruce probably at least went to Bible college.

Unfortunately for Tsion, the mature Christians were all Raptured. This limits the number of people who might instruct him. Perhaps Tsion forgets that he is styled a rabbi. It is probable that very, very few rabbis were Raptured. He might even find one who survived Ha’Shoah. Obviously they would disagree about Jesus, but there must be some Jewish shepherds left to teach Tsion how to nurture, admonish, and defend his flock.

Sadly, the standards for “rabbi” in Left Behind Land appear to be similarly in flux. Tsion holds two doctoral degrees (Jewish history; ancient languages), but he is not a “rabbi” in the shepherding sense of the word. He has no religious training. He attended a secular university. Tsion was 19 (compare Volume 2, p. 107) when he studied under Chaim Rosenzweig, the atheist Jewish botanist. They spent enough time together to become mentor and star pupil. Tsion became a “scholar, historian, and educator” (Volume 2, p. 318). Tsion taught at an academic institution, where adult students “evaluated” him. Small children do not “evaluate” their educators. Shut-ins do not “evaluate” their visitors. Tsion was grading students for a semester, not teaching on Shabbat in a synagogue and watching a congregation grow up and grow old. Rabbi Tsion’s title is a courtesy, not a reality.

Finally, Tsion does not have even the training of the ordinary Christian in the church pews. The faithful Christian must have listened to years or decades of sermons, participated in years or decades of Bible study class, sung hundreds or thousands of hymns. Some of it probably remains on the tip of the tongue, so to speak. Some of it probably has been absorbed into your general life in Christ, just as food you can no longer taste has built up your body to make you stronger, to run longer. (Exercise daily: walk with God, run from the Devil.) And of course we have Bibles, so that we can be nourished again and again. Tsion had the opportunity to read the New Testament in 22 languages (Volume 2, p. 319)—but Christians who can read in only one language were reading it more frequently and thoroughly than he ever did. That was part of why he was left behind.

(Having said that, does the Gentle Browser remember last week’s sermon? Describe sermons, classes, etc. that have stayed with you and have contributed to your life.)

None of this is intended to disparage Tsion Ben-Judah, merely to learn from his mistakes. Indeed, aside from being unsaved, none of his choices would have seemed like mistakes at the time. Clearly he is a hard worker. (Twenty-two languages!) He liked teaching. He had no reason to think that he would ever change careers, let alone end up in a doomsday story. Only the reader can indulge in hindsight. Tsion did not know that he had decades to learn from wiser minds and hearts, from real rabbis, real pastors, real teachers, the real community of saints. He missed his chance. Now he lives in a world without freedom of worship, freedom of association, freedom of speech. It’s done now.

Tsion does not even share a cultural background with the Trib Force. Chloe comes from a community and a century which tends to over-spiritualize medical, emotional, or financial problems, and which also rationalizes, medicates, or throws money at spiritual problems. There is no reason to think that the Trib Force has mended these bad habits merely because the world is ending.

Finally, Tsion cannot call an ambulance, the police, or a suicide hotline. Those resources no longer exist. The few that do in the novel are in the hands of the Devil.

All of the above leaves the untrained and untried Tsion to tackle problems that would make even an experienced pastor cringe. Chloe is presenting Tsion with one of the hardest battles of theodicy: she may be losing faith because bad things are happening to other people, to other people’s children. How would you answer someone who is losing faith because others suffer?

Altogether, Tsion is in an unenviable position. Yet he does two things that make a difference. He is resolute to protect Baby Kenny, from both the GC and from Kenny’s own mother. And Tsion appeals to relationships. Why did the weakling Appeal to the Masses tactic come closest to success? Perhaps it is because God is a relationship. Our God is Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Our God is a relationship, and He designed us for relationship with Himself and with each other. Chloe’s choices cannot be separated from those relationships. It is here that Tsion struck a nerve, however crudely and uncomprehendingly.

Section summary

If you wish, design a course of study for Tsion to catch up in the time that is left to him. Assume that the Tribulation Force can obtain what he needs, to the extent that it still exists.

Every child of God is given talents (Matt. 25:14-30). At the same time, everyone owes God a sum of talents we never can repay—so He simply gives it to us (Matt. 18:23-35). Have you made the most of the talent and time that is given to you?

If someone came to you in pain, would you know the difference between a hard day versus a crisis? If someone came to you for spiritual help—for something this dangerous, something this serious—would you know how to help them? That doesn’t mean, could you do it, but rather do you know when you don’t know enough? Do you know what you know and know what you don’t know, and where, when, and how to get an expert for what you don’t know? Is your family, your workplace, your church prepared with a plan of whom to call for emergencies? Does everyone know where to find that list?

Related: there are times when a sin also is a crime. There may be pressure to “try harder,” pressure not to “split up a godly family” or not to “expose the church to scandal.” The individual may need help, but there are times when that help has to happen behind bars. Would you make that phone call?

Continue to Part 2 of 2. Return to Spoilers.

34. Bonus: Volume 7 (L.B. Indwelling) spoilers

Reader’s discretion is advised.

(Added May 2016)

Spoiler: Why are we covering Left Behind #7: The Indwelling: The Beast Takes Possession out of order?

Answer: During Lent of 2016 and particularly during Easter week of 2016, your host frequently found oneself thinking about this book. Repeatedly, persistently, often, and a lot. We do not know if someone needs to read these spoilers and discussion, only that someone needed to write it.

Spoiler: What would your host like readers to know about this novel?

Answer: Volume 7 was released on March 30, 2000, before a day that changed the world. As always, words or phrases in quotation marks are quotes from the novel.

Spoiler: What else would your host like readers to know about this novel?

Answer: The enemy performs a particular sign and wonder in imitation and mockery of Christ. This could upset the faith of some. Before reading, the Gentle Browser should prayerfully consider whether one is ready or not yet ready for this advanced material.

Spoiler: What else would your host like readers to know about this novel?

Answer: Certain characters in the novel exhibit irrational behavior. If you or someone you know is having such intrusive thoughts and feelings, your host would urge the Gentle Browser to contact 911 or other first-responder, or a suicide prevention hotline. We are not alone; we live in God’s world. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ saith the LORD, ‘plans to help you and not to harm you, to give you hope and a future’” (Jer. 29:11). Help is available. You are not alone.

For the reasons listed above, Reader discretion is advised.

This concludes our introductory comments.

Spoilers

Spoiler: As the novel opens in Jerusalem, what is in the prologue from Volume 6, Assassins?

Answer: It is Friday, the moment of Nicolae Jetty Antichrist Carpathia’s assassination (pp. xi-xiii). Buck Williams ducks at the sound of a gunshot. A few faces show “glee.” Buck surmises they are “converts from the Wailing Wall who had seen Carpathia murder their heroes [Moishe and Eli].” The other two million spectators flee. Buck hides under a scaffold to avoid being trampled. On the stage, Chaim Rosenzweig sits catatonic in his wheelchair. Leon Fortunado cradles the bloody Carpathia, bawling, “Don’t die, Excellency. We need you! The world needs you! I need you!”

Blood runs from the Antichrist’s eyes, nose, mouth, and from the top and back of his skull. To Buck, it is obvious what caused this fatal wound.

Nicolae Jetty Carpathia, aged 36, dies in Leon’s arms. As heard by Buck, the Antichrist’s last words are “a liquid, guttural murmur, “But I thought … I thought … I did everything you asked.”

Leon Fortunado schedules Carpathia’s funeral for the following Sunday. For some reason all of the primary security cameras that should have recorded the assassination have been “blocked.” Two hours before the funeral, Fortunado summons David Hassid—computer technician, hacker, and a mole for the Tribulation Force—to view the recovered footage. It clearly identifies the assassin.

Tsion Ben-Judah, Chloe Steele Williams, and Baby Kenny Williams remain hidden in the safe house in Mount Prospect, Illinois. They watch the news. “You have to assume the resurrection [of the Antichrist] will be caught on television.” Nothing happens.

“The Scripture had not foretold of death by projectile.” Friday becomes Saturday. Carpathia remains dead, laid out in state in New Babylon. “By dawn Sunday, as Tsion gloomily watched mourners pass the glass bier in the sun-drenched courtyard of the GC palace, [Tsion] had begun to doubt himself.” Has Tsion misunderstood the prophecies? Or did the assassin murder the wrong man?

Volume 7 is the story of what the living did during that three-day weekend.

Spoiler: As the novel opens, what are the major characters doing?

Answer: It is still Friday, the moment of Nicolae Jetty Carpathia’s assassination. Leah Rose (alias “Donna Clenendon”) is in Belgium, trying to collect her “niece” Hattie Durham (alias “Mae Willie”) from the BUFFER women’s prison (pp. 1-14). Leah is ejected empty-handed. She calls Rayford and the safe house. There is no answer.

David Hassid knows why the phones are not working. Leon Fortunado orders him to “scramble the satellites to make it impossible for those who did this to communicate with each other by phone” (p. 25-26). It isn’t the correct terminology, but David understands him: everything connected to a satellite is to be cut off. The problem is that the entire planet is served by the same system. “It’s the reason we’ve never been able to shut down the Judah-ites’ internet transmissions.” Even the long-distance landline coverage is sporadic since Carpathia redirected telecom utilities into the Cell-Sol satellite network. (See Volume 4.) Fortunado wants it done anyway. David states that the GC would still have local landlines and television transmission (p. 26). Good enough, Fortunado says.

Later, David talks with his fiancée Annie Christopher about the logistics of transporting dead evil potentates (pp. 29-31). Annie quips, “I’d like to drop the box and run over it with a forklift. Let’s see that come back to life.”

As for Rayford Steele and Cameron “Buck” Williams—who are present at the scene of the assassination—the authors wait until the characters have had a running head start before the narrative pursues them. Rayford in disguise is trying to run in turban and robes, like a woman running in a long skirt (p. 20-21). “If he had killed the potentate, there was certainly no satisfaction in it, no relief or sense of accomplishment … Rayford felt he was running from a prison of his own making” (p. 20).

Rayford, passing himself as Marvin Berry of Kalamazoo, Michigan, talks his way past Tel Aviv airport security and helps himself to a Gulfstream. When security receives orders to initiate code red screening, Rayford takes off anyway. At that moment, airport communications turn to static. Rayford is relieved. Now there will be no organized pursuit. “If he was flying blind, so would the GC” (pp. 31-37). He flies by night to Greece (p. 47).

Back at the assassination, Buck races toward the stage. Dr. Chaim Rosenzweig is on the stage, and the scaffolding is collapsing (pp. 14-19). Neither Buck nor Chaim’s aide Jacov can help. “Chaim sat motionless … if he had not been shot, Buck wondered if he’d had another stroke, or worse, a heart attack” (p. 17).

In the pandemonium, Buck loses sight of Chaim. He finds only the broken wheelchair. Rayford is not answering his phone (p. 37). “Buck had been angry with his father-in-law before, but never like this …. What was [Buck] supposed to do, collect Leah from Brussels, and it was every man for himself?”

Mac McCullum gets the best view of the gore. As the pilot of Carpathia’s plane—the Condor 216—he watches the man’s death throes, which leave the EMTs “kneeling in more blood than it seemed a body could hold.” One declares, “No vitals. He’s flat lined.” Fortunado buries his face in the corpse’s chest and sobs. On the plane, a doctor pronounces the death.

Security Chief Walter Moon instructs all to say nothing to outsiders. Mac and his co-pilot Abdullah “Smith” will fly them home (pp. 21-25).

Spoiler: Who killed Nicolae Jetty Antichrist Carpathia?

Answer: The Global Community blames Rayford. They show his photo on TV as early as Friday afternoon. He should be considered armed and dangerous (p. 76). Buck thinks the GC are grasping at straws (p. 74). Hattie has no doubts. “I know [Rayford] better than that.” She says Rayford would not kill someone in a million years (p. 190).

Mac McCullum says “something stinks” here. “Neon Leon has a bee in his bonnet” about three regional sub-potentates being “disloyal” just because they ran when they heard a gunshot. “The suspected weapon is found with a disgruntled former employee’s [i.e., Rayford’s] prints all over it, and all Leon can talk about is a conspiracy” (p. 92).

Spoiler: How does Chaim’s household staff die?

Answer: Jacov tries to climb onstage to rescue Chaim. A GC Peacekeeper punches Jacov in the head with the butt end of an Uzi. Jacov falls twelve feet down into the panicking crowds and is trampled. Security bags the body. Buck must leave him (pp. 17-19). Buck later tells Chaim that the Uzi broke Jacov’s neck (p. 159).

“The people in Chaim’s house—Stefan the valet, Jacov’s wife Hannelore, and Hannelore’s mother—had to have been watching on TV and were likely calling anyone they knew for news of their loved ones.” Over the phone, Buck can hear Hannelore’s mother screaming. The phone goes dead (pp. 23-24).

Buck arrives at Chaim’s home and finds it deserted and dark (p. 38). The power has been cut. Buck locates Chaim’s rechargeable flashlight in its outlet. When Buck hears drip, drip, he flashes the room briefly. Blood drains from the lifeless bodies of Hannelore and her mother, each bound to a chair and gagged, each shot in the head. Hannelore’s mother was squat and heavy, and her arms had been contorted to allow her wrists to be tied. He gets their blood on him as he verifies that there is no pulse (pp. 38-41). “Who could have done this? And wouldn’t Stefan, his Middle Eastern maleness coming to the fore, have fought to the death to prevent it?” (p. 41).

“What might Rayford have done in this same situation?” Buck thinks he understands Rayford a little better, after “what he had lost. Buck stubbornly left him on the pedestal of his mind as the leader of the Tribulation Force and as one who would act honorably in this situation” (pp. 51-52).

“Feeling ashamed, as if his wife and son could see him feeling his way in the dark, fighting a whimper like a little boy rather than tramping shoulders-wide through the place, Buck stepped on flesh.” He again shines the flashlight. Stefan lies still, his face a mask of tranquility, eyes and mouth closed as if in sleep. “His arms and legs were in place, hands at his sides, but all four limbs had been severed, the legs at the hips, the arms at the shoulders. Clearly this had been done after he was dead, for there was no sign of struggle.” Buck hits his knees. His palms touch down in more thick, sticky blood. Sobbing and gasping, Buck wonders what kind of weapon it would have taken to dismember a dead man. How long did it take? Why did they do it? What was the message in that? he wonders (pp. 52-53). (The text never does say how Stefan died.)

David asks Buck if the news about Chaim is true: that he and his staff died in a house fire (pp. 169-170). No, the believers are dead but none of them died in a fire. The GC must have set the fire after Buck left the house, to cover the murders (p. 184).

Spoiler: Who is Ming Toy? What is Leah Rose’s connection to her?

Answer: Ming Toy, aged 22, is a believer born in China and employed as a supervisor-guard at BUFFER. Leah mistakes her voice for that of a “matronly, older” woman (pp. 6-7). Ming was widowed when the Rapture took the brakeman and controllers on her husband’s commuter train, and it crashed. She then joined the Global Community. When she became a believer, she sought work in GC Security in the hope that she could meet and aid believers (p. 14). She has not been detected yet because BUFFER is understaffed. Also, “a stratospheric IQ doesn’t hurt. That, and wrestling. Two out of three falls … They know Greco-Roman. I know martial arts” (p. 14).

Ming pretends to arrest Leah so that they have a private place to talk (pp. 9-10). To prove herself, she lets Leah lick her thumb and try to scrub off the believer’s Seal on her forehead (p. 11). They pray. Ming tells Leah that Hattie Durham was released “with a tidy settlement for her trouble. Roughly a hundred thousand Nicks in cash” (pp. 11-12). The GC hopes Hattie will be “dumb enough” to lead them to a Judah-ite contact or safe house (pp. 12-13). Ming considers Leah an answer to prayer, because Ming knew of no way to warn the believers. Leah replies, “Thank God for you, Ming.” They exchange phone numbers with an offer for Ming to join a safe house, if and when.

Spoiler: What are Tsion’s prayers and visions?

Answer: When Tsion hears the accusations against Rayford, Tsion feels a great need to pray for him. “It struck him that he spent more time in concerted prayer for Rayford than for any other individual” (p. 76). This feels different. “It seemed he was not in the proper posture to pray, and all he could make of that was that Rayford needed real intercession …. a person thus praying must not enter into [intercession] unless willing to literally trade places with the needy person” (p. 77). Obviously he cannot take Rayford’s place as a murder suspect. But Tsion can affect that posture in his mind; he can express his willingness to God to take that burden, literally possible or not. Soon he is prostrate and startled by a loss of equilibrium. He feels his focus shift from Rayford and his troubles to the majesty of God. Tsion comes to himself when the anxious Chloe finds his face mashed into the carpet (p. 78).

Nothing happens. Tsion frets if he was praying or sleeping (p. 119). He feels led to read Joel 2:28-32 (p. 88). Chloe’s husband and father are in Jerusalem—and in this passage, whomever in Jerusalem who call upon the name of the LORD will be delivered. Tsion says, “I am claiming the promise in this passage,” because God prompted him to find it: their loved ones will return to them safely. In spite of everything? asks Chloe. In spite of everything, says Tsion. Chloe just looks at him: “is there anything in there that says when the phones will start working again?” (p. 101).

After praying for his cyber-congregation (now more than one billion), Tsion is fighting sleep (pp. 231-232). It is 12:57 p.m. on Saturday. Tsion feels a tingle like the one he felt when interceding for Rayford. Suddenly Tsion is looking down upon himself and Baby Kenny, both sleeping. He feels weightless but feels the sensation of his body: the breeze upon the hairs on his arms, the smell of autumn leaves that nobody burned anymore, the sounds of appliances in the safe house and of a baby breathing. He ascends from Earth. He races through the vast universe. “He had never believed heaven was on the same physical plane as the universe, somewhere rocket men could go if they had the resources” (p. 234). Is he going there?

(Trivia alert: In his nonfiction writings, Tim LaHaye writes,

Somewhere, high in the heavens, out in the universe, a throne is set, which is the throne of God. This throne, described in [Rev. 4:1-2], gives us a glimpse of the heaven of God.

he Bible teaches us that there are three heavens. The first, the atmospheric heaven, where “the prince of the power of the air” holds forth, will one day be destroyed. The second heaven is the stellar heaven, known to us as the universe. The third heaven, into which John was caught up in verse 1, is the heaven of God. This could be the “empty space” referred to by Job in Job 26:7.

[TOM’s note: See also Psa. 18:11, 97:2.]

Although the heavens are filled with stars wherever the telescope can reach, it seems that behind the North Star there is an empty space. For that reason it has been suggested that this could be the third heaven, the heaven of God, where His throne is.

–Revelation Unveiled, c1999 (p. 113).

(So Tsion may have gone north. He passes our local planets and then “numberless galaxies” with “solar systems” of their own. However the novel does not specify a direction. The authors may have decided not to include it. /end aside)

Tsion becomes aware of a destination. A great light, brighter than burning magnesium, blots out the darkness. The Shekinah? The glory of God? Could he see it and live? He goes toward the light (pp. 232-235).

Tsion mistakes the Archangel Michael for Jesus. Tsion describes him (“the face ringed with hair massive as prairie grass”) and even interrupts him (pp. 242-243). Michael shows him an argument between the LORD and Lucifer, although Tsion only can see Lucifer. The enemy transforms into a serpent, then a dragon. Rev. 12:1-5 is re-enacted. Michael departs with many angels to fight the dragon. Tsion wakes with a start (pp. 241-248). The time is 12:59 p.m.

At 10 p.m. Saturday night Tsion is returned to the vision. He mistakes the Archangel Gabriel for Michael, who is engaged in battle (pp. 301-304). Rev. 12:6-12, 17 is re-enacted. When Tsion wakes, it is still 10 p.m. (Aside: the re-enactments are 10 pages, which because of added material is 9 pages longer then the verses upon which they are based.)

Spoiler: What are Rayford’s adventures on his way home from Jerusalem to Illinois?

Answer: “Rayford suddenly felt the weight of life” (pp. 48-51). He recalls the snatches of joy in his life: his daughter, son-in-law, grandson, friends. This reminds him that he has abandoned his friends, Buck and Leah. He tried to assassinate someone. What would Tsion say if he knew what Rayford had done?

“[Rayford] had wondered more than once during the past few months whether he was insane.” The scientific, logical Rayford who was left behind would not have done this. The new believer Rayford would not have done this either. In the quiet of the night, the cooling of the sky, the sea below, Rayford can feel “the hound of heaven pursuing him.” It is time to stop running. “He was going to face this, to square his shoulders to God and take the heat” (pp. 50-51). He cycles through shame, humility, prayer, and reminders of his responsibilities as leader of the Tribulation Force (pp. 70-73).

Rayford hopes that someone in Greece will shelter him. Over a hundred congregations had arisen in secret. His friend Lukas (Laslos) Mikos reports that Carpathia had wooed Greece into submission. “You are a deeply religious people, with a rich place in the histories of many belief systems.” The Antichrist’s power to mesmerize large crowds was believed to be so effective that “Greece was all but ignored by GC counter-intelligence, security, and peacekeeping forces. The country was low maintenance” (pp. 67-69).

Laslos and a pastor named Demetrius Demeter take Rayford to a secluded cottage. Demetrius says that he does not know if Rayford shot Carpathia. “But I discern your brokenness, and it is because you have sinned” (p. 110). Rayford is convicted by conscience and healed by the words of the young pastor. Released from his “murderous rage” and from “the dread fear that came with life as an international fugitive, he rested in the knowledge that he was a child of the King, a saved, forgiven, precious, beloved son in the hollow of his Father’s hand” (pp. 112-113).

The next morning, a believer named Adon gives Rayford a severe haircut down to the stubble and dyes it gray. Does Rayford wear glasses? Contacts, he says. “‘Not anymore,’” Laslos said, and Adon produced a pair that completed the look.” This new look adds ten years to his appearance. Then Adon forges new photo identification papers (pp. 130-131).

They miss a detail. The tower official observes, “Wow! It looks like this picture was taken today … He got this [ID] eight, nine months ago, but his hair’s the same length and, if I’m not mistaken, he’s wearing the same shirt.” Rayford bluffs that the hair doesn’t grow much anymore, and he doesn’t own a lot of shirts. “Your own plane and not that many shirts? There’s priorities for you.” Rayford shrugs; it’s a company plane. The GC lets him go (pp. 138-139).

Rayford and Leah agree to meet in the airport in Kankakee. He leaves the engine running, runs into the building, wakes Leah, grabs her, and they take off, “certain that Kankakee had no GC pursuit craft and no interest in a small jet flyer who had boorishly violated their protocols.” They apologize to each other (pp. 173-175). At Palwaukee, they hot-wire one of T Delanty’s cars (p. 179). Then they visit the Zekes (senior and junior) to get a makeover and a new identity for Leah (a.k.a. “Gerri Seaver”) (p. 180). Rayford calls the safe house and learns from Tsion that Chloe went to Chicago (p. 181).

Spoiler: What do Tsion and Chloe debate?

Answer: It is four PM on Friday (pp. 53-60). Tsion and Chloe worry that Hattie has compromised them. Suddenly Chloe is fighting tears (p. 55). “Tsion was alarmed at how much it took for Chloe to articulate her thoughts. They had always been able to talk, but she had never been extremely self-revelatory.” He says that he will keep her confidences. “Consider it clergy-parishioner privilege.”

Chloe has been watching “those staged rallies” where people worship the Antichrist. Small children—all aged three-and-a-half years and younger—are prominently featured (p. 56). They parade before Carpathia’s body and salute over their hearts with every step. “Day care workers and parents dressed the kids alike [in GC uniforms], and cute little boys and girls brought flowers and were taught to bow and wave and salute and sing to Carpathia.” Worse, children barely old enough to speak are being taught to speak—to pray—“Our Father in New Babylon, Carpathia be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done …” Tsion says he is “afraid of lightning” strikes.

Chloe slowly says, “I have been studying death …. I will not allow myself or my baby to fall into the hands of the enemy.” Has she told her husband? asks Tsion. No, she has not, and Tsion just promised that he would keep her confidence (p. 57). Chloe continues with “chilling conviction” that “I would rather we were dead ….I would [kill myself]. And I would commit infanticide.”

Tsion prays silently for wisdom. He asks Chloe, “Is this a sign of faith, or lack of faith?” Chloe does not know. But she “cannot image that God would want me or my baby in that situation.” Tsion asks if she thinks God wants her in this situation. God is not willing that any should perish. God would rather that she had been ready [to have gone up in the Rapture]. She knows, interrupts Chloe, she knows.

Tsion believes her. But he believes that she is not being “honest” with herself. She keeps using the word “infanticide.” He says, “There you go again. Buffering your conviction with easy words. You’re no better than the abortionists who refer to their unborn babies as embryos or fetuses or pregnancies so they can ‘eliminate’ them or ‘terminate’ them rather than kill them” (p. 58).

Tsion urges her to admit “what you’re going to do to this little one, because obviously, you have to do it to him first if it’s going to get done. Because if you kill yourself, none of the rest of us will do this job for you.” What is she really planning to do? “Kill.” Kill whom? With what? “Him.” Who is him? With what? Tsion presses, “Put it in a sentence.” Chloe finally says, “I will. I will … kill … my own baby.”

“‘Baby!’ Kenny exulted, running to her. She reached for him, sobbing.”

Tsion repeats, how would she do it? Chloe says that this is what she is studying. And then Chloe would kill herself? Yes. Tsion asks, why? Chloe says, “Because I cannot live without him.”

Well then, Tsion says, then her husband would be “justified” in killing himself (p. 59). Chloe shakes her head; the world needs him. Tsion replies that the world needs Chloe. Think of the co-op, he begins. Chloe cries, “I can’t think anymore! I want done with this! I want it over! I don’t know what we were thinking, bringing a child into this world.”

Tsion: but the child has brought so much joy. Chloe: that is why she “could not do him the disservice of letting him fall into GC hands.”

Tsion: “So the GC comes, you kill the baby, kill yourself, Cameron and your father kill themselves. Where does it end?” Chloe: they wouldn’t; they couldn’t. Tsion: you can’t, and you won’t.

Chloe thought she could talk to Tsion, that at least he would be sympathetic. Tsion assures her that she can talk to him, and he is sympathetic, but he will not condone this. “Neither do I want to live without you and the little one. You know what comes next.”

Chloe says, “Oh, Tsion, you would not deprive your global church of yourself.” Tsion replies, “Yet you would deprive me of yourself. You must not care for me as much as I care for you, or as much as I thought you did.”

Chloe sighs and looks to the ceiling. “You’re not helping,” she says in mock exasperation (p. 60). He is trying, he says. She knows, she says, and she appreciates it.

“Tsion asked her to pray with him for their loved ones. She knelt on the floor next to the couch, holding his hand … Tsion peeked at a sound and saw Kenny kneeling next to his mother, hands folded, fingers entwined, eyes closed” (p. 60).

Spoiler: Does it work?

Answer: Tsion does not know. He misreads her sometimes. When Rayford is accused of murder, Chloe is silent. “Tsion might have predicted tears, disbelief, railing against someone other than her father. She just sat, shaking her head” (p. 87). They discuss Rayford’s rage. Tsion shares that rage, when he thinks of his own family (p. 89).

Coming so soon after their own discussion, Chloe wonders, “There’s no exception to God’s law if the [murder] victim is the Antichrist, is there? …. Mustn’t [Rayford] turn himself in?” Tsion replies, “Off the top of my head, I believe we are at war. In the heat of battle, killing the enemy has never been considered murder.” Furthermore, Tsion would harbor Rayford, though of course urging him to seek God about it (p. 90).

Next, Tsion is unprepared and “alarmed” when Chloe decides to go for a drive. Tsion cannot order her; he is not her superior. But “Chloe was proposing madness” (p. 170). It is broad daylight. It is reckless. She is taking their last vehicle, leaving Tsion with nothing. Chloe shrugs; he cannot outrun the GC anyway. Let him be the one to sit quietly and be invisible. And if the GC does locate them? “Promise me you will do anything but let Kenny fall into GC hands …. I want him to die first.”

Tsion replies strongly and immediately, “That I will not do.” He would die protecting Kenny. Chloe insists that that is not good enough. “You’ll be a martyr, but you still will have lost Kenny to the enemy.” Tsion replies, “You’re right. You’d better stay here.” Nice try, replies Chloe, and leaves (p. 171).

When the GC begins searching Mount Prospect for the safe house, Chloe in Chicago is nearly hysterical. She calls Tsion. Chloe says, “Under my mattress is a syringe with a [potion which TOM has excised from these spoilers]. It’ll work quick, but you have to [method, also excised]. Please! Don’t ever let them have my baby!” Tsion tells Chloe to get hold of herself. He will protect Kenny with his life. He is not going to harm Kenny. And he has work to do. After Chloe demands and pleads “please” three times and “promise me” twice more, Tsion replies, “God is with us,” and hangs up (p. 308).

Spoiler: What do others say about Chloe’s decision?

Answer: In its entirety from p. 312: “Rayford was heartsick that Chloe was determined to kill Kenny rather than see him fall into the hands of the enemy. And yet as a father, he could identify with her passion. It terrified him that she had thought it through to the point where she had an injection prepared.” Rayford hears about it only because he is standing next to Chloe when she makes her phone call. They never discuss it.

After they pick up Albie, Buck, and Chaim at the airport, Chloe suddenly puts her arms around Leah Rose, thanks her for her help, and says, “forgive me.” Leah accepts, then adds, “Just tell me you didn’t get the [potion] idea” and materials from Nurse Leah. Yes, says Chloe, she did. Suddenly Chloe says she is “glad” to know that Tsion would never hurt Kenny (pp. 333-334).

Spoiler: Who is Guy Blod? What is David’s connection to him?

Answer: Guy Blod (pronounced ghee blahd) begins as a persistent callback number on David Hassid’s beeper (p. 42). David’s voice mail quickly fills up “foul, nasty rantings, profanity and high-school gutter language.” The gist of the message is: “Where are you? Where could you be at a time like this? It’s the middle of the night! Do you even know about the murder? Call me! Don’t you know who I am?!”

Guy is a painter and sculptor appointed by Carpathia to the GC ministry of creative arts (pp. 42-46, 60-66, etc). He supervises the decorating of all GC buildings in New Babylon, which feature his creations. “He was considered a genius, though David—admittedly no expert—considered his work laughably gaudy and decidedly profane. ‘The more shocking and anti-God, the better’ had to have been Blod’s premise.”

Guy has approximately 29 hours to create a statue of the deceased Carpathia. He needs David to procure the necessary materials. If work proceeds on schedule, the inner shell will be forged and finished by midnight Saturday/Sunday. This gives Guy and his apprentices approximately six hours to sculpt the surface. Guy and David establish that the statue will be 24 feet tall, hollow, primarily bronze “with a sort of ebony finish with a texture of iron.” David helpfully suggests that it would be more stable if the sculptor “cheats on the shoes.” What shoes, asks Guy. The statue will be “au naturel.” David makes a face. Is that thing truly going to be installed in the palace courtyard for a televised funeral? Guy says dismissively, “You obviously have some hang-up about the human form and can’t appreciate the beauty” (p. 62-63).

(Aside: Volume 1, p. 232 describes Carpathia as “handsome as a young Robert Redford.” That is what Guy Blod intends to create and display: a 24-foot tall, anatomically correct statue of a 36-year-old evil Robert Redford. Naked.)

Guy and David needle each other relentlessly. Each calls the other man “Hayseed” and “Blood” no matter how many times the other corrects him. Grade-school math, the color of crayons, and “bronze and iron thingie suppliers” must be hammered out (p. 62). When David calls Guy “sir” six times in six minutes and Guy complains—“quit calling me that!”—David replies, “I’m sorry, I thought you were male” (pp. 44-46). David also calls the Minister of Arts “Minnie” (p. 217) and asks if Guy is going to tell David’s mom on him (p. 46).

Late at night, David recalls the story of Hattie’s friend Bo, whom Rayford tormented. Bo later committed suicide. David wonders why he gets so much joy out of tormenting Guy. The odds that Guy would ever convert seem low, but weren’t the odds low that David would have converted? Yet here he is. Was David even trying to be a positive influence in Guy’s life? (p. 266). When David’s conscience prods him to apologize, Guy is understandably suspicious (p. 273). But when the statue is finished by Sunday sunrise, Guy thanks David for his help (p. 217).

Guy has designed an eternal furnace inside the statue. The fire is lit under the knees, and the face—the eyes, nostrils, and mouth just like the deceased—is the only exhaust. “This sort of art is a duet between sculptor and viewer, and my goal is that they participate in the illusion that the statue is alive.” The fuel is a form of shale. The kindling is confiscated Bibles (p. 288)—anything on “onionskin paper … from every tribe and nation … holy books from all around the world, the last contribution of the late Pontifex Maximus” (pp. 283-284).

Before the idol is welded shut, a plain paper box is placed inside. David peeks. The furnace is the perfect place to entomb and melt the real murder weapon (p. 217).

Guy exhibits certain “outrageous,” “flamboyant” (p. 60) and “sassy artiste” (p. 43) mannerisms. Guy calls David “sweetie,” “dear boy,” and “soldier” (pp. 45, 64, and 273). Guy has a five-man “entourage of similarly huffy and put-out men in their late thirties” who share his traits and fashion sense (p. 43). (One of these sports two-inch green fingernails.) Guy spins in his swivel chair, giggles in mirth (pp. 62-63), has a “muse” (p. 64), and speaks in singsong (pp. 273, 283). When David references the “naked boy” statue, Guy exclaims, “ooh! How rude and tacky!” (p. 263), but does not “squeal” on David to Fortunado (p. 273). And when David comments that they will need protective gear and a hard hat to visit the forge, Guy turns to his “mates” and says, “I love new clothes” (p. 66).

The last known sighting of Guy is when the smoking statue demands to be worshipped. “Guy Blod and his assistants shrieked and fell prostrate, peeking at the image” (p. 349). The narrative does not record his reaction when the real Carpathia returns, or whatever happened to him. It also never uses the term that the character’s portrayal seems intended to suggest.

Spoiler: Why is Guy surprised? He built the thing, didn’t he?

Answer: He claims it was not designed to talk. David inspects it from a motorized scaffold and hears it talking as the lift approaches the face. “Muffled and sonorous, it was clearly Carpathia’s timbre. What was it saying, and how had they gotten it to do that? A chip? A disc player? A tape? He felt the vibration again, heard the hum, cocked his head to listen. ‘I shall shed the blood of saints and prophets’” (p. 285).

But when David asks, how did Guy get a recording in there—“won’t it melt?”—Guy says David is crazy, mistaken, hearing things. David insists that the statue spoke to him twice. Guy retorts, “This thing hasn’t been out of my sight since the shell was delivered. This isn’t a theme park. I don’t want giant talking action figures” (p. 286). So when the idol emits enough smoke to blot out the sun and starts quoting stolen Bible verses, he is as taken by surprise as is anyone.

Spoiler: What else is David doing in this volume?

Answer: He is settling in to New Babylon. Aside from Guy’s creations, David admires the rest of the city. “Carpathia had employed the best architects and landscapers and designers and decorators. And except for the absence of any God-honoring art, the place looked magnificent. Great colored spotlights accentuated the massive, crystalline buildings.” The disasters cause staffing shortages, irregular garbage disposal and delays in street-light replacement, but overall the city remains “stunning, a man-made marvel” (pp. 165-166).

After a tip from Guy about “that regional numbering thing” (p. 62), David sneaks into Viv Ivins’ office (pp. 79-83). He finds only a cryptic map. The new administration is changing the name of “The United Holy Land States” to “The United Carpathian States” and assigning it the number “216.” (The “United North American States” is numbered minus-6). For seven regional states, the cryptic numbers are multiples of six. For three others—the United South American States: “0” … The United Great Britain States: “2” … The United African States: “7”—they are not. (Aside, with spoilers for Volume 8: the numbers are regional prefixes for the Mark of the Beast.)

David learns from the news that Leon Fortunado has restored satellite communications. “David wondered why he had been asked to interfere with telephone capability and someone else had been asked to reverse it” (p. 104).

Next, David looks for a new safe house for the Tribulation Force. The originals have been living in Donny and Sandy Moore’s duplex for 21 months, since the Wrath of the Lamb Earthquake. They have no known neighbors within three miles and sit on the edge of open country. The Trib Force has expanded the cellar, hiding the shelter door with a defunct freezer of rotting food (p. 121). They have a makeshift well and solar power plant (p. 338). David wants to find something that good or better.

Chicago is “a ghost town, nothing living within 40 miles” (p. 102). The GC declared the city radioactive, and dozens died of what looked and acted like radiation poisoning. Not everyone agrees. “Some radical journalists, Buck Williams wanna-bes, averred on the Internet that the abandoning of Chicago was the biggest foul-up in history … and that the place was inhabitable” (p. 103). When remote probes do not give the expected readings, the results are attributed to equipment failure. David hacks in to see for himself. When he is satisfied that it is safe, he changes the readings of the probes to read danger.

David selects the Strong Building, only five years old. The 80-story skyscraper—now 26 stories shorter—looks like “a stubborn tree trunk that refused to cave in to the storms that leveled most of the rest of the city” (p. 104). From New Babylon, David hacks into the skyscraper’s software (pp. 131-135). “The best video game in history would not have been more addicting.” David finds the first 39 floors functional. He plays with the system for almost three hours, trying the HVAC, lights, phones, sanitation, elevators, security cameras. The building is “a technical marvel, wholly solar-powered.” David also finds over sixty abandoned cars in the underground garage. The valet station is still stocked with keys. This building could hide hundreds of exiles. Over the phone and via cameras, David walks Rayford, Chloe, and Leah through the office building (pp. 295-297). Rayford considers it the best gift God had given to the Tribulation Force since the arrival of Tsion. The only thing that would make it better is if it had beds (p. 306).

(It is only at this point that Chloe declares that she went for a drive to find a new safe house—p. 195—and that she thought of Chicago independently.)

Next, David watches Fortunado do some housekeeping (pp. 251-252). Fortunado asks, as if David would not remember, about Pontifex Maximus Peter Matthews who died earlier in the week (in Volume 6). Fortunado has made his memory “fade” from most people’s minds until Peter’s funeral is cancelled due to lack of interest. Fortunado also proposes that the Enigma Babylon “amalgam” be replaced with worship of “Saint” Carpathia. David gives the desired answers: “I think you will prevail.” Pleased, Fortunado offers his “capable and loyal” David a healthy raise and a chance to name his own role in the new regime. David lets Fortunado make that decision. To only one thing does David say no: a chance to speak at Carpathia’s funeral. Fortunado would be pleased to give him the time slot assigned to one of those “self-serving sons of the devil” who actually want it. David thinks, it takes one to know one.

Finally, David has to deal with the funeral. New Babylon is overwhelmed, with multiple families in every hotel room. The head of GC-CNN complains that “the viewing is not meeting their felt needs” (p. 290). Fortunado instructs David to bring enough television monitors to serve the predicted four million pilgrim-spectators. David also must lend his staff toward crowd control. Annie is stationed at marker 53, about a mile from the bier.

Ming Toy attends the funeral, as does her family (p. 305). Mr. Wong is insulted that they too can get no closer than marker 53. “I VIP because of business. Give lots money to Global Community. Very big patriot. Global patriot.” He orders David to introduce him to Fortunado and get them special seats in the palace courtyard. Fortunately for the newcomers, David confiscates the five VIP seats Guy Blod had reserved for his assistants. He and they will be “honored” by standing next to the statue in 100-degree heat all day. The Wong family can have their seats (pp. 317-320).

Spoiler: How does Tyrola Mark “T” Delanty die?

Answer: T flies to Israel to retrieve Buck and Chaim. If they go to an airport, Chaim will be recognized. Buck advises T to land on a deserted road at night. The Super J lands hard, spins to a stop (p. 213), and blows a tire (p. 220).

The fugitives board, with Chaim “whining” that they are all going to die. T uses the propulsion and the brakes to feather up the craft onto its one good tire. They barely miss a barrier of twisted pavement and a grove of trees as they return to the air (pp. 221-223). Chaim isn’t wrong about the danger. T has heard of one-wheel landings, but a belly landing may be unavoidable. He estimates that they have 50-50 odds of surviving the latter. “I’ll see you heaven, regardless,” he tells Buck (p. 223).

As they arrive in Greece, they hear good news and bad news. The good news is that Albie is waiting for them with another plane. The bad news is that the Super J runs out of fuel. They have to land on battery backup (pp. 260-261). T is unable to retract the one good wheel. The plane breaks in half upon impact (pp. 261, 265).

Buck and Chaim survive with injuries. T is found in the cockpit, strapped into his seat, at rest. “Buck saw no blood, no bones, no twisted limbs.” He takes T’s lifeless head into his arms and whispers, “I’ll see you at the Eastern Gate” (pp. 270-271).

Spoiler: Where, when, and how do the characters get saved?

Answer: Ming Toy credits her little brother Chang Wong, now seventeen, for her conversion (p. 13). Chang was led to faith by his friends. Ming and Chang have not told their parents, who are “very old-fashioned and very pro-Carpathia, especially my father. I worry about Chang” (p. 13).

Ming hears news that Buck’s family will be targeted if they do not reveal his location. They have no idea where he is, but that may not protect them. Ming predicts, “torture, dismemberment, then the fire to cover it up” (p. 200) because this is what the GC did to Chaim’s household.

Chloe breaks the news to her husband. The GC did come for Buck’s family (offscreen). The enemy couldn’t find them at first, because they were at church (p. 279). Their pastor states that Buck’s brother [Jeff] was the instigator. “He confronted your father about his stubborn insistence that he was a believer and always had been.” Jeff visited the home church alone several times. Their father “finally came just to avoid being alone …. One of the biggest obstacles was that he knew one day he would have to admit that you were right and he was wrong” (pp. 309-310). Their father wanted to tell Buck, but he was worried that their phone was bugged. The pastor concludes, “I just want you to know, sir, that your dad and your brother became true believers, and I’m sure they’re with God right now. They were so proud of you.” (The pastor adds, “And you can tell Dr. Ben-Judah that he has at least one church out here that could lose its pastor and never skip a beat. We all love him” –p. 310.)

Albie gets saved off-screen (p. 277). He meets Buck and Chaim in Greece. Buck is surprised to see his Saved Seal. Albie replies that it happened recently, within the week. He wanted to tell Rayford, but the phones were not working.

Buck asks how Albie came to faith. Albie replies, “Nothing dramatic, I’m afraid. I have always been religious, but Rayford and Mac and Abdullah all urged me to at least consider the writings of Dr. Ben-Judah. Finally I did. You know what reached me? His assessment of the difference between religion and Christianity.” Buck asks if this is the contention that religion is man’s attempt to reach God, while Jesus is God’s attempt to reach man. “The very argument,” Albie says. “I spent a couple of days surfing the archives of Dr. Ben-Judah’s Web site, saw all his explanations of the prophesied plagues and judgments, then studied the prophecies about the coming Christ. How anyone with a functioning mind—” Laslos interrupts Albie. They need to keep moving.

Chaim Rosenzweig gets saved at last. Buck locates and retrieves Chaim. Buck tells him that Chaim’s entire staff has been murdered. Chaim wails in horror. He cries that their murders must be avenged (p. 159). He threatens to jump from a window and tells Buck, “If I lose my nerve, you must push me!” Buck retorts that he will do no such thing. Chaim responds that he will not surrender to the GC. Moreover, Chaim claims he deserves to go to hell for what happened to his staff (page 160).

Chaim admits that Buck’s persistence has led him from atheism to agnosticism to belief in God’s existence (page 185). Yet part of him still believes that death is the end (p. 187). Between his belief that if there is a hell, he belongs there, and Buck’s insistence that Carpathia will rise from the dead (thus proving an afterlife), Chaim is truly miserable. He finally says, “I know I am lost” and bursts into tears (p. 197).

As T, Buck, and Chaim face the very real odds of dying in a plane crash, Chaim asks, “What is your best guess about how God feels about motives?” He wonders if conversion counts—if God will accept him—if his motives are selfish (pp. 225- 228). Buck replies, “we all come to faith selfish in some ways, Chaim. How could it be otherwise? We want to be forgiven. We want to be accepted, received, included. We want to go to heaven instead of hell. We want to be able to face death knowing what comes next” (p. 227).

As T’s plane makes its final desperate approach to earth, Chaim kneels and prays. Chaim cries, “I prayed, but I’m still scared!” So are T and Buck. But the Seal of the saved is on Chaim’s forehead (pp. 248-250, 254-255).

Hattie is not saved in this novel.

Spoiler: Describe the preparations for Antichrist Carpathia’s funeral.

Answer: Fortunado wants a public funeral (pp. 27-28). The ceremony is to be noon on Sunday, with burial at 2 p.m. on Sunday (p. 292). “Fortunately the face was not affected …. He must look perfect, dignified.” Fortunado hires a “local mortician” named Madeline Eikenberry, who very much “needs the work” after recently laying off staff and “reorganizing her business” (p. 27). Eikenberry identifies herself as an M.D. and forensic pathologist (p. 149): morgue, rather than mortuary. Even so, she performs both the autopsy (pp. 149-156) and the embalming (p. 147) and restoration (pp. 147, 215).

Carpathia’s casket is a pine box with a Plexiglas cover for viewing. Honor guards polish the surface after every touch. As David watches, a worker pumps out air for a more perfect vacuum. David almost wishes the man were worthy of the display (p. 216).

“The work of Dr. Eikenberry had been astounding, as there was no evidence of trauma. Yet … Carpathia appeared more lifeless than any corpse David had ever seen.” He wonders if it is a wax figure (p. 216). By the time of the funeral, it is 106 degrees; if the body is a fake, it will melt (p. 326). From the beginning David and Annie speculate that the GC will display a dummy. That would imply that Carpathia would come back to life in the morgue refrigerator, and nobody would see it. “They don’t believe the prophecies, do they?” (p. 30).

Tsion is having his own issues with prophecy authorities. “Many sincere believers had questioned his teaching that the Antichrist would actually die from a wound to the head. Some said the Scriptures indicated that it would be merely a wound that made him appear dead. He tried to assure them that his best interpretation of the original Greek led him to believe that the man would actually die and then be indwelt by Satan himself upon coming back to life” (p. 119).

The media is split about recent events. Many interviewees praise Carpathia. Others praise Jesus. A reporter attributes the latter to the desperation of the spiritual vacuum caused by the death of the potentate and of the head of the One World Religion within a few days of each other (pp. 293-294).

Spoiler: Did Rayford Steele kill Nicolae Carpathia?

Answer: Rayford does not know. He admits to everything else. He aimed. The gun fired. But Rayford doesn’t know if he killed the Antichrist. “He had tried to, intended to, but couldn’t pull the trigger.” Rayford was bumped, and the gun went off (p. 20).

In New Babylon, David plants eavesdropping devices in the autopsy room and the evidence room. He also visits the evidence room. The purported bullet damage to the lectern, curtain, hook eyeholes, and brass casings of the curtain hooks leaves David astounded. Intelligence Chief Jim Hickman says, “The bullet coming from a weapon like that creates a mini-tornado. If a real Kansas twister had the same relative strength, it would mix Florida and Maine with California and Washington” (p. 141).

Hickman adds, “We’ve got eyewitnesses who say a guy in a raghead getup took the shot” (p. 142). Hickman whispers conspiratorially to David that Rayford is part of a conspiracy, and that his part was to make a diversionary shot. It would embarrass the administration if the kill wound came from the platform i.e., an inside job. Fortunado wants to promote the “disgruntled former employee” story in public (pp. 142, 151) while they deal with the conspiracy in private.

During the autopsy, David and Mac hear Eikenberry yelling at Carpathia’s physician. Eikenberry finds a 15- to 18-inch “big knife or small sword” still embedded from the nape of the neck to and through the crown of the skull (p. 152). Why was she not told that there was an exposed sharp in the victim? The other replies, “We didn’t want to prejudice you.” Eikenberry declares that unless they find a bullet wound, the sharp alone killed him (p. 153). Mac and David exchange glances. Rayford did not do it.

Next, David listens to a meeting of Fortunado, Hickman, and Moon. They examine video footage of the assassination. Because they have Rayford’s fingerprints, they look for him. They find him very close, three to four rows deep in the crowd. Hickman says, “good get-up. The gray hair sticking up out of the turban. Nice touch. Robes. I woulda thought he was an Arab.” Either Moon or Fortunado replies, “Some kinda raghead anyway” (p. 166). Then, “they all chuckled.”

Leon says softly, “Rayford Steele. Who’d have believed that? Wouldn’t murder be against his religion?” Hickman considers, “Maybe he convinces himself it’s a holy war. Then I guess everything goes” (p. 166). Moon confirms that Rayford missed.

So David is stunned when the severe Eikenberry—prettied up with makeup and a softer hairstyle—announces Carpathia died from a bullet from a Saber handgun. His last words were of forgiveness for the shooter. “I can tell you that there is no human explanation for the potentate’s ability to speak at all, given the physical damage. Truly this was a righteous man. Truly this was the son of god” (pp. 177-178). David’s recording from the morgue states otherwise. Yesterday Eikenberry had declared, “unless he could speak supernaturally, this man could not have said a word. Maybe they want to invent something for posterity, but no one had better ask me if it was possible” (p. 173).

David overhears Fortunado hypnotizing a cameraman and his supervisor (pp. 190-195). Fortunado now has the same mind-control powers as did Carpathia. Annie Christopher reports that Carpathia brainwashed Buck Williams before he was saved. She asks if Fortunado is the real Antichrist. After all, the purported one is still dead (p. 204).

David is petrified when Fortunado shows him a videodisc that clearly shows Carpathia’s assassination (pp. 206-210). Fortunado moves to hypnotize him. Suddenly David sees something different on the video playback. It shows Rayford as the shooter. Did someone switch videodiscs? Was David weaker than Buck Williams? (p. 209). David decides to say, “Steele must pay” (p. 210). But David knows he is in his right mind when he sees the GC dispose of the plain paper box with the real murder weapon (p. 217).

Regardless of the secrets behind the scene, the public situation is that the entire world is looking for Rayford Steele. He can hide from the GC but not from every person on earth—not unless he goes to ground and stays there, which Rayford is unlikely to do.

Spoiler: Did Hattie Durham kill Nicolae Antichrist Carpathia?

Answer: No. Ming Toy states that Hattie did not go to Jerusalem. Instead, she went directly from Europe to North America (pp. 12-13). Fortunado, Hickman, and Moon confirm it. They think she is going to Colorado to attend her sister’s funeral. They chortle that she doesn’t know it happened a month ago (p. 167).

Hattie does want to see if any of her family are still alive. However, she knows that she is being followed. She intends to lead the GC on a wild-goose chase (pp. 188-190). They told her to her face that “as it was clear that she had lost [Carpathia’s] baby, she was no longer a threat and was free to go,” even though “all she talked about was killing Carpathia” (p. 12). The GC believed that she would neither kill Carpathia nor go home to Colorado, but would instead lead them to the Tribulation Force. Now that they know better, they are angry enough to snip this loose end.

Buck tells Hattie that if she can elude her pursuers and they can accommodate her, they might offer her shelter again. Hattie replies, “You were all better than I deserved …. Just tell everybody I’m safe and so are they, and thanks for everything I didn’t deserve.” Buck replies that they all love her and are praying for her (p. 190).

As for the assassination, there may have been a woman in that Jerusalem crowd of two million people who looked like Hattie, but Hattie Durham was never there.

Spoiler: Well, then, whodunnit?

Answer: Professor Plum in the conservatory with a knife. Dr. Rosenzweig on the stage with a sword.

Buck finds Chaim Rosenzweig’s house in disarray, but Chaim’s workshop is neat and spare, as if cleaned before a move (p. 75). It gives him hope that Chaim escaped. In his mind, Buck lists the places he and Chaim have been. Buck tries The Harem, the bar where Buck and Chaim had retrieved Jacov (p. 96; Volume 5, 120). An earthquake has since put it out of business, and the streets are dark. Buck finds Chaim hiding up in a tree (p. 98). “Cameron, Cameron! This is almost enough to make a believer out of me. I knew you’d come.”

Chaim boasts the details. He only pretended to have a stroke. When he was alone, he exercised vigorously every day. Now in his late sixties, he is as strong and fit as he has ever been in his life. Buck is offended. Why would Chaim do this to his friends? Chaim shrugs: so that nobody would know his scheme (pp. 113-114). (Trivia alert: Although the text never mentions it, Chaim also gambled that Carpathia would not think to brainwash a stroke victim.)

Buck has a crisis of conscience. Chaim has committed first-degree murder—but Buck believes the victim will come back to life. What is Chaim’s culpability if there is no evidence of the wound? But the premeditation! “You planned …. for months, virtually told me you were going to do it by showing me your blade making—I don’t know where my head was” (pp. 183-184).

Chaim wanted it to be dramatic and satisfying. He hid his homemade short sword in the tubing of his wheelchair. He would leap from on high, drive the blade into the taller man’s crown, and ride it all the way down (p. 160). (“I was practicing my jumping.”) When everyone heard a gunshot, Carpathia stumbled and fell into Chaim’s lap. Chaim stabbed upward as Carpathia fell down (p. 161). It looked like a bayonet in a watermelon, but it worked (p. 207).

Chaim did it “to murder the greatest enemy my country has ever had” (p. 197). “I hated the man. I hated his lies and his broken promises to my homeland” (pp. 227-228).

Spoiler: How does Baby Kenny Bruce Williams die or escape?

Answer: The GC finds Leah hiding in the Land Rover outside of Chicago. She explains that the car belongs to her friend Russell Staub—an alias of Buck Williams—of Mount Prospect. She lies that she pulled over because she was sleepy (p. 203). The Peacekeepers notice her companions and suspect Rayford of being Ken Ritz or an acquaintance of his (p. 219-220). Rayford, Leah, and Chloe beat a hasty retreat, abandoning Chloe’s Suburban in the process. But instead of going home, they continue forward into Chicago. It is after midnight Saturday/Sunday when they start the long drive home (p. 307).

Unfortunately the GC remembers that Rayford Steele’s last known address was in Mount Prospect. Word travels quickly (pp. 306-307). Ming hears it at work. She tells Annie (who tells Tsion) and David (who tells Rayford). Chloe calls Tsion insisting that he be ready to “do it.” Tsion again refuses to put Baby Kenny to death. But he calculates that Rayford and the Land Rover are an hour away (p. 309). He cannot flee; Chloe took their last car.

Chloe calls Buck. Albie, who is with Buck and Chaim, comprehends the situation immediately (pp. 310-312). It happens that Albie a.k.a. Deputy Commander Marcus Elbaz has a GC uniform, GC identification, a weapon, and a plan. He orders Rayford to bring the Rover and orders David to give him a valid GC security code (p. 316). Buck and Chloe meet in Palwaukee (p. 332). Albie shows Rayford his Saved Seal and assumes command of the mission (p. 334).

Tsion reports that he can hear vehicle traffic. In the darkness, Albie moves to intercept, bringing Rayford and Chloe with him. “Rayford saw Chloe’s look in the low light, one of fierce determination that was more than just that of a protective mother. If they were going to engage the enemy, she plainly wanted in on it” (p. 346).

Albie confronts three GC vehicles with twelve operatives (pp. 354-357, 359-363). Albie reminds the enemy “Squadron Leader Datillo” that the time is 1330 Sunday afternoon in New Babylon. “It’s the funeral, isn’t it, sir?” There is a moratorium on combat-related activity anywhere in the world during the solemnities. “No untoward publicity [shall] crowd out the funeral as the top news story” (pp. 362-363). If the squadron leaves immediately and tells no one, the Deputy Commander will tell no one about the squadron leader’s mistake.

After Datillo already has agreed and is trying to leave, Albie adds that he found a house full of targets and apprehended them; he just hasn’t had time to collect the evidence and no, he does not need any help. The nervous squadron leader who is looking for Rayford profusely thanks Albie and his associates Chloe and Rayford and “races off into the darkness” (p. 363). The Tribulation Force enters the safe house, and Chloe races to pull Kenny from his crib and smother him with kisses (p. 369).

It is at this point that Hattie Durham, “near hysterics,” calls Rayford to warn him to evacuate the safe house (p. 373). “Don’t ask me how I know,” she says. She insists she did not give them away. Hattie has been accused of compromising the safe house no less than sixteen times—(pp. 13, 37, 45, 54, 55, 101, 102, 120, 146, 168, 181, 189, 195, 206, 310, 331)—but she didn’t do it.

Tsion continues to watch the funeral on television until Rayford prods him to record it and get packing. They take only what they can carry. Rayford leaves his laptop in Mount Prospect; he believes he can get online again in Chicago (p. 386). Rayford and Buck are in favor of burning the safe house, but Albie says not to spend the time. “Let the GC waste time digging through it, and then they can cook it” (p. 383). He suggests that they drive to Palwaukee and move the majority of their members by chopper to the Chicago safe house.

Buck holds the sleeping Baby Kenny while Chloe packs. They trade baby for bundle and Chloe carries their son to the Land Rover. The coolness of the predawn refreshes their spirits. They leave the home of Donny and Sandy Moore for the last time.

Tsion keeps Chloe’s secret. Nobody ever tells Buck Williams what his wife had planned to do to herself and their baby behind his back.

Spoiler: Why are Albie and Rayford arguing?

Answer: Rayford “wondered why had he not assured himself of the integrity of Albie’s mark [Seal]” with the spit-shine test instead of just looking at it (p. 352). As soon as they reach the safe house, Rayford demands Albie’s real name. You know my name, Albie says. Rayford wants to check Albie’s mark [Seal]. Albie replies, “In my culture, that is a terrible insult.” What insult, asks Rayford. Albie’s culture never had the [Seal] before. Albie replies that the insult is to not be trusted (pp. 373-375).

Rayford says, “Take it as a compliment. If you’re for real, you were so convincing as a GC commander that you made me wonder” (p. 376). Albie just seems to know too well what he is doing. Albie replies that he reads; he does his homework. Sometimes he even bluffs, just as Buck and Rayford do.

Albie himself had said to trust no one (pp. 356-357). When Rayford parrots it back to him (pp. 375-376), Albie is incensed. He throws down his cap, draws a gun, throws it onto Chloe’s bed, and dares Rayford to shoot him. He dares Rayford to check his Seal. “Touch it, rub it, wash it, put petrol on it. Do whatever you have to do to convince yourself” (p. 378). Albie uses the words “offended” and “insulted” six times until Rayford asks Albie to forgive him. Albie retorts, “That will require more of an apology than you have the time or energy or, I may say, the insight to give” (p. 379).

As he walks out, Albie holsters the gun and adds, “The only thing more offensive than not being trusted by an old friend is your simpering style of leadership. Rayford, you and those you are responsible for are entering the most dangerous phase of your existence. Don’t blow it with indecision and poor judgment” (p. 380).

Spoiler: Describe Nicolae Jetty Antichrist Carpathia’s funeral.

Answer: Bands, choirs, interpretive dance, fighter jets in formation, and endless lines. David sits 30 feet from the coffin. A video montage of Carpathia’s life ends with a hologram of Carpathia in space, his arms outstretched to embrace the world (pp. 327-330, 335-337). Fortunado also is dressed in a power suit, though not as convincingly (p. 331). He reads a repetitive eulogy, except that his speech includes the missing children (p. 337). David sneaks a glance at his fiancée Annie, making their hand signal 1-4-3 for the number of letters in “I love you” (p. 340).

Fortunado reiterates that the Judah-ites (Christians) and Orthodox Jews are foes of the GC. The statue belches forth smoke. Fortunado quips, “Even Nicolae the Great has to agree with that” (p. 345). Fortunado invites the ten sub-potentates to speak. Three are insufficiently lavish in their praise. Fortunado prays that if he is Carpathia’s successor, may the three be burnt up by fire from the sky. This then happens (p. 350).

When Fortunado asks the pilgrims to look into his eyes—or into the monitors—David guesses what Fortunado is trying to do. The 24-foot image speaks. It glows with intense heat. Fortunado decrees that all who will not worship the image and Carpathia shall die. The image roars, “Fear not! Flee not!” When some flee anyway, lightning strikes the far edges of the crowds, killing many (p. 358). Suddenly the idol cools, looking lifeless again. Its last words are an order to “gaze upon your lord god” Carpathia. The smoke remains, darkening the sky like storm clouds (p. 358). Even the temperature drops (p. 359). David realizes that he cannot locate Annie (pp. 364, 367, 384).).

(Trivia alert: LB: The Kids #26, pp. 130-132 specifies that “in only a few minutes, the temperature had fallen from 109 [degrees Fahrenheit] to low sixties [degrees Fahrenheit].” It also confirms that Annie Christopher is dead. Annie was running to catch the panicked crowds to tell them not to run. She was struck by lightning. She died instantly.)

In the darkness, the automated lights turn themselves on. It gives the effect of spotlights on the coffin. David sees Carpathia’s left index finger rise. A sub-potentate panics and tries to flee. A lightning strike in front of him makes him return to his place. The guards go into assault position, as if prepared to shoot a dead body (p. 364). In the vacuum, Nicolae starts breathing. His eyes open (p. 365). He kicks open the coffin and sends the Plexiglas lid flying, all 80 pounds of it. Then he leaps to his feet. David notices makeup, putty, surgical staples, and stitches left behind in the coffin where Nicolae’s head had lain. Carpathia is crisply dressed, perfectly coiffed, clean-shaven, and smugly triumphant. He quotes Mark 4:39: “Peace. Be still.” The stormclouds vanish, revealing the blazing sun (p. 366). (Trivia alert: this may be a follow-up to an earlier comment by Tsion: “Eons ago, God conceded control of earth’s weather to Satan himself, the prince and power of the air” –Volume 4, page 323. Tsion may have based his belief upon reading Job 1:12, 18-19, Eph. 2:2.)

Carpathia then quotes and takes for his own John 14:27, 14:1; Luke 9b-10; Matt. 8:26; Mark 4:40; Matt. 28:18. He concludes “Anyone who speaks a word against me [i.e. Carpathia indwelt by Satan], it will not be forgiven him. But as for you, the faithful, be of good cheer. It is I; do not be afraid” (p. 367). Carpathia, Fortunado, and Viv Ivins then form a receiving line so that pilgrims may shake hands with him. They “need not fear a recently dead man who wanted to touch and be touched” (p. 374). David sees the lure. “Besides the rugged, European handsomeness, he really sold the care and compassion. David knew he was insidious, but his smarminess didn’t show” (p. 387). But Carpathia won’t have time to shake hands with all of them. He has an announcement to make.

Spoiler: Does Nicolae Jetty Antichrist Carpathia really die and become dead, or merely seem to die and become dead? Does he really rise from the dead or merely seem to rise from the dead?

Answer: Yes to both. As mentioned upthread, he was stabbed in the neck and head and bled out and flatlined and was embalmed. He was dead.

As to whether Carpathia’s body has become a resurrection body, a forever-body, it now has abilities consistent with a forever-body. Carpathia no longer needs nourishment, including water (Volume 10, p. 374). During the Fourth Bowl Judgment (Rev. 16:8-9), the sun scorches the earth with heat, causing unsaved people, buildings, and a hapless dog to spontaneously combust (Volume 10, pp. 384-385). Carpathia sunbathes in the courtyard away from the wailing “mortals” and their problems (Volume 10, pp. 394-395). Next, during the Fifth Bowl Judgment (Rev. 16:10-11) darkness blots out all sources of light. Nothing works: not sun, moon, stars, matches, light bulbs, car headlamps, etc. (Volume 10, p. 400). Even the saved characters can see no source of light. They see all things in a sepia tone, but the sun, moon, stars, matches, light bulbs, car headlamps, etc. do not shine in their sight. Yet Carpathia glows in the dark, probably in mockery of the Transfiguration. Rayford thinks that the sickly glow is the light of distant hellfire (Volume 11, pp. 32, 52-57).

The reader may well observe that Carpathia always has had supernatural powers because he could hypnotize people. However, brainwashing has never been associated with Christian resurrection. That is a separate belief, plot point, and problem.

As to whether Carpathia’s spirit and soul returned from the afterlife—as opposed to, say, Satan wearing the empty body like a glove—the series shows Carpathia and Satan interacting with each other. Volume 12 alone includes multiple examples. Twice Mac McCullum observes Satan withdrawing from Carpathia (Volume 12, pp. 81-91; 307-311). Whenever they are separated, Carpathia shrivels. “Mac had the feeling that this was what the body of Carpathia would have looked like, had it been moldering in the grave since his assassination three and a half years ago” (Volume 12, pp. 308, also 82). Only here do the authors purport that Satan has reached his limit: he can bestow a resurrection body, but it isn’t an ideal, blessed body. Nevertheless, the ghoulish body lives—despite having been embalmed as noted above. The person inside it lives. Carpathia exhibits intelligence, self-awareness, consciousness, sentience. He flatters; he begs for mercy; he offers ideas. When Satan re-inhabits the body, it plumps up again and looks handsome and healthy (Volume 12, p. 91). Its personality also changes.

There is one more proof. Jesus Christ treats them as separate people. His sorrows over their loss are different sorrows. Their punishments are different punishments. When the indwelt Carpathia is brought before Christ, he (they) “turned his back on Jesus … defiant and bored” (Volume 12, p. 304). He (they) “smirk” at Christ. Jesus says, “Lucifer, leave this man!” and Carpathia shrivels (Volume 12, pp. 307-308). After Jesus reads the charges, Carpathia confesses not only that Jesus is Lord, but that he knows Jesus loved him and that he wasted his life (Volume 12, p. 309). Jesus orders him cast alive into the lake of fire for eternity. Carpathia goes without a struggle, only hiding his face (Volume 12, pp. 310-311). Satan, however, rages all the way to the bottomless pit, to be “bound for a thousand years” (p. 316). He also refuses to acknowledge Jesus as Lord (Volume 12, p. 326). Carpathia and Satan were in the presence of Jesus Christ at the same time, alive, as separate people.

Therefore, yes, in the novels, Nicolae Jetty Antichrist Carpathia did indeed die and become dead. His spirit and soul did indeed depart into the afterlife. His spirit and soul did indeed return from the afterlife. His flesh did indeed become alive again, inhabited again, unable to die ever again. Carpathia did indeed return as a resurrected being rather than a resuscitated one or a revivified one. (“Resuscitation” is what first-responders do. “Revivification” is what Jesus did with four-days-dead Lazarus.) Satan did indeed enter into Carpathia and dwell in him. These events were in fulfillment of the character Tsion Ben-Judah’s interpretation of Rev. 13:10 regarding the manner of death, and of Rev. 13:2-3, 12; 17:8 to return from death. That which Tsion teaches as truth has come true—in the novels.

Having come back from the dead, the indwelt Carpathia tells those who still resist him (Volume 7, p. 388): “If the last three and a half years are your idea of tribulation, wait until you endure the Great Tribulation.”

{End.}

Discussion topics will appear in a separate post: Part 1 of 2, Part 2 of 2.

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33. Guest post: Not blown away by Kingdom Come

by E. Stephen Burnett

Originally posted on the website Speculative Faith. (Part 1: June 20, 2007; part 2: June 27, 2007; part 3: July 11, 2007)

(Reprinted with permission January 2016)

Part 1 of 3

“Well, I’m back.”

— Samwise Gamgee’s final words, The Return of the King

Firstly, I must apologize for being absent these past several weeks. My last column, about the film Spider-Man 3, was written and published [on the Speculative Faith website] in early May. Since then I have written nothing to fill my slots on Wednesdays, finding myself at first out of town for weeks on end, and then afflicted with a profound bout of writer’s block.

Now, 1.5 months and one job change later — to a position that involves much writing, oddly enough — I am ready to resume my weekly duties as columnist and cyber-promoter of the Christ-honoring speculative fiction genre: the field of literature that will surely, take over Christendom at last, even if we must wait for the New Heavens and New Earth to have that happen. I thank you all for your patience and hope I can make it up to readers of Speculative Faith with future columns.

Finally ending the end-times thrillers

My reading of such fiction has been lax during my absence, save perhaps for the certain double-book-length fifth installment in a highly popular fantasy series.

However, I have also recently read the last novel in another highly popular — though certainly not as well-executed — series about the End Times. That would be Kingdom Come, book no. 16 of the Left Behind series, and supposedly the final installment.

Yes, I’m another one of Those. Or rather, I was one at one time: a Left Behind freakazoid.

I have been hanging onto Tim LaHaye’s and Jerry Jenkins’ bestselling apocalyptic neo-thrillers since reading the first volume in 1997. Eventually I got to the point of reserving each succeeding hardback at the Christian bookstore in advance, eagerly awaiting its release date with almost an anticipation more worthy of the Second Coming itself, until finally — oh, joy! — I was able to stop by the store to pick up the new novel, and usually finish it by the next day. Since the “real” series ended with Glorious Appearing in March 2003, I have lost that level of enthusiasm. However, I continued to retrieve the books in a similar street-date manner, even up to last year’s The Rapture.

For the first time, I did not follow this routine for Kingdom Come, which takes place in a literal 1,000-year kingdom on Earth that follows Christ’s return in Glorious Appearing. Instead, still somewhat disillusioned by The Rapture’s stunningly un-rapturous portrayal of journeys to the intermediate heaven and such — and frankly, wondering if I even believed in a secret “pre-second coming” of Christ at all anymore — I held off on buying Kingdom Come. Those books are rather expensive, after all.

Instead, months after the release date, I grabbed the volume at the library and finished it two days later. And now, in addition to doubting the Biblical validity of the Rapture doctrine, I’m now in serious doubt about a literal Millennium. Who’d have thought this would be possible? that I would gain this from a book that so heavily advocated that exact view?

A dearth of fantasy for fantastic events

Some years back I pored over books on prophecy by Tim LaHaye and other writers, whose work made me quite convinced that 1) Christ snatching Christians from Earth would precede the Tribulation; 2) there would be seven years of an evil global government and divine plagues with the Antichrist, the False Prophet and everything; 3) Christ would return and reign over 1,000 years of relative peace, after which would be a final Satanically-inspired rebellion, followed by heaven at last.

But I am slowly coming to realize that little of this seems to make any sense — not when portrayed in nonfiction, with Biblical support — but when set to the music of fiction.

This is perhaps not the fault of fiction per se, but of Jerry Jenkins. I say this mostly because Jenkins is not a fantasy writer.

Left Behind’s original volumes were quite contemporary, light on the supernatural elements — the Rapture was overall portrayed realistically, despite the radical concept of people vanishing out of their clothes. As the Biblical plagues began, the series still read more like science fiction than anything else. I even bought into the demon locusts from the bottomless pit — partly because Jenkins included a few very interesting chapters about them, suspending disbelief for only that long, and then promptly ignored the demons in favor of more-epic elements, such as refueling planes and childbirth. Ahem.

Only when the demonic horsemen showed up did the story’s fantasy elements truly begin. And when the Beast rose from the dead and Jews started fleeing to the desert, things became slightly more interesting.

The problem was that Jenkins did not approach these elements as fantasy. While speculating, of course, on the manners in which God might protect his people, he didn’t nearly go far enough to be fantastically interesting. Other than people getting shot at and the bullets, missiles, etc., passing right through them, most described miracles would simply pattern themselves off those in the Bible, such as people surviving in a fiery furnace, or seeing light while others stumbled around in darkness.

But if we really can expect to see the Tribulation and such things someday — and I’m not saying they won’t happen; you are welcome to attempt re-persuading me to adhere to this view — should we not expect God to work miraculously in new ways rather than simply plagiarizing Himself?

That is what fantasy does. It does not merely repeat the Bible’s descriptions of true-life, supernatural events, because after all, we shouldn’t ever think outside of those anytime. Rather, a great fantasy takes into account the supernatural, awesome power of God — or His fantasy-world Equivalent — and invites readers to imagine what the possibilities are — most optimally, without contradicting Scripture.

But Jenkins’ series dared not to speculate upon, at least to the extent that I would have, the weird and utterly incredible, seemingly indescribable, events that might occur upon Christ’s physical return to Earth. And why not? Probably because to do so — to picture the new things God might do at such a time that are not directly forecast in Scripture — would generate outrage among readers, who are convinced that the Left Behind series does, or should, only rarely speculate on future miracles that aren’t forecast in Scripture, and nothing further whatsoever.

In my next column, I’ll explore more specifically how LaHaye’s and Jenkins’ final volume Kingdom Come failed completely to plant in me a yearning for that Earthly kingdom (if indeed it will really occur; again, you are welcome to argue as I haven’t yet made up my mind on this issue); and how instead, a nonfiction book like Randy Alcorn’s Heaven or a completely fantasy series like Lord of the Rings succeeds much better in making me long for the Creator/Savior and Heaven.

Yet in the meantime, what have been your thoughts about the Left Behind series? Do you consider its portrayal of end-times events “realistic,” because something like them will Really Happen Someday, as do its authors and many readers? Or can we consider these books as closer to fantasy/science fiction — a view that, I contend, may have made the stories better had the authors held that perspective themselves?

[TOM’s note: the original article contained a comments page, which is not reproduced here.]

Not blown away by Kingdom Come, part 2 of 3

Last week’s column, about the seeming failures of the Left Behind novels and particularly its last volume, brought many in-comment criticisms of the 16-installment series on both fiction and theological grounds. No one stepped up to defend Tim LaHaye’s understanding of the end times, or Jerry Jenkins’ style in portraying seven years of the Tribulation in fiction form.

Let me therefore be the first to support these guys more, at least here, and divulge that once upon a time, I had a few interactions with Jerry Jenkins on the (now-closed) “Left Behind” online message board. He was a great guy from what I could tell, with quite the sense of humor.

One of my first cyber-columns was a piece spoofing wacko-Christian predictions of the Second Coming: after a string of nonsensical “connections” between Biblical verses, supposed original languages and numerology, I set the date at April 1, 2000. And only a few people actually understood this as a satire — Jerry Jenkins among them. I still recall, nearly verbatim, his advice to other board participants: “The Indwelling releases March 30, 2000, so if you’re right, read fast!”

Anyway, that is my disclaimer of sorts, ensuring that my criticisms of the series do not cross over into perceived slams against its authors. My now-dislike of some of the Left Behind volumes, chief among them the most recent release Kingdom Come, in no way reflects any dislike for Tim LaHaye and “Super J,” as I used to call him.

At the same time, though, I sincerely doubt Kingdom Come will be very high on the reading list of timeless titles in the New Heavens and New Earth — or the real Millennium, assuming it does occur. Its portrayal of the prophesied “thousand years” is unimaginative, and failed to result in me, anyway, any sort of yearning for the “real” thousand-year period, or the New Heavens and New Earth to come. To me, only fantasy literature can do that — and Kingdom Come would never qualify as fantasy fiction.

Unresolved non-conflict

The first 12 books in the Left Behind series took readers through the seven-year Tribulation, including dozens of main characters and even more peripherals, 21 judgments and plagues, lots of action, and one villainous Beast and an evil Earthly empire, to be sure. In those one can find conflict aplenty, lots of death, destruction and significant levels of special effects from said judgments and plagues.

The next three volumes, prequels to the very first book, didn’t have as many supernatural occurrences but still, enough evil going around to make things interesting.

Kingdom Come nukes that approach thoroughly in favor of a dull and passionately uninteresting tour through LaHaye’s and Jenkins’ imaginings — sort of — of what the Millennial Reign of Jesus Christ on Earth might be like — or at least a few months of it. Most of the described events take place just short of 100 years into the era, a few years before the first expected waves of non-Christians are expected to start dying. (Yes, non-Christians exist during the Millennium but they automatically assume room temperature before blowing out their birthday candles — the authors base this on an obscure verse in Isaiah.)

Ergo, with world events finally proceeding quite nicely, there isn’t much to do — plotwise, that is. The storyline’s bulk is taken up with ripped-from-Scripture descriptions of the restored Temple (theologically dubious; why would we need another literal Temple and sacrifices under the New Covenant?), and then a bunch of dialogue and goings-on within an absurdly acronymed children’s ministry, inordinate levels of attention given to the nation of Egypt’s bad attitude and the need for a name change, some romance here and there, and, perhaps worst of all, chapter-length accounts of Bible stories with no speculation at all beyond anything anyone could learn from the Bible itself.

I am sure the actual Millennium, if it does occur, will be more than interesting.

Yet in a rather obvious attempt to scrounge for whatever conflict elements could be found, Jenkins winds up trivializing the notion of a peaceful Kingdom, absurdly portraying people’s interpersonal problems, for instance, although Christ is supposedly right there in Jerusalem and the saints are all over the place, any one of whom could just fix everything easily.

Meanwhile, somewhat interesting theological concepts could have been realized so much better in the realm of fiction, among them the seeming Scriptural forecast that nonbelievers will be present in a literal Millennium and will eventually join up with Satan for a final, though anticlimactic, showdown when the thousand years have passed. Again the narrative lets us down: a quasi-religious group called The Other Light is present fairly early on in the hodgepodge storyline, but isn’t so scary at all. Its beliefs are absurd — its advocates, transparently silly. (Non-Christians have often been shown as frightfully stupid throughout the Left Behind series.)

But again, that obstacle shows itself anyway: a novel about a utopia can’t have much conflict without disrupting the utopia, but an honest portrayal of the utopia would be boring. This seems an insurmountable catch-22 — and as I’ve said before, it didn’t help that Jenkins hasn’t much bothered about genre-shifting the Left Behind storyline from contemporary/thriller to fantasy.

Yet the Millennial Kingdom (thought the concept may be theologically up in the air) and the New Heavens and New Earth to come (much more clearly described in Scripture) will naturally be environments absolutely bursting with fantasy-story elements. Thus, only a fantasy style, attempting to render the real Heavenly elements or else portraying a parallel world, can even approach doing a future-forecasted utopia justice.

Fantasy forecasting Heaven

Frankly, once I put down Kingdom Come, I dove somewhat frantically for the next (and so far, last) books in the Harry Potter series. And I found in them — in this “pagan,” Godless, disobedient-kid-intensive, neutral-supernatural series — much more incentive to long for a new world to come, where the fantastic is no longer mere fiction, than I did in a novel about the “real” new world to come.

Have you found this yourself? — that a “secular” movie, musical composition, or work of literature can bring out in you that God-given desire for the next world — the world that was meant to be — more effectively than a bit of specifically “Christian” artistry did?

Meanwhile, what may be continued perspectives on the Left Behind series and its contributions to Christendom, or the perceptions of Christendom by others?

In my next column, I hope to explore the potential of alternatives: issuing suggestions for some author somewhere, perhaps merely a 30-years-later version of myself, to create a better portrayal of the New Heavens and New Earth / Millennium for use in fiction form. As Christ-followers, we really should be fixated more often on the world to come anyway, right? It’s not that future world’s Creator’s fault we make the future world seem so dull in our theological constructs, and worse in our fiction works. Surely something can be done about this very weird quandary.

[TOM’s note: the original article contained a comments page, which is not reproduced here.]

Not blown away by Kingdom Come, part 3 of 3

In my first column in this incidental series, I started picking — affectionately, though critically — on the final (we might hope, anyway) volume of the Left Behind end-times fiction series, Kingdom Come.

My chief complaints about that novel are first, that it attempts to portray a future utopia under Jesus Christ’s rule while inserting some semblance of conflict for dramatic interest, which both 1) cheapens the utopia and 2) makes the superficial conflict frightfully dull.

But more than that has been my other annoyance about scene-scribbler Jerry Jenkins’ portrayal of the Millennium. My objection, outlined mostly in the second part of this series, is chiefly because he’s a contemporary-fiction guy trying to make everything so “realistic” about a future world like that — so much so that he subconsciously dismisses any inclination toward fantasy. And that is exactly what an ambitious novel like Kingdom Come could have used most.

Last time, I wrote:

[T]he Millennial Kingdom (thought the concept may be theologically up in the air) and the New Heavens and New Earth to come (much more clearly described in Scripture) will naturally be environments absolutely bursting with fantasy-story elements. Thus, only a fantasy style, attempting to render the real Heavenly elements or else portraying a parallel world, can even approach doing a future-forecasted utopia justice.

When I think of Heaven, now, I think of very little I’ve read in specifically evangelical literature — partly because so much of that is so focused on the here-and-now, rather than the world in which we Christ-followers will dwell for eternity. Among contemporary Christian authors, only author Randy Alcorn has dared speculate on the specific, real-world, intermediate Heaven, and the New Heavens and New Earth, in fiction format — and even more effectively, I think, in his nonfiction book Heaven. But even he does so within a contemporary setting, at least from what I’ve read thus far.

Might someone, though, someday consider the challenge of speculating upon the Millennium and/or the New Heavens and New Earth, in fantasy or sci-fi form — and not even a fantasy-world equivalent?

Unfulfilled fantasy

As a Christ-follower, no doubt exists in my mind that the Earth will undergo an incredible refurbishment someday, transforming into something even better than its original existence before the Rebellion described in Genesis.

But let’s assume that the Millennium will occur first, as believe the authors of Kingdom Come.

Satan is locked up and they’ve thrown away the key, at least temporarily. Christ is ruling in Jerusalem, along with King David and everybody. The Temple is restored (which, theologically, makes little sense to me because believers are the Temple now and no further need exists for a sacrificial system!). Certain facets of entropy have been revoked, and it’s impossible for believers, anyway, to want to sin. (They don’t even want to want to sin — an incredible notion, that, and something Christians can only dream about for now.) Still, according to this view, some people, come down from Heaven, have an advance shot at glorified bodies; others, having eked out their lives through the Tribulation, still have Body Version 1.0 — somewhat of a bummer, come to think of it.

What differences would exist between these forms of existences? Would the glorified-body people have mental or physical powers that the non-glorifieds would not? Could they glow? Solve for the last digit of pi? Fly? Perhaps even “apparate” in the manner reminiscent of advanced wizards in Harry Potter?

This calls for in-depth imagination and speculation — something Jenkins has not done. And it’s likely he could never do this anyway, given that, on the surface, such things seem insane and un-Biblical and many of the Left Behind series’ audience members would go mad. For certain people, perhaps, only a Cliffs-notes-style barebones summary of nearly exactly what the Bible says about the Millennium, no more, no less, will be accepted; and speculation beyond what Scripture has told us is forbidden. (This is partly why, in Kingdom Come, cameo appearances by saints such as Joshua and Noah result only in long, dull rehashes of anything you could have ever found out about them already in Sunday school.)

Yet there is so much about the New Heavens and New Earth (or Millennium, whichever comes first) that we’re not told; and that, of course, makes sense — why would God want to ruin all the surprises?

What about technology? Kingdom Come skipped any incredible advances people could have developed in 1,000 years of near-absolute perfection. In merely a tenth of that time, humankind would surely have developed means of transport much more interesting than mere cars or planes (portrayed, rather listlessly, as being alive and well in their modern-day form a century into Kingdom Come’s Millennium). Meanwhile, our communications would be fantastic. Our nanotechnology would be astounding. And you know we would have developed warp drive by then. Can you say New Jerusalem Spaceport?

Combining the Kingdom with conflict

The quandary remains, though: how to tie in a fiction portrayal of a future perfect world — with thrilling adventure and exploration aplenty, to be sure, but no fighting — with potential for dramatic tension that marks the best fiction.

Perhaps an element of time travel could tie a human visiting the New Earth and returning to the present one, thus preserving necessary conflict but also allowing a writer to speculate on the perfect Kingdom to come. Perhaps a team of scientists could develop a virtual equivalent of Heaven. Or maybe even members of the angelic dimension could transfer from the New Earth to the historic old one for adventures; the Creator is outside of time, after all.

Surely someone could take a crack at this sometime. I’ve pondered the concept much myself, of course; and I suppose I can try for it if no one else does. Author Douglas Hirt, after all, “beat” me to the whole pre-Flood-world-as-fantasy-realm concept in his fantastic Cradleland trilogy and I loved his execution — therefore, I wouldn’t mind much if someone was inspired by anything I’ve written here. But fantasy and science fiction can do it, where traditional, limited-to-the-Bible stories dare not go.

While such a story would be speculative, of course, and perhaps contain things its author might like to correct in the real Heaven, the overall effect will be superlative: it will awaken within readers that desire for a new world, to go beyond our fallen and corrupt present-day existence, to yearn for a universe which Christ has at last, finally and fully, restored to the way it was meant to be.

When I picture the future Heaven, with or without a Millennium preceding it, I will likely never recall a scene from Kingdom Come. Instead, starships and the Shire will come to mind. I visualize a real-life and functioning Enterprise NCC 1701-D replica in spacedock over the New Jerusalem. I picture rolling green hills from the Hobbits’ homeland, majestic mountains overhung with epic soundtrack-level music, a seven-tiered city carved from stone. Swimming up waterfalls, flying on an eagle or dragon, or helping test a new transporter beam come to mind …

Oh yes. It will certainly be awesome. And it will last forever. That perhaps is more worth writing about than many other present-Earth, Christian-literature themes we can come up with today.

Meanwhile, what about you? Do certain fantasy and science-fiction story elements result in you a yearning for the New Heavens and New Earth? How could Christ-honoring stories further benefit from the perhaps-accidental inclusions in secular stories of elements reminiscent of Heaven? And what mistakes have Christians made, in fiction and otherwise, in cheapening or overly mythologizing the very real nature of the world to come?

[TOM’s note: the original article contained a comments page, which is not reproduced here.]

{End}

32. Guest Post: In Case of Rapture—the Bible will be wrong (post 2 of 2)

by Preacher Todd Clippard, Burleson Church of Christ, Hamilton, AL.

(Reprinted with permission January 2016)

The title of this article is an adaptation of a bumper sticker sometimes seen that reads, “In case of rapture, this car will be empty.” Many people believe in what is called “the rapture.” By the “rapture,” it is generally meant that all faithful Christians will be secretly carried away to heaven to be with Jesus (thus the driverless car). This secret “catching away” will precede an intense persecution of Christians and a period of world domination by the “Antichrist.” Following a 7- year period referred to as the “tribulation,” Jesus will descend from heaven with the raptured saints and make war against the Antichrist. They will overcome him and set up an earthly kingdom in Jerusalem where Jesus will reign over the earth for 1000 years, after which the final Judgment will take place.

Unfortunately, most of what is taught concerning the rapture is not consistent with what the Bible teaches. For example, most be surprised to know the word “rapture” cannot be found anywhere in the Bible. Despite this, many religious groups and people believe in what is called “the rapture.” The “rapture” and “tribulation” are central to the false theory of premillennialism. Not only is the word itself absent from the Scriptures, the concept of a rapture is nowhere to be found. Some cite 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 as proof of the rapture, “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” KJV. However, one can see that this verse actually refutes the notion of a rapture. Note how this changing “in the twinkling of an eye” takes place “at the last trump,” not 1007 years before the last trump as is taught by premillennial doctrine.

Consider John 5:28-29 – “The hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.” This verse clearly teaches that all men, both good and evil, will be raised from the dead at the same hour.

Finally, 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 should put this matter to rest once and for all: “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” NKJV

This text explicitly teaches that the Christian’s reunion with the Lord will take place “in the air” and shall remain in that state. Premillennialism says the “raptured” saints shall be with the Lord in the air during the 7-year tribulation and then return to Earth for a literal 1000-year reign of Christ upon the earth. A summary and biblical refutation of premillennial doctrine can be seen online at http://www.burlesonchurchofchrist.com/incaseofrapture.htm.

What About the Tribulation and the anti-Christ?

In our previous articles, we showed how Matthew 24 foretells the destruction of Jerusalem and not the end of the world. We also examined the false doctrine of an event called “the rapture.” By way of reminder, the event known as “the rapture” is nowhere taught nor even implied by the Scriptures. As the rapture is central to the doctrine of premillennialism (pre-mil), the whole of this doctrine must be rejected. However, for the sake of study, we will expose the false doctrines of a global tribulation and the character known as “the anti-Christ.”

Pre-mil doctrine espouses a seven-year period of global distress prior to the return of Jesus. This seven year period is called “the tribulation.” During this time, the Jews will begin to rebuild the temple. The Jews will also (unknowingly) enter into a 7-year agreement with “the anti-Christ.” After 3 ½ years, “the anti-Christ” will be revealed, at which time he will stop the daily sacrifice and set up his own image in the temple. During this time, Jerusalem will be trodden under foot, nations will unite against the city and overcome it. Great suffering will occur and many will be carried into captivity; those remaining will turn to Christ. When the kings of Earth gather to battle against the Christians, Jesus will descend with the saints to deliver the faithful and destroy the enemy. Thus ends the tribulation and the power of the anti-Christ.

Does the Bible teach such a thing? Absolutely not! In connection with the rapture, pre-mil says the faithful will escape the tribulation, being secretly snatched away prior to its outset. But Acts 14:22, entrance into the kingdom with tribulation, not after or apart from it. Second, in Revelation 1:9, John called himself a “companion in tribulation.” At the time of John’s writing, the distresses of Matthew 24 were already begun or accomplished against Israel, (depending on the time of the writing), and now the Romans had begun a persecution against the church (Rev 2:10, 13; 3:10).

Concerning the reality of a single character known as “the anti-Christ,” John wrote the following: “Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now there are many antichrists; whereby we know it is the last time” (1 John 2:18). John said there were many antichrists present at the time he wrote his epistle. But just exactly who is antichrist? John answered that question four verses later in 1 John 2:22: “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.” Also, anyone who denies that Jesus came in the flesh is antichrist (cf 1 John 4:1-6). Therefore, anyone who denies that Jesus came in the flesh or denies His deity is antichrist! This would include Jews, Muslims, or anyone who denies the deity and incarnation of Jesus. There is no such character known simply as “the anti-Christ.”

What About Jesus’ 1000-Year-Reign and Earthly Kingdom?

Will Jesus reign for 1000 years over an earthly kingdom? According to pre-mil theory, following the “rapture” and seven year “tribulation,” Jesus will return to make war against “the antichrist.” Tribulation martyrs will be raised to reign with Jesus and the other saints for 1000 years, during which time Jesus will sit on the throne of David, reigning in his earthly kingdom in Jerusalem.

Does the Bible teach this? It does not. For example, when on trial before Pilate, Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). Though admitting Himself to be a king (v 37), He makes it clear His kingdom was no threat to Caesar or any other earthly kingdom. Paul also said our war is not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual wickedness in high places (Eph 6:12). Yet pre-mil teaches world domination by the kingdom of Christ.

Also, the Bible prohibits Jesus from reigning on the earth. In Jeremiah 22:30, the prophet says of Coniah, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Write this man down as childless, A man who shall not prosper in his days; For none of his descendants shall prosper, Sitting on the throne of David, and ruling anymore in Judah'” (emphasis mine—jtc). Thus, the Lord Himself declared that no descendant of Coniah would sit on David’s throne, ruling from Jerusalem. Now look at Matthew 1:11 and the genealogy of Jesus. Jesus was a descendant of Coniah, called Jeconiah in this verse! Therefore, Scripture forbids Him from sitting on David’s throne in Jerusalem.

“But wait!” You ask, “Doesn’t the Bible teach that Jesus would sit on David’s throne?” Indeed it does, but it also defines what that means. Obviously, it cannot have reference to Jesus reigning over a physical kingdom in Jerusalem, but what does it mean? The answer is found in Acts 2:29-31, where Peter defined exactly what the Bible meant when it said Jesus would sit on David’s throne:

“”Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption” (emphasis mine –jtc). Peter says the resurrection of Jesus is what David meant by the Christ sitting on his throne.

This harmonizes perfectly with Daniel 7:13-14, “I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.” Jesus received His kingdom and began to reign in it following His resurrection from dead and His ascension into heaven. Jesus is a king reigning in His kingdom NOW. His kingdom is the church (Matt 16:18-19).

Judaism Re-established, the Resurrection, & the Judgment

Pre-mil proponents claim the Levitical priesthood will be re-established when Jesus returns, with animal sacrifices re-instituted in the temple. But to what end would such sacrifices be offered? Certainly not to effect remission of sins, for “Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation” (Heb 9:28).

Also, all Christians now serve as priests (1 Peter 2:5, 9). Finally, Hebrews 8:8-13 says the old covenant with the Levitical priesthood was faulty and in need of replacement. Jesus replaced this faulty covenant with the new covenant, the New Testament, which He brought into force when He died on the cross (Heb 9:12-28).

Pre-mil theology is also wrong concerning the resurrection. This ties closely to the error known as “the rapture.” Pre-mil’s rapture and subsequent doctrines of the resurrection teach three separate resurrections: one at the rapture, the second coming of Jesus (seven years later), and the general resurrection after the 1000-year reign. The Bible teaches no such thing. In John 5:28-29, Jesus said ALL the dead would be raised when He returns. In Matthew 25:31-32, Jesus said when He “shall come in all his glory and all His holy angels with Him, then shall he sit upon the throne of His glory: and before Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats.” While we understand these verses (through v 46) concern the final Judgment, we must also consider the time frame of this event. The text says the Resurrection and Judgment of the world will take place when Jesus comes again, not 1000 years afterward.

Another text for consideration is 1 Corinthians 15:23-26: “But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”

If you mark in your Bible, underline the words “at His coming” in verse 23. Then circle the words “then cometh the end” in verse 24 and draw a line connecting them to “at His coming.” This will help you to understand what will take place when Jesus comes again – THE END, meaning the end of the world.

Pre-mil theology says Jesus will return to begin a 1000-year earthly reign, after which comes the end. The inspired apostle Paul says the end will come when Jesus comes again, not 1000 years afterward. Verse 24 also says at the second coming Jesus will deliver up the kingdom to the Father, not establish it to reign for 1000 years. Verses 25-26 say Jesus now reigns and will continue to do so until the last enemy (death) is destroyed (by the resurrection of all men from the dead). Pre-mil theology is wrong at every turn from beginning to end, yet millions continue to believe and teach this dangerous doctrine.

Are the “signs” of Matthew 24 upon us?

With this article, we begin a series addressing many of the false doctrines currently taught concerning the second coming of Christ. First, it must be understood that there are no signs pointing to the second coming of Jesus Christ. Matthew 24 is one of the most wrongly interpreted chapters in all the Bible. In truth, the signs of Matthew 24 point to the destruction of Jerusalem, and not to the second coming. In Matthew 24:1-3 the disciples were asking about Jesus’ statement concerning the destruction of the temple, and incorrectly linked that event to the end of the world. The disciples (incorrectly) looked for the re-establishment of the physical nation of Israel, even until the day of Jesus ascension (Acts 1:6). It is inconceivable that they could consider the existence of a Jewish state without the presence of the temple.

Jesus’ answer in the remainder of chapter 24 and in chapter 25 corrects the disciples’ misunderstanding. In Matthew 24:4-35, Jesus tells the four the signs preceding Jerusalem’s destruction. In 24:36-25:46, Jesus tells of the events of His second coming and the Day of Judgment for all men that will take place at His return.

The key to understanding Matthew 24 is verse 34. Two phrases of utmost importance are “this generation” and “these things.”

Consider the phrase “this generation” in v 34. Of whom would the disciples understand Jesus to be speaking? Answer: Themselves and their contemporaries. However, some premillennialists believe “this generation” refers to the entire Jewish race. Thus, since the Jewish race is still present in some form, the events in question (vv 4-33) are yet in the future (though many are teaching the events are unfolding before us). Billy Graham has often said “Matthew 24 is knocking at the door.” Others believe “this generation” to be those who see the signs of verses 4-33. Both views are wrong.

“Generation” (Gr genea) appears 43 times in the New Testament and 17 of those occurrences appear as “this generation.” Matthew used the phrase “this generation” 5 times in his gospel account (11:16-19; 12:34-45; 23:33-36). Jesus was referring to then present-day Jews in all the previous accounts, particularly Matthew 23:36 which is in the immediate context of Matthew 24. So it only makes sense to believe “this generation” in Matthew 24:34 refers to the same people.

Also of importance is the identification and record of the events known as “these things.” “These things” refer to the signs found in Matthew 24:4-12 and included: false Christs – vv 4-5; wars and rumors of wars – v 6; famines, pestilences, and earthquakes – v 7; persecution of the saints – vv 9-10; multiplied false prophets and mass apostasy – vv 11-12.

Both biblical (Acts 11:28, cf v 7b) and secular (Josephus) accounts show the fulfillment of the list of “these things” in the years immediately preceding the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. (Flavius Josephus’ Wars of the Jews, Books V & VI is particularly helpful in this respect). Thus, there is no reason to believe the current state of national or world events has any bearing on the imminence of the Second Coming.

Concerning the presence or nearness of “the last days,” the Bible teaches that we have been living in “the last days” for nearly 2000 years (Acts 2:16-21;Hebrews 1:1-2; 1 John 2:18). The last days refers not to a specific date and time, but rather a dispensation of time. We are now living in “the last days,” the days of the Christian Dispensation. First was the Patriarchal Dispensation, then the Mosaic, and now the final period of time, the Christian Dispensation.

Premillennialism Denigrates Christ and His Church.

In the final installment, we examine how this doctrine denigrates Jesus and His church.

First, pre-mil impugns the power and authority of Jesus. In Matthew 28:18, Jesus said all power (authority) was given to him in heaven and on earth. In John 6:38, Jesus said He came to do the Father’s will. Pre-mil says Jesus’ original intent was to establish an earthly kingdom, but was rejected by the Jews. But as He breathed His last on the cross, Jesus cried, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Now, did Jesus accomplish His mission or not?

Second, pre-mil denigrates the importance God placed upon the church. Pre-mil says the church was God’s “Plan B” after the original plan to establish an earthly kingdom was thwarted by the Jews. However, one of Jesus’ stated purposes was to build His church (Matt 16:18). Jesus died to purchase the church (Acts 20:28). Jesus loves, nourishes, and cherishes His church (Eph 5:23-29). Also, the saved are added to the church (Acts 2:47), and Jesus will save only the church (Eph 5:23). Finally, the manifold wisdom of God is made known by the church (Eph 3:10).

Third, pre-mil denies that the kingdom is the church. In Matthew 3:2 and 4:17, both John and Jesus preached the message of the nearness of the kingdom. In Mark 9:1, Jesus said some then living would live to see its establishment.

In Matthew 16:18-19 and 18:18, Jesus gave the keys of the kingdom to the apostles. Why do that if the kingdom was still thousands of years from fruition?

Consider: from the Old Testament to Acts 2, the kingdom is always spoken of in the future, yet to be established tense. From Acts 2 onward, the kingdom is spoken of in the present, already established tense. What event took place in Acts 2 to cause this distinction? The church was established on the day of Pentecost.

In Acts 28:23 Paul testified of the kingdom as an established fact; he didn’t prophesy of it as being in the future. Colossians 1:13 says God has translated (note past tense) us into the kingdom of His Son. In Revelation 1:9 John identified himself as a companion in the kingdom. And the Hebrew writer spoke of having received a kingdom which cannot be moved (cf Matt 16:18).

The truth is that Jesus is NOW a king and is reigning in His kingdom—the CHURCH. When He comes again, it will not be to establish a kingdom, but to save it by delivering it up to God the Father (1 Cor 15:23-24).

End post 2 of 2

Questions welcome at http://www.burlesonchurchofchrist.com