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Volume 16-called-13 (Left Behind: Kingdom Come, the Final Victory, c2007) spoilers
(Added August 2007)
Spoiler: Why are we covering “Left Behind: Kingdom Come, the Final Victory” out of order, and why do we call it “Volume 16-called-13”?
Answer: This is the first time that your host has seen a volume as soon as it was released. New readers will acquire either this last volume or the first one, and we’ve covered the first one.
Some readers count the three “Countdown: Before They Were Left Behind” prequels as volumes 13, 14, and 15. Other readers do not count them, making “KC” Volume 13. As there are two candidates for “Volume 13” but one candidate for “Volume 16,” we refer to KC as Volume 16.
Spoiler: How does this book begin?
Answer: The book opens with The Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9-13, NKJV & NIV translation), the NKJV text of Rev. 20, and several authors’ notes.
The Millennium is the time in which Christ reigns for “one thousand years.” An editorial note (pages xiii-xv) cites the rapturist interpretation: specifically, that Christ lives and reigns on earth during a literal 1,000 years. “Not many details are provided about Christ’s millennial kingdom in Revelation 20, except the final order of last-days events, the windup of history as we know it, and the length of the reign.” There are passages in both Testaments that the authors consider applicable to this period. (Trivia alert: when the authors do not cite a Bible verse to support a world-building detail, your host may attempt to locate a verse.)
The authors clarify that this kingdom is not Heaven. They call it a foretaste of heaven, with Christ on an earthly throne surrounded by believers. “But as newborns come along, obviously, they will be sinners in need of forgiveness and salvation.” The authors take a specific stand that unsaved people will die not merely in their hundredth year, but on their hundredth birthday, thus exposing the deceased as unbelievers (page xiv). (Trivia alert: the unattributed verse Isaiah 65:20 will be one of the defining Scriptural references of the novel’s plot.)
The authors ask the reader “to see the Millennium as yet another of God’s efforts to reach the lost” (page xiv). The authors predict that sin will invade the Millennial Kingdom as it invaded all previous Dispensations. Only Heaven will always be populated with only believers.
The note concludes, “It should be plain from our treatment of this great future period that we are the opposite of anti-Semites. Indeed, we hold that the entire Bible contains God’s love letter to and plan for His chosen people. If Israel had no place within the future Kingdom of God, we could no longer trust the Bible” (page xv).
Next is a roll call of characters. A map of the Holy Land shows east-west demarcations between the lands allotted to the returned 12 Tribes of Israel. (Trivia alert: the land is assigned by instructions from Ezekiel 47:13—8:29.)
The novel reprints and revises most of Chapters 20-21 from “Glorious Appearing,” (Volume 12, pages 355-397). This section featured the judgment of the Sheep and the Goats, the welcome of the Old Testament saints, and the reunion of Rayford Steele with his son, daughter, son-in-law, and former wives Irene and Amanda. In Volume 16, any narratives related by the non-Steeles/Williamses are deleted. The resulting narrative flows purely from Rayford’s point of view. (Trivia alert: many readers call Rayford “the voice of the series,” so this is a way of showing that he is still a voice in this sequel.)
An authors’ note (pages xxxix-xl) titled “The 75-day interval,” cites to Daniel 12:11-12. Reference is made to the temple of Ezekiel 40—46. The authors state that God will build that temple in the first 30-day interval. (Trivia alert: in the novel, the desecrated Third Temple stands empty until Day 30, when it is destroyed. The Fourth Temple is completed on Day 75, but in a different location. The text is unclear as to whether construction started on the Fourth Temple while the Third was still standing. See pages 10-11.)
The latter 45-day interval is interpreted as a time of preparation for the temple and the kingdom. (Trivia alert: In Volume 12, pages 359-60, the authors state that “the Old Testament saints” will be resurrected during the 75-day interval. Chaim states that these righteous dead “were technically justified by faith,” but since they died before Christ, they did not count as “the dead in Christ.” Thus these O.T. Saints were not resurrected at the time that dead Christians were resurrected and did not go up in the rapture.)
The longest editorial note is titled “The Millennial Kingdom.” See next spoiler.
Spoiler: What else do the authors want the audience to know about the Millennial Kingdom?
Answer: This section (page xli-xlvi) describes a new world. The moon will shine as brightly as the sun shines now. The sun will shine seven times brighter than it shines now. (See Isaiah 30:26.) “People will have to wear sunglasses any time they are outside, twenty-four hours a day” (page xli). They will have to get used to sleeping during daylight. (Trivia alert #1: animals and plants seem to endure the light without aid. Trivia alert #2: The authors create a world in which sun and moon still rise and set. Compare and contrast to Isaiah 60:19-20, Zech. 14:7.)
Next, the authors cite Zephaniah 3:9 to explain the plot point that humans will receive from God the ability to speak Hebrew.
Humans who have been to heaven will have received their glorified bodies. They will recount to earth-bound Naturals what they saw at the Marriage of the Lamb. (Trivia alert: in the Bible, the marriage supper of the Lamb takes place in heaven before the Second Advent of Christ. In the novel’s timeline, only those who entered heaven between Pentecost and the Rapture attend the marriage. All other righteous persons, living and resurrected, are invited to the post-wedding supper, a celebration which the authors place on Day 75 after the Second Advent, i.e. the day the Millennial Kingdom is inaugurated.)
At first, humans “will be assigned temporary housing” in the empty homes left after the “Goat Judgment.” In time, people will build their own homes.
Jesus will use the time of the 75-day interval to re-create Eden on earth. (Trivia alert: reference to Isaiah 51:3?) The earth will have been shaken flat, with mountains falling into the sea, and displacement forcing water upon formerly dry land. “Rocks, foliage, buildings, and water will create a residue that coats the earth, leaving everything at sea level.” Only Israel rises high above sea level, particularly Jerusalem. (Trivia alert: reference to Zech. 14:10?) “How appropriate that the new, holy capital [sic] of the world should stand high above all other cities and nations, more than a thousand feet high and gleaming, pristine, and ready to be redesigned and decorated for and by the Lord Jesus Himself” (pages xlii-xliii).
Each new day will reveal new greenery and growth. (Trivia alert: until the fields tended by humans are ripe for harvest, immediate food could be available from the perpetual blooms of Ezekiel 47:12. The leaves’ medicinal properties are not mentioned here but are cited on page 27. Compare Rev. 22:2, which places this scene after the Final Judgment.)
There will be a [fourth] Jewish Temple near Shiloh, some 18 miles north of Jerusalem. This Temple will be massive. Its courtyard alone will be more than a mile square, bigger than Jerusalem’s entire Old City used to be. A holy area set aside for the priests and Levites will extend for about 40-50 miles, “more than six times the size of greater London and ten times the circumference of the original ancient, walled city.” This temple is large because it will be the only one on earth, and the entire population of the earth will visit it. As for Jerusalem, it will grow until this Temple is within its city limits (page xliii). A great causeway will run from the original city to the Temple (trivia alert: reference to Isaiah 35:8?).
Jesus will be in Jerusalem, where he will retake the throne of David (page xliv). The nations are granted as an inheritance, and Jesus will rule the world with an iron rod. (Trivia alert: reference to Rev. 12:5, Luke 1:32, Psalms 2:6-9?)
“Strangely, all of us will lose any desire to eat meat. Animals will no longer be our meat. Our sustenance will come from the bounty of the trees and bushes and vines and from what we ourselves harvest from the earth” (pages xliv-xlv). (Trivia alert: the characters eat vegetables, but calling them vegetarians is debatable. They are not vegan: they eat butter [page 2] and cheese [page 152]. It’s the fish that challenge the term. Ezekiel 47:10 states that, someday, fishermen will catch as many kinds of fish in the Dead Sea as they could catch in the Mediterranean Sea. The Once-Dead Sea becomes fresh in this novel. If the characters eat fish, would it make the characters “vegetarian” in the sense that Catholics eat fish on “meatless Fridays”?)
The authors quote Isaiah 65:18-25. They add,
“You may be a stellar student or an athlete or a bit of a techie, but you will not have to be good with your hands. You may not be a gardener let alone a farmer, and perhaps you always pay to have carpentry, wiring, or plumbing done around the house. But in that day God will plant within you the desire—and the acumen—to do all those things yourself. On the first day of the Millennium, you will exercise new muscles, new ideas. You will plant vast acres, tend massive orchards, and build houses. All the knowledge, and the desire, will be poured into you” (pages xlv-xlvi).
The authors conclude, “You will meet for worship and praise with friends and loved ones, joined by new acquaintances of all colors and nationalities. Some will be compelled to tend animals, and not just tame ones. You will need fear no creature anymore” because of Isaiah 11:6. (Trivia alert: and verses 7-9. That is, carnivores become herbivores, snakes are harmless, all creatures live in peace, “and a little child shall lead them.”)
This concludes the authors’ introductory sections.
Spoiler: As the novel opens, what are the major characters doing?
Answer: It has been an unknown amount of time since Rayford Steele was reunited with his raptured former wife Irene, and son Raymie, and his resurrected daughter and son-in-law Chloe and Cameron Williams. It may be the same day. People begin to go about their business after the Sheep-and-Goats Judgment. The characters have begun counting down the 75 days until Jesus’ kingdom is formally established upon the earth.
“Rayford Steele had to admit that the first time he saw a bear and then a leopard moving about in public, something niggled at him to keep his distance, to not show fear, to make no sudden movements” (page 1). But the animals have become vegetarian. They eat leaves together and rest together. Rayford nibbles a few leaves. He can taste why the animals like it, but he still prefers fruits and vegetables. “He trusted Christ to calm him when the great leopard leaped down and nuzzled his leg the way a house cat would, purring, then sitting down to rest.”
Rayford and Tsion Ben-Judah notice that the sun is brighter but not hotter, and conclude that the sun is responding to the Shekinah presence. Irene and Raymie pick vegetables for supper. Rayford does the cooking, using some “magnifying” contraption to heat the food with sunlight. “Irene had made butter from milk she had collected from a cow, so when everyone had assembled, they were met with steaming piles of fresh produce, drenched in butter” (page 2).
Irene is overjoyed to be reunited with her loved ones. She describes the Marriage of the Lamb by making reference to Rev. 19:6-9, Mark 1:11, Eph. 5:26-27, Matt. 22:2-10. Irene possibly reinterprets John 14:3, 16, 26 and quotes 1 Peter 1:7-9. When Rayford asks about the post-wedding feast, Irene clarifies that this event is yet to come (pages 7-10).
Cameron was only in heaven one day, but he has changed. “No one called Cameron Buck now, because, he said, ‘there’s nothing to buck here’” (page 2).
The resurrected Chloe Steele Williams realizes that their romantic love has ceased. Her love for her former husband has become wholly platonic. The immortal “Glorifieds” neither marry nor are given in marriage. Chloe admits, “It’s bizarre. I still love and admire and respect you and want to be near you, but it’s as it I’ve been prescribed some medicine that has cured me of any other distracting feelings.” Cameron feels the same. Neither person is troubled by this realization. Their hearts’ desire is to worship Jesus.
The Williamses still have to raise little Kenny Bruce “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and see to it that he decides for Christ” (page 3). As they consider Kenny’s future, they “cannot imagine what havoc unbelievers could wreak” in this new world. One of them [the text is unclear] replies, “I hope God grants us the strength to do with them what He wants” (page 4).
Some days afterward, Cameron notices that Kenny has found playmates. Of course they are all under seven years old, because children (including the unborn) who lived before the tribulation were raptured to heaven and returned to earth as adults. Cameron and Chloe feel it impressed upon their hearts that their special duty and blessing will be to tend to many children. Cameron names the ministry COT, or Children of the Tribulation. Somehow, the children know to go to him. “So, start telling us all about Jesus. She [meaning Chloe] can tell us too.” Cameron takes two youngsters upon his lap and begins to witness to the children (pages 4-5).
Spoiler: What happens during the Interval?
Answer: Citing Daniel 12:11, Tsion says to expect “something dramatic” on Day 1,290, which he places as Day 30 after the Glorious Appearing. On the duly noted day, the sky roils to black. When all eyes are fixed upon the sight (pages 10-11), a blast of lightning vaporizes the Third Temple (the empty temple that Carpathia defiled).
On Day 75, Tsion tells Rayford that Jesus will be the government and will appoint princes and governors to report to him. “Any munitions left over from anywhere on the earth will be dismantled and eliminated. The temple will be full of priests, and the nations will be called to worship and sacrifice there.” (Trivia alert: since the entire earth has been leveled and reduced to a “coating of residue”—there are no original surviving mountains, hills, or even graveyards—the only weapons that theoretically remain could be either in Israel, which was not leveled, or in a survivor’s physical custody.) Rayford replies that Tsion taught him “that Jesus was the sacrificial Lamb who rendered the sacrifices obsolete. With Him here and in charge, what is the need for a temple, and especially for sacrifices?” They hear the blast of a sheep’s horn. Tsion says that Jesus will answer Rayford’s questions (page 12).
The party joins the procession along the 18-mile causeway between the capitol and the temple. Children and animals frolic. The air smells “glorious.” Rayford and Chaim follow the scent to discover that the foothills yield streams of pure white milk, the mountains rivers of wine, the valleys brooks of water. When Chaim quotes Joel 3:18, Rayford cries, “Hallelujah! We’re living the Bible!” (pages 13-14).
Jesus greets the crowds with Isaiah 2:2-3, among other verses. When Jesus quotes Ezek. 40:4, Rayford is drawn into the monologue of “the man of brass” directed toward “thou son of man,” (i.e. Jesus quotes “the man of brass,” and Rayford hears what Ezekiel heard). Jesus then quotes (long) fragments from Ezekiel 40—47 to Rayford (pages 15-22) and to Cameron (pages 26-7).
Cameron meets Abdullah “Smith” Ababneh’s raptured wife (Yasmine) and two children (14-year-old Bahira and 13-year-old Zaki). They all look like Raymie, who, though a 12-year-old when raptured, now looks to be in his mid-twenties. Cameron marvels to think of the Dead Sea healed and filled with fish. (Trivia alert: the Once-Dead Sea, as we shall call it, does not receive a new name from the authors. Local tradition states that its ancient name was the Sea of Lot.) The faithful Zadokites are elevated above other Levites. Levites may remain in service as guards, and they may slay sacrificial animals, but their ancient sins ban them from actually offering sacrifices or doing anything priest-like. Rayford views the (Fourth) Temple from inside and out.
(Trivia alert #1: Rayford lists proportions such as “equal sides” but no measurements. Ezekiel’s temple is smaller than this fictional Fourth Temple, but its proportions are similar, and probably are intended to be identical. Trivia alert #2: For ease of use, The Living Bible converts cubit measurements into feet and includes illustrations of Ezekiel’s temple. This may help the reader in comprehension: for example, pictures show why the floor plan is organized the way it is, so that the priests do not have to carry the sacrifices from one dedicated area to another dedicated area through the outer courtyard, lest they sanctify the people. See Ezek. 46:19-20.)
Jesus’ tour of the Temple takes enough time that Rayford ponders his question about sacrifices four more times. (“Rayford only hoped he wouldn’t have to wait a thousand years to know the mind of God” [page 21].) Jesus finally addresses Rayford’s question with a compilation of Col. 2:17; Heb. 9:26b, 28a; Heb. 10:1, 4, 12-14. In between these verses, Jesus adds, “But in these [restored, physical] sacrifices [in the temple], there is a reminder of sins every year, just as the celebration of My supper is in remembrance of the price paid of My body and of My blood …. My chosen ones [i.e. the living Jewish inhabitants] must continue to present memorial sacrifices to Me in remembrance of My sacrifice and because they rejected Me for so long” (pages 22-23).
Spoiler: How does Jesus organize the government?
Answer: Jesus summons King David. A “tentative, timid” man falls upon his face, reciting Psalm 51:1-4, 7, 9, 15-19a. Jesus replies with verses 10-11 and Psa. 103:12. As David departs to wash up for duty, Jesus addresses the crowds with Isaiah 2:2b-4; 11:6-9; 29:18; Jer. 31:9b-14 and so forth.
David will be prince-king of the world. (Trivia alert: probably a literal interpretation of Ezek. 37:24, 26 which call him king and then prince.) The next layers of government are “the apostles, who judge the twelve tribes; their princes; local judges under them; counselors; and finally you foreigners” i.e. Gentiles like Rayford. Tsion teases him, “Oh, don’t look that way, friend. You know we will not make you suffer” (page 35).
Spoiler: Describe the marriage feast of the Lamb.
Answer: Cameron joins others on the Highway of Holiness. All have dressed in their finest, and some laugh and sing as they walk. Like Irene, Cameron makes a distinction between the Bride (defined as: all born-again believers from the time of Pentecost to the Rapture) and the “friends of the Bridegroom” (defined as: all righteous persons who died before Pentecost, like John the Baptist, or after the Rapture, like himself). These friends were not present at the actual Wedding.
The temple neighborhood is lined with “miles” of tables. “Stretched from sky to sky were spectators, the angels, who in no way qualified as guests.” They sing praise and glory to the Bridegroom, the Lamb. Jesus quotes Isaiah 25:6 while serving the redeemed a heavenly banquet of wine, meat, and marrow. Cameron contemplates Jer. 31:3 and marvels that he has seen something like the Feeding of the Multitudes for himself (pages 37-9).
Spoiler: According to Tsion, how long will humans live?
Answer: Tsion quotes (and possibly makes additions to) Isaiah 65:20. He states that no human who is born into the 1,000 year era or entered the era alive will die of natural causes before the age of 100 years. Secondly, he states that unsaved humans will die at 100 years. When a centenarian dies, that person will be considered to have died young. Thirdly, Tsion implies that Jews will not die. (He cites Jer. 31:31-34 to assert that there will be no unsaved Jews, at all. All Jews will know the Lord.)
“And, you know, Rayford, the only ones who will die will be Gentiles who do not trust Christ for their salvation …. Imagine—children born of the Tribulation, when they reach an age of understanding, and, thus, accountability, become the only unregenerate persons alive. And each one born here—without birth pangs, according to the prophecies—still must come to a place of repentance and a decision to become a follower of Christ.” Having seen Christ, living in a world surrounded by believers, Rayford and Tsion marvel that any child could choose otherwise. Nevertheless, Rev. 20:7-8 states that, at the end of time, the rebel host will be numberless as the sands of the seashore. Rayford shudders to think of it (pages 32-4).
Spoiler: How do the characters begin their new lives in the Millennial Kingdom?
Answer: Tsion and Chaim move away to live with their respective tribes. Rayford hears reports that people are “trying to find the resources necessary to rebuild infrastructures. And from all over the world came reports that citizens were determined to rebuild mass communications methods, airplanes, and computers, restoring all the modern conveniences” (pages 39-40). Bruce Barnes goes to Africa to neutralize weapons and to build roads, buildings, and power grids. Mac McCullum goes to Russia “to build airliners for the whole world” (page 75).
One day Rayford wakes up feeling a compulsion to build a house. Knowledge and physical strength come naturally to him. “Within days, toiling with dozens of like-minded men and women, he helped create lodging for hundreds of thousands of people in their lush valley alone, assembling the beautiful dwellings from raw material.” Next, he aids Chloe and Cameron by building “huge recreation and teaching centers to accommodate the hundreds upon hundreds [of children] that began showing up every day.” Every day, children close to the age of seven put their faith in Christ. “Those who did choose the alternative were not public about their intentions. Their fate and their true loyalties would be revealed only in time.”
Abdullah, Yasmine, Bahira, Zaki, Irene, and Raymie assist Cameron and Chloe at COT. One day, Rayford and Irene feel compelled by God “to head a team that would supervise growth and development in Indonesia.” (Raymie will stay with COT). Under Rayford’s direction, Indonesia gets some of the best [unspecified] technology in the world (page 57).
Spoiler: What is the first crisis of the Millennial Kingdom?
Answer: It is Year 93 of the reign of Jesus the King, the 100th year after the Rapture. Rayford gets an emergency phone call from Chloe. (He has a cellphone implanted in his head. That is not the emergency.) The first human has died [pages 46-58]. A COT worker, a “wonderful girl” named Cendrillon Jospin has died on her 100th birthday. This is proof that “Cendrillon is in hell, no longer with us because she never trusted Christ for salvation.” Chloe protests that “If I’m not mistaken, she had actually led others to faith.” Cameron counters that Cendrillon was merely busy. He knows of no one who came to Christ specifically through her leading. Chloe falls silent.
The grieving parents have asked Cameron, as head of COT, to speak at the girl’s funeral. He doesn’t know what to do. “A funeral is no place for me to tell the awful truth … Would her parents forgive me? Perhaps they’re in denial, desperate to find some loophole, some reason why a believer might die at one hundred.” Rayford tells Cameron to just ask them. “If they don’t permit you to be honest, there’s no point in doing anything but declining their request. The only benefit I see coming from this is if they allow you to warn other young people of the consequences of putting off the transaction with Jesus.”
The Jospins prove to be “devout believers who knew the truth. ‘She’s gone because she was lost,’ her father managed, shoulders heaving.” The mother confesses that, to combine it with a family reunion, they had held Cendrillon’s 100th birthday party a little early. The parents give permission for Cameron to say whatever he must say to prevent others from sharing their daughter’s fate (page 57).
Raymie is “sad and shaken.” He had been “duped” by a co-worker despite both the purity of his childhood faith and the gift of a Glorified adult intellect, which allowed him “to realize that practically every subject of discussion had intricate layers of meaning, things that had to be examined and ferreted out in order to understand.”
Bahira takes the death hard. Raymie has not seen tears since before the Rapture. Bahira feels responsible for Cendrillon’s death, because she suspected that Cendrillon might be unsaved but never told anybody. Bahira says that the Lord has been silent. He granted her a measure of comfort, but not enough to remove her fear. “Then it came to me. He too is grieving.” Raymie replies that Cendrillon could not have been a surprise to Him.
Cendrillon Jospin sang to children, played with them, read to them. She may have been “mischievous and a kidder,” but she was so involved with COT that people thought they knew her heart. In public Cendrillon was a model leader. In private “she was critical, a scoffer, a doubter at best.” She had said that, “as her childhood was coming to an end, there were times when she wished that for just one night she had pagan parents.” She wanted to visit France or Turkey to see if the “nightlife rumors” were true. Her cousins urged her to visit them in Amman. Cendrillon “pleaded” with Bahira to go with her. They would not have to participate. They would simply “watch and imagine and pretend” for one night that they didn’t have Christian parents. Bahira had responded that as a raptured, redeemed, sealed, and Glorified human, she had absolutely no interest in such activities.
“[Cendrillon] accused me of being superior, holier-than-thou. I actually apologized. I certainly didn’t want to lord anything over her. I hadn’t been bragging, just explaining why the temporary pleasures of sin had no hold on me. She said, ‘They don’t have a hold on me either. I just want to see what I’m missing.’ Well, I guess she knows now” (page 55).
Cendrillon’s death is so out of place in this new age that her next-of-kin must improvise. Her parents must store her corpse in their wine cellar. They conduct the funeral at COT’s recreation center. Since there are no cemeteries (the entire earth having been pulverized and re-formed, including the resting places of the unsaved dead), her parents eventually bury her on their property (page 58).
Spoiler: Describe Cendrillon Jospin’s funeral.
Answer: Cendrillon’s father, struggling with his emotions, says a few words in praise of Jesus, author and finisher of their faith. “But this is neither the memorial of a life nor the celebration of a home going, for as you all know, there is only one place for the dead now, and it is not heaven.”
Cameron “presents the unvarnished truth,” with plain warnings of the death of sinners on their 100th birthday and their eternal fate in the lake of fire. He says that in olden days it took much more faith to believe in Jesus whom generations had never seen. With the Rapture, Tribulation, Jesus’ return and kingdom, and now Cendrillon’s death as a fulfillment of prophecy, “you would be lying to say that the Christ is anything or anyone else than who He says He is.” From now on, those who die choose to die. “Do not say you haven’t been warned” (pages 58-9).
All those in attendance are amazed. “Hundreds” of sobbing mourners approach Cameron to let him lead them in a prayer for their salvation. Raymie admires Cameron’s boldness. Some of Cendrillon’s relatives are visibly upset. Kenny is “taken aback by his own father’s message.” (He doesn’t say why, other than that his father used to be a writer, not a preacher.) Kenny never knew that there were so many unsaved people in the world, let alone in this one gathering. Raymie notices Kenny’s awkwardness and playfully asks if Kenny is saved. “I’m not going to be sitting here stunned again in a few years with my own nephew lying in a box up there?” Kenny assures him there is no chance of that (pages 61-2).
Kenny befriends two strangers, brothers, who turn out to be Ignace and Lothair Jospin. They are complaining about Cameron’s altar call. “That crackpot sure made her sound like a loser. Don’t know who he thinks he is.” Kenny carefully replies that he doesn’t know what else the man in charge could have said. Offended, Lothair gets in Kenny’s face. If Kenny knows Cendrillon, he ought to know that “she wasn’t some big sinner. She hadn’t even been outside Israel since she was a little kid.”
Nevertheless, Ignace and Lothair don’t have anyone else to talk to about their feelings, not in this crowd. The Glorifieds “all look like porcelain dolls.” The cousins ask if Kenny knows of some place they can go for “fun,” i.e., “something other than singing songs to Jesus to make sure you live past a hundred.” Kenny replies there isn’t much “nightlife” in Israel these days. Ignace boasts that Lothair’s wine could make a party. He takes God’s original brew and “only makes it better.” Kenny, feeling out of his depth, compliments their custom-made suits. As he takes a second look at the pinstripes, he realizes that they consist of micro-printing: the letters T-O-L in endless succession (pages 63-6).
Spoiler: Who are The Other Light, or TOL?
Answer: They are “fans” of Lucifer. (According to Qasim, they don’t use the word “Satan,” considering it an insult.) Cendrillon’s cousins Ignace and Lothair Jospin are members. They tried to “talk her into having a little fun.” (She wanted to go, but not alone, so she asked Bahira to join her. When Bahira refused, Cendrillon did not go.)
Raymie confirms that there are “kids in their eighties and nineties” who have a movement, aspiring to be a cult, called The Other Light. (The name loosely derives from Isaiah 14:12.) Bahira asks if they are rebelling to get attention. “Surely they can’t claim not to believe in a God who has again limited Himself to human form and lives and reigns among us.” Raymie is uncertain whether they plan to repent before the age of one hundred. But he finds their offenses more serious than teenage rebellion. They run brothels, nightclubs, and black markets. France and Turkey have had to hire police and build jails again. “Those who commit actual crimes have been known to be put to death by lightning—God dealing with them immediately as He did to Ananias and Sapphira of old” (page 70). The TOL only recruit more youngsters. Raymie snorts, “I’m surprised the Lord doesn’t squash them like bugs” (pages 53-4).
Kenny has kept in contact with the Jospin brothers. They write missives called “If It’s True.” TOL writes that “if it’s true” that nonbelievers die at the age of 100 years, then those who reject Jesus must keep their teachings alive for nine generations. Also, they need to have as many children as possible to build up the size of their future army (pages 70-2). The actual missive adds that they “do not deny that God was the Creator and that Jesus is His Son.” They deny that Jesus came to earth in the flesh, died, rose, and has any right to rule. It denies people their free will, says the missive. If Jesus “will not countenance an alternate point of view,” then people should support Jesus’ foe, who, in their opinion, was treated unfairly. “Perhaps the new ruler will resurrect us and allow us to reign with him.” The missive concludes with a call to improve the argument, refine it, and pass it on (pages 120-122).
The saved know that TOL has chosen the losing side. “But what about those [undecided people] who might otherwise have chosen Christ and are instead influenced by these monsters?” (page 72).
Spoiler: What do the junior employees of COT decide to do about TOL?
Answer: They form The Millennium Force, or “MF.” (Bahira names the group.) Raymie Steele, Kenny Williams, Bahira Ababneh, and Zaki Ababneh are the founding four members: three boys, one girl like the Tribulation Force before them. They will compete with TOL for the hearts, minds, and souls of the undecided children. Raymie admits that the MF will not face the physical hardships that their parents faced, but still “the souls of men and women are at stake” (pages 69-70).
Spoiler: Who is Qasim Marid? What is the MF’s connection to him?
Answer: He is a Natural youth and one of Zaki’s closest friends. They have known each other for 90 years. Zaki wants to bring him into the MF.
Bahira votes against Qasim. She calls him a mischief-maker: “he reminds me of Cendrillon.” Raymie asks if Qasim is saved. Zaki stammers that Qasim must be saved since he spends so much time at COT, but they don’t actually talk about it. Raymie dislikes Qasim on sight. His redeemed-robe is too short, his list of complaints too long, his beard too scraggly. Worse, Qasim cannot give a detailed account of Where, When, and How he was saved. His story is “passionless” and vague. He says he was simply very little, too young to recall the brief time in his life before he was saved. He also cannot name any COT child that he led to salvation. In contrast, he gushes, “I’d love to become part of your little band and find out what those French guys are up to” (pages 73-4, 78-80, 102-104).
Zaki protests that his friend is being “blackballed,” to which Raymie replies that it is Zaki’s own fault for “over-promising.” At this point, Zaki adds that Qasim already went to France to investigate a TOL cell there (page 104). On cue, Qasim arrives bursting with “amateurish” enthusiasm and a copy of the “If It’s True” missive. The Jospins haven’t even trusted Kenny with a copy (pages 115-6). As for betraying confidences, Qasim boasts that, yes, of course, he told everyone that Kenny works at COT. Kenny is a TOL infiltrator spying on COT! Now the Jospins will like him and talk to him, says Qasim proudly. Raymie sighs. The Millennium Force is spiraling out of control. “I’ve got half a mind to disband the whole thing” (page 169).
Spoiler: Who is Ekaterina “Kat” Risto? What is Kenny’s connection to her?
Answer: She is a new hire from Greece (pages 84-5, 91-2). Her parents met during the Tribulation in an underground church that Kenny’s parents supported. In the new era her family came to Jerusalem to observe the Feast of Tabernacles, and they loved Israel enough that they decided to stay. (Like many young people in this series, Kenny is a love-at-first-sight sort of boy, and Kat is a very Nice Girl; pages 104-105).
Kenny thinks Kat would be a perfect Natural addition to the Millennium Force. She’s “the right age, the right gender, no baggage, and a ton more mature than Qasim” (page 125).
To Kenny’s surprise, Kat goes on a date with Qasim. She finds him “hilarious” but indiscreet. He told her all about the MF and told her she should become a member so she can infiltrate bad guys. Kat is so happy to have a friend like Kenny that she can talk to, “just like a girlfriend” (pages 131, 135). Finally Kenny says he would rather be her boyfriend. Kat replies that she only went out with Qasim because she thought Kenny, the son of the world-famous Steele-Williams “heritage” was too far above her. She would love to go out with Kenny (pages 137-40).
When Kenny starts thinking of marriage, he and Bruce Barnes tease each other with the idea that Bruce should perform the ceremony (pages 151, 241).
Spoiler: Where, when, and how do the characters get saved?
Answer: Kenny Bruce Williams is saved when we meet him in the year 93. He had been around ten years old—between Kingdom Years 6 to 8—when his mother Chloe led him to Christ and prayed with him while tucking him into bed. For Kenny, the decision to accept Christ had been easy. His whole family consisted of Tribulation Saints. Besides, Kenny had seen Jesus. “If He wasn’t God, nobody was” (pages 61-3).
Ekaterina Risto did not become a believer until she was 80 years old. She always knew that Jesus was Lord and was Son of God and was God. “I just didn’t know what I wanted to do about it.” She felt terrible about her indecisiveness, knowing it grieved her parents. She was never a scoffer, just “stubborn, prideful” and “sincere in wanting to decide for myself and not just inherit my parents’ faith.”
It was Kat’s friends who shocked her into accepting Christ. They championed Lucifer, even prayed to him, and it scared her. She tried to pray for her friends. As an unsaved person, her prayers availed nothing. In time she realized that she was no better than her friends. She had not truly surrendered her “pride and ego” if she thought she was in a position to help others. “I came to the conclusion that [God] may have been silent, but He was still communicating. I saw myself for what I was,” and lay on the floor, weeping, pleading for forgiveness, and committing herself to the Lord. Since that day, two of her friends have been saved (pages 92-96, 99-101).
Spoiler: What is the second crisis of the Millennial Kingdom?
Answer: The land of Egypt sent no representatives to the mandatory Feast of Tabernacles (page 75). A Zadokite priest named Yerik summons Rayford, Chaim, and Tsion to the presence of the prince-king David. (The glorified Lord’s Prince wears a purple robe with a gold fringe and a simple gold crown set slightly askew.) David reports that Egypt unwisely elevated two “children” to governmental positions. They influenced the nation to “faithlessness.” David says that Egypt is “beyond [his] jurisdiction” to punish or to restore. God will smite the land, and someone will die. David can and does send Rayford, Tsion, and Chaim to rebuild the country and re-evangelize the Egyptian people (pages 87-91). Rayford expects this will take about a century.
Rayford knows Irene will be grieved to be moving again after just having got settled near her children, but “we” have “our” assignment (page 101). David perceives that Rayford wants to bring Abdullah, but that will not be possible. “He and his [Glorified and divorced] wife will be relocated to their homeland” for a separate duty (page 98).
As proof that God loves the Egyptians despite their disobedience, the land is hereby renamed “Osaze,” or “loved by God.” (Trivia alert: this is a proper name, akin to naming a place The Land of Bob. In time people probably will get used to it, just as people are used to place-names like Maryland, Dakota, or Corpus Christi.)
Egypt’s punishment is to lose all ground water. No rain falls, no rivers flow, no springs percolate (pages 110-111). The water will not be “turned on” again until the last holdout repents on page 144.
Spoiler: As long as Rayford has an audience with David, what favor does Rayford ask?
Answer: He asks David for some Biblical heroes of faith to visit COT. “The children plead for [stories from the Bible] above refreshments, above games, above singing.” Rayford thinks they would love to meet the people they have read about. He asks for Noah, Joshua, and David himself. David agrees to all, and sends Caleb (the man, not Chloe’s angel) with Joshua as a bonus (pages 98-99).
Noah tells his story to huge crowds in Chapter 16 (much of it is reprinted from Genesis). Joshua and Caleb do the same in Chapter 22. David does the same in Chapter 26.
Spoiler: In Volume 3, Tsion was rescued by a stranger. What happens in the Millennium?
Answer: Tsion sees Anis again (page 186). Anis is an angel. “I was your rear guard that night, just as I am on this mission” in Osaze. Then he vanishes.
Spoiler: What is the third crisis of the Millennial Kingdom?
Answer: The TOL is spawning splinter groups, much more violent than the group that lures children with chain letters and wild parties. “Abdullah had not been in Amman an hour” before he hears about one new faction. A Natural attempted to rape a Glorified woman that morning.
”Her story is that she fought him off, but he subdued her. However, before he could proceed, he died in her arms. When she reported it to authorities, they found his ashes in her bedroom …. She may have been immune [to lightning] because of the nature of her body, but her account is that he merely died. The incineration had to have happened while she was running for help …. Not even the blanket on her bed [was damaged].”
One of this splinter faction’s ambitions is to impregnate Glorified women to produce a mongrel race of super-Naturals: not immortal, but longer-lived than other Naturals. Abdullah dismisses the idea out of hand. “The glorified bodies of women must have no child-bearing capabilities, because they are not even interested in reproductive activity.” He declares, “We must spread this story far and wide” because “this will be a lesson for others” (pages 122-124).
Spoiler: What is Abdullah’s assignment?
Answer: He is to “thwart” TOL in his home city of Amman (page 109). He concludes that he must disguise himself as a minor, which means locating Zeke, the master of disguises (page 127). Zeke Junior is a farmer in Albania. On the side he runs a miniature COT called For The Undecided. Zeke welcomes “Smitty” but says he can’t help him. Abdullah is too old, Yasmine too young, and Zeke dares not modify her Glorified face anyway (pages 133-135). Zaki solemnly “counsels” that God might make his father into a “shape-shifter” or do something to the TOL’s eyes so that they do not see him as an older man. Maybe the Millennium Force’s mole(s) in TOL could make things work (pages 168-9). “The boy had all the answers. Kids.” Even Qasim offers to help Abdullah disguise himself, or at least feed him information (pages 190-2).
Abdullah concludes that “either Jesus either got tired of seeing me running around and getting nowhere or was amused by it. Finally He made it plain to me during my morning prayer. Do you know what a chaplain is?” (pages 175-7, 179-80). Abdullah is to walk into the nearest TOL hub and ask for an office. If they decline, he will pull up a table and chair outside their door. If they let him in, he will be available for their spiritual needs: “questions, counseling, teaching, or whatever else they want.” His job is to love them. Yasmine asks, “With all due respect, have you lost your mind?”
Spoiler: How is Abdullah received by TOL?
Answer: He presents himself at the Theological Training Institute (“TTI”), Bible in hand, where Mudawar and Sarsour regard him with suspicion. Why would they welcome a representative of the God who slew a man “who merely deigned to try to make love with one of His ‘glorifieds’?” Abdullah tells them that he too was mistaken about God at their [mental] ages. He explains his mission. He adds that they can test their lessons on him to determine whether they have accurately interpreted Scripture or are merely invoking tradition. In exasperation Mudawar gives him a corner of an office (pages 205-6, 207-13).
“It was clear the young men did not know what to make of Abdullah, but they were growing more civil to him every day.” Abdullah starts bringing their favorite snacks to work: garlic hummus for Sarsour and a particularly chewy coffee for Mudawar. Mudawar starts consulting him, asking earnest questions such as, “If I wrote something like this about God, would believers say I was wrong or unfair, or would they just be bothered because they don’t understand Him either?” Sometimes Abdullah wonders if he is doing the right thing, but he concludes that no argument of man could besmirch God’s name (pages 236-8).
Sarsour starts loitering in his area. He merely says that he loves stories, and Abdullah has stories of the old world that is gone. Abdullah shares how he lost his wife. He obtains her permission to show her private letters to Sarsour. Yasmine’s last letter emphasizes the point that she had to convert because she did not have a religion, but a relationship with a person, Jesus Christ (pages 231-4, 238, 245-51).
Spoiler: What lesser conflicts divide COT and the Millennium Force?
Answer: When Kat tells Qasim she probably will not date him again because she likes Kenny, he becomes angry. It makes her doubt his faith (pages 171-4). At best, it makes her uncomfortable to work with him.
Chloe confronts Kat with a poor performance report, signed by supervisor Mattie Cleveland. Allegedly Kat is often tardy and argumentative, has failed to mend her ways, plus she sat next to Kenny at the Noah appearance without permission (i.e. children were unsupervised). Kat denies everything. Mattie denies writing the report. She adores Kat (pages 177-82). Chloe questions her employees, but it only agitates the staff.
Chloe lectures Kenny, Kat, and Bahira. Bahira rolls her eyes at mention of Qasim, and Chloe says that that sort of behavior is the reason she has called this meeting. “Scripture says that you all are to be considered children until you reach age one hundred, but because you’re twice as old now as my parents were when I died, I don’t know; I guess I expect you to be more mature.” Chloe reminds them that the Tribulation Force existed to add as many people to the family of God as they could. The Millennium Force ought to be doing the same (page 187-9).
Just when Chloe thinks the troubles are settled, she receives an anonymous note saying, “Kenneth B. Williams is your culprit in the Risto personnel matter” (pages 236, 238-9, 242-3). Cameron tells Chloe to discard the note. “You know how I feel about garbage like that.” Instead, she confronts Kenny and Kat. Kenny squeals, “Good grief, Mom!” He plans to marry Kat and would never hurt her. Chloe asks if Kenny has any enemies. Only Qasim, if he even counted, and a long time ago. He is quite reformed these days.
Spoiler: What greater conflicts divide COT and the Millennium Force?
Answer: The Jospin brothers summon Kenny to Paris (page 192-3, 258-63). They want access to the very little children before COT can “brainwash” them. Kenny is supposed to help TOL gain access. (At this point they are joined by yet another Jospin cousin, Nicolette.) Kenny “proves” himself by telling them how to refine their strategy. “Don’t you respect your audience?” He mocks them for luring teenagers with drugs and parties and expecting “a bunch of dopers and alkies” to compete with the army of God. They should appeal to the children’s minds. “Raise up impressive, bright, humble young people who are a credit to society but who disagree about the future” (page 262). Lothair mentions a TOL cell in Amman that seems to be practicing that strategy. The four of them could go there this Saturday. (Kenny neglects to report this change of plans to COT or the MF.)
When Abdullah sees Kenny at TTI, Abdullah hides and flees. He calls his reliable source, Qasim, to ask if the good guys have any infiltrators other than Qasim. Qasim says carefully that they did have one, but that one “turned” and joined TOL for real. For the sake of “damage control,” Qasim begs Abdullah to tell no one (pages 280-282). Abdullah promises, then promptly calls Kenny’s father (page 294).
Kenny returns home to learn that he is being blamed for the fact that the COT list of employees has been stolen. The MF is holding a meeting at their usual restaurant (the Valley Bistro), with Qasim and Kat, and without him (pages 285-91). Kat flees in tears when she sees Kenny. Qasim says he found a certain memo on Ignace Jospin’s desk in Paris. Raymie leaves his copy on the table; he doesn’t need it anymore. Acting as one, the MF walks out on Kenny.
Kenny reads the memo. The memo-writer taunts Chloe as “dull-witted” because she thinks he is saved. (“Well, Mom, you have to mean it if you pray that prayer.”) He takes credit for giving the TOL the stolen personnel list. (“My mother is making noises about putting locks on the doors; my access to her office won’t cross her mind this Millennium.”) He takes credit for planting the previous damaging memos. No one would suspect him of framing himself. “The new girlfriend” is more naïve than Chloe. Her “homely, swarthy” and unaccomplished parents “worship the ground I walk on.” He may even marry the girl to broaden his reach within COT. More vital information will follow in the next core dump. “Keep Nicolette warm until I get there …. Loyal to the Other Light forever, KBW” (pages 289-91).
As the dazed Kenny goes home, Nicolette’s van reappears. They have gotten lost and need directions. “You’re a peach,” she says and kisses him on the cheek. As they drive away, Kenny belatedly notices that Lothair took a photo of the kiss (page 292). They forward the photo to Kat’s e-mail.
Spoiler: How is Abdullah threatened?
Answer: He tells Mudawar that it is his duty to expose Kenny. Mudawar replies that Kenny must be working for TOL for real, or Abdullah would have known about his visit. If Abdullah tries to expose “their” spy, Mudawar will have to frame Abdullah. After all, Abdullah does not wear the redeemed-robe but secular clothing. He does not speak Hebrew at TTI. Mudawar will invent the rest. Abdullah protests that as a Natural man over 100 years, he clearly is saved. “And thus you are incapable of sin?” retorts Mudawar. “Oh, it will surprise believers, horrify them, even. But how will you explain it? …. Who in his right mind would believe [that TOL welcomed Abdullah into their headquarters]? You hardly believed it yourself!” Abdullah panics, praying for guidance as to whether he imagined or misunderstood God’s message (pages 320-322).
Spoiler: How does Kenny’s family respond?
Answer: Cameron sits steely-eyed while Chloe weeps. “Call me a typical mother, but I believe him.” Cameron says he wants to believe him. He suspends Kenny from COT, “just until we can figure this out” (page 295).
Kenny asks his family and friends to cooperate in prayer. If they did, surely Jesus would not let this injustice stand. (Rayford, Irene, Chaim, Tsion, Mac, and the Barneses hold the prayer meeting in Osaze, until Mrs. Barnes says that it has been given to her to know that the boy is innocent [page 305]. The text is unclear as to whether she, or anyone, informed Kenny’s parents and friends.)
Kenny composes a brief memo to the MF. “I suppose all I can do now is to endure a little more than two more years until I turn one hundred. And when I am here the next day, you’ll know that I am a believer” and not guilty of the charges.
Kenny composes a second memo to Kat. “I can only imagine how phony and hollow that sounds, coming from me right now.” He begs Kat to read 1 Corinthians 13 and think of him. He adds that the day she decides he is innocent, please come back to him. She should not think that he will hold it against her that she did not trust him. (He admits that he hopes, but is not certain, that he would believe her if their situations were reversed.) She is his lifetime love, and there will never be another. (pages 296-7).
Kat lasts only half a day apart from Kenny. If she is wrong, she is a fool and accepts it. She loves Kenny (page 329).
Spoiler: How is Rayford Steele captured?
Answer: Rayford and his team are living in motorhomes in Osaze. He takes a walk by moonlight, as is his habit. A black sedan approaches, and an old man pleads for help. Believers and undecideds are under attack. When Rayford gets into the car, three Natural youngsters produce weapons and cuffs. He considers resisting or fleeing, but the Lord tells him to comply (pages 305-8).
Rayford has been abducted by “the enforcers” of TOL, called “The Only Light.” They know that Rayford has an appointment in Siwa. If they can prevent him from appearing there, they can say that their god is greater than his. Rayford laughs and calls them “idiots” because of their reasoning: their leader locked himself away to prove a point and will release himself and will defeat a nonexistent God who is capricious and unjust but doesn’t exist, and so on. They take Rayford to a dank underground prison—Rayford has not seen this pure a darkness since the sun and moon became supercharged—and cage him with minimal clothing and no food (pages 310-312).
Rayford’s guard is Rehema (“Compassionate”). He thanks her for being his guard and witnesses to her (pages 312-6, 318-9). Within the hour she is sneaking him bites of her sandwich. She says she has a four-year-old son who is kept in a TOL facility. Rayford tells her of his own children.
Rayford asks Rehema to “call my wife” and assure her that he is unharmed. Rehema places the call but asks Irene where they are “hiding.” Irene is puzzled; they haven’t moved. God has blinded TOL’s eyes. Irene asks that Rayford please be on time. Rehema says carefully that, “If he makes it, it will be either with my help or with me under his protection against my former superiors.” Irene replies that they will welcome her warmly into the family of God. Rehema fights back tears. She considers it, but she will not leave her son—and Rayford will not leave the other 30 prisoners. There is no need for either person to choose. The TOL have been eavesdropping and throw Rehema into Rayford’s cell in chains. Rayford prays with her. Rehema is now saved but frightened for her son (pages 331-5).
Spoiler: How is Abdullah’s situation resolved?
Answer: Sarsour confesses he was assigned to spy on Abdullah. He knew Abdullah would come back from his snack run, because he left his Bible. Sarsour grew up in a believing household. Abdullah reminds him of his home. Last night, Sarsour visited his parents. There he felt the presence of God. That night deepened his crisis of conscience. The way that Mudawar threatened Abdullah put an end to it. Sarsour tells Abdullah plainly that Qasim Marid is the TOL infiltrator at COT; Kenny is innocent. Sarsour asks Abdullah to pray with him. He won’t go back to the TTI building without being a believer (pages 323-7). With Mudawar’s threats neutralized, Abdullah’s good name is out of danger.
Spoiler: How is Rayford rescued?
Answer: He teaches Rehema the hymn “Trust and Obey” by Sammis and Towner, to calm them both to sleep. Rehema sees Anis in the prison. An earthquake opens the doors of all cells. The TOL guards are paralyzed with fear. The prisoners follow Anis to freedom, specifically to a caravan of cars (to which Anis tosses them the keys). As they drive away, Rehema asks Rayford to sing again, with “Trust and Obey” fading into the distance (pages 336-9).
Spoiler: How is Kenny’s situation resolved?
Answer: In its entirety from page 340:
Qasim Marid was, of course, fired from the Children of the Tribulation ministry, and he died at one hundred. He was replaced by Abdullah Ababneh’s friend Sarsour, who endeared himself to the staff and Cameron William’s extended family over the next nine centuries. Ignace and Lothair also died at one hundred—as did Mudawar—and became the Other Light martyrs, still revered by billions more than nine hundred years later.”
Spoiler: Describe the wedding of Kenneth Bruce Williams and Ekaterina “Kat” Risto.
Answer: In its entirety from page 340:
Kenny and Ekaterina Williams’s wedding was performed by Bruce Barnes, and the couple produced eight sons, six daughters, and more than eighty grandchildren over the next two hundred years. The couple expanded the work of COT to Greece, as had been Ekaterina’s dream, until they grew too feeble to carry on. By the end, the ministry was maintained by the Glorifieds …
Spoiler: Describe the rest of the Millennium.
Answer: From pages 340-342: Naturals start to notice slowed reflexes and weakened sight and hearing in their seven hundreds.
Mac McCullum invites his friends to celebrate his 800th birthday at COT in Israel. He asks his friends to do two things. One, may they all return for his 1,000th birthday party. Two, may they all meet again to witness the last day of the Millennium—in effect, the last day on earth.
On Mac’s millennial birthday, he, Chaim, Rayford, Kenny, Ekaterina, and Abdullah (a.k.a. “the six oldsters”) line up their wheelchairs to face a receiving line of well-wishers. Mac grumbles, “This here’s like a funeral where the dead guy won’t go.” They greet a long list of Natural and Glorified characters from previous novels: Rayford’s parents, Amanda, Hattie, Chang, and so many more. Rayford asks for a photo of the original Tribulation Force. Chloe, Cameron, and Bruce join him for a picture.
The instantly produced photograph stunned even Rayford. It depicted three robust young people frozen in the prime of their lives and a long, bony man with drooping jowls, liquid eyes, and no hair, weighing barely over a hundred pounds, veins prominent on the back of his hands, bundled in a sweater despite the desert heat.
Spoiler: Describe the last battle.
Answer: From pages 343-349: Rayford and Chaim watch television. The past three years have been bad viewing. The TOL has amassed an army “a thousand times bigger” than the one seen at Armageddon. The TOL brazenly rolls its tanks through any street and holds parades filled with missiles. Naval fleets churn toward Holy Land ports. Army supply lines run uninterrupted from port to front line, where the TOL await “their leader.” The faithful can only stand beside the road and look. Most believers flee the Holy Land. A few vow to stay and fight TOL “to the death.”
Rayford reassures himself that the faithful do not need soldiers. This is good, because they have none, not one. Chaim says that the end will be “anticlimactic.”
“As the entire world looked on—many by television, many from what they hoped were safe distances—the colossal fighting force suddenly came alive with a buzz of anticipation. Clearly Satan had been released and was in their midst, preparing to show himself and to lead them” (page 346).
Satan emerges from the crowd as a shining figure with a sword. He says that the throne of God is rightfully his. King Jesus, in the Temple, rises. Satan screams, “Charge!” Jesus replies quietly, “I Am Who I Am.” The sky roils, the heavens open, and “yellow and red mountains of white-hot, roiling flames burst forth. Satan’s entire throng—men, women, weapons, everything—was vaporized in an instant, leaving around the holy mountain a ring of ash that soon wafted away in the breeze.” Satan slowly drops his sword.
Jesus quotes Ezekiel 28:12b-19. David quotes Phil. 2:9-11. Jesus opens His palm. “A seam in the cosmos opened before Satan. Flames and black smoke poured from where the Beast and the False Prophet writhed on their knees, screaming, “Jesus is Lord!’” (Trivia alert: the SRB-1917 footnote to Rev. 20:10, page 1351, states that the reason we see the Beast and False Prophet is to make plain that they are “undestroyed” after 1,000 years, that the second death is not “annihilation” or extinction.) Satan screams, “Jesus is Lord!” Then Jesus closes His fingers and Satan is “thrown” into the abyss. The seam closes and vanishes (page 349). There is only silence.
Spoiler: Describe Rayford’s eyewitness experience of the end of time.
Answer: Rayford suddenly finds his body and mind glorified. He looks and feels thirty years old. He is dressed in a robe of gleaming white. He and his companions ascend through the ceiling and fly toward the holy mountain. As the billions of believers ascend, Rayford sees a “stunning” sight descending toward them. A beautiful, massive “foursquare city of transparent gold” meets his gaze (pages 349-50).
The redeemed of all ages gather in this new Jerusalem. Far below, the final resurrection has come. “From every nook and cranny on the earth and from the seas and below the earth came the bodies of all the men and women in history who had died outside of Christ.” They stand in shame and know it. Jesus descends from Heaven, seated upon a great white throne. The dead encircle Him. (They have no choice, as the earth and sky flee away.) Fire from above and from below the earth ignite the globe and incinerate it to sparks (page 350).
Rayford recalls Rev. 20:5 and worships “with all who had escaped this fateful hour.” He sees Jesus consult three great books: the Book of Life (a census listing the name of every human who ever lived); the Book of Works (listing all deeds for each person); and the Lamb’s Book of Life (listing the names of all who had trusted Christ for their salvation). Rayford knows that all who are in the Lamb’s book have been forgiven of “misdeeds” written in the Works book. Not one of “the desolate souls hovering about the throne” is in the Lamb’s book.
Somehow, the Lord addresses all the unsaved individually. All go to the lake of fire, but some get (unspecified) worse punishment as well, “such as those scoffers who had led others astray, particularly children.” Rev. 20:13b-15 is cited. Rayford once would have been horrified to hear these judgments. Now, as he sees Jesus’ tears as He pronounces sentence, “Rayford understood as never before that Jesus sent no one to hell. They chose their own paths” (pages 351-2).
Now, with only the new Jerusalem filled with believers and Jesus upon the throne, the skies are empty. In an instant, Jesus creates an entirely new earth, upon which the Holy city descends. Jesus opens His arms to the people, saying, “You chose to believe in Me and accept My death on the cross for your sins. My resurrection from the dead proved this sacrifice was acceptable to My Father.” Rayford sees what John the Revelator saw in Rev. 21:1-5a, 6, 8, 11-14, 18, 22-23. All who, like Rayford, were written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, would enter the new heaven and new earth and reign forever and ever.
Spoiler: How does the novel close?
Answer: From pages 355-356: The authors call the Left Behind series a daunting, enjoyable, challenging, and rewarding experience. They hope this fictional format “has made clear some admittedly complex and often confusing elements of Scripture and help them come to life in your eyes.”
“By now there should be no question, but for the record let me say that yes, we believe that what we have portrayed here will happen someday. Our deepest prayer is that this sixteen-book story has drawn you closer to God and caused you to either receive Him as your Savior or more deeply commit yourself to Him if you were already a believer. Thousands of readers have told us that they became believers through reading these books, which makes everything else associated with them—media coverage, controversy, best-seller lists—pale in comparison. There’s nothing any novelist enjoys more than to hear that his work has changed a reader’s life. Well, when readers tell us that, they mean it literally.”
The authors close with Rev. 22:17: let whosoever desires, come take freely the living water of life. If anyone is uncertain as to whether one has received the living Christ, may they receive Him as Lord and Savior today.
(Discussion topics will appear in a separate post.)