by Tim LaHaye & Jerry Jenkins, Tyndale House Publishers, ISBN 0-8423-2926-9, available practically anywhere Christian books are sold:

A plot summary is here.

Sorry, no “Buck was struck” tally for this book.  Surprisingly, I never saw it, not even once.

As usual, you can find reviews of this book on Amazon which describe the plot–such as it is.  Here I just record my impressions of various things that happen.

On page 20, Ken Ritz–yet another pilot who’s currently chatting with Rayford–says, “So, three pilots, a doc, and a rabbi–sounds like the start of a joke.  The only member without a specialty is your daughter, and she’s what I call the voice of reason.”

Er, yeah, she has no specialty because she dropped out of college after the Rapture!  I guess an education is superfluous now, even though she could’ve had seven years to use that education at a job or maybe have insights helpful for the Tribulation Force.

On page 23, we have a new character, Dr. Floyd Charles, who insists, “Call me anything you want except Floyd.”  In that case, can I call you Pink?

On page 29, Chloe, Buck and Tsion are speaking with Chaim Rosenzweig, the inventor of Israel’s famous formula for food production and wiping out hunger, dupe–er, friend–of Nicolae Carpathia, and all-around-decent-Jew except for that persistent refusal to convert to Christianity.

Chaim is not aware the Antichrist is the Antichrist, so he advocates for him, asking that Nicolae have a place on the program of Tsion’s Meeting of the Witnesses in Jerusalem.

This conference is meant to bring together the 144,000 Jewish converts to Christianity who have turned missionaries to the world.  Tsion is the speaker.  Chloe cries,

“A place on the program!  Impossible!  The stadium will be full of Jewish converts who are convinced Nicolae is Antichrist himself.”

Chaim condescendingly calls her “sweetheart,” smiles at her as if she’s a silly child, and says, “Nicolae Carpathia?  He seeks world peace, disarmament, global unity.”

Chloe responds, “My point exactly.”

Wait–Er–What?  What’s her point?  Is she saying that Carpathia is obviously the Antichrist because he seeks these things?  Since Christ himself preached peace, goodwill and compassion, does that mean that Christ is the Antichrist?

In the last book, we learned that Amanda, Rayford’s now dead wife, could have been a double agent working for the Antichrist.  I kept hoping and hoping that she truly was, because such an unexpected twist could spark suspenseful writing, the depth of Rayford’s feelings of betrayal, possibly even a breakdown–and oh, the eventual showdown between Rayford and the Antichrist would have been sweet.

But, wait, I forgot who was writing this book.  On page 36, we discover that the writers dropped the ball: Amanda was not a double agent, after all.  So much for added intrigue.

On page 43, our heroes [cough] arrive at the Meeting of the Witnesses.  As the stadium fills with participants, along with shouts and chants, Buck asks, “What are they saying?”  The response: “‘Hallelujah,’ and ‘Praise the Lord.’  And they’re spelling out the name of Jesus.”

Why do I suddenly have this vision in my head of thousands of Jewish Witnesses spelling out with their arms and singing, “It’s fun to stay at the J-E-S-U-S!”

The MC explains that Dr. Tsion Ben-Judah will “preach and teach for as long as he feels led.”  Oh, dear, settle in because it’s going to be a loooooong night.

On page 49, during Tsion’s sermon, he states that,

Jesus himself said he was the way, the truth, and the life, and that no man can come to the Father except through him.

This is our message to the nations.  This is our message to the desperate, the sick, the terrified, the bound.

By now there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind–even those who have chosen to live in opposition to God–that he is real and that a person is either for him or against him.

Tsion makes it very clear that “against him” means not being a Christian.  This is important to note, that non-Christians are considered to be “against God,” because later the lines will be drawn.

This contradicts the message I find again and again when researching Orthodoxy: that only God can say who will be found to be inside the Church, who outside.  It’s not just about whether or not you belong to a certain faith or denomination.

As the American Greek Orthodox Archbishop Demetrios wrote in his Reflections (page 3) in the September 2008 issue of the Orthodox Observer,

[I]t is appropriate to speak of a broad rather than narrow understanding of humanity as “God’s people” [in the theme of “Gathering God’s People to His Home”].

A broad interpretation of humanity without any exclusions, discriminations, or exceptions is entirely consistent with Christ’s parable of the Great Banquet in the Gospel of Luke, where the substance of our theme is vividly expressed.

In that parable, the householder…goes to the people on the streets and lanes, on the highways and the hedges, in other words, to those people who make their “homes” in the margins of society.  In this sense, “God’s home” is also identified in broad rather than narrow terms.

This passage from Luke is compelling of how God communicates directly to us that “His people” includes the entirety of humankind and that “His home” includes the entirety of our planet….

[This means] that our work is unlimited.  It means that our mission has no boundaries.  It means that we are called to gather every human being of every continent to God’s home.

The Archbishop also wrote on page 20 in April 2008,

Because God has given to the people the freedom of conscience, we do not cast judgment on the teachings of other religions nor upon those people who hold them.

We do insist however, that on this day of Holy Pascha we are invited to come to a closer understanding of the centrality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ to the Christian faith and its fundamental meaning for our lives as Orthodox Christians.

While Orthodoxy does believe that we are all tainted by sin and desperately need a Saviour, it rejects the doctrine of total depravity, or that even the good we do is evil until we are saved.

Orthodoxy sees “the divine image imprinted upon every person” (Encyclical, Archbishop Demetrios), distorted by sin, rather than destroyed by sin as some would say.  Actually, there is a distinction between the image of God (freedom, reason, creativity, etc.) and the likeness of God (being like God in character).

Because each person has the divine image, even sinners are precious to God.  We can cooperate with God’s grace in synergy if we so desire–in fact, though salvation is a free gift and only possible because of what Christ did for us, we must choose between good or evil, because God will not violate our free will.

God’s grace is not seen as irresistible, as in Calvinism: He knocks at the door, but we must open it.  (For a fuller treatment of this topic, see The Orthodox Church by Timothy Ware, p. 218-224.  Excerpts of the book are available here, but the most pertinent section is “Man, his creation, his vocation, his failure.”  Sometimes you can find it online, sometimes not.)

So how can we be “against God” unless we specifically choose to be?  How can we be “against God” simply because we chose the wrong religion in our limited human knowledge, or followed Catholic teachings instead of premillennial dispensationalism?

Tsion’s “us vs. them” theology runs counter to Orthodox theology, because it is based on total depravity.  The judgments in the Left Behind series, many of which do not discriminate between good and bad, Christian or non-Christian, may be seen as just in the doctrine of total depravity, because even the “good” are evil if they are not in the Church.  But this goes against Orthodox theology.

Christ clarifies that some who claimed to be his followers will find themselves shut out of Heaven, while the division of the sheep and the goats is based on how people treated each other in life.  Only God can judge who is for Him and who against.

This does not mean that Christianity is just one of many ways to go; rather, it means that if any non-Christians are saved, it’s because Christ died for us all and God’s mercy and grace extend wherever He wills.

An Orthodox Christian View of Non-Christian Religions
The Last Judgment–from An Online Orthodox Catechism

On page 53-54, we find that the former-pope-turned-supreme pontiff of the Enigma Babylon One World Faith, now wears “a high, peaked cap” with an infinity symbol, and clownish robes full of colors, tassels, stripes, colored stones and astrological symbols.

Since he used to be the pope, and the Pope wears rich clerical robes and a high cap, what else can we see here but a blatant rip on papal garments?  In his book Are We Living in the End Times, LaHaye makes it very clear that he considers Catholicism to be a false religion based on paganism.

So it hardly seems a straw man argument, or reading in things that are not there, to note that the new Supreme Pontiff of the false amalgamated religion looks like a clownish version of the Pope.  For example:

If Babylon is the mother of all false religions and Jerusalem is the mother of true faith (since Jesus Christ was crucified, buried, and resurrected there), then Rome is the mother of an unholy mixture of the two (p. 172).

He goes on to describe how Rome, already Satan’s “spiritual headquarters,” was full of pagan temples.  When Constantine converted (which LaHaye doubts is a true conversion), he gave the pagan temples over to the Christian leaders.  This led to pagan statues being made into Christian statues, and

Gradually the pagan practices and teachings of Babylon began to worm their way into Christianity.  These included prayers for the dead, making the sign of the cross, worship of saints and angels, instituting the mass, and worship of Mary–which in the church of Rome was followed by prayers directed to Mary, leading to the 1950 doctrine of her assumption into heaven and in 1965 to the proclamation that Mary was the “Mother of the Church.”

As pagan teachings increased, biblical authority decreased.  Just over one hundred years after Constantine, the brilliant Augustine came along with his brand of Greek humanism and introduced “man’s wisdom” along with “God’s wisdom,” further paving the way for more pagan thought and practice.

Although he did not intend it, his spiritualizing of Scripture eventually removed the Bible as the sole source of authority for correct doctrine.  At the same time, the Scriptures were kept locked up in monasteries and museums, leaving Christians defenseless against the invasion of pagan and humanistic thought and practice.

Consequently, the Dark Ages prevailed, and the Church of Rome became more pagan than Christian.

Had it not been for Wycliffe, Tyndale, and other valiant pre-Protestant heroes of the faith, Christianity would have been destroyed, and Satan’s Babylonian mysticism would have prevailed, effectively destroying true Christianity.

LaHaye then goes on to describe how terrible things were while “Babylonian mysticism controlled the church,” with massacres of born-again Christians, etc., things that make it, as he states on page 175,

difficult for many Christians to trust current efforts at reestablishing unity between Protestants and Catholics.

Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, is the only dispenser of salvation, which can come only by personal faith in Him, never by works of righteousness.  His work of redemption was finished for all time on the cross.

True Christians will never “unite” for the sake of religious unity with those who will not acknowledge the supremacy of Jesus Christ.  We take Peter’s admonition very seriously: “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Who are those who do not acknowledge the supremacy of Jesus Christ?  LaHaye clearly points the finger at the Catholics.

Where did he get that version of church history–Chick Tracts?  And is he unaware of the existence of the Eastern Orthodox Church, which was one with the Roman Catholic Church for centuries before the Great Schism, and had/has many of the same practices as the Catholic Church?

Is he aware that the Eastern part of the Church did not go through the Dark Ages with the Western Church, did not “lock up” the Scriptures in monasteries, did not have the same Roman and legalistic bent as the Roman Church, yet somehow ended up with its own sign of the cross, prayers for the dead, mass (Divine Liturgy), and adoration (NOT “worship”) of Mary, the saints and angels?

The Orthodox Church does reject such things as purgatory and indulgences, and will not consider calling Mary “co-redemptrix” with Christ, but its practices and the Catholic Church’s stem from the same root and are very similar.

While the Orthodox disagree with some of Augustine’s writings, LaHaye’s critique of him is hardly true or fair–and doesn’t he know that the Protestant Reformers he praises, used Augustine’s teachings?

Doesn’t he know that the Early Church used the Septuagint, with its books of Maccabees, one of which speaks of prayers for the dead?

Oh, I guess he must have known something of Orthodoxy, after all.  On page 177, he describes how the Rapture would strip all the churches–Catholic, Orthodox, liberal Protestant, Evangelical–

“of any true believers and would make religious unity without respect for doctrinal differences instantly possible.  It was exactly this in our novel Tribulation Force that enabled the eventual leader of the one-world church”

to describe that all the religions are unified and no matter if you believe God is a person or concept, “God is in all and above all and around all.  God is in us.  God is us.  We are God.”

So–right here he makes it perfectly clear what he meant in Tribulation Force, that all those who did not get raptured are against God, gullible, weak in faith and doctrine, and perfectly willing to unite with all other religions.

Considering how he has just blasted all the practices of the Catholic and Orthodox churches which differ from the Protestants, and extensively shown how the “born-again” Christians differ from the rank-and-file Catholic Christians, he paints a bleak picture of the Catholic and Orthodox churches.

Are most of them left behind because they follow these “pagan” practices?  Since these “pagan” practices are part and parcel of the Catholic and Orthodox churches, does that mean that it’s nearly impossible for a Catholic or Orthodox believer to be a true Christian?

The Catholics who did get raptured–did they all reject the doctrines and practices of their church, making them bad Catholics but practically Protestants?

After reading in the latest Orthodox Observer about the Ecumenical Patriarch’s visit to the US–about his work for tolerance, peace and understanding between religions–I wonder if LaHaye would consider this godly man to be on the side of Antichrist, especially if he hears about the concept of theosis (easily misunderstood by those who don’t know Orthodox teachings).

On page 329, we read that “aids to worship” such as icons (used in Orthodoxy and Catholicism) are demanded by unredeemed man, who “resists worshiping God by faith.”

LaHaye ties in Gaia worship, feminist movements in liberal churches, and mother goddess worship with the Catholic Church, by saying that many in the Catholic church want the Pope to make “Mary worship” “official church doctrine” and proclaim Mary

“co-redemtrix with Jesus” and the fourth member of the godhead.  In all likelihood, as soon as all born-again Christians are raptured, there will be no restraining influence to keep such perverse doctrine from being made official.

The next step, a very small one, would be for Gaia worshipers to become Mary worshipers.  Perhaps that is why Babylon–the religious beast of Revelation 17 seen with a woman on its back–controls the Antichrist’s kingdom during the first half of the Tribulation.

Revelation Unveiled, another Catholic-bashing book by LaHaye, is not on Google Books.  But you can find quotes from it here, in Carl E. Olson’s Will Catholics be “left behind”? starting on page 56.

For example, on page 60, we find a long quote in the footnotes, taken from page 269-270 of LaHaye’s book, describing his father’s conversion from Catholicism and how the Catholic Church had “clouded the way of truth with all their Babylonian pagan innovations brought up through the centuries.”

Read The Best-Selling Bigotry of Left Behind and No Rapture For Rome by Carl E. Olson for more quotes.

In case you think this is old news since LaHaye wrote Revelation Unveiled back in the 1970s, note that it is included in the Prophecy section on LaHaye’s website–showing that LaHaye must consider it still relevant.

If he disagreed with it, why would he still be selling it?  Also, the site’s description of the book specifically states that it “lays the Scriptural foundation for the Left Behind series.”

So, when we read that the Supreme Pontiff has donned colorful and garish clerical robes and a high, pointy hat, how can we not read between the lines and see this as an attack on the Catholic Pope?

But back to Apollyon.  On page 55, we read, “[Carpathia] was the most dynamic, engaging, charming speaker Buck had ever heard.”  Okay, Buck, you have been deprived!  You’ve truly never heard any more dynamic speaker than the one who recites historical trivia and names of nations?

On page 56, Buck’s “cell phone vibrated in his pocket.”  Was that his pants pocket?  For anyone else this would be nothing, but for our phone-fetishist Buck, this is sexy, baby!

In Carpathia’s speech on page 105, we read,

Following the disappearances that caused such great chaos in our world, some looked to obscure and clearly allegorical, symbolic, figurative passages from the Christian Bible and concocted a scenario that included this spiriting away of the true church.

Many Christian leaders, now members of Enigma Babylon, say this was never taught before the disappearances, and if it was, few serious scholars accepted it.  Many others, who held other views of how God might end life on earth for his followers, disappeared themselves.

From a small band of fundamentalists, who believe they were somehow stranded here because they were not good enough to go the first time, has sprung up a cult of some substance…..

You see here two things: the idea that fundamentalist Christians are being persecuted for believing rightly, and the idea that traditional beliefs about the End-Times are somehow associated with the Antichrist and a heretical one-world religion.

Note that the Christian leaders who rejected the Rapture doctrine, were not only not raptured, but are now members of that one-world religion–the authors’ little moment of,

“Ah-HA!  The world called us ‘fundamentalists’ with scorn, you mainline and traditional Christians said we were wrong, but now you’re on the side of the Antichrist and will burn with the rest of them!”

There is more of this on page 320, after the unbelievers are stung by demonic insects, when Rayford shakes his head and says, “I feel sorry for them and for anybody who has to endure this.  If they had only listened!  The message has been out there since before the Rapture.”

On pages 112 through 115, more indignities keep getting heaped upon Hattie: First Rayford makes a crack about her being “more attractive than bright.”  Then the doctor Floyd says there’s nothing attractive about her, that the poison (from Carpathia trying to take out her and the baby) has done its work, that “she makes no sense when she talks, and spiritually she’s bankrupt.”  Yet somehow, we find, Floyd has fallen for her anyway:

“What I want is to love her.  I do love her.  I want to hold her and kiss her and tell her.”  His voice grew quavery.  “I care so much for her that I’ve convinced myself I can love her back to health in every way.  Physically and spiritually.”  He turned and faced Rayford.  “Didn’t expect that one, did you?”

Rayford’s response:

Rayford put an arm on Floyd’s shoulder as they went back into the house.

“I’m no love counselor,” he said, “but you’re right when you say this one makes no sense.  She’s not a believer.  You’re old enough to know the difference between pity and love and between medical compassion and love.

“You hardly know her, and what you know is not that pretty.  It doesn’t take a scientist to see that this is something other than what you think it is.”

Then on pages 122 to 124, we discover that Floyd’s wife (also a Real True Christian like Irene) also nagged him about converting before the Rapture.  Then they lost two children, not in the Rapture but one to a miscarriage and the other to a school bus accident.

The grief drove them apart, yet while Floyd went off for some time on his own, his wife continued to do his housework, make him dinner, do his laundry, and “knew just when to call or send a note.  Every time, Rayford, every stinkin’ time, she would remind me that she loved me, cared about me, wanted me back, and was ready to do whatever I needed to make my life easier.”

So basically, Floyd’s wife had no self-respect and kept calling and begging and telling him she’d do whatever he wanted, and made herself a cook and housekeeper for the man who had left her.

I get the impression they were separated for some time, maybe even a few years, yet she continued to do this.  Not only would most women not do this, but most men would probably see her as pathetic, maybe even want a restraining order against her.

But instead, Floyd and Rayford marvel over how she “humiliated” Floyd and won him back.  Floyd says about how she acted while he grieved, “I knew it was God in her life that allowed her to do that.”

Then Rayford says, “I don’t want to bad-mouth an old friend, but I suggest you think about the kind of woman your wife was before you consider Hattie as a replacement….I’m not saying Hattie couldn’t become that kind of person.”

Floyd responds, “I know.  But there’s no evidence she wants to be.”

Poor Hattie!  Why can’t Floyd be in love with her, or at least have a crush on her?  How condescending to tell him how he feels!  She’s on her deathbed here; can’t she love again, can’t someone love her?

Or will Rayford not let anybody else love her, because if he can’t have her, nobody can?

Poor Hattie has been portrayed as a whore for falling for Rayford, for letting him toy with her emotions, for getting upset when he tossed her aside after tiring of her.

Rayford calls her an “old friend” and hypocritically says he doesn’t want to bad-mouth her, when he’s done plenty of that already.  He doesn’t treat her as a friend at all, never has.

She is understandably angry with Carpathia for poisoning her and feels the desire for retribution; she understandably feels unworthy of redemption after going along with Carpathia’s schemes to undermine the Tribulation Force; she is worn out and possibly on her deathbed after being poisoned and miscarrying.

She needs her caregivers to be patient and understanding, rather than judging her, and perhaps eventually she will repent.  Jesus did not condemn the adulteress, though he did tell her to sin no more.

Hattie’s desire to kill Carpathia is no different than Rayford and Buck occasionally wanting to kill Carpathia.  But because she is not yet that perfect Real True Christian, because she would never be like Floyd’s servile wife, Rayford will not let anyone else fall for her or love her back to health.

On page 172, Rayford suggests Floyd carry her upstairs and let her walk downstairs, to build up her strength.  Floyd replies, “Problem is, Ray, I look for reasons to touch her, to hold her, to comfort her.  Now you’re telling me to pick her up and carry her, and you want me to rethink my feelings for her?”

Rayford says,

Get a grip, Doc.  You’re no teenager anymore.  I hoped your obsession with her wasn’t purely physical, but I should have known.  You hardly know her, and what you know drives you batty by your own admission.  Just behave yourself until we can get back and help you keep your senses….

And, Doc, remember that our absolute, number one, top priority with her is her soul….

If you care a whit about her beyond your adolescent need to have her in your arms, you’ll want above all else to make her part of the family.

Oh, Rayford, you old romantic, you.

So we see that our authors have no clue of what real romance is like, which seems strange since they are married themselves.  Apparently they have this strange idea that only teenage boys experience lust, that a crush is an unhealthy obsession, and that true love has nothing to do with wanting to hold the object.

So wanting to touch, hold and comfort the one you love–actions which are hardly sinful or sexual in themselves–is “adolescent” and means it’s “purely physical”?  So desiring and loving someone like Floyd does Hattie, makes it an “obsession”?

No wonder the romances in these books have been so empty so far: I’ve seen more passion in the works of Jane Austen, which portray no sex or even kissing.  Jane Eyre was also written far better, with no sex or petting, but plenty of passion.

For a modern example which is also in the Christian genre, see the Thorn in My Heart series by Liz Curtis Higgs.  We know what the characters look like, because we have detailed descriptions, and gorgeous cover pictures which match the descriptions very well.  We feel the passion of the characters.

The series is the story of Jacob, Rachel and Leah brought into eighteenth-century Scotland, which causes some logical difficulties, but the books are so well-written that I don’t care.

And the story gets downright lurid when the incarnation of Leah essentially steals her sister’s husband from her on the day of their marriage, but we root for her just the same.  In fact, even though we don’t get blow-by-blow (ahem) sex scenes, it is very clear that the characters have sex, and that they enjoy it and want more.

We see in the works of Austen, Brontë and Higgs that even a chaste, Christian romance can be well-written and resonate in your heart long after you’ve finished the book.

Such a romance, however, does not exist in these Left Behind books.  At least, so far; I can only hope to find one as I read on through the series.

On page 162, Buck’s phone vibrates.  With our fetishist Buck, there are so many bad ways we can take that, especially if the phone is in his pants pocket.

On page 230, after a harrowing escape which leaves Buck fallen and injured on the ground, he feels “the bulge in his pocket.”  Er….

“Was it possible?  Had his phone survived?  He didn’t dare hope as he flipped it open.  The dial lit up.  He hit Rayford’s number.”

But of course it has!  Buck’s beloved phone has survived!  Oh, happy day!  After all, we want nothing to harm that bulge in Buck’s pocket.

On page 258, Chloe has been working on a business model to allow believers across the globe to share food and other resources after the Mark of the Beast becomes required for business transactions.

Buck asks what she’ll do when she has a baby to take care of.  She replies that she’ll teach her husband how to handle it.  He says, “Teach him what?  Your business or child care?”  She says, “Both.”

Oh, yeah, because the woman knows how to take care of babies and the man doesn’t, just because she’s a woman and he’s a man.  This is not a Christian thing, but a greater society thing that annoys me.

I hated this assumption when I was pregnant, and hate it now: Being a woman does not make you automatically know how to take care of children, and being a man does not automatically make you a bumbling idiot!

On page 259, I find another reminder that the LaHaye version of the Rapture/Tribulation doesn’t quite match what I Iearned, growing up as a PMD Christian.

For example, here we find that the Great Tribulation hasn’t started and won’t for another year and a half, and then will only be three and a half years.  I always heard that the Great Tribulation started immediately after the Rapture and went for 7 years.

In another place, the writers tell us that the Tribulation believers are not “Christians,” but “Tribulation Saints,” though everything I ever heard about it called them “Christians” or “believers.”

Then, of course, there is the disagreement in prophecy circles over whether the Holy Spirit will even be around during this time, whether anyone can become a believer during the Tribulation, or whether there are conditions to who can become a believer (ie, the Holy Spirit is gone, but you can become a believer, but it’s very hard, even impossible if you heard and clearly understood the Gospel and rejected it before the Rapture).

These books take the stance that anyone can become a believer, whether they rejected the Gospel or never heard it before the Rapture.

Isn’t it funny how these prophecies supposedly come from a literal reading of the Bible, and are supposed to be evident to anybody who reads it with a mind open to the leadings of the Spirit, yet there are so many different versions of what exactly the prophecies are?

This is one of many things which ultimately led me to Orthodoxy, where you are led by the general consensus of the Church, not by individual interpretation.

On page 261, Buck and friends try to badger–er, convince Chaim Rosenzweig to convert to Christianity.  Buck says, “God is trying to get your attention, Dr. Rosenzweig.  I hope it doesn’t take something drastic.”

Drastic, unlike the non-drastic events we’ve already seen: earthquakes, floods, famine, water turned to blood, etc….

On pages 296-298, we find the attitude that has riled up so many of the “heathen” and non-premillennial-dispensationalist Christians against these books, rather than just dismissing them as badly-written propaganda works:

An angel speaks from Heaven in Greek, and it’s heard throughout the earth, each person hearing it in his own language.  Radio satellite dishes and probes follow the angel to see what it is, and it says, “Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!”

We read,

Buck heard the angel and mistook it for the TV until he saw the look on Chaim’s face.  The old man was terrified.  How could he, or anyone, doubt the existence of God now?  This was no longer about ignorance.  It was about choice.

But Buck does not seem to realize that even such words from an angel can be very confusing to someone who, say, was raised Hindu and knows very little about Christian angels or Tribulation prophecies.

But the lines are being drawn here: If you don’t become a Christian, you have deliberately chosen to be against God.

On page 300, yet again we find one of the Tribulation Force–in this case, Rayford–falling into sinful behavior, and we read, “Rayford’s old nature took over.”  In this case, the sinful behavior is sarcasm and aggressiveness in dealing with an abrasive and aggressive guy named Bo.

(Bo, by the way, has just proclaimed the voice from the sky to be “those crazy fundamentalists again, playing with our minds.  Some kind of loudspeaker trick.”  Yet another example of the persecution complex in these books.)

On page 305, we see that a literal interpretation of Revelations leads to silliness in End-Times literature:

Can we really take it seriously when the characters encounter demonic insects with horse bodies, human faces, lion teeth, long hair, a kind of helmet-crown, and scorpion tails, that can speak human languages?  When Buck captures one (p. 319) and it starts screaming, “Abaddon!  Abaddon!” in a tiny voice?

(I can’t help remembering the end of the original The Fly, with the little fly with a man’s head screaming in a tiny voice, “Help me!  Help me!”  Rock, anyone?)  Though at least it’s not like the giant tail which lunges through doorways (1:22:45) in The Image of the Beast.

But then Buck wants to–open the window?  Sure he says it’s so he can trap one between the screen and the window to look at it more closely.

But is he mad?  Does he want them to get past the window and get to Chaim?  Chaim is sensible enough to say no, but Buck keeps insisting, saying that they won’t kill him (just make him want to die), isn’t he fascinated as a scientist….

And, of course, eventually Chaim gets stung.

On page 321, Rayford and his new friend “T” are talking about the insects.  Rayford says, “Be glad they’re on our side….[T]hey’re moonlighting for God for a while.”  WHAT?  Demons on God’s side?  Blasphemy!

On page 322, Buck tells a suffering, stung Chaim that he’s in this position because of pride, that that’s the reason why he (a Jew, by the way) rejected the evidence of Jesus being the Messiah.  He says,

[Y]ou have ignored everything Tsion has told you about how to connect with God.  You have counted on your charm, your own value, your being a good person to carry you through.

You get around all the evidence for Jesus being the Messiah by reverting to your educational training, your confidence only in what you can see and hear and feel.  How many times have you heard Tsion quote Titus 3:5 and Ephesians 2:8-9?

But what about all the other reasons a person might disagree, which have nothing to do with pride?  Couldn’t Chaim have honestly disagreed that Jesus is the Messiah, without it having to do with pride?

While I do believe in the truth of the Gospel, I don’t believe that insulting people for disagreeing with us is going to bring most of them into the Church.

And, oh yes, there is also the unfortunate trait I’ve noticed in various forms of Christian media: characters who can quote Bible verses at any moment, to every objection a person makes, as if they’ve memorized the whole thing.

Despite growing up in the Fundamentalist/Evangelical subculture, I have never seen anybody do this in real life.  Most people have to use a concordance or run a Google search to find what they’re looking for.

(For an example, see The Prodigal Planet, 1:05:41.  Here you also find the belief, opposing LaHaye, that if you heard the Gospel and understood it before the Rapture, you cannot be saved afterwards–which makes it hard to figure out which of the characters can still be saved.  You also hear how Scripture can be twisted to fit various Rapture doctrines.)

The real trouble with such passages in these books is that they show God forcing people to choose him, which is not how it works:

Origen, and all rationalists who are like him, was not able to understand that the acceptance or the rejection of God’s grace depends entirely on the rational creatures;

that God, like the sun, never stops shining on good or wicked alike; that rational creatures are, however, entirely free to accept or reject this grace and love;

and that God in His genuine love does not force His creatures to accept Him, but respects absolutely their free decision.

He does not withdraw His grace and love, but the attitude of the logical creatures toward this unceasing grace and love is the difference between paradise and hell.

Those who love God are happy with Him, those who hate Him are extremely miserable by being obliged to live in His presence, and there is no place where one can escape the loving omnipresence of God (part Χ, Kalomiros, River of Fire).

And do the authors really think that people would want God after all this, or that they would not rebel against being tormented for not having said the right prayer or followed the correct religion?

Wouldn’t it be far better to make converts based on God’s love and wanting to be saved from our sins and made into what God always intended for humanity?  You want a convert based on love and a desire for righteousness, not a convert based on fear of punishment:

If the threat of punishment were withdrawn, whether for real or because of a loss of belief in Hell, the convert based on fear would go back to his old ways.  The one who converts for the sake of God and righteousness will continue even in the face of doubt, such as with Mother Theresa.

I’m a bit confused why Chloe, on page 329, “finally couldn’t navigate the stairs” because she was “getting toward the end of her pregnancy.”  After all, when I neared the end of my pregnancy, I still went up and down the stairs.  I had to!

Also on that page, we read, “Stories poured in of obscure tribal groups understanding [the 144,000 Jewish witnesses/missionaries] in their own languages and becoming tribulation saints.”

But–But–Are you saying that the members of these groups were under Wrath and not Raptured, even though they never heard the Gospel before this?  Does this mean LaHaye/Jenkins are of the school of thought that says such people go to Hell, even through no fault of their own?

This is an often-heard question in Christianity, what happens to the souls of people in isolated tribes who never had a chance to hear the Gospel.  I always heard/read in Evangelical churches that they’d be judged with this in mind, not automatically condemned.

The Orthodox view is that unbelievers are judged according to the natural law, the law written on the conscience which every human being has.  We are naturally good; to sin is to act against our nature.

Habitual sins can dull the conscience; the conscience is also the means by which unbelievers can ultimately be saved.  The goal is not man’s praise, but pleasing God.  This is based on Romans 2:14-16 and 29.

Also, those of us who are aware of the Mosaic Law (particularly the moral one, which still stands) are also aware that it is impossible to keep it perfectly; it cannot make us righteous.

We are accountable to both the natural and Mosaic Law.   Those who “become righteous by grace through faith fulfill in Christ both the natural and the Mosaic Law” (pp. 341-343, The Orthodox Study Bible).

Also see:

An Orthodox Christian View of Non-Christian Religions–Rev. Dr. George C. Papademetriou (Greek)

What about other Christians? (OCA)

Will the Heterodox Be Saved?–Archimandrite (Metropolitan) Philaret

On page 346, we read, “[Rayford] was thrilled when [Chloe] and Buck married, despite the ten-year age difference.”

A ten-year age difference is hardly a problem for a married couple, though it would be for a minor teenager dating an older man, and Chloe is a grown woman.  If I were Rayford, I’d be more attentive to how Buck treats Chloe.  As long as he treats her well, the age difference is nothing to be concerned about.  He’s not even old enough to be her father, after all.

As Chloe goes into labor on page 391, Tsion decides to pray, and tells the doctor he has a “waiver” on closing his eyes during the prayer.  Er, thank you so much for permitting the doctor to keep his eyes open during a prayer while Chloe is in labor.

It’s hard to tell if this is meant to be a joke, or if they seriously feel you must close your eyes during a prayer (unless you have a waiver from the pastor), since Tsion goes right into the prayer without even stopping to chuckle.

It’s no wonder these books move so slowly: We read every phone call and prayer, even though most are not important to the plot and can easily be summarized.

It feels like reading a badly-edited self-published novel by someone who apparently has spent little time reading the works of the masters or practicing the craft (which, unfortunately, is so many that self-publishers have a stigma to live down).

And it’s no wonder I read these books so slowly, since I’d much rather spend most of my reading time on books that are a joy to read rather than a chore.  Speaking of which, now it’s time to start reading the next book in the series.

[December 2009-end of January 2010]