by Tim LaHaye & Jerry Jenkins, Tyndale House Publishers, ISBN 0842329277, available practically anywhere Christian books are sold:

Plot summary: here.

In the beginning of the book, we find that we are 38 months into the Tribulation and that hey, Chloe is a CEO (of the International Commodity Co-op, that is)!  Of course, she’s able to do this job from home, so I suppose that’s how she got away with it, you know, being a married woman with a baby and all.

Rayford is in a tailspin of “murderous fury” (p. 2), giving into it more and more as time goes on, until finally he decides to buy a formidable weapon and attempt to assassinate the Antichrist.  “He believed it his destiny” (p. 2).  Careful, Ray, this is probably how terrorists think.

On page 4, he reasons, “If it cost him his life, so what?  He’d reunite with loved ones, and more would join him later.”  Oh, so he thinks that assassinating is an automatic ticket to Heaven?  Is he also expecting 70 virgins?

Fortunately, I don’t think Rayford is meant to be sympathetic here.  Even his fellow Tribulation Force believers wonder what the heck is going on with him lately, though he doesn’t confide in them.  Rayford thinks on p. 5,

That had to be what had produced such hatred, such rage.  Rayford knew Carpathia was merely a pawn of Satan, really part of God’s plan for the ages.  But the man had wreaked such havoc, caused such destruction, fostered such mourning, that Rayford couldn’t help but hate him.

…Carpathia has fostered such mourning, but nowhere near as much as the plagues have done.

Pages 5 and 6 explain that in this book, the “Great Tribulation” is the last half of the “Tribulation.”  I always heard differently, that “The Tribulation” and “The Great Tribulation” are interchangeable.  This is yet another example of how wide a variation exists in the supposed interpretations of these prophecies, so the idea of anybody having a handle on the true interpretations is ridiculous.

On page 12 we read what the Tribulation Force does with its time, shut up in that house.  But something is missing: Who does the housework, cooking, shopping and laundry?  The guys are excavating, Hattie is exercising every spare moment to build her strength back up, Tsion is ministering, Chloe is busy with the baby and running her International Commodity Co-Op via the Internet.

With the disruptions in society, what do they use to clean, are they limited in what they can cook?  Is the water and electricity running, and if so, wouldn’t it give away their position to pay the bills?  Or does everything just go along its merry way as it did before the Rapture, even after that massive earthquake that led to them taking up residence in their new hideout?

Since this is the future, is the work done by robots?  Is Chloe using paper or cloth diapers?  How does she get diapers, considering that this is supposed to be a secret hideout, and they don’t want the Global Community forces to find out where they are?

On page 14, I have to wonder how many unbelievers the authors actually know.  We read that “Hattie was the only unbeliever [in the safehouse] and understandably selfish.  She spent most of her time on herself.”  As if all unbelievers are selfish jerks and all believers are completely unselfish!  I know from personal experience that this just isn’t so.

On page 50, we hear about a computer which runs New Babylon, “contains so much information about every living soul,” and is called–duh duh duh duh–The Beast.  However, David says, “But we both know the Beast is no machine.”  So–is the Beast the computer or the Antichrist, or both?

Floyd, the doctor who’s been treating Hattie, was infected with the cyanide that almost killed her; he, unlike her, died from it.  On page 61, Rayford tells Hattie, “Floyd loved you, Hattie.  You treated him like dirt, but he loved you….Cared deeply for you, wanted to tell you.”

…What?  Didn’t you just tell Floyd that it wasn’t actually love, just some adolescent physical infatuation?

What Tsion says on page 90 is crazy–arrogant-crazy:

For centuries scholars believed prophetic literature was figurative, open to endless interpretation.  That could not have been what God intended.  Why would he make it so difficult?

I believe when the Scriptures say the writer saw something in a vision, it is symbolic of something else.  But when the writer simply says that certain things happen, I take those literally.  So far I have been proven right.

Yes, he’s been proven right because the authors want him to be.  But in real life, he’s going up against the work of many Early Church Fathers and other theologians of the church who have wrestled with biblical prophecy–teachers who have the benefit of recognizing many things in Revelations because they lived in the Roman Empire and worshipped like the heavenly worshippers in Revelations–working together under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

He’s going up against them with his own one-man interpretation machine.  And he’s the one who ends up being right?

Which leads up to page 91, when he says, in answer to Buck’s comment that he really doesn’t know how to interpret the prophecy of 200 million horsemen,

Yet I feel a great responsibility for the readers God has entrusted to me.  I do not want to get ahead of him, but neither do I want to hang back in fear.  All I can do is to be honest about how I am tussling with this.  It is time many of these believers start interpreting the Scriptures for themselves anyway.

Good gosh, no!  That’s how we ended up with so many different denominations in the first place, individuals with limited knowledge thinking they themselves can interpret the many nuances of Scripture without the Church’s guidance.  And how we ended up with premillennial dispensationalism, the source of these books!

Rayford is always ripping on the woman he once wanted to bed.  You know, the person he almost had an affair with, but not really.  On page 99, Hattie was supposedly on a plane which has now gone down.  Since Carpathia tried to kill her and she now wants to kill him, she is hiding out.  Rayford and Chloe have figured out that she didn’t actually die on that plane.

Rayford says, “The question is where she is.  She’s not smart enough to get any thinking person to believe she went down in that plane.  Could she still surprise Carpathia?”  Gee, no wonder she didn’t stick around in the safe house or become a believer herself, if the people there are just going to keep treating her like an idiot.

There is a new person staying in the secret hideout of the Tribulation Force: Leah.  Instantly, she and Rayford go head-to-head, as he calls her obnoxious and she calls him sexist.

Then on page 114, after she has just seen the spirit horses riding to wreak terror and death throughout the world, she trembles and cowers on the floor of her garage.  They have sneaked in there to fetch her money, but have to lie low in case the GC forces find them.

She says, “I won’t be able to leave.  You’ll have to bring the car for me.”  Rayford thinks to himself, “He hadn’t expected her to be this high maintenance.”

Oh, hey, Ray’s found another woman to be condescending to!  Good for Ray!  Now that Hattie’s gone, he must have SOMEbody to abuse.

And oh, the cringe when I read the bottom of page 122: Rayford helps her from a high place to the floor and she says, “I suppose you think that makes you a gentleman.”  He replies, “Only if you’re a lady.”  Argh!

We see more romance on page 156, as believers (and workers at the New Babylon headquarters) David and Annie have a little lover’s tiff.

Annie has just been locked in a utility room during the latest plague of fire, smoke and sulfur.  Annie says he should’ve told her she could get locked in the room, while David says she should’ve read the procedure manual, etc.

We read, “David fought to attribute her sudden unattractiveness to claustrophobia and frustration.  ‘I love you even when you’re ornery,’ he said.”

What?  “Unattractive?”  Is he the only one allowed to be ornery, then, since they’re both doing it?

On page 168, I’m troubled by Charismatic ideas, and clichéd phrases: Tsion feels that “the Lord suddenly impressed deeply upon my heart that I should pray for someone in danger.”

Any such talk of “impressions” immediately makes alarm bells go off in my head, after the time I spent deceived by Charismatic ideas.

Then we read Rayford’s two prayers, which contain the clichés “I covet him for the kingdom,” “I agree with my brother in prayer” and “your supernatural hedge of protection.”  Do we really need to read these prayers?

By page 170, the spirit steeds have been killing for some time now, snorting the plagues of smoke, fire and sulfur which are poisoning many.  We read,

In their wake, the leonine steeds left bodies.  Some jerked spastically before freezing in macabre repose.  Others writhed ablaze until death brought relief.  Or so they thought, Mac mused.  In truth, the victims passed from one flame to another….

Even from behind and far away, Mac found the horsemen and their mounts dreadful.  They hovered inches off the ground but galloped, trotted, stepped, and reared like physical horses.  Their riders urged them on, stampeding people, buildings, vehicles, wreaking destruction.

I’m getting tired of reading about all the death and destruction.  Yet on page 167, our heroes Mac and Abdullah (two believers in the Tribulation Force) hope the horses stick around long enough for Mac to see them.

Earlier, we learned that Christians who did not believe in the Rapture ended up in the One World Faith.  Now, on page 172, we learn from Tsion’s latest Web posting that

While many have come to faith after being convinced by that horrible judgment [the demon locusts], most have become even more set in their ways.

It should have been obvious to the leader of the Enigma Babylon One World Faith that devotees of that religion suffered everywhere in the world.  But we followers of Christ, the so-called dissidents–enemies of tolerance and inclusion–were spared.

On pages 173 and 174, we see that the symbolism of Babylon in the ancient prophecies has been lost on the authors, who take it as the literal geographical Babylon.  However, Babylon was a ruined city long before Revelations was even written, and it was likely a veiled reference to the Roman Empire.

Pages 174 to 175 make you wonder how on earth the world survived before the Christian era, how any societies managed to keep law and order.  Apparently, the loss of all the premillennial dispensationalist Christians will lead to unbelievers who

will insist on continuing worshiping [sic] idols and demons, and engaging in murder, sorcery, sexual immorality, and theft.  Even the Global Community’s own news operations report that murder and theft are on the rise.  As for idol and demon worship, sorcery, and illicit sex, these are actually applauded in the new tolerant society.

It seems that no other religion is capable of keeping such things in check, not even Judaism or Islam.  Or any of the multitudes of religions which teach its adherents to be kind to others.  I can just see that: sorcery, idols and illicit sex rampant in Saudi Arabia.  Or Buddhists turning into raping, killing machines.

On page 176, Tsion says, “If you think it is bad now with millions having disappeared in the Rapture, children gone, services and conveniences affected, try to fathom life with half of all civil servants gone.”  What services and conveniences are affected?  He still has electricity to post his blogs, there are still hospitals, grocery stores….

Ending his blog, he writes,

I would not want to be here without knowing God was with me, that I was on the side of good rather than evil, and that in the end, we win.  Pray right now.  Tell God you recognize your sin and need forgiveness and a Savior.  Receive Christ today, and join the great family of God.

Receive Christ today or you will die horribly!

On page 179, we meet Dwayne Tuttle, a Christian–er, Tribulation Saint–pilot who briefly confronts Fortunato.

Mac had called for a Mayday after an assassination attempt, to which Dwayne responded; Abdullah and Fortunato are with Mac.  Dwayne makes it clear that he believes Nicolae to be the Antichrist.

He says to Fortunato, “But I don’t mind tellin’ ya, I feel like I’m aidin’ and abettin’ the enemy.  Personally, I’d leave you to die, but God’s gonna get you in the end anyway.  Read the Book.  We win.”  Later on, he says, “Much as I’d like to kill a couple of your staff, I promise I won’t.”

???  What happened to helping and loving your enemy? the Good Samaritan?

On page 187, Buck needs a new identity to help him travel to Israel without getting caught by Global Community forces.  So he goes to see Z, who has been helping local Christians get fake IDs.

Z has a file full of information on various people who are now dead.  He finds this information by sneaking off with the wallets of people killed by the “smoking horses,” before GC gets to them.  Vultures!  And what does he do with the money and credit cards?

On page 197, Chloe tells Rayford, “[The Tuttles are] going to handle a huge South Sea area for us.  That they were close enough to hear Mac’s Mayday is nothing short of a miracle.”

Rayford replies, “It’s a contact straight from God.”

Yep, deus ex machina for sure.  Which works great in real life, but strains believability in fiction.  Unless, of course, it’s an ancient Greek play.  (Actually, even then it got critics.)

On page 203, we finally begin to see more of what’s in the Antichrist’s head–not just manipulative strategies, but his connection to Satan–as he prays,

O Lucifer, son of the morning!  I have worshiped you since childhood.  How grateful I am for the creativity you imbue, O lion of glory, angel of light. I  praise you for imaginative ideas that never cease to amaze me.

You have given me the nations!  You have promised that I shall ascend into heaven with you, that we will exalt our thrones above the stars of God.  I rest in your promise that I will ascend above the heights of the clouds.  I will be like the Most High.

I shall do all your bidding so I may claim your promise to rule the universe by your side.  You have chosen me and allowed me to make the earth tremble and to shake kingdoms.  Your glory will be my glory, and like unto you, I will never die.  I eagerly await the day when I may make plain your power and majesty.

Okay–either he’s reading a scripted prayer such as you might find in a prayer book for Satan worshippers, or he’s speaking this way off the cuff.  And who the heck talks like that these days?  Apparently Satan’s minions speak just as stiltedly as the Christians–er, I mean, Tribulation Saints–in these books.

On page 205, we find Rayford and Leah going at it again.  (No, not that it.  Get your mind out of the gutter.)  The sexual tension is so thick you can cut it with a knife as they argue.

And of course, Rayford hates “her tone and her attitude,” as if she were an insolent child, despite realizing that he’s guilty of what she charges: never paying her any mind, even with her injured ribs, until he needs help finding Hattie.

Leah says, “I have been hurt by your avoidance of me, but I also realize that you have suffered many losses, including two wives in three years.”  Could she be adding in her mind, “And I’m about to be the third!”

The funniest bit is Leah saying on page 206: “And you people are so politically correct around here, no one’s even suggested I do anything domestic.”  Politically correct?  Since when are the Tribulation Force politically correct?

Page 209 has yet another of a common problem in these books: conversations which do not advance plot or character in any way, shape or form, leaving you to wonder, WHY did I have to read that?

Then further down on the page is an example of lazy grammar: “It had amazed him how difficult it was to find flights anymore.”  Aagh!  That is NOT how you use “anymore”!

Then we read that “The plague of smoke and fire and sulfur continued to ravage the earth, and virtually every aspect of life was affected.”  It’s about time the loss of billions of people (starting a few years before, no less) began to affect every aspect of life.

On page 236, Leon Fortunato (evil henchman of the Antichrist) says to our Trib Forcer David, about Buck: “You said yourself he was the best journalist in the world.”

Best journalist in the world?  LOL  Well, I suppose it’s possible, now that billions of people have been Raptured or killed since the Rapture, since Buck’s competition is much smaller than it used to be….

On page 237, Rayford is really starting to get on my nerves, doing such things to Bo Hanson (a non-believer) as blackmailing him, and saying “What an idiot” when he sees Bo (who is out of gas) trying to flag down help.  What about the saying of Christ:

But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.  And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council.  But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire” (Matthew 5:22)

Ray gets upset with his new friend T for putting gas in his tank–you know, being kind to his enemy, as Jesus commands–and thinks T is in league with Bo.  So it’s a great relief on page 239 when T calls him out on his actions:

What you’re supposed to think, Ray, is that Bo Hanson is not likely long for this world.  He’s going to die and go to hell just like his buddy Ernie did the other day.  He’s the enemy, sure, but he’s not one of those we treat like scum to make sure they don’t find out who we really are.

He already knows who we are, bro.  We’re the guys who follow Ben-Judah and believe in Jesus.  We don’t buy and sell guys like Bo, Rayford.  We don’t play them, lie to them, cheat them, steal from them, blackmail them.  We love them.  We plead with them.

Bo is dumb enough to have given you what you needed without making him think his ship had come in and then sinking it for him.

I’m not saying I have the answers Ray.  I don’t know how we could have got the information another way, but what you did sure didn’t feel loving and Christian to me.

I’d rather you had bought the information.  Let him be the bad guy.  You were as bad as he was.

Well, I said more than I planned.  You play this one however you want, but keep me out of it from now on.

It’s also a relief to see Rayford repent after T’s scolding.  However, he still is on a self-destructive path of anger, as we shall see.

On page 252, we read about how Dwayne and Tru Tuttle ended up left behind while all their sons were Raptured.  The sons started going to church together, and tried to get Dwayne to join them.  As Dwayne says:

But they gave me a hard time, see?  They were never mean, but they were pushy.  I told ’em it was all right with me, ‘slong as they didn’t expect me to start goin’ to church with ’em.

Had enough of that as a kid, never liked it, bad memories.  Their type a church was better, they said.  I says fine, you go on then but leave me out of it.  They told me their mom’s soul was on my head.

That got me mad, but how do you stay mad at your own flesh and blood when, even if they’re wrong, they’re worried about their mom’s and dad’s souls?…

They kep’ after me. They got their stubbornness from me, after all.  But I was good at it too.  And I never caved.

Sounds like these guys were using the push-and-annoy style of evangelism.  Their type of church is better–than what, exactly?  And–Mom’s soul on Dwayne’s head?  Agh!  That reminds me of the Letter From Hell video.

On pages 262 and 265, the authors indulge the series’ phone fetish some more:

Rayford dug through his bag and used his ultimate phone–Mac’s term for David’s hybrid because it could do anything from anywhere.  The number was ringing when Dwayne noticed the equipment.

“Now that there is what I call a phone!  Uh-huh!  Yes, sir, that is a phone and a half.  I’ll bet that’s got whistles and bells I’ve never even heard of and–”

…Dwayne turned the phone over and over, hefting it in his palm.  “Heavy sucker.  Probably does everything but cook your breakfast, am I right?”

“It’ll even do that, unless you want scrambled.”

“Ha!  Tru, d’you hear that?!  Oh!”  He put his hand over his mouth when he saw his wife was sleeping.  Then he whispered.  “Is this one of them that’ll send or receive from anywhere, all that?”

Rayford nodded.  “Best part is it’s secure.  It uses four different channels a second, so it’s untraceable, untappable.  Lots of goodies.”

Oooh.  When Dwayne turned the phone over and over, hefting it in his palm, I hope he remembered to use lotion.

On page 263, Rayford goes to a guy named Albie, a devout Muslim who was against Carpathia “and one of few Gentile non-Christians who also steadfastly resisted Enigma Babylon One World Faith.”  (Does that mean he’s for Christ since he’s against the Antichrist?  Or is he still going to burn in Hell?)

He provides “anything for a price,” and Rayford wants a weapon.  This is not just any gun, but uses fuel injection and hydraulic vacuum, “propels a projectile at two thousand miles an hour,” 48 caliber, high speed.

A formidable weapon, meant for the Antichrist.  Because Christianity is all about assassinating your enemies.  Oh, wait, that doesn’t sound right….

On page 270, we see more of Buck’s wonderfully persuasive mode of evangelism:

The question now is what you do with what you know?  What do you do with Jesus?  He has staked a claim on your soul.  He wants you, and he has tried everything to convince you of that.

What will it take, Chaim?  Do you need to be trampled by the horses?  Do they need to suffocate you with sulfur, set you afire?  Do you have to be in terror for your life?…

Doctor, let me be clear.  Life will not get easier.  We all missed that bus.  It will get worse for all of us.  But for believers it will be even worse than for unbelievers, because the day is coming—

Sign me up now!  I need a life insurance policy!

Later, Buck says, “Sir, if only I could trade places with you!  Do you not know how we feel about you, how God feels about you?”  Who talks that way, especially in the younger generations of which Buck would be a part?

On page 276, we read that Trudy Tuttle (who is getting hotel rooms and taking care of luggage for her husband and Rayford at the moment)

saw this phone in the captain’s bag, and I’m sorry but I turned it on out of curiosity.  Well, just dozens and dozens of messages have been scrollin’ by, all with your number and this abort message, and I thought I ought to call.

Er, ever hear of invasion of privacy?

On page 287, Buck visits an underground church in Greece, “a vast group of believers led by a converted Jew whose main dilemma was how large the body had grown.”

I’m anxious to read how many of the Greek believers are Orthodox, and how people in an Orthodox country would recognize the Rapture, since the Rapture is not part of traditional Orthodox theology.

We also read that the Tribulation Force puts Leah in charge of centralized information, in between preparing meals.  I wonder why it took hours for Chloe to bring her “up to speed on the computer.”

Is she, like Chloe, unfamiliar with the computer despite being at the oldest a member of Generation X?  I also wonder what about this job is so awesome that Leah “never felt more fulfilled.”

On page 291, Dwayne makes me cringe as Dwayne flies Trudy and Rayford away in an airplane: “Dwayne whooped and hollered like a rodeo cowboy as the Super J shot into the sky.  ‘She’s somethin’, ain’t she?  Whoo boy!'”

Why do I have a sudden image of him riding a bomb all the way down to the earth, waving his cowboy hat and hooting and hollering?

Trudy has just done some heroics as they escaped from GC agents onto the plane; Dwayne goes on to say to Rayford, “I wudd’n talkin’ about the Super J, pardner.  I was talkin’ about the little woman.”

And to Trudy, who leans forward and wraps both arms around his neck, and wants him to stop calling her that, “Darlin’, I’ll call you anything your little ol’ heart desires.  Whoo boy!”

ARGH!  Kill me now!  Oh, and this saccharine lovey-dovey couple is driving me crazy.  😛  I never did like watching other people get that way in public.  Aw, mush!

On page 300 is one of my major pet peeves with amateur editing: “‘Is it true?’ Leon wanted to know.”  Of course Leon wanted to know, or he wouldn’t have asked it!  Just say that he said it.

On page 304, I can’t help laughing at Leon Fortunato’s description of Carpathia’s speech to the UN:

That speech alone, David, virtually sealed his appointment as secretary-general and eventual leader of the new world order….

Yet with brilliance, charm, wit, mastery of his subject, the use of every language of the U.N., and an astounding recitation of the history of that great institution, he had the entire world eating out of his hand.

Er….You mean his laundry list of boring details?  You need to listen to more and better speeches, Leon.  We read, “Fortunato’s eyes had glazed over.”  Funny, that’s what my eyes did while reading the speech….

Further on in the paragraph, Leon says, “Ah, it was magical.  I knew in my soul that if I ever had the privilege to contribute even in a minuscule way to the ideals and objectives of that man, I would pledge my life to him.”

Oh, Leon has a man-crash on Carpathia!  It’s a bromance!  The wedding invitations will be sent tomorrow….

On page 311, Rayford learns more about his new gun, that it is extremely lethal, so lethal that even if the target is missed, he will “suffer a deep laceration from the air displacement alone.”  For example,

The thin, jagged, spinning bullet bores through anything in its path, gathers the gore around it like grass in a power-mower blade, and turns itself into a larger object of destruction.

During the testing of this weapon a technician was accidentally shot just above the knee from approximately twenty feet away.  His leg was effectively amputated, the lower portion attached by a thin ribbon of skin on each side of the knee.

So basically, you don’t use this gun unless you have a serious grudge for your target.  When Rayford tries to hit a rock and misses, such a huge gash is taken out of the nearby tree that less than half the trunk is left, and the tree topples.  When he tries again and actually hits the rock, he blows the top off it.

Rayford shook his head and gazed at the ugliness in his hand.  What was he thinking?  That he would ever dare carry such a monstrosity, let alone use it?  He would be hard pressed to justify this as a defensive weapon.

I really hope he keeps following his doubts about this terrible gun.

On page 318, Rayford fires at the feet of a GC peacekeeper who’s chasing him.  The peacekeeper falls, and Rayford prays, “God, don’t let him die!  I don’t want to kill a man!”  Well, then, what the heck are you doing with this gun??!!

On page 323 we read about an ominous foreboding and short tempers in the August heat in the hideout house.  Kenny the baby is often cranky, and “even Tsion had been known to leave the room when he fussed and Chloe wasn’t quick enough to mollify him.”  Why Chloe?  Can’t anyone else do it?

On pages 325 and 327, Tsion writes in his latest blog that

I do not fear for my own well-being, as my future is secure–as is yours if you have trusted Christ for forgiveness and eternal life….

If you have already trusted Christ for your salvation, you have the mark of the seal of God on your forehead, visible only to other believers.

Fortunately, this decision, mark, and seal is also irrevocable, so you never need fear losing your standing with him.

This is a dangerous belief that can lead people into complacency.  Not only is it at odds with Christ telling us that some who say “Lord Lord” will end up in Hell, but it contradicts Left Behind itself: Several of our “Tribulation Saints” thought they already had that irrevocable salvation, but were left behind in the Rapture.

Salvation is not a legal transaction, but a lifelong journey toward becoming what God wants us to be.  And we don’t become that if we don’t struggle against the dangerous passions that lead to sin.

Do note that, according to page 327, not only is God’s mark irrevocable, but so is the Mark of the Beast.  If you take the Mark, you are DOOMED!  DOOMED!  DOOMED!

(This, however, may change in later books.  I heard a rumor to that effect….We shall see.)

On page 329 to 330 we read,

Rayford immersed himself in the prophetic passages about the death of Antichrist, never seeking Tsion’s counsel or interpretation.  In his feverish state he interpreted the Scripture the way he wanted to, shoehorning himself into the agent God would use to do the deed.

When he read that “He who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword,” and knew that even Tsion believed this was a reference to Antichrist, Rayford shuddered.  Was this a message just for him?

A later verse referred to “the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived.”  That had to be a reference to one of the heads of the beast “as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed.”

He didn’t understand it all.  Who could?  But without Tsion’s analysis, Rayford believed he had figured out these verses.  Carpathia was to be mortally wounded in the head by a sword and then come back to life.

A sword?  What was it Albie called the superb killing machine [gun] Rayford had stashed behind loose bricks in the basement?  Saber.  Could he–would he do it?  Was it his duty?  He shook his head.  What was he thinking?

So–In contrast to what Tsion felt earlier in this book, are you saying that the Scriptures are not to be privately interpreted? that people can read all sorts of things into Scripture that are not there when they do it without the guidance of something else–like, say, Tradition?  The contradiction is very confusing!

On pages 354 and 355, not only is the idea of the Global Community’s “individual freedom for all” treated like a bad thing (somehow tied in with “One World One Truth”), but it is assumed to mean perversion.

For example, the GC sponsors a dance troupe doing a “lascivious routine.”  And on page 356, Jerusalem is filled with “bars, strip clubs, massage parlors, brothels, pagan sanctuaries, and fortune-telling establishments” that are not seedy or pushed aside to a certain part of town, but in the middle of everything and with no black doors or “labyrinthine entrances.”

Rather, while the rest of the Holy City seemed to crumble for neglect and lack of manpower, here were gleaming storefronts, well lit and obvious to every eye, proudly exhibiting every perversion and fleshly evil known to man.

Which is quite a sad commentary on the morals of the various religions which inhabit Jerusalem, since it was made clear previously that Jews and Muslims were not included in the Rapture.

I also wonder–having never been there–if Jerusalem has these things now, or if it’s assumed that even Israel will have these things and sink into desperate perversion despite being singled out by God during the Tribulation.

On page 368, in Eli’s sermon, we see once again that the Left Behind books are proclaiming all those of other religions to be condemned, based merely on religion, not actual sin, that one of the biggest sins is not being a Christian.

I am not arguing with them that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, but that Eli and Moishe are saying that only Christians will be saved.  This way of thinking is not only un-Orthodox–since no man can claim to know how God will judge each person, whether Christian or not–but apparently based on total depravity, a Calvinist concept which is foreign to Orthodoxy.

Only God knows what is in the heart, and only God can say who will be saved.  But these books draw a line of us vs. them, with only the right-believing Christians on the side of “us” and “them” being everyone else who is condemned in the plagues.

When Moishe takes over on page 369, he says,

The Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.

Gah!  My inner editor is cringing right now!  Do we really need so many “ungodlys”?

On page 370, we find Rayford stalking the Antichrist at a huge GC gala with a “light ankle-length robe” and “the Saber” carried “deep in an inside pocket.”  I have sudden visions of a Jedi stalking a Sith.  But the Saber is actually that terrible gun he’s bought.

He felt a tingle from the back of his head to his tailbone, knowing he was carrying a high-powered weapon with kill power from hundreds of feet away.

After having been so eager to do this thing, he now pleaded with God to spare him the task.  Would he be willing to follow through and kill Carpathia if God made that clear?

No, Rayford, no!

On page 371, Mac hatches a plan to fly, by himself, the Antichrist, either into a mountain or “cut the power and let gravity take over.”  No, Mac, no!  You remind me of a suicide bomber!

On page 373, Leonardo Fortunato goes on the stage at the gala to make a speech, as the MC.  We read that, of his speech,

Every phrase elicited enthusiasm, making Buck wonder what planet the crowd was from.  Did no one hold the leadership responsible for all the death and grief?  The population had been cut in half in three and a half years, and these people celebrated?

I wonder how he expects them to hold the leadership responsible for the plagues, most of which have been natural disasters–or, shall we say, acts of God.  And does he really think the people believe Carpathia caused the demon locusts or the invisible horses?

On page 374, the Deputy Pontiff of Enigma Babylon One World Faith refers to the “one-gender deity in whom we all rest and who also rests in all of us.”

I wonder why the emphasis on one gender.  Aren’t most gendered deities only one gender?  Unless you have a hermaphrodite deity, or–with the Christian God–a genderless deity, it’s either a god or a goddess.  And, of course, there are many in the Christian faith who consider God to be male–isn’t that one gender?

The Deputy Pontiff’s announcement: Pontifex Maximus Peter the Second has just died suddenly.  She calls it a virus, but we know he’s been murdered by the ten sub-potentates.  And Carpathia has just hypnotized the crowd to see it as no big deal.

Our beloved Carpathia murders Eli and Moishe with his own Saber, and we are treated to various descriptions of their rotting corpses, kept exposed to the elements, birds, animals and bugs as the Gala carries on around them for the next few days, until they rise again.

Must we keep getting such gruesome descriptions?  In these books we get to read the details as people are killed and bodies rot, but we don’t get much of anything about the appearances of characters, courtships, or anything else that would be worth describing.  It’s almost like death porn.  😛

Carpathia is assassinated, but Rayford is so confused that he’s not sure if he pulled the trigger or if it was somebody else.  We won’t find out who did it until the next book.

Now on to the next book in the series.

[September 2010]