Left Behind: The Mark Review–Part 4

Previous parts

Tsion goes on to tell his flock that

if the Bible is true, next on the agenda is the ceremonial desecration of the temple in Jerusalem by Antichrist himself….this desecration shall include the sacrificing of a pig on the sacred altar.  It also includes blasphemy against God, profanity, derogatory statements about God and Messiah, and a denial of his resurrection.

I’m not sure where he gets all this from, saying it’s in the Bible. Best I can figure is that he gets it from Matthew 24:15-16:

Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.

The Daniel verses on this subject are 11:31 and 12:11, as follows:

Daniel speaks of warring kings.  As for one of these kings,

Then offspring shall arise from him, and they shall defile the sanctuary of power.  They shall take away the daily sacrifice, and place there the abomination of desolation.

There is nothing here about pigs or anything else Tsion mentioned.  In fact, Daniel was written before there was a Messiah or resurrection to deny.  Verse 12:11 reads,

From the time the daily sacrifice is taken away and the abomination of desolation is set up, there shall be 1290 days.

The Orthodox Study Bible notes explain that the Daniel verses describe struggles between the Romans, Antiochus IV Epiphanes who reigned in Syria and Judea, and the Maccabees.  2 Maccabees 5-6 describes just what Epiphanes did:

Among various other cruel and despicable acts, he desecrated the Jewish Temple by daring to enter into it, with defiled hands taking the holy vessels, pulling down “the things dedicated by other kings to increase the glory and honor of the place,” and carrying off 1800 talents.

He insisted the temple be dedicated to Zeus; in fact, the The New Oxford Annotated Bible identifies the abomination as an altar to Zeus set up in the Temple’s holy of holies.

The Gentiles filled the temple with “debauchery and reveling,” including sex inside the temple precincts, and brought “unfitting things inside.  The altar was filled with disgusting things forbidden by the laws.”  That would include pigs.

Hey, wait a minute, this is 2 Maccabees, the Apocrypha, not recognized as Biblical by Protestants.  There was nothing in the Protestant Bible in these verses about pigs being sacrificed on the altar, but it’s here in 2 Maccabees.

Yet Tsion said it was in the Bible.  So–Does Tsion agree with the Catholics and Orthodox, and recognize 2 Maccabees as part of the Bible?  Hmmmm….

The Orthodox Study Bible notes also say that

Many early Christians also saw the destruction of the temple by the Roman general, Titus, in AD 70, as well as the persecutions of Christians by the Roman emperor Nero, as fulfillments of these verses [Daniel 11:30-35].

Indeed, Daniel’s prophecies have been fulfilled many times over the course of history, as God’s people have endured persecution and testing at the hands of those who blaspheme God in their pride.

Which works against the idea of complete literalism in the End-Times prophecies, doesn’t it?  How can the same exact thing be happening over and over again unless it can be understood as symbolic?

This also shows that the Antichrist is hardly one single person at one single point in time, but a figure who keeps rising again and again throughout history, persecuting first the Jews and then the Church.

Hitler would probably qualify as one Antichrist.  Also Stalin, Lenin, the Chinese government.

From what I’ve seen of Carpathia so far in these books, he’s a wimp compared to the many real-life Antichrists who have risen and fallen during the last 2000 years since Revelation was written.

If you want to create a compelling Antichrist character, you must study the madness of the previous Antichrists, their narcissism, how they got so many to do their bidding that–in the case of Hitler–even Christians fell in step with the Nazis.

These men did not have Carpathia’s mind-bending powers; they used their own words to mesmerize.  Good people, normal people, ended up following the tyranny of the majority–why?

This is how you write an Antichrist.  You don’t just keep saying that Carpathia is succeeding because he’s such a good speaker, and then portray him giving some lame speech that names all the countries of the UN.  Is that the kind of speech Hitler would give?  How did Caligula inspire his followers to treat him as a god?

Carpathia is making such a half-hearted attempt at scapegoating the Orthodox Jews and Christians that I just don’t see it convincing anybody in the real world, except maybe for people with personality disorders who already like to scapegoat.  Until I can imagine your Antichrist and his followers in a Rammstein music video–

–until I–while listening to Links 2 3 4

–can imagine his soldiers goose-stepping, he just isn’t a convincing Antichrist.

The Study Bible also notes at Matthew 24:15,

Daniel’s prophecy of the abomination of desolation (Dan 9:27) was fulfilled in AD 70, when the Roman general Titus entered the Most Holy Place and had a statue of himself erected in the temple before having the temple destroyed.

The Lord’s phrase ‘when you see’ indicates that many of the disciples would still be alive at the time.  The words ‘whoever reads, let him understand’ are commonly understood to be inserted by Matthew into Christ’s address as an encouragement to his early Christian flock, who may have witnessed this event.

Also, for Matt. 24:3-31 the Study Bible notes that Scripture describes the End Times in so many ways that “no precise chronology can be determined.”  We are to be watchful and virtuous, not focusing on timetables for things that haven’t even happened yet.

For Daniel 9:27, we learn that Hippolytus identified the “abomination of desolations” as Antichrist himself, “announcing desolation to the world.”

Eusebius writes about the abomination of desolation, referring the reader to the works of Josephus on the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, where he can read how the abomination “was set up in the very temple of God, celebrated of old, when it was utterly destroyed by fire” (“The Last Siege of the Jews Before Christ,” chapter 5, Book 3: Missions and Persecutions, Church History).

This website goes into this from a Jewish perspective.

Also, you can read Josephus’ “War of the Jews” here to find out just what all went down during that desecration–all things not detailed in the Protestant Bible.

You need to go outside the Protestant Bible into other sources–Early Church Fathers, Eusebius, the Jewish Josephus, histories, the Deuterocanonical books which Protestants call “Apocrypha”–to find out what the “abomination of desolation” is all about.

But the danger of doing that, is discovering that maybe your system of interpretation is faulty.

On page 150, after reading Tsion’s latest missive to his Web flock, Buck hits “with great relish” “the key that broadcast Tsion’s words to a global audience.”  Aw, it would’ve been so funny if he hit the wrong button and deleted it instead.


To be continued.

Left Behind: The Mark Review–Part 3

Previous parts.

On pages 147-8 we read:

It may be hard to recognize God’s mercy when his wrath is also intensifying.  Woe to those who believe the lie that God is only “love.”

Yes, he is love.  And his gift of Jesus as the sacrifice for our sin is the greatest evidence of this.

But the Bible also says God is “holy, holy, holy.”  He is righteous and a God of justice, and it is not in his nature to allow sin to go unpunished or unpaid for.

But what does Orthodoxy believe about God as love, wrath, justice?

First of all, the reason for the Cross is a bit different.  God is seen as impassive: That is, he’s not stirred to strong passions for evil in the same way we humans are, passions which drive us to defend ourselves or our good name at the expense of rational thinking or love or justice.

He does not hate sinners, as demonstrated when Christ spent so much time with sinners.  He hates sinful deeds–those are what condemn a soul.

And when the Bible speaks of his wrath, that “wrath” is actually the way sinners experience his love and sense of justice–you know, just as with a parent and child.

A good parent loves the child, protects him, and tells him not to do things because they will hurt him, make things difficult for the parent changing his diaper, or will hurt someone else.  But the child does not like being told no, and will act up.

The parent disciplines, but not to upset the child or be a tyrant, though the child thinks so.  This is corrective discipline and loving.

The use of the word “wrath” was not meant to be literal, but something that the writers and readers of the Bible could understand.  It basically means “consequences.”  Redemption redeems us from sin’s consequences; it heals our spiritually diseased condition.

(You’ll find my sources here.)

From The River of Fire by Alexandre Kalomiros:

This paganistic conception of God’s justice which demands infinite sacrifices in order to be appeased clearly makes God our real enemy and the cause of all our misfortunes.

Moreover, it is a justice which is not at all just since it punishes and demands satisfaction from persons which were not at all responsible for the sin of their forefathers.

In other words, what Westerners call justice ought rather to be called resentment and vengeance of the worst kind. Even Christ’s love and sacrifice loses its significance and logic in this schizoid notion of a God who kills God in order to satisfy the so-called justice of God.

…The word DIKAIWSUNH,”justice”, is a translation of the Hebraic word tsedaka.  This word means “the divine energy which accomplishes man’s salvation”.

It is parallel and almost synonymous to the other Hebraic word, hesed which means “mercy”, “compassion”, “love”, and to the word, emeth which means “fidelity”, “truth”.

This, as you see, gives a completely other dimension to what we usually conceive as justice.  This is how the Church understood God’s justice.  This is what the Fathers of the Church taught of it.

“How can you call God just”, writes Saint Isaac the Syrian, “when you read the passage on the wage given to the workers?  ‘Friend, I do thee no wrong; I will give unto this last even as unto thee who worked for me from the first hour.  Is thine eye evil, because I am good?'”

“How can a man call God just”, continues Saint Isaac, “when he comes across the passage on the prodigal son, who wasted his wealth in riotous living, and yet only for the contrition which he showed, the father ran and fell upon his neck, and gave him authority over all his wealth?

“None other but His very Son said these things concerning Him lest we doubt it, and thus He bare witness concerning Him.  Where, then, is God’s justice, for whilst we were sinners, Christ died for us!”

So we see that God is not just, with the human meaning of this word, but we see that His justice means His goodness and love, which are given in an unjust manner, that is, God always gives without taking anything in return, and He gives to persons like us who are not worthy of receiving.

That is why Saint Isaac teaches us: “Do not call God just, for His justice is not manifest in the things concerning you.  And if David calls Him just and upright, His Son revealed to us that He is good and kind.  ‘He is good,’ He says, ‘to the evil and impious.'”

God is good, loving, and kind toward those who disregard, disobey, and ignore Him.  He never returns evil for evil, He never takes vengeance.

His punishments are loving means of correction, as long as anything can be corrected and healed in this life.  They never extend to eternity.

He created everything good.  The wild beasts recognize as their master the Christian who through humility has gained the likeness of God.  They draw near to him, not with fear, but with joy, in grateful and loving submission; they wag their heads and lick his hands and serve him with gratitude.

The irrational beasts know that their Master and God is not evil and wicked and vengeful, but rather full of love.  (See also St. Isaac of Syria, SWZOMENA ASKHTIKA [Athens, 1871], pp. 95-96.)

He protected and saved us when we fell.  The eternally evil has nothing to do with God.  It comes rather from the will of His free, logical creatures, and this will He respects.

Lots more good stuff is in that article.

To be continued.

Left Behind: The Mark Review–Part 2

Part 1

On page 142, we read in one of Tsion Ben-Judah’s missives to the world:

While the messianic prophecies were fairly straightforward and, indeed, led me to believe in Jesus as their unique fulfillment, I prayed earnestly that God would reveal to me the key to the rest of the predictive passages.

This he did in a most understated way.  He simply impressed upon me to take the words as literally as I took any others from the Bible, unless the context and the wording itself indicated otherwise.

Note that we’re not told how exactly God “impressed” this upon him.  We’re just supposed to take his word for it.

In other words, I had always taken at its word a passage such as, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” or “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  Why then, could I not take just as straightforwardly a verse which said that John the Revelator saw a pale horse?  

Because the Bible is made up of all different kinds of genres: poetry, narrative, apocalypse.  You wouldn’t take every word of poetry literally, would you?  Why should John have seen a literal pale horse when he’s writing apocalyptic literature, NOT narrative?

Must we read the Bible as if we had a literal brain that thinks that when you say, “It’s raining cats and dogs,” cats and dogs are actually falling from the sky?

Yes, I understood that the horse stood for something.  And yet, the Bible said that John saw it.  I took that literally, along with all the other prophetic statements (unless they used phrases such as “like unto” or others that made it clear they were symbolic).

Prophecy is meant to be ambiguous.  You don’t apply the same rules to an apocalypse that you do to, say, a history.

My dear friends, the Scriptures opened to me in a way I never dreamed possible.

That’s funny, I always found the prophecies to be much harder to understand when literal, than when I began to read them metaphorically.  Nothing in Revelations makes sense when you take it literally!  I finally began to understand it when I discovered the symbolic readings.

Also, the Scriptures opened to me in a way I never dreamed possible when I began reading it with an Orthodox Study Bible that explained how everything fit together.  Things that had been lost in Protestant literalism and sledgehammers making the Bible read how different denominations wanted, now became clear with the Orthodox reading.

For example, James and Paul now work together rather than opposing each other on works vs. faith.  Another example is, I had no idea that when Christ was baptized in the Jordan, he redeemed the waters of the world and made them useful for Christian baptism.

On page 144, Tsion refers to Revelation 13:11-18 as a “clear prophetic passage.”  Yeah, clear as mud!  Check out this passage for yourself.   We’re supposed to take this as completely literal?

It makes far more sense to me to see it as, say, a metaphor for a Roman emperor who got too big for his britches (another metaphor we can’t take literally).  If the mark of the beast is money, printed with the emperor’s face, then it makes perfect sense to say that you can’t buy or sell without it.

And are we to believe that the Antichrist is a literal beast with two lamb horns on his head, coming out the ground, and speaking like a dragon?  After all, there is no “like unto” there!  But even LaHaye and Jenkins don’t give Nicolae two literal horns!

On page 1711, the Orthodox Study Bible reads:

The early Church was convinced the Second Coming was near (Acts 2:16, 17; Heb. 1:1; 1Jn 2:18).  John’s vision was first of all a reminder from God to the churches not to give in to their adversaries, but to hold fast to their faith.

The book can also be seen as prophecy addressing a time far distant from its era of composition, predicting actual future events; or as an exposition of the ongoing relationships and conflicts between God and His kingdom, humanity, and Satan.  These three approaches are not contradictory but complementary; all are valid.

While seen as canonical and inspired by God, the Revelation is the only New Testament book not publicly read in the services of the Orthodox Church.  This is partly because the book was only gradually accepted as canonical in many parts of Christendom.

In addition, in the second and third centuries Revelation was widely twisted and sensationally misinterpreted, and the erroneous teachings brought troublesome confusion to Christians–a trend that continues to this day.

As for the number 666, which The Mark references on page 145, and the mark of the beast, let’s see what the Orthodox Study Bible says on page 1733:

The mark is a parody of God’s seal in 7:3, alluding to both the Hebrew phylactery of Deuteronomy 6:8 (God’s Law kept on the forehead and left hand) and to chrismation (when the new believer is marked with a cross by holy oil on the hands and forehead, among other places).  This is not necessarily a physical or visible mark, is “gained by worshiping the beast,” and “is required to do business.”

As for 666, in Roman times when Revelations was written, letters were used for numbers (ie, Roman numerals), so you could calculate the numerical value of names. So 666 is the value of the name of the beast, who is a man.

“John may be purposefully enigmatic, using a secret code to protect against a charge of sedition.”  6 stands for “falling short, incompleteness, imperfection,” 7 for “perfection, fullness, completion,” 8 for “eschatological perfection, a superabundance of fullness.”

Sunday is the 8th day, the day of Resurrection.  Though “777” is used in evangelical circles to represent Christ as a counter to 666, “Jesus” in Greek is actually 888, while the Trinity is 777.

666 is “the epitome of created inadequacy.”  When transliterated from Greek into Hebrew, “Nero Caesar” equals 666.  Transliterated from Latin into Hebrew, it’s 616, which some Revelation texts read instead of 666.

If 666 actually refers to Domitian, “whom some considered to be Nero reincarnated, it would be safer to refer not to the present persecutor but to the one long gone.”  But still, only 100 years after John wrote Revelation, St. Irenaeus still “had no idea to whom John was referring!”

(Here ends the summary of the Orthodox Study Bible, p. 1733.)

Despite the first book, which showed that people could think they were Christians and still get left behind in the Rapture, Tsion now tells his cyber flock that they can know for sure they are eternally secure as Christians: “If you are already a believer, you will not be able to turn your back on Christ, praise God.”

But even in the real-life persecutions and martyrdoms in the early centuries of the Church, many believers turned their backs on the Church rather than be martyred in the many grisly, torturous fashions dreamed up by the Romans.

So how can these Tribulation Saints be so sure, just because they believe, that they won’t do the same?  It is dangerous for their souls to tell them they won’t.

Here we read about the many who lapsed from the faith to avoid martyrdom, and the controversy in the Church over letting them back in later on.  If so many couldn’t stand up for their faith in the face of terrible death, how can Tsion be so certain that all believers will be able to stand up for their faith in the face of the guillotine?

Are you a Calvinist, Tsion, once saved always saved?  What about the many people who were left behind after the Rapture, thinking they were saved?  Don’t give your flock such false security!

We find no such teaching in the New Testament, to trust that we won’t fall, rather that we are to be vigilant, to stay steadfast, lest we fall away.

To be continued.

Left Behind: The Mark Review–Part 1

The Mark by Tim LaHaye & Jerry Jenkins, Tyndale House Publishers, ISBN 1414334974, available practically anywhere Christian books are sold:

A plot summary is here.

In Book 8 of the series, you’d think the series would have hit its stride by now, but no, it’s still slow as molasses.  So many of the writing and theological problems of the older books are still around, that it would be too repetitive to list them all.  So these reviews may end up being shorter.  Or maybe not.  We shall see.

Hey, here’s some good news: “Buck was struck” made a reappearance, after disappearing for so long, on page 72!  Well, that is, if you’d call that good news.  At least it’s something interesting.

On page 2, we read,

Should David be able to see evidence that the man was now indwelt by Satan himself?  The body, the hair, the complexion, the look were the same.

But an intensity, an air of restlessness and alertness, flowed from the eyes.  Though he smiled and talked softly, it was as if Nicolae could barely contain the monster within.

Controlled fury, violence delayed, revenge in abeyance played at the muscles in his neck and shoulders.  David half expected him to burst from his suit and then from his very skin, exposed to the world as the repulsive serpent he was.

I hope this indwelling changes this Antichrist into a more formidable opponent.

On page 73, Chaim’s jaw is wired shut for reasons I’ve forgotten because these books are just so dang long and unmemorable.  Yet he sure is saying quite a bit just the same, full sentences and paragraphs in a conversation with Buck and Tsion.

On page 74, Buck tries to convince Chaim that Chaim’s memory (from the first book) of a conference–a conference with the heads of the countries at which Nicolae shot Stonagal and Todd-Cothran–is wrong.  If you take out the dialogue, however, the body language becomes much more interesting, thus:

The old man put a quivering hand on Buck’s knee….[Chaim] Rosenzweig began to shiver until his whole body shook.  He pressed his hands against his tender face to stop the quivering of his lips.

Ooh la la!  What is it with the men in these books touching each other’s knees?  I thought in American culture that means you want sex!

Chaim finally remembers what happened at the conference.  Then he says, “Thank you, Jehovah God.”  But–why would a Jew say “Jehovah God”?  That is an error made by a Christian trying to figure out God’s name.  Here are the names which are far more likely.

On pages 92-94, Steve Plank shows up again–in a wheelchair, most of his face gone and covered by a mask, a new ID (Pinkerton Stephens), and a new status as a believer.  He takes off his mask to show Rayford and Albie his cross, so we get to read all the gory details of how icky his “face” (or lack thereof) now looks.

Though why the authors keep making things as gross as possible and describing everything, while virtually ignoring descriptions of characters normally–I don’t know.  I think the authors must love horror movies.

On page 101, Rayford and Albie discover Hattie on the floor after a botched suicide attempt.  Hm, Rayford gives Hattie mouth-to-mouth!

On page 108, Zeke explains to Buck that gasoline itself doesn’t burn, but the fumes.  But when he first tells Buck that the gas doesn’t burn, we read,

Buck felt stupid.  He had been a globe-trotting journalist, and a virtual illiterate was trying to tell him gasoline fires aren’t what they seem?

Er, way to be a patronizing, arrogant and pompous ass, Buck.  Especially since Zeke works at a gas station and should know what he’s talking about!

On page 118, Albie makes a little prayer for Hattie: “God, save that girl.”  Girl?  Isn’t she at least 30 by now?  Poor Hattie just doesn’t get a break.

On page 126, David’s love, Annie, has been killed by lightning brought down by Nicolae–or was it Fortunato?  I can’t keep it straight because it’s hard to pay attention to the details in such boring books.

Anyway, a little group of believers decides to gather around him and pray.  Mac lays a hand on David’s shoulder, while Abdullah reaches for his knee….

Er, his knee?  Geez, man, personal space!  Yet again, one man reaches for another man’s knee in these books.  They abound with unintended homoeroticism.

The other thing I find unbelievable is the sudden prayer Mac gives.  It seems so fake after they’ve just discovered that Annie is dead.  Would any of them even be able to speak for the sobs?

I find it interesting that, such as on page 128, the group of believers is using “Nick” currency, the GC-printed money named after the Antichrist.

Considering that the mark of the beast, which you can’t buy or sell without, is quite likely money printed with the image of the Beast (as I read once on a Catholic website), aren’t the believers buying and selling with the mark of the beast? making them subject to condemnation?

The scene on page 134 is rich with unintentionally erotic imagery. Check it out:

Rayford stepped out, and Hattie nearly lunged at him.  “Let me see, let me see!” she said, staring at him.  “I can see yours!” she said.  “That means you can see mine!  Can you?”

His eyes were still adjusting to the sun, but as she pulled him out of the shadow by the door, it hit him.  His knees buckled and he almost fell.

Dang, that door must have hit you hard.  Or was it from the sight of what Hattie is showing you?

“Oh, Hattie!” he said, reaching for her.  She leaped into his arms and squeezed him around the neck so hard he finally had to push her away so he could breathe.

“Does mine look like yours?” she said.

Hmmm.  If it does, then you must be a darn skillful transvestite, because nobody had a clue.

He laughed.  “How would I know?  We can’t see our own.

We can’t?

But yours looks like every other one I’ve seen.

How many have you seen, Rayford?

This is worth waking Albie for.”

A threesome!

“Is he decent?”

Not if he wants to be in this threesome.

“Sure.  Why?”

“Let me.”

Rayford unlocked the door and Hattie burst in.  “Albie, wake up, sleepyhead!”

I’ve got a surprise for you!

He didn’t stir.

She sat on the bed next to him and bounced.  He groaned.  

I bet he wouldn’t groan if you bounced nekkid….Or maybe he would.

“C’mon, Albie!  The day is young!”

“What?” he said, sitting up.  “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing will ever be wrong again!” she said, taking his face in her hands

HMMMM, what do you have in mind, Hattie?

…and pointing his bleary eyes toward her.  “I’m just showing off my mark!”

Er–What?  You’re showing off your BELIEVER’S MARK?  That’s what this is about?  Sheesh.  Bummer.

To be continued.

Left Behind: Indwelling Review–Part 4

Previous parts

On page 322 Chloe says,

“Surely Tsion will think to bring the computers and necessities.”

Rayford nodded.

“I’d better call him one more time,” Chloe said.  “He may not think to bring the notebooks with the co-op stuff.”

“You don’t have that on your computer?” Leah said.

Chloe gave her a look.  “I always keep hard-copy back-ups.”  [hard copy=printouts, paper]

“But you’ve got it on disks too, right?”

Chloe sighed and ignored her.

What?  What is this sigh?  What’s with this look?  Why is she treating Leah like an idiot for such simple, reasonable questions?  How rude!  Just answer the woman’s questions!

Aren’t Christians supposed to treat each other with love and patience?  All through these books, I keep finding these examples of Christians treating others like annoyances.  They do it to each other, they do it to Hattie, to Bo, to their co-workers….

Rayford leads Hattie on for quite some time then tosses her aside like scum, like it’s somehow her fault for thinking they had something going on.  Then every chance he gets, he pretends to love her (in a sisterly fashion, of course), but secretly thinks how dumb she is.  Buck does the same.  And Rayford tries to sabotage things any time another Christian man starts falling for her.

But there is no scolding from the author or from one of the other characters, just a feeling that the authors think he’s being a decent, Christian man….Sometimes the characters have pangs of conscience, but more often it just passes by without any guilt or scolding.

Then in real life, in the church, we have people using each other and treating each other like dirt, bullying each other, cussing at each other, calling other people names for disagreeing with them on politics or religion or personal issues, jumping to conclusions, without apologizing for their outbursts, without trying to resolve things peaceably, without trying to understand each other.

Having an organ in the church becomes more important than whether or not the congregation is learning how to love Christ and fellow man.

They talk as if it is their right to respond violently–whether verbally or physically–to a perceived slight, even though the writings of the Apostles and the Church Fathers tell us this perception of entitlement to anger and violence comes straight from Hell.  Then these people go to the Communion chalice as if they’ve done nothing wrong.

How can we expect the world to bang down our door when we act like this?  If Christians are just as bad, if not worse, than the “heathens,” then we have nothing concrete to show that our invisible, supernatural beliefs are truth.

Early Church congregations added members through their acts of charity and love, not through having the best, most persuasive speeches, or the most awesome worship music, or the flashiest tracts.

Contemporary accounts I’ve read of the time speak of a Church that was quite different from the surrounding culture, not because of dress or food or music but because they were taking care of each other, rather than following their own selfish interests.

Before you go to Communion, examine yourself: Have you at least tried to make up with the person you hurt?  Have you tried to soothe the person whose feelings you hurt?  Have you bullied anyone?

Have you realized that yelling and screaming or hitting first, then asking questions later, means you will lose friends or family, without them even wanting to tell you the truth about what you misinterpreted?

Have you so affected someone with your harshness and ill-will and abuse that when they see you in church taking Communion, they have a strong urge to run to the bathroom and throw up?

The people in these books remind me so much of real-life Christians who talk about love but don’t show it. It’s enough to lead one to cynicism about religion.  And to make one realize that we can’t judge someone for leaving Christianity if they’ve been driven out by what they’ve seen and heard from fellow Christians. We may not understand them, but God surely does.

On page 343, we find the speech of the potentate of the United Indian States at Carpathia’s funeral.  He says,

[W]hile we once believed that a good man comes back at a higher level, and thus that a bright star like Nicolae Carpathia would be guaranteed the role of a Brahman, he himself taught us–with his brilliant vision for a one-world faith–that even such traditional religious views have lost their currency…when you are dead, you are dead, and there is nothing more….

So Nicolae was preaching this?  On page 345, Fortunato says that any person or religion who believes in a “single avenue to God” or “heaven or bliss in the afterlife is the greatest danger to the global community.”  And all the different religions of the world just abandoned their beliefs about the afterlife because some dude was saying we should all be one religion?  What’s the point of a religion if you don’t believe in an afterlife, anyway?

Most people would reject this, not just accept it because Nicolae said so.  There would be riots all over the world, Nicolae burned in effigy, and the like, if he tried to do this in real life.

But, as the Slacktivist blogger would say, there’s a prophecy checklist that must be adhered to, so all the religious people in the world just toss aside their convictions and dogmas and believe whatever Nicolae says to believe.  Persecution of the Christians and Orthodox Jews must now begin in earnest, after all.

Ironically, Fortunato is right when he says,

[T]here are many ways to ensure eternal bliss, if anything is eternal.  It is not by walling yourself and your comrades off in a corner claiming you have the inside track to God.  It is by being a good and kind human being and helping others.

On page 347 through 351, Fortunato explains to the funeral attendees that–even though it’s just been explained that nobody lives after death–Nicolae is “there in spirit,” they are to worship his image (the statue), and that he “accepts your praise and worship.”

Then he makes clear that everyone is expected to worship Nicolae as the centerpiece of their global religion, that as global citizens they must subordinate themselves to the ones in authority over them.  Smoke and a voice come from the statue, ordering everyone to worship it.  And Fortunato says that anyone who does not worship it, will die.

So somehow, Nicolae has become a god and everyone is required to worship him.  I’m not quite sure how he ended up deified, since the days of emperors or kings or pharaohs who are either put in place by a god, or are a god, are long over–and since in modern politics, even Obama can lose his luster.  I find it hard to believe that all modern people, except for Jews and Christians, would fall for this so easily.

Fortunato and the statue are both speaking in archaic language that sounds like it came out of older versions of the Bible: not “thees” and “thous,” but things like “Marvel not,” “Fear not,” “Worship your god, your dead yet living king,” and the statue’s “I am the god above all other gods.  There is none like me.  Worship or beware!”

Come on, where are the cynics?  In real life there would be cynics wanting to know how they make the voice come out of the statue, hecklers, comedians cracking jokes about the language.  Except that great beams of fire now incinerate three of the potentates.  Fortunato says their replacements have already been selected and,

The Global Community shall prevail.  We shall reach our goal of utopian living, harmony, love, and tolerance–tolerance of all but those who refuse to worship the image of the man we esteem and glorify today!

Jon Stewart would have a field day with this.  But we are presented with people who apparently are the epitome of sheeple, following their leader right over a cliff, agreeing to worship him and consider him a god just because they’re told to.  Maybe this worked in the days of the Caesars, but modern peoples are far savvier.

And it’s interesting how the only item on that list that’s really “bad” is this strange idea of “tolerance” that applies only to people who worship the Beast.  Harmony, love and tolerance are generally good things.

On page 373, Hattie calls Rayford to warn him to get out of the safe house.  Then she says, “It’s all true, isn’t it, Rayford?”

Rayford says, “Of course it is, and you knew that almost as soon as most of us did.  I didn’t think doubt was why you were holding out.”

Hattie says, “It wasn’t, totally.  But I was still holding out hope that it couldn’t all be just the way Dr. Ben-Judah said.”

Rayford: “What’re you going to do about it, Hattie?  You know how we all feel about it and about you.”

So here we have Rayford scolding Hattie for having a mind of her own and “holding out.”  Yes, she knows how you all feel about her: that she’s stupid and a whore.

And believe me, when someone thinks you’re stupid and a whore, you don’t want to be around them.  You don’t want anything you do or believe to be like anything they do or believe.

But of course, Rayford thinks it’s all about stubbornness, Hattie denying the truth of the End Times.  And the authors think the same thing, so we’re supposed to believe it somehow.

On page 375, Albie has just gotten them through a close call with some GC soldiers at the safehouse while the Trib Force was evacuating.  He has so convincingly impersonated a GC officer that Rayford asks to check his mark (the cross that supernaturally appears on Christians–er, Tribulation saints).

Keep in mind this book came out before 9/11, so it doesn’t have anything to do with Albie being Middle Eastern as it might have done in the post-9/11 paranoia.

(Albie was a black market arms dealer, not a terrorist.  Though I imagine if the book had been written in 2002, he probably would’ve been planning to hijack a plane and ram it into the Sears Tower before getting converted.)

Anyway, Rayford asks to check his mark because he’s just been too darn convincing.  Albie says, “In my culture, that is a terrible insult.  Especially after everything we have been through.”

Rayford says, “Your culture never had the mark before.  What’s the insult?”

His reply: “To not be personally trusted.”

I’d agree with that, that not being trusted after going through a lot with and for someone would be an insult.  Still, he underestimates how well he impersonated an officer.  Finally, he lets Rayford look, and sure enough, there is the cross.

Later on he says,

The only thing more offensive than not being trusted by an old friend is your simpering style of leadership.  Rayford, you and those you are responsible for are entering the most dangerous phase of your existence.  Don’t blow it with indecision and poor judgment.

Poor Rayford.  He gets this chewing out because Albie gives him such a hard time about not trusting him that he says Rayford should shoot him if he doesn’t trust him, but Rayford doesn’t want to shoot him, etc. etc.

Satan possesses Carpathia, who finally resurrects, as we’ve been waiting for for this entire 388-page book.  On the last page, at long last, and even though Christians–er, Tribulation saints–have already been running from the GC forces for some time, Carpathia addresses those who call him the Antichrist:

If you insist on continuing with your subversive attacks on my character and on the world harmony I have worked so hard to engender, the word tribulation will not begin to describe what is in store for you.  If the last three and a half years are your idea of tribulation, wait until you endure the Great Tribulation.

(Why am I suddenly reminded of Obama vs. the Republicans?  Weird.)

Woohoo!  Will the books finally pick up the pace now and be full of fun and intriguing action as the Christians run from the GC?

–Or will it follow past books and keep dragging on with logistics like where to put the truck or helicopter or SUV, or who to call when on the phone?

I keep hoping for the former, but expect the latter.  You know a book series is bad when you think longingly on the exciting pace and storyline and depth of characters in the Thief in the Night series.

On to the next book….


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