Left Behind: Apollyon Review–Part 1
Apollyon 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