I realize that some of you want absolutely nothing to do with
this on a car license plate frame
God protect me from your followers
If you want nothing to do with the religious aspect of this site
please remember there are over 350 articles accessed through the contents-index page here and on page one.
Thumbing ones nose at God is normally considered a bad plan.
Either God will owe Sodom and Gomorrah an apology, (can’t see that happening)
or if he is a fair and just God we are headed toward some really hard times.
A book I did not want, that for me clarified parts
of the Bible I could not understand. May it cover questions that you might have
also. This is a much more
plausible scenario then the one put forth in the Left Behind
caught off guard when the trouble began. But no one was more unprepared than
those who supposedly knew ahead of time what was to happen.
Rayford Strait was not a
believer, so he never expected any of this -- not in his lifetime, nor in anyone
else's lifetime. But he was a realist. If circumstances changed (as they had as
a result of the attack), then he would simply make the necessary adjustments and
set about doing what needed to be done. Which is more or less what he
His wife and
son, on the other hand, were believers. Irene Strait attended church faithfully,
not far from where they lived, in Prospect Heights, Illinois. Vernon Billings,
Irene's pastor at New Hope Chapel, often taught about the troubles that were
going to come on the earth. He had a shelf full of books and even video tapes
detailing what to expect. The topic had become something of an obsession with
from what she had heard at New Hope Chapel, that a popular world leader was
going to arise who would gain control over the entire planet. She had heard that
he would persecute believers on a scale never before known. She knew that there
would be death and destruction everywhere, and that her own country would not be
shared much of this with her 13 year old son, Raymie. She tried to share it with
her 19-year-old daughter, Chloe, too, but Chloe was -- like her father -- a
cynic. She had little interest in anything she could not see and touch.
the books, the lectures, and especially the videos exciting. They were scary at
times, but he took comfort in the fact that he would never have to go through
what they were describing, because he would be whisked up to heaven before it
all started instantly and painlessly and all because he had said a little prayer
asking Jesus into his heart. Raymie faithfully prayed for his father and his
sister, that they too would say the prayer before it was too late. If only they
would, then they could all go to heaven together.
the same prayer that Raymie prayed, and she prayed it even more faithfully and
more fervently than Raymie did. She did not want any member of her family to be
left behind. But she never for a moment thought that she or Raymie would be
among those who would be left. She had books and tapes and videos and a long
list of religious experts to back her up in her belief that she and others like
her would be spared.
All of the
suffering, she had been told, was reserved for someone else, for someone more
appropriately suited to suffering like the Jews. After all, they have had more
practice than the rest of us when it comes to suffering!
Strait was piloting an early morning flight from London to Chicago on a Tuesday
in May when the invasion began. He had left London at 5am and was about halfway
to Chicago when he received word from Civil Aviation authorities in Chicago that
unauthorised traffic had been picked up on radar in Canada, and it was crossing
his proposed flight path. (It was about 3:30am in Chicago by that time.)
Rayford had been asked to divert to another corridor, but while they were still
communicating the details, another message came through as an all frequencies
broadcast. A distraught flight controller was ordering all aircraft passing over
the Ice Cap to turn back immediately.
asked for an explanation, all he received was a shouted warning: "All flights
headed for North America over the Arctic Circle must turn back immediately. This
is a matter of extreme urgency. It has come from the American Civil Defence
headquarters in Washington, D.C. I repeat: Turn back! Do not attempt to land in
aircraft had come like a swarm of bees from the north, over the Ice Cap and
across Canada. With them had come missiles hundreds (if not thousands) of them,
flying high above the aircraft and coming down to earth just moments before the
bombers crossed into U.S. airspace. Each missile had been programmed to hit a
particular U.S. city or a strategic military target . Some were intercepted, of
course, but on the whole the highly sophisticated American missile defence
system had proved to be helpless in the face of so much fire-power and with so
missiles were each surrounded by a cluster of metallic balloons, which served to
confuse tracking devices on the American anti-missile missiles. Nine out of ten
of America's defence weapons totally missed their marks. And while American
missiles were busily tracking other missiles, many of the enemy planes were able
to sneak safely into U.S. airspace as well. What the missile invasion did not
destroy, the enemy bombers took care of.
general public had been conned into believing that America had an effective
defence against an attack like this, military intelligence in almost every other
country of the world knew better. But they also knew that nothing could stop
America from pressing the button and sending its entire arsenal out to do the
same thing to any other country that would dare to attack the U.S. By doing
this, the United States could at least wipe their opponents out as they
themselves were going down. This threat of "mutually assured destruction" (MAD,
as it was called, for short) and not the highly touted missile defence system,
had been the one thing that had kept the peace for as long as it had.
But now that
the threat of nuclear attack had become a reality, the American system found
itself either too unwieldy, too timid, or perhaps too sane to do to an enemy
nation what was being done to itself. Someone in charge of pushing the button
apparently realised, too late, that such a move would be pointless. It would not
bring back to life the millions of Americans who died that night, and it would
only double the suffering for the human race.
Heights, Illinois, where Rayford Strait's family was sleeping, the air raid
sirens went off several minutes before the first missiles hit, at 4am on
Tuesday. But people had grown complacent about such things, ever since the Cold
War had ended, and especially since communism had suffered such total defeat in
the 1990's. The U.S. fallout shelter program was totally scrapped in 1992, and
air raid drills were widely regarded as unnecessary, especially when they chose
to go off in the middle of the night.
Prospect Heights, like people throughout the rest of the country, mostly rolled
over in their beds, and either slept through the first impact or else never knew
what hit them.
Strait was not like everyone else. She lived by the book, and if there was to be
an air raid drill, then she would do the right thing by her country. She roused
her family and they all trundled down to the basement, despite protests from
both Chloe and Raymie.
On their way,
Raymie grabbed what he thought was his latest hand-held video game lying on the
kitchen counter. If he was going to be locked in the cellar for a while, he may
as well have something to play with.
reached the basement, Irene turned on the transistor radio that she always kept
there. She quickly picked up the special civil defence broadcast.
It was just dawning on the
trio who sat huddled around the radio, that this was not a drill, when they
heard and saw the first explosion. Downtown Chicago was some twenty miles south
of them. When the first nuclear warhead hit it, they not only heard the
explosion, but they also felt the rumble in the ground. The darkened basement
lit up from the flash coming through two small street level windows. The windows
themselves shook from the shock waves. A short while later, they heard several
smaller explosions, with at least one of them coming from O'Hare
International Airport, just six miles away, where a bomber had dropped a smaller
bomb to destroy the runways.
family did not know it at the time, but one of those explosions came from a one
megaton warhead that veered off course and landed between De Kalb and Dixon,
some eighty miles west of them. It had been intended for a target just north of
Prospect Heights. If it had landed as planned, their house would almost
certainly have been destroyed, and if they had survived the blast, they would
have been so badly burned from radiation that they would not have lived for more
than a few days.
sat relatively safely in their basement, literally millions of Americans were
being incinerated. Millions more were receiving burns and other injuries from
which they would never recover.
happening?" Irene said to herself in bewilderment, as she ran her hands through
"Are we being
bombed?" asked Raymie. "It can't be the end of the world," he added, as if
trying to reassure himself. "It can't be; we're s'posed ta be gone before that
happens. It's not the end, is it, Mom?"
know, Raymie," Irene responded, with exasperation showing in her voice. "I've
got to think."
two," said Chloe, who had her ear pressed up against the radio.
"They're saying that Russia has launched an attack. The missiles
are from Russia. They say our defence system will stop the bombs
before they reach their targets."
that to whoever just copped that last one!" said Raymie. "Bet it hit Chicago!
Now we're gonna die too. We're gonna die; and what's God doing about it? He
isn't doing anything, is he? Why, Mom? Why?" Raymie's voice was becoming more
hysterical as the seriousness of the situation dawned on him.
Raymie! We need to pray," said Irene.
We need to pray," he almost whispered sarcastically to himself.
"We already did pray, and it was s'posed ta make us safe from all
of this. I should be in heaven right now." He turned to Irene. "What went wrong,
Mom? Why didn't we go? We're just as good as the others. How come they got
raptured and we didn't?"
know that they did get raptured," said Raymie's mother. "Maybe the rapture
hasn't happened yet."
the point, if we're still gonna hafta go through this?"
interrupted again. "Will both of you shut up? We're lucky to be alive right now.
But it's not over yet. We need to act quickly."
the cellar lights went out.
be some candles in that cupboard over the workbench," said Irene. "At least
that's where we used to keep them."
her way over to the bench and opened the door on the overhanging cupboard. Not
only were there candles, but there were matches too. She silently prayed that
they would still light, and after a couple of strikes they had a reassuring
flame perched on the workbench.
She turned to
her younger brother. "Raymie, turn the faucet on and fill up the laundry tub
with water. Quickly!" Chloe, like her father, was the pragmatist. She could see
that decisions needed to be made, and she was making them. Her urgency jerked
Raymie out of his wailing complaints, at least for a while.
to Irene. "Mom, stay by the radio and see if they tell us anything more. I need
to find a way to cover those two windows as quickly as possible. There's a lot
of radiation up there, and it's going to be around for quite a while."
Chloe found a
hammer and some nails on an old work bench. She pulled boards off an orange
crate and tacked them up in front of the two under-sized windows high up on the
basement wall. There was still some coal in the corner of the old coal bin, and
she stuffed as much of that as she could between the glass and the timber slats,
in the hope that the coal would soak up some of the radiation. By the time she
finished, she was covered with soot. But there was no time for cleaning up.
what's happening with the water?" Chloe asked.
"I filled the
laundry tub and a bucket. There's nothing else to put it in."
empty paint cans? Tip the paint out somewhere if you have to. We need to fill
every available container, no matter how dirty it is."
Raymie went back to work
looking for containers and muttering to himself about how no one would ever
catch him drinking water from a dirty old paint can. "The paint's probably worse
for me than not having any water at all," he said.
only a couple dozen candles, and two boxes of matches," Chloe said, loudly
enough for the others to hear. "We need to ration the candles and the water.
gonna eat?" asked Raymie.
least not for a while. It's too dangerous to go upstairs. In a few days we may
be able to make a quick trip to the fridge and grab something."
"In a few
days?" wailed Raymie, who had tipped nails and screws out of some empty cans and
was filling the cans with water.
"Yes, in a
few days. It won't kill us."
Irene was not
listening. She was fervently praying that God would do something to bring
meaning to all of this. She prayed that he would protect them, that Rayford
would be safe, and that she would be able to contact Pastor Billings. That was
when she saw the cell phone.
accidentally grabbed it, thinking it was a hand-held video game. She picked it
up and started dialling. She thanked God that they had paid extra for the
microwave satellite function. The Billingses had a satellite phone too.
Hopefully she would be able to get a call through to them.
Billings! Is that you?," she said when Vernon Billings picked up the receiver on
his end of the line. "This is Irene Strait. What's happening? Please tell me!"
Sister Strait," said the kindly old pastor. "Everything's gonna be all right. He
knows what he's doing."
country it's being bombed!" said Irene. "This isn't how it was supposed to
happen. We were supposed to be raptured. Is this the end of the world or what?"
Sister. It's all under control" replied Pastor Billings. "I was on the phone to
a Christian militia movement in Montana just last night. They said the Lord has
actually appeared to them out there. Yes, really! It's not quite how we expected
it to happen, but we have to flow with the Spirit, Sister. God is calling his
people from all over America to make their way to Montana. I refused to believe
it myself; but that was last night. Now I'm thinking differently."
silence on Irene's end of the phone as the pastor paused to let her respond.
"Are you with me, Sister Strait?" he asked.
sure. I'm with you," Irene replied hesitantly.
Billings continued. "We may escape this thing yet, Sister. But you'll have to be
obedient. Elaine and I are praying about it now, and we want you to do the same.
The Lord has spared us for a purpose. He's coming for us, Irene, you can be sure
of that. We just had a few of the details wrong."
"A few of the
details?!" said Chloe when Irene recounted her conversation a minute or two
later. "The destruction of America is one hell of a big detail!"
"Watch your language,"
Irene cautioned. She should have known from past experience that such a warning
would not stop her strong-willed daughter. Even bothering to make such a
correction was out of character for Irene, who tended to let her children do
what they liked.
Chloe," Irene said quickly. "It's all the pressure." And then she looked at her
daughter in the light of the candle, with soot all over her face, and she longed
once again for her to accept Jesus. Tears began to flow as she spoke, "This may
be your last chance, honey. Wouldn't you like to get right with the Lord now, so
that you can go with us?"
going with anyone until I'm sure that it's safe out there," said Chloe. And then
she added, "You aren't seriously thinking of going with him, are you? You'll get
are we supposed to do?" asked Raymie. "Just sit here and starve to death?"
her brother's frustration, but she did not let on. "What we need to do is sit
here and listen to the radio. Civil Defence knows what's best. They said
radiation is at its worst for the first 24 hours after the explosion. It could
be suicidal to go out there now. Someone may come and rescue us. Or they may
decide that it's safe for us to come out after a while. We just have to keep our
heads and not panic. What they're saying now is for people to find shelter and
Just then the
phone rang. Irene picked it up. It was Rayford.
sorry to bother you at such an odd hour. I was worrying about you."
"Oh Rayford! It's awful!
Chicago has been bombed, and some other cities too No, seriously! It's on the
radio We're not hurt, just hiding in the basement Are you okay? When will you be
home? London? Why London? But you will be back tonight, won't you? Oh, this is
awful! Just awful! Yes, I understand. I'll try. Do you have any idea how long
you might be? I can't hear you. Your voice is breaking up Oh dear, I've lost
Continental, the airlines for which Rayford flew, had been the first to
experiment with microwave satellite equipment on transatlantic flights. It was
only good for a short, specified distance on each flight, but it meant that
pilots had one more window through which to receive important information on
long, lonely flights. Rayford had obviously used some of his precious satellite
time to contact Irene.
to the children. "Daddy couldn't land because of the bombs. He's on his way back
to London. At least he's safe, and he knows we are too."
There is disagreement over whether Christians will be taken to heaven
before the Great Tribulation, or after. Both sides agree: (1) That the seven
'trumpets' in chapters 8-10 of The Revelation refer to events that take place
during the period called "The Great Tribulation"; and (2) That I Corinthians
15:51-52 is talking about what is called the Rapture -- when Christians will be
caught up to meet Jesus in the air at his return. We need to study these
passages to find the answer to the question about which comes first.
15:51 says that the rapture will take place "at the sounding of the last
trumpet". So when would that be? Before or after the seven trumpets of the
Tribulation? Easy, isn't it?
says that "immediately after the tribulation of those days", God will send his
angels to gather together those who believe in him, so that they can meet him as
he returns to earth. (Matthew 24:29-31)
Christians do not have to go through the Tribulation is popular, because it is
what people want so badly to hear. But it is not supported by scripture. It is a
question in this debate is this: "What are the comparative risks involved in
each approach?" Anyone bracing for the worst would not have a problem if proved
wrong. But someone looking for an early escape would be in great despair if
their theory proved unreliable.
The control towers were in chaos, both at Gatwick and at Heathrow in
fact, all over Europe, as they tried to deal with so many returning flights. On
his headphones in the cockpit of the big 747, Rayford Strait had been able to
pick up something about a charter flight missing off the coast of Scotland. It
had run out of fuel while trying to get back to England. There was no telling
what had become of the many flights which would not have had enough fuel to make
it back to Europe. They would have been forced to put down
somewhere in North America, with or without airport runways. There must have
been dozens of crashes.
When Rayford had landed and walked into the airport, he
started to get a clearer picture of the enormity of the problem. Amidst the
pandemonium of flight cancellations and unscheduled arrivals the airport was
abuzz with talk about a huge pre-emptive military strike against the United
States, by Russia. It was 2pm in London, but only 8am in Chicago. The sun had
not even come up on the West Coast of America yet, and it would be a few hours
before any video coverage would be available, but every news station in the
world was interrupting its normal programming to give sketchy first reports of
estimates put the deaths at five million. Later reports would verify that the
loss in human life was already several times that figure, and it would almost
double over the next few weeks.
cities, highways, and airports meant that reconstruction was out of the question
even if there had been no nuclear fallout to worry about. The entire country was
without government, without power, without communication, and without vital
transportation links. The central business district of nearly a hundred major
American cities had been entirely wiped out. If the attack had not come in the
middle of the night, the loss in human lives would have been several times
the inner cities had been destroyed, and along with them had gone their entire
on-duty medical staffs. What medical and rescue services were still available
had to function almost without administration, and that was assuming that the
rescue personnel themselves were still alive and able to work. America was
suddenly back in the middle ages; everyone was being forced to fend for
themselves to survive.
services throughout the English-speaking world were quick to start marshalling
forces to airlift rescue supplies, protective clothing, and medical personnel to
America, Mexico, and Canada. The wounded would need to be treated as quickly as
possible, although for many hundreds of thousands, even treatment would not save
them. Those who were already dead would most likely be left where they were.
mixed feelings from the non-English-speaking world. Everyone was, of course,
shocked. But U.S. President Gerald Fitzhugh had made many enemies with his
growing military involvement in world affairs. Or perhaps it was because of his
non-involvement. Whereas he had been quick to volunteer troops to wipe out
anyone he regarded as terrorists, he had been turning a blind eye to the growing
number of right-wing military dictatorships that were spreading around the
globe, especially those in Africa and South America.
from Tibet, had been elected Secretary General of the United Nations one year
earlier, two years after Tibet had been admitted to the world body. Although his
policies were wildly popular with the Third World, his hands had been tied
because of America's veto power in the U.N. Security
Council. Dangchao wanted to erase the Third World debt and to do
away with prejudicial import/export duties, which had the effect of favouring
rich nations and further crippling the poorer ones. America's weak justification
for opposing the scheme was just that Dangchao was trying to do "too much too
backed by Russia and China, who were as stubborn as America about vetoing
American proposals for military intervention in countries where basic human
rights were being abused. Of course, the U.S. had other avenues, and other
treaties (like the old NATO alliance), that it could call on when ways were
needed to circumvent a veto from either Russia or China.
President Fitzhugh found that the more he had played God with the future of
other countries, the easier it had become to justify interference even when the
civil rights abuses by the side he was helping were worse than those by the ones
he was committing America to destroy.
Of course the
American public had lapped it all up. The important thing, politically, was that
Fitzhugh had not lost a single skirmish while he had been in office. As long as
he was careful to target small revolutionary movements and to hit them hard and
hit them without warning, he was almost guaranteed success. Troops
would no sooner return triumphant from one conflict than he would be sending out
more to settle another dispute. Americans were more proud than ever to be
Americans. They truly saw themselves as the saviours of the world. And President
Fitzhugh, with his claim to being born again, never missed an opportunity to
enlist God in his campaigns, and to remind the voters that God was on his
But now, with
America in the throes of death, Russia and China had nothing to fear either from
Fitzhugh, or from Britain or France -- the other two permanent members of the
Security Council. It appeared that all three of the dissenting nations had been
well and truly subdued in the space of just a few hours!
Rayford was told to get some sleep, but to stay in touch with the
airport, so that he could be called in if his plane was needed for a mercy
mission. All commercial flights to the U.S. had been cancelled. The British
government had already declared a state of emergency. This meant that the
British military would take command of all local airlines and all local airline
pilots. Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and many European nations were
making similar moves to assist. Supplies urgently needed to be
flown to North America, and refugees needed to be flown out. The entire
population of the U. S. was about to be evacuated at least what remained of it.
been no reports of damage in Canada, apart from a couple of hits in unpopulated
regions, and these were apparently caused by defective missiles. It seemed that
Russia's war was only with the U.S., and not with Canada.
Australia, and other countries that were sympathetic with America had also
escaped without a hint of attack. So airports in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal,
Quebec, and Vancouver were being geared up for round the clock arrivals and
departures. Rayford, along with all other available pilots, would be playing an
important part in the rescue operation.
was tired from the trip, there was too much happening for Rayford to sleep
straight away. He checked into the Airport Hilton, then laid on the bed fully
clothed. He stared at the ceiling and thought deeply. He thought about Irene and
about Chloe and about Raymie. His concerns turned only briefly to other
relatives in the U.S. who might have been hit. Telephone communication with the
United States was virtually impossible because so many lines had been knocked
out. Even satellite phones were being affected by the fallout. Rayford had
bought Irene one of the new microwave satphones, so that he could call her from
the cockpit when passing through the relatively narrow band on the Pan-Con route
from London to Chicago. That would now be his main link with her. He would
probably be able to give her another call on his flight back to Canada.
thought of how it must have been for the millions who had already died.
Then he thought of Irene and the children down in the basement.
There was comfort in knowing that they were still alive With any luck, he would
be talking to them again within the next 24 hours. He took a moment to thank God
for that. In time, he hoped to be able to find a way to get rescuers to the
house, so they could take his family to safety.
Late in the
afternoon, after a few hours of fitful sleep, Rayford awoke, showered, and then
left word at the hotel desk that he was catching a cab to the airport. He
figured that airline officials could tell him more about what was happening than
he would be able to learn from any other news source.
A visit to
the airline offices above the departure lounge revealed that Rayford had been
assigned to fly out at six the next morning, on a flight to Toronto. There would
be only a few passengers, but the plane would also carry tents, medical
supplies, food, and radiation-proof clothing. They were already being loaded in
a special hangar at the south end of the airport.
further learned that, when word had begun to spread, only hours after the
bombing had stopped, that Canada had not been hit, this had started a mass
northern exodus from the United States. The northern highways were already
packed with people fleeing the scene. Canadian authorities were frantically
trying to set up refugee camps to contain them.
it was nearly summer, so thousands of people were quickly accommodated outside,
near Canada's border with the U.S. This left churches and school auditoriums
free to be turned into hospitals for the wounded. Helicopters and land rescue
vehicles started almost immediately to ferry the wounded out of the northern
states; but even then they were only able to service a few of the worst hit
cities. Vancouver was caring for the wounded from Seattle, Portland, and
Spokane; Toronto was taking survivors from Detroit, Cleveland, and Buffalo; and
Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec were doing what they could to help refugees from the
area that included Boston, Rochester, Philadelphia, and New York City.
At the same
time, Canadians themselves were panicking about the fallout that was headed
their way. Airports in all of the major cities were packed with passengers
waiting for stand-by seats out of the country. Hundreds of flights which would
have normally been destined for the U.S. were quickly rerouted to Canada, where
airlines could be guaranteed to fill every seat, regardless of what they charged
or where their destination was to be. Officials from Emergency Preparedness
Canada were frantically trying to set up priority criteria for determining who
should be allowed to take the first flights out of the country.
A TV in the
Heathrow VIP lounge updated viewers on how many U.S. cities and airports had
been demolished. Aircraft were still able to come and go from some smaller
airstrips. But that would not be enough to meet the far more urgent needs of the
larger cities -- cities like Chicago -- which were the ones that had suffered
the greatest losses. Milwaukee and St. Paul/Minneapolis, both closer to Canada
than Chicago, were on their own in providing transport to the refugee camps
being set up by their northern neighbours.
Gerald Fitzhugh and his family were believed to be trapped beneath the capital
building in Washington, D.C., where they had been rushed to shelter as soon as
the alert went up. If a bomb had landed close enough to bring down the White
House (which appeared to be the case), then escape for those beneath it would
not be easy.
had survived the bombing were being told via radio broadcasts to seek shelter
and to await further instructions. There would be attempts to relocate them to
places away from the fallout; but first the authorities needed to establish
exactly where that might be. Weather reports before the attack showed a cold
front moving southeast across the Midwest. The fallout cloud would, therefore,
be likely to move in that direction. However this was only good news for people
on the American West Coast, because for every cloud moving away from other
localities, there was another coming toward them from the west.
strikes in San Diego, Anaheim, L.A., Fresno, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco,
Portland, Eugene, Tacoma, Seattle, and Spokane, states on the West Coast were
amongst the most heavily hit anyway. Only the area between Boston and Washington
had been more heavily hit.
see from the first film footage of refugees heading for Canada, that he and his
family would not have much chance of reunion through that route. Both sides of
the freeways were being used for northbound traffic, which was at a standstill
in places and only creeping along in others. Traffic had to detour around major
cities and other badly damaged roads. Against such a flow of traffic, only
emergency vehicles had any hope of travelling south.
themselves were becoming increasingly blocked by vehicles without fuel, which
had to be pushed to the side of the road and deserted. That left the drivers and
passengers of those vehicles to venture forward on foot. Days out on the road
would mean days more exposed to the deadly fallout. Civil Defence warned against
trying to escape before it could be established that there was someplace safe to
go. But millions took no heed.
too far away from Toronto to attract Toronto's limited rescue resources But some
local authorities in the Chicago area were commandeering aircraft, vehicles, and
even ships to ferry survivors north. Everyone working on rescue operations was
putting themselves at risk, and protective clothing was urgently required.
some consolation in knowing that, even if he could not get to his own family, he
would be helping the overall rescue effort. In time his involvement might give
him the opening that he needed to help Irene and the kids as well.
the VIP lounge at about 7pm and headed for the cab rank. He had learned as much
as he could, and now it was time to get a few more hours of sleep before his
departure. On the way out of the airport lobby, he was approached by a slim,
blond man, in his thirties. The shabbily dressed man stuck a booklet in
Rayford's face and asked in a broad German accent if he wanted to read it. The
Fall of America was the title. It appeared above a picture of an upside-down
American flag. Rayford pushed the man aside in disgust.
someone ready to cash in on the sufferings of others! he thought to himself. But
just as he walked out the door of the airport, it hit him: The attack had only
taken place a few hours ago! How could someone in England already have produced
a booklet telling about it? He raced back into the airport, his eyes searching
in every direction for the man. The little German was near the Pan-Con ticket
counter, talking to two or three other people, who also appeared to be sending
you get that? Who wrote it?" Rayford whispered almost at the level of a shout,
when he had caught the man's attention by grabbing his arm. He was trying hard
not to create a scene, and yet he was desperate to know what was going on.
friends... together, vee wrote it," the man replied, half in fear. "You are
interested?" he asked.
interested!" said Rayford emphatically. "Very interested. But first tell me how
you knew it was going to happen."
Bible prophecy," said the softly-spoken little man. "And vee pray. Vee have been
saying dat dis vould happen. Vee have been saying it for a few years now. It is
most imperative dat you read dis book." His brow was wrinkled in an almost
exaggerated show of seriousness. But then, how could anyone possibly exaggerate
the seriousness of what had just happened in America?
German went on dramatically: "Udder sings are coming too Ferry serious sings."
wanted to read the book; but he also wanted some instant answers. He offered the
man -- Reinhard was his name -- a meal, if he would sit down and talk to him.
"It is most
important dat I get dese books to da people," replied Reinhard. "Vee can talk
Rayford begged, almost in tears now. "I'll be flying to Canada tonight. My
family is over there. I must know what is going on before I leave."
sensed an urgency in Rayford's voice that he must not have found in his other
clients, because he quickly backed down. "Vere do you vant to talk?" he asked.
him to a table in the nearest restaurant, ordered a meal for them both and then
opened the floor for Reinhard to explain what was going on.
happening now it is yudgement from God on America. But it is also opening for
Russia to control da United Nations. You understand?" Rayford knew of the
growing unrest throughout the world at what many countries considered was
America's abuse of power within the U. N. That much of Reinhard's explanation
made sense, but it was not what he was looking for.
telling me that you knew this was going to happen just from reading the Bible?"
he asked incredulously.
show all vat you vish to know in such short time. You vill read it in the book."
In his clipped German manner, Reinhard's promise sounded more like a command.
"You vill see for yourself. For now, vee have little time. I must move quickly.
The Bible tells of five vorld powers. They are a bear, an eagle, a lion, a
leopard, and a rooster. Dese are signs for Russia, America, England, Africa, and
France." He counted them off on his fingers. "You must know, dee leopard is
being now used as sign of solidarity for da Tird Vorld."
finding it difficult to follow, but he decided to let Reinhard carry on.
France, and America can veto plans by Russia and China in dee United Nations.
Dee udder ten Security Council members dey are called rotating members... Dey
come from dee udder countries."
Rayford, who was showing only mild interest at this stage. He had other
questions that he wanted to ask, but he would wait a bit longer.
on. "Dee eagle's vings are plucked. You vill see it in the book. It is in the
Bible. Dis bombing, it is dee plucking of dee eagle's vings. After falls dee
eagle, da lion dat is, England loses its power. Da rooster vings, dey join vit
da leopard. Dat is France and all of Europe joining vit da Tird Vorld. You see,
it is because da bear Russia subdues Dat is to say she stops three vorld powers
from fighting against her. She does it by plucking da vings of da eagle. Vit
help from dee udder ten nations da new leader vill control da vorld."
losing patience. "I'm not interested in all the political stuff," he
said. "Do you have any answers? My family is over there. If you
really know what is going on, what can I do for them? What should I
"It is God's
punishment," Reinhard said soberly. "If dey are alive, dey vill be forced to
leave. No one vill live dere ever again. God is angry vit the shurch people in
people?" Rayford said with genuine surprise. "Why the church people?" He was
thinking of Irene.
"Dey fight da
teachings of sheesus. Dey do not prepare for vat is coming, and dey do not tell
the truth to udders."
"My wife is a
church person," Rayford responded indignantly. "She was always talking about
this this something called The Great Tribulation."
"No, no! Dis
is not da Great Tribulation yet," said Reinhard. Dis is only da start of vat is
coming. But your vife she needs faith dat is strong enough to go through da
Great Tribulation. I do not sink she vill find it in the shurches."
need to go through it least not the way she tells it," Rayford replied. He was
surprised to hear himself defending something he had always scoffed at.
"She says that she will be taken to heaven before it happens."
"And did she
tell you dat America vas going to be punished before she goes to heffen?"
Reinhard asked quietly, as he stared at his lap. When Rayford did not answer
immediately, Reinhard raised his head, and then his blond eyebrows in further
finally spoke. "Well, I don't know. I don't recall her saying anything about
that." Even as he spoke, he was thinking about how emotional Irene had been on
the phone. "Maybe she missed that part."
need help spiritual help." Reinhard said sympathetically. He went on slowly, as
though talking to himself: "It is so ferry hard for the shurch people Dey cannot
say ven dey are wrong." Then he looked Rayford directly in the eyes, and spoke
slowly and deliberately, his own eyes opening wide as he spoke. "You must not
let her run avay. She vill vant to run off and find her Sheesus."
not like hearing his wife talked about in such a way at a time when he was so
close to losing her. He would take the time to study Reinhard's book more
closely later, but he was not getting any information from this strange little
man that would help him in his present situation. So he excused himself and left
Reinhard to finish his meal alone.
wondered as he glanced back at the skinny little street preacher wolfing the
last of the food down, just how long it had been since Reinhard's last meal.
Predictions about the fall of America are mostly based on Daniel 7:1-7
and Revelation 13:1-2. Daniel's prophecy is usually assumed to be about the
original Babylonian Empire (represented by a Lion with Eagle wings), the Persian
Empire (represented by a Bear), the Greek Empire (represented by a Leopard with
four chicken wings), and the Roman Empire (represented by a horrible 'Beast'
that devours the whole earth). And yet these same symbols apply to four of the
five members of the U.N. Security Council. (The symbol for the fifth member,
China, is a Dragon.) Only the leopard (or panther) is not a prominent national
symbol today, except as a sykmbol for Africa, militant Blacks, or, perhaps, the
13:2, a future world power is described which has attributes of all the animals
listed in Daniel 7, except the Eagle. The Eagle, apparently, no longer exists at
There are ten
rotating members of the U.N. Security Council, taken from the rest of the world.
The Bible says that with the help of ten "kings" a resurrected world power will
destroy another world power described as a Prostitute... who rules over world
trade. (Revevelation 17:1-5, 12-16) And her name is Babylon.
Encyclopedia Britannica lists only one city in the modern world which is named
Babylon. It is located on Long Island, in New York City, not far from the New
York Stock Exchange!
When the sun
was up, enough light filtered into the basement of the Strait's house in
Prospect Heights, to enable the three prisoners to find their way around without
the use of a candle.
designated one corner of the basement as the latrine. Water was no longer
flowing through the pipes, so she urged everyone to drink their fill of water
from one of the smaller containers, and then instructed them to use that to
catch their urine. They would do that with all of the containers as the water
"We may have
to recycle it if we run out of water," Chloe explained.
Raymie. "Like why don't we just get water from upstairs?"
"One problem," said Chloe.
"There is none. Pipes have probably broken somewhere closer to where the bomb
hit. We may be able to get something from the refrigerator in a few days; but
even that won't be much more than a water bottle and some ice cube trays. I'm
not saying that we would actually drink our own urine; but we have to be
prepared, just in case."
some old newspapers and put them in one corner, along with some cardboard boxes
to catch bowel movements.
"And what are
we going to do about the smell?" asked Raymie.
"One of two
things," said Chloe, who was beginning to lose patience with her younger
brother. "Either we put up with it or we bellyache. And we already know which
you will do."
remained silent and deep in thought. She was facing a difficult decision.
Then, at 9am,
according to Chloe's watch, some five hours after the bombs had landed, the trio
looked up as one when they heard footsteps running across the floor above them.
The basement door flew open and Vernon and Elaine Billings came tripping down
the steps. Light from the house above was blinding to those who had become
accustomed to maneuvering in the dark, and the darkness below was equally
blinding to Vernon and Elaine.
Close the door!" shouted Chloe. Elaine Billings promptly shut the door, and then
reached out for her husband's shoulder as she stumbled in the darkness. Vernon
Billings was a big man, and he had no difficulty holding up his much smaller
certainly is dark down here!" Pastor Billings remarked, as he held tightly to
the railing. "Don't you have any candles?"
"We do, but
we're conserving them," Chloe said coldly. She knew that she should be more
polite to the minister and his wife. They were always sweet and polite to her.
And yet something about them rubbed her the wrong way.
Strait, you must hear what has happened!" exclaimed Vernon Billings. "Go ahead!
Tell them Elaine!"
Billings obediently responded. "You see, Irene, we prayed about this business in
Montana, after Vern talked to you on the phone this morning. We asked God to
give us a sign if this really was him.
"We were both
sitting there in the cellar, having breakfast when it happened. Vern heard this
voice. Well, we both did," she said, with a nervous look toward her husband.
"And it said 'Come!' Just like that: 'Come!' "
Billings picked up the story from there. "We talked about it for a while, and
then Elaine went up to the kitchen and brought down her promise box. We pulled
out a card and it was the one from the end of Mark's Gospel, where it says, 'If
you eat any deadly thing, it will not hurt you.'
"Can you see
what God was saying, Sister? He was giving us a promise that he would protect us
if we would just head out for Montana right now. We've packed up food, water,
and a few clothes, and we're ready to go.
"But we want
to give you a chance to come too. Are you with us, Sister?"
in sweetly, "Please come with us, Irene."
"Oh, I don't
know," Irene answered. "Are you sure it's safe? Wouldn't it be better to wait a
little while first?"
"And miss out
on the rapture?" asked Elaine. "Look, we've been out there in the open for at
least half an hour now, and we're as good as gold. I was scared at first too,
but I'm not now."
protect you, Irene." Pastor Billings said softly. "I'm sure of it. Please, trust
him, and come with us, Irene!"
Mom?" asked Raymie. "It's better than staying in here. Look, it hasn't hurt
you, Chloe? Will you come with us?" Irene asked, the pained expression on her
face pleading desperately with her daughter.
"No way! If
you want to do something stupid like that, I I don't want to be a part of it.
Seriously, Mom, do you think this is the way God would do it? I think you're all
panicking because things didn't turn out the way you expected. Just admit that
you were wrong. It's no big deal!"
against this doubting spirit!" Pastor Billings said as his eyes narrowed and he
lifted his hand toward Chloe. The big man looked even bigger as he stood a few
steps from the bottom of the stairs in the semidarkness. Chloe recoiled in
shock. She had never seen this side of the man before, and she did not like it
"I rebuke you
doubting spirit, in Jesus' name!" he shouted dramatically. And then Pastor
Billings lowered his hand and resumed his saccharin voice. "The car's waiting,
Sister," he said softly. "It's your choice now. You can step out in faith or you
can stay here and miss the rapture. What will it be, Dear? It's time to leave."
And he started to move back up the steps.
Chloe!" said Irene pathetically. "Please come with us!" as she too moved toward
"Mom, no! You
don't know what you're doing!" Chloe shouted, shocked that her mother was so
quick to believe two people who had talked themselves into believing what they,
too, badly wanted to believe. "What about Daddy?"
that I love him," was all that Irene could get out before she turned and raced,
sobbing, up the steps. Elaine and Vernon had already reopened the door and
stepped out into the hallway near the kitchen.
coming, Raymie?" Irene said almost as an afterthought. She had naturally assumed
that young Raymie would go along with whatever she decided.
"Bye, Sis," Raymie said,
with a one-armed hug. "Sorry for all the bad times I gave you." And he too
headed up the steps.
Chloe was too
shocked to answer. Raymie was at the top of the stairs before she could say a
word, and then all she said was, "Raymie No"
And they were
The description of the situation on earth prior to the return of Jesus is
one of people panicking because he has not turned up at the time when they had
been expecting him to come. Jesus warns, in Matthew 24: "If they should say to
you, 'Go here, or Go there!' go not after them. If they say that he is in the
desert', do not go after them. Or if they say that he is in a secret place, do
not believe it. For as the lightning is seen from the East to the West, even so
will the coming of the Son of Man be." (verses 23-27)
So much for
any "secret rapture"!
source of the secret rapture doctrine and a lot of other teachings in the church
world today is one of escapism. It is so easy to deceive ourselves into
believing what we want to believe, whether or not it is true. It could be a
teaching that we will never be sick, or that we will be prosperous, or that we
can go on disobeying Jesus and God will overlook it, or that we will not have to
go through the Tribulation. All such teachings are popular, not because they are
true, but because they are so appealing. They say what people want to hear.
Christians are able to acknowledge error when it is pointed out (through
circumstances if nothing else), they will only replace one form of escapism with
an even more bizarre form, in an effort to further escape facing their
When he was
back at the Hilton, Rayford opened the booklet. He noted on the back cover that
Reinhard and his friends called themselves Jesans. He then turned to the book's
We all find
it easier to see faults in others than it is to see them in ourselves. The
people of America are no exception. When you observe all the religious activity
in the United States today, it is easy to see how people (both in and out of the
churches) have been fooled into confusing religion with real faith. But
religious activities, rituals, even emotional experiences have little to do with
good old-fashioned obedience to the things that Jesus taught in the Bible. And
America's disobedience will be punished before anyone else's, because those who
know the most have the most to answer for.
introduction went on...
If it is any
consolation, the Bible promises that there will be an even bigger day of
reckoning for the rest of the world than that which will fall on the United
States of America. But the Bible also says that judgment must begin with those
who claim to be God's people. (I Peter 4:17) And as we will elaborate on in this
booklet, the judgment of America is going to make the destruction of Sodom and
Gomorrah sound like a Sunday School picnic.
that much is true," thought Rayford Strait. He then read on:
happens that God often used a convenient heathen nation to judge his
people--Israel. Because America is the New Testament equivalent of Israel, God
will use atheistic communism to carry out his judgment on America. No big deal.
It's not a spiritual competition between America and any other
political power. It's just a matter of personal accountability on
the part of those who should know better.
is reported to have once said, "If God doesn't destroy America, he owes Sodom
and Gomorrah an apology." The assumption, of course, is that God should destroy
America because of its homosexuality, or its atheism, or its prostitution, or
gambling, or drugs, or abortions. But presumably not because of the sins of the
churches: materialism, pride, hypocrisy, self-righteousness, or any of the other
things that Jesus actually got cranked up about.
assumed that there were at least 100 righteous people in Sodom in his day. He
probably did so because many of them attended his synagogue or supported his
evangelistic crusades. But God knew otherwise. Abraham had been deceived by
religious double-talk. When Jesus compared the sins of Sodom to the sins of our
day, he made no mention of homosexuality, witchcraft, or any of the sensational
stuff. He just said the problem was materialism and family commitments, even
amongst those who attended the synagogue (or whatever the "churches" were called
in those days).
It was about
this stage that Rayford lost interest. He had maintained peace in his marriage
through an unspoken truce with Irene: He would tolerate her church involvement
if she would tolerate his non-involvement. At times he had consented to attend
church in exchange for favours from her; but what the Jesans were suggesting was
that he should get religion and alienate himself from Irene at the same time.
What a lose/lose situation!
He tossed the
book into his travel bag and went to sleep.
Rayford returned to the airport to fly the 6am mercy flight to Toronto. A few
hours out of London, he entered the satphone communication band.
Unfortunately, most of that precious time was taken up with
official information coming from airport control in Toronto.
happened, Rayford had made a short list of what needed to be said to Irene, so
that he could make the best use of the few seconds that remained of satphone
time, when the official business had been completed. Although it was after 3am
in Illinois, Chloe answered on the second ring. That was fortunate, thought
Rayford. Chloe was a clearer thinker than Irene, and she would follow his
is Dad. I only have one minute, so listen closely. Do you have a pencil and
turn the phone off for 48 hours after I hang up, so the battery will last
longer. Got it?"
already thought of that, and she had left the phone turned off for much of the
previous day, since she knew her father could not have made another call for at
least 18 hours. Although she badly wanted to share her news, she was still
taking notes as she had been told to do. "Yes, I've got that. But, Dad"
"I'll be in Toronto by 8:30
your time, and I'll make sure that the rescue people there know about you. I'll
phone with more details on my way back to London in a couple of days."
shouted. "Mom's gone!"
where?" Rayford assumed that Irene had gone out to get some provisions,
forgetting that it was three in the morning in Prospect Heights.
know! Somewhere in Montana. She went with Vernon and Elaine Billings yesterday.
They think Jesus is out there. Raymie went with them. I tried to stop them, Dad.
deeply shocked, it took only a moment for Rayford to conclude that his primary
duty lay with rescuing Chloe now. Only a few seconds remained in the satphone
deal with that later," he said. "But for now, what's your situation, honey?"
must have made a mental list of things to say. This was her chance to use it.
Dad. Water is a bigger concern than food at the moment, but there's no urgent
need. So far I'm feeling fine, just a bit tired."
getting more static than information now. Their window of communication was
coming to an end.
great, honey! I love you!" Rayford shouted, not knowing whether she heard any of
thoughts returned to the shocker. Irene. Run off to Montana to find Jesus?
Surely his wife was more sane than that! What could she have been thinking? Then
he remembered Reinhard's expression of concern about Irene doing just that. How
could this total stranger have known that she would behave so out of character?
He had asked Reinhard for some practical advice, but then he had missed it when
it was offered. How embarrassing!
The plane was
on automatic, so Rayford turned to his first officer. "Can you watch things for
an hour or so, Chris?" he asked.
squinted as he looked out the window to the path ahead of them. "Roger," he
replied dutifully. "No problem."
fished the book which he had dismissed so casually a few hours earlier, out of
his travel bag.
By the time
they reached Canada, he had a much better understanding of what the Jesans were
predicted a Russian missile attack over the North Pole. They had also prophesied
that all survivors would be evacuated from America, and that the entire country
would be abandoned because of fallout and because of the extent of the damage.
rise in new diseases, an increase in the number and intensity of earthquakes,
and spreading danger from destruction of the ozone layer were also referenced
from Bible prophecy.
predictions had not yet taken place, and those interested Rayford even more. He
made a mental note of each of them. In particular, he was struck by what the
book had to say about changes in the United Nations. From the news broadcasts it
appeared that Russia's war with America had ended as quickly as it had started.
Russia had even come forward with offers to assist in the American aid and
evacuation operation. Secretary General Dangchao had held a press conference
only hours after the news broke, in which he assumed responsibility for
co-ordinating the relief effort. The whole attack was being treated more like a
natural disaster than a war for which Russia was totally responsible.
Rayford that the Jesans' little book could have so accurately predicted it all.
The book explained how America's greed had actually created much of the world's
poverty. The brain drain, monopolies on information technology, multinational
investment strategies in the Third World, and the transformation of limited
Third World farmland into luxury crops like tea, rubber, coffee, cotton, sugar,
tobacco, spices, and fast-growing timber forests all depleted the Third World of
badly needed labour, technology, and resources for their own development.
Unbelievable waste in America came at the expense of the rest of the world. Even
U.S. aid was calculated to enhance American power, through loans
and military aid. At best American aid was like offering a band-aid to someone
whom they had just tortured to death.
considered arguing with all that he read; but by the time that he had finished
reading, he was beginning to doubt a few of his own arguments.
* * *
It had been a
little over 24 hours since the first missiles had hit. Already hundreds of
thousands of refugees were pouring into Canada from the U.S. Few of the first
arrivals were seriously injured, but most were showing early signs of radiation
sickness: nausea, tiredness, loss of appetite. For some this would develop into
dangerous infections, destruction of intestinal linings, brain damage, and even
death. This was the price they would pay for having exposed themselves so soon
after the bombs went off.
The whole of
Toronto (like other Canadian cities) was being pushed into action to accommodate
their southern neighbours. It seemed already that things were out of control,
and the real rush had barely begun. Over six million people would be processed
through the city of Toronto alone over the next two months.
the next two days going from one agency to another looking for help for Chloe.
He would telephone first, but whenever he found someone who might be hopeful, he
would catch a cab and turn up in person, hoping to make himself known to some
official who could give him favoured treatment when an opportunity arose to
reach Chloe. Along the way, he donated a pint of blood, and put in a couple of
hours constructing tents at a football field on the south side of the city. His
interest was not totally selfish. He genuinely wanted to help.
In the end he
had to settle for supplying particulars on Chloe, Irene, Raymie, and the
Billingses to a growing international register, which would be used to determine
the number of fatalities, and to link up loved ones as survivors turned up.
The Pan Con
schedule called for Rayford to return to London on Friday evening.
It was against normal regulations for him to be making a third
flight in so few days; but personally, he would have been happy to leave
earlier. In terms of reaching Chloe, he was almost as helpless in Toronto as he
had been in London. But each flight meant one more call to Chloe
at least until the phone battery went dead.
Chloe, Raymie, and Irene were his main concern, Rayford had also been thinking
about what Reinhard had said, and about his own relationship with God. He had
always believed in God, even though he rarely mentioned it. In a crisis he would
instinctively ask for help from God. Although his arguments against the church
were mostly excuses for his own indifference to spiritual matters, he fully
believed that real faith required something more than what he saw in the
Now it looked
like he may have found it. Churchy efforts to convert him had been an
irritation; but the Jesans' very existence was far more irritating. Here were
people who apparently had the goods. They could see through the shallowness of
religion--including American evangelicalism--and they were offering a real
alternative. He was bothered by what he heard, but at the same time, he needed
to know more.
So on Friday
morning, Rayford called the cell phone number that Reinhard had given him, to
see if he could arrange a meeting with the Jesans when he had returned to
"Vee will be
distributing in Hounslow on Saturday, and spending tomorrow night at Heston
services, on the M-4," Reinhard said.
have an office?" Rayford asked.
"No, ve yust
have a friend's garage, vere vee keep our tracts," Reinhard answered.
"But where do
"In da van.
You vill see tomorrow," Reinhard promised.
There are many prophecies that warn of a surprise military attack on
Israel "from the north". A number of Bible expositors have seen Russia as the
one making the attack. However, most overlooked the fact that the United States
is the modern day equivalent of Israel, and that an attack on the U.S. by Russia
from over the North Pole would also be "from the north". In the opening chapter
of the book of Jeremiah, God asks the prophet what he is looking at one night,
and he says that he is looking at a pot of boiling water. He says, "The face
thereof is toward the north." God goes on to tell him that the pot symbolises
trouble that is coming from the north trouble that will put his people in "hot
water" figuratively speaking. (Jeremiah 1:13--14) It is interesting that the
most significant constellation in the Northern Hemisphere is the Big Dipper (or
'big pot'), and that you need only line up the two stars on the "face" of it to
locate the North Star. The North Star is the most significant
star in yet another constellation the constellation called in
Latin, Ursa (or Russia) the Bear!
nearing nine o'clock on a cool Friday evening in May. The scene was a remote
highway interchange in the far north of the American Midwest. At any other time
in history, it may have been a night to reflect on the beauties of creation. But
in the midst of the greatest destruction the world had ever known, this was no
place for such grand thoughts.
looked across the campfire at the older man. She had feelings of pity for him,
but they were mixed with feelings of disillusionment that bordered on revulsion.
For years she had respected him--maybe even idolised him. She had often wished
that her own husband could be more like him. Even now Vernon Billings showed
outstanding strength and determination. His obsession with reaching Montana
continued to drive him on, even though it was looking more and more like he
would eventually die from the effects of his foolhardy decision.
It would not be fair to
call Vernon Billings a con man, for if he was, he had conned himself as well. He
had offered to sleep out on the ground that first night, outside of Eau Claire,
Minnesota, so that Raymie and the women could sleep more comfortably inside the
car. Only when it had started to rain and he had become drenched, had he sought
refuge with them inside the vehicle. Fallout from the bombing in Minneapolis was
already on the ground, and more came down with the rain.
out again on Thursday night, just inside the North Dakota state border, on
Highway 94. All of this exposure had made his prognosis much worse than that of
most of the other pilgrims camped inside the cloverleaf on the intersection
between Highway 94, going west, and Highway 85, going north to Regina, Canada.
But Irene was
not thinking about what had motivated Vernon to camp out on the first two
nights, whether it was heroism or stupidity. What she was thinking about was his
behaviour that same day.
water were scarce and expensive; but gasoline was the biggest concern for
millions of travellers on the nation's highways. Tankers were no longer
operating, so stations that sold at normal prices had quickly exhausted their
stocks. Traffic was bumper to bumper in places, and often stop and go, as cars
sought ways around damaged sections of the highway and around abandoned cars.
This slowed progress and increased fuel consumption as well. By Friday
morning, any stations that still had fuel could name their own price. Checks and
credit cards were useless, and it was not possible to get funds from the banks.
The Prospect Heights pilgrims had less than $100 left when they had pulled into
a station just before noon, advertising gas for $1,000 a tank. The situation was
Billings stopped the big Lincoln Town Car next to the pumps and leaned his head
on the steering wheel for a moment while he prayed. He then lifted his head,
leaned over Elaine to pull a cloth bag from the glove box, and turned to Irene
in the back seat. "Irene, can you put the nozzle in the tank and start pumping
when the attendant turns it on?" Irene caught a look of horror on Elaine's face.
Don't." Elaine began.
the motor running to save time," Vernon said, ignoring Elaine as he headed for
the gas station store. He stayed inside while Irene filled up. When she had
replaced the gas hose, Vernon ran out, hopped into the driver's seat and
squealed the tires as he tore out of the driveway.
No one said
anything, but they all knew that he had used the gun in the cloth bag to get the
like I robbed it," he said, as Elaine glared at him from the passenger seat. "I
left him all the money we had. He was the one doing the robbing. It was
was said that whole day, although Irene and Raymie exchanged looks of surprise
and bewilderment at the time. Raymie would certainly want an explanation as soon
as they were on their own; and Irene had none.
of gas was nearing an end when they had spotted this camp of pilgrims who were
also in search of the Messiah in Montana. The campfire caught Vernon's eye
first. No one in the Lincoln had thought to bring matches, and it had turned
suddenly cold. Four other cars were stopped by the fire, where people were
exchanging stories about what they expected to find in Montana.
They all were
showing signs of radiation sickness. Some, like Vernon, were losing hair
already, and developing sores where their bodies could no longer fight
infection. But they all insisted that their problems would be solved when they
reached Montana and saw their Saviour.
looked at Vernon, she thought back to something Elaine had confided to her after
Raymie had fallen asleep, during their second night together in the car:
on my conscience," she had said. "You know that voice we talked about back in
Illinois? The one that said 'come'? It was just a crow outside the house. I
don't know if I did the right thing or not in backing Vernon up. You could
describe it as sounding like 'come' as much as you could describe it as sounding
like 'caw'. So when Vern said he heard Jesus say 'come', I agreed with him. It
didn't take much imagination to hear it as 'come'."
not say that Elaine was entirely wrong about the "sign" from God, nor could she
be entirely certain that Vernon had been wrong in reacting to the gas station
owner's extortionate pricing. But it was all part of a growing disillusionment,
that was starting to make her see a lot of things in a new light.
cloverleaf pilgrim camp, sick, weary, and dirty pilgrims were lifting themselves
from makeshift beds by the fire to congregate around a late model pick-up that
had driven up close to the circle. The driver had hopped up on the back to
announce that he had an almost full 44-gallon drum of gasoline to sell.
They weren't far from the Montana state border now, and that much
gas might be enough to get someone to their destination.
lighter going west, since most people, like the pick-up owner, were going north.
The man with the gas had pumped more than he needed to reach Canada, and now he
was going to sell the excess to make some easy money.
were stopped at the same cloverleaf cars heading north on highway 85. People had
come from as far south as Denver to get out of the country.
People from other camps at the intersection had been alerted, and
they too straggled over to join in the auction.
But few of
those present had enough cash left to make a serious bid. Only three competitors
were left when the price reached $1,000. They included Tom and Betty White--an
elderly couple with two small grandchildren.
spoken with Tom and Betty earlier that evening. The children were orphans now.
Betty had been baby-sitting them while their parents attended a function in a
part of St. Paul that had sustained a direct hit.
heard about the Montana Messiah from a neighbor, and they had joined the exodus.
Tom had withdrawn funds for a vacation the day before the attack, so he had more
cash left than others at the auction. He had, through poor planning, run out of
gas just a hundred yards away from the cloverleaf. Both he and Betty were too
frail to walk, and the chances of getting a ride to a gas station and back were
slim in the present climate. Even if he did find a station with any gas left,
there was a good chance that it would be sold out or charging more than he had
by the time he could return with his car.
re-checking his bankroll, the thin, grey-haired man called out, "Twelve
hundred!" The other two bidders both indicated that they were out of the
competition. The man on the pick-up motioned for Tom to bring his money over.
Betty held her fists together in front of her chest and made a little jumping
motion to express her happiness.
then, Vernon Billings walked over to the truck. He held his big left hand up for
the auctioneer to look at, and he spoke quietly to him. They shook hands, and
the old couple were told to put their money away. They had been outbid.
Tom and Betty
walked off in tears, and sat down beside the children, who were sleeping next to
Irene. "Please, take the children!" Betty begged, between sobs.
"We'll give you all that we have if you'll just take the
limping toward Irene, and he overheard the conversation. He shook his head no,
indicating with his hands that they did not have room. He signalled for Irene to
leave the woman and come over to him.
Lord!" he whispered, conspiratorially, when she walked up to him. "He accepted
my Rolex. Irene, can you bring the car over to the pick-up, so he can fill the
squeeze the children in," pleaded Irene. "Raymie and I can hold them in the
would we put the boxes? or the water bottles?" The Billingses had loaded both
the trunk and back seat up with food, clothes, and water before picking up Irene
in Prospect Heights. "I can't allow that," said Vernon.
just food and clothes!" exclaimed Irene. "We're talking about two children
knows what he's doing. Just thank him for what he has done for us so far. He'll
make a way for them too eventually if it's his will. Trust God, sister. He's
brought us this far."
slowly over to the car. Trust God? she asked herself. They had trusted God that
they would be taken in the rapture before all of this happened; that they would
be immune to radiation; that Jesus had told them to go to Montana. And now she
was supposed to trust God that two innocent children would be cared for without
any sacrifice on Vernon Billings' part or, for that matter, on her part.
Was it really
God that she was being asked to trust? Or had Vernon Billings become her
replacement for God? She had left her daughter, participated in an armed
hold-up, and now beaten an elderly couple and two young children out of their
chance for survival, just because Vernon Billings said that it was God's will.
Irene started the car and
drove it up close to the pick-up. As the man with the 44-gallon drum started to
siphon the gas into Vernon's car, she was overwhelmed with a desperate need for
Rayford to be there and to help her with a hard decision. All her life she had
known God through other people. But now she needed to make one of the most
important decisions of her life, and she was being forced to do it without
back-up from anyone. She tried to pray, but she lacked the certainty that Vernon
Billings' confidence had always given to her in the past.
patiently in the driver's seat while the auctioneer above her tipped his drum at
an angle, and played with the hose to drain the last of it into her tank.
By the time he had finished, she had made her mind up. She
signaled for Pastor Billings to come over.
began, calling the man by his first name for the first time. "I want you to
bring that old couple over here to the car. I want to talk to them." There was a
conviction in her voice that shocked Irene as much as it shocked Vernon
not to say anything" her pastor began.
"I didn't ask
your opinion. I said to bring them here!" she said, through clenched teeth.
"Wake Raymie and bring him too." Vernon turned in shock and obeyed her.
She was strangely thrilled by her own ability to make such a big
decision, and to do it in the face of the man who had made so many of her
decisions for her in the past. It was scary, but it was exhilarating too.
returned, his wife was with him.
"Get in the
car, Raymie," Irene said. Raymie climbed in the back, while the others gathered
around the window on the driver's side. She spoke up enough so that they could
all hear, but not loud enough for any other pilgrims to hear.
been a change of plans. We're heading north," she said. "We're not going to
Montana. If you want a lift to Canada, you can join us."
say that, Sister Strait," argued Pastor Billings as he moved closer to the car.
"We're almost there. We can take the children if you like"
Just then he
saw the barrel of his own pistol poking at him through the window.
"Sister Strait! What are
you doing? Put that down!"
A shot rang out. It whizzed over Vernon's head. Other campers turned and looked,
but assumed that the car had backfired. "I'm serious,
Vernon!" Irene said. "I've got a family back in Illinois, and I mean to find
them. America has been destroyed, for whatever reason, I don't know. But I can't
change things just through wishful thinking.
ask just one more time: Who wants to come to Canada with me?" Tom and Betty
looked timidly at each other. Their expressions suggested that their faith in
the Montana myth had been teetering already. They looked back in Irene's
direction and timidly raised their hands.
kids," Irene said. "It'll be crowded, but we'll do our best. What about you,
Vernon? You can come with us if you like."
Billings was in deep pain--both physically and spiritually. Sweat formed on his
brow as another wave of nausea swept over him. He had travelled too far down the
road. His religious pride would not allow him to change directions now. Right or
wrong, he was going to die for his cause. He shook his head, and then turned
away to dry retch.
Elaine. "And you?"
"My place is
with Vern," she said, as she moved closer to her fevered husband and reached out
to comfort him.
understand," Irene said, allowing herself to soften just for a moment. "I love
wife returned Irene's expression of love, and then Tom White got clearance from
Irene before walking over to Vernon and Elaine. He gave them the keys to his car
and his roll of money while Betty loaded the kids into the car.
"My car's up
there just past the overpass," Tom said, pointing to a light green Ford. "It's
totally empty, but maybe you can get out of here with this." He indicated the
wad of money.
returned to Irene and joined Raymie and the older child in the back seat. Betty
held the baby in the front with Irene. There were two boxes in the back too,
making it quite crowded.
Irene put the
car into drive, waved silently to her former pastor and his wife, and then
pulled out onto the highway.
too crowded back here," Raymie complained.
responded slowly and deliberately as she drove, giving each word time to sink
in: "I'm only going to say it once, Raymie. If you or anyone else in this car
doesn't like the conditions, you just ask and I'll let you out. I'm sorry,
Raymie, that I haven't taught you to be more disciplined before now. But these
are dangerous times, and we all need to grow up and face reality real fast. It's
time to stop complaining and to start thanking God that we are still alive, and
that we have the means to get away from here. Do you understand me?"
said Raymie. Tom and Betty also whispered acceptance of the conditions.
They drove on
in silence. And as they drove, more than one of the car's occupants was praying
in a way that he or she had never prayed before.
The one thing that Christians need to learn most if they are to be ready
for the tests that lie ahead, is how to hear and obey the voice of God. It
starts with following your conscience. Because so much of the world has seared
their conscience, they are rarely able to hear God's voice at all.
God has been replaced with obedience to human authorities parents, teachers,
pastors, and police. Irene's problem was not that she obeyed Vernon Billings, or
even that what Vernon Billings did was necessarily immoral. (After
all, Irene herself used the gun in the end!) Her problem was just that she had
failed, previously, to ask God what to do, or at least that she had assumed that
God's will would always be revealed through her pastor. She had to actually
leave her pastor before she could truly grow spiritually.
institution tends to teach that submission to the institution will guarantee
salvation, when it often happens that just the opposite is true. Salvation comes
when we find a faith that is bigger than the institution.
17:31-37. The disciples wanted to know in advance where people should go in the
last days, and Jesus gave a cryptic reply, which indicated that we each need to
be like the birds, open to the subtle prompting of the Holy Spirit to tell us,
minute by minute, where we should go, and when.
looked around the interior of the high-top Leyland Daf van. It was crowded, with
four men seated in the living area, but not as crowded as he had expected.
Furniture consisted of assorted cabinets and pieces of timber, all of which had
come from curbside throwouts. Rayford was struck by the lack of clutter. There
were places for each occupant to sleep, as well as for them to be seated.
Everything else was neatly tucked away inside drawers and cupboards.
Moving from one place to another inside the van was the biggest
inconvenience, especially if anyone was trying to cook or do the dishes in the
tiny kitchen area.
to Rayford, on a bench at right angles to the rear of the van, was the group's
youngest member, 24-year-old Martin. Martin's family came from the Czech
Republic. Opposite Martin and Rayford were Reinhard and Francisco.
Reinhard was 32, while Francisco was 28. Fran's mother was from
Argentina. Although they had not been formally trained, all three men were
natural linguists. Together, they had translated The Fall of
America into French, German, Spanish, Czech, Russian, and even Polish.
"How many of
these do you get out in a week?" Rayford asked, fingering a copy of the booklet
which had drawn his attention to the three men.
thousand in a good week," Martin answered. Martin was in charge of statistics.
He kept the group's budget, as well as keeping records on literature stocks,
distribution rates, and accounts of where they had worked and when.
100,000 in a year," noted Rayford.
"A very good
year," Martin reminded him.
The point is that even in a bad year, you should be getting new members. Why are
there only three of you?"
reasons," answered Francisco, who was more expressive than the other two
missionaries. His hands were constantly in motion and his head would jerk in
time to the movements, as though pulling the strings that moved his hands. He
did it to give greater emphasis to key words, moving quickly from one thought to
preaching well, people don't wanna hear You know, they want preachers to say
soooothing things." He dragged out the word soothing, while moving his hands
away from one another, like a roulette croupier closing all bets.
"We're talking life and death here forsaking all I mean giving up
everything for God! Who wants to hear that?"
second reason people don't join you?" Rayford asked.
answered. "Ve sink God may be hiding us from udder true beliefers.
Dey, too, he must be hiding from us. One day soon ve vill come
together. For now, only, he is testing us, to see if ve vill cheat, and make
change to our message."
another waters," Francisco chimed in. "The harvest will come. For now, people
are reading the books. They're thinking. And they talk about it too.
People tell us every day!"
admired the idealism of this strange trio; but he could not believe that people
were not joining them now that their predictions had come true about America.
And he said so.
people forget," Reinhard explained. "Dey are skeptical too. Already dey are
saying dat our book vas written after dee attack."
"But in their
hearts they know!" boasted Francisco. "They know all right! The truth is out
there in those booklets, ticking away like a time bomb. One day it'll all come
out. And then ka-POW!" He clapped his hands together to emphasise the explosion
and then shot one hand up in the air like a rocket. All three faces lit up in
appreciation of what Francisco was saying.
growing in numbers; but the truth is getting out," said Martin quietly.
"Nothing can stop the truth. And being right in God's eyes is more
satisfying than being successful."
understand," continued Reinhard, "Ve really belief ven ve talk of heaven and
God, and about Sheesus returning. Such faith shanges deeply our interest in
udder sings. Ve are living for a new vorld an eternal one. Our faith is not like
vat ve call the shurchy faith."
That was an
understatement! Rayford could hardly believe that a tiny band of religious
fanatics living in abject poverty could have had such a deep impact on himself.
Yet they were doing just that. The truth was that he never would have given them
a second thought if it had not been for the destruction of America. What a
horrible price God had to pay to get his attention! Yet most of the world, even
now, was more concerned about the effect on the world economy than they were
about the spiritual implications of the fall of America.
stayed talking for several hours. He treated the group to a hot meal inside the
Heston services, to prolong the visit. In that time, he learned that the trio
parked their van most nights in service roads behind well-equipped motorway
services, because they were less likely to arouse suspicion there, near 24-hour
parking lots, than if they parked on city streets. Parking at the services also
meant easy access to public rest rooms and showers overnight. During the day
they would distribute their tracts at nearby shopping centres, just as they had
done on the streets of Hounslow earlier that day.
stay at the same place two nights in a row," Martin explained. "That way, they
hardly notice we're there."
The next day,
Sunday, the Jesans met up with Rayford at Ruislip Country Park, for their
official rest day. Rayford joined in with a group run, an informal Bible study,
and a barbecue lunch, which Francisco prepared.
"Would I have
to quit my job to be a true Christian?" he asked while they were eating at one
of the park's few picnic tables.
"Vat you haff
to do is to obey Sheesus," said Reinhard.
"But you just
told me that he says to give up everything, and spend my time working for him!"
Rayford was referring to their study of the fourteenth chapter of Luke's gospel.
"So do vat he
said," Reinhard answered. "But don't yust do it because ve said so."
about my family?"
dem?" Reinhard asked quietly, raising his eyebrows as he often did to emphasise
"I can't just
"So bring dem
"You know I
can't do that. Chloe's trapped in Chicago, and I don't even know where Irene and
Raymie are. They could be dead for all I know." Reinhard was not ignorant of
this, for the Jesans had taken time to hear Rayford's story as well as to tell
their own. But he wanted Rayford to see for himself how helpless he really was.
Francisco's enthusiasm raced ahead of Reinhard's slower approach.
"See? You're holding onto something you haven't even got!," he
said. "Let go! When you do, then God will show you what to do. But
you can't even think about that until you forsake them first."
secretly signaled for Francisco to back off, leaving the group in an awkward
silence for some time. They ate without speaking while Rayford engaged in a far
bigger debate within his own mind. His argument was not with these relative
strangers. His argument was with his Creator.
If God is
real, he reasoned to himself, then God has the right to ask people to leave
their families, their jobs, and their possessions to prove their faith in him.
It must have been a decision like that which had freed Reinhard, Francisco, and
Martin to do what they were doing now. They would never grow in numbers if
others like himself did not make a similar decision. Rayford could see that talk
of faith in Jesus that ignored his rules for his followers was not faith at all.
But what was he going to do about it?
had already taken his home and his family. All that remained was his job. Yet
the job was his lifeline to his family, and his hope of getting another home one
he prayed. "I can't just desert Chloe. She's counting on me."
vat is best for you," Reinhard said finally, as though reading Rayford's mind.
"It is safer to take him too seriously dan to treat his vords too lightly."
starting to sweat. He was standing at God's eternal crossroads and he knew it.
He continued to pray secretly. "Help me, God. I don't want to do something
stupid. There's too much at stake. What about Chloe?"
Reinhard spoke as though reading his mind. "Ve don't have dee control vat ve
sink ve have," he said. "In a minute God can take avay. And in a minute he can
give back. If you vant his best, den let go! Let God say vat is best for you,
and for da people vat you love."
Strait's analytical mind quickly weighed up the truth in what Reinhard was
saying. He had told the Canadian authorities all that he knew about his family's
whereabouts. Apart from that, he was powerless anyway. The real issues were the
status and respect, the money, and the freedom to travel between England and
Canada that his job represented. A lot to forsake, but still nothing if it was
really what God wanted. If he said no to God now, he felt certain that he would
be saying no to any hope he ever had of eternal life. Rayford had been shown the
truth of his spiritual condition by these men, in a way that he had never seen
it before. Now he had to act on it.
to form as he yielded himself to the reality of the situation. He searched for
the courage to do what his conscience told him he must do. And then his thoughts
turned to the options he had for quitting his job. Should he give notice? Should
he just fail to turn up? He realised then that he had made up his mind to do it
to forsake all for God. It was just a question of how... and when.
lifted his head and smiled broadly as the first tear overflowed and ran down one
cheek. His companions picked up the meaning of the tear, and especially the
smile that went with it. Francisco, who was sitting opposite Rayford, jumped to
his feet and reached out to shake his hand. The handshake quickly turned into a
hug. Martin and Reinhard waited their turn to welcome him with an embrace and a
few quiet tears of their own.
phoned work on Monday, to give notice. He was told that the British Army would
not allow him to leave his job. It would be months before the airlines could
return to normal routings, but for now every pilot and every plane was being
used to maximum capacity in the evacuation.
The four men
discussed the situation and agreed that Rayford's state was that of a slave at
least for the moment. He had resolved to quit his job for God, and yet
circumstances had given it right back to him. He would wait until he was allowed
to quit, and he would use his position in the meantime to continue to seek help
for his family. While in London, he would stay with his spiritual brothers and
help them get their literature out on the streets.
Over the next
few weeks, along with the overwhelming concern for American suffering, Pan-Con
staff also took note of a change in Rayford Strait. Rayford Strait had got
religion, and had joined up with some Jesus freaks. His involvement in volunteer
emergency services in Toronto was reasonable enough, but in London, he would be
met at the airport by the strange young men in the Daf van and return in it a
few days later, in time for his next flight out. His usual social contacts had
ceased, and there was word that he was living on the streets and begging from
G.K. Chesterton once said, "It is not that Christianity has been tried
and found wanting. It is just that people knew it would be difficult, and so
they never tried it."
in the church world today is that so few people have been willing to try the
simple (yet infinitely challenging) rules that Jesus laid down for his
followers. We have so many religious leaders prepared to tell us what we want to
hear, that we do not take time to listen to the Master himself. If the true
definition of a 'Christian' is a follower of Jesus Christ, then it can hardly be
said that the church is Christian, despite its generally recognised authority on
Take time to
study the fourteenth chapter of Luke, verses 25 to 35. It may be that Jesus
never meant for us to take those verses literally. But it may also be that he
did. So much hangs in the balance that it behooves us to pray deeply and
seriously before we dismiss the implications of those verses.
When it comes
to belief in a miracle of the magnitude that eternal life represents, you can be
sure that we will not be able to cheat on the rules and still be able to
actually experience it.
One day soon
God will be asking you to lay down your life for him. Is it too much for you to
give him your family, your job, and your wealth if he is asking for that now?
overwhelming tiredness, and several stops for nausea, Irene Strait made good
time on her drive north from where she had left the other pilgrims in North
Dakota. She drove straight through the night, arriving at the border just before
noon on Saturday.
authorities were taking details from refugees as they crossed into the country,
and directing them to appropriate holding camps. Tom, Betty, and their
grandchildren were deemed to be in greater need of medical attention than were
Irene and Raymie, so they were put on a bus and taken to Regina,
where they could be given better care.
travel was being restricted throughout Canada. Irene was totally broke, and her
pleas for official help in getting to Toronto were turned down.
Toronto, according to the authorities, had more than it could
handle already. Irene and Raymie were, however, taken to a
holding camp on the highway between Regina and Winnipeg. (They had to abandon
the Lincoln at the border.) The camp was one of many being set up
on farmland all over southern Canada.
Raymie would have to wait there until the situation eased in Toronto, or until
they could get airlifted directly out of Saskatchewan. They were both losing
hair and suffering from dehydration from so much vomiting, but they were not as
sick as some others in the camp.
camp consisted of thousands of ten foot by ten foot tents, housing eight people
apiece. Every four tents had one porta-potty and a small portable shower between
them. Buckets inside the tents were used when the queues were too long at the
toilets, or when the weather was bad. The farmland where the camp had been set
up was a quagmire from recent rains and from so much pedestrian traffic.
told to stay inside the tents to minimise further contact with fallout. Food,
water, and medication for nausea, diarrhea, and infections were brought around
twice a day by untrained volunteers. Only the worst cases were referred to the
understaffed medical centre on the perimeter of the camp. Two doctors supervised
a small team of nurses there. Life at the camp was rough, but it was rumored
that conditions there were better than they were at many other camps.
Pan-Continental Airlines was notified by the authorities about Irene and
Raymie's location and condition, and Pan-Con passed the word on to Rayford. The
family had little choice but to wait on official clearance for a reunion.
For the time
being, Irene and Raymie took comfort in the fact that they had safe food and
water, and a tent with bunks, in which to sleep and rest, and hope.
There was no way for Rayford to contact them directly, and only
the most urgent outgoing calls were allowed at the camp.
time, Raymie might have been whining about the conditions. They were worse than
any jail in North America. But for the first two weeks he was too sick to do
much more than groan as he tossed on his bunk. Only when his strength began to
return did he start to complain, and even then, it was nothing compared to his
old self. Irene sat pretty heavily on his complaining spirit, reminding him
again and again of how lucky they were to be alive. But Raymie was genuinely
trying to break his old habits too. It was like his spirit had simply been
waiting for Irene to get the courage to exercise authority over it. He had been
forced to do a lot of growing up in a very short period of time, and he was
quickly warming to his new self-image as a disciplined and responsible
residents in each tent passed their time lounging on the bunks, talking, and
doing various chores and calisthenics if they were strong enough. Much of the
talk centred around each person's interpretation of what had transpired, and
where it was all to lead, for them and for their loved ones. Virtually everyone
was suffering from grief over the loss of friends and relatives, although most
could only guess as to whether people outside their immediate families had
survived the attack.
communication links within the U.S. had totally broken down shortly after the
bombings. Although there were no newspapers at the camp, some volunteers had
access to news at home and they passed on what they knew when they arrived at
the camp. From there, news spread quickly, by word of mouth.
learned that the United Nations had taken over co-ordinating relief operations.
In just a few weeks much of the surviving population of America was to be
dispersed around the globe from the many holding camps in Canada and Mexico, and
from airlifts within the United States airlifts, that is, from those few places
where aircraft could still come and go.
patterns had been favorable, blowing most of the fallout out over the Atlantic.
An Arctic cold front three days after the attack pushed air southward and kept
most of the fallout away from Canada. Even so, radiation levels in southern
Canada were still far above normal. Canadians had been cautioned to stay inside
as much as possible. The rest of the world, apart from islands in the Caribbean,
and some parts of Mexico, was assured that the radiation threat to them was
attitude toward the war was to act as though it had never happened. As soon as
her bombers had completed their missions, blowing up military installations and
other key centres of transportation, power, and communication, they had returned
to their bases. From that point on, Russia had offered as much aid to the
survivors as anyone else.
The U.S. and
England had both been officially expelled from the U.N. just days after the
attack. America was dropped ostensibly because it ceased to exist; but almost no
explanation was given for dumping England. Despite protests from the British,
there was hardly any objection from other member nations. The expulsion had not
been accompanied by any sanctions against Britain, and the British were so
preoccupied with assisting Americans that they did not have much time or
interest in taking on the U.N. in the face of such overwhelming opposition from
the rest of the world.
American trade was a threat to the economy of many smaller nations, but the U.N.
started to work immediately on programs to reclaim land owned by American
interests, and to re-cultivate it so that it could carry products which would
better meet the needs of the local populations. The same thing was being done
with American industrial interests. Secretary General Dangchao promised to
actually increase wealth for the Third World. The World Bank was surprisingly
co-operative with his proposals.
summit was being planned to consider various proposals for stabilizing the world
economy. Talk of a single currency was a key issue on the agenda.
One sphere of
activity at the U.N. which was not getting as much media coverage as the
economic and political changes, was a plan for a world religious summit. The
masses of the world longed for reassurance that the disaster in the U.S. was not
going to be repeated; and religious leaders had been shocked into overlooking
many of the differences that had previously divided them. They too wanted to
play their part in promoting worldwide co-operation, co-operation with one
another, as well as co-operation with the quickly evolving world government.
In times of crisis people invariably turn to religion for comfort
and direction; so it was important for the government and the churches,
synagogues, mosques, and temples to provide a unified (and unifying) image of
hope and peace.
No word had
been received at all from President Fitzhugh, who, with his family and aids, had
been trapped under the White House when it was bombed. Hopes were fading that
they had survived the blast, even though a series of tunnels existed under the
building, and it was believed that he had been rushed there several minutes
before the bomb hit. Under normal circumstances there would have been a system
for appointing a replacement for the President, but the Vice-President and
several other potential successors were dead or missing, along with a sizeable
proportion of the Senators and Congressmen who would have to oversee such a
decision. Most of those who were alive, were little more than refugees
themselves. Truly America had ceased to exist as an independent
unwavering support for Israel had been that country's mainstay for many years.
The tiny Jewish state, surrounded as it was by Arab nations, was understandably
nervous about the shift in power. But Dangchao surprised the world and gained
respect for his sense of fair play by putting peace talks between Israel and the
Arab states high on his priorities. It was rumoured that Jewish influences in
the World Bank were what really won Dangchao over. He was getting many billions
of dollars in support from the World Bank for his Third World plans. In exchange
the U.N. was taking a decidedly pro-Israeli position in the peace talks.
for the millions of Americans still struggling to escape the death and
destruction that had ravaged that country, developments in world politics were
incidental to their daily quest for survival. Tens of thousands were continuing
to die each day from injuries received in the initial blasts, some of them dying
without any medical aid at all. Many had been left where they fell, to suffer
for days before finally succumbing. A few had been carried away, only to die on
the road, in refugee camps, or in hospitals. Burials were rare. Cremations were
faster. But in most cases bodies were left to rot, and disease was
left to spread, as survivors had fled the scene.
like Chloe, still waiting for help to reach her, the threat of catching cholera
or typhoid was now the biggest worry.
Two symbols are used for America in Bible prophecy: a prostitute named
Babylon, and the Eagle's wings on the back of a Lion (the Lion being the symbol
for England). (See notes at the end of chapter 2.)
7:4, the Eagle's wings are plucked, and the Lion (i.e. England) ceases to be a
"beast" (or world empire) as a result. In Revelation 17:16-18, and all of
Revelation 18, we read of the fall of Babylon, and how it affects the kings,
merchants, and shipping companies of the world.
however, that the term "Babylon" not only refers to America. It is a symbol for
all of the empires of man. And so the title will eventually pass on to the new
centre of world economics, under the new world order.
The rise of a
single world religion may or may not be assisted by the United Nations. Moves
toward ecumenicalism have been underway for some time now; but disasters always
have a way of bringing the masses back to thoughts of religion, and of bringing
religious leaders together with one another.
obsession with Israel is usually explained to the masses (thanks to the
churches) on the basis that they are God's "chosen people" (despite the fact
that they rejected God's Son... their Messiah!). However, interest in Israel at
government levels has always had more to do with their control of world banking.
worked hard at making her stay in Prospect Heights both safe and stable. She
arranged to turn the satphone on for just a few hours each week--the times when
her father was most confident of being able to contact her. She increased her
water supply by retrieving water from the toilets upstairs. When that was
depleted, she made her first and only venture outside, to get water and food
from two neighboring houses which had been deserted shortly after the attack.
She moved out of the basement in the second week and back into the rooms on the
ground floor. But she continued to use the basement as her latrine.
Because there were no deaths in her immediate vicinity, she was
safe from disease as long as she did not travel too far afield. Overall, she
spent her last week at Prospect Heights in relative comfort.
weeks after the attack a rescue bus pulled up in front of the house and offered
Chloe a lift to a ferry that would take her and hundreds of other survivors up
Lake Michigan to Port Elgin, on the east side of Lake Huron. From there, they
were taken by bus to holding camps near Toronto.
only in the camp for two days before she was taken to the airport. She had not
heard from her father for five days, but she was not surprised when she was
issued with a ticket on a Pan-Con flight to London. She was also not surprised
when she found her father waiting for her after she had passed through airport
security but she certainly was excited. They embraced and rejoiced, backing off
so that they could look at each other before embracing again. The stress of the
past weeks erupted in profuse tears for Chloe. But she sensed that her father
was still holding something back.
"Any word on
Mom and Raymie?" she asked
fine," Rayford said. "They're still in Regina, but it shouldn't be long. I've
signed papers for them to come to England when they're released."
thoughts were on something else.
you sit in the cockpit with me today?" he asked.
kidding? No one could keep me from it!" she giggled.
added, "I've made some important decisions about serving God. We need to talk
been doing a lot of praying herself, so she could appreciate what she thought
was her father's decision to attend church. "I understand," she said with a
smile as they walked to the plane. She reached out and squeezed his hand,
grateful to have him near her once again.
to it than you probably realize," he said. "We'll talk about it after takeoff."
plane, Rayford was totally occupied with routine safety checks, communication
(both with the control tower and with the passengers), and with flying the
aircraft. But when they were at cruising altitude and the seat belt sign had
been turned off, Rayford handed control over to his copilot and moved to the
navigator's seat, where he and Chloe could talk more privately.
much I need to say," he began. "First off, you should know that I personally
don't have a house or even a room in London."
manage. I'll get a job," Chloe promised.
searched for words to tell her the depth of his new commitment.
need jobs," he said. "In fact, I'll be quitting this job soon to work for God."
opened wide. Something strange was going on.
job?" she asked in amazement. "How would we survive? You're not even trained to
be a preacher." She said the word "preacher" with a bit of a sneer.
already am a preacher," Rayford replied.
"No church. I
just talk to people about God on the street."
mean you're a street preacher?" Things were looking stranger still.
"No, I just
offer literature to people, and sometimes they stop and talk."
embarrassing, thought Chloe. Her father --a distinguished airline
pilot--spruiking on street corners. She continued to picture him shouting to an
indifferent crowd, with a Bible in his hand. But she tried to hide her feelings.
need to quit your job," she said. "With what you earn, you could pay someone
else to do it, and we could still put our family back together again."
honey," began Rayford. "Can you give me a few minutes to explain? It's very
important to me for you to know exactly what's happening."
genuinely keen to get the bigger picture. "Sure," she said sympathetically. "Go
ahead." She settled back in her seat to listen.
at his airport encounter with Reinhard, hours after the attack. He told of how
he had always felt that religion as taught in the churches was shallow and
escapist. But he admitted that he too had been shallow and evasive when it came
to the things of God.
in the van got me reading what Jesus actually taught," he said.
Chloe had never responded to
religion as taught by her mother, so Rayford knew he could not reason with her
as he would with Irene. He needed to start with something more basic.
tell me that what you've been through these past three weeks hasn't made you
think about God," he said with a knowing smile.
She had often prayed for help, especially during those first few days in the
basement. But prayer for her was something that you only did when all else
failed. It wasn't fair to burden God with things you could work out for
come to see that our whole existence is part of a plan sort of a test where God
watches to see if we'll serve him or if we're going to insist on doing our own
appeared to shift tack for a moment. "All the prayers in the world won't keep us
from dying one day. Yet most of our prayers seem to be asking for just that
prayers that we will not suffer, not die, or just not be too inconvenienced."
Rayford felt that he was not making himself clear.
trying to say is that, if we're going to pray at all, we need to be asking for
something other than selfish things."
There was an
interruption as a stewardess came in with coffee. Chloe accepted a cup and added
sugar, but she was distracted mentally, trying to make sense of what had
happened to her father. She could not get the picture out of her mind of Rayford
standing on a street corner and shouting to the public. How could he seriously
think that he should serve God in that way? Nobody listens to street preachers!
If her dad really wanted to preach, he should do it through a church.
He was too smart to be preaching on the streets. Had he snapped,
under the pressure of the war?
pulled out of her reverie when Rayford resumed talking.
give anything to get you to see what I've seen. But with or without your
support, I really have to go through with what I believe God wants me to do." No
response. So Rayford went on.
put here to work for money. We were put here to work for God. When
you accept that, it's easy to see how virtually all of the world's problems have
come from greed. I've been living on almost nothing for the past two weeks, and
I feel more alive than I ever have before."
to say when Pan-Con pays your hotel bill," Chloe argued. "And who gets your
paycheck? This Reinhard guy? Sounds like a scam to me."
holds the money, but he's not spending it selfishly. And I haven't been staying
at the hotel in London. Pan-Con isn't even feeding me when I'm in England."
several attempts to get Chloe to see the spiritual importance of what he had
discovered, but she could not be pulled away from the material issues, and he
didn't like being put on the defensive about his faith.
"We've got a
room for you, Mom, and Raymie with a friend in Guildford," he said. "You'll have
to share it with Raymie and Mom when they get there. It's almost impossible to
get cheap accommodation with all the new arrivals."
are you going to stay?" Chloe asked. Her attitude was changing from shock to
anger, as the extent of her father's commitment dawned on her.
staying in the van with the other guys," he said. "That's part of what I've been
trying to tell you."
"What kind of
a God is that?" Chloe half shouted. Her face was screwed up in anger. "He
wouldn't tell you to leave your family not now, when we need you so much." And
tears began to form in her eyes.
heart was breaking. He had always been close to Chloe, and he had hoped that she
would be more understanding about something that meant so much to him. He
decided to let her think things over, while he tended to official duties in the
pilot's seat for an hour or so.
returned to the seat beside Chloe, she was much calmer. She had brushed away her
began when he was seated. "Let's say that God really does want you to do this.
What do you think he would want me and Mom and Raymie to do?"
That was the
Chloe that Rayford had remembered. Her head was ruling her heart now. She must
have seen where her negative reactions were leading and decided to take a more
constructive approach. Chloe's respect and admiration for her father was helping
her to treat his extreme lifestyle change as a genuine decision on his part,
even if she could not agree with it herself.
love to think that God wants you to join me. But you really have to find that
out for yourself."
her way slowly through a list of questions she had about how Rayford had reached
his bizarre conclusions. But this time she tried to listen, and she tried to
feel what her father was feeling. Everything was making more sense when she did
it that way.
explained how the loss of so many lives (including many personal friends and
relatives) in America, and the possibility that he could lose his wife and
children as well, had made him seriously question all of his values.
money in the world won't guarantee that I can hang onto you, Mom, and Raymie,"
he said. "And it would be even more useless when I stand before God. I know that
what I'm doing sounds crazy to most people; but what's really crazy is ignoring
eternal things, like most of us do most of the time.
need money," he continued. "He made the world without it, and he can keep things
going without it too. See, Jesus talked of something called God's world, or
God's kingdom, where people work for love instead of working for money. It's
like a return to the Garden of Eden God's original plan for the human
looked deep into his daughter's eyes. His heart was pounding in excitement. She
was really listening!
"I know you
can see at least some of what I'm saying," he said quietly and with deep
feeling. "But if you actually started living it like I've been doing for the
past couple of weeks, it would all make ten times more sense."
thinking ahead. "Well, suppose we were to come with you. Where would we stay?
How much room is there in that van of yours?"
laughed as he answered the question, more from relief at hearing Chloe mention
the possibility of coming with him, than at her question. He fought to keep his
secret hopes from getting ahead of her. "No way! We'd never fit in the van," he
laughed. "It's pretty crowded as it is. But God would make a way for us
saying that you've convinced me," Chloe cautioned. "But I don't want to lose you
either." The truth was that she still thought he may have been sucked in by a
cult; but she didn't want to go back to arguing. If she could check it out for
herself, that would be better.
"For now you
can move in with Neville and Mary in Guildford," Rayford said. "They're an
elderly couple who have supported the team for a few years now. They have an
extra bedroom that they let us use when we're in the area. We'll have plenty of
opportunity to visit you and for you to visit with us."
plane landed in London, the guys met Rayford as usual. Fran grabbed Chloe's bag
and they all stood around talking for some time while Reinhard left to get the
van. "Parking is too expensive at the airport, but we know a place a few blocks
away where we can park for free," Rayford explained. "Reinhard won't be
surprised at her father's miserly approach to such a minor thing as an airport
parking fee. But over the next few weeks she would see many more examples of how
the men had learned to survive on almost no cash in a world where everyone else
spent freely. They called it being "poor in spirit".
The van was
smaller than she had expected, but the other members of her father's 'team' were
nicer and more normal than she had expected. The room at Neville's and Mary's
was adequate--especially when she compared it to her stay in the basement at
Prospect Heights. Food was plentiful, as were fresh water and clean clothes. If
nothing else, she had learned to appreciate little things more over the past
next four days, before Rayford was to fly out once again, the Jesans made as
much time available for Chloe as she wanted to take. She was impressed with
their genuine concern for her welfare. She learned that Reinhard had been saving
up Rayford's pay from Pan-Con, and he already had enough to rent a small
apartment for the Straits after Irene and Raymie arrived. The men wanted to
consult Chloe's mother and brother before making a decision on where she was
going to live.
It was three
more weeks before mother and son were released from their holding camp. In that
time, Chloe had become quite comfortable with her father's new companions.
it?" she said to Rayford one evening as she relaxed with him at the services
near Guildford after he had completed his stint of distributing tracts for the
day. "We live our whole life in fear of poverty; but poverty's not so bad at
all, is it?"
"Not if you
call this poverty," said her father from across the table. He grabbed another
handful of peanuts from a bowl on the table. "All the money in the world doesn't
do much more than feed, clothe and house us. And we have that already."
Raymie had been taken by bus to Toronto; but they missed Pan-Con's morning
flight to London by one hour. So they were put on a British Airways flight later
that night. When they arrived, early the following morning, the other men stayed
out of sight, while Rayford and Chloe waited to meet Irene and Raymie.
Mother and son had both lost weight, and their hair was just
starting to grow back. Irene kept her head covered with a scarf, but Raymie
seemed proud of his new skinhead look.
exhausted from the flight, so Rayford did not try to discuss his plans on the
way to Neville's. Shortly after they arrived in Guildford, both Irene and Raymie
was almost noon when Irene woke up and stumbled into Neville's big living room.
Rayford, Chloe, Neville, Mary, and the other Jesans were all gathered there.
Rayford introduced Irene, and she caught them up with what she and Raymie had
been through since they left Prospect Heights.
been planning to talk to Irene privately about his plans, but the subject came
up in the course of introducing the other Jesans.
Chloe's qualified endorsement, but he also had the advantage of Irene's prior
commitment to Christian faith. More than anything, what helped him was Irene's
dramatic change on the clover leaf in North Dakota. It had broken the spell that
Vernon Billings and traditional Christianity had over her. And now her husband
was offering her a new purpose for living. More than that, he was offering her
something that was truly Christian. She listened intently and tried not to panic
at what Rayford was suggesting.
Over the next
few weeks, Irene, Chloe, and Raymie progressed from being co-operative with
Rayford, to deeply respecting him, to adopting his faith for their own. There
was no single moment when it happened, but the more they studied, discussed, or
even thought about the teachings of Jesus, the more their faith grew. They
unanimously chose to join the Jesans.
A month after
Irene returned, Rayford was released from his obligation to stay with Pan-Con. A
group decision was made to use the money they had been saving for an apartment
to buy another van for Chloe and Raymie instead. They would use it in their new
job as Jesan tract distributors.
Mary had become quite fond of Rayford and Irene, and they insisted that the
couple use the second bedroom at their apartment on a permanent
point on, life for the Jesans took a dramatic turn.
Whatever else religious formulas for conversion may include, they all
seem to leave out the essential ingredient, which is the teachings of Jesus. In
this chapter, we have people listening to and responding to the teachings of
Jesus, and the result in each case is a dramatic change in lifestyle.
that the religious builders would leave out the Cornerstone of his teachings,
and that the result would be like that of a foolish person building a house on
sand. Whatever it is that they are trying to build, he said, would eventually
collapse. But he said that any who would listen to his teachings and at least
seek to obey him, would be like a wise person building on a rock... the storms
and floods of this life and of the next would not be able to shake them.
This is the message of
salvation that Jesus taught, and it is the one that we should be teaching today.
that, if we are faithful to share his teachings with others, then anyone who
accepts us and what we are saying will, in effect, be accepting him and what he
taught. (Matthew 10:40) In this chapter, Chloe, Irene, and Raymie had to start
by accepting what Rayford (and then Reinhard and the others) said in defence of
Jesus and his teachings. As they did, they were 'born again" by the "Word of
God", which is actually the Bible's name for Jesus. (See Revelation 19:13-16.)
one!" Rayford exclaimed to himself as he sat at his desk late one night in
It had been
eighteen months since the Straits had joined the Jesans. Rayford's keen interest
in Bible prophecy, and his natural aptitude for teaching had catapulted him to a
leadership role in the tiny community. He wondered how he could have ever been
happy as an airline pilot. Life had been so exciting since he had made the
dramatic decision to let go and give everything to God.
role in the community had triggered a commitment from Neville too, who was
thrilled to be able to work full-time with Rayford on something he was good at
computers. Neville was like a young man again, and Mary, who hardly ever said a
word, was happy to see the change in her husband.
The two men
had been working together for more than a year, with Rayford producing articles
on a wide range of topics (but especially on how each topic related to what was
happening in world events at that time), and with Neville setting up a web page
where people could go to access all of the material that Rayford was producing.
Some days Rayford would produce four or five articles in a single day. Much of
the inspiration for them came from his involvement with the rest of the Jesans,
and from thoughts which they shared from their stints out on the streets.
installed a guest book, a hit counter, an internal search engine, and a tracker
on their home page. He also developed an automatic study course, which would
test people on a list of questions from one article before directing them to the
next one. Neville made sure that the page was well represented on search engines
all over the world, and he collected thousands of email addresses for a
worldwide newsletter which Chloe and Reinhard produced once a month. The
newsletter aimed at stimulating enough curiosity to get people to visit their
this," Rayford said when he had finished reading the papers he had in his hands.
He spun the chair around and shoved them toward Irene. "Six letters in today's
snail mail, and they all sound like genuine seekers. Wouldn't it be great to get
a new member out of this?"
come to see the truth in the group's theory that God was deliberately blocking
people from joining them. They had not had a new member since he had joined, and
he had tried everything he could think of to locate the problem. About once a
week they would get a promising letter from someone who had read one of their
tracts or visited their website. But they rarely heard from these people again.
Getting six serious enquiries in one day was unprecedented.
read the letters and then spoke. "Sounds great, doesn't it? What do you plan to
do with them?"
Mary will be away next week. I may try to get all six of them here on Monday.
Then I won't have to answer the same questions over and over."
"Do you think
it's wise to bring them here?" asked Irene. The group had a policy of not giving
out Neville's address until they first checked people out.
"I have a
feeling about this," Rayford said. "I think there's a connection between this
and the talks in Jerusalem."
talking about a U.N. plan to construct a Temple in Jerusalem for the Jews. The
world was gradually recovering from the destruction of America, and now there
was time for people to consider other matters. Talks had been going on in Israel
for the past two or three weeks. Secretary General Dangchao himself had been
there for the past three days, and even the Pope was participating.
The Arabs had
been adamant that there would be all-out war if anyone dared to touch the Dome
of the Rock, their most sacred mosque. It had been built centuries earlier,
almost on the original site of Solomon's Temple, where Jews had for centuries
offered sacrifices to God. However, Dangchao had come up with a compromise
package. It involved construction of a Jewish Temple on one side of the Dome of
the Rock and a matching Christian temple on the other side. The sacred Muslim
mosque itself would not be touched. The newly elected Pope Pius XIII had hinted
that he was prepared to move from the Vatican to take up residence in Jerusalem,
not far from the new Temple, as a symbol of Vatican commitment to this historic
step toward religious unity.
not thrilled about the offer, but there was something in Dangchao's manner that
suggested he would not take No for an answer.
If people had
thought that the Americans were biased in favour of the Jews, the Americans
looked positively wishy washy by comparison to Dangchao. U.N. troops had been
increased in the holy city, and Muslims took it as a warning of what Dangchao
might do if they turned down his Temple "offer".
Jerusalem? I can't remember a time when there hasn't been some sort of talk
making news in the Middle East," Irene commented.
"I know what
you mean," Rayford answered. "Before I became a Jesan, I used to wonder why
there was so much interest in those talks. Must've been because people in the
know were looking for hints of the 'agreement' even back then.
Now, after all these years, we could be about to witness the real
thing. If Dangchao pulls it off, it could confirm what I've been thinking about
had been thinking was that Xu Dangchao was the prophesied Antichrist. The one
problem had been his name. According to Bible prophecy (Revelation 13:17-18),
the numeric value of the letters in the name of the world's final ruler should
add up to 666. Whatever system Rayford used (Greek, Hebrew, Latin, or even
Dangchao's native Chinese), the value of the letters in his name fell short.
Roman numerals, for example, were X, D, and C, which equalled 610. The letters
I, V, and L were needed, to make up the missing 56.* In Greek and Hebrew
tallies, the figures were even farther out. Rayford did not know what to make of
it. Yet there were other things that pointed to Xu Dangchao being the prophesied
I, V, X, L, C, and D (Roman numerals for 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, and 500) must all
appear once (and only once), and the letter M (1,000) must not appear at all for
a name to add up to 666 in Roman numerals.
names used in this book are totally fictitious. It is possible that the real
Antichrist will have a name that adds up to 666 based on the numerical value of
Latin, Greek and Hebrew letters.
success in taking control of the world through the U.N. was a hint of his
special role, although here too, Rayford had to admit that the nations of the
world were not officially controlled by the United Nations yet. They still
continued to operate independently of one another.
Dangchao had built up U.N. military might to the point where U.N. troops were
deployed in great numbers throughout the world. Because of their presence, the
world had experienced total peace, if not total unity, during the year and a
half since the collapse of America.
General Dangchao were to succeed in getting a Temple for the Jews, then not only
would Rayford be convinced that he was the Antichrist, but he would also be able
to compute the exact number of days until Jesus would return.
up late that night studying the six letters that he had received, and thinking
about the proposed meeting on Monday. He refused meals on Saturday and Sunday,
spending most of his time alone in his room or outside walking. He said only
enough to Irene to let her know that nothing was wrong, either between the two
of them or between Rayford and God. Instead, his intense meditation sprang from
a sober anticipation about what God might be about to do.
phoned the enquirers on Saturday, Rayford found them all to be co-operative and
hopeful. John Doorman and Sister Mary Teresa had jobs that allowed them to set
their own hours. Matthew Baker and Sheila Armitage had no job. And the other two
said they would take the day off on Monday, to be in on the meeting.
was a 42-year-old Jehovah's Witness who found the Jesan interpretation of
prophecy appealing. The Jesans taught that all governments were inherently evil,
and that God was looking for a loyalty to himself that would transcend political
issues. Doorman was also a pacifist. He had worked for a while as a missionary
in his native Africa, where he had been jailed for a number of years for his
beliefs. He had never been married, and he worked part-time as a handyman in
order to make more time available for his church work.
Teresa was a 56-year-old Catholic nun with the Little Sisters of Jesus.
She lived and worked with migrants in one of the poorest suburbs
of London. She was attracted to the simple community lifestyle of the Jesans,
and their idea of building a community composed of married couples and families,
as well as celibate singles.
was a 40-year-old Baptist who kept himself busy visiting hospitals and prisons,
and passing out tracts on the streets. He was zealous about many moral issues
and showed special appreciation for the Jesan stand on marriage and divorce. His
wife had left him in the second year of their marriage, because she objected to
his religious beliefs.
Armitage was a 70-year-old Quaker lesbian who was drawn to the group's tolerance
of other religions, and their teaching that sincerity means more to God than
Anastopoulos was a 36-year-old student from Turkey, who was doing a doctorate in
archaeology. He had no religious affiliation, but referred to himself as a
humanist. Mike expressed interest in what the Jesan community was saying about
economics in general, and about survival outside of the economic and political
system in particular.
there was Luis Rafael, a 29-year-old Pentecostal migrant from Brazil. He had,
two years earlier, joined The Family, a radical Pentecostal community with
controversial teachings about sex. Luis liked The Family's teachings on Bible
prophecy and living by faith, but he had become disillusioned with some of their
other teachings. He liked the Jesans' literal approach to the teachings of
Jesus, and their tendency to use them as the standard by which to measure all
read through all of their letters several times on Friday night, and he had
discussed some of the issues that interested each of them in his phone calls on
Saturday. All six sounded like they were genuinely hungering after more truth,
although there were the usual disturbing signs of prejudice in each of them as
well. He prayed that God would give him the wisdom to deal with these prejudices
as they came up on Monday.
was the first to arrive on Monday morning. But Rayford had barely introduced him
to Irene before the doorbell rang again and again. By ten o'clock, all six
seekers were nervously seated in Neville's living room.
Where shall we begin?" Rayford mumbled, half to himself. "How about if you
start, by asking any questions you might have, and we'll do our best to answer
them." He glanced over at Irene, as though looking for support.
Anastopoulos, the agnostic archaeologist, had learned enough during the
introductions to know that all of the others had religious affiliations. He
spoke first. "Do we have to believe in God to be part of this group?"
on what you mean by believing in God," Rayford replied. He saw an immediate
reaction from both Matthew and Luis, the two evangelical Christians in the room.
They both shifted forward in their seats to better hear what Rayford was about
doesn't save us," he said. "What saves us is faith in the highest revelation of
God that we know. Call it love or truth if you like, but we call it God."
happy with that answer, but Matthew and Luis exchanged glances before Luis
raised his hand to speak.
he said. "If someone's really sincere, then they would have to believe in God."
had reached into a briefcase that stood beside his chair, pulling out a small
magazine, which he offered to Mike. "Jehovah God wants everyone to know him by
name," he said. "There's an article in here that will help you."
"Is that a
Watchtower magazine?" asked Matthew. "Are you a Jehovah's Witness?"
thought Rayford. This had been what he most wanted to avoid.
Jehovah's Witnesses were despised by most mainline Christian
denominations. All this enthusiasm in one room could accomplish powerful things
for God, but only if it could be made to work in harmony. Already it was taking
a turn that Rayford had seen religious zeal take many times before. He had
believed that God was going to work a miracle today, but things were not looking
that way at the moment.
"Yes, I am a
witness for Jehovah," replied John Doorman, sticking his chin out with pride.
about you?" Matthew Baker said, addressing Sister Mary Teresa. "I take it, from
the way you're dressed, that you're a Catholic. Do you pray to Mary?"
Sister Mary was lost for words.
what's happening here?" Mike interjected, standing and pointing at Matthew.
"This is why I never had any time for religion. Nothing but arguments and
nit-picking. Here, take your magazine. I'm not interested." He handed the
Watchtower back to John Doorman.
should all just" Sheila began, hoping to calm people down; but she was
interrupted, as Mike continued:
come to hear what the rest of you have to say. I came to hear what the Jesans
have to say!"
matter what the Jesans believe," shouted Luis, who had also jumped to his feet.
"What matters is what the Bible says."
"And what if
I don't happen to believe the Bible?" asked Mike, his chin out this time.
you don't belong here!" Matthew replied, also jumping to his feet, and taking a
step in Mike's direction as he spoke.
quickly jumped between the two men, extending her arms in both directions, as
though separating boxing opponents. "Why don't we just sit down and"
spoke over top of her. "The Bible says, in Acts 4:12, "Neither is there
salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven"
disagreement about exactly what happened at that instant. Some of those present
could not even agree as to whether Rayford said anything at all.
"It was more
like an explosion," Luis said later, "except that it came out of his mouth."
was, it sent people literally flying across the room and into one another.
Sister Mary, the only one still seated at the time, had tipped over backwards in
her chair. Only Irene, who was standing behind Rayford when it happened, escaped
the blast. Some of the others had bruises from it. A flash of light had
accompanied the explosion. It had filled the room and momentarily blinded
himself was as shocked as anyone. But then he began to speak -- with an
authority that he had never experienced before. It scared him, but it would have
scared him even more not to have spoken, for he knew that what was coming out of
his mouth at that moment was not his own words. They were the very words of God.
And when he
spoke, the entire room was silent. People listened as they had never listened to
"You are not
here today because your doctrines are right. God has brought you here; and he
has only done it because you are sincere. For two thousand years he has
tolerated, and even engineered some of the divisions that have existed between
you and other believers. Many of you have preached your half-baked doctrines,
believing that you had the whole picture, when you only had a part of it. You
have promoted personalities and organizations in your ignorance. And you
imagined that people following other doctrines and leaders and organizations
were somehow inferior to yourselves.
"God left you
ignorant, in most cases, to test your loyalty to him. He wanted to know if you
would stay true to what you believed, even if it alienated you from your friends
and family. And you are here today because you have each passed that test."
raised his voice again. "But NOW... now, it's time to grow up!"
Some of those present scooted back from where they were sitting on
the floor. They were cringing in expectation of another explosion.
But it never
came. Rayford's voice softened instead.
believe me. Your single claim to righteousness is the grace of God. He has
chosen you entirely because of your sincerity -- not because of your theology or
your lack of it." He looked at Mike as he said the last few words.
picked up a stack of three-ring binders and proceeded to pass them out to the
six people cowering in front of him. Over the past year, he had worked long
hours to produce the material in those notebooks.
articles in here on a wide range of topics," he said. "You are going to find
some of them shocking. They will challenge some of your most sacred dogmas.
sisters," he said with a pause and a hint of a smile, "it's time to move into a
deeper understanding of truth than any of you have ever known before. It's time
to prove your sincerity by listening to one another, and by setting aside your
prejudices when you do."
tried to give the assembly a bigger picture of the significance of the moment.
"A treaty is
being signed in Jerusalem today," he said. "Before sundown tonight, construction
will begin on a new Temple in Jerusalem. But a far greater agreement has been
made in heaven. God is going to build his Temple, and, believe it or not, he's
going to use you people here to do it. We have entered the final seven years of
church history. The Great Tribulation is just three and a half years away, and
it is our job to prepare the world for that time."
paused again, to let the gravity of the situation sink in. Then he continued.
"The death of
Jesus marked the end of organized religion. God has, for two thousand years,
been dealing with people personally and individually, trying to build character
and faith that goes beyond organizational affiliation.
"But now he's
going to put all of the best qualities and bits of truth together to build his
church, and not your own."
humanist, was pleased to hear Rayford talking about things like individualism
and character; but he was battling with the idea that this was all coming from a
real God -- and a Christian one at that. Words like "church" and "Jesus" were
hard for him to swallow. Mike was a bit of an anarchist too, and so talk of a
new organization also unnerved him.
In one way or
another, each person in the room was facing a similar battle. They had been
thrown together with people whom they had, for one reason or another, regarded
as the enemy. But the presence of God there told them that Rayford was not just
another guru trying to start another denomination.
on: "Right now, in another part of the world, there is another meeting going on
like this one. There are six other people like yourselves. One is a Hindu, one a
Muslim, and one a Jew." What Rayford was saying came not from his own human
understanding, but rather, he was speaking, as he had been from the initial
shout, as the mouth of God.
"If you think
you have differences to overcome, imagine how it must be for them. But God wants
you people here and the six people he has brought together elsewhere to actually
lead his endtime church through what lies ahead. You will become the 'judges' of
this great movement. But you'll need to overcome your differences in order to do
original plan for his people was for them to have twelve tribes, with tribal
judges, to sort out problems as they arose. Not kings. Not dictators. But just
tribal judges people like Samuel, and Gideon, and Deborah." He glanced at Sheila
and Sister Mary Teresa as he mentioned Deborah.
will be to help believers in your area of the world to know what is right and
what is wrong. You won't be able to do that until you can overcome your
differences, and until you can recognize the limitations of your own
feel the anointing fading, and he spoke more as an equal with those present now.
and sisters, I don't have all the answers. What I have prepared in these
notebooks can act as a guide. But the bottom line is that you are gong to have
to learn how to hear God telling you things that you don't want to hear. You are
going to have to learn to look past your own prejudices. We have a lot to learn
in a very short period of time.
to try talking once again, but I want each of you to work harder at listening
this time, and to pray long and hard before you speak. You each have something
to contribute, but it may not be as much as you think you have."
atmosphere in the room had been transformed. Everyone was subdued humbled by the
truth in what Rayford had said, and by the overwhelming presence of God in that
room. Little by little they broached some of the issues that separated them; but
they did so timidly this time. When tensions arose, they would retreat into more
prayer for more grace in their dealings with each other.
And so the
Western half of the Twelve Tribes , as the movement came to be called, was
The Hebrew prophet, Daniel, gave a remarkable prediction about "God's
people" 453 years before Jesus was born. (Daniel 9:24-26) He said that there
were 490 years left for God's people, but that their Messiah would be "cut off"
seven years before those 490 years were completed, in 30 A.D. (See "Armageddon
for Beginners", chapter 6, "The Seventy Weeks", for a detailed discussion of
crucifixion of Jesus marked the end of organized religion as such. God has, for
nearly two thousand years dealt with people individually and personally. All
attempts at promoting "one true church" have ended in travesties of the "kingdom
of heaven", which Jesus said was invisible. (Luke 17:20)
Daniel said that God's people would become a visible organization once again as
a result of an "agreement" made seven years before the "consummation" of all
things. (Daniel 9:27) The prophecy is written in such a way as to indicate two
parallel agreements. One is made between Christ and his Church, and the other is
made between Antichrist and his Church.
will result in sacrifices once again being made in the (presently non-existent)
Temple in Jerusalem... at least for the first three and a half years of that
agreement. And it will also result in the coming together of twelve "tribes" of
continued for the rest of the day. Each of the six people present in Neville's
living room had a lifetime of experience to un-learn. By the end of the day they
were starting to feel the enormity and the urgency of this little experiment.
Their religious affiliations, jobs, and families faded in importance, as they
grew in their conviction about what God was doing.
provided food throughout the day, as well as making cushions and blankets
available when the group spontaneously decided to stay on at Neville's until
they were clear about what God's next step was to be for them. Some of them
talked far into the night, pumped up on the excitement of so much new revelation
in such a short period of time. Others slept, scattered around the floor, so
that they would be fresh for more discussion the following morning.
Over the next
few days there was a remarkable change in each of the six overnight recruits.
Mike was forced to acknowledge not only the existence of God, but also the role
that God had been playing in all that had happened in his life. Although Sheila
had not been involved in a lesbian relationship for many years, she had defended
homosexuality all her life. Now she had to admit that her stubborn prejudices on
the subject had been no better than the prejudices that she had fought against.
Her pride had blinded her to God's right to set standards with regard to sexual
behavior; but when she and Mike each broke down and acknowledged their
stubbornness, it opened up new horizons for both of them spiritually, and it
dramatically deepened their relationship with God and with the others in the
newly formed community.
transitions for Mike and Sheila were both traumatic and dramatic. But John,
Luis, and Matthew each faced even greater struggles with their conservative
religious hang-ups. Rayford's mention of a similar meeting with Hindus and
Muslims was almost more than they could take.
for them was one of fear. They feared that they were being lured into a
heretical deception. Each one struggled in their own way. Matthew had been
poisoned against The Family, as well as Jehovah's Witnesses, and John had been
poisoned against all of "Christendom" as the Watchtower people called everyone
apart from Jehovah's Witnesses. All three had problems with accepting the other,
less fundamental, members of the newly formed union. Occasionally, one or more
of them would take time out to escape in prayer, asking God for protection,
strength, and finally for grace enough to lay down their prejudices and to fully
embrace the evident sincerity, if not the truth, that existed in each of the
Teresa was caught in the middle. She had learned to tolerate, love, and
appreciate people from many religious backgrounds. But she did so from what she
confidently believed was a position of religious superiority. She had always
thought that God would one day unite the world under the banner of the Roman
Catholic Church. The Church had been her life and her hope. But now she was
being forced to see it as just one more counterfeit in a world full of religious
When the six
tribal judges-in-training were not sharing with and learning from each other,
they were hungrily reading Rayford's writings. So much that he said contradicted
a lifetime of religious tradition. But when they weighed it up against the
teachings of Jesus and what they had been learning from each other, there was no
denying both the validity and the relevance of it.
it was Mike who had the least difficulty in accepting what Rayford said. He
accepted it not because Jesus said it, but because he could see how it worked to
discipline people to be more spiritual and less religious. Motivations of greed
and religious pride were replaced with a genuine hunger for more love and more
came to see that this was what they needed to look for in others, and not
religious or political tags. Sincerity could be found almost anywhere, and they
needed to learn how to recognize it if they were going to be the leaders that
God needed to unite all true believers in these last days. Rayford's writings
had much to say that would help them along those lines.
By the end of
the week, this new team was beginning to experience a miraculous love for each
other, and they were discussing their next step.
snail mail had increased significantly. The strange thing was that less than a
third of it was coming from the United Kingdom. Dozens of people from Africa,
South America, Europe, and the Middle East wrote in, asking for personal contact
with the Jesans, as well as declaring their commitment to the teachings of Jesus
as their standard for behavior.
Jesans returned from an outreach on the weekend, and Neville and Mary returned
about the same time. They too shared in the excitement of what was happening.
their practical experience in living by faith, Rayford assigned each of the
Jesan distributors to assist one of the judges in learning how to survive, both
spiritually and physically in an alien world. Over the next three weeks, each of
the new converts sold their possessions, giving the community more wealth than
it had ever had before. From those funds air tickets and laptop computers were
purchased for the newly ordained missionaries.
seekers were waiting to meet them in six different locations. Luis and Fran flew
to Sao Paulo, Brazil. Mike and Martin flew to Ankara, Turkey. Chloe and Sister
Mary Teresa took one of the vans on a ferry to France, and then on to Rome.
Sheila had lived in Moscow for a few years when she was younger, so she and
Reinhard (who also knew Russian) took responsibility for the work in Russia. And
even young Raymie, who was now fifteen years old, was assigned to assist John
Doorman in Johannesburg. Matthew Baker stayed in London to work with Rayford and
community was suddenly coming of age. "It's happening, isn't it?" Fran said when
he first heard about the six new members. "It's coming together. Thank you,
Jeezus!" And Fran gave high fives to the men who had been travelling with him.
Chloe, Raymie, and the others just looked on and laughed.
addressed the expanded community before they all headed off to their respective
destinations, one month after they had first met:
will be responsible for almost half a billion people," he said. "You have just
six months to locate 12,000 genuine believers from each of your tribal
territories. You'll need to teach them as I have been trying to teach you. The
notebooks will help, but they must be translated into local languages and
reproduced as quickly as possible. You will face the same prejudices and closed
minds that you yourselves had a few weeks ago. Pray for wisdom and patience,
because you'll need a lot of it.
heart... God is with you!"
by the task before them, they each felt Rayford's confidence as their own: God
really was with them, and that was all that mattered.
It is traditional to think of the twelve tribes mentioned in the
Revelation as being flesh Jews. But we forget that the Jews as we know them
today were only ever one tribe themselves (the tribe of Judah). The other tribes
of Israel were wiped out even before Jesus was born. (Note: Even the names of
the tribes in The Revelation are different from those of the Old Testament.
Compare Exodus 1:2-7 with Revelation 7:4-8 and you will see that the tribe of
Dan has been replaced by the tribe of Manasseh.)
twelve tribes of prophecy represent are "God's people". His people are not, by
any stretch of the imagination, those who have rejected his Son. His people are
those who have accepted his Son those who follow Jesus (the Lamb) humbly
wherever he leads, just like the Bible says. (Revelation 14:3-4)
obsession with the Jewish race is a reflection of her own rejection of the
message that Jesus came to deliver. God's goal is not to build a nation of
people who possess Abraham's genes, but rather to build a nation of people who
possess Abraham's faith.
Revelation refers most consistently to Jesus as "The Lamb", in order to contrast
his followers with those who seek a Temple made with hands (Acts 7:48) in which
to sacrifice other lambs. Spiritual Jews have no need of a visible temple, while
flesh Jews have no higher hope.
It's not much time to reach half a billion people, is it?"
was talking to Raymie Strait as they winged their way from London to
Johannesburg, in South Africa.
head was a cauldron of other thoughts and emotions at that particular moment.
His mother --
Irene as he now called her -- had not taken his departure well. She didn't think
he was ready for such a task; but Rayford (Raymie liked the idea of his parents
being spiritual brother and sister now.) Rayford had defended Raymie, reminding
Irene of how much the boy had matured in the past year and a half.
sad for Irene. He knew that he still secretly felt like the little boy that she
imagined him to be. But he was also thrilled about being trusted by his father
with so much responsibility at such a young age, and he wanted to prove himself
worthy of it.
Here he was,
only fifteen years old, and acting as technical advisor to one of the world's
twelve tribal judges. Who could have believed that the spoiled little brat who
whined at the slightest inconvenience prior to the collapse of America was now
an important leader in a worldwide religious movement!
words came back to him. "You can do it, Raymie, as long as you remember each
step of the way that you can't do it not without God's help."
"Help me to
remember that," he prayed for about the hundredth time since he had been
designated to travel with John.
had never had children of his own. He had never even been married. But he liked
Raymie, and he showed a genuine concern for the boy's welfare. That was one of
the factors that prompted Rayford to release Raymie into John's care. Together
John and Raymie had been given the task of finding 12,000 genuine believers in
the countries that made up Southern Africa and West Africa.
comment, echoing inside Raymie's sub-conscious, finally caught up with him, and
"Yeah. It is
a very big job, isn't it?" he said. "But we can do it, remember? We can do it if
we just remember that we can't do it without God's help."
agreement, paused for a moment to ponder the truth in what Raymie had just said,
and then went on:
"I have some
ideas, Raymie," he said, pulling a small notebook out of his shirt pocket. "I
want to get your thoughts on them."
One of the
things that Raymie liked most about John was that he treated him like an adult,
at least when it came to spiritual matters. Since John had learned to listen to
others, he regarded Raymie as he did the other members of the Twelve Tribes, as
a spiritual brother.
as he explained it to Raymie, was to set up four separate bases in Johannesburg,
one for translators, one for teaching, one for printing and distribution, and
finally, an administrative and communication centre where he and Raymie would
to me," Raymie said.
"But it could
take us six months just to train our first set of workers," the former Jehovah's
Witness missionary lamented. "And we'll need hundreds of teams like that before
what Dad... I mean, what Rayford said about us just being judges?" Raymie asked.
"I think it means that we don't really have to teach everyone.
God'll teach them if we just sorta make ourselves available."
the briefcase he was still holding in his lap. In it were the studies that
Rayford had sent with each of the six teams.
lotta good teaching in here about listening to God, and about listening to one
another. You 'member how you guys learned so fast from each other when you
stopped being religious? We just gotta get them to do that too."
want to say anything to discourage Raymie, but unless he could duplicate
Rayford's "big bang", as the group had come to call the explosion in Neville's
lounge room, he was doubtful about his ability to get people to "stop being
religious" as Raymie so aptly put it. He too whispered a prayer under his
They were met
at the airport by two married couples and two single men. Moses and Rebecca
Mhlongo were in their late twenties, and had two small children, six-year-old
Lebo, and Miriam, who was just over a year old. Ringo and Sylvia Laka were a
middle-aged couple from Nigeria, but they had travelled to Johannesburg to link
up with the others. Abdullah Ibrahim and Marcus Pietersen were both single, both
from Johannesburg, and both in their early thirties. Only Marcus was of European
descent. The others were all native Africans, and each had some knowledge of at
least one native language.
had been introduced, and a few comments had been made about the flight from
London, they climbed into two vehicles for the half hour drive to the communal
apartment where they were all living.
On the way,
John and Raymie learned that all six of the new recruits to their tribe (the
tribe of Manasseh) had sold their possessions and put their wealth into a common
purse. They had just moved into the three-bedroom apartment, which Abdullah, a
government scientist until a few weeks ago, had previously been living in on his
John was keen
to get started, so when they arrived, he launched straight into a business
meeting, starting with questions about how the believers, who represented
several different denominational and religious backgrounds, were dealing with
problems were there on starting," confessed Abdullah in a strong Indian accent.
"We were seven at first, but one woman was going when things were not as she
wanted. Allah showed that we too would end up like her if we did not learn to
listen to one another; so that is what we did. We simply listened."
over at Raymie, who just smiled knowingly. "Well, thank God for that," he said.
"Now if we can just find 11,992 more recruits like you people in the next six
concluded that the Temple in Jerusalem was going to take 220 days to complete,
and he believed that it would take an equal period of time for each of the
Twelve Tribes to come together as well. The others listened intently as John
explained this theory to them, and they too were overwhelmed with the task that
had been set out for them.
went on to explain his plan for four bases in each major city.
there was more than enough cash from what each had received for their
possessions, to rent four apartments, buy a truck, and get the presses rolling
on literature. It was agreed that the apartment already being used by the local
team would become the administrative headquarters, where John and Raymie would
live and work.
Marcus volunteered to start immediately with translating. Between
them they knew two tribal languages, Afrikaans and Arabic. If they should need a
rest, or if they were needed elsewhere, there were others in the team who could
do translations in still more local languages.
had been previously appointed as the group's accountant, agreed to locate and
rent three more buildings, and to place orders for literature in English
straight away, while printouts in other languages were being prepared.
Ringo produced a notebook
with the names of contacts the team had already made before John and Raymie had
arrived. He and his wife, Sylvia, took upon themselves the responsibility of
inviting these contacts to move into the education centre (as soon as they had
one) and to start learning the ways of life within the Twelve Tribes.
reminded them that the woman who had left had threatened to make trouble for the
group. She asked how they would protect themselves from recriminations if other
members backslid and turned bitter.
leaders, there is no need for people at one base to have informations on other
bases," Abdullah said. "We can work in cells. For members and leaders, other
names will be used. That way, even if they are tortured, they will simply not be
able to give informations."
and Raymie exchanged glances as they observed how they themselves were little
more than catalysts for something that was running of its own steam... well, at
least of God's own steam.
weeks, all four spheres of operation were up and running. Four others had moved
into the teaching centre, where Ringo and Sylvia were acting as instructors. One
of the new recruits possessed knowledge of yet another tribal language that the
others did not know, and so she had been designated to join the translation team
as soon as she had finished the basic training course.
of audio compact discs and printouts of key articles by Rayford were already
being produced at the translation centre by the end of the second week. That is
when the first order of literature arrived at the distribution centre.
An order for another print run, this one in Afrikaans, was placed,
and it was due for delivery the following week. Moses was now out shopping for a
four-wheel drive vehicle to be used to deliver the literature to more remote
areas... as soon as a new recruit could be trained to do that.
In a matter
of weeks, the whole process would be repeated in places like Accra, Capetown,
Harare, Monrovia, Kinshasa, and Lagos.
Raymie's job to answer the mail, and he was already receiving letters from
people in South Africa who had heard of the Jesan website, and who wanted to
adopt their lifestyle.
It was also
Raymie's job to keep Rayford informed in England of what was happening. His
regular epistles served the double purpose of putting Irene's mind at ease about
happening in Johannesburg and beyond was not unlike what was happening in other
cities where tribal judges had landed. Rayford had made contact with his
counterpart in the Eastern Hemisphere, a man named Chaim Rosenberg, who was
based in Sydney, Australia. Chaim was in his sixties, and he too had
commissioned six judges. They were to cover all of Asia and Micronesia. The six
Eastern judges were based in Sydney, Tokyo, New Delhi, Karachi, Beijing, and
Over the next
six months, the number of members in each of the tribes increased roughly
threefold every month. They worked quietly, trying not to arouse attention. The
rest of the world was so intoxicated with a philosophy of love and peace at that
time, that it was playing right into the hands of the Twelve Tribes. Even in
countries where missionary activity had previously been outlawed, there were
only cursory attempts to stop them when they pasted up posters in the middle of
the night, or when they undertook other activities to alert believers to what
God was doing.
the doors were open, not many were walking through. They still only managed to
find about one soul in 50,000 who was prepared to meet their standards. What
they were fashioning was obviously going to be an elite team of spiritual
commandos, who would be able to give godly leadership to the world, in what
would soon become the darkest period in earth's history.
Rayford's calculations were based on two passages from the book of
Daniel, in the Old Testament. One predicts a period of seven years between an
agreement that results in sacrifices resuming in Jerusalem and the
"consummation" (or end). The other predicts a period of just 2300
days from the time the sacrifices begin until the sanctuary is first desecrated
and then cleansed.
difference between these two figures (2520 days and 2300 days) is presumably the
time it will take to construct the Temple. (See box below.)
9:24-27 is so written that it could be referring to two parallel agreements, one
between the prince of this world and his followers, and another between the
Prince of peace and his followers. One results in a physical Temple being built,
and the other results in a spiritual Body coming together miraculously.
But in either
case, something horrible happens in the middle of the last seven years,
resulting in an "abominable desolation" being inflicted upon both "temples".
Martin were responsible for the Tribe of Judah, which covered all of the Middle
East, as well as East Africa. When the Temple in Jerusalem was nearing
completion, the pair made a rare trip away from their computers in Ankara to
visit a tiny team of workers in the holy city. One reason for the trip was that
they wanted to see for themselves what all the fuss was about. Mike's
archaeological background included a keen interest in architecture as well.
The Pope had
made good on his offer to move to Jerusalem, and a palatial residence was being
built for him not far from the Temple Mount. The move was seen by experts to be
on a par with Constantine's conversion to Christianity. By declaring
Christianity the state religion, and himself the head of that religion,
Constantine had lured early Christians out of the catacombs and into his courts,
where they have been ever since. In a similar tactic, the Pope was now reaching
out to embrace Jews and Muslims as "brothers" (whether they liked it or not),
and in so doing, he was setting himself up as the unofficial patriarch of all
wanted their Temple badly enough to overlook such a move on the part of Rome;
and the overwhelming presence of U.N. military might in Jerusalem at that time
left Muslims with little choice but to go along with whatever their other two
"brothers" had decreed.
2,000 years of tradition had made Vatican City almost as sacred as the Pope
himself, there could be no disputing the fact that Jerusalem outweighed Rome in
the holy city stakes. The Vicar of Christ could not do better than to set up
residence in the holiest of all holy cities.
In January of
that year, the agreement had been made to build the twin temples. Now, some
seven months later, construction was already nearing completion.
Mike and Martin toured the site to observe the progress for
The Dome of
the Rock, where Mohammed was said to have ascended into heaven, had been pretty
much left untouched. This was possible because the Jewish Temple had been
positioned in an East-West direction (rather than North-South) over the Dome of
the Tablet, which was located just a few yards north of the Muslim mosque. The
Temple entrance was perfectly aligned with the Golden Gate of the Eastern Wall.
Following the original pattern for the Temple's construction (but using a
slightly longer "cubit"), the new Temple fit perfectly on the northern end of
the platform that had originally been built for visitors to the Dome of the
There was a
matching Catholic basilica, called The Cathedral of the Divine Creation, built
on the southern end of the Temple Mount. Outwardly it appeared to be a twin of
the Jewish Temple; but the interior was laid out differently, in order to
accommodate large crowds for mass, and a cathedral choir. Where the "holy of
holies" was located in the Jewish floor plan, there was a Catholic tabernacle,
to hold the blessed sacrament.
platform area had been enlarged, so that there was plenty of courtyard space for
the Temple, the Mosque, and the Cathedral. The two Christians could not deny
that the golden Dome in the middle of two pure white matching temples was a
masterpiece of religious architecture.
leaders were abuzz with talk of how Jerusalem ("the city of peace") was finally
going to live up to its name. The matching temples were a sure omen that world
peace was on its way.
sections had appeared for the Temple, as if out of nowhere, reducing the time
needed for construction. There was no waiting for materials or fittings either,
as they had almost all been purchased or fashioned in advance and been stored
Much of the
secular world did not care much about the Temple one way or the other; but there
were some to whom it meant a great deal. Most surprising amongst this group,
however, was Secretary General Xu Dangchao, a man who had never been known to
show any religious interest in the past. He had cancelled more important
appointments in order to be in Jerusalem when key decisions were being made
about the Temple project.
and Martin were in Jerusalem a report came out in Time magazine (now based in
Hong Kong) about Dangchao's ancestry. It was not given prominence in the
magazine, but it did offer an explanation for Dangchao's interest in the Temple
which Mike, in particular, was drawn to.
that, although Dangchao had been born and raised in Tibet, his parents had
actually come from Kaifeng Province in China. Xu was one of seven Chinese names
that had been adopted by some wandering Jews who had settled in China more than
a thousand years earlier. The Jewish men had married Chinese women for so many
generations, that their descendants were not racially distinguishable from their
full-blooded Chinese neighbours. Nevertheless, because Chinese genealogy is so
important, and because ancestral roots are traced through the father, the Xus of
Kaifeng never forgot that they were Jews.
Few, if any,
of the accessories of Judaism remained. But Dangchao's father had left one
reminder of his roots. He named his son Levi Xu Dangchao.
The use of a
third name in China was not unusual; but a Jewish third name was almost unheard
of... outside of Kaifeng Province. Young Xu Dangchao had ceased to use his
Jewish name when he moved from Tibet to England to study at Oxford University;
and the question of him having another name had never been brought up after
that, until now.
report suggested that Dangchao's Jewish ancestry was the reason for his keen
interest in getting a Temple built in Jerusalem. Obviously, it said, he was
showing loyalty to his ancestors, which touched the hearts of many. Of course,
that did not explain why Dangchao was also instrumental in getting the Cathedral
of the Divine Creation built on the Temple Mount.
something far more sinister, both in Xu Dangchao's third name, and in the three
Temples. When he had read the story, he went back and studied Dangchao's full
name, counting the value of the letters in it.
is!" he said to Martin, who had read the article with him. "The missing numbers
in his name. Add them up now, and see what you get!"
talking about the letters L, V, and I in the name Levi. They represent 50, 5,
and 1 in Roman numerals. Together with the Roman numerals X, D, and C from the
name Xu Dangchao, which represent 10, 500, and 100 in Roman numerals, the
numeric value of his name came to 666, the predicted number for the name of the
world's final global leader... the Antichrist. Mike knew Rayford had been
pondering the significance of Dangchao's name, and so he passed the article on
responded with a prediction to the Twelve Tribes: "In less than three years," he
said, "Dangchao will cause the sacrifices to cease, and he himself will take
control of the Temple. Of course he's interested in every detail of its
construction. It will one day be his throne, and he will be demanding that the
whole world worship him."
written previously regarding what he saw as significant about the Temples
"They are a
clever counterfeit," he had said, quite frankly. "They represent mankind's
belief that peace can be found through the works of their own hands, and not
through humble faith in God.
"It all seems
harmless enough to people who have never taken Jesus seriously.
Most of the church is still living in the Old Testament, where
Temple worship was acceptable. So a building, even a complex of three different
buildings, which unites three of the most powerful religions on earth must, in
their eyes, be a good thing. But that's only because they recognize faith
through buildings, and not through personal conviction."
together of the institutional church was, according to Rayford, a diabolical
imitation of the coming together of the invisible church, as was happening in
the formation of the Twelve Tribes. World religions placed their hopes in
political solutions, he said, while true believers were in tune with the Spirit
of God, who would bring them together in his own way.
Lord build the house, they labour in vain who build it," he quoted from the Old
Martin were back in Ankara when the official opening came. But they watched live
coverage on TV, along with the rest of the world.
The Cathedral of the Divine Creation was not quite finished when it came
time for the opening of the Temple, on a hot summer day near the end of July.
The media was not bothered by what was or was not happening with the Cathedral,
however. They could see cathedrals any day, and almost anywhere. Their interest
was the Temple. There could only be one Jewish Temple.
high priestly tribe of Levi had long since died out, a new tribe of priests had
been artificially produced by raising selected Jewish boys under a strict
priestly code of discipline. From these, a high priest had been chosen to
preside over the affairs of the Temple, including its high profile opening.
Jewish religious leaders were present, along with many Jewish political
personalities. Although non-Jews were not allowed inside, photos and drawings of
the interior were given to the Press. Solomon himself would have been impressed.
Almost everything was solid gold or silver, or at least gold or silver plated.
Plush carpets, a closed circuit security system, air-conditioning, and a top
class sound system all represented improvements on either of the two earlier
Temples -- the one built by Solomon, or the later one built by Zerubbabel.
The first two
Temples had featured the Ark of the Covenant, a sacred box in which the original
Ten Commandments and other holy relics were held. Only the high priest could
enter the "holy of holies" where the Ark resided, and he could only do it once a
year. When he did, he would have a rope tied around his waist, in the event that
he should die while there. It was believed that, if there was unconfessed sin in
his life, he would be struck dead by the presence of God.
Temple had nothing to compare with the original Ark or the original Ten
Commandments. But it did have a veritable museum of Jewish artifacts, honoring
their history, both in Old Testament times and in more recent times. The housing
of these artifacts was not limited to the holy of holies. They were displayed
throughout the Temple complex.
dedicated the Temple, fire came down from heaven and consumed the sacrifice.
That miraculous flame had been tended continuously after that, to keep it
burning. But no one expected God to honour the new Temple with such a display of
power; so other arrangements had been made, which were arguably more sensational
in their own way. A remote controlled laser beam was triggered to strike in the
centre of the altar, igniting a huge eternal flame, into which the sacrifices
would be thrown.
after dignitary came forward with speeches of hope and rejoicing for this
obvious fulfilment of Israel's destiny as God's People. Sacrifices continued
throughout the day and on into the night, as lesser dignitaries waited patiently
for their opportunity to make up for almost 2,000 years without a proper
sacrifice on their behalf or on behalf of their ancestors.
tears of joy, and partying throughout the city all that night. The Wailing Wall
had turned into a wall of rejoicing, and much of the world rejoiced with the
Jews, who had suffered so much over the centuries, and who were now back
worshipping in their own Temple... or at least in one that U.N. Secretary
General Levi Xu Dangchao had arranged for them to use for a while.
The curtain over the holy of holies was supernaturally torn, from top to
bottom (Matthew 27:50-51), at about the same time that Jesus Christ said, "It is
finished," and died on the cross, nearly 2,000 years ago (John 19:30). Jesus had
predicted the destruction of that Temple (Matthew 24:2), a prophecy which was
fulfilled in 70 A.D.
there was a misunderstanding about what he actually said, the only charge that
his accusers had been able to get more than one witness to agree on during his
trial, was that Jesus had somehow threatened their precious Temple (Matthew
26:59-62). Certainly, what Jesus represented was far more important than the
Temple (Matthew 12:6). He spoke of a time when unity would not be determined on
the basis of where we worship, but rather on the basis of invisible inner
traits, like sincerity and faith (John 4:21-24). Our bodies have now become the
place where God resides (I Corinthians 3:16).
Christianity has, however, returned to the hype and trappings of Old Testament
temple worship, so that the institutional church today is little more than
Judaism with a new coat of paint.
But talk of
unity which is based primarily on political organizations and visible structures
is always going to miss the mark. Talk of love without submission to the One who
is Love will never be able to produce the goods when called upon to do
Many of the
European disciples who joined Mary Teresa's tribe (which also included North
Africa), had considerable wealth, which could be shared, not only with the
poorer members in Africa, but also with tribes in other parts of the Third
World. But getting funds from one place to another was not easy.
the world in adopting "the Mark", a microchip implant that was gaining in
popularity throughout the world, because of its efficiency. The Twelve Tribes,
like the Jesans before them, were opposed to the use of credit cards,
smartcards, and especially to using the Mark. This made commercial transactions
difficult for all of the tribes, but especially for European members.
taken by the Twelve Tribes came from a prophecy and a curse which appear in the
13th and 14th chapters of The Revelation:
Antichrist) causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to
receive a Mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads, so that no one might
buy or sell, save he that had the Mark, or the name of the Beast, or the number
of his name." (Revelation 13:15-16)
worship the Beast and his image, and receive his Mark in their forehead, or in
their hand, they shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured
out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and they shall be tormented
with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence
of the Lamb. The smoke of their torment ascends up for ever and ever, and they
have no rest day nor night, who worship the Beast and his image, and whoever
receives the Mark of his name." (Revelation 14:9-11)
Mark, it was difficult for Chloe or Sister Mary, or anyone in their tribe to
make the simplest purchases. Rayford and Chaim did not teach that credit cards
or smart cards were necessarily wrong, but they taught that a true believer
would want to err on the side of being too cautious, rather than making excuses
to move closer and closer to taking the Mark. The hard part was that so much
business had to be done outside the generally accepted channels. Sister Mary
became quite adept at dealing through the Black Market, although it meant paying
very high prices.
evangelical Christians had, in the past, promised to oppose the Mark when it
came in, as soon as it became clear that it was going to cost them personally,
they adopted other arguments to justify using it, as they had done previously
with credit cards and smart cards. The most common argument was to say that a
loving God would never punish anyone for ever and ever, especially not for doing
something so innocent as buying and selling.
One line of
reasoning said that Christians could take the Mark without necessarily
worshipping the devil, and as long as they did not "sell their soul" to the
devil, the grace of God would compensate for their treachery. In its purest form
the argument stated that even if they did worship the Antichrist or sell their
soul to the devil, providing they had said a magical prayer "asking Jesus into
their hearts" before selling out, God would be forced to forgive them. The
teaching had been used to justify greed, pride, lust, dishonesty,
self-righteousness, and every other sin you could think of for many decades
before the Mark came in, so it was only natural that it should be extended to
take in that form of disobedience as well.
The Mark took
a number of different forms. By far, the most popular was the tiny implant, just
under the skin on the back of the right hand. Technology had succeeded in making
a little biochip (or passive transponder) that was so small that it was almost
microscopic. It contained a universal pin number which was unique for each
bearer. With the Mark in place, a person's right hand could be waved in front of
a scanner using low frequency radio waves to verify the number before funds were
added to or subtracted from that person's bank account. This would be done each
time they wanted to buy or sell something.
alternative Mark was available for amputees or others who could not use their
right hand for one reason or another. These people could have the microchip
implanted under the skin of their forehead. They could then just put their head
in front of the scanner to authorize sales and purchases.
alternative was for people who (usually because of their great wealth) feared
someone might kill and skin them, in an attempt to locate their transponder.
Authorities assured the public that this would be virtually impossible, because
the implants were extremely difficult to retrieve after they had been injected,
and because a scanner would recognize anyone with two implants and it would
refuse to process them.
if people insisted on not accepting the implant, then they had the option of
having a visible tattoo on their hand to signify that they had been officially
"Declared and Certified Legally Exempt from Verification Implant", which was
abbreviated DCLXVI, or 666 in Roman numerals!
choosing the tattoo were allowed to manually punch their pin number into
scanning machines, as it had been done in the old days before the Mark.
other exception was Dangchao himself, who needed only to use his name as
identification. He had neither a tattoo nor an implant.
Mary Teresa found that, even with Europe's widespread use of the Mark, new
members had each failed to accept the implant or the tattoo for one reason or
another. For some it seemed merely coincidental, because they knew nothing about
the spiritual significance of what had been happening in the banking world.
These amazing coincidences deepened the movement's conviction that God had been
intervening in each of their lives, to protect them from the Mark. Nevertheless,
Rayford and Chaim were quick to educate all members on the seriousness of what
was happening, and on their need to be prepared to die before they would ever
accept the Mark.
recruits had credit cards and/or smart cards, and in some exceptional instances
these were used to do business on a temporary basis. This was particularly true
of the European bases. Wherever possible, however, transactions were done with
cash. Credit cards and smart cards were gradually destroyed.
The banks had
brought in measures which complicated things for people still dealing in large
sums of money. Paying for airline tickets, rent, printing, vehicles, and even
food and clothing with cash always led to delays, and sometimes forced the
believers to pay higher than normal prices.
Chaim urged the Twelve Tribes to prepare for when they would neither be able to
use credit cards, smart cards, nor cash. Chloe had learned much from her year
and a half with the original Jesans, and she prepared a study on how to survive
without such aids. Her three-pronged plan for survival, was called "Beg, Barter,
or Steal." Begging and stealing shocked some members until the terms were more
religious pride that we're dealing with," Chloe wrote. "We're only talking about
doing things like stealing thrown out food from supermarket trash cans, or
asking farmers for permission to glean leftover fruit from previously harvested
fields. The barrier holding us back is not that we are doing anything immoral.
It's really just a simple case of pride."
Rayford had gone over the study with his top leaders, and then finished it up
with a group outing to some of the Jesans' favorite supermarket bins in the West
London area. Every leader was expected to take a turn at climbing into a bin and
foraging for food or other useful items. When it came Irene's turn, she crept
hesitantly off toward the back of an Aldi supermarket, while Rayford stood guard
in the van just around the corner from her.
had somehow escaped participating in such an activity while she and Rayford had
operated from the flat in Guildford, was apprehensive. She first squeezed behind
the big industrial bin, in order to get a foothold on the fence next to it,
before climbing in.
just as she was about to lift herself up, she saw movement inside the bin
itself, and she froze. There in front of her was a withered old woman dressed in
several layers of rags, whose hair was unkempt, and her face black with dirt.
The two women stared at each other in shock.
But it was
the filthy, bedraggled bag lady who spoke first.
shouted in amazement, and then she recoiled almost immediately, as though from
speechless. How did this strange, almost frightening woman know her name? And
then she saw something in the woman's eyes which she recognized.
that you? Elaine!"
far into the bin to hug the poor woman, who had begun to cry, both from fear and
By the time
Rayford came looking to see what was taking so long, Elaine had told most of her
story. What had been missed was told and re-told back at the flat when the bin
excursion had ended.
Billings had been able to use Tom and Betty's car and money to get fuel, and to
drive herself and her husband on to Montana, from where they had left Irene in
North Dakota; but Vernon had died from the effects of radiation, only a week
after they had arrived.
pilgrims who had reached Montana had quickly broken into factions when it became
clear that there was no Messiah to be found. A couple of deluded souls had tried
to pass themselves off as Jesus, while others insisted that they only needed to
give God more time, and their dreams would come true. On the whole, it was a
sorry, disillusioned lot of pilgrims. Most, like Elaine, were torn between
losing their faith altogether and struggling to rebuild it on the basis of
different criteria. Many of them died there in Montana before rescue teams came
by helicopter to take them out of the country several weeks later.
It may have
been good luck or just poor management that had brought Elaine to England. She
had come on the understanding that she had a cousin there who would take
responsibility for her. But in the confusion of the time, the authorities (many
of whom were volunteers) had done little to check out the background to her
claim. When she arrived, Elaine discovered that her cousin, a penniless recluse,
had died of a heart attack more than a year previously. She was all alone in a
country whose charity was already stretched to near breaking point.
made no effort to link up with or seek aid from any church or charity, choosing
rather to work out her own salvation on the streets. Despite her shocking
appearance and confused mental state, Elaine possessed a strength of character
that had not only carried her through the past year and a half but had been
partly borne out of the circumstances in which she had found herself.
quickly regained what sanity she had lost through her ordeal. Because they had
both been through such similar spiritual pilgrimages, she and Irene became
closer than any two sisters. Irene saw her new companion as a blessing from God
in replacement for the son and daughter that she had farewelled a few months
earlier. Elaine was warmly accepted into the Tribe of Joseph as part of the
Guildford administrative team.
But back to
Chloe's lessons on survival without the Mark... "Stealing" was a pastime that
Elaine had become expert at, after a year and a half on the streets.
She had a host of helpful tips about living out of bins and
surviving on other throwouts. But she was also good at bartering. She had
learned to pick up little treasures that she found, and then later trade them
with the right people for food, clothing, and sometimes even a night's shelter
(although she relied mostly on begging to get shelter).
a handy way to circumvent the Mark, especially when members of the Twelve Tribes
were forsaking possessions that they had no need for in their new lifestyle. In
later years they would most often do this to get clothing and food. If they were
prepared to take a big loss, there was always someone prepared to give them what
they needed in a lop-sided swap.
Unfortunately, bartering did not work with large purchases like travel
tickets and motor vehicles, because of the paperwork associated with it.
Consequently, the Twelve Tribes were told by their spokesmen to brace for a time
when they would have to live without such luxuries.
the believers had until three and a half years after the Temple agreement had
been signed before they would be forced totally outside of the economic system;
but in practice, the test had already begun, especially for those living in the
and a few others like Elaine, who had been living outside the system prior to
the agreement, were the recognized experts on how to survive in an alien world.
They had benefited greatly from having rejected credit cards and smart cards --
both forerunners of the Mark.
"We do not
need any more information about the Mark than what is found in the gospels,"
wrote Chaim Rosenberg, in Australia "The Mark is never mentioned there," he went
on. "But there, in the teachings of Jesus, we are told to be like the flowers
and to be like the birds, who do not have jobs, do not plant fields, and do not
weave cloth. God feeds them, and he will feed us if we will put his work first.
If only we had taken that more seriously decades ago, we would be
so much more prepared for what is about to happen now."
that most of the suffering that would take place amongst believers during the
approaching Great Tribulation would be the result of disobedience to the
teachings of Jesus now.
Antichrist will not have to hunt us down," he said. "Those with shallow faith
are already lining up to receive his Mark. Others, who are brave enough to
refuse the Mark, will starve or freeze to death without any action on the part
of the Antichrist himself. It will happen because they never
learned how to hear from God and how to obey him from day to day. That's what we
are learning now. But those who run away from such discipline now will pay
dearly for it in the next few years."
The Mark of the Beast is so close to reality right now, that debates
amongst those who deny it is fulfilment of Bible prophecy deal only with
technicalities. No doubt there will be changes in such things as implant and
scanner technology over the next few years, but not even the skeptics would deny
that the business world is committed to eventually using a form of marketing
technology that was predicted in The Revelation, nearly two thousand years ago.
And the prophecy says that the technology comes from the Antichrist.
the dire warning that the same prophecy gives about accepting the Mark, one
would have to be virtually dead spiritually to continue with the materialistic
lifestyle that so much of the world (including almost all churchgoers) continue
to pursue and to take for granted today.
moment, for most of the West, it is not as though they would have to risk death
in order to just "play it safe" and live as the early Christians did. There is
abundant wealth in our society, and there are a host of safety nets to help
anyone who might wish to experiment with a lifestyle which is more concerned
with spiritual things than it is with getting a new wardrobe or a bigger car.
But still they choose to reject the way of Jesus.
without the Mark, the world (again, including the churches) continues to put its
faith in, and to spend its life working for, the tokens that they wrongly
believe will buy them happiness.
Seattle Times front page article
From the day
that the Temple was opened, membership in the Twelve Tribes (which
totalled144,000) froze. Suddenly it was as difficult to win a new disciple as
what it had been before the Temple agreement had been signed.
and Chaim were prepared for it. They switched their emphasis after the Temple
opening from outreach to inreach. Bases gradually moved from paying rent to
squatting in disused buildings; laptops were updated to models that would pick
up email from public phone booths; and more time was spent on theory. During
those first seven and a half months, few of the 144,000 members had been able to
find time enough to read, much less digest, all the truth that was in the
material that Chaim and Rayford had prepared. Now they could spend whole days
studying and discussing what had been prepared specifically for them and for
their place in history.
completed the articles that they had not been able to finish earlier, and
Neville and Rayford were able to update all of the studies on the internet,
creating links for sites in virtually every major language. CDs and audio
cassettes were prepared and stockpiled, along with hundreds of tons of printed
itself was altered, in many cases, because what was going to be needed for the
next great surge would be different to what had just taken place. Rayford
explained it in an article called "The Seal and Beyond". He wrote:
have been sealed or especially selected by God to be the force that he uses to
proclaim his message to the entire world in the last three and a half years of
surprised that you cannot see some outward evidence of your seal. The seal
itself is known only to God. But our miraculous coming together as a worldwide,
visible force is the greatest proof that he has chosen us.
"It may be
that God will bring in others to take the place of any of us who die or who turn
away from following the Lamb. But apart from that, there will be no further
growth in our numbers. You could say that our fate has been sealed. However, as
you each must realize, we still have our free will. We can still choose to
reject our calling and be lost. Do not be drawn into tempting God by believing
the lie that he has no right to take away your inheritance (as he did with the
Jews, and as he has done with the institutional church); for if you do, your
place will most assuredly be given to someone else.
"Nevertheless, God, who knows the end from the beginning, must know that
at least the majority of us will freely choose not to turn back. Similarly, he
knows that the majority of those who have not been included in our numbers will
refuse to turn to him, no matter what happens.
for us to do now is to point the way for great multitudes to escape the curse of
the Antichrist. But, to do that will, to a large extent, actually create the
Great Tribulation. I will explain:
"As you know,
people are daily accepting the Mark of the Beast, and they are doing it by the
millions. They have been told by their religious leaders that they could do it
and then claim ignorance, or that they can make some demand upon God's grace
when Jesus returns, and they will be saved. It will be our job to preach most
strongly against that lie, at the same time that we actually do offer those
billions who have accepted the Mark of the Beast one last hope of salvation."
Tribes were shocked by Rayford's claim that there could be a means of salvation
even after people had accepted the Mark; but Chaim backed him up in what he
They were not
told, however, what form their message of salvation to the Marked ones would
take. They were only told that it would be revealed to them after the final
three and a half years had started. For now, they should teach as strongly as
possible against such a hope.
had heard enough to do two things. For one thing, what they heard challenged
each of them to ask God for reassurance that they had not been deceived. They
were living in a time of great deception, as had been prophesied, and what
Rayford and Chaim were saying sounded suspiciously like the lie of perverted
grace that they had each been delivered from.
thing that the message had done was to purify their attitude toward others who
had taken the Mark. It was so easy to be self-righteous if, in fact, there was
no further need to love these eternally damned people. But what if the world was
not yet eternally damned? And what if the 144,000 themselves could be eternally
damned? Such doubt about their own salvation and about the hopelessness of
others was good for them; it worked against their natural tendency toward
meantime, while the Twelve Tribes waited for the day to come when the message of
salvation would be preached to the damned, it was hard to believe that they were
actually living in the last days. The world had miraculously recovered from the
greatest disaster in recorded history, as people put behind them the tragedy of
more than thirty-five million deaths in America's collapse. On the heels of that
horrible event, the rest of the world was, in fact, prospering as it had never
done before. Xu Dangchao's incredible leadership had brought in a number of
changes, each of which had benefited virtually everyone. Even the Twelve Tribes
themselves had benefited from the new era of religious tolerance.
How hard it
was to believe that the future held pain and suffering in store for the world,
which would make the significance of the fall of America shrink by comparison!
"Use it! Use
it!" Chaim had written in a list of instructions on how they should use their
time during this period of apparent world peace. "But don't for a minute believe
that it is genuine," he warned.
Rayford both believed the authorities must have taken notice of their little
movement by now, and they knew that it would just be a matter of time before the
axe would fall.
promise about God's people being given "the wings of an eagle," in order to
escape the coming persecution, had stumped both of them. It obviously was
poetic. They did not expect to sprout literal wings. But even if they had
succeeded in gathering enough aircraft to fly themselves somewhere, they did not
know of any place on earth where they could hide from the technology that would
be available to the government to hunt them down.
itself was becoming increasingly more difficult, both because of the need for a
Mark to purchase a ticket, and because of the number of authorities and
regulations governing it.
experts had taught that the place of hiding would be in Petra, a city carved out
of solid rock, in Jordan. But it would hardly be impenetrable against modern
technology, and if it was to have been secret, that cover had been blown by all
the commentators who had announced it as the secret place in their writings.
called the place of refuge, "the wilderness", or "a desolate place", but neither
of the two leaders could say where it would be. For the time being, they urged
members of the movement to just maintain a low profile in their own localities,
and to take comfort in the Rock of Ages, and in his teachings, which the Bible
promised would be like a solid rock, protecting them from the coming "floods"
and "storms". (Matthew 7:24-25)
joined by other computer experts who had become part of the Twelve Tribes, and
together they had devised a series of satellite relays for their website which
would make it difficult to track them down. But they still knew that it would
only be a matter of time before that important link of communication would also
be cut off.
* * *
It was less
than three years since the Temple had been opened in Jerusalem. Half a dozen
high level security experts were gathered in semi-darkness, around a series of
sophisticated computers and other hardware in an office in Moscow, on a Monday
evening in late June. Other office staff had gone home for the night.
One of the
experts, a big man named Sergei, broke the silence as they all stood staring at
the screen on one particular computer, obviously waiting for something to
happen. "Any of you guys ever visit the site yourselves?" he asked innocently,
in an effort to ease the boredom.
looked at each other, hesitant about answering. Sergei guessed that he had asked
an embarrassing question, but he tried to patch the matter up with further talk.
ridiculous, really. They think people can live without money. They say the
implant comes from the Devil." And Sergei laughed nervously.
response. The others turned and looked at Sergei, as though waiting for him to
checked it out because my son told me about it," he said defensively. But that
put him in even deeper. Eyebrows raised, and Sergei's heart sank as he realized
what he had done to his son by trying to excuse himself.
"Well, he didn't really... I
mean..." he began, not certain how he would finish the sentence.
is!" shouted one of the officers, whose eyes had returned to the monitor.
Sergei, and his son, had been spared, at least for the moment.
England. West London!"
The men had
succeeded in tracking down Rayford Strait's internet provider.
the plug on these traitors now!" said an older man, who appeared to be in
charge. "But first we need to find out who's behind it. Oleg, get London on the
The staff at Web Wonders, in Clapham Junction, were just finishing up for
the night, when it happened. The explosion came not from within, but from above,
a powerful laser that cut straight through the building, and then exploded
outward, totally reducing every thing and every one in that building to a pile
of ashes, while, at the same time, leaving neighboring buildings with little
more than scorch marks on their walls. Web Wonders and all of their staff no
Tribulation was about to begin.
Many Bible commentators talk of seven years of great tribulation just
before Jesus returns. But The Revelation is clear about there being two distinct
halves to the final seven years. They are variously described as three and a
half years, 42 months, or 1260 days. (Revelation 11:2-3, 12:6 & 14, 13:5,
and Daniel 7:25, 9:27) It is only the second three and a half year period that
is full of great trouble. The first half is what we call "the plastic peace".
have pointed to wars as the sign that the end of the world is near, Jesus
actually said that wars are a sign that it is not near (Matthew 24:6). Rather,
the scriptures warn that the Antichrist will gain spiritual control of the world
through 'peace', or in some translations, through 'prosperity' (Daniel 8:23-25).
The Apostle Paul, writing about the endtime, warned that 'sudden destruction'
would follow a time when everyone was saying "Peace! Peace!" (I Thessalonians
Revelation also talks about an army of 144,000 faithful followers of the Lamb
(Revelation 7:2-4, and 14:1-12), at the same time that it mentions a "great
multitude which no one could number." (Revelation 7:9-17) This multitude is, in
some way, brought to God during the period of Great Tribulation. Some believers
are miraculously protected at that time (Revelation 12:14), but others are
slaughtered in great numbers (Revelation 13:7). A puzzling paradox!
"I'd do it.
No fear! I'd do it for God."
sharing his thoughts on an email which had arrived the day before from Mike, in
Ankara. Mike said that the team in Jerusalem had passed within a hundred metres
of Dangchao on a couple of occasions while doing business in the city. He said
that security for the U.N. Secretary General was not what they had expected.
guards with him," Mike wrote. "But if someone was prepared to rush him wearing a
suicide bomb, I don't think they could stop him."
comments had sparked a debate at the Guildford headquarters about whether it
would be morally right, knowing what they knew about Dangchao, to consider
like he's human," Neville explained. "If he's really the Devil, then what would
be so wrong with killing him?"
not there, but Matthew, as official judge for the Tribe of Joseph, spoke in
opposition to Neville's theory.
"How do we
know Dangchao isn't just as human as you or me at the moment?" he asked.
"Besides, we're pacifists." The comment was significant, coming, as it was, from
a former Baptist, who had always believed armies could be used to enforce the
will of God. But that was before he had met the Jesans. "Christians don't kill
their enemies," he said. "Vengeance is God's business, and not ours. Dangchao
will get a deadly wound eventually, and maybe that's when the devil comes into
could be the ones to give him the deadly wound," suggested the older man. "We're
supposed to fight for God at Armageddon. So if we can kill people for God then,
why not now?"
"If you can
kill Dangchao just by speaking a word, then go ahead," Matthew taunted. "But
remember, Neville, that our weapon even at Armageddon is supposed to come out of
our mouths. Our weapon is the truth... nothing more and nothing less. Do you
and Elaine listened intently, but said nothing. They were from the old school,
where women listened submissively, in silence.
"Where do you
suppose all the wars come from?" asked Matthew, pursuing his point a bit
governments, fighting over oil and other wealth," Neville answered wisely. He
had studied Rayford's teachings on the subject.
That wasn't the answer Matthew had been looking for, so he offered it himself.
"But they always get the soldiers to fight by demonizing the opposition," he
said. "If you can believe your opponent is sub-human, then you can feel
justified in doing almost anything to him. But God doesn't work like that,
Neville. He has his own ways of dealing with opponents."
discussion ended abruptly when Rayford walked in with a newspaper in his hand.
news?" he asked. Of course they hadn't, since it was Rayford's job to check
headlines on a free paper at a local fast food restaurant each morning, and then
report back to them if there was anything worth studying. But they sometimes
tuned in to the BBC on the radio, and he was just checking on that before he
He tossed the
paper down on the coffee table, where they could all see the eight-column
described how Dangchao had been stabbed by a spectator, while inspecting
progress on a huge statue of Mary, the Queen of Heaven, that was being
constructed in front of the Cathedral of the Divine Creation in Jerusalem. A
three centimetre wound had pierced his heart.
"He was dead
on arrival at Hadassah University Hospital," a spokesperson for the hospital had
report discussed the identity and background of the assassin, who was killed by
security men moments after the attack. It also speculated about who would take
Dangchao's place. Tributes were rolling in from world leaders, who hailed
Dangchao as one of the greatest leaders, if not the greatest leader that the
world had ever known.
answer your question?" Matthew asked Neville, when they had recovered from the
initial shock of the news. "If God wants someone bumped off, he can do it
himself, without interference from us."
"So now what
happens?" asked Neville. "Is he going to come back to life?"
"He will if
he's the Antichrist," said Rayford. "We just have to wait. In the meantime, we
need to pray about what we're supposed to be doing. Today marks 1,260 days since
the agreement was signed."
spent all that morning in prayer and in serious discussion about where things
were heading. They did not get any clear leading, and nothing seemed to be
particularly different about the world around them. Had Rayford miscalculated?
collected email from the other bases, and there was nothing significant
happening there either.
business to tend to in London, so she caught the train into the city around
lunch time. Late in the afternoon, she returned to the flat with a look of
bewilderment on her face.
"Did you pick
up email this morning?" she asked Rayford excitedly.
"Yeah. Why?" he
picked it up since then?" she went on.
hour ago, I sent some stuff to Chaim and did a pick-up then," he answered.
"Why?" Rayford's concern was not with Irene's question. It was with the sense of
urgency in how she asked it.
"And did you
have any problems?" she continued.
all about?" Rayford asked. "Is something wrong?"
explained. "I stopped by Web Wonders, to make a payment on our account. There
were police everywhere, but no Web Wonders."
"What do you
mean, no Web Wonders?" Rayford asked.
said Irene. "No staff, no office, no building. Just a burnt out, empty block,
with a lot of ashes and melted bricks."
impossible. Are you sure you had the right place?" Rayford asked, as he moved
toward the computer to try his email account once again.
sure," said Irene. "I go there every month."
selected the tiny service provider because it was one of the few servers in the
London area that still accepted cash. Irene could update their account by adding
to their credit balance at the start of each month.
the right button to collect his email. "It's dialing up," he said, as they
gathered around the computer, and listened to the familiar pattern of beeps.
answering," Irene whispered in amazement. They listened as the screeks and
squawks indicated that their computer was actually talking to Web Wonders'
"Do they have
another office somewhere?" Rayford asked.
"Not that I
know of," Irene replied. "Mike's the owner, and he works there in the Clapham
Junction office. I've never heard mention of any other office."
Neville drew their attention to the computer, which was now picking up their
mail from the non-existent service provider!
he said, tapping the screen.
indicated that Rayford had more than 200 letters coming into his in-box.
checked my box an hour ago!" Rayford exclaimed. "We've never had anywhere near
that many, not even during the first six months." He was referring to the
revival that they had experienced just after the Temple agreement had been
too!" Neville explained. He caught glimpses of individual addresses flashing on
the screen as each letter dropped into Rayford's in-box.
are they coming from?" Rayford asked. "And what happened to Web Wonders? Do you
think the authorities are on to us?"
were rhetorical of course. No one in that room had any answers.
It took nearly half an hour
to collect all of the mail, and while that was happening, Neville was
considering how they could handle such large amounts of mail in future, if it
continued to come in at that rate.
the other hand, was wondering whether they should run. According to all of their
calculations, the Great Tribulation had begun. It was time for them to flee into
the "wilderness". Whatever it was that had happened at Web Wonders, it was more
than likely an indication that the authorities were on to them.
should they go? Where were the magic wings that would enable them to fly away
from trouble? Or could it be that they were about to be captured? Had his
ministry come to an end?
If it was
going to end so soon, Rayford was determined to go down fighting. There was much
that had been shared only amongst tribal members over the past three and a half
years. But now it was time to broadcast it to the rest of the world... if he
could still be heard.
night, he sat in front of the computer, typing. He let loose with a broadside
that left no doubt about what he believed about Levi Xu Dangchao and his world
government. Rayford explained about the number value of Dangchao's name, and he
predicted that the charismatic leader would be resurrected shortly, but that
what people would see would not be a human being. It would be a zombie a dead
body inhabited by the Devil himself.
that the sacrifices would cease, and that Dangchao would take control of the
Temple, declaring himself to be immortal. The Pope would call on the people of
the world to worship Dangchao as the Universal Messiah.
extreme claims, but Rayford felt that he had very little time left, and he
wanted to be as clear as possible before his arrest. It could be his last
message to the world, and even if he was wrong in some of the finer details, he
had to get the important point across to those whom he could influence: i.e.
that Dangchao was the Antichrist. No doubt about it. He was evil personified.
Anyone who worshipped him was nothing short of a satanist, whether they wanted
to face that fact or not.
concession was to send a copy of his article to Chaim for approval before
uploading it onto the site. He asked Chaim to place it on his own site, so that
it would still be available, in the event that he himself was captured or met
the same fate as the Web Wonders staff. Chaim suggested a few changes, which
Rayford made, and then the article was uploaded.
the meantime, was looking at the long run. If there was another office for Web
Wonders, and if mail was going to keep coming in at the rate that it was coming
in at the moment, they would need some kind of an automated system of response.
He started by composing a letter telling people that there was no need for them
to have personal responses, that they could find all the information they needed
just by checking out the website. The site would be updated daily for as long as
it remained on the internet.
still wanted to contact the leaders of the Twelve Tribes, they would need to ask
God to show them how to get their letters delivered. This, too, was a bit of a
gamble, and Neville prayed that God would help him by letting the right people
crack the code. Neville set it up so that mail to their address at Web Wonders
would only get through if people typed a 7 as the first digit in the text of the
letter, followed by a letter, which would direct them to one of the Twelve
Tribes... providing it was one of the correct twelve letters. Actually there
were only eleven correct letters. Two of the Tribes started with a J: Mike and
Martin's (the tribe of Judah), and Matthew and Rayford's (the tribe of Joseph).
Genuine enquirers needed to type a Ju for Mike and Martin and a Jo for Rayford
form letter gave no clues as to what people needed to do to get through. If they
did not know the pattern that he had programmed Rayford's email in-box to
follow, their letter would simply not be delivered. It remained to be seen
whether God would tell the right people what to type in. Neville's form letter
directed people to that material on their website which specifically taught them
how to hear from God.
Of course, no
one knew whether mail would continue to come in at such a rate, or whether they
would still be around to collect it if it did.
the late night, Rayford and Neville slept in the next morning, while Matthew and
Irene took charge. Irene turned on the radio to hear the news. Sure enough, the
lead story was that Dangchao had "revived". Press releases from the U.N. hinted
that earlier reports had been exaggerated, and stated that Dangchao had
responded to treatment on arrival at Hadassah Hospital, and that he was almost
totally recovered. A photo showed him being released from the hospital with not
so much as a bandage to show for the ordeal.
At the same
time, Dangchao announced that the breech in security which had allowed an
assassin to get so close to him had indicated a need for further changes in the
structure and emphasis of the United Nations. He declared Jerusalem to be under
the official control of the U.N., and said that he would need to use the Temple
as "temporary" headquarters for the world body, because it was the most secure
place in the city. The world media supported the move, probably because of the
shock that the "assassination" had caused around the world. But no one asked why
the switch to Jerusalem was being made in the first place.
The Pope went
on record as supporting the decision, stating that the world was moving closer
to one faith, and it was right and proper for that faith to become a part of the
one world government that the U.N. represented. Dangchao's presence in the
Temple complex symbolized that unity, he said.
objections from some Jewish religious leaders; but, surprisingly, there were
voices supporting the move as well. Dangchao, some were saying, was the
long-awaited Messiah. He was, at least technically, Jewish; and he had already
shown that he was capable of ushering in world peace. So it was only right that
the "city of peace" should accommodate him. These same leaders expressed
disappointment, however, that Dangchao was not prepared to recognize the role of
their official high priest, in connection with his duties at the Temple.
Twelve Tribes, the focus was in a different direction. By lunchtime on
Wednesday, they and their leaders were on full alert. The Great Tribulation had,
indeed, begun; tribal security may well have been breached; and they still did
not know where they were to go to hide.
Some people mistakenly believe that, at some time in the future, God is
going to so totally overwhelm the world with evidence of his power that they
will have little choice but to worship him. Unfortunately, real life is not like
that. There is always room for doubt; and prophecy is no exception. Look at some
Old Testament prophecies about Jesus. Even now, with 2,000 years of hindsight,
it is not so crystal clear in places.
Most of the
world may not even be aware of what is happening in spiritual terms when the
final events unfold before the return of Jesus. And even those most aware of
what is happening will almost certainly find some aspects of prophecy difficult
to understand, as has been indicated in this chapter. But that is when they must
rely on their conscience.
wants are people who will trust him and serve him even when they do not have all
the answers. That is what the 144,000 believers represent... one person in
50,000 who will do the right thing simply because it is right, and not because
they have been forced into action.
thing we must not do, is to meddle with events in such a way as to try to either
fulfil or alter what has been prophesied. Prophecy needs no help, nor can it be
altered. It is not that we do not have free will, but rather that prophecy
merely reports what will happen as a result of our free will.
morning, Rayford decided to check out the scene at Web Wonders for himself. He
caught a train to Clapham Junction and walked from the station to where he knew
the Web Wonders office to be. Police were still milling around the site,
although most of the rubble had been cleared away. A handful of spectators were
present too, discussing what had happened. Rayford moved closer, to see what
information he could pick up.
on-lookers knew less than he did about what was going on. But, shortly after he
had entered the scene, Rayford noticed one member of the public talking
animatedly to a policeman. He did not want to stare directly at them, but it
appeared that both the police officer and the spectator had turned in his
direction, and that the concerned citizen was pointing at him. Rayford decided
to play it safe. He turned to walk away.
there! Stop where you are!" Obviously Rayford was being addressed, but with his
back turned, he pretended not to hear, and he kept on walking. Just then two
more policemen appeared in front of him. He was trapped.
around, and leaning forward, pointed at himself innocently, while forming the
words "Are you talking to me?" with his mouth.
talking to you, stupid!" one of the policemen said as he grabbed Rayford roughly
dragged over closer to the informer, whom Rayford now recognized as Noah, a
former member of the Tribe of Joseph. Noah had left the group in anger after a
dispute a year earlier. He had declared at the time that the group was a cult
and that its leaders were too authoritarian. Rayford had only seen Noah on an
anonymous visit to Liverpool's distribution centre, where the man had been
stationed. The centre had later been moved, and that was the last they had heard
of, or from, Noah until now.
him!" Noah said.
"I don't know
what you're talking about," Rayford said, playing innocent.
"Do you have
any identification?" the police officer asked.
afraid I don't," Rayford said honestly. He made a point of not carrying
identification on himself, for just such an occasion as this. At least they
would not be able to locate Irene and the others if they did not know where he
"Do you know
anything about the bombing of this building?" the police officer asked.
Rayford answered, genuinely surprised by the question. Why were they asking him
about the bomb, when they were obviously the ones behind it?
"I'm going to
have to take you down to the station for questioning," the police officer
"Am I being
charged?" Rayford asked.
you wanna be difficult."
understand. What would I know about whatever happened here?" he asked.
died when this building was bombed three nights ago. We have reason to believe
that you know something about the bombing. Have you got something to hide?"
incredible. Did the authorities really believe that Rayford Strait had destroyed
Web Wonders? Noah must have been brought in to watch for any believers to appear
on the scene. And Rayford had walked straight into a trap.
There was so much that did
not make sense. The police apparently did not have his address, which should
have been on records at Web Wonders. And if there was another office elsewhere,
they must not know about that either. Otherwise, they would have been able to
access his files from there. Rayford himself was in big trouble, but at least
the location of Neville and Mary's flat must not have been compromised.
"In the car,
scumbag!" one of the policemen ordered, and he kneed Rayford in the
"Hey, take it
easy!" he protested, as he fell to the ground and turned to rub his sore back.
the movies, chum!" the policeman responded. "Just do as we tell you."
again. But there had been no warning this time. Rayford did not even feel
particularly angry. The word just came out of his mouth as he sat on the ground
As he spoke
the word "No", a ball of fire reached out and enveloped all three police
officers. This was far more serious than a flash of light and a few bruises on
the victims, as had happened at Neville's.
see that he was in big trouble if he didn't move quickly. As soon as the word
was out of his mouth, he jumped up and ran. He was around the corner before the
crowd realized what had happened, and even then they were not inclined to chase
after a man who could breathe fire.
policemen on the scene rushed to put out the flames on their partners, but it
was too late. Three police officers had been killed by the mad bomber. Their
partners did not want to be added to Rayford's list of victims; so they, too,
did not pursue him They phoned for help instead.
the meantime, had raced to the train station at Clapham Junction, and boarded a
train back to Guildford. He was nervous all the way home, fearing that he may
yet be being followed. He was also disturbed by what he had just done to the
three police officers. And then there was the matter of the six people killed at
Web Wonders. What was going on? Had he really played a part in their demise?
Subconsciously he knew part of the answer. He had known it for three and
a half years now, although he had tried not to think about it. When others had
tried to talk about it, he had always changed the subject.
"It's out of
my hands," he would say. "I can't do it now, and so I'll just have to wait until
I get to heaven for an explanation." He had been talking about the explosion
that took place in Neville's living room three and a half years earlier.
taught that during the final three and a half years, there would be "Two
Witnesses" who would be hunted by authorities around the world. These two
prophets would have the ability to destroy their enemies through flames that
come out of their mouths. Many people had aspired to be one of the Two
Witnesses; but Rayford appeared to have the credentials that all of the others
lacked. Three policemen were now dead on the streets of Clapham Junction as
evidence of his authenticity.
returned to the flat in Guildford, he brushed the others aside and went straight
to the computer, where he sent a personal email to Chaim, marked "urgent". In
it, he suggested that Chaim sever his links with his local service provider, and
that he set up all of his mail to go through the Web Wonders connection.
the authorities had not yet located Chaim's server. If he cut his links in
Australia, they would most likely not be able to trace him there. The two men
would be putting all their eggs into one basket now, but it was a basket which
had somehow been miraculously protected.
was another Web Wonders office that had not been detected by the authorities, or
else God had pulled some strings to set up an impenetrable website for the
Twelve Tribes. Rayford was banking on the latter.
got to the real reason for his urgent email...
know," he wrote, "whether you have had any experiences with fireworks happening
when you speak. I mean literally. If you are who I think you are, you'll know
what I'm talking about."
A few hours
later, Rayford checked his mailbox again, and a reply was there.
have," it said. "So where do we go from here?"
Where do we
go? thought Rayford. That was what he had been asking himself all week. But the
list of questions was growing faster than any answers were coming in.
if he and Chaim really were the Two Witnesses, then they were not likely to be
captured immediately. According to the Bible, they had the best part of three
and a half years left to make themselves heard around the world, and they may as
well make the best of it.
thing, as Rayford thought about it, was that so many people had aspired to play
such a role (Mental hospitals were full of them.) and yet up close, the job of
"endtime witness" had none of the glamour that others had so often associated
with it. Already Rayford was being portrayed as a fire-breathing monster.
thing was that the description was so close to the truth.
Reference to the "Two Witnesses," or two [endtime] prophets, can be found
in Revelation 11:3-12. They have been compared with Elijah and Moses, in the Old
Testament. Whoever they may turn out to be, they will certainly possess amazing
powers, with which to certify their authority. The Revelation says that these
two men will prophesy to the world for the final 1,260 days (three and a half
years, or 42 months) of the final seven years before Jesus returns.
Because it is
common for mentally unstable individuals to claim to be one of the "witnesses",
most churches have shied away from any mention of the Two Witnesses at all. But
the genuine should not need to give place to the counterfeit. With or without
mental patients, there will be two endtime prophets declaring the truth to the
significant, however, that there are Two Witnesses, and that most pretenders to
the role of endtime prophet operate independently... because their own delusions
of grandeur make it impossible for them to submit to the counsel of others.
There is a
biblical principle of everything spiritual being "confirmed in the mouth of two
or three witnesses". (Matthew 18:16, II Corinthians 13:1, I Timothy 5:19, and
If it should
happen that someone must act entirely independently, however, then it seems that
clear evidence of supernatural power may be regarded as a second "witness".
Dangchao was discussing plans with Pope Pius XIII, who had only been in office
for a little longer than Dangchao himself had been U.N. Secretary General. They
were in the Pope's private residence in Jerusalem.
"The head is
due to be placed on the statue in front of the cathedral tomorrow morning. Is
"Yes, it is,"
replied Pius. "It was cast yesterday, and it's being delivered today."
"I have a
different head for it," Dangchao announced flatly.
head?" the Pope asked in amazement. "What do you mean? Why do we need a
"What I mean
is that I have had another head cast for the statue, and I want you to use it
What's wrong with the one we had planned to use?"
with it?" Dangchao said to himself, as though searching for an answer. He looked
out the window for a moment, to add a little drama to what was to follow, and
then he said it again, sarcastically and slowly. "What's wrong with the head
that Pius commissioned?"
around slowly and faced Pope Pius. His face had changed. It was hideously
contorted. And his voice was deep and raspy.
is that it isn't me!" he growled.
back in fear. "Xu! What's happening to you?" he asked. "Your face...!"
relaxed, and his face returned to its usual handsome calmness.
"Do you like
this one better?" he asked.
me," said the Pope, relieved to see Dangchao return to normal.
"That was my
intention," Dangchao replied. "A lot of people trust me, Pius. You trust me,
don't you?" Pius nodded hesitantly, although he was not so sure anymore.
"But I would
rather have you fear me," said Dangchao. "I would rather have them all fear me.
will," he added as an afterthought.
Pius tried to
swing things back to the original subject. "What does this have to do with the
statue of the Blessed Virgin?" he asked.
spoke softly, as though speaking to a child. "It has everything to do with the
statue, Pius. You see, it's not going to be a statue of the Blessed Virgin. It's
going to be a statue of me."
"I don't know
if that would be appropriate," the Pope replied. The church had no problems with
making statues of saints; and Dangchao might one day be honored as such. But
this particular statue was to be one of the biggest the church had ever made,
and it was only right that the Queen of Heaven should be the one honored, and
not the Secretary General of the United Nations, even if he was widely regarded
as the greatest leader the world had ever known.
"Do you want
to see my other face again?" Dangchao asked, once more speaking down to the
Pope, as though threatening a child. "You see, I'm not asking you. I'm telling
your cathedral, as I promised, and you have your seat here in Jerusalem. But I
expect to take my seat here too; and it will be as I say it should be."
for a moment, the hideous face reappeared. There was a cold chill in the room,
and Pope Pius was overcome with a sense of fear that was so real he could almost
reach out and touch it.
understand?" rumbled the creature that Dangchao had suddenly become.
I understand," Pius said, trembling in fear.
But he did
not understand. And how would he ever explain it to the rest of the
said Dangchao, when the question had been asked, and when he was back to his
normal self. "They'll accept it, just like you have accepted it. They may not
like it, but they'll accept it. And they'll accept a lot more before we're
proceeded to explain to the Pope what Pius' role was to be in the new regime.
purpose of religion has always been to enforce the legitimacy of the ruling
powers," Dangchao explained. "And your role will be no different.
thing that has changed in the present stage of evolution is that I am going to
take off my mask. I'm tired of this hypocrisy. I want people to see me as I
really am, and I want them to fear me."
It was slowly
dawning on Pius that he was talking, face to face, with the one they called the
Antichrist. The church had always played down such things. They did not like to
worry the superstitious masses. But now Pius was being confronted by the real
thing; and he had not been adequately equipped to deal with such an experience.
So he had
been tricked into making the move to Jerusalem. He was there only for the
purpose of propping up the rule of this evil man... if Dangchao really was a
could not go back to Rome now. And even if he tried, would Dangchao let him? He
had experienced only a few seconds of the terror that Dangchao was able to
inflict just through his presence, and he knew instinctively that this Beast was
not going to turn loose of him easily. He was Dangchao's slave, and there was no
watch for an opportunity to use his position to accomplish something good, of
course; but for the time being, he had no choice. He must co-operate.
The new head
arrived for the statue, and Pius was further disturbed to see that it was
Dangchao's hideous face and not his real one. Or was the hideous face the real
himself answered that question in another one of his patient classes with Pius
later the following day.
"In order to
get where I am today," he explained, "I have had to wear many masks. And all of
them have at least appeared to be good people.
"But I'm not
a nice person. I don't want people even thinking that I'm a nice person. I want
them to fear me. I want to be able to control them. And I want to be able to do
it without having to pretend to be nice.
Pius, that is the true test of power. Anyone can control people who trust them.
But I want to be able to control people who fear me. You fear me, don't you?"
Pius had no
choice but to contradict his earlier confession of faith in Dangchao and to nod
in agreement with this new assessment of his relationship to the world ruler.
fear me," Dangchao said with a wicked smile. "You are even now looking for a way
to escape. But there is none, is there? Where would you go? I control the world,
and I am able to do it even when people like yourself would rather that I did
"I have been
able to achieve that control through the Mark... through my Mark," he bragged.
looked puzzled, but he did not dare to voice his question. Nevertheless,
Dangchao guessed what he was thinking.
whether the Mark is truly mine?" he asked. "But that is because you continue to
see the mask and you forget the reality behind it. Dangchao's face is not my
face, Pius. You have seen the real me. Do I look like Dangchao? Of course not. I
merely took advantage of his body.
co-operated beautifully with me before he died, as you yourself, and your
predecessors before you, have done so often over the years. But it was only
after his untimely death that I took total control of his body.
Mark... I have been working on that for millennia. It is the symbol of mankind's
dependence on me, and it is nearing completion. Yes, Pius, it's my mark, and I
control the world with it."
commanded the Pope to decree that the whole world should worship him, and that
they should worship his image. The image of Mary in front of the Cathedral of
the Divine Creation was to become the image of Dangchao, or rather the image of
the Beast behind Dangchao.
"Don't be so
sanctimonious," Dangchao argued, when Pius said it would be blasphemous. "You've
been worshipping Mary for centuries, and she's far less divine than I am. The
masses never complained about being told that Mary was God's Mother? So if you
could get them to believe that whopper, why can't you just say that you've had a
revelation that I'm God's Father?"
And at that,
Dangchao broke into a fit of demonic laughter that chilled Pope Pius XIII to the
The Revelation talks about a 'Dragon' being cast out of heaven.
(Revelation 12:7-9) The Dragon comes to earth, and makes war against the church,
or "Bride" of Christ. (Revelation 12:12-13) This "Dragon" is, in fact, the
Devil, who has come to make war against God and against all who believe in God.
takes possession of a human body, which has received a "deadly wound". With the
devil inside of him, this body is referred to as "the Beast". (Revelation 13:3)
The Beast is
also assisted by a "False Prophet" (Revelation 16:13), who causes the whole
world to worship the Beast and to worship the image that he has made of him.
Just as there
will be a counterfeit Temple to parallel the spiritual temple that God occupies
in the hearts of all true believers, there will also be a false prophet to rival
the true prophets that God will send in the last days.
believers trust an invisible God to meet their needs, the counterfeit believers
will worship a statue, and put their faith in the Mark (or money) to meet their
needs. (Ephesians 5:5)
inspiring thing about the rise of the Antichrist, however, is that his hypocrisy
will cease. People will be forced to take a stand, totally one way or the other.
No more compromise, indecision, or double-mindedness. No more calling evil good
and good evil! Thank God for that.
When he had
recovered his composure, and was wiping away the tears that he had shed during
his fit of laughter, Dangchao spoke once more to the Pope.
"I'm going to need your help
with one other little matter," he said. "There's a religious cult that has been
saying some nasty things about me and my government. We tried to track them down
on the internet, but they destroyed the entire building where their provider was
based, before we could get their address. They go by the name of Twelve Tribes.
What information do you have on them?"
maintained extensive files on all new religious movements, in their offices in
Rome; but why, thought Pius, should he help Dangchao? What if these people
offered some hope of stopping this terrible man? If they did, then he should be
helping them instead of helping Dangchao.
Secretary sighed deeply as he caught the drift of what Pius must be thinking. He
would have to play the pious game himself once again, as he had done so often
over the years, in order to control the Pope.
might think of me," he said kindly, "the facts are that this is a very dangerous
cult. They've already killed nine people that we know of, and there is talk of
others having been killed by one of them in Australia as well. Pius, Please! You
would be doing the world a service if you could help us to stop them."
for a moment and then decided that if he was going to be heroic, this might not
be the best cause to support or the best time to act. But if he were to assist
Dangchao this once, he might win his favour. Then he could use that favour to
achieve a greater good at another more expedient time in the future.
smiled to himself. The old charm never failed. Keep him procrastinating, and he
would keep him under his control forever.
In a matter
of an hour and a half, Pius had a complete report on the Twelve Tribes faxed
through from Rome, but it was little help to either of them. Catholic
researchers had a small file from the days of the Jesans, which included
Reinhard's name. However, almost all of what they had on the Twelve Tribes
movement since then had come from material that was already freely available on
the Twelve Tribes web site.
attempts by the Church's New Religious Movements Committee to woo the Jesans and
then to woo the Twelve Tribes into giving them inside information, there had
been no response from either Reinhard, Rayford, or Chaim. Even their names were
unknown, because Rayford and Chaim always wrote anonymously. The committee had
not found anything obviously dangerous in what they taught, and so they had not
pursued the group further.
some who said the movement was huge, numbering in the millions; but there were
more who believed it was an illusion, caused by a handful of people who wanted
to give the impression that they were bigger than what they really were. After
all, there were no buildings, no postal addresses, no record of meetings, and no
names of either leaders or followers, apart from Reinhard and a few ex-members.
It was true that they did produce a lot of literature, but even their literature
gave only the web site as a contact address.
some of the world's best hackers on the job, and they've all hit dead ends,"
Dangchao lamented to Pius when he had finished reading the report from Rome.
"Everything indicates that Web Wonders, their service provider, does not exist.
And yet their web site continues to function. We seem to have no way of blocking
In fact, the
Twelve Tribes hit counter was spinning wildly. And it increased in momentum over
the next few months. Each time another media report on Dangchao came out,
thousands more would visit the Twelve Tribes site to get an update from the Two
Witnesses on what they had to say about what was really happening.
overplayed his hand? The media did not know how to respond to reports that he
was the Father of God, or any of the other outrageous things that he and Pope
Pius were getting up to in Jerusalem.
statue with its gargoyle head and female body, purporting to be a statue of
Dangchao, shocked the world, but it was only the start of other shocks.
ripped out the holy of holies from the Temple, and put a throne there for
himself to sit on while being worshipped and admired by members of the public.
He invited people of all religions and of no religion to come there to worship
him, thus severing his relations with the Jewish leaders who had hoped that he
might be their Messiah.
on providing entertainment for his visitors, and his choice of entertainment
became more and more blatantly blasphemous. First it was music praising himself
as the Saviour of the world, the Prince of Princes, and the Lord of Creation.
Then the music started making fun of the real God. Dancers were brought in, who
became more and more suggestive in their routines. Powerful drugs were freely
dispensed to guests. In the space of just a few months, Dangchao had
incorporated live sex acts and other far worse perversions into his system of
worship within the Jewish Temple.
But the most
surprising thing of all was that people were accepting it. Like he had
predicted, even those who did not like what he was doing were so weakened
morally that they were not able to resist him.
others who flocked to worship him, and to participate in his bacchanalian
festivals, with obvious enthusiasm. It was quickly becoming the in-thing amongst
diplomats and other highly respected people, to be seen at one of Dangchao's
It was even
reported that during some of the most extreme activities conducted at the
Temple, his whole appearance would magically change, and people could experience
first-hand the awesome supernatural power that he possessed.
although stunned, was powerless to do anything more than report what was
happening, as if it was normal behaviour from a world ruler. Dangchao, who
seemed capable of working all day and partying all night, had the banks and key
members of the United Nations securely tucked in his pocket. Between the two
institutions, he controlled the world, and no one dared challenge him.
his public stand against God and his attempts to offend all sensibilities, were
what caused so many hundreds of thousands of people to seek out the Twelve
Tribes for counsel and explanation. There was no longer any doubt about where
Dangchao was coming from. He was, indeed, the Antichrist, the personification of
spread around the world about the Twelve Tribes site. Its address was painted
(under cover of darkness) on walls and hoardings wherever the faithful 144,000
believers could find a space to fill.
So, as people
saw what was happening in Jerusalem, they would turn to Rayford and Chaim for
explanations. In a very short time, literally millions of people were visiting
the web site, which had become the official mouthpiece of God's two endtime
A few people
had cracked Neville's email code and they had been able to get letters straight
through to the tribes. These people were being dealt with personally. Most of
them had still not received the Mark, and so they were quickly taken into
fellowship, on the assumption that God had both protected them from taking the
Mark and been instrumental in helping them to work out the email code. Based on
this theory, such people did not represent a security risk.
email code and the anonymity of the website, the 144,000 had, indeed, escaped
into a "wilderness" of safety from the authorities. God himself controlled who
would have access to them, and the rest of the world was locked out.
exception of isolated individuals and some of the most rural and primitive
villages in the Third world, virtually everyone on earth had received the Mark
by this time. It was impossible to do business without it. Those Twelve Tribe
members who had not been successful in getting free rent from personal friends
in the system were being forced out onto the streets, or into tents and other
makeshift accommodation. But overall they were surviving without undue hardship,
using the principles of begging, bartering, and stealing the most basic
necessities of life in this insanely evil new world order.
who were in the worst predicament were the ones who were now visiting the Twelve
Tribes out of desperation. What they had read about the curse on those who took
the Mark had virtually put them into a hopeless situation spiritually. They were
without any means of salvation, and they were living in a world that was growing
rapidly more evil every day.
brought back gladiatorial sports, the ultimate reality games, where contestants
fought to the death. He had also arranged to televise public tortures and
executions in Jerusalem as a form of entertainment. But many people who had
never given God much thought before, were becoming sickened by it all, and they
So Chaim and
Rayford released the plan of salvation that they had hinted at in a previous
message to the 144,000. It had become the lead article on the website, and it
shocked the world.
Here is what
of salvation today is really no different to what it has always been. You need
only accept Jesus Christ as God's Son, and as your only hope of salvation.
difference (for those who know something about what used to pass as
Christianity) is that we are not talking about some cheap pretence at faith this
time. Accepting Jesus means accepting everything that he has said. His teachings
are a necessary part of God's plan of salvation for you. Read his teachings and
you'll see that he expects total faith, and total obedience. His standards are
high, but what he offers is eternal life. No price could be too high for that."
explained that his sacrificial death on the cross had bought Jesus the right to
give salvation to whomever he chose; but it did not obligate Jesus to choose
just anybody. He had certain standards that he was looking for first.
"Some of your
religious leaders have taught that a loving God cannot set standards, make
demands, or put a 'price' on what he offers," he said. "But where have they led
you? They have brought you to the brink of hell. What they taught sounded like
'good news' at the time, because it was so cheap and easy. But it has turned
into the worst possible disaster.
the gospel that Jesus preached really is good news, even if it is not cheap. It
is good news because he could see what each of you have tried to ignore all your
life. He could see your utter hopelessness. He could see that, with or without
the events that are happening in the world today, you are going to die one day,
and you are going to be punished for your failure to obey God. He knew that
whatever price he might put on his plan of salvation, the price would be
incidental by comparison to what he was offering... a total pardon, and eternal
life in a world that is infinitely more beautiful and more satisfying than the
one that we now live in.
"So what is
the price that he asks? He asks that you forsake all, i.e. that you give up
everything that you now have... your possessions, your livelihood, your family
and friends, and even your own life. Take it or leave it. That is his price. It
has always been his price, and it still is his price. The offer is still open to
you now. But there will be no cheating on the rules this time.
"Most of you
who are reading this message have already accepted the Mark of the Beast, either
in your right hand or in your forehead. Most of you also know that the Bible
says that anyone who receives that Mark will experience the undiluted wrath of
God, and that you will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of
Jesus and in the presence of his holy angels. You will be cast into the lake of
fire, which burns forever and ever. These are real threats. You may not think
that it is 'loving', but remember... you don't make the rules; God does. Until
you accept that, you will never be able to discover just how loving he really
"Now here is
what the good news of Jesus Christ means in practical terms for those of you who
have already taken the Mark of the Beast. It means that you must cut off your
right hand, or allow yourself to be beheaded for the sake of the gospel!
right. Jesus said that if your right hand offends you, you should cut it off...
that it would be better for you to enter into heaven without a hand, than to go
to hell because of what your right hand represents. For years people have
pointed to that very teaching of Jesus as proof that he never seriously meant
for us to take him literally. But now it is time for believers everywhere to
prove their faith by their actions.
"Many of you
never heard the warning about the Mark of the Beast. But you did hear the voice
of God speaking to you through your own conscience, and you rejected it. For one
reason or another, you chose to go your own way, to move gradually away from the
ideals of your youth and the ideals of your various religions. And it is because
of your insincerity and double-mindedness at those times that you have ended up
where you are now.
God is not asking anything of you that he hasn't asked of everyone else. The
difference is that we who are writing to you now... we took the still, small
voice of his spirit seriously before accepting the Mark of the Beast, and we
refused to take it. We responded to God speaking through our conscience as well
as through his Son.
were inconvenienced, and even now we are being inconvenienced for our decision
to put God first. But overall, we have come out ahead. You who are reading this
chose to delay your decision, thinking it was too difficult or too inconvenient
to put God first, and you have brought this situation upon yourselves as a
conclude by telling you that the offer is real. God is real. Heaven is real.
Jesus really is God's Son. And what he offers is genuine. Eternal life. Eternal
happiness. Eternal peace.
"But the full
terms of the offer require you to turn loose of your present life to get it.
It's your choice."
A number of theories are going around about ways that Christians can
accept the Mark of the Beast and still escape punishment for doing so. They
mostly centre around the "grace of God", and how a loving God would not punish
anyone who says Lord, Lord to Jesus... whether or not they ever get around to
even trying to obey him. But, of course, such a teaching is a perversion of the
grace of God, and it makes a mockery of all that the Bible (and Jesus in
particular) say about obedience.
It may well
be that merely accepting the Mark (as the Revelation technically teaches ) is
enough to land one in the lake of fire eternally, without any hope at all.
However, what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount about cutting off your hand
if it offends you (Matthew 5:30) at least presents a sobering picture of what
would be the terms of a gracious "second chance"... if there is to be such a
thing as a second chance.
line is that the longer one delays in obeying God, the harder it is going to be.
Who knows for certain that there is not hope for repentance even in hell itself?
But then who wants to go there to find out?
says, "Now is the accepted time. Today is the day of salvation. Today, if you
hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as the Israelites did in the
wilderness, thus provoking God's wrath." (II Corinthians 6:2, Hebrews 3:7-8, and
tribal members crowded into the lounge room of the main teaching house in Sao
Paulo. Furniture had been removed to make space for them, and for the large
legless table-top that lay on the floor in the middle of the room. It had strong
leather straps attached to it at each side.
arrived back from Rio that same morning. In Rio, he had watched a proper doctor
do this only twice before he was given the task of operating on his own. Now,
less than two weeks later, he was to teach others how to do it. There was a long
waiting list in Sao Paulo, as more and more people were cracking the email code
and begging for help to escape the Mark.
"You have two
choices," Luis had said to his first patient earlier that day, while ten others
had listened to the same speech. They had all been brought there blindfolded.
"We can take the skin off the back, or we can take the whole hand. We're ninety
percent certain of getting the transponder by taking the skin, but it could have
worked its way down under the ligaments too."
senor! Take it all off!" pleaded the patient, a poor farmer in his 40's, named
they are everywhere," he continued. "I cannot sleep. I cannot think. Please take
it all off. God, help me!" and his eyes looked heavenward.
Now Joaquin was being
strapped to the contraption on the floor, like a prisoner on a cross. The front
door opened a crack, and Francisco peeked in. "I got 'em," he said, as he
entered the room and closed the door behind him. He pulled a fistful of Stanley
knives out of his sleeve. "Had to steal 'em. May God forgive me." His head
dropped in a posture of repentance.
that, under the circumstances, God will understand," Luis said comfortingly.
his head and let a little grin escape. "I'm glad you see it that way, Luis," he
said, "'cuz I didn't feel guilty at all when I took it. Felt kinda good,
smiled only slightly. The scene was far too tense for anything more frivolous
had been given a handful of pain killers to swallow ten minutes earlier, was
firmly strapped in. Two men kneeled on the floor, straddling his legs. Two women
moved closer to his head. They too were on their knees, but they were holding
Bibles. They would take it in turns reading Psalms in Spanish, while Luis
performed the operation.
were ready to start, a heavy piece of leather was placed in Joaquin's mouth, so
that he could bite into it. It was important that they not arouse the suspicions
of their neighbors, and because of that, Joaquin could not afford the luxury of
screaming out his pain.
A ball of
rags was placed in his left hand. He was instructed to hold his right hand as
still as possible throughout the operation.
"The Lord is
my shepherd. I shall not want," Felicidad began in Spanish. She continued to
read softly as Joaquin focused intently on her words.
razor blade knife had been cleansed with alcohol. Luis applied a rough
tourniquet, gripped Joaquin's lower arm to steady it, and then made his first
cut, across the upturned palm, using the extendable razor. Joaquin's body tensed
and he bit hard on the leather.
I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou
art with me," Felicidad continued. "Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort
"We need to
allow for extra skin from the palm," Luis explained, as he grabbed a needle and
thread to tie off an artery. "When we finish, we'll fold that skin over the
stump, and join it to the upper portion."
had no proper surgical clamps with which to grasp the end of a loose artery,
Luis tied most of them off right through the skin, a short distance back from
where he had made the cut. He used a simple pair of pliers to hold the skin if
necessary. Deeper arteries needed to be cauterized with a hot piece of wire a
particularly painful procedure.
tourniquet had reduced bleeding to a trickle, so that it was not easy to
determine whether either the thread or the hot wire had done their job. Luis had
a chart in front of him showing where to look for the major arteries.
bandaging should take care of the smaller vessels," he said.
Joaquin's eyes were filled
with tears, and the knuckles on his left hand were white from squeezing the
rags. His whole body struggled in an effort not to move his right hand.
endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning" Maria read, while Felicidad
looked for another suitable Psalm.
Luis made a
sudden, forceful movement with the razor, and Joaquin's body lifted off the
table. The two men struggled to hold him still. He whimpered quietly, and beads
of perspiration ran down the sides of his head.
cut through most of the nerves," the instructor was saying to his startled
part is over now, Joaquin," he said softly to his patient.
Luis spoke less now, as he
fully busied himself with what he was doing. His wide-eyed students crowded
closer to watch.
Felicidad's turn to read when the operation was nearing completion. "Blessed is
he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed in the man
unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no
guile," she read.
arched his neck back to look directly at Felicidad. Tears ran down his face, as
much in response to the words he was hearing, as in response to the pain he was
All that was
left now were some ligaments joining the bones of the wrist together. Luis
pushed hard with the Stanley knife, to cut through the largest of the ligaments
while missing the bones on either end of it.
eyes closed and he went limp. He had mercifully passed out.
procedure was finished, and Joaquin's stitched up stump was wrapped and
bandaged, Luis reminded his audience that he would do only one more
demonstration before they would have to perform the same operation on their own.
They would each be expected to do one patient before the day had finished. And
they would be doing many more in the days ahead.
up with basic instructions on how to nurse the patient in the days after the
ordeal had emotionally drained all those involved; but even before the wound had
begun to heal, when Joaquin was conscious once again, he smiled through his
pain. His whole countenance had changed, and he glowed as he spoke of the peace
him that there could still be complications. Infections were commonplace, and
without antibiotics, a few amputees had already died from them.
"That is not
a problem," said Joaquin. I am happy to die for my God now. My heart, it is
free. Thank you, God! You know, brother, I am happy to die for Jesus now really
was not exceptional amongst those who came to have the Mark removed. All over
the world a revolution of faith was taking place. People who had never taken
seriously the demands of God were discovering peace, joy, love, and courage in
the face of death, as they exercised obedience to this one command of Jesus. It
had become the new rite of initiation into the ranks of the redeemed a baptism
into Christ's suffering. It represented a true circumcision of the heart, as
they turned from the lie of false grace to genuine faith in Jesus Christ and all
that he taught.
Unfortunately, this amputation of the Mark was only the start of the
suffering for these people. Their missing hand became an inescapable testimony
to the rest of the world of their stand against the Mark. Everywhere they went,
people turned and stared... not just because they were different, but because
the public was seeing more and more people with missing hands. Something was
happening, and the most forward members of the public would stop the amputees to
"How did you
lose your hand? I have seen others like you. What does it mean?"
that, the message was being preached by word of mouth to any who had not yet
visited the web site. Those who heard the testimonies of the amputees would pass
it on as faithfully as they had received it, for there were none who were
untouched by what they heard.
necessary to hide the amputees during their initial period of recovery. They
were given as much teaching as possible during that period, and then they would
be put in touch with other amputees in a separate location. They would be
smuggled out of the safe houses blindfolded, under cover of darkness, to where
they would begin their existence in exile, living like outcasts on the fringes
of society. They knew that it would only be a matter of time before their
obvious deformity would make them targets for arrest. But they had made their
choice, and they all, like Joaquin, were happy to die, if necessary, for their
Mark was invisible, the 144,000 of the Twelve Tribes looked no different to
everyone else as they walked the streets. And because of this, they were able to
stay anonymous throughout the final three and a half years.
amputees became the public image of the movement. They came to be referred to,
amongst the believers, as the Tribulation Force. What Rayford and Chaim's
two-dimensional testimony on the internet could not do (despite the powerful
truths contained in it), a living testimony from the Tribulation Force made up
for. These people who had made such a sacrifice and still boasted of the riches
that they had received in return... as though their salvation had cost them
nothing... were a powerful testimony to the true grace of God.
Tribulation Force had no promise of refuge in the wilderness as did the 144,000.
They believed that, as spiritual lepers, their days were numbered. It would not
be long before Dangchao and his troops would round them up for execution, if
Rayford and Chaim's understanding of prophecy was correct.
this only caused them to be more bold in preaching the good news of Jesus. They
wanted to help others to escape from the curse that hung over the planet, and
their positive glowing testimony was something the Twelve Tribes could not
match. Thousands more were coming every day, to join their ranks. The world was
receiving, through this new movement, a wake-up call to what it means to have
real faith in the midst of a godless generation.
* * *
At the same
time, there was a transformation of a different sort taking place in the halls
of power in Jerusalem. Pope Pius, who had vowed to do something heroic "some
day", was moving farther and farther away from the likelihood of such a move.
He, who had convinced himself that it was not "possible" to take a stand against
the Antichrist (because it would have threatened his position, his organization,
his reputation, and his comfort) had been shamed and angered by the testimony of
the single-handed members of the Tribulation Force, whom he mistakenly assumed
to be the hated Twelve Tribes.
Pius was able
to forget about the real sins of Dangchao by concentrating on the perceived
excesses of this group of fanatics, and the pain and suffering that he believed
they were causing all over the world. His mission, with Dangchao, to track down
the Twelve Tribes became more and more of an obsession, until he had convinced
himself that his true calling in life was to protect the world from such obvious
abuse of religion.
working so close to Dangchao had the same effect on Pius as living next to a
sewage treatment plant has on local residents. What shocks the senses of
visitors ceases to be noticed at all by those who live around it day after day.
Dangchao had his vices, it was true; but he was trying to bring stability to the
world at a very difficult time. The stresses of his office had probably led him
to act in the way that he did. The important thing, Pius told himself, as he
cauterized his conscience, was to maintain the unity of the church, and the
unity of the government. A few compromises along the way were unavoidable. They
were part of the price he would have to pay for the times in which he lived.
talked into making secret alterations to the statue in front of the basilica. A
speaker was installed, as well as a series of guns around the base of the
statue. Great crowds gathered in the forecourt each day, and the giant image
would "speak" to the crowds at random intervals, saying, "Bow down and worship
your king and your god!" Five seconds after the announcement, the guns, which
were placed about a meter above the ground, would fire.
people were killed or injured the first time that the guns went off. There had
been no warning about what to expect, and Dangchao had chuckled at how effective
the carnage was in getting people to fall flat on their faces and lie there
until they were sure the guns had stopped, the next time that the image "spoke".
always be collateral damage in military matters," he said, when people
complained about innocent spectators being killed spectators who would have
gladly bowed down if they had only known what was expected of them. "Isn't it
interesting how quickly word is getting around to other 'innocents'," he
giggled, "now that we have made examples of a few weaklings who would hide
behind their ignorance?"
Antichrist had no qualms about killing a few of his own faithful in order to
make a point. But what he desired most was to rid the world of the terrible
Twelve Tribes, who were gaining a higher profile every day in their prophecies
against him. News of the amputations had reached him, and he decreed that
guillotines should be constructed in malls and shopping centers all over the
world. If believers were executed publicly, and in great numbers, he reasoned,
it would successfully terrorize any of his followers who might be considering
Powerful faith affects all with whom it comes in contact. Some will be
inspired to imitate what they see; but most only become angry when they see such
faith. They cannot live with the truth about their own spiritual poverty, and so
they attack those who have shamed them. They call them heretics, fanatics,
cults. And they seek to have them silenced, if not destroyed.
Revelation talks of a great multitude which could not be numbered (in addition
to the 144,000 saints who are sealed by God before the Great Tribulation
begins). It says that these people will wear white robes when they stand before
God, robes which have been washed clean in the "blood of the Lamb". (Revelation
The "blood of
the Lamb" symbolizes the blood that Jesus spilled for all of us when he was
crucified. But Jesus also asked us to take up our own crosses and to follow in
his footsteps. The Revelation says that during the Great Tribulation, believers
will be able to spiritually triumph over the Antichrist "by the blood of the
Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and by the fact that they loved not
their lives, even in the face of death. (Revelation 12:11)
indications are that the great multitude that "comes out of great tribulation"
will actually be martyrs, following the Lamb to their deaths. The Revelation
specifically says of them that they will be "beheaded". (Revelation 20:4)
trudged wearily through the ankle-deep snow. All of Moscow was in a shambles.
Hardly a building in the city had been spared.
were the meteorites, thousands of them scattered over all of Europe, North
Africa, the Middle East, and some parts of Asia. They left craters wherever they
hit, and caused forest fires over much of the planet. A cloud of haze had
circled the earth, blocking out much of the sun's light. Warm air from the fires
had forced precipitation far up into the atmosphere, where the moisture froze
and refroze until it became huge hailstones weighing up to a kilogram apiece.
Thousands died when the giant balls of ice finally rained down on the
population. Whole cities were left without roofs. Cars by the millions were
smashed beyond repair. Animals lay dead everywhere.
was the big one, the asteroid itself. It landed in the mid-Atlantic, sending
hundred meter high tidal waves across the ocean, completely swamping most
coastal cities. Millions were lost on the east coast of South and Central
America, and the west coast of Africa and Europe.
wave of meteorites or falling stars, was worse than the first, although they
were all part of the same galactic storm that had been flying through space for
eons. In Russia, they were calling the disaster "Chernobyl" because of its
radioactive composition. Radiation levels were dangerously high in a third of
the earth's water supplies, and the problem was so widespread, that most people
had little choice but to drink the contaminated water, even knowing that it
would cause cancers, birth defects, and early deaths. It was often a choice
between drinking it or dying of thirst.
Chaim had predicted it all, and Dangchao and Pope Pius had done what they could
to hush it up when they had learned that the asteroid really was on its way.
Right up to the last, the experts were reported as saying that the chances of a
direct hit were extremely small. They started with figures like one chance in a
million, and the day before the first meteorites fell, they were still saying
there was only one chance in ten that it would be a direct hit. By the time the
seriousness of the situation had become clear, it was too late to evacuate most
cities. And now Dangchao's brave new world was in total disarray.
because of his hatred for the Tribulation Force (whom Dangchao erroneously
assumed were the original 144,000 tribal members) that this had happened in the
Rayford and Chaim had declared a drought on Israel, that would continue until
Dangchao ceased his plans to execute believers. Although the rain stopped and,
as it happens, did not fall for three years, it did not stop preparations for
the executions. Then the Two promised that the drinking water would be cursed in
the first city where an execution took place. The first executions took place in
Amman, Jordan, with more than a hundred believers killed the first day. However,
the same day, two monkeys were found dead in the town's water supply, after
having escaped from a circus. Subsequent tests revealed that they had died from
the ebola virus, and a deadly epidemic broke out which ended in all of Jordan
being quarantined to contain it. Interestingly, executions in Jordan ceased, and
there were no further executions of believers there throughout the final three
had bellowed out his anger against the believers even more after the Amman
incident. Executions started in earnest all over the world over the next few
days. In the space of a month, more than a million one-handed believers had been
And that was
when the Two Witnesses decreed that the asteroid would hit. Dangchao and Pius,
both of whom stubbornly refused to look at the Twelve Tribes website themselves,
as though fearful that it would "brainwash" them, received regular reports on it
from their advisers. When they had been informed about the asteroid prophecy,
they put observatories on the alert around the world. Observatory personnel were
told to keep information secret from the media and from other members of the
public., but it did not work completely. The Press got the story five days
before the asteroid hit. Nevertheless, it was still too late for the public to
do much about it.
Now here was
Reinhard, trudging through the snow in Moscow, on his way to a safe house, which
had been damaged by the hailstones. It would be his job to organise repairs.
Sheila Armitage was too old to undertake such tasks, and so the hard work was
always left for him to do.
First it was
Rayford, whom he had spent so much time teaching, only to have him take over the
stage in directing the Jesans. Reinhard had done his best to accept it humbly at
the time, but it wasn't much fun being left to get out the literature on the
streets while Rayford went on teaching as though everything he said was his own
ideas. Then it was Sheila. People just naturally turned to her for counsel in
preference to himself, because she was almost twice as old as him. And lately it
had been Jerry, one of the first recruits for the tribe of Asher, who was
commanding more respect from tribal members than what Reinhard himself was
when he arrived, Jerry, a strong, handsome man in his sixties, with long white
hair and a beautiful white beard, already had everyone working hard at repairing
and reconstructing the safe house. While neighbors pulled off damaged roofing,
so they could replace it with plastic sheeting, or other materials purchased
from government stores, Jerry's workers scoured the streets for the best of the
discarded bits, to be used in repairing their own accommodation. Materials were
already coming in, and it would not be long before the snow at least, would be
kept out of their living quarters.
Come in!" Jerry said kindly, when Reinhard gave the secret knock and Jerry had
unlocked the door. "Ivan, get some coffee for our brother," the ex-American said
in perfect Russian.
"I do not
need coffee," Reinhard said abruptly. "I am here to vork."
"Certainly," Jerry said
politely. Then he looked Reinhard in the eye: "Is something bothering you?"
is bothering me," Reinhard snapped. "Is something bothering you."
"Well, yes, I guess it is,"
said Jerry. "Can we go into the back room to talk privately?"
vit talking right here vere ve are?" Reinhard asked as he sunk deeper into the
soft chair, his hands extending the full length of both arms.
want to embarrass you," Jerry replied, almost in a whisper. "I think you're
upset about something, and I wanted to discuss it in private... just you and
picked himself up and threw his body toward the back room. I didn't want to
embarrass you he thought to himself. Typical of the smooth-talking Jerry
Anthony. He just naturally assumed that he was right and that all of his
lackey's would agree with him.
bother you that I'm leading here?" Jerry asked. He had been noticing the problem
for several weeks, and it was time to address it.
Reinhard said, with a shrug of his shoulders, eyebrows, and lips, to indicate
the insignificance he supposedly placed on the issue.
I share something with you?" Jerry asked.
yourself," Reinhard replied, pretending to show no interest, as he leaned
against a counter in the tiny workroom, and looked at the floor.
war... in America... I had what I thought was a good job. I saw myself as a good
leader. But it took the war, and the deaths of a lot of innocent people to make
me see that my ideas were all wrong. A fancy title does not make a person a
"I came here,
to Moscow, a lost and broken man. But when I met you, Reinhard," (and Jerry
paused here for effect). "When I met you, I knew that I had found someone who
was a true leader. You had no recognition as far as the world was concerned, no
pay, no title, but you knew where you were going. You knew how to tell the
important issues from the trivial ones, and you inspired me to try once more...
to be a true leader.
been caught completely off guard. He had expected a rebuke from the older man.
Instead, he had been flattered. It did more than any rebuke could have done to
humble the young man. It had been a long time since Reinhard had received such a
warm compliment, and he knew himself that what Jerry was saying about true
leadership was right. Being a good leader did not depend on getting compliments
or other positive recognition. It had more to do with catching sight of
something that others were not aware of.
had said was enough to bring back the vision to one who had let his flame go
dim. Reinhard had seen others in the Twelve Tribes lose their vision of
eternity, and heaven, and the return of Jesus, and they had each turned back.
Some of them had been very good leaders before they had fallen away. He
shuddered to think that he had been heading the same way himself. He reached out
to hug the older man.
said, for Jerry knew German too. "Danke, Jerry! Please forgive me for my bad
been very busy since he arrived in Moscow, more than four years earlier, but it
was no excuse for his failure to have ever really shared deeply with this man
who had been such a great help to the movement for more than three years, and
who had just spoken the exact words that were needed to bring Reinhard out of
his spiritual nosedive.
about yourself," Reinhard said, in an effort to make up for the sins of his
past. "How did you come to Moscow, of all places?"
"We did not
have much choice," Jerry explained. I hid out in America for several weeks; but
when a helicopter finally came to pick up survivors, it turned out to be a
Russian one. We were brought here, and I have been here ever since."
about your family?" Reinhard asked?
"I had a
daughter and a son, both living in New York City. They were near the centre of
the blast. They would have died instantly."
Jerry asked blankly. "I... She..." And he hesitated. "I have never talked about
vould be good time for starting," Reinhard suggested kindly.
hesitated once again. It was clear that he wanted to talk, but something was
holding him back. "I do need to talk about it," he said. "Can you keep this just
between you and me?" he asked. "It's very important."
"My wife was
killed, not by the bomb. She was killed by an assassin, in front of my eyes."
Jerry's voice was already beginning to break, but he wanted to finish his story.
It obviously was something that he had kept inside for quite some time. "He
meant to kill me too!" he sobbed. "Bob... one of my security men, threw himself
in front of me."
Jerry sat on
the floor and put his face in his hands, sobbing quietly as he spoke.
Reinhard listened in
amazement. Security men? Assassins? What was he talking about?
explosion deafened me for a while. I was so traumatized that I could not speak.
No one else got out of that bunker alive. When the Russians arrived, I knew I
couldn't use my real name. So I used my middle name instead... Gerald Anthony.
My beard had already begun to grow, and so I kept it... along with the long
Reinhard joined Jerry on the
floor and reached out to hug him. Whatever the man was talking about, he was
clearly deeply disturbed.
God ever have forgiven me?" he wept, wiping his nose with a handkerchief.
"How could I
have been so heartless? I let my own political ambitions become more important
than the lives of all those people. I saw my error too late. I couldn't save
America; but thank God, I didn't push the button to destroy them."
Reinhard was still trying to
make sense of what Jerry was saying. How could Jerry Anthony or Jerry whoever he
was think that he had caused the fall of America? He pushed the old man's hair
back away from his face, and studied his features. His hair had gone completely
grey, possibly from what he had been through, but under the beard Reinhard
thought he could recognize him now.
could hardly believe it. He was sitting on the workroom floor hugging the former
President of the United States. The man was a bit older, and wore long hair and
a beard now, but it was the President.
bomber (perhaps one of his own security men) must have entered the President's
bunker under the White House, along with him and the First Lady.
of the United States had just told Reinhard that it was Reinhard who had taught
him what it meant to be a leader. And he had said it after having worked quietly
under Reinhard's leadership for more than three years. What an amazing
compliment! And how foolish of him to have worried because he was not getting
the recognition that he thought he had deserved!
God had called him to do was more important than being the President of the most
powerful country in the world... President Gerald Fitzhugh himself knew that.
And what they were doing was important even if Reinhard was not the most widely
recognized member of this new kingdom. Reinhard prayed for strength to stay
faithful with even the humblest job, and he thanked God for the privilege of
being able to serve in such an important movement.
In contrast, Dangchao and Pius were tortured men, spinning out of control
in their obsession to maintain control of the world. Pius was almost as demonic
as Dangchao now, having learned how to perform a few sensational tricks with the
help of Dangchao's supernatural powers. Pius would unashamedly prostrate himself
on the ground in front of the statue whenever walking through the Temple Complex
now, and he had started bowing to Dangchao and using grandiose titles for him
that became further evidence of his worship for this man/Beast.
had survived the disasters, but both Temples had been damaged by the hail storm.
A meteorite had destroyed Pius' personal residence when the first shower hit.
Fortunately, he had not been there when it struck.
"We must stop
them," Dangchao spluttered as he was eating lunch with his cohort. "We must find
their headquarters... kill their Two Witnesses, as they call them. If we don't,
they will continue to grow. Torture will do it. Someone must know. They'll tell
us where it is."
Worship," Pius replied, "torture takes time. It will slow down the executions.
And everyone is needed for rebuilding. It takes a lot of infrastructure just to
ferret them out to begin with. There are interviews with informers, office staff
to maintain records, arresting officers, executioners. Even the morgues are
overcrowded with these latest disasters."
disasters! Let them lie where they are! If we don't stop these Christians,
everything else will be wasted. Skip the red tape too. If an informer even
thinks that someone is connected with the movement, I want that person killed. I
don't care whether they have a Mark or not. There must be people on the inside
helping them. We must find them and make examples of them."
continued: "The people can rebuild later. All of our energies must be put into
stopping these Christians. If we don't do that, there won't be a world left to
And so, while
the world looked on in shocked disbelief, their great leader --the man they had
all thought as recently as a year and a half ago was the greatest leader the
world had ever known -- chose to ignore their suffering because of his own
obsession with getting back at the Christians.
convinced himself that it was the Christians who were destroying the world, and
he used his best speech writers and press secretaries to get that message across
to the masses. He succeeded in whipping up such hysterical hatred for Christians
and such paranoia about their supposed conspiracy against the rest of the world,
that soon neighbors were turning one another in for execution on the flimsiest
of evidence. Executions increased ten-fold, but eight out of ten of the people
being killed now were ones who bore the mark in their very much intact right
The effect of
Dangchao's rage was to encourage even more of his faithful followers to defect.
If they were going to die anyway, they reasoned, it would be better to die on
the side of right.
And the Two
Witnesses could not resist echoing the timeless wisdom of such reasoning. "If we
are all going to die anyway," they said, "then how much better to die for God
than to die for a demon? This has been the common sense behind the gospel
message for centuries, whether or not the world happens to be falling apart
The disasters that are heralded by the first four "trumpets" of the Great
Tribulation (Revelation 8:6-12) are mentioned in this chapter. It is interesting
that the word "chernobyl" is the Russian name for the poisonous "wormwood"
plant. The passage from Revelation 8 says that the asteroid that hits the earth
will be called Wormwood.
also reveals a little more of the powers that the Two Witnesses will be able to
wield. Read about them in Revelation 11:6.
lesson, however, is that of leadership. The beastly systems of the world all
jostle for power, wealth, fame, and honour. But the humble, sacrificial death of
the "Lamb" is what characterizes the kingdom of heaven.
What a shame
that Constantine did not have the opportunity to learn as Fitzhugh does in this
chapter, what it means to be a true leader in the kingdom of heaven! Only when
that happens will people understand that it would be better for the leaders of
the most powerful countries and empires in history to be humble missionaries and
servants in the kingdom of heaven than to supposedly "use their power" to bring
favors for God and for his people.
represents the tragic end that befalls those who refuse to leave their positions
of power along with everything else that God calls us to forsake in order to
enter his kingdom.
between Dangchao and the Christians was on in earnest, and it continued that way
as the countdown toward the end of the three and a half years of Tribulation
In the two
years from the time that Dangchao had first caused the sacrifices to cease, and
had moved into the Temple in Jerusalem, both sides had lost count of the
millions who had chosen to reject the Mark, and the millions more who had been
executed to appease Dangchao's rage.
was slightly more sane than the Antichrist himself, he was also becoming
addicted to the sickening pleasure that came with conducting such a worldwide
Inquisition. It was the thrill of pure, unadulterated power that attracted them
now, except that in their case, it was very much impure and very much
adulterated use of power that had made it all so evil.
Dangchao and Pius were killing many more people than Rayford and Chaim were
converting, the Christians were clearly winning the spiritual battle. The
numbers of people asking to become a part of the Tribulation Force were growing
every day in spite of the killings.
and meteorite showers had left millions dead and widespread destruction. Neither
the U.N. nor the governments of its individual member nations seemed capable of
dealing with the problems that flowed on from the disasters. The world appeared
to be heading back to the Dark Ages. People everywhere were disillusioned.
Dangchao was definitely slipping in the popularity stakes.
dissatisfaction with the new world order was not the main reason why people were
choosing to become followers of Jesus. People joining the Tribulation Force were
primarily moved by the testimony of those who went before them... a testimony
that shone forth even at their executions. Surely there was something beyond
this life, and these followers of Jesus had found it!
Witnesses, far from being spooked by Dangchao and Pius' show of strength and by
their cruel efforts to locate them, had actually announced simultaneous press
conferences, one in Sydney and one in London.
response from the media showed how little control Dangchao had over the Press as
well. Troops were sent to break up both conferences and to arrest or kill
Rayford and Chaim; but in both cases, it was the troops who were destroyed, as
the Two Witnesses simply spoke a word and soldiers fell to the ground, their
insides eaten out by maggots.
When it came
time for Chaim and Rayford to leave their respective press conferences, they
spoke once more and everyone present became temporarily blind. In the ensuing
confusion, the Two Witnesses merely walked away, unnoticed.
conferences themselves were an overwhelming success for the Christian cause. The
Two Witnesses exuded such an air of calm and confidence throughout their
respective interviews that the whole world could not help but be impressed. What
they said, from opposite ends of the world, was almost the same. They explained
in clear simple language that all God wanted was for people to give him the
honour that he deserved as their Creator. They said that Dangchao and Pius and
others like them were only God's puppets, placed on earth to test the faith of
each individual. And they finished with a heartfelt plea for people to turn from
their service to the Antichrist and his Mark and to put their faith totally in
God and in his Son, Jesus, before the next curse fell on each of them
personally. They did not specify what form the curse would take.
"You will be
wishing that you could die to escape it," Rayford promised. "I would not want to
wish it on anyone. But it is going to happen. Believe me. You have a very short
time to repent. Please, for your own good, turn now. Even cutting your hand off
would be nothing by comparison to what awaits you if you don't turn now."
conference, which included live broadcasts all over the world, resulted in the
biggest influx into the Tribulation Force that the Christians had so far
experienced. There were too many for the Twelve Tribes to handle on their own;
so, some of the people who had already undergone amputations themselves were
being called in to assist with operations.
It did not
take long for the rest of the world to become aware of the increased support for
the Christian cause.
had been fuming ever since the press conferences, was out of his mind.
we?" he shouted, a few weeks after Rayford and Chaim were first reported to have
called him that. He threw yet another newspaper down after reading the hated
dare they!" He threw his hands into the air and his head back in frustration as
he shouted. The media had taken up that one word and woven it into just about
every report that came out about the Twelve Tribes after that.
Dangchao went on a rampage
through his palatial drawing room, kicking furniture and knocking things over.
He smashed a heavy vase into a large mirror. Pius looked on almost indifferently
now. He was growing accustomed to Dangchao's rages, and he had even had a few
them who the puppets are, and who pulls the strings! I'll show them!" Dangchao
Get up here! Apollyon!"
Master!" And suddenly at Dangchao's right hand stood a creature that could only
be a fierce and powerful demon. Its face was uglier than anything that Pius had
ever seen before... apart from Dangchao's other face. Pius shrunk back into a
dark corner, hoping that the creature would not take notice of him.
bring up your troops!"
bring them up here?" Apollyon asked in disbelief.
them up here!" Dangchao shouted. And his face assumed the grotesque form that
Pius so feared. "I want the world to know how much power I have. I want them to
taste what I can do to them. And I want to teach those Christians a lesson."
hurt our people too, Master," Apollyon said. "Do we really want to do that now?
"I know what
I'm doing!" Dangchao shouted. "If I can't send them to hell, I can at least
bring hell to them!" He was overcome with amusement at his own turn of phrase,
breaking into one of his fits of demonic laughter. "They're taking people away
from me. But I can have the satisfaction of tormenting them now... before they
die!" And the laughter resumed once more.
Pius was not
so sure about the wisdom of tormenting their own people, but if Dangchao's plan
would bring some suffering to the aliens (Pius' name for the Two Witnesses; he
never used the term Christian when referring to the believers, because it
reminded him of what he had once claimed to be.) If Dangchao's plan would bring
suffering to the Twelve Tribes, then it was worth a lot of "collateral damage",
as Dangchao liked to call it.
Apollyon! Do it now!:" Dangchao bellowed, and his demon face lit up as he
prepared to watch what followed.
The floor of
the room split down the middle, tearing the carpet and splintering the
floorboards. Smoke came out dense, black smoke; and it filled the room, filled
the palace, poured out into the street, and eventually filled nearly all of
Jerusalem. People could barely breathe.
And then, out
of the smoke there came the sound of troops, a kind of rhythmic beating of
hooves, and the metallic bumping and scraping of armour. It sounded distant and
faint at first, but then it grew in intensity. People at the limits of the smoke
were the first to see what the sound was coming from, and they instinctively
turned to run.
It was a
great cloud of locusts... or at least creatures that resembled locusts. But they
were a strange mutation. Their armoured bodies and metallic wings made them
sound like knights on horseback when they flew in a horde as they were at the
moment. On their tails were stingers like those on a scorpion.
did not attack crops or grass or trees. Instead, they attacked people. They had
tiny sharp teeth that they used to get a hold on someone before jabbing their
poisonous stinger in. The pain was unbearable... worse even than the pain of
childbirth. The poison paralyzed their limbs as well, making it impossible for
victims to do more than roll on the ground in agony for the two or three hours
it took for the pain to wear off. Pain-killers were largely ineffectual, and
there was no known antidote.
Many would be
stung over and over, despite every attempt to escape the horrible plague.
kept coming out of the thick, black cloud all that day. They left Jerusalem in
separate hordes, each one going in a different direction. They would each work
their way around the world over the next five months, stinging all who were in
All, that is,
except the members of the Twelve Tribes. Perhaps it was some residue from the
tiny transponder that these creatures were attracted to. Or perhaps it was
divine protection for the 144,000. In either case, it did not take long before
Rayford, Chaim, and the media had recognized the irony of the trap that Dangchao
had fallen into.
Chaim had predicted great suffering over all of the earth... suffering that
would be so painful that people would wish they could die. They had pronounced
the curse, but Dangchao himself had been the "puppet" through which it had
become reality! His own tiny alien creatures with their metal wings, sharp
teeth, and scorpion tails were the instrument through which God gave the world a
taste of what hell would be like. At the same time, God had protected the people
who were the target of Dangchao's hate!
Tribulation Force were not, as were the Twelve Tribes, totally immune to the
locusts, but the pain for them seemed to be little more than a bee sting by
comparison to what others felt.
Christians, whether from the Twelve Tribes or from the Tribulation Force, came
upon others who had been stung, they offered comfort, prayer, and whatever
practical assistance they could give. It did not take away the pain, but it
became a powerful testimony, not only of God's power to protect his own, but
also of the love that the Christians had, even for their enemies.
The rest of
the world... those who had not converted to faith in Jesus by this time... were,
indeed, becoming more and more evil.... more and more "enemies" of God and of
all who would follow Him. Every kindness from the Christians only increased
countless millions had converted to faith in Jesus by this time, the majority of
the earth's population continued to support Dangchao and his policies. They
believed his lies about the Two Witnesses being the cause of all of the earth's
problems, and they felt and expressed nothing but hatred for God.
three and a half years of the Great Tribulation were only a year away from
completion by the time the locust plague had ceased. Five months after they had
arrived, the locusts returned to Jerusalem, each having circled the globe. It
was like a rewind of their arrival. Another cloud of thick, black smoke covered
the city; they flew into it; and then the cloud of smoke disappeared down
through the hole in Dangchao's palace, taking the fearsome creatures with it.
The description of the "locusts" is quite detailed in The Revelation
(9:7-10). They may be mutant insects, demons (i.e. fallen angels) or even
tormented souls trapped inside tiny little machines, as the description of them
each having human faces suggests.
For a world
that has largely assumed that hell is a fairy tale and that the devil is a joke,
this chapter may be a bit hard to swallow... possibly even infuriating.
what it would have sounded like two hundred years ago, if we had talked of cell
phones and computer graphics, jets, atomic bombs, and laser images. God's
technology is light years ahead of our own, and so there may yet be some big
surprises for those of us living in the confines of what little Twenty-First
Century science can tell us about life, the universe, and everything.
believe that God acts in accord with his own rules. But we also believe that
only God has the complete rule book. And so there may be dimensions that we have
not even begun to fathom yet.
fairies, UFO sightings, and other psychic phenomena are being taken quite
seriously by many these days. So why rule out the possibility of angels, devils,
curses and divine protection, especially when they come from a source that is as
otherwise reliable as is the Bible?
three and a half years now, death and destruction had become a way of life
throughout the entire world. More lives had been lost in violent deaths during
that period than in all the wars throughout history.
towns like Swansea and Blackpool had been virtually washed off the map by the
big wave. Liverpool had also suffered enormous damage and loss of life. England
had done a better job of rebuilding than other countries (mostly in Africa and
South and Central America) which had also been severely damaged by the wave; but
that did not say much in itself. Disposing of all the bloated bodies had become
the first priority. Reconstruction was largely put on hold.
coastal towns were popular haunts for the Tribulation Force, who found shelter
and escape from public exposure by squatting in them. They were able to fish for
sustenance, even if they could not find discarded food as easily as they could
in the big cities.
Nations had declared England to be an "international country" shortly after the
fall of America, which effectively meant that it was under strict U.N. control.
U.N. troops enforced conformity with all of its official policies. And U.N.
policies were always determined by General Secretary Levi Xu Dangchao.
lost a further ten million people to the U.N. executions.
All of this
had the effect of numbing people to the full impact of death. For those who
chose to follow Dangchao, it meant that they had hardened their hearts even to
the cries of children and babies being cruelly and callously murdered. When
their own loved ones were lost, they only became more angry with God.
Numbness for the Christians
meant that they lived with a constant appreciation of eternal values --
something they had not given much thought to in the days when life had been
easier. Death, especially such a quick one as performed by the guillotine, was
an express ticket to heaven. There was no future for them on earth, apart from
getting others to join in their dramatic statement of faith in God and rejection
of all that Dangchao's regime stood for.
But it was
still as though everyone -- good and bad alike -- was living in a constant state
thing about the executions were the children. Parents would often have to hold
their own babies in the neck groove at the bottom of the death machine, because
the gap was too big for their tiny heads. The children, of course, had not yet
received the mark. But the rules were that all orphans of the Tribulation Force
were to be forcibly given the mark and then raised in government orphanages.
authorities really did not want the responsibility for so many babies and
children, but they took an evil delight in forcing parents to make the choice
themselves about whether to sacrifice their children to the authorities or to
the guillotine. Most chose the guillotine.
children (those over seven) were allowed to make their own choice. Most chose to
go with the authorities, and that caused more anguish for the Tribulation Force
than did the guillotine.
came to see the significance of a warning that Jesus had given, instructing
believers to pray that they would not be pregnant or have small children in the
period just before the Great Tribulation.
activity did not cease altogether amongst the believers, but it did become much
rarer than it had been before the troubles started. No one wanted to have a
child in such awful times, and birth control was a luxury that few of the saints
could afford. The crowded living conditions did not leave much opportunity for
execution had far more serious thoughts on their minds. And the Twelve Tribes
had earlier adopted a policy of discouraging marriage, and banning romantic
dalliances. If a couple wished to pursue a relationship, they were assigned to
work duties together, always with chaperones present or nearby. If a decision
was made to marry, it was made without any kissing or cuddling. A simple
ceremony would be performed as soon as possible after a decision was made.
couples in the Twelve Tribes were expected to put the cause above their
relationship. They were often separated for long periods of time; but they only
needed to remind themselves of how hard life was for the Tribulation Force to
get things back into perspective.
There were a
few tribal members who fell away. But that only strengthened the resolve of
those who remained.
were physical casualties amongst the Twelve Tribes too. Although not a single
person who had refused the Mark had been stung by the locusts, there were tribal
members who had been caught during police raids, when they were visiting or
assisting the Tribulation Force, and there were one or two incidents where
security had been breached and a whole base had been taken into custody. Death,
in such circumstances, was inevitable; but authorities were more inclined to
torture those who did not have the Mark, believing that they had more
information on where the leaders were located.
given in under torture, resulting in more arrests; but such defections were
at the start of the final three and a half years (ones who had not taken the
Mark) were enough to fill in for any losses in the Twelve Tribes' numbers, so
that, with a year to go, they still numbered close to 144,000.
that last year, their numbers dropped dramatically. They were all that remained
of the holdouts... the only people on earth who had refused the Mark. And even
they were rapidly dying out.
happened to our protection?" Chloe asked in an urgent email to Rayford when Mary
Teresa was shot and killed in a raid in Rome.
is not absolute," Rayford had written to all of the tribes in response. "God
still lets his rain fall on the just and on the unjust. Any army that has ever
won a war has still had its casualties, and we have had them too. But look how
far we have come. God is surely with us.
'survivor' literally means 'one who lives above'. We can physically stay alive,
and that would be a form of survival. But there is an even greater triumph that
comes from facing the final enemy -- death -- and still coming out on top. The
message of the resurrection is that death is not the end. It makes all the
Apostle Paul has said, if there is no resurrection, then we are, of all people,
most miserable. But because there is a resurrection, we will live on -- even
after they have taken our lives. We will survive! We will live above it all!"
every surviving member of the Twelve Tribes was counting down the days over
those final months.
were just two weeks to go, Rayford and Chaim felt it was time to head for
Jerusalem. They both knew that it would end in their deaths, and so, when they
bid farewell to their respective co-workers, it was with heavy hearts. Irene was
surprisingly peaceful about Rayford's departure. In fact, she was the one who
reminded him that they had had much more time together than most of the other
couples they knew. "Count the days," she said as he pulled away from their final
embrace. "Count the days."
Witnesses left behind their computers -- their only communication link with the
rest of the Twelve Tribes. They took a change of clothes and a few toiletries --
nothing more. Rayford was able to hitch-hike the entire way; but Chaim needed to
board a plane to get out of Australia.
never been married, and possibly because of that, he had a closer relationship
with his co-workers. His tears flowed freely when he said goodbye to his
co-workers. He was older than Rayford, with long brown hair and a beard, that
had grown of necessity when they ran out of razor blades. "It just seemed
natural to let my hair grow too," he said.
into Kingsford Smith Airport in Sydney, on a warm Sunday afternoon in late
November. He was not sure how he was going to get out of the country. He had no
ticket, no passport, no visa, no money, not even any identification, and most
important, no Mark. He got as far as the departure lounges without incident.
Australian Immigration had ceased checking documents for departing passengers a
few years earlier.
He located a
flight with El Al going to Tel Aviv via Bangkok. When passengers were called to
board, Chaim took his place in the queue. A woman in front of him had a seizure
of some sort just as her ticket was being checked. While airline staff occupied
themselves with her, Rayford slipped past the check-in desk and into the hallway
that led to the plane. It was as easy as that. The flight was not heavily
booked, so Chaim waited in the plane's rest room till all other passengers were
seated, and then he took an unoccupied seat next to the aisle.
took off for Bangkok without incident. It reached its desired altitude, and then
levelled out. Rayford was thanking God for how smoothly it had all gone when a
stewardess came and leaned over his seat. "We have no record of a passenger in
this seat," she said quietly. "Have you moved from some other seat?"
"No, this is
the only seat I've been in," Chaim responded, smiling up at the woman with a
mischievous twinkle in his eye.
I see your boarding pass?" the stewardess asked.
"I'm afraid I
don't have one," Chaim replied, still smiling.
stewardess looked concerned. "Can you show me your ticket?"
"Truth is, I
don't have a ticket either," Chaim answered sweetly.
here," the stewardess said as she hurried off to get a second opinion before
where she thinks I would go up here, Chaim thought to himself as he waited.
the galley, Hattie, the stewardess, pulled David, the chief steward out to where
he could look down the aisle toward the rear of the plane.
"See that man
in the middle aisle seat about six rows back?" Hattie whispered. "He doesn't
have a ticket."
said the steward, as if that explained everything. "See, I noticed him when he
got on. Thought at the time that he looked like one of those Witness blokes.
Didya see them on T.V.?"
said Hattie, as she studied Chaim's features. Chaim noticed the two staring at
him and he fluttered his fingers in a friendly wave.
be interesting," David whispered as he walked back toward where Chaim was
of the Witnesses, aren't you?" David asked. "I've visited your website."
He glanced at
Hattie, who encouraged him by saying, "No big deal, David. Everybody has."
said Chaim, who shook David's extended hand.
"So what are
you doing on this plane?" David asked.
Tel Aviv. I have some business in Jerusalem."
really do need a ticket to fly."
know that I can't buy a ticket without the Mark; and I don't have the Mark."
"I'll have to
report this to my superiors, and they'll probably want us to turn around and
take you back to Sydney. Even if they agree to let you stay on, they'll have
police waiting for you in Bangkok. You do realize that, don't you?"
think God can get me to Jerusalem?" Chaim asked as he looked up at David with
his head tilted to one side?
heard stories... and I sure wouldn't want to get you angry!" he laughed. "But
certainly you wouldn't do something dangerous here, not on the plane, would
"To tell you
the truth," Chaim said, as he indicated for David to bend closer so he could
hear a whisper, "I really don't have much control over it. I only know moments
before it happens. I figure that only God knows just how much protection I
I'll do is have a talk with the Captain and then get back to you," the younger
Chaim smiled, and then he went back to reading the newspaper that he had been
reading during take-off.
cockpit there was a hurried exchange of information and then a call to Sydney.
"He says that
there could be a show of force," said the Captain.
came through that they should do nothing to upset Chaim, and that they should
proceed on to Bangkok, where authorities would be notified.
zealous airline employee in Sydney phoned Israel too, and suggested that word be
sent through to the palace. By the time the plane touched down in Bangkok at
10pm local time, instructions had been changed. Chaim was to be kept on the
plane for the midnight flight to Tel Aviv. A welcoming party was being arranged
by the authorities at Ben Gurion Airport the following morning.
someone in Tel Aviv had leaked the story to the media, and word on TV was that
Chaim had hijacked the plane. Half the reporters in Israel were at the airport,
along with what looked like half of the U.N.'s sizeable military presence.
plane finally touched down at Tel Aviv, it taxied to a domestic lounge which had
been sealed off overnight. Chaim was then allowed to exit on his own, before the
plane proceeded to the international terminal with the other passengers.
through the door into the arrival lounge and blinked at the flashing cameras and
bright television lights. He waved to the press, and then a U.N. official came
forward, trying to look strong for the sake of the cameras, and yet trying to
look non-threatening for fear of Chaim's special powers.
that you are going to have to come with me," he said, as he braced for a
Chaim responded. He was handcuffed and led to a police paddy wagon.
He was then
taken, not to the police station, but to the palace itself, in Jerusalem.
"So! At last
we meet!" gloated Dangchao as Chaim was led into his throne room. Everyone else
bowed on the floor before the General Secretary, while Chaim remained standing.
your partner?" Dangchao asked.
know," Chaim answered honestly.
should hold you here for a few days, and see if he turns up."
Chaim did not respond.
have some fun with you at the Temple," he said with an evil glint in his eye.
could have some fun with you," Chaim replied, with a confidence that matched
that of his captor. Dangchao caught the seriousness of the threat and eased
kidding," he said. "I just want to ask your friend some questions. We really
need to work together... for the good of the whole world."
stated that Chaim had been arrested and that he was being detained at the
palace. Dangchao was hopeful that it would be enough to attract Rayford.
Of the Great Tribulation, Jesus promised that Christians would be
betrayed and killed for their faith (Luke 21:16), and then he says (in verse
18), "but there shall not a hair of your head perish." The apparent
contradiction is explained when we understand, as Rayford is quoted as saying in
this chapter, that "protection is not absolute".
We may die
for our faith, but we will not "perish". That is the essence of "living above".
There is no air-tight guarantee that we will not suffer. In fact, indications
are just the opposite (II Timothy 3:12). Ultimately, our protection will be
spiritual and eternal, and not necessarily temporal.
This is why a
"tribulation" vision is so important for all believers, in every age. When we
stop trying to escape discomfort, and start to face even death itself, we will
sort ourselves out spiritually. Life for most of us today has to do with more
and more comforts, more and more luxuries, and less and less preparation for
says of the world in Noah's day and in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah that they
were just too busy getting married and raising families to think of the things
of God; and it was because of that (and not specifically homosexuality or
atheism) that God destroyed them. (Luke 17:26-30)
Even the Two Witnesses will
have their limitations, as Chaim experiences in this chapter.
Thursday morning before Rayford reached Jerusalem. He had taken that long to
hitch-hike through Europe and the Middle East. Having heard on the way about
Chaim's capture, Rayford headed straight for the palace when he arrived in the
journey through Europe, only two people had recognized him, and they had not
presented a problem. But Rayford wasn't in Jerusalem half an hour before people
started to point at him and whisper. As he walked, a crowd followed, to see what
would happen. Someone phoned the media, and word was relayed to the palace,
which seemed to be where Rayford was heading.
one dared touch, speak to, or even come close to Rayford as he walked. There was
something about his gait that made those in his way immediately stand back to
give him room.
arrived at the wide steps leading up to the palace entrance, he was faced with a
huge media and military welcome. Cameras clicked and whirred as Dangchao
appeared at the top of the steps, flanked by more than a dozen armed guards.
Other U.N. snipers were perched at every available lookout point.
Welcome!" shouted Dangchao magnanimously, for the benefit of the public.
"I have come
for Chaim Rosenberg!" shouted Rayford. "Bring him out here!"
Please come in!" Dangchao said as he walked down the steps to get closer to
down on the pavement at the bottom of the steps. As his seat touched the ground
a rumble suddenly shook the whole area. Everyone who was standing in the
vicinity fell over, with the exception of Dangchao, who barely managed to regain
his balance. Snipers fell from perches around the palace entrance, some of them
seriously injured. Others picked up their weapons and scrambled quickly back to
here," Rayford said again, pointing to the ground beside where he sat. "Now!"
tremor sent those who had resumed standing back to the ground. This time
Dangchao fell too. Some cameras being held by reporters who were wise enough to
have stayed on the ground, caught pictures of the General Secretary falling
spread-eagled in front of the Witness for the West. Rayford sat regally, with
his legs folded in front of him.
All right" said Dangchao, as he struggled to a more dignified lotus position,
prisoner!" he said to one of his guards, and the man hurried up the steps.
You'll get your chance," Rayford said. "Very soon. But for now, you are only
going to bring more troubles on yourself if you don't turn Chaim over to me."
Dangchao shouted, as loudly as he could. But at the same instant, Rayford merely
breathed out and a supersonic jet of flame shot straight toward Dangchao. The
Antichrist ducked at lightning speed, and missed the flame, but it split just as
quickly into several different directions. Then, moving more quickly than any
human could react, the various tongues of flame sought out each of the soldiers
who had a gun aimed at Rayford. They were all engulfed in flames before they had
a chance to pull a trigger.
shouldn't make me do that," Rayford said calmly to Dangchao.
your plans?" Dangchao asked, obviously shaken. "If you will promise not to leave
the city, I'll let your friend go with you."
my friend come with me regardless," Rayford answered quietly. "But if it'll make
you feel any better, we don't have any plans to leave the city for the next ten
Chaim appeared with the guard at the top of the steps.
no choice but to submit to the demands of the Two Witnesses; but later that day,
his spin doctors made it sound like the two men were just free on bail pending a
trial. There was outrage from some that a dangerous hijacker and suspected
killer should be allowed to roam free; but Dangchao insisted that everything was
under control. Of course it was except that he wasn't the one holding the
For the next
six days Chaim and Rayford spent most of their time in the area around the
Temple Mount, where they were able to address large crowds of people. It was
early December, and the weather was cold; but the Two Witnesses stayed out on
the streets, sleeping in shifts. They had accumulated a few rags, bits of
firewood, and other materials to insulate themselves against the cold. They kept
a little campfire going overnight, on the pavement where they slept. Whichever
one was not sleeping would stay awake to mind the fire; and to address the
the night people gathered to gawk at them and to listen, out of curiosity, to
their pronouncements against the Dangchao government and against those who had
put their faith in it. Twice someone had tried to attack them, and twice the
attacker had been destroyed by fire. Word spread quickly through the media, and
even more quickly amongst the spectators; so that the crowds barely dared to ask
questions of the two prophets after that... until late on the following
Chaim had not been in email contact with the rest of the saints since they had
left for Jerusalem ten days earlier. They ate little and prayed constantly over
those final days. The Christians all knew that the time for Chaim and Rayford's
demise was very near. There had been more deaths and defections amongst their
own members over the past ten days too.
Elaine had both been taken by the authorities and executed a week after Rayford
had left London. A few saints in Jerusalem had been able to sneak messages to
the two men during that final week. News of Irene's death had added to the
strain upon Rayford; but he did not stop preaching.
been left more or less in charge of the Twelve Tribes and the Tribulation Force
after Irene and Elaine disappeared; but the general feeling was that everything
was falling apart. There were still four days to go before the long-awaited
return of Jesus... if their calculations were correct, and some were wondering
if they would last even that long without their beloved leaders.
Wednesday evening of that final week, one of two U.N. guards who were part of a
round-the-clock watch over the Two Witnesses, drew a bead on Rayford with his
rifle, just for fun. He was in a position where he could not be seen by Rayford
himself, and Chaim was sleeping beside the fire. Just then, his companion bumped
him, and the gun went off, shooting Rayford through the head. Rayford fell to
the ground with a quiet thud.
killed him!" whispered the other guard. "Look, you've killed him!" And then he
saw Chaim begin to stir. "Quick! Get the other one before he gets up and burns
"It's him or
me, isn't it?" the soldier said as he pulled the trigger a second time. And
Chaim too slumped over next to Rayford. He had also been shot in the head.
Rayford had just finished
giving a speech to a small crowd before the shooting occurred, and the audience
had been moving away at the precise moment when the shot rang out. Those few
people who were still present to see Rayford, and then Chaim, fall could not
believe their eyes. After three and a half years of fruitless tracking by the
authorities, and after equally fruitless attempts to destroy these two men, one
foolhardy soldier had eliminated them both, half by accident, in a matter of
seconds with just two bullets!
soldiers rushed to establish that they really had killed the Two Witnesses, and
then they notified their superiors. A military ambulance arrived and took the
bodies and the two soldiers away, and a report went out to the media that the
world had been saved; the Two Aliens (as Pius liked to call them) were dead.
up all night, addressing the media and making other arrangements. Early the next
morning he unveiled a hastily constructed cyclone fence which surrounded the
bodies of the Two Witnesses. They had been returned to where they had died. The
embers of a campfire were still there; and the paraphernalia that the men had
collected to keep themselves warm were scattered around inside the enclosure.
The public was invited to view the scene for themselves. Soldiers who had been
roistered to watch the two men were now being used to control the crowd flow.
decided to display the bodies because he feared that the Christians would try to
start another resurrection story, as they had done with their Jesus. He also
wanted people to know that it really was the Two Witnesses who had been killed,
and that they really were dead.
But he went
one step further. Christmas was only a few weeks away, and although it had been
renamed Winterfest years earlier, he felt that this was a good time to change
the date for the celebrations. He announced that the next day, Friday, would
henceforth become the new date for celebrating Winterfest. Stores would remain
open all day on this particular Friday, for last minute shopping; but all
non-essential businesses would be closed for Thursday and Friday both. This gave
people two days in which to buy their gifts, food, and drinks, to celebrate the
holiday. Everyone loved it. The stores experienced the greatest two-day shopping
spree the world had ever known.
convinced that the human race had turned the corner. Peace and prosperity were
going to return! And so they shopped with reckless abandon as they celebrated
mankind's final victory over the "Aliens".
began that same day, and they grew more wild over the next two days. By Saturday
afternoon, when the shops had all closed and even store staff were free to join
in the celebrations, the whole world was in one big drunken, drug-crazed orgy.
But on Sunday
morning, something startling happened in the Middle East. Over a stretch of
fifteen hundred miles in all directions (reaching as far as Baghdad, Cairo, and
Ankara), when people looked up, all they could see was what looked like a glass
ceiling miles above the earth, stretching from horizon to horizon. Some light
filtered through the glass, making it possible to see that there were structures
and some movement on the other side.
flying at altitudes above 25,000 feet had been forced to descend steeply or to
turn back when they neared the Middle East.
a hurried meeting with his best military advisers, who were convinced the
structure was an alien star ship the size of a small planet. The big question
was whether or not the aliens manning it were friendly. Dangchao sensed what was
up straightaway, and he encouraged the military to prepare for the worst.
after noon, there was a new development at the Temple Mount. Someone reported
seeing movement in the hand of one of the Two Witnesses. Dangchao was alerted
and he hurried to the site, along with an entourage of advisers and Press
gathered around and watched for a full five minutes without any sign of
movement. They were about to chalk the report up to someone's over-active
imagination when a barely perceptible tremor shook Chaim's body.
"Did you see
that?" someone shouted. Indeed, Dangchao had seen it, and he was worried.
he shouted, pointing at Chaim.
already dead!" his guard argued. He, too, was scared. He had heard what happened
to others who had tried to kill the Two Witnesses.
"I don't care
if he's dead or not. Shoot him!" Dangchao shouted once again. He grabbed the gun
out of the guard's hand, in an effort to do the job himself. He pointed it
straight at Chaim's head and squeezed the trigger. But just as he did, the earth
dropped out from under him. He threw his hands (and the gun) into the air to
catch his balance. The ground began to shake, and the two bodies on the ground
shook with it.
earthquake! thought Dangchao. That's all it was. The bodies had not moved! It
was only the earth shaking them.
But a moment
later both Chaim's and Rayford's arms and legs started to move simultaneously.
Their bodies straightened out, and their arms moved in unison to lift themselves
up... up onto their knees. They were still kneeling, but otherwise erect as they
opened their eyes and looked straight into the face of the Antichrist.
bullet-wound to each of their heads disappeared before Dangchao's eyes. Their
hair became thicker, as grey streaks disappeared. Wrinkles vanished, and they
both appeared to be no more than thirty years old. The ragged clothes they were
wearing fell away to reveal a shimmering white robe.
The men rose
to their full stature, as a voice boomed out of nowhere and everywhere at the
same time: "Come up here!" Everyone instinctively looked up, and from the bottom
of the glass ceiling, directly over the Temple Mount a big round opening
appeared. It looked like a jet of white smoke shooting down from the opening
toward the ground. But as the "smoke" got closer, it separated into millions of
tiny beings, all dressed in white. In the middle of them was One whose
appearance was almost blinding, as light radiated from Him. The other beings
circled around him as he dropped lower and lower.
Rayford began to rise up to meet the beings in the air. As they rose, they could
see others like themselves ascending from the earth and then converging toward
the Being of Light.
Most of the
others were dressed in the shimmering white of the resurrected. But there were a
few who were distinguishable by their everyday dress. These were the living
saints. They, too, had undergone a transformation as they returned to the
strength and beauty of their youth. Deformities and blemishes disappeared.
Everyone taking part in this amazing gathering in the air experienced an
overwhelming sensation of health and fitness. And, the best news for many was
that there were no missing limbs.
Down on the
ground, the earth was continuing to shake, much more violently now. The entire
city of Jerusalem was trembling like the toy that it was in comparison to a city
that was infinitely more powerful floating in the air above it. Buildings began
to collapse. From above, where the saints were, it looked like a tenth of the
city was falling in slow motion. But down on the ground there was a deadly
shower of glass, concrete, bricks and steel girders from the city's crumbling
structures, raining down on the local population. People still recovering from
the celebrations of the weekend were trapped or crushed in buildings all over
were too far above the earth to survive without external warmth and oxygen masks
now. But there was no sensation that even approached freezing, nor were they
struggling for breath.
All of the
supernatural bodies were converging toward the Being of Light. Rayford, Chaim
and the multitudes gathering around them all knew who it was. It was their
Saviour. It was their Jesus!
started to sing, and others joined in. Each person was singing in their own
language, but they sensed that they were all singing the same words. It was the
words and music from the Hallelujah Chorus of Handel's Messiah. "King of kings!
Lord of lords! He shall reign forever and ever!" They repeated it over and over;
and each time they did, the volume increased, until it seemed the whole earth
could hear them. This was it! This was the moment that all of history had been
waiting for. This was the culmination of the great Creator's plan for his
indeed, returned to judge the earth!
There is something about the return of Jesus that sounds unbelievable to
the modern, cynical mind. And yet it is no more unbelievable than any of the
other myths and legends (including evolution) that mankind has come up with to
explain our existence. Without them, life becomes pointless--a mere accident in
an infinite soup of molecules called the universe.
But then, why
shouldn't we believe what the Bible has said about the return of Jesus, over any
other explanation for life and for our existence? Everything else about the
Bible indicates that it is an historically reliable book; and the human race has
benefited from it more than it has from any other book that has ever been
written. So we would do well to seriously ponder what it has to say about the
return of Jesus.
event is described in detail by a number of different authors. Paul foretells
the Rapture in I Corinthians 15:32-58. He starts by saying, "If the dead rise
not, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." And he finishes with these
encouraging words: "Know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord." So there
is a purpose for our existence. He will return. We will rise again.
11:7-13 tells of the death and resurrection of the Two Witnesses, and of the
earthquake that hits Jerusalem at the same time. This seventh (last) trumpet
marks the start of God's Wrath, or the emptying of the seven vials.
above the saints grew larger and Rayford felt himself suddenly drawn toward it
at great speed. As millions of saints from around the world streamed toward the
centre of the glass ceiling those (like Rayford and Chaim) who had arrived first
were drawn through the big opening in the ceiling. Rayford looked down and could
see clouds below him now. They must be several miles up, and still rising.
they passed through the opening, they continued to rise at a rapid rate,
allowing room for what looked like an unending cloud of saints and angels to
structure Rayford discovered that there was no sense of up or down. It was like
another world, but with total weightlessness. There was no shortage of oxygen,
if, indeed, their new bodies were functioning on oxygen at all.
Rayford felt guilty. He had become so distracted by the city that he had
forgotten about Jesus, the One who had obviously made all of this possible.
"Don't let it
bother you!" said someone or something. It was like the voice spoke inside his
own head. Nevertheless, Rayford spun around and saw an angel smiling at him.
"You'll have plenty of time to meet with the Lord personally," he thought he
heard the angel say... although Rayford could not see the man's lips moving.
"Can you...?" Rayford began.
But the answer came back before he could finish the sentence.
I'm here. It's my job to show you around, and to answer your questions."
The two men
(for the angel looked to be quite human except for a higher degree of brilliance
in his robe and countenance) were still moving at great speed through the
vastness of the big city that they had entered only moments earlier. The crowd
was thinning out, and it appeared that each saint had been joined by one angelic
senses were overwhelmed with all that had happened in just a few moments of
time. He had been resurrected from what seemed like a deep sleep, returned to
perfect health and youth, shot into space without a vehicle or space suit,
witnessed momentarily the return of Jesus in the skies above Jerusalem, and then
been swept into a whole new world inside a giant glass pyramid, where everything
defied the laws of gravity.
approximately fifteen hundred miles high," the angel said, as he read his
student's mind. Rayford's head was being filled with information on where he was
and what was happening, as quickly as he could process it.
saints from around the world have been resurrected and flown here at great
speed. Jesus is out there waiting to be seen by each of them before they enter
New Jerusalem. Yes, that's the name of this city. We have all been busy
preparing for this exciting moment.
everyone's inside, by sundown in Israel, we'll gather for the wedding party. No,
it won't be dark here. God's presence lights the city constantly. You no longer
need to sleep, so the party can go for weeks, in earth time, without let-up.
They'll not be a problem. You'll hear him as clearly as you're hearing me now.
There'll be screens if you wish to see him up close, but it's not his body that
we worship. It's his Truth and Power. We've planned plenty of music and food and
dancing. A lot of celebrating. You don't know how much we up here have been
looking forward to this."
"This is just
so amazing!" Rayford exclaimed, relieved that his angel had allowed him to
express just a tiny bit of what he was feeling.
understand your need to express praise," the angel said. "We have the same need
ourselves. You'll love the singalongs! It'll be the single greatest act of
praise in all history. It really is going to be exciting!"
Rayford had a
strange urge to hug his angel, and at that instant his angel reached out to hug
him. "Call me Bob," he said, and Rayford registered surprise at such an
common, you think?" asked Bob. "Actually, names are not a big deal up here. We
never get lost, and people know when they're being addressed personally -- like
I'm doing with you right now -- but Bob'll do, if you feel more comfortable
using a name."
Bob," Rayford responded. And then his thoughts turned to Irene.
Bob reassured him. "You'll see her later. But you'll also come to love everyone
here as much as you love her. And the Lord... why, he'll be the greatest love of
instantly see the truth in what Bob was saying. On earth he had had a special
relationship with Irene; she was his personal responsibility. But here...
everyone existed to love and please God. The marriage party, as they called it,
was a celebration of their corporate union with God. The euphoria that Rayford
had been experiencing since he first rose sleepily up onto his knees there in
the Temple Mount enclosure was greater than any pleasure he could ever remember
having experienced back on earth, including sex. He did not even miss Irene now,
or feel impatient about seeing her. He knew instinctively that they were one
already... not only with each other, but with all the saints throughout history.
They were one in their worship of God. They were entering into a new marriage --
a marriage to God.
mind took another turn, and once again Bob turned with him.
earth?" Bob asked. "They're pretty upset, I can tell you that!" he said with a
laugh. "Ol' Dangchao is trying to tell them that we're an alien starship coming
to destroy the earth. Guess we are in a way. But he doesn't dare mention God. If
he did, maybe they would see the futility of fighting us, and repent.
a mess at the moment. Nearly 7,000 dead already from the quake. But Dangchao is
untouched by it. He doesn't think of anyone but himself. Right now he's
screaming for military support from every country on earth. Fighter jets,
nuclear weapons, rockets, missiles, anything they can find to blow a few holes
in our outer shield."
"No. Not a
chance. It wouldn't matter if they could. The glass isn't really our shield; God
is. We just put it there for effect. Same with all the gold and precious stones
you see everywhere around here. Pretty, isn't it?"
structures in New Jerusalem had contributed to Rayford's overall feeling of
pleasure. There were perfumes that breathed peace into his spirit too, and a
kind of sub-conscious awareness of music humming inside his head. A river of
water flowed this way and that through the vast city, but it flowed without
banks to hold it in. It was either in a transparent channel, or just held
together by its own surface tension. Rayford reached out to touch it. Sure
enough, it had no outer covering. It was wet and cold.
areas of vegetation that had the feel of jungles without a jungle floor. You
could move up, down, or through the beautiful flowers, ferns, vines, and other
foliage. Plants tended to lack stalks, although there were beautiful and ornate
leaves, and a few vines that laced individual blooms together.
stones that Bob had referred to were more or less strewn along their path.
Structures within the glass pyramid were not exactly "buildings" in the sense of
a building on earth. There was little need for walls or floors, as people here
had nothing to hide, and they were able to view others from above and below as
easily as they could from the side. Some semi-transparent structures did serve
to separate general areas of the city, so that activities taking place on one
side of the walls would not disturb other activities on the other side. Precious
stones and plants featured on these partitions.
If there was
one thing the saints found difficult about life in New Jerusalem, it was living
without their normal concepts of time. You could not talk about "tonight" or
"tomorrow" or how many days until something would happen, because there were no
nights, and people did not sleep.
however, take time to recline amongst the many gardens, and just soak in the
peace and beauty of their new environment from time to time.
days, the marriage party went on for several weeks. Rayford met up with Irene,
Elaine, Chloe, Raymie... in fact, all of the original Jesans and the twelve
judges. They compared notes on what had happened while they were apart, what
their reactions had been when the great resurrection began, and what they had so
far learned of life in New Jerusalem.
to rule the world when the 'battle' is over," Raymie announced. He was
twenty-two years old now, and he would continue to age in New Jerusalem until he
was approximately thirty. "The assignments," he said, "will be given out after
prepared them for the possibility that they would have only minor assignments
compared to the ones they had carried out during the last seven years. "It
always seems that we get slack when we're leading, and God spots the greater
faithfulness of humble followers. So we'll probably see some of the little
people given the top jobs here," he said.
there too, and he had some exciting news to announce about something he had
learned from his angel.
"You know how
we were able to send and receive email without a service provider?" he said.
"Well, it was all being processed through a control room up here. This whole
place can disappear into another dimension; so it was out there all that time,
tapping into the worldwide web to process all of our mail. That's why we never
received a bill from Web Wonders after they destroyed it.
thing! It was these guys who vaporized the Web Wonders office, so Dangchao's men
couldn't get our files.
learning so much about how things work up here. It's not magic or anything like
that. There are just a lot of laws of physics that people back on earth haven't
learned yet. Things like how to overcome gravity and how to read minds. Even our
new bodies operate much like our old ones did. Just newer models. They don't
need sleep; they don't age, and they're immune to disease. We'll still eat and
drink, but most of our power comes from God himself. It comes to us through the
Light that fills this pyramid. Outside the pyramid, we would still age, the same
as anyone else.
so much to learn," he exclaimed. "Isn't it great?"
found delight in something different. Mary loved observing the changes in others
now that they were all young and healthy. She found as much pleasure in watching
and listening to Neville as he found by what he was learning of divine physics.
Just looking at Sheila Armitage and Mary Teresa, who were also thirty years old
now, intrigued Mary. Everyone was so beautiful! And so full of energy! She
wanted to talk to everyone and to hear their stories about what God had done for
Mike, and Martin all got into playing games with their new flying skills. They
were like little children, although they had to be cautioned a couple of times
about the dangers of reckless flying.
and John Doorman spent a lot of time in the archives, going through videos and
other records of their own lives and the lives of others. They were able to gain
a better appreciation of what was happening spiritually at various times in
their lives. They would locate a time when they prayed for something and then
press a button and get an account of what had been the actual effect of the
prayer. They were impressed with how God and his angels had managed to work
around the intricacies of each person's free will and other natural restrictions
that God had placed on himself.
greatest pleasure was just in wandering around the great city, examining the
vegetation, decorations, and some of the strange animal-like creatures that
obviously more than enough to keep everyone fully occupied and fully happy for
the next thousand years, which was how long they would be ruling over the world.
What was to happen after that, they would worry about when the thousand years
were drawing to a close. But in the meantime, they would all have duties to
perform in ruling the world under the guidance of Jesus and his angels for the
next thousand years.
they were celebrating, God was pouring out his "Wrath" on the world below. All
the suffering that the saints had just been through was nothing compared to what
was happening outside at that time. The armies of the world were gathering their
forces together for one final assault on New Jerusalem. Dangchao had a plan to
fly nuclear weapons in through the same opening that the saints had used. But
the saints were going to join with the angels in blocking that assault... known
as the Battle of Armageddon.
Revelation 21 gives a detailed description of the New Jerusalem after it
actually lands on the earth (i.e. after the battle of Armageddon).
We have not
bothered in this book to detail the gore that accompanies the "seven vials" of
the Wrath. You can read about it in The Revelation, chapter 16. Unfortunately,
despite all that God does to get their attention, the world still does not
repent. Instead, they become more bitter against him. They eventually unite in a
fierce war against God himself. (See the next chapter.)
tells us that there will be no marriage in heaven. (Matthew 22:30, Mark 12:25
and Luke 20:34.) This is a bit hard for most people to imagine, as marriage
seems to be the closest to heaven that most of us ever experience here on earth
(although some would say it is the closest to hell too!) However, just as we
cannot fathom how God could do many of the things that he has done (e.g.
Creation itself), so it is hard for us to comprehend the far greater pleasures
that he is yet to give to those who put their faith in him.
tells us that God will provide the Light in New Jerusalem. The physical presence
of Jesus, ministering to millions of different individuals is hard to picture.
But through the combined assistance of the Light (God's spiritual presence) and
his heavenly hosts (the angels), Jesus will apparently be able to meet the needs
of all his faithful followers without any problems.
The Battle of
Armageddon itself was really just the start of another story. The troops on
earth, it turned out, had been gathering for over a year by the time the attack
began. Dangchao had sensed that a showdown was coming, and he had secretly
ordered manoeuvres to begin even before Rayford and Chaim had left London and
Sydney for Jersualem.
appearance of New Jerusalem in the skies over the Middle East merely gave
Dangchao a target against which to hurl the best (or worst, depending on your
perspective) that his world had to offer. He had convinced the various
governments of the United Nations that the apparition in the skies over the
Middle East was part of an invasion by aliens from another solar system. The
survival of the human race, he said, depended on wiping out or at least
repelling these intruders -- who were blamed for everything from the asteroid
and subsequent tidal wave to the stinging locusts that Dangchao himself had
opening in the glass base of the pyramid directly over Jerusalem had never been
closed after that first official opening to let Jesus and his army of angels
through. It was, from Dangchao's perspective, the obvious place to start his
strike against the forces of God.
commander-in-chief of the mighty armies of the world, loaded up all of the
world's best fighter jets with nuclear weapons. If even a few of his pilots were
able to actually fly through the opening, then they could drop a bit of his hell
inside their heaven. And if that failed, he had imported virtually every
available ground-to-air missile on earth to the state of Israel, and he had
built launching sites for them all over the country, so that they could all be
fired at the new world of the saints whenever he gave the signal.
Near the end
of the marriage celebrations in New Jerusalem, the saints had been instructed on
how they were to defend their city. They were to engage the enemy without any
weapons of defence, only God's presence and the truth. Each saint was to spend a
number of hours simply bathing in the Light of New Jerusalem, which was very
much like sun-bathing on earth but not as hot. They would soak up enough power
to enable them to function wisely once outside New Jerusalem. But they were also
seriously instructed on the need to follow their angels implicitly and without
question in every move that they made.
the time came, the saints and angels were sent out to meet the approaching
squadrons. Christ himself was stationed just below the opening. His brilliance
was so powerful that it was visible for many miles in all directions. He was an
unmistakable target for each of the enemy planes and a public taunt to Dangchao.
and angels were able to fly at supersonic speed. Some zoomed down to confront
the approaching jets. Then they swung around to match the flight path. They were
positioned all around (above, below, and in front of) the jets as they both sped
toward the opening.
really want to do this," one of the saints would communicate (or words to this
effect) to the plane's pilot by thought transference. "We're not here to hurt
you," they would continue. "Save yourself and your world by turning back now."
"God loves you." "He does not want to see you die." The messages were fired into
each cockpit, and into the minds of every crew member on the larger planes. Some
of the saints and angels were visible outside the aircraft as well.
But each time they did this,
the hardened, puppets of the Antichrist system would convince themselves that
they were being mentally assaulted by the heavenly beings. They would manoeuvre
their planes in an attempt to fire weapons at the saints. Rockets flew in all
directions as jets veered off course and out of formation. While they were
firing at the creatures that they could see outside their windows, some of them
accidentally shot down allied planes in the vicinity. Some planes executed
impossible twists, turns, and backflips to either shake or break the armies of
New Jerusalem. Many of them went out of control as a result, crashing to earth
with their deadly cargoes.
literally blowing themselves out of the skies in their insane resistance to
God's final call to repentance. Not one of them responded to the offers of peace
being made by the saints.
the ground, Dangchao gave the order for the missiles to be launched. But another
larger wing of the heavenly army had already reached the launch sites. Saints
and angels were seen by closed circuit TV, hovering over the missiles, and seen
personally appearing outside windows, and flying down hallways and into
otherwise secure rooms where the orders to press buttons were to be carried out.
With help from the internet experts in New Jerusalem, a few of the saints were
even able to appear on computer monitors in the control rooms and talk to the
Rapture, similar technology had been used to put close-up footage of Jesus above
Jerusalem into television receivers all over the world.)
of love, peace, and a call to repentance were transmitted to everyone involved
in the Battle; and again the messages were rejected. Instead, the earthly armies
reacted in confusion. Staff turned from their duties in an effort to stop the
intruders. Weapons were used, but, because the saints could move at speeds many
times faster than their attackers, the weapons were useless. The saints had the
reflexes and flying skills of houseflies. Attempts by Dangchao's servants to
shoot them often resulted in deaths and casualties to their own personnel.
It was in the
middle of all this confusion that Dangchao gave the order for all of the
missiles to be fired. It was too soon. The fighter squadrons had not yet
returned from their assault. Consequently, allied planes which had not already
destroyed themselves were destroyed by "friendly" missiles, if there can be such
were never launched, simply because the people responsible for launching them
had been distracted, killed, or injured in the melee. The saints succeeded in
pulling plugs on some and altering the settings on others, causing some missiles
to veer off target. These did little more than bounce off the glass shield,
causing more destruction to the earth, some five miles below the base of the
huge city, than they did to New Jerusalem itself.
stayed very close to their angels, who could sense ahead of time when it was
best to leave their assigned sphere of operation and head for safer climes, or
to just return to New Jerusalem. In this way, they were able to escape areas
that were later fired on by Dangchao's own troops.
Rayford's theory about both sides suffering losses during a war, the Battle of
Armageddon was as one-sided as any war that has ever been fought. The heavenly
armies reported not a single casualty. It was not that they were immune to the
weapons being fired at them, but only that they could not fail to escape injury
if they would just faithfully follow directions. This, of course, was the lesson
that had been missed by the inhabitants of Earth for most of their existence.
Each time God would tell them something, they would take the first opportunity
to forget it, and to do things in their own way. Now the world was witnessing
what could be achieved with an army of people who knew what it was to obey God.
appeared to be more infallible and more indestructible than the saints
themselves, and so the saints just needed to stay perfectly in tune with their
angels and they would find themselves to always be in the right place at the
right time which is exactly what they did.
battle, the saints spent several months cleaning up the remnants of the war on
the area of the earth's surface that would be covered by New Jerusalem. There
were no survivors in Israel itself, but neighboring countries needed to be
evacuated. The saints supervised the evacuations too. They also had the job of
soaking up all radiation, which they were able to do using technology that was
available in New Jerusalem.
When all was
ready, the entire paper-thin floor of the big city slid back and turned up on
its sides to make a very thick wall that was over 200 feet high on all four
sides. Each side had three huge gates which were always kept open.
floor folded back, the city was able to descend the remaining five miles to the
earth's surface, and then mould itself to the contours of that part of the
For the next
thousand years, the saints would rule the world -- that is, those who had
survived the Wrath of God, and their descendants -- from within New Jerusalem.
Emissaries would come and go from the holy city from time to time, as they
checked up on progress around the world, but for the most part, those outside
the city were on their own, experiencing a kind of purgatory as they struggled
to learn from those who had earned the right to rule.
The job of
the saints was to teach the nations of the world how to live in peace, how to
serve one another in love, how to share the earth's resources equally, how to
live without money, and most of all, how to live in harmony with God himself --
asking for, listening to, and heeding his instructions in all matters of life.
were guided in their duties by the angels; but also they were guided by what
they had already learned (and were continuing to learn) from the teachings of
Jesus -- God's only begotten Son, and God's perfect revelation of himself to
human kind. He was not only their Saviour, but also their Lord and Master.
And that is
how it should be.
For a simple explanation from scripture for the events that have been
covered in this book, read our other book, Armageddon for
Beginners, available on-line for
My real name is not Zion
Ben-Jonah, and the characters in this book are not real people. In fact, the
whole story is fiction. Much of what it conveys is total conjecture.
Zion Ben-Jonah is inspired
by a character in a series of books by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. In that
series, a character named Tsion Ben-Judah sets the world straight at a time when
the mass media is monopolized by materialistic forces that seek to distort the
We believe that this is
already the situation in the world of religious entertainment. In order for a
book to sell in a really big way, certain important truths (truths which are
uncomfortable, and hard for the masses to accept) must be left out.
In the tradition of
LaHaye's Tsion Ben-Judah, we will include those truths in this account of what
we believe is coming to pass shortly, in America and elsewhere around the
Almost certainly some of
what it predicts will not happen exactly as it is described in this book. This
book is not meant to be taken as a prophecy in itself. But it is an attempt to
apply the prophecies of the Bible to modern day events. A discerning reader will
need to determine what is factual and what is not, as the actual events unfold
in the years ahead.
Discovering the whole
truth often involves knowing and admitting the limits of our understanding. We
are each trapped within the boundaries of our own experience and imagination. No
one has total knowledge of all truth except God himself. There will, I believe,
be truth in this book which you have never read elsewhere. It is my firm
conviction that I have been inspired by God as I have written it. But I (or
anyone else) can be inspired in what I (or they) say, without being infallible.
If you keep that in mind, you will be able to maintain better perspective as you
read through what I have written.
On the other hand, I have
a responsibility (as does every other Christian) not to deliberately distort
truth for selfish motives. I could (as others have done) make millions of
dollars by altering the facts in order to give the public what they want to
hear. This book will not do that.
Instead, it will try to
tell you what you need to know in order to be prepared for what is almost
certainly going to happen on earth in the next few years, whether what it says
sells or not. I have done it in story form, but I have also tried to be true to
what the Bible actually says about the future, whether it conforms with popular
opinion or not. These issues are too serious for anyone to take a chance on
leading people astray just to make a few more dollars.
Notes appear at the end of
each chapter to help you understand points made in that chapter. Those notes are
my comments on the biblical implications of that part of the story.