NRA: Unfulfilled prophecies

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist, Chapter 3

Chapter 3 of Nicolae is terribly exciting, at least by the standards of these books. It’s quite eventful and almost even suspenseful in the authors’ trademark, solipsistic way of utterly disregarding the fate of everyone except for our heroes.

Rayford overhears Nicolae’s plan to obliterate dozens of cities with nuclear weapons, including Chicago — where his daughter and new son-in-law are. He races to warn Buck and Chloe to flee the city before its too late. All very thrilling, I suppose.

But I find I’m unable to engage any of that without first pausing a bit to point out that nothing in the next few chapters makes a lick of sense. Before we get bogged down in the details of Buck and Chloe’s escape from the Antichrist’s random, pointless campaign of destruction, I first need to step back to note that the Antichrist’s campaign of destruction is, in fact, random and pointless.

Utterly pointless. Inexplicably so.

Nicolae is fighting World War III against himself.

To account for this, let me step back even further — all the way back to 1970, the year Hal Lindsey published The Late Great Planet Earth.

Hal Lindsey was Tim LaHaye’s predecessor as the most popular exponent of End Times “Bible prophecy” pop-theology. TLGPE was one of the best-selling books of the 1970s, and he followed it up with other hugely popular and influential titles, such as There’s a New World Coming.

Lindsey re-popularized the premillennial dispensationalist prophecy scheme first popularized by the annotated Scofield Reference Bible. He studied that scheme at Dallas Theological Seminary, the Bible college that has long been the main institutional promoter of this Darby/Scofield mythology. Lindsey proved to have a knack for imagining strange applications and potential fulfillments of the “prophecies” he studied there, which gave his books a “ripped-from-the-headlines” sense of urgency.

But unlike Tim LaHaye, Lindsey was never also a member of the John Birch Society. He came to the PMD mythology without any other pre-existing mythology or ideology that he’d need to graft onto it. That meant, among other things, that Lindsey’s version of End Times mania caught on with hippies in a way that LaHaye’s Bircherized variation never could have.

Hal Lindsey begat Larry Norman. Tim LaHaye begat Kirk Cameron.

This also meant that Lindsey’s imagined Antichrist did not need to conform to the Bircher bogeymen of LaHaye’s political nightmares. Hal Lindsey was not obsessed with the United Nations. He feared a coming tyrannical one-world-government led by the Antichrist, but he assumed it would come about — based on his reading of Revelation 6 — as the work of a “conqueror bent on conquest” and as the result of the war represented by the apocalyptic rider on the red horse.

So Lindsey didn’t pay much attention to the powerless diplomatic peacemakers of the U.N. Instead, he cast a wary eye on what was then called the European Common Market — then a 10-nation entity that he feared would become the 10-horned Beast of Revelation.

Lindsey’s popularity faded in the 1980s, mainly because the world had stubbornly refused to end the way he insisted it should. But his later books, like The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon, also clashed with the changing zeitgeist of his target audience. They had moved on to celebrate Ronald Reagan’s “morning in America.” (Optimism and premillennialism don’t get along well.) And by the 1980s, Lindsey’s efforts to cling to the outlines of his 1970s prophecies had grown strained. Europe was moving closer to union, but that effort now involved too many countries to correspond to any of the numerological schemes Lindsey had claimed.*

The end of the Cold War threw a wrench into the pop-apocalypse publishing business. Not only did it bring about an unfriendly sense of optimism, but it embarrassingly exposed the failure of decades of “Bible prophecy” warnings about a Soviet Antichrist.

Within a few years, however, two factors suggested that End Times mania was poised for a big rebound: There was a Democrat in the White House, and the calendar showed that a new millennium was approaching.

LaHaye recognized what that meant, seized the opportunity, and cashed in.

LaHaye also brought something new to the equation: the dark political mythology of his John Birch Society roots. Lindsey’s repackaged Scofieldism lacked any coherent political vision. If you believed Lindsey’s books, there was nothing you had to do except grow out your hair, strum a guitar, and wait for Jesus. But Tim LaHaye didn’t just give you a list of prophecies, he also provided a list of enemies (including, ironically, the same long-haired hippy freaks who once embraced Lindsey’s books). LaHaye’s pop-theology comes with a political agenda.

One consequence of that has been the “tea party movement” — a rebranded, 21st-century reincarnation of LaHaye’s beloved John Birch Society. LaHaye’s contribution to the tea party hasn’t been much noted, with most of the credit/blame focused on the funders and hands-on orchestrators of the astroturf “movement.” But no amount of astroturf and agitation can work for long unless it finds a receptive audience, and I think Tim LaHaye — as much as anyone except for perhaps Fox News — helped to prepare that audience.

Am I suggesting that LaHaye’s selling 60 million books of Bircher propaganda from 1995 to 2005 might have something to do with the resurgence of Bircher ideology in the following years? Well, I think that question pretty much answers itself.

LaHaye’s hybrid of Scofieldism and Bircherism also created another problem, because the two mythologies don’t always fit together neatly. This is a problem that poor Jerry Jenkins isn’t able to fix. And it means that the hybrid story LaHaye wants to tell in these books sometimes just doesn’t work.

Here, in Chapter 3 of Nicolae, the seams are showing. We can see the gap between the Bircher ideology of a diabolical conspiracy of U.N. peaceniks and the pre-existing PMD narrative of a warrior Antichrist. Jenkins is unable to bridge that gap.

The two strained strains of LaHaye’s hybrid story have come together here to bring us two things:

1. An authoritarian one-world government that enjoys universal support and acclaim.

2. World War III.

Those two things simply cannot exist at the same time. Jenkins does his best to dismiss or diminish the contradiction, or at least to distract us from it, but there it is. If all the world is now a single, unified entity, with a single government retaining an exclusive monopoly on force and weaponry, then there’s just no way to also have World War III.

There’s no one else to have a war with or to war against.**

Thus we have this odd “war” described here in Nicolae — a one-sided conflict that consists of Global Community forces bombing random cities for no apparent reason.

That’s not a war, just militarized murder. And it’s not a “world” war, either, since the bombing turns out to be confined to North America, Britain and Egypt. I’m guessing the first two are targets due to this book being written in English for an English-speaking audience (but what about Australia?). And Egypt, I guess, was probably added due to some “Bible prophecy” reference I don’t quite follow. (I know it’s not anything from Revelation or Daniel, but passages declaring judgment against Egypt aren’t hard to find throughout the Bible.)

This arbitrary bombing will be excused and explained as retaliation against the short-lived insurrection in those countries — the one involving the former U.S. president and the “East Coast militias.” As far as I can tell, though, that rebellion has already been extinguished before Nicolae starts his massive bombing campaign in earnest.

Jenkins explicitly describes the insurrection as Nicolae’s pretext — his false pretext — for this campaign, but he never indicates what the Antichrist’s real motive is. Nicolae does not benefit from this mass-slaughter. He doesn’t use it as a means toward some end, some goal or objective he wants to achieve. Jenkins just shows him, rather, as killing millions of people and destroying dozens of cities because he can, and because he enjoys it.

In one sense I suppose that’s fair enough. The Antichrist is supposed to be the embodiment of ultimate evil, but up to now he’s been fairly harmless, so perhaps a bit of capricious, cackling mass-murder would help to establish his super-evil credibility. But it’s still just random and absurd.

In creating their Antichrist character, the authors don’t seem to have given much thought to the meaning of evil or to the meaning of that word, Anti-Christ. Random, senseless killing surely qualifies as some kind of evil, of course, but it’s quite rare. The perpetrators of apparently random and senseless violence are almost always acting according to their own twisted logic. They want something, and they somehow imagine that this violence will let them get it.

That’s how most evil works. It has some goal, some desire. It wants something — maybe even a good thing — and it won’t stop at anything in order to get it.

That suggests two possible directions for an Anti-Christ character. He could be portrayed as someone who wants the opposite of what Christ wants. Or he could be portrayed as wanting the same thing as Christ, but seeking to attain it through opposite means.

Either way, one could not write such a character without first trying to understand what Christ wants and how Christ seeks to attain it. Thus, again, the authors have given us a shallow and arbitrary picture of the Antichrist because he’s the mirror-image of their shallow and arbitrary picture of Christ.

Nicolae’s one-sided pretend “war” of random bombings targeting his own cities also makes me want to file some kind of legal appeal in the courts of prophecy. There are supposed to be rules about such things. Prophecies must be fulfilled. But we’re now two seals into the judgments allegedly prophesied in Revelation, and by my count the authors are 0-for-2.

Horseman No. 1, the first seal, is supposed to ride forth as a conqueror bent on conquest. But Nicolae Carpathia never rode forth or conquered anything. He became global dictator by unanimous acclaim without firing a shot. (Well, he fired one shot, through Stonagal and into his buddy, but that wasn’t part of his conquest. If anything, that shooting interfered with it — causing the delay and muddling of his big OWG announcement.)

Nicolae may be the perfect incarnation of the U.N. peacenik Antichrist imagined by the John Birch Society, but such a figure cannot claim to fulfill the “Bible prophecy” of Revelation 6.

And no, this new bombing campaign can’t count as his “conquest.” He’s bombing people who had already submitted to him and embraced his reign. Every bomb he drops is on a loyal city that’s already flying the flag of the Global Community. That’s sadistic, but it’s not “conquest.”

And neither is it “war.” A one-sided nuclear killing spree isn’t war, just mass-murder by military means. The rider on the red horse is an impostor, and thus a second “prophecy” is going unfulfilled.

I’m not sure what the rules are for failures to fulfill required prophecies. How many mulligans does this apocalypse get before some sort of reset or restart has to kick in?

The guy I feel sorry for here is Famine. There he is with his scales, sitting on his black horse, all ready to go. But then the first two riders muff his entry cue.

And now everything backstage in Heaven is all mixed up. Famine’s all, like, “Should I just go?” And the living creature is like, “No, you don’t ride until I say, ‘Come!'” And Famine goes, “Well then say it already.” And the living creature is all, “Not until the Lamb opens the seal.” And the Lamb is like, “Hold your horses, you two. I’m waiting to see some conquest and war before I open any more of these.” But then there’s still no conquest and war, just a lot of random bombing for no reason. …

It’s just a heavenly mess.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

* I think Lindsey would have been wise to have learned from his old mentor, John Walvoord, who sold 1.5 million copies of his 1973 book Armageddon, Oil and the Middle East Crisis, then later sold millions more of the same book in 1991, after a search-and-replace update now identifying Saddam Hussein as the Antichrist.

The “Bible prophecy” Rapture Ready website has an unintentionally amusing description of this in its tribute page for Walvoord:

It is interesting to note that the revision of the book, Armageddon, Oil and the Middle East Crisis was mainly due to the rapidly changing global landscape. The first edition quickly became outdated as the prophetic timeline continued to advance. Some of the topical additions made in the revision include: Changing Alignment of Europe and the End of the Cold War, Revival of Roman Empire, Camp David Accords, Invasion of Lebanon, New Islamic Republic of Iran, Saddam Hussein Seizes Power in Iraq, Iraq’s move to absorb Kuwait, and so much more. I am sure that, were Walvoord still alive, he would be ready to revise once again!

I am sure he would be. If there’s one thing “Bible prophecy scholars” know how to do, it’s revise their claims “due to the rapidly changing global landscape.”

** Well, there’s Israel, I suppose — the one nation that has inexplicably retained its sovereignty, left out of Nicolae’s almost-one-world government. But Israel was only excluded from that global federation because LaHaye’s variant of the PMD check list requires Israel to sign a peace treaty with the Antichrist.

Unfortunately for LaHaye and Jenkins, that peace treaty is “prophesied” to be honored for three and a half years, and the Red Horseman has to bring World War III before that, so Israel cannot be the opponent in the Antichrist’s lonely world war.

Suppose they prophesied a war and no one came?

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  • aunursa

    And Todd Akin slew pretty much any chance of … Mitt becoming King

    Unlikely.  Missouri voters continue to favor Romney, according to a new Mason-Dixon poll.  Akin will only take himself down.

    McCaskill 50, Akin 41
    Romney 50, Obama 43

  • PJ Evans

     You do realize that Missouri is only one state, and not a large one?

  • Donalbain

     As goes Missouri, so goes the nation?

    Isn’t that the saying?

  • PJ Evans

     In fact, have some polls.

  • Tricksterson

    Noooo!  That way lies madness!

  • Pacal

    Nicolae just doesn’t make any sense has a villian. He is suppossed to be the embodiment of evil and to know that he is the instrument of Lucifer / Satan on Earth. He is self consciously “evil” and allied to to wickedness. Of course he knows the Bible prophecies in depth and that he is the AntiChrist. Yet Nicolae quite deliberately decides to do all the things the AntiChrist is suppossidly prophesized to do!! In otherwords he seems to take the book of Revelations as his game plan!

    Just why the hell, (pardon the pun), would he do so. given that he is the embodiment of evil and fully aware of it and his conection to Lucifer just why would he decide to fullfill, so exactly the plan that ends in his destruction  and being cast into a lake of fire!!!

    Just why is he bound to fullfill a prophecy that ends in his destruction, that he knows full well about? Why is he doing it! It doesn’t make sense.

    Now it can be argued that he expects to at the last minute compile enough force to defeat Jesus and thus upend the prophecy. If so it is puzzling how he would think fullfilling the prophecy exactly all the way down the line up to tat moment would not help to fullfill his own prophsized undoing. Oh and just how are armies of millions of men, with vast arrays of arms and nuclear weapons going to be a match for the returning Jesus given what the exactly fullfilled prophecy up to the moment of return says about what Jesus will do with a thought and a wave of his hand. This is esspecially true given the myriad examples of mass destruction caused by God’s wrath up to the moment of the last battle. Things like rivers turned to blod and slaying 1/3 the sun.

    No credible reason is given for Nicolae thinking he could win given his character.

    What is remarkable is that Nicolae could easily screw up the entire prophetic count down and but a stop to ther arrival of Judgement day and the return of paradise to Earth by simply not fullfilling his prophetic role, which LeHaye indicates Nocolae is well aware of. Given the Nicolae is the embodiment of pure evil why woudn’t he do this? Would it not be pure evil to prevent Judgement day from coming? To delay the arrival of the Earthly paradise?

    In order to for Nicolae to make sense as a villian, has the AntiChrist, I would think Nicolae would have to be NOT aware that he is the AntiChrist and to disbelieve in ther prophetic aspects of the book of Revelations. Instead he is aware and believes in the prophecy of the book of Revelations??!!

  • Invisible Neutrino

    The question of free agency rears its head and that’s what really hobbles L&J here. Because of the religious faith they come from, the doctrine they believe in requires that these things occur in the order that they claim prophecy shows them.

    But for this to be presented in the book series, either:

    1. The characters cannot know the exact details of the prophecies,
    2. If they do, they must believe that the prophecies can be averted.

    If neither of these applies, you have characters who can’t influence events. They nust perforce be passive observers, showing us, the audience, what will happen through those seven years of trial and tribulation.

    And so we have telephone calls, super-secret microphoned airplanes, and computer geniuses hearing super-secret microphones in Evil HQ.

    But to the extent that they take any action it is purely to save themselves or save a select few.

    In the hands of a better author (as I keep seeming to say) the mounting sense of catastrophe amid impotence to change events could be a fascinating look into the head of a person who knows the future and can’t change it.

    But here, it relegates the books to a series of travelogues and spy reports masquerading as science fiction action-adventure.

  • FearlessSon

    In the hands of a better author (as I keep seeming to say) the mounting sense of catastrophe amid impotence to change events could be a fascinating look into the head of a person who knows the future and can’t change it.

    I believe Frank Herbert set out to explore that with the Dune franchise.  Heck, he even had an analysis of how religious belief gets woven into things like that, regardless of the faithfulness or lack thereof of the one making the prophecies.  

    In the end, such prescience is a trap, and one might find oneself making the choice to do horrible things because the knowledge that not doing them will lead to even worse results.  One can know the future, but be locked into one destiny, or one can not know the future and have more choice.  

    Ultimately Leto II’s effort was to create a future that was unknowable, even for those who could see into it.  

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Oh God, are the bloody polling links leaking into Left Behind threads now too?

  • Tricksterson

    Nuke ’em from orbit.  It’s the only way to be sure.

  • Steve

    I could see all of this going down as a sort of Reichstag fire writ large–the excuse Nicolae needs to clamp down on those unruly post-Rapture Christians he’s pretty much ignored until now.  By playing the conspiracy as being bigger than it really is, and pinning the blame on a convenient scapegoat, he can bully the population into accepting more stringent restrictions and create the persecution Revelation says will take place in the end times.  This part of the book actually works. Unfortunately our ‘heroes’ (and I use that term very loosely) once again fail to do anything heroic, or even merely productive, with their information and access.  Buck delivering his testimony live (yes, he’s a print reporter, but showing his GC credentials to a television news affiliate would get him on the air)  just as Chicago disappears in radioactive hellfire would shake Nicolae’s regime to its core.  He doesn’t have to worry about retaliation, after all.

  • aunursa

    You do realize that Missouri is only one state, and not a large one?

    Thanks for pointing that out.  Todd Akin’s effect on Mitt Romney will be nil outside of Missouri.  The voters who haven’t yet made up their minds are not going to be swayed by the Democrats’ desperate attempts to link Akin to R&R.

    If Todd Akin is going to affect Mitt Romney, it’s going to be in Missouri alone.  Conservative voters who are furious with Akin might stay home, thus depriving Romney of their vote as well.  (And it’s possible that some of the many independent voters who would have otherwise voted for the Republican slate but who switch to McCaskill might pull the lever for for Obama as well, but that’s unlikely.)

  • PJ Evans

     Unfortunately, Akin’s views are exactly the same as the GOP party platform. And they’re exactly the same as Ryan’s views.
    So they’re already thoroughly linked in the minds of two-thirds of the voters in the US.

  • aunursa

    PJ Evans @ 7:16 PM: Thanks for the polls.  So what you’re telling me is that despite all of Obama’s attack pieces on Romney, the race is neck and neck.  And Romney hasn’t even unleashed the firepower of his fully armed and operational financial advantage yet.  (He’ll be able to do so tomorrow after he is officially nominated.)  Looking good so far. 

    And the CNN poll with Obama leading 49%-47% doesn’t indicate the D/R/I breakdown.
    And the Gallup poll with Obama and Romney tied at 46%-46% is of registered voters.  By contrast, likely voters are generally more conservative than registered voters.

  • PJ Evans

     They’re running polls every night there. They’re honest about them, too: they don’t pick just the ones they like.
    However, the election is decided by electoral votes, and the big states are not likely to vote for the liars.

  • Newbiedoobiedoo

    If Ruby Tea is still taking suggestions:Countdown to Amanda and Hattie sitting on a plane, plane go bye-bye and who does Rayford worry about?Countdown to Buck’s dad being either annoyed or thrilled (no adjective! you can’t tell which one!) that the family homestead’s not important enough to bomb so they’re safe, son.I dunno about the Countdown to Verna. 1) we already know Verna ; 2) we already know Buck ; 3) after that we never see her again but that doesn’t mean she died. Buck just doesn’t hang out there much anymore. Of course it’s Ruby Tea’s call, not mine, and maybe the teeth-clenched factor outweighs the surprise factor.But yeah, the Williams men are OK. Lucky Buck. Countdown to Ruby finding a new clever Countdown now that Bruce Barnes is dead: ???????Ideas?  Countdown to the arrival of one of my most despised characters, David Hassid/Hayseed?  Countdown to Ken dying? 

  • Newbiedoobiedoo

    Aww, copy & paste whoops. My bad.

  • SirThinkALot

    “The perpetrators of apparently random and senseless violence are almost always acting according to their own twisted logic. They want something, and they somehow imagine that this violence will let them get it.”
    I dont know about any real world exceptions, but the Joker is perhaps an exception to this.  But then again the Joker is pretty much the polar oppiset of Lahay’s anti-christ:  he makes no pretenses or excuses, nor any attempts to hide the fact that he is a psychopath who kills people just because he can.  

    The anti-christ on the other hand is supposed to be evil, yet at the same time somehow decieve everybody(except for real true Christians), into thinking he is a really good guy who just wants peace and happiness for everybody. 

     Then again he’s also supposed to commit genocide(for lack of a better word) against said real true Christians.  I’m not sure how this cannot contradict his ‘peace and happiness’ vibe, maybe some form of the mind-mojo he’s shown the ability to use could explain that, but it seems like we’re expected to believe he tricks everybody by just being a suave and charming guy….

  • erikagillian

    I’m another who can’t quite get what others see in Gaiman.  I like most of the non-fiction I’ve  read by him, including a book about Douglas Adams and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, called Don’t Panic and I adore Good Omens. 

    They talk about this kind of stuff all through the book, about prophesy and how and why it happens and why they can’t predict things.  Why both sides want to fight etc.  A lot of it comes down to God’s plan being Ineffable.   Both sides are pretty interchangeable too.  That’s something Pratchett talks about in his books.  Now if Pratchett and Gaiman were to take this PMD stuff, they would do amazing things.

    Gaiman won the Dramatic Short Form Hugo tonight, for the Doctor’s Wife episode of Doctor Who.  And he deserves it, that was a great episode.

    Oh, and one other thing they say about the writing of Good Omens, Gaiman was responsible for the Maggots but Pratchett made him let the telemarketers survive.

  • SirThinkALot

    The only thing by Gaiman I can really say I’v enjoyed was Sandman.  

    Good Omens was mostly good because of Pratchetts humor.  It also had a pretty weak ending, which is typical of Gaiman.  American Gods was boring.  I suppose Stardust was okay, but even that I was a huge fan of.  I think overall Gaiman’s writing ‘style’ doesnt translate well from visual arts to pure text.  

    But seriously Sandman was flippen brilliant.  That alone puts Gaiman in the rank of great authors as far as I’m concerned.