Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist; pp. 116-120
Buck Williams is studying — carefully reading through the notes and sermons from Bruce Barnes’ computer:
Late in the afternoon, Chicago time, Buck broke from the fascinating reading of Bruce Barnes’s writing and finally got through to Chaim Rosenzweig.
That word “finally” there confirms what we already suspected about Buck’s “reading” — that it just means he had Bruce’s papers in front of him while he dialed and redialed his phone.
Buck has been trying to reach Chaim in the hopes that he can help Buck find the born-again Rabbi Tsion Ben-Judah. Chaim Rosenzweig is a high-level assistant to the Antichrist and Ben-Judah is the Antichrist’s Public Enemy No. 1, so it’s a bit strange to seek Chaim’s help with this. But since Chaim and Tsion are the only Jews Buck knows, he figures they must also know each other. And since that’s how these books work, they do.
“Cameron! I have finally talked live with our mutual friend. Let us not mention his name on the phone.”
Just in case anyone is listening in, it’s best to avoid drawing their suspicion by mentioning that you don’t want to draw their suspicion.
“It was a strange message, Cameron. He simply said that you would know whom to talk with about his whereabouts.”
“That I would know?”
“That’s what he said, Cameron. That you would know.”
Buck seems puzzled by this, but readers will be reminded that I was wrong above to say Buck only knows two Jews — he actually knows four, with the other two being Moses and Elijah. Yes, the actual patriarch Moses and the actual prophet Elijah from the Hebrew scriptures. Buck and Tsion met them in the last book at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, where they have returned to act as evangelical Christian street preachers. This is Tim LaHaye’s idea of the “Two Witnesses” from the book of Revelation.
The evangelistic technique of these two witnesses doesn’t seem very promising. Mostly they’re just chanting “Jesus is Lord,” which is a succinct statement of what Christians believe, but not a particularly persuasive approach to winning converts. There’s also the problem that anyone who comes forward during their altar call tends to get burned to cinders by giant flames shooting out of their mouths.
The Two Witnesses have been out there for more than a year now and it seems that Buck and Tsion were the only two people who have been allowed to approach to speak to them. They confirmed to Buck and Tsion that they are, indeed, Moses and Elijah, returned to the Earth. That seems like a newsworthy bit of information, but Buck never reports it through his news organization. It also seems like a compelling piece of information that might serve as a persuasive attention-getter for Tsion’s own evangelistic ministry, but he seems to be keeping it a secret too.
All told, the Two Witnesses could use a refresher course in my Four Essential Rules for Street Preaching:
1. Speak clearly in a loud voice.
2. If you’ve returned from beyond the grave, lead with that.
3. Don’t kill everyone who tries to talk to you.
4. Give a clear, concise presentation of Christian belief.
They’ve got the first and the fourth one down, but still need practice on the other two.
Anyway, readers here on page 117 quickly realize that Buck will need to talk to Moses and Elijah to reconnect with his friend Tsion. Buck himself will figure that out in about another 30 pages.
We return to Rayford Steele. When last we saw him, we were slogging through an elaborate multi-page set-up in which it was arranged to have Nicolae Carpathia’s top-secret meeting with his 10 global princes on the airplane, where Rayford (and therefore readers) would be able to listen in.
But then Rayford got off the plane.
Fortunately, instead of a top-secret meeting, Nicolae will be making another global broadcast, and Rayford and readers will still be able to listen in by watching it on television in the Baghdad airport terminal. So it all works out. We don’t actually hear what Nicolae says in his broadcast anyway, just Rayford’s distracted impression of the gist of it:
It was clear Carpathia had completely effected his will and spin onto the news directors at every venue. While the stories carried the horrifying pictures of war, bloodshed, injury, and death, each also spoke glowingly of the swift and decisive action of the potentate in responding to the crisis and crushing the rebellion.
Rayford stops watching before Nicolae begins to speak:
Rayford shook his head and went to a desk in the corner, where he found stationery from a Middle Eastern airline and began composing a letter to Earl Halliday’s wife.
The Antichrist’s Global Community has consolidated all governments, all banks, all religions, all currencies and all languages. But the airlines apparently all continue as independent, private sector businesses.
Logic told Rayford he should not feel responsible. … Rayford didn’t even know yet how Earl had been killed. Perhaps everyone on his flight to Glenview had perished. All he knew was that the deed had been done, and Earl Halliday was no more.
If you’re thinking I skipped the scene where Earl died, that’s because the authors did too. There was a scene in which Earl feared Nicolae wanted him dead, and there was a scene in which Fortunato said they would need a replacement for Earl after he gets dealt with, but this is the closest we get to a scene confirming that any of that ever really happened.
As he sat trying to compose a letter with words that could never be right, he felt a huge, dark cloud of depression begin to settle on him. He missed his wife. He missed his daughter. He grieved over his pastor. He mourned the loss of friends and acquaintances, new and old.
Rayford knew he was not responsible for what Nicolae Carpathia meted out against his enemies. The terrible, dark judgment on the earth rendered by this evil man would not stop if Rayford merely quit his job. Hundreds of pilots could fly this plane. He himself had learned it in half an hour. He didn’t need the job, didn’t want the job, didn’t ask for the job.
And yet here he is, doing the job. For the Antichrist.
Twice now in two pages Rayford has reminded himself that he is not “responsible” for the evil deeds he is facilitating by collaborating with the Antichrist. He’s working his way through many of the classic rationalizations: If he didn’t do it, someone else would; he’s only doing his job/following orders.
These rationalizations are familiar, so let’s step back and deal with that familiarity.
How does Godwin’s Law* apply to a story about the Antichrist?
In Tim LaHaye’s “Bible prophecy” mythos, the Antichrist will be a global dictator and tyrant and the epitome of evil. The Antichrist, LaHaye insists, will be the cruelest and most evil leader the world has ever known.
So I’m afraid we’re going to have to Godwin this thread, because, by definition, the Antichrist must be worse than Hitler.
That’s a difficult, in some ways offensive, idea to grasp in trying to read these books. We’ve already got an idea in our heads of what superlative evil looks like, and these books’ claim that the Antichrist will be even more evil than that can seem like disrespect to the gravity of the real, historical evils this Antichrist is supposed to surpass, and to seem like disrespect to the real, actual people who really suffered under such evil regimes.
It takes a bit of mental wrangling, then, to keep in mind that Nicolae Carpathia is supposed to be worse than Hitler, that the Global Community is supposed to be worse than the Third Reich.
But what does that mean for our hero, Rayford Steele, who is a personal assistant to the Antichrist and a high-ranking officer in his regime? The authors have stressed that Rayford has “Clearance level 2-A” — the highest level of security clearance, reserved for the highest ranking servants of the Antichrist who work personally and intimately with this worse-than-Hitler tyrant.
I suspect that the authors would cry foul if they heard us make the comparison this invites and demands, but how can we not ask? What makes Rayford Steele any different from a Nazi collaborator?
I think Jerry Jenkins is trying to address just that question here with all of Rayford’s soul-searching. The problem is that Rayford’s own justifications sound like he’s cribbing from Burt Lancaster in Judgment at Nuremberg.
And then Rayford’s justifications get even worse:
He didn’t need the job, didn’t want the job, didn’t ask for the job. Somehow, he knew God had placed him there.
That’s right, it’s God’s will that Rayford collaborate with Nazis.
On one level, this is just another appalling example of Piperism — the shallow, Panglossian theology that holds that everything that happens must be God’s will because if it wasn’t God’s will then it wouldn’t have happened. But even John Piper isn’t quite as enthusiastic as the authors are here in attributing evil directly to God.
Look again at that phrase above, “The terrible, dark judgment on the earth rendered by this evil man.” The Antichrist himself can say, along with his collaborator Rayford, that “Somehow, he knew God had placed him there.”
The “terrible, dark judgment on the earth rendered” by the Antichrist is always exceeded in these books by the even more terrible and darker judgment on the earth rendered by God. The authors constantly give what sounds like a perverse rendition of the people’s song in 1 Samuel: “Nicolae has slain his thousands, but Jesus his tens of thousands.”
Somehow, he knew God had placed him there. For what? Was this surprising bugging of the intercom system by Earl Halliday a gift directly from God that allowed Rayford to somehow protect a few from the wrath of Carpathia?
Already he believed it had saved his daughter and son-in-law from certain death in the Chicago bombings, and now, as he looked at television reports from America’s West Coast, he wished there had been something he could have done to have warned people in San Francisco and Los Angeles of their impending doom.
As we’ve already discussed, repeatedly, there was plenty he could have done to warn people. He chose not to.
He chose, instead, to send his wife back to Chicago to check on his daughter, and in order to ensure her safety he did nothing to warn anyone in San Francisco or to attempt to interfere in the slaughter that he, as Nicolae’s pilot, was helping to ensure.
Rayford Steele is charged with being a collaborator complicit in all the evil of the Antichrist’s wicked regime. Here is Jerry Jenkins’ three-part defense of Rayford:
If he didn’t do it, someone else would.
And he’s only doing his job.
And he has to protect his own family, first, before sticking his neck out for anyone else.
The prosecution rests.
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* For those not familiar with all Internet traditions, Wikipedia has a good summary of “Godwin’s Law.” The key points are the law itself:
As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.
And the customary corollary:
There is a tradition in many newsgroups and other Internet discussion forums that once such a comparison is made, the thread is finished and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever debate was in progress.