Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist; Chapter 6
Our Antichrist is busy getting all Antichrist-y in this chapter, but does he know that’s what he’s doing?
On the one hand, our story so far has often suggested that Nicolae Carpathia must know that he is the Antichrist of Tim LaHaye’s “Bible prophecy” mythos. Much of his behavior only makes sense if he knows this — if he has studied the footnotes of the Scofield Bible and the premillennial dispensationalist writings of people like LaHaye and Hal Lindsey. He has been following their End Times check list too precisely to accept that he is not intimately familiar with it.
Just consider the city of New Babylon. Nicolae spent much of his first year and a half in office building this gleaming new world capital in the middle of the desert just so that he could claim to have rebuilt ancient Babylon. That’s something no one would ever imagine or attempt unless he was intent on establishing himself as the very particular sort of Antichrist imagined by a very particular school of “Bible prophecy.”
The building of this city is too weird and too specific for any possibility other than that Nicolae has a dog-eared copy of The Late Great Planet Earth that he’s using as a daily planner. It shows he knows himself to be the Antichrist — and not just some generic Antichrist type, but explicitly the PMD Antichrist. It is only in that particular school of End Times mania that anyone reads biblical allusions to Babylon as prophecies of the rebuilding of Nebuchadnezzar’s literal kingdom on its original site. (This is just one of many ways that any random reggae musician is a more reliable biblical exegete than Tim LaHaye.)
On the other hand, our story has also often suggested that Nicolae Carpathia cannot know that he is the Antichrist. It seems that for every action he takes that only makes sense if he’s studying LaHaye’s check list, he takes another action that only makes sense if he is completely ignorant of these “prophecies” and what they say is coming next.
It won’t help us to sort this out by skipping ahead to later volumes or to the prequels, where the authors imagine they settle this question. The story so far is too firmly committed to both answers for the contradiction to be resolved that way. Based on his actions and his agenda thus far, Nicolae has to know that he is the Antichrist. And based on his actions and his agenda thus far, Nicolae cannot know that he is the Antichrist.*
In this chapter, during his business meeting with his “sovereign” underlings, Nicolae again suggests both contradictory answers. He shrugs off the significance of Tsion Ben-Judah, seeming as though he’s never heard of the army of Jewish converts LaHaye’s prophecy check list foretells. And he lays out a long-term political agenda with plans for infrastructure and energy investment that he would never bother with if he knew he was the Antichrist and had only five and a half years remaining before Armageddon. Yet this chapter also gives us one of the most explicit scenes yet of Nicolae employing his Antichrist superpowers with a deliberateness that would seem impossible unless he knew, with certainty, exactly who he was and what his role was in the unfolding prophetic check list.
Here, again, Nicolae wields the mind-control mojo** he used back in the anticlimax to the first book. This time Jerry Jenkins tries to give us a clearer picture of how these mind-control powers work. In doing so, he shows Nicolae enjoying the use of his powers and employing them in a way that only makes sense if he knows he is the Antichrist.
Rayford Steele, eavesdropping on this meeting, gets a case of the sanctified shivers in the presence of this display of the dark arts:
Rayford felt a tingle up his spine and nearly turned, convinced someone was standing right outside the cockpit door. Finally the feeling became so foreboding and pervasive that he whipped off his headphones and stood, leaning to peek through the fish-eye peephole. No one was there. Was God trying to tell him something? He was reminded of the same sense of fear that had overcome him when Buck had told his terrifying story of sitting through a meeting where Carpathia had single-handedly hypnotized and brainwashed everyone in the room except Buck.
That last sentence is clumsy, but when you’re trying to have one protagonist remember the feelings of the other one it’s hard to write clearly.
Only born-again Christians like Rayford and Buck feel this ominous sense of evil when Nicolae works his magic. And having their spiritual amulet of protection, such Christians are shielded from the effects of the spell. I’m not sure whether or not Nicolae knows this about his mind-control powers, but if he does, then that effectively gives him another super ability — the ability to detect born-again Christians.
Rayford sat back in his seat and put the headphones on. When he depressed the intercom button, it was as if he were hearing a new Carpathia. Nicolae spoke very softly, very earnestly, in a monotone. None of the flourishes and inflections that usually characterized his speech were evident. “I want to tell you all something, and I want you to listen very carefully and understand fully. …”
I’m trying to imagine what an earnest monotone sounds like, but I suppose what Jenkins is going for here is your standard B-movie hypnotist spiel, so I’m guessing Nicolae is speaking here in the same kind of voice in which one would say, “You are getting sleepy … sleeeeepy.”
Still speaking like a sideshow hypnotist, Nicolae describes his plan:
“Within the next few months we shall all announce unanimous decisions allowing us to control business, education, health care, and even the way your individual kingdoms choose their leaders. The fact is, democracy and voting will be suspended. They are inefficient and not in the best interests of the people. Because of what we will provide people, they will quickly understand that this is correct. Each of you can go back to your subjects and honestly tell them that this was your idea, you raised it, you sought support of your colleagues and me for it, and you prevailed. I will publicly reluctantly accede to your wishes, and we will all win.”
After all the murky tax and energy discussion, it’s refreshing to hear the embodiment of evil endorsing something more unambiguously wicked — and I think the abolition of “democracy and voting” certainly counts as truly evil. But I can’t figure out why Nicolae, or the authors, thinks this is a new step at this point in the story.
The 10 men Nicolae is talking to here were appointed by the potentate to rule over their “kingdoms.” They were not elected and they did not face the prospect of needing to be re-elected. They have, for more than a year, been accountable only to the potentate above them and not at all to their “subjects” below them.
So I have no idea what it means now for the Antichrist to “suspend” democracy and voting. He did that 18 months ago. Democracy and voting haven’t been part of this story since all the children disappeared. And he isn’t proposing any change in the way the “individual kingdoms choose their leaders” — he already did that when he chose their leaders for them.
No one says anything at first in response to Nicolae’s suggestion, but it’s not because they’re confused by the suspension of non-existent democracy. It’s only because his mind-control mojo apparently takes a moment to take effect:
Rayford listened to a long silence, wondering if his bugging device was malfunctioning. He released and depressed it several times, finally deciding that no one was saying anything in the conference area. So this was the mind control Buck had witnessed firsthand.
Eventually, the mojo-ified princes all begin suggesting back to Nicolae the same policies he just fed them. They begin “talking over each other” and “parroting back to him” the instructions he had given them.
“The meeting lasted another couple of hours,” Jenkins tells us. I’m grateful he opted to summarize most of that. We don’t hear any more of Nicolae’s specific evil plans until one last final spasm at the end of the chapter, in which the authors pull out the big guns and have the Antichrist endorse the mostest-evilest thing they can imagine: legal abortion.
“We cannot pretend that the world as we know it has not been almost destroyed by this outbreak of global war. It is not over yet. There will be more skirmishes. …”
Raining nuclear bombs on major cities isn’t usually described as a “skirmish.” But enough about nuclear mass-murder, what about the really evil stuff? What about abortion?
“There will be more surreptitious attacks. We will have to reluctantly access our power base of weaponry, which you all know I am loath to do, and many more thousands of lives will be lost in addition to the hundreds of thousands already taken. …”
The authors seem to regard Nicolae’s estimate there of “hundreds of thousands” of dead as roughly accurate. This is after he has destroyed (at least) the cities of London, Washington, New York, Chicago, Dallas, Toronto and San Francisco with nuclear weapons — metropolitan areas that are home to more than 40 million people.
Once again, population estimates don’t seem to be the authors’ strong suit, which is why they have their Antichrist fretting about the supposed strain of post-Rapture, post-nuclear overpopulation. A problem he proposes solving with lots and lots of — yep, here it is — abortions:
“Those who would oppose us will take advantage of the impossibility of our peacekeeping forces to be everywhere at once, and this will result in famine, poverty, and disease. In one way, there is a positive side to this. Due to the incredible cost of rebuilding, the fewer people we must feed and whose standard of living we must raise, the more quickly and economically we can do this. As the population level decreases and then stabilizes, it will be important for us to be sure that it does not then explode again too quickly. With proper legislation regarding abortion, assisted suicide, and the reduction of expensive care for the defective and the handicapped, we should be able to get a handle on worldwide population control.”
Here again a reminder: Every child on Earth disappeared in the Rapture. Every parent left behind became immediately childless. Every mother lost her every son and every daughter. Every father lost his every child. Every grandparent lost all of their grandchildren. Every aunt and uncle lost every niece and nephew.
This has had no effect on the plot of this story. This has had no effect on the characters in this story.
The Event didn’t just take away every child, but every pregnancy, with every pregnant woman on the planet instantaneously becoming un-pregnant at the moment of the Rapture. The authors drew particular attention to that aspect of the Event back in Book 1 — describing a video from a hospital maternity ward that captured the moment on tape:
Then came the scream and the dropping of the camera, terrified voices, running nurses, and the doctor. CNN reran the footage in superslow motion, showing the woman going from very pregnant to nearly flat-stomached, as if she had instantaneously delivered.
And yet never, in the hundreds of pages that followed, did the authors or any characters in their story ever wonder — after the disintegration of every child on Earth along with the miraculous termination of every pregnancy — if this meant that humans would never again be able to have children. The jarring “Eighteen months later” time-skip at the end of the second book skipped over the period nine months after the Event in which, if it were possible, the first children would have been born in the post-Rapture baby boom.
The authors never tell us that baby boom happened, but they never tell us it didn’t happen either.*** Like all of their characters, the authors don’t seem to have given a second thought to the missing children or to the implications of a childless world.
It is only now, more than 800 pages later, that we get this back-handed, tangential acknowledgement that apparently, yes, pregnancy and childbirth are indeed possible post-Rapture. And the only reason we learn this is because without such new pregnancies, the Antichrist would have nothing to abort.
Of course that still doesn’t explain why, just 18 months after the world’s population instantaneously dropped from 7 billion to less than 4 billion, anyone would be worried about trying “to get a handle on worldwide population control.”
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* This is one of the reasons I enjoyed Gordon Currie’s portrayal of Nicolae in those awful movie adaptations of the first two books. As the actor playing this character, Currie had to make a choice. It had to be one or the other — either he could play Nicolae as knowing he was the Antichrist or play him as not knowing. Yet neither the screenplay nor the books would allow him as an actor to commit to one or the other and stick with it without contradicting that choice several times along the way. So Currie chose the only option he had left and just camped it up as much as he could get away with. Since that was the only choice left to him, I think it was the right choice. If the character you’re playing isn’t permitted to make sense, then you can at least try to make him entertaining.
Still no word on who will be playing Nicolae in the upcoming Nicolas Cage-led reboot of Left Behind. I’m hoping for Charlie Sheen. I might have said Adam Baldwin, but since the parts of Rayford and Buck have already been cast, I’ve had to give up on my dream of an all-Baldwin ensemble, with Alec as Rayford and Stephen as Buck.
** Since the authors insist that these books are a literal portrayal of the literal events literally prophesied in the Bible, you may be wondering where in the Bible it says that the Antichrist will have superpowers, including his own Satanic version of the Jedi mind-trick. The Bible doesn’t actually say that.
My guess is that the authors gave Nicolae such superpowers based on their “literal” reading of Revelation 13, which describes two “beasts” — the first of which the authors regard as their Antichrist. Of that first beast, the Apocalypse says, “the dragon gave it his power and his throne and great authority. … The beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months.” And then of the second beast, it says, “by the signs that it is allowed to perform on behalf of the beast, it deceives the inhabitants of earth.”
Once you understand how the authors got from that to Nicolae’s mind-control mojo, you’ll understand what Tim LaHaye really means when he says he always reads the Bible “literally.”
*** Here is, as far as I remember, the only conversation in any of these books in which anyone expresses the slightest concern or curiosity about whether the conception of new children would be possible post-Event. This is Hattie Durham and Rayford Steele talking on the phone, back in the first book:
“Things are getting so strange,” she said. “You know I have a sister who works in a pregnancy clinic.”
“Uh-huh,” Rayford said. “You’ve mentioned it.”
“They do family planning and counseling and referrals for terminating pregnancies.”
“And they’re set up to do abortions right there.”
Hattie seemed to be waiting for some signal of affirmation or acknowledgment that he was listening. Rayford grew impatient and remained silent.
“Anyway,” she said, “I won’t keep you. But my sister told me they have zero business.”
“Well, that would make sense, given the disappearances of unborn babies.”
“My sister didn’t sound too happy about that.”
“Hattie, I imagine everyone’s horrified by that. Parents are grieving all over the world.”
“But the women my sister and her people were counseling wanted abortions.”
Rayford groped for a pertinent response. “Yes, so maybe those women are grateful they didn’t have to go through the abortion itself.”
“Maybe, but my sister and her bosses and the rest of the staff are out of work now until people start getting pregnant again.”
“I get it. It’s a money thing.”
“They have to work. They have expenses and families.”
“And aside from abortion counseling and abortions, they have nothing to do?”
“Nothing. Isn’t that awful? I mean, whatever happened put my sister and a lot of people like her out of business, and nobody really knows yet whether anyone will be able to get pregnant again.”
Rayford had to admit he had never found Hattie guilty of brilliance, but now he wished he could look into her eyes. “Hattie, um, I don’t know how to ask this. But are you saying your sister is hoping women can get pregnant again so they’ll need abortions and she can keep working?”
“Well, sure. What is she going to do otherwise?”