NRA: Atlas shunned

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist; pp. 195-199

Buck Williams is in the Middle East. He has to get out of the Middle East, taking with him ex-Rabbi Tsion Ben-Judah, who is wanted by the Middle Eastern authorities. That’s the plot of the next several chapters of Nicolae.

Once Jordan riverboat captain Michael realizes that Buck is working for Team Tsion, he is finally able to tell him where they’re really headed:

“You know, we’re not going all the way to Lake Tiberius.”

“We’re not?” Buck said, moving back toward Michael.

“You’re doing what you’re supposed to do by heading toward Galilee,” Michael said. “About halfway between Jericho and Lake Tiberius we will put ashore on the east side of the river. We will hike about five kilometers inland to where my compatriots and I have hidden Dr. Ben-Judah.”

Here in the real world — in our world, where the lake is named Tiberias and the Jordan River is not navigable — the east bank of the Jordan River is in the country of Jordan, a country with an area and a population both roughly about that of the state of Indiana. Here in the world of Left Behind, however, the nation of Jordan does not exist.

If you’re reading the Left Behind series, then you won’t be needing this.

We were told back in the first book, in a flashback-within-a-flashback, that Chaim Rosenzweig’s miracle formula had made the nation of Israel so fabulously wealthy that it made peace with all its neighbors and then peacefully annexed them, expanding its borders to absorb, apparently, all of Jordan and Lebanon as well as parts of Syria and Iraq. It’s not clear exactly what happened to all the people who lived in those countries. In these books, the residents of these lands all seem to be Hebrew-speaking Jews, but I’m not sure whether we’re supposed to assume that all the former Jordanians and former Lebanese enthusiastically converted and learned a new language, or if more than 10 million people were simply amicably displaced, cheerfully resettling in some unspecified elsewhere after vacating their homes and abandoning all former national loyalties.

Neither of those seems plausible, but you have to remember that in these books no one has any kind of national or ethnic loyalty. This is a world in which the majority of the population of the entire planet voluntarily surrenders all national sovereignty, identity, culture, religion, economy and language to embrace Nicolae Carpathia’s “Global Community” one-world government. That is the premise of “The Rise of Antichrist” and, indeed, the premise of Tim LaHaye’s entire scheme of “Bible prophecy.”* We have to accept that global rewriting of basic human nature to accept everything that happens after the Rapture in this story, and if we’re going to accept that then I suppose we can’t quibble too much over how strange it is for everyone in Jordan and Lebanon to suddenly agree to no longer think of themselves as Jordanian or Lebanese, to happily accept the dissolution of their homelands, and to pack up and resettle elsewhere.

This redrawing of the map of the Middle East creates a bit of a problem for readers in these chapters. Buck is going to have to smuggle Tsion across the border, but we have no idea where the border actually is. “He must leave the country,” Michael says of Tsion Ben-Judah. In our world, this would be mission accomplished, since Tsion is already three miles past the border. But in the world of these novels, I’m not sure what that means.

“He must leave the country. His life is worthless here. His enemies far outnumber us. He will not be safe anywhere, but at least outside Israel he has a chance.”

“And where will you and your friends take him?”

“Me and my friends?”

“Who, then?”

“You, my friend!”

“Me?” Buck said.

“God spoke through the two witnesses. He assured us a deliverer would come. He would know the rabbi. He would know the witnesses. He would know the messianic prophecies. And most of all, he would know the Lord’s Christ. That, my friend, is you.”

Michael goes on to note that Buck also was the seventh son of a seventh son, that the Force is strong in him, and that he has a lightning-shaped scar on his forehead.

Buck nearly buckled. He had felt God’s protection. He had felt the excitement of trying to serve him. But he had never felt so directly and specifically a servant of his. He was humbled to the point of shame. He felt suddenly unworthy, undisciplined, inconsistent. He had been so blessed, and what had he done with his newfound faith? He had tried to be obedient, and he had tried to tell others. But surely he was unworthy to be used in such a way.

It’s tempting simply to agree with Buck’s momentary recognition of his own unworthiness, but I’m struck here by the sadness of this situation. Buck is genuinely surprised to be given something to do. That isn’t something he had ever associated with “his newfound faith.” American evangelicalism — and the End-Times obsessed “Bible prophecy” strains of it especially — tends to present itself as a ticket to Heaven and an escape from Hell. It’s about the afterlife, not this life, which it can make seem like just a bit of time to kill before the main event.

That paragraph provides all sorts of fodder for criticizing Buck (and Jerry Jenkins, who writes Buck as his surrogate character), but I can’t help but pity both of them here for the sad paltriness of this: “He had tried to be obedient, and he had tried to tell others.” Being “obedient” there doesn’t involve doing something, but rather not doing a whole bunch of somethings. This has been Buck’s idea of “faith” — trying not to sin, telling others that they could join him in trying not to sin. That’s not exactly a pearl of great price, is it? It’s basically the same old rat race, with a bit of additional fear of punishment thrown in. Ugh.

Buck accepts his divine mission as the deliverer who will rescue Tsion from Zion and immediately starts sketching out a plan:

“Is there an airport anywhere near that can handle a Learjet?”

“There is a strip west of Jericho near Al Birah”

“That’s back downriver, right?”

“Yes, which is an easier trip, of course. But you know that is the airport that serves Jerusalem. Most flights in and out of Israel start or end at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, but there is also a lot of air traffic near Jerusalem.”

Most of the time, Jerry Jenkins seems to have neglected even the most basic research in writing these books. Sometimes, however, it’s clear he did at least some homework. Here he seems to have asked someone — a tour guide, perhaps — something like, “If a character were trying to fly out of Israel, how would he go?” The tour guide replied, “Most flights in and out of Israel start or end at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, but there is also a lot of air traffic near Jerusalem.” Jenkins wrote that down and then inserted it, verbatim, as dialogue.

“The rabbi has to be one of the most recognizable people in Israel,” Buck said. “How in the world will I get him through customs?”

Michael smiled in the darkness. “How else? Supernaturally?”

Ah, yes, customs. (For those too young to remember pre-9/11 travel, customs inspections to prevent smuggling used to be the primary security hurdle for international travelers.) In trying to escape from Israel back into the one-world government of the Global Community, Buck will have to cross the only still-existing national borders in the world, and thus will have to pass through the last existing customs checkpoints.

This raises an interesting wrinkle in the whole concept of the Antichrist’s one-world government. With the whole world (except for Israel) now united as a single nation, all flights would become domestic flights. There shouldn’t be any “customs” for travelers anywhere except for flights in and out of Israel. But would this new OWG and its abolition of all national borders really mean there was no longer any such thing as smuggling? Contraband, of one form or another, would still exist, even if there were no longer any borders across which it needed to be smuggled. And soon, of course, Nicolae Carpathia will be requiring everyone to accept the “Mark of the Beast,” without which no one will be permitted to buy or sell anything. That virtually guarantees the existence of a huge, thriving black market — something a OWG would be less well-equipped to counter simply due to its prior abolition of all borders and boundaries. Hmm.

Buck sketches out more of his “plan” for Michael:

“I may have been warned in a dream to leave through Egypt rather than Israel.”

This makes little sense. Buck isn’t trying to leave “through” Israel, he’s just trying to leave Israel. So he may escape to Egypt, but not through Egypt. Once he gets to Egypt, he should be home free.

Except, as we’ll read in the chapters to come, that’s not really how this escape narrative works. Buck is in the Middle East and the book doesn’t consider his escape complete until he gets out of the Middle East. The sketchy national borders of Left-Behind-world don’t seem to matter much in this escape adventure. That’s why, as I said above, to go along with Buck’s run-for-the-border adventure, we have to accept that it’s not so much about getting across the border as about getting out of the region.

Buck Williams is in the Middle East. He has to get out of the Middle East. Egypt is out of Israel, but it’s still the Middle East — to finish his escape Buck will have to get Tsion to America or to Northern Europe, or to some other place where, um, where people mostly look like Northern Europeans, I guess.

I suppose there’s some logic to that. In these books, the non-Israeli Middle Easterners have already handed over whole countries to Israel, so they could hardly be trusted not to hand over one former rabbi too.

- – - – - – - – - – - -

* Let’s just stick with Jordan. Or better yet, narrow our focus further to just the capital city of Amman and the roughly 3 million people who live there. How do you suppose they would respond if they were asked to abandon that city? Do you think they’d agree to do so? Can you imagine any circumstance in which such a request would result in their happy acquiescence?

Tim LaHaye says this is what will happen. It is prophesied, he says, and therefore it must happen. So then, if you agree that it’s plausible or possible for this to happen, you won’t have any difficulty accepting LaHaye’s “prophecy.”

But if you think this is impossible — if everything you know about humans and about cities and about humans who live in cities screams that no such thing has ever occurred and that no such thing will ever occur — then you have only two choices: Either Tim LaHaye is reading “Bible prophecy” correctly, and the Bible is a book of lies, or else Tim LaHaye is not reading the Bible correctly, and his “prophecy” teachings are nonsense.

It would be interesting to see “Bible prophecy scholars” conducting interviews with residents of Amman to get their perspective on this particular prophecy. I, for one, would be fascinated to hear them respond to the question: “How prosperous would Israeli agriculture need to be for you to leave behind your home, your culture and the very existence of your nation?”


Left Behind Classic Fridays, No. 28: 'Shackled'
Left Behind Classic Fridays, No. 26: 'Go to Hell'
Left Behind Classic Fridays, No. 29: 'Sorrow Floats'
Left Behind Classic Fridays, No. 25: 'Yesterday's news'
  • David S.

    Wait, is that what the song says? I hear it now, but I always heard “you flew your legion to Nova Scotia to see the total eclipse of the sun.”

  • esmerelda_ogg

    Hmmm. I don’t think a legion would fit in a Learjet, would it?

    (I’m pretty sure it’s “Learjet” – she’s listing all the status symbols he flaunts.)

  • Carstonio

    Thanks to Carly Simon, I have an earworm whenever I see Nova Scotia on a map.

  • David S.

    Having a legion of followers (or a posse or a group of 30-40) of followers is a bit of a status symbol in and of itself, and chartering a 747 is a bit of a status symbol in my mind.

    I’m not questioning that it’s Learjet, now that I listen to it again. But my interpretation made sense to me at the time.

  • Lori

    And presumably that would be the part of Egypt Buck would go through to get out of Israel since that’s the bit where the border is. Or is that border moved in LB-world? It’s hard to keep track of the stuff that logically matters, but which Jenkins doesn’t care about.

  • firefall

    There’s a third possible way the great abandonment of areas around Israel is (possibly) feasible, which is if Gods grant of Free Will was temporary, and has been withdrawn for …. well the Lebanese, and everyone else. Which kind of makes it hard to tell a story of course, it there’s no way to cross God’s will any more.

  • Jamoche

    Can anything be worse than Lodi? There’s even a song about how awful it is to be stuck there!

  • Lori

    John Fogerty deserved whatever misery he got. Stuck in Lodi again. He was there, he got out and then he went back. That’s on him :)

    Note: Fogerty had never stepped foot in Lodi when he wrote about it. He just liked the name and clearly knew something of the town’s rep.

  • SkyknightXi

    Seventh son of a seventh son…? Unless I missed something, that’s not a blessing; that’s an especially grave threat of becoming a vampire. I forget whether it’s gaining vampiric qualities while you’re still alive (moroi), or just becoming a vampire after you die (strigoi), though.

  • Lancelot Link

    They’re eating her! And then they’re going to eat me! OH MY GODDDDDDD!

  • Jamoche

    We stopped for lunch in Lodi once. Only Italian restaurant I’ve ever been in that explains what the different kinds of pasta are – not just in a “we need to decorate the menu with something” sense but “we seriously don’t expect you to know the difference between spaghetti and tortellini”.

  • SororAyin

    Sounds like something Zappa would have done. Or maybe Les Claypool.

  • Chris Borthwick

    As Alexi Sayle said, “I used to work on “What’s on in Hemel Hempstead.’. It was a big sheet of butcher’s paper with BUGGER ALL scribbled on it in texta.”

  • SororAyin

    Left Behind: so bad even its author can’t bear to read it.

  • Chris Borthwick

    It’s also peculiar that the list is going in the wrong order. In the LB world, hundreds of thousands (at least) know the Christ/have said the prayer; fewer than that will have been given the printout of the prophesies; fewer than that will have spoken to the witnesses; and not many of those will know Tsion. It’s like that old Pogo line; “We’re talking about millions of dollars here! Perhaps even thousands! Who knows, hundreds may well be involved!”

  • Panda Rosa

    I see it more as a caption uttered by the odious Jeffy in The Family Circus, as Mommy’s reading the book to him.

  • Timothy (TRiG)

    Thou hast.

  • Timothy (TRiG)

    Does he have a friend called Sandy?

  • Lori

    Man, even Bakersfield isn’t that bad.

  • Timothy (TRiG)

    Round here (Ireland), it’s a blessing. The seventh son of a seventh son has the touch: can heal minor ailments by a laying-on of hands.

    (When I was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, one of the elders in the congregation was a guy who used to do this before becoming a Witness, so yes, this tradition is still alive.)


  • ohiolibrarian

    Now it’s radioactive, too!

  • Jamoche

    “…And each new sign signified the same thing – that the Princes of the Plains and the Tribesmen of the Cold Hillsides were about to beat the hell out of each other again.

    This in itself wouldn’t be so bad, except that the Princes of the Plains and the Tribesmen of the Cold Hillsides always elected to beat the hell out of each other in the Forest, and it was always the Dwellers in the Forest who came off worst in these exchanges, though as far as they could see it never had anything to do with them.” – Douglas Adams

  • This fellow right here

    You know, I think the Left Behind series gets way more amusing once you’ve read about The Salvation War fanfic – which basically tells a story about a world where the L&J Rapture fantasy starts to happen but then immediately starts to derail because it turns out humanity can just shoot its way out of it. Forget the internet, L&J didn’t take into account the fact that humanity would invent DRONES since the nineties.

  • PepperjackCandy

    And, of course, that’s why Ginny Weasley was so amazing :rolls eyes: and why she was “the ideal girl for Harry.” She was the seventh child of a seventh child (Rowling stretched it a little to make the idea unisex).

    Though the “gaining vampiric qualities while alive” thing might go a long way towards explaining the monster in Harry’s chest . . . .

  • Dragoness Eclectic

    Wow, a California town name I have actually driven through! And spent the night there! It was rather nice, coming out of the desert from the east into all those irrigated orchards around Bakersfield–it was also humid as hell and managed to be more miserable than Kingston, Arizona or Needles, CA. And that was when Needles was running 126 F in the July heat.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Wait, I thought Arthur and Molly had two siblings each?

  • Invisible Neutrino

    I know Molly had Gideon and Fabian Prewett, but the info about Arthur is less firm. Apparently JKR says he has at least two brothers.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    I think it was more the fact that she was the first girl to be born in a Wesley family in some time rather than marrying in.

  • Michael Pullmann

    Frankly, if Tim & Jerry gave the fate of the Jordanians et al any thought at all, that thought probably tended towards genocide.

  • Hawker40

    Which is a pretty good description of what happened to the ancient Hebrews.
    And the Poles, Belgea, Serbs, Croats, and I’m sure dozens (hundreds) of others my knowledge of history is inadequate to cover.

  • Hawker40

    NOT an improvement.

  • Daniel

    It was.

  • Daniel

    He took away the things they loved-
    Like the car of Verna Zee,
    Buck looked to see
    Mushroom clouds in his coffee
    Clouds in his coffee

    You’re so vain- you think the end of days is about you.

  • Daniel

    Christian Grey?

  • reynard61

    A thousand pardons, Good Sir! I must have missed that particular lesson in my “Ye Olde Englishe Ase Ae Seconde Language-e” class…

    (But, yes, you are indeed correct. Mea Culpa. *facepalm*)

  • Nemo

    From what I understand, after 9/11, many Rapture believers now think that Israel will win those territories in war. Then, they will be at peace. I also know that according to the Pretrib checksheet, Damascus is going to get leveled at some point, most likely by Israel. That’s why when Syria entered the news, a lot of Rapturites were looking up.

  • i have sampled the wine

    uh, yeah. I was actually a wee bit inebriated when i typed that. Yes, I do drunk comment on the internet. Its not strange,

  • Turcano

    Dude, all you have to do is take German. That’s, like, the first thing they teach you.

  • Matt

    My church has a copy of every book in the series. Somebody donated them, telling the pastor how good they were. After having read them, the pastor tried to convince her of how bad they were.

    I’ve been using them to go through this series here. Unfortunately, Nicolae has been checked out by someone else for quite a while (I wonder if they post or lurk here) so I haven’t been able to keep up as well. I decided to see if they had a copy for iBooks, which they do. I downloaded the sample and read the 74 free pages I could. Well, I tried to. I’d forgotten how awful these books truly are. I gave up in disgust as Rayford was trying to ignore nobody-wanting-to-be-somebody cops. Just ugh!

  • PepperjackCandy

    This reminds me of the story behind “China Grove” by the Doobie Brothers. They must have been hopped up on something pretty good while driving around 410* at some point on tour, because they apparently honestly thought they made up the town. But there really is a little town “down around San Antone”** called China Grove. It has nothing to do with the PRC, fwiw, but is/was home to a grove of chinaberry trees.

    *I think that’s where the China Grove exit sign is. It might be on I-10, though.

    **No one in San Antonio calls it “San Antone.” It’s always “San Antonio.” People (especially Mike Nesmith, who should know better) calling it “San Antone” bugs the ever-living-you-know-what out of me.

  • Lori

    In fairness, San Antonio wouldn’t scan.

    Yeah, that’s all I got. Not being from Texas, the thing that always bugged me about that stupid song was the line about the samurai sword. In China Grove. Hey, what’s it matter? All those slanty-eyed folks are the same, amirite?

  • phantomreader42

    That’s included, since the second possibility Fred listed does not address the accuracy of the bible either way.
    What LaHaye calls “biblical prophecy” is ridiculous nonsense that bears no resemblance whatsoever to reality.
    LaHaye is either interpreting the bible correctly, or he is not.
    If LaHaye is interpreting the bible correctly, then the bible is clearly ridiculous nonsense that bears no resemblance whatsoever to reality.
    If LaHaye is not interpreting the bible correctly, then what he says doesn’t actually tell us anything about the bible. It may or may not be ridiculous nonsense, but all we can tell for sure from this analysis is that it is not the SAME ridiculous nonsense LaHaye preaches. However, there are many other possible kinds of ridiculous nonsense.

  • PepperjackCandy

    I have to admit that if people who aren’t in/from/familiar with San Antonio would stop saying things about how I live in “San Antone,” I might not be quite so irritated by the song lyric abbreviation.

    I also have to admit that I have heard “China Grove” about a million times, and only understand about thirteen lines of it (I am counting the chorus as two of them). As a result I have never caught the samurai sword line. Thank goodness for small mercies.

  • Lori

    I feel the same way about people who say Frisco, so I totally understand, and I’m sorry to have ruined your blissful lack of awareness about the racist line about the sword.

  • PepperjackCandy

    It’s just another reason to sigh and roll my eyes whenever I have the misfortune to hear the song. 8-)

  • Carolyn

    There’s also the fact that in the Discworld, a seventh son of a seventh son is automatically a wizard.

  • j_bird

    Call me cynical, but I’m tempted to read Buck’s ostensibly humble reluctance as actual (cowardly) reluctance. The juxtaposition of “the excitement of trying to serve him” with the shock of being made “specifically a servant of his”… I don’t know, it just seems like Buck, as GIRAT, man of the world, and member of a supposed covert resistance force, shouldn’t be quite this surprised at actually being asked to do something. Beneath his “I’m not worthy!” I can’t help reading, “No… NO. REALLY. I’m actually not worthy and please let me go back to my Range Rover now, kthxbye.”

    Anyway, it is rather nice to see the authors give a nod to the fact that their main characters haven’t done anything terribly useful in 2+ books.

  • Thomas Keyton


  • Daniel

    I’m sorry. Chloe possessed me to write this:

    You walked into NHVC like you were boarding GC One,
    Your suit was made of denim,
    Your hair was rakishly long,
    You had one eye on your cell phone and
    You were called from up on high,
    And Rayford Steele dreamed that he’d be your partner,
    He’d be your partner and
    You’re not vain,
    You know the end of days is about you,
    You’re not vain
    God told you the end times was about you,
    Told you.

    If you’d had me several years ago before I was quite naive,
    You’d have hated me for thinking,
    Made your excuses and then you’d leave,
    But you took away the things I loved,
    Like my thinking freely,
    I had some dreams but they foundered in college,
    foundered in college and
    You’re not vain,
    You probably think my life’s all about you,
    You’re not vain,
    I bet you know my life is about you,
    Don’t you, don’t you?

    You think that “Global Weakly” is a simply awesome pun,
    And you never tire of the homophone in “total eclipse of the Son”,
    But He took away the kids we loved,
    Like my kid brother Raymee,
    I have bad dreams when we’re in our apartment,
    In our apartment, but

    It’s my pain,
    It probably can’t be about you
    It’s my pain
    You probably know it can’t be about you, don’t you?

    You promised that you’d help me when I agreed to become your wife,
    But since then you made clear that my priority is your life,
    You take and take a gift of love,
    Til there’s none left for me,
    I had some dreams they were baked in a cookie,
    Baked in a cookie

    It’s in vain,
    You’ll probably think this song’s not about you,
    All in vain,
    You’ll definitely think this song’s not about you,
    Won’t you?

  • TheOldMaid

    You might be able to read it online here:

    No promises, though.