Originally posted August 19, 2005.
You can read this entire series, for free, via the convenient Left Behind Index. This post is also part of the ebook collection The Anti-Christ Handbook: Volume 1, available on Amazon for just $2.99. Volume 2 of The Anti-Christ Handbook, completing all the posts on the first Left Behind book, is also now available.
Left Behind, pp. 135-142
Buck Williams has his work cut out for him. He’s in charge of investigating and reporting the biggest story in the history of the human race.
What caused the instantaneous disappearance of 1/3 of the world’s population? Could this strange event have been the result of foul play? Are the missing still alive? Is it possible they could return just as suddenly and mysteriously? What does it mean to suddenly find ourselves in a world without children?
None of these questions occur to Buck or to his editor, Steve Plank, as they sit down to discuss his duties in the days ahead. They aren’t yet able to answer even the most basic questions about the disappearances — who, what, when, where, why, how? — but none of this seems to bother them.
Buck thinks he should be investigating international financiers. Steve, on the other hand, thinks Buck should focus on the Jews. Yes, you don’t have to be a member of the John Birch Society to work here … but it helps!
Here again we see the hurdle facing Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins: So much prophecy, so little time. They haven’t got the luxury of following up on the aftereffects of the “Rapture” because they’ve got a rise-of-the-Antichrist to follow. Buck and Steve have already moved on to this next plot point. Even though neither one of them is aware of the importance of the Antichrist in premillennial dispensationalist mythology, and neither is aware that Nicolae Carpathia will become the Antichrist, the authors know all of this, and so the authors begin Chapter 8 with an extended conversation about Carpathia.
These are the sources to which you’ll have to turn to learn about this character, the Antichrist, and what he means to folks like L&J. Without this basic Darby/Lindsay/Scofield/Iron Maiden/Hollywood framework in mind, it’s unlikely that you would come away from the Bible with this idea of “The Antichrist.” The word “antichrist,” after all, only appears in one book of the Bible and it’s not Revelation. The term doesn’t come from John’s Apocalypse, but rather from a different John’s epistles. And there, actually, the word is plural: “you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come.”
The singular, capital-A Antichrist of PMD prophecy is based on a variety of passages cobbled together from throughout the Bible. He is the Beast of Revelation; the King of the South and the King of the North from Daniel; the false Christ(s) that Jesus warns against in Matthew’s Gospel, and Paul’s “man of lawlessness” from Thessalonians (which is a delightfully Nietzschean phrase). The composite sketch derived from all these descriptions yields a portrait that looks a little like Nebuchadnezzar, a little like Antiochus Epiphanes, a little like Nero or Diocletian, and a little like Victor von Doom.
The favorite passage of both metalheads and prophecy experts is from Revelation 13:16-18. Many of the items on the Antichrist Checklist are derived from this passage:
He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name.This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man’s number. His number is 666.
Later, we’ll explore some of the details of the Antichrist Checklist. For now, the particulars of this list are less important than the basic point that the list exists, and that it forms the outline for the remaining chapters of Left Behind. This checklist is the subtext of today’s section of the book, and why the authors have Buck and Steve improbably discussing the new president of Romania:
“Didn’t they just elect a leader, what, 18 months ago?” Buck said, remembering Dirk’s tip that a new leader would seem out of place and time.
“Big shake-up there,” Steve said. “Better check it out.”
Scarcely 36 hours ago the world was plunged into chaos. Against such a cataclysmic backdrop, it’s hard to imagine how any change of political leadership anywhere could seem out of place. Apparently, however, not a single head of state was among the disappeared, so aside from Romania, every other administration remains intact. This means that every head of state is both a heathen and an expert politician — since each of them has been able to weather the turmoil that might be expected to follow the disappearance of all of their nation’s children.
Their discussion of Carpathia continues, offering choice bits of dialogue such as:
“… the only wrinkle in Carpathia’s history is some rumors that he was ruthless with his business competition years ago.”
“People took dirt naps.”
“Ooh, Steve, you talk just like a mobster.”
Plank does have a fleeting flash of perspective, but Buck talks him out of it:
“We’re talking Romania here, Buck. Romania. Nonstrategic, scant gross national product, never invaded anybody, never anyone’s strategically. There’s nothing there but low-level internal politics.”
“It still smells major to me,” Buck said. “Rosenzweig was high on this guy, and he’s an astute observer. Now Carpathia’s coming to speak at the U.N. What next?”
Here again the United Nations is spoken of as an effective, powerful, prestigious authority. Buck seems in awe of the idea that Carpathia could rise to become the next Boutros Boutros Ghali.
This view of the U.N. only makes sense in light of the Antichrist Checklist. If the Antichrist is eventually going to rule over everyone and force them to accept his mark, then he will have to preside over a single, all-powerful World Government. If you believe that this One World Government is destined by prophecy, and that this prophecy is going to be fulfilled very soon, then you will look on any existing multilateral, international organizations — no matter how ineffectual or marginal they may appear to be — as the precursors of this global totalitarian reign.
This is why everybody in Left Behind speaks of the U.N. as an all-powerful and malevolent institution. This is also how readers who swallow the LB perspective come to think of the U.N. and or of any multilateral cooperation or treaty. Another small reminder of the way these books and their popularity influences American politics and policy.
Steve reminds Buck that his assigned priorities are the upcoming conventions in New York of “Jewish Nationalist” leaders, “Orthodox Jews” (a separate, but equally Jew-y group) and “international monetarists setting the stage for one world currency.”
All of these conventions are still on, their schedules unchanged and undisturbed by the events of the last few days. It doesn’t occur to Steve or Buck or the conferees themselves that a global cataclysm might be expected to alter either their travel plans or their pre-cataclysm agendas.
Steve sends Buck home to rest before returning to the office later that evening. Mercifully, Jenkins only spends half a page detailing the logistics of Buck’s cab ride.