Edge of Apocalypse: pages 36-39 (Chapter Seven)
Those of you who have read the Left Behind blog on Fred Clark’s site will know of the (in?)famous Pastor Bruce Barnes, whose smile is pastede on yay.
Bruce Barnes is the expository mouthpiece through which Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins set forth their vision of post-Rapture theology and their interpretation of the “End Times” that are reputed to then follow on from the Rapture.
Well, meet Pastor Campbell in LaHaye and Parshall’s version, and we get a teensy bit of the kind of expository discussion seen in Left Behind:
“By Sunday, the shock of that day, the nuclear attempt against New York City, and the stunned news reports about the nukes incinerating the North Korean ship, were starting to abate slightly, but only slightly.
Up in the pulpit of the Eternity Church in Manhattan, Pastor Paul Campbell was standing silent before his congregation. The sanctuary was packed. Overflow chairs had to be added. It was the first Sunday service following the near strike. A nervous anticipation rippled through the crowd, as all eyes where transfixed on the pulpit. Campbell knew why these people were here, some with fear, but all with expectation on their faces. Waiting for some word of comfort, some truth, or maybe both, about a world that seemed to be careening out of control.”
Surprise, surprise. Abigail Jordan’s in the audience:
“Pastor Campbell looked over the crowd. He saw a number of new faces. But he also recognized some familiar ones. Abigail Jordan, a regular attender, was seated five rows from the front on the aisle seat.”
Ok, I get that for literary impact LaHaye and Parshall needed to create a link to the main characters, but it’s kind of weird for a pastor to remark on the presence of only one individual in an audience. A less charitable interpretation would have me wondering how well that pastor can keep his pants zippered.
“Looking down at the open Bible on the pulpit stand, Campbell fixed his eyes on the verses he had marked there. The Gospel of Matthew, chapter twenty-four.”
Okay. Hmm. Time to go check this out. I went to my trusty Revised Standard Version and clicked my way through to that chapter and verse. I’ll be fairly sketchy with the cutting and pasting so I highly suggest you get your own Bible out or click the link and check that I’m not misinterpreting stuff.
But [Jesus] answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another, that will not be thrown down.”
As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?”
For many will come in my name, saying, `I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.
And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet.
For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places:
Ok, so far this is pretty typical end-times paraphernalia. In my WWCOG* phase I used to inhale this stuff. The literature loved to hammer on that “wars and rumors of wars” phrase as one of the key demarcation points of the End Times, and the false claims of people being like Jesus as the hallmark of the beginning of the “false religion” First Horseman striding his way through the world.
That being said I should clarify that the End Times stuff I used to believe in manifestly pooh-poohed the Rapture, and posited that there would be no clear way to determine when the exact kick-off would be, except that given mention of an army of 200 million men, the WWCOG interpretation was that it meant, literally, human armies of 200 million men at minimum. Therefore by simple population mathematics, the 20th or 21st centuries could constitute possible End Times, but not before.
Anyway, the reason for my digression here is it looks like the Edge of Apocalypse book is attempting to link in LaHaye’s PMD belief system and to do so by means of this here pastor. More from the RSV:
“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation, and put you to death; and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.
And then many will fall away, and betray one another, and hate one another.
And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.
And because wickedness is multiplied, most men’s love will grow cold.
But he who endures to the end will be saved.”
The statements attributed to Jesus buttressed the WWCOG interpretation that there would be no Rapture and that it was necessary to steadfastly withstand any and all tribulations in the turbulent End Times.
Anyway, there’s more of this, but I think I’m losing the context so to get it back into proper context let’s keep looking at the book, and thus at Pastor Campbell:
His mind was weighted down with the immensity of the subject of his sermon. But more than that, his heart was pierced by the empty gazes of those who had wandered in from the street that morning to hear…anything. Lost looks and vacant stares. Troubled souls.
Y’know, this feels a helluva lot more realistic to me than whatever LaHaye and Jenkins tried to convey about the aftermath of Left Behind. Though given the very probable deaths of people from panicky crowds and so on, I’m surprised Pastor Campbell hasn’t mentally remarked on having to conduct funerals and the emotional toll that would surely take.
I hesitate to quote this much verbatim in one chunk, but it really does help contextualize the stuff I pasted out of the Revised Standard Version above; remember this is Pastor Campbell speaking:
“Some of you have come here today for comfort. Others out of curiosity. Still others for a reason that is two thousand years old. Toward the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus gave a great lament over the city of Jerusalem, and then He made a startling prophecy about the destruction of the great Herodian Temple in that city, a prophecy that would be fulfilled in AD 70, just a few decades later. Leaving the Temple that day, Jesus went up to the Mount of Olives, overlooking Jerusalem, and He sat down with His disciples, perhaps under the shade of one of the trees, and they asked Him two questions. First, they wanted to know when the Temple would be destroyed. But they also asked Him another question, one that may be on your minds and hearts today. They wanted to know what the signs would be of Christ’s second coming and what signs would mark the end of the age, that final chapter of the world as we know it.”
“Jesus said that nation will rise up against nation and kingdom against kingdom. That implies worldwide conflict. We have already seen two world wars in the last century. And just a few days ago we narrowly missed what could have been the beginning of yet another one. Jesus also said that there would be famines. In our nation alone, in the agricultural breadbasket of America, we are now seeing drought and pestilence far beyond anything we had during the dustbowl years of the Great Depression. Jesus said there would be earthquakes. Now friends, look at the last six months. An earthquake in Indonesia, a ten on the Mercalli scale, with twelve being the worst. Then an earthquake that ripped through Guatemala, an eleven on the scale. And finally an eleven-point-five earthquake in Turkey.”
So you see now, what Pastor Campbell is doing. He’s taking those verses and applying them to cataclysmic world events that seem to portend the immediate onset of the End Times.
The only problem is, LaHaye believes in the Rapture.
In that case, that would completely jam up the works of this entire book if it happened too soon, since a world in utter and complete disarray beyond stopping a couple of nukes would hardly have time to persecute the likes of Joshua Jordan.
And the book certainly indicates he will be persecuted, at least in the sense that the book will push all the paranoid-fantasy buttons RTCs have about them being under a state of siege from those evil secular abominations, even as the faith they proclaim holds sway among at least one-third of the US population, though to differing extents depending on the indivdual.
Pastor Campbell continues his sermon and ends with an Amen.
Several people in the crowd shouted out amens. But most of those in their seats were silent. A few who were visiting for the first time had grimaces of disgust or even cynicism. Many were deep in thought. A few, wide-eyed, had the look of those who were waiting for something but didn’t know exactly what it was.
Campbell finally directed himself to his listeners, sweeping his gaze across the sea of faces.
‘So those were the questions of the disciples that day. As they sat up on the Mount of Olives, looking over the city of Jerusalem.’
Then he asked something else, and when he did he leaned forward and took in row after row, face after face.
‘Now it’s time to get honest. As you look to the future, what is your reaction? Fear? Or faith?’
I gotta say, that’s a nice punch line at the end.
However, consider the “expressions of disgust”. Why? What reason would there be? Nothing in the sermon is offensive. It is, perhaps, extreme, but I should expect, then, honest bewilderment or if not that, ordinary skepticism.
I think this may be an example of the kind of stereotyping LaHaye has done with other coauthors, in which those people he deems to be insufficiently faithful aren’t just indifferent, they’ve got to be actively hostile. So again, we see button-pushing on the siege mentality that RTCs seem to have open veins of, easily tapped for the agendas of people like LaHaye.
All the above said, I am honestly curious to see how a Rapture will play out in the canon universe of Edge of Apocalypse. Given that one element posited in Left Behind is a battle between Russia and Israel, in which Israel is unharmed by any nukes dropped, this Return to Sender thing of Joshua’s could prove to be the catalyst in kicking off the Tribulation times with a less implausible basis for why Israel dodged a nuclear attack.
It’s reasonable, too, since the theme of humans being helping hands of God’s work has shown up in other literature before. I remember reading in some old children’s books (obv, when I was much younger 😛 ) originally printed in the 1960s a story of a man who desperately needed to cover the mortgage on his farm, and prayed fervently for some miracle. Apparently by chance, a man showed up the next morning wanting to buy one of the farmer’s cows.
Obviously, the cattle buyer was the human agent of God’s action.
The apparent analogies to Joshua being the same sort of individual readily present themselves, but we’ll have to see if this comes to pass much later on.
I’ll take up chapter eight next time.
* WWCOG = WorldWide Church Of God. A fringe Christian sect that publishes things like The Plain Truth. Apparently they’ve moved closer to the mainstream since the late 1980s and early 1990s. I abandoned my DIY Christianity through extensive reading of the Plain Truth and associated literature after I found out, to my disgust, that the founder, Armstrong, had been embezzling money from the WWCOG back in the 1930s. There were other factors as well, but I won’t get into those overmuch at this time.