The Rapture: In the Twinkling of an Eye / Countdown to the Earths Last Days | Chapter 4 of 4

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was implanted in Raymie's mind. In full color with every sound and emotion he followed their feats as they served God, fighting persecution and the sword, trusting the Lord to deliver them, many dying for their faith, now enjoying their rewards.

From every century and every corner of the world they came, the throng rising to applaud them as everyone enjoyed the dramas of their heroic highlights. In every case, as their stories unfolded, the crowd exulted and the principals bowed at the feet of Jesus, deflecting all praise and honor to Him. The stories of humble pastors of tiny churches, persevering for decades in spite of seemingly no results, were just as uplifting as the dramatic tales.

Raymie had been fascinated by his mother's report that she had asked God how long they had been here-- in terms they would understand from an earthly standpoint--and found it had been just minutes. He wondered if God would feel he was being trivial if he asked for his own update.

And as soon as the thought crossed his mind, God spoke to his heart. "You are anything but a nuisance, Son. Still only moments have passed since you arrived."

Raymie hoped this would never end and then realized that it would not.

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CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

Nicolae Carpathia waited until his people told him that the largest international-media outlets had arrived; then he took his time having his valet dress him in his most elegant, sedate, black suit with black tie and white shirt. Lingering in his dressing closet a few more beats, he finally left the mansion in a slow, seemingly sad gait with his head down, approaching the microphones on his vast back lawn.

Carpathia stepped to the makeshift podium as still cameras clicked and reporters jostled for position. Pressing his lips together in what appeared to be an attempt to control his emotions, he stoically raised his head and cleared his throat.

"Forgive me, but like so many around the world, I am grieving this hour as well. It appears no one has been left untouched by this tragedy. I know that even now, virtually moments after the cataclysm has struck, people

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all over the globe are already expounding theories. At the risk of adding to the confusion, for now let me say that the idea that makes the most sense to me is briefly as follows:

"The world has been stockpiling nuclear weapons for many years. Since the United States dropped atomic bombs on Japan in 1945 and the Soviet Union first detonated its own devices on September 23, 1949, the world has been at risk of nuclear holocaust. I would not be surprised if scientists discover some atmospheric phenomenon interacting with all these stockpiled weapons that may have caused the vanishing of so many people instantaneously.

"I am not a scientist, but I am well-read in these subjects, and it could very well be that some confluence of electromagnetism in the atmosphere, combined with as-yet-unknown or unexplained atomic ionization from the nuclear power and weaponry throughout the world, could have been ignited or triggered--perhaps by a natural cause like lightning or even by an intelligent life-form that discovered the possibility before we did--and caused this instant action.

"Why the disappearances seem so random, striking some societies and cultures more than others, I am not prepared to speculate upon. It is possible that certain people's levels of electricity made them more likely to be affected. That would account for all the children and babies and even fetal material that vanished. Perhaps their electromagnetism was not developed to the point that it could resist whatever happened.

"I have already heard postulated that this may have been some cosmic act of God. Let me be careful to say

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that I do not and will not criticize any sincere person's belief system. Such tolerance is the basis for true harmony and brotherhood, peace and respect among peoples. I do not accept the so-called Rapture theory already being bandied about, because I know many, many more people who should be gone if the righteous were taken to heaven. If there is a God, I respectfully submit that this is not the capricious way in which He would operate. By the same token, you will not hear me express any disrespect for those who disagree.

"There may come a time when I will be presented the opportunity and privilege of addressing in a more appropriate setting my views of millenarianism, eschatology, the Last Judgment, and the second coming of Christ, but until that time I feel it would be best if I did not attempt to speak on those subjects informally.

"Let me just close by adding my condolences to all who have suffered loss this day and to respectfully decline questions at this time. Thank you."

As Carpathia strode back toward the house, the press called out, "Mr. President!" "Dr. Carpathia!" "Just one question, sir."

But he neither turned nor slowed. This had been his show, not theirs.

Raymie had never heard of Cyrus Ingerson Scofield, but he was certainly intrigued by the man's story. Scofield had been a successful lawyer and politician in the nineteenth

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century but had resigned from the United States Attorney's office under charges of political corruption.

By the time he was thirty-six, in 1879, Scofield had suffered spiraling losses in his personal life, having ended his political career in humiliation, lost a son, turned to drink, and undergone a divorce. He was also involved in many controversial court cases.

Raymie thought Scofield appeared repentant, kneeling before the flame as his works were tested in the fire. Despite his history, his judgment resulted in precious gems and gold and silver that shone. Jesus fashioned these into a Crown of Life for Scofield's persevering in ministry despite opposition to his theological views. Jesus also presented him a Crown of Glory, citing his feeding of several flocks as pastor of various churches. He also received a Crown of Righteousness as one who stood out as loving the very idea of Christ's appearing. And finally he was given the Crown of Rejoicing for his work having resulted in so many coming to faith in Christ.

"But, Lord," Scofield said, "I am unworthy. I wasted nearly half my life."

Jesus embraced him and said, "You of all men should know that the sins and omissions of the old life are not counted against you at this judgment. Your sins were covered and forgotten, and all that remains is what you did for Me after you were regenerated. Well done, good and faithful servant."

Raymie enjoyed the Scofield life story passing his mind's eye. A change had certainly been needed in the man's life. And now the masses were treated in their

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minds' eyes to the time in 1879 when Scofield had asked God to forgive his sins and for Jesus to take over his life.

From that moment the brilliant but flawed Scofield began to study and live for his newfound Savior. He stopped drinking, was discipled by a prominent pastor and Bible teacher, served many organizations, and was eventually called to be a pastor.

He led people to Christ, began cottage prayer meetings, married a Christian, saw his Dallas, Texas, church send out missionaries, and also saw the work grow and spawn new churches. He designed the Scofield Correspondence Course, which was later licensed to Moody Bible Institute and taken by more than 100,000 students. And he created a reference Bible to aid those just beginning to read the Bible, which became an authoritative guide to millions for more than a century.

Raymie had heard Pastor Billings mention his Scofield Bible, but he had never quite understood what he meant and was fairly certain he had never seen one. Now, as Raymie watched Jesus give Cyrus Scofield his crowns, he thought this was a man he'd like to talk with, and it was nice to know he had an eternity to do it.

Chloe caught a clumsy ride on the back of a motorbike, during which she and the young, terrified Asian rider struggled to keep her suitcase aloft. "You want to try the new Palo Alto airstrip?" he said.

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"I can't imagine anything's going out of there," she said. "I was hoping to make it to San Jose."

"Definitely closed," he said. "Heard it on the news."

"Palo Alto then," she said, which proved providential.

A harried, middle-aged woman behind the counter, her mascara having run from recent tears, told Chloe she was in luck, "in a manner of speaking." She said she was going to try and see how many rules she could break, learning that Chloe was immediate family of a Pan-Con captain. "Somehow I'll get you onto Pan-Con by the last leg of your trip, if I find even one plane on its way to Chicago."

The woman spent several minutes tapping away at her keyboard, talking to herself and maintaining a running commentary as she went. "Um-hmm. Interesting. Okay. Fine, let's try this. Nope. Here. Oh, my. Well, worth a try."

"What?" Chloe said, checking her watch. It had been an hour since she and Amy had discovered Phoebe's clothes on the ground.

"It's something--a long shot, not much."

"I'll try anything."

"I figured that. Because San Jose is shut down, we're getting some rerouting. More than we're used to and more than we can handle. There's a little military strip between here and San Jose, and it looks like there's going to be an Air California jet stopping there to refuel. I can get you on that. Some back roads are clear, so we can bus you to the strip."

"Air California? They don't leave the state, do they?"

"You do know your air travel, young lady. AC is an in-state airline, yes, but this one is on its way to Salt Lake City,

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only major airport open for hundreds of miles. There's an old piece of Pan-Con equipment there that's going to Oklahoma."

"Thought you said the only major--"

"I'm not talking Oklahoma City or even Tulsa here, doll. Enid. Middle of nowhere. Military town."

"That's not on Pan-Con's routes."

"No, but Dallas is, and Enid's getting lots of DFW's slopover."

"Okay, where do I go from Enid?"

"There's an Ozark flight to Springfield, Illinois. I suppose you know that Ozark spelled backwards is Krazo."

Chloe was not in the mood. "Yep, I've heard "Em all. What are the chances I can get to O'Hare from Springfield?"

The woman shrugged. "That's as far as I can guarantee. Maybe you can get a bus from there. Looks like Pan-Con is running some ancient turboprops out of there, but who knows how long Chicago will be open. JFK is already closed, and O'Hare is taking every jumbo jet within five hundred miles. Can't imagine they won't run out of room soon. You want this or not? Got to get you on that bus right now if you're in."

"I'm in."

"Isn't this something, Mom?" Raymie said. "You're getting these mind pictures, right?" "I am."

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"These next two guys are from the first and second centuries!"

"I don't recognize their names," Irene said.

"I have a feeling we'll both be experts on them soon. Papias and Polycarp. Weird. And they were friends of John, the one who wrote the Gospel."

"And the epistles and Revelation."

"Just wait till it's his turn, Mom." But Raymie would find these two men every bit as captivating.

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CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

Hattie Durham enjoyed the delectable secret that she was not quite as ditzy as she seemed to be. How people reacted to her--particularly men--she had recognized so many years before that she couldn't remember not using it to her advantage. Women seemed to baby talk to her, as if because she was a beautiful blonde she couldn't have a brain. And men seemed to talk to her with their eyes, as if their gibberish was meaningless, which it often was. It was, however, not true that Hattie was other than calculating. She had largely charmed her way to senior-flight-attendant status just after her twenty-seventh birthday--no small feat--but these jobs were not just handed out. She had had to study, to be a quick learner, to gain favor with passengers, fellow crew members, and superiors. They didn't give such a title to a body, a face, a hairdo, and makeup in uniform.

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And now she was enjoying her new role, especially on a 747 streaking toward London. Hattie didn't want any mistakes, no complaints. There would be issues, sure, but that's why she and her crew were here. They would deal with everything and everyone quickly and efficiently. Tony Salazar, who had been with the airline since Hattie was in grade school, was already proving most helpful. He was one who could easily have had her promotion, had he merely wanted it. Clearly there was no animosity there. He apparently wanted her to look good and seemed to be doing everything in his power to effect that.

They were several hours into the flight already. Two meals had been served, the movie had ended, and except for just a few wanderers and the rare night owls still hunched over their laptops under their individual reading lamps, the plane had become dark and quiet.

"You want to make points with this staff," Tony whispered, "urge them to finish breakfast prep now and let them take a load off until sunup."

"Great idea," Hattie said.

When they were finished, she swept through the cabins a few times herself, then finally sat, feeling the nervous energy drain from her and wishing she could close her eyes. The last thing she would do, however, was actually sleep on the job. Here and there other attendants were sitting, chatting, and watching and listening for any call buttons.

Hattie glanced idly up the aisle, where a woman was either getting some exercise or on her way to the lavatory.

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Funny. In the dim light she seemed to be there one second and gone the next.

Something else was on Hattie's mind. Rayford Steele. She had never seen herself as a home wrecker, though Captain Steele was hardly the first married man who seemed eager to throw away his family for her. She had merely teased previous conquests, knowing full well they were not responsible people and were merely lusting rather than loving her.

But Rayford. He was something different. It had not been lost on her that he had been more than careful. He had a beautiful family. He never bad-mouthed his wife. It was clear he was not happy at home; otherwise, what was he doing with his looks, his body language, his conversation? Yet it was his very discipline that attracted her... not to mention his striking appearance.

Okay, he was forty-two. Had forty-two ever looked so good on a man? He kept himself in shape and looked great in and out of uniform. They were headed for something, and Hattie didn't want to scare him off and mess it up. She knew enough to let Rayford make the next move, and from what she could tell, he was well on his way. She had made clear her own intentions--or at least willingness--but this was a different relationship--for certain a different potential--than she had ever had.

Hattie's goal was nothing short of claiming Rayford as her own. An affair was not enough; for one thing, given their situation, it would ruin her career. No, she wanted him. He would have to be willing to divorce his wife and pursue her to the altar.

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If her instincts were right, London would be a city where memories were made.

Irene Steele took great pleasure in her new ability to-- what else could she call it?--multitask. She was able to watch and listen to the exhilarating judgments--which were, in reality, another way to bring honor and glory to Jesus--exult at the rejoicing of the angels every time someone received Christ, "view" as it were the stories of each supplicant in her mind's eye, and simultaneously feel overwhelmed with joy at being able to take this all in in the presence of her son, now a full-grown man. Irene felt as if she would never be able to lose her eternal smile, nor did she wish to.

She quickly understood why Papias and Polycarp, those of the strange names, seemed to be dealt with together. They had been contemporaries, friends, and their most stark bond was that they had both been acquaintances of the disciple whom Jesus loved: John.

Papias proved to be a Greek Christian leader who had written a five-volume commentary on the sayings of Jesus. Jesus praised him for his efforts in offering one of the earliest records about the writing of the Gospels. While his work was lost to history after several centuries, it had been used in the early church to help give credence to the veracity of Scripture.

"Though some questioned your intellect and scholarship," Jesus said, presenting him the crowns of Glory,

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Righteousness, and Rejoicing, "you proved authentic and devoted. You fed your flock, you anticipated My return with gladness, and you became My glory and joy by winning souls."

Papias's friend Polycarp had been a disciple of the apostle John and eventually became the bishop of the early church in Smyrna. Irene soon learned that he was one of the most celebrated characters in ancient Christendom, reminding her again how embryonic and provincial her faith was. The idea of having eternity to learn all this warmed her.

As a pupil of John, Polycarp had talked with many who had been with Jesus Himself. He became a bold pastor, preacher, and witness for Christ in spite of dangerous opposition from Rome, and indeed he was eventually martyred for his faith while serving as the bishop at Smyrna.

Jesus used the precious residue from the flame judgment of his works to make for him all the crowns he had given Papias, adding the Crown of Life, reserved for martyrs or those who had suffered undue trials.

Hattie Durham had enjoyed only a brief respite before feeling that she should get back on her feet and continue to monitor the needs and comfort of her passengers. She was aware that other attendants glanced curiously at her, probably wondering if they too were expected to get back to work. But really, there was little to do.

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She missed Rayford, but she had decided the next move was his. And he certainly wasn't going to do anything during a flight. Hattie moseyed to the back of the plane, idly checking to see how many lavs were occupied. Only one, and that soon became free too. Then she quietly began her stroll up the long aisle. Nearly everyone was asleep, so Hattie was careful to keep her steps light. When she was a passenger she could always tell when someone was coming, and nothing was more irritating than a lumbering staff member, interrupting someone's rest.

Some passengers had their seats reclined, and they lay back, snoring softly or with their mouths open. Most had heeded the advice to fasten their seat belts outside blankets and sweaters so Hattie and her team would not have to rouse them to be sure they were buckled in. Others had slid down in their seats and slept in various curled-up positions of repose.

Strange though. Maybe it was the darkness. It seemed at least one seat in each row was empty. Several seemed to have two or more. Yet Hattie had seen only one woman in the aisle several minutes before. And she had not seen that woman return.

With every lav now vacant, Hattie's eyes had to be playing tricks on her. Surely she was simply missing these people in the shadows, under blankets and pillows. But as her eyes widened--partly in alarm, she knew--it was as if her night vision improved. About a third of the seats she studied looked empty.

This was a full flight. Hattie scowled in concentration.

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Focus. There had to be an explanation. It had to be her. She was missing something. Or was she still sitting, taking a break, dozing, dreaming this? That had happened before. Once, thoroughly sleep deprived, she had drowsed in a jump seat, only to dream that the craft had landed, but everyone was asleep and she couldn't wake them to disembark.

Hattie took a deep breath. She was awake. She knew it. And this would all make sense in a moment when it would somehow come together in her mind. But she couldn't help leaning past a sleeping man in an aisle seat and feeling the two seats beyond him. Both were empty. All she felt were blankets and what seemed like clothes. On the second seat she felt earrings. What was going on?

Six straight aisle seats on both sides had heads silhouetted in the dim light, but the next three, on both sides, were empty. The first one she checked revealed a man who had slid down beyond her view. But the others were vacant, blankets and clothes and jewelry lying there.

Hattie couldn't breathe. Where were these people? She hurried up the aisle, no longer caring about the weight of her footfall.

A woman turned to see her coming and whispered, "Is anything wrong?"

Hattie mustered her cheerful voice. "No, ma'am. Everything's fine." But she couldn't slow herself. Several more seats were empty before she reached the bank of lavs, and all of them still showed "Vacant" on the doors. She knocked and opened each, hoping they were full of people answering nature's call who had somehow

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suffered from mass forgetfulness, leaving the doors unlocked. But no. All were empty.

Hattie rushed forward, only to trip on a pile of... what? She bent to examine it and picked it up to clear the aisle. It was a woman's complete outfit, including hosiery, undergarments, and accessories. Hattie felt a sob rising in her throat. She must not cry out. This was where the woman she had seen had seemed to disappear.

Right out of her clothes?

And then it hit Hattie. At least a couple dozen children had boarded this flight. She now saw none. She pushed toward the galley to dump the pile of clothes.

There she met another flight attendant, who said, "Miss Durham, what's up?"

"I don't know."

Call buttons began to ding. Reading lamps came on. People called out, "Hey! What? Ma'am? Sir?"

Hattie toyed with illuminating the cabin lights, but if that revealed her worst fears that a hundred or more passengers had disappeared out of their clothes, she could incite a riot.

"Have you seen Tony?" an attendant said. "He was back there, and now I don't see him. Something's going on and we need him. We need everybody. Hattie, where are all these people?"

Hattie held a finger to her mouth and trotted toward the stairs at the front of the plane. She was going to see if this craziness extended to first class, and then she was heading for the cockpit.

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Irene had heard of an organization called Wycliffe Bible Translators, but she knew little about it and nothing about whomever it had been named for. That was soon remedied as John Wycliffe, a fourteenth-century saint, reached the fire judgment and his story was impressed upon the minds of everyone in the house of God.

Wycliffe had been a scholar who apparently had almost as much to do with the reformation of the church as had the more famous Martin Luther of the following century. Like Luther, Wycliffe came to believe that the essence of the gospel was that Christ's own righteousness is imputed to those who believe, and on that ground alone they are accepted by God.

Wycliffe faced persecution and opposition from religious leaders of his day, but he persevered and eventually led the way in translating the Scriptures into the language of the people, a revolutionary concept at that time. He also expounded upon his theological ideas and sent out preachers to do the same.

Irene had always taken for granted that she was able to read the Bible in English, but until Wycliffe's translation, Jerome's Latin Vulgate had been the only Scripture available. Also, anyone other than clergy had been prohibited from reading the Bible. Wycliffe's work was so controversial that years later the church actually prohibited the translation of the Bible.

But Wycliffe believed it was crucial that Christians be able to read God's Word in their own language. He

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believed the Scriptures were inspired of God and should be accepted without reserve.

Because the printing press had not yet been invented, every word had to be handwritten. More than six hundred years later, over one hundred and fifty handwritten copies still existed.

Wycliffe also trained and sent out "Bible-Men," students who had been ordained but without a bishop's license. He instructed them to not settle in any particular area, to avoid worldly pursuits, and to study and preach the Bible. They wore long reddish gowns and carried staffs, but they were barefoot. They carried at least a portion of Wycliffe's translation and preached wherever they could find an audience.

Wycliffe had been widely thought the best preacher of his day. He centered his sermons around the meaning of the Bible passage and then the application of the text to the lives of the hearers.

Jesus presented him the crowns of Glory and Rejoicing.

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CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

Not sure he'd follow through with anything overt, Captain Rayford Steele felt an irresistible urge to see Hattie Durham right then. He unstrapped himself and squeezed his first officer's shoulder on the way out of the cockpit. "We're still on auto, Christopher," he said as the younger man roused and straightened his headphones. "I'm gonna make the sunup stroll."Christopher squinted and licked his lips. "Doesn't look like sunup to me, Cap."

"Probably another hour or two. I'll see if anybody's stirring anyway."

"Roger. If they are, tell "Em Chris says, "Hey.""

Raymie Steele found it interesting that God seemed to have a theme going that was giving him a crash course

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in church history. The next supplicant was a contemporary of Wycliffe who was also instrumental in translating the Scriptures. As a young man, John Hus had worked in churches in Prague and become known as a humble servant and a devoted student. He was eventually ordained to the priesthood and assigned as the preacher in the new Bethlehem Chapel in Prague.

Hus was impacted by the writings of Wycliffe and helped translate and circulate much of Wycliffe's work. At first Hus did not face opposition for his views but was actually a favorite of his archbishop. Eventually, however, the archbishop was ordered to speak out against what were considered the heresies of Wycliffe and to forbid any further criticism of the clergy.

Later the church ordered that all Wycliffe writings be surrendered for correction. Hus obeyed and publicly declared that he condemned whatever errors existed, but he was eventually called to account by the archbishop for what were termed his "Wycliffite tendencies" and was reported to Rome.

Wycliffe's writings were withdrawn from circulation and burned, and when Hus protested, he was excommunicated, along with his sympathizers. When he continued supporting the work of Wycliffe, he was summoned to appear before the pope. Hus further protested practices of the church and the pope, resulting in a papal edict that he be imprisoned and that the Bethlehem Chapel be destroyed. The order was not obeyed by the king of Prague, and at the end of 1412, Hus wrote a treatise about the errors of the

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church and later posted it on the walls of the Bethlehem Chapel.

From these works of protest the church extracted propositions it considered heretical, and the Council of Constance was assembled. Hus was urged by the king to appear there and defend his doctrine. At Constance he was condemned and burned at the stake.

Jesus presented Hus the crowns of Glory and Life.

Hattie Durham was in shape. She worked out nearly every day. Why, then, was her heart pounding and her lungs overtaxed from the short flight of stairs to first class? She knew.

As she moved through the cabin she found a good-looking, blond man sleeping, his laptop open, his reading lamp on. She reached across a heavyset, snoring man who smelled of too many drinks and switched off the light. As she backed away she noticed that the dapper old man on the aisle just ahead of those two was gone. His clothes were on the seat. To Hattie's great relief, the man's wife still dozed.

Relief? That was a laugh. Hattie was starring in the horror film of a lifetime.

A young woman on the other side of the aisle frantically patted the empty seats beside her, calling out, "Bill! Where are the kids?" She spotted Hattie. "Ma'am?"

Hattie held up a hand. "I'll be right with you." And she sprinted toward the cockpit.

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Next on God's list of those honored for the ministry of His Word was a twentieth-century saint who had made the Scriptures even more understandable to the masses by crafting them to be understood by his children. His laborious private effort was eventually recognized by Christian leaders, and the explosion of his paraphrase, The Living Bible, resulted in worldwide publishing ministries.

He too suffered for his work, virtually losing his voice for the second half of his life. Ken Taylor was presented with crowns rewarding his enduring trials, feeding the flock, and winning souls.

His appearance before the flame and the throne began what seemed to Irene an endless parade of more contemporary Christian heroes, missionaries, pastors, evangelists, personal witnesses, and martyrs. Learning all their stories and--amazingly--now being able to remember every detail of thousands of the same was such a rich experience that Irene only occasionally reverted to her curiosity about how much time this might be taking in Earth minutes. It seemed she had been here a year already, but still she felt no hunger, no fatigue, no flagging of attention. And if what God had told her before remained operative, all this was happening in mere Earth moments.

As Captain Rayford Steele opened the cockpit door, Hattie Durham nearly bowled him over.

"No need to knock," he said. "I'm coming."

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The senior flight attendant pulled him into the galley, but there was no passion in her touch. Her fingers felt like talons on his forearm, and her body shuddered in the darkness.

"Hattie--"

She pressed him back against the cooking compartments, her face close to his. Had she not been clearly terrified, he might have enjoyed this and returned her embrace.

Her knees buckled as she tried to speak, and her voice came in a whiny squeal. "People are missing," she managed to whisper, burying her head in his chest.

He took her shoulders and tried to push her back, but she fought to stay close. "What do you mean?"

She was sobbing now, her body out of control. "A whole bunch of people, just gone!"

"Hattie, this is a big plane. They've wandered off to the lavs or--"

She pulled his head down so she could speak directly into his ear. Despite her weeping, she was plainly fighting to make herself understood. "I've been everywhere. I'm telling you, dozens of people are missing."

"Hattie, it's still dark. We'll find--"

"I'm not crazy! See for yourself! All over the plane, people have disappeared."

"It's a joke. They're hiding, trying to--"

"Ray! Their shoes, their socks, their clothes--everything was left behind. These people are gone!"

Hattie slipped from his grasp and knelt whimpering in the corner. Rayford wanted to comfort her, to enlist her

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help, or to get Chris to go with him through the plane. More than anything he wanted to believe the woman was crazy. She knew better than to put him on. It was obvious she really believed people had disappeared.

Irene had heard of Campus Crusade for Christ, but as a fairly new believer, she knew nothing of its history or its founder. Thus she was amazed as Bill Bright's story was revealed and his works were burnished to a huge pile of gold and silver and precious gems.

Dr. Bright had founded and spent more than fifty years leading an organization that became the world's largest Christian ministry. He was so motivated by Christ's command to spread the gospel throughout the world that in 1956 he wrote a booklet titled The Four Spiritual Laws, which was eventually printed in two hundred languages and became the most widely disseminated religious booklet in history. Bright also commissioned the JESUS film, a documentary on the life of Christ, which was translated into more than nine hundred languages and seen by more than 5.4 billion people in 228 countries and became the most widely viewed film in history.

Bill Bright began his ministry in college by sharing Christ with fellow students at UCLA, which developed into a full-time calling and spawned the eventual worldwide ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. What began as a campus effort grew to deal with almost every segment of society, including inner cities, governments,

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prisons, families, the military, executives, musicians, athletes, and others.

Irene and Raymie rose with the rest as Jesus pronounced Bill Bright's well-done and embraced him, crafting for him from the residue of the flame the Crown of Rejoicing, the soul-winner's crown.

The loudest cheers came from the hundreds of millions who were in heaven due to the ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.

Rayford Steele stepped into first class, where an elderly woman sat stunned in the predawn haze, her husband's sweater and trousers in her hands. "What in the world?" she said. "Harold?"

Rayford wanted to be strong, to have answers, to be an example to his crew, to Hattie. But when he reached the lower level he knew the rest of the flight would be chaotic. He was as scared as anyone on board. As he scanned the seats, he nearly panicked. He backed into a secluded spot behind the bulkhead and slapped himself hard on the cheek.

This was no joke, no trick, no dream. Something was terribly wrong, and there was no place to run. There would be enough confusion and terror without his losing control. Nothing had prepared him for this, and he would be the one everybody would look to. But for what? What was he supposed to do?

First one, then another cried out when they realized

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their seatmates were missing but their clothes were still there. They cried, they screamed, they leaped from their seats.

Hattie grabbed Rayford from behind and wrapped her hands so tight around his chest that he could hardly breathe. "Rayford, what is this?"

He pulled her hands apart and turned to face her. "Hattie, listen. I don't know any more than you do. But we've got to calm these people and get on the ground. I'll make some kind of announcement, and you and your people keep everybody in their seats. Okay?"

She nodded, but she didn't look okay at all. As he edged past her to hurry back to the cockpit, he heard her scream. So much for calming the passengers. He whirled to see her on her knees in the aisle.

Hattie lifted a blazer, shirt, and tie still intact. Trousers lay at her feet. She frantically turned the blazer to the low light and read the name tag. "Tony!" she wailed. "Tony's gone!"

Rayford snatched the clothes from her and tossed them behind the bulkhead. He lifted Hattie by her elbows and pulled her out of sight. "Hattie, we're hours from touchdown. We can't have a planeload of hysterical people. I'm going to make an announcement, but you have to do your job. Can you?"

She nodded, her eyes vacant.

He forced her to look at him. "Will you?" he said.

She nodded again. "Rayford, are we going to die?"

"No," he said. "That I'm sure of."

But he wasn't sure of anything. How could he know?

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He'd rather have faced an engine fire or even an uncontrolled dive. A crash into the ocean had to be better than this. How would he keep people calm in such a nightmare?

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CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

Irene was well aware that what seemed to be problems in heaven were not problems at all. Only as she tried to consider things from a human, earthly perspective was she able to wonder at the difference in her new view. For instance, the idea of sitting--while not being aware of one's weight on a chair--in God's house (and only the first-floor assembly hall) with some 20 billion others was so ludicrous to the other-than-glorified human mind that all she could do was shake her head.

Imagine someone inviting me to a function like this. Had she had the opportunity to attend a concert of her all-time favorite performer, the idea of a crowd of even tens of thousands would have made her rather just listen to a CD or watch a DVD. Of course she would have gone anywhere to see Jesus, even from a distance. But to

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be in a crowd so massive that you couldn't see either end of it for days simply would have held no appeal.

Yet somehow this worked. Irene was so happy she could not stop grinning. Emotionally she was full to overflowing. While the crowd was enormous, she didn't have the feeling of being lost among the masses or being hemmed in shoulder to shoulder as if on the midway of a county fair. Everyone was here for the same reason, and that kinship was pervasive. There were no sight-line issues, no audio problems, and the very idea that God could be limited in His ability to make everything plain and clear to everyone all at once had, needless to say, never crossed Irene's mind.

What crossed her mind now, though, was spectacular. Nothing in her previous life compared to having this personal, one-on-one, constant interaction with God while simultaneously being able to hear and see everything-- even these life histories at the same time as the judgments and rewards.

It all seemed to be happening at once, and despite the fact that she had witnessed thousands of people meeting Jesus and being tested and blessed, Irene had no trouble remembering every detail of every one. Her earthly mind might have been forced to categorize them, compare them, list them from favorite to so-so. But somehow she found each and every story endlessly fascinating. And endless was what she longed for. If this went on for all of eternity, that would be more than all right with her. This was akin to reading a book so engrossing that you never wanted it to end.

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Irene and Raymie enjoyed watching a tall, handsome woman running, leaping, dancing, and spinning toward the altar, all the while praising God and singing. A diving accident as a teenager had left her a quadriplegic, and she had spent the rest of her life in a wheelchair.

As the life story of Joni Eareckson Tada streaked across the theater of Irene's new mind, she was intrigued by the initial devastation of a beautiful young athlete, artist, and horsewoman's being so cruelly incapacitated. Her vibrant, loving family was changed forever by the tragedy. Joni herself--though a believer in Christ--had to battle the seemingly endless winter of depression as she faced a lifetime of dependence upon others for every basic need.

Irene was gripped by the invasion of friends and counselors into Joni's young life, gradually drawing her out of her wish to die and away from her penchant for withdrawing from reality in her mind. There had been no miracle turnaround but a gradual turning to full dependence upon God. Joni's life never got easier, and never did she get to the place where she would have chosen her disabilities over wholeness. But she did come to the point where she gave herself wholly to her Savior and dedicated herself to others.

Despite life in a chair, Joni became a student of God's Word, her life story became a best-selling book and a movie, she sang and recorded--despite needing help with her breathing for the sustained high notes--learned to continue to draw and paint beautifully with a pen or brush held in her teeth, and became an exceptional

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speaker. She eventually founded Joni and Friends, an organization aimed at accelerating Christian ministry in the disabled community.

Joni's works were tested in the fire, and Jesus bestowed upon her the Crown of Life. And with her embrace and "well done" came a surprise. Jesus restored to her one of the joys of her youth, producing a white stallion for her to ride.

Cameron Williams had roused when the old woman directly in front of him called out to the pilot. The pilot had shushed her, causing her to peek back at Buck. He dragged his fingers through his longish hair and forced a groggy smile. "Trouble, ma'am?"

"It's my Harold," she said.

Buck had helped the old man put his herringbone wool jacket and felt hat in the overhead bin when they boarded. Harold was a short, dapper gentleman in penny loafers, brown slacks, and a tan sweater vest over a shirt and tie. He was balding, and Buck assumed he would want the hat again later when the air-conditioning kicked in.

"Does he need something?"

"He's gone!"

"I'm sorry?"

"He's disappeared!"

"Well, I'm sure he slipped off to the washroom while you were sleeping."

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"Would you mind checking for me? And take a blanket."

"Ma'am?"

"I'm afraid he's gone off naked. He's a religious person, and he'll be terribly embarrassed."

Buck suppressed a smile when he noticed the woman's pained expression. He climbed over the sleeping executive on the aisle, who had far exceeded his limit of free drinks, and leaned in to take a blanket from the old woman. Indeed, Harold's clothes were in a neat pile on his seat, his glasses and hearing aid on top. The pant legs still hung over the edge and led to his shoes and socks. Bizarre, Buck thought. Why so fastidious? He remembered a friend in high school who had a form of epilepsy that occasionally caused him to black out when he seemed perfectly conscious. He might remove his shoes and socks in public or come out of a washroom with his clothes open.

"Does your husband have a history of epilepsy?"

"No."

"Sleepwalking?"

"No."

"I'll be right back."

Raymie Steele had sat through sermons in which Pastor Billings had tried to prepare the congregation for the types of things they would experience in eternity. He had to confess, however, that to his twelve-year-old ears and brain, it

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had all sounded a little abstract and ethereal. But to be here, to live it, now it all made sense. Of course, he had a new mind, an adult mind, but it was the wonderful assault on his senses that made everything come together.

If Raymie had a regret it was that he had made heroes of athletes, TV and movie actors. Personalities. People famous for being famous. Raymie had had no idea how many heroes of the faith there were and that there had been a treasure trove of reading material he could have enjoyed, had he only known.

Admittedly, most of the people he was now being exposed to had not been famous or had anything written about them while on Earth. Many were homemakers who had invested their lives in their families and loved ones and had contributed time and effort and sometimes money to widows and orphans and others of society's castoffs. Clearly, not one of them had gone unnoticed by God. Each of the downtrodden they had served, Jesus said, actually represented Him. He made clear that every time someone fed or clothed or in any way helped even "the least of these," he or she was doing it as unto Jesus.

Pastor Billings had often said that the biggest mistake a Christian--especially those who loved the idea of the return of Christ--could make was to give up on the world as they knew it. "Just because you may be rescued someday before the Tribulation hits doesn't mean it's time to sell all you own and sit on a mountaintop waiting for a chariot to haul you away. If you truly believe Jesus is coming and that He could be coming soon, you ought to be about His work. And that's more about widows and orphans than it

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is about setting dates, figuring out who the Antichrist might be, waiting for pie in the sky by and by."

When the works of unknown saints were tried in the fire, the flame seemed to burst forth--not because there was waste that ignited like hay and stubble, but rather because the gold and silver and gems were shimmering, iridescent in the heat. It seemed the greatest rewards and loudest applause and cheering were reserved for "the last" who were among the first to be judged and praised.

It was still a delight to hear and see the stories of the heroes, and Jesus praised them for their service. But Raymie thought that perhaps because these had already been given much of their due while they were alive, here they came last.

One such, whose fame long outlived him on Earth, Was a man named Dwight Lyman Moody. How Raymie would have loved to read about him before and how he looked forward to chatting with him. The very idea that he would never run out of time and would be able to interact with everyone here was comprehensible only to his glorified mind.

Moody had been one of history's most dynamic pioneering servants of Christ. Having died before the dawn of the twentieth century and having thus predated the automobile, still he had traveled more than one million miles, spoken to more than 100 million people, and been responsible--on a human level--for having seen perhaps millions coming to saving faith in Jesus Christ. Many considered him the greatest evangelist since the apostle

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Paul and the forerunner of such preaching giants as Billy Sunday and Billy Graham.

Both Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant had attended his revival services. More than 125,000 attended in one day when he preached at the Chicago World's Exhibition in 1893.

Moody became so famous that he began to travel and preach internationally, and some said he was as well-known as the president of the United States. For a time his birthplace, Northfield, Massachusetts, was actually considered the most famous city in the world.

D. L. Moody's works radiated from the heat, and he was awarded the crowns of Glory, for feeding the flock, Righteousness, for "loving His appearing," and Rejoicing, the soul-winner's crown.

The first-class lavs were unoccupied, but as Buck headed for the stairs, he found several other passengers in the aisle. "Excuse me," he said, "I'm looking for someone."

"Who isn't?" a woman said.

Buck pushed his way past several people and found lines to the washrooms in business and economy. The pilot brushed past him without a word, and Buck was soon met by a flight attendant.

"Sir, I need you to return to your seat and fasten your belt."

"I'm looking for--"

"Everybody is looking for someone," she said.

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CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT

When it was Irene's turn to have her works tested by fire, it was as if she reverted to her earthly self and emotions. Scared, nervous, on the edge of embarrassment. But just when she was about to wonder if this had all been for real and demand to know why there would be discomfort in God's house, He spoke directly to her heart.

"Your son will be with you," God said. "And I am with you always, now and forever. Remember, it is only from one to whom much is given that much is required. You have been Mine for only a short time, and while there will be some waste in the fire, you also redeemed much of the time you served Me."

With that and with Raymie at her side, Irene moved through the long line, watching, listening, experiencing with others their testing and rewards, and having their stories projected onto her soul. What would others think

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of hers? She had always believed she was a nobody, a boring Midwestern girl who had met the love of her life at college and then seen him drift from her when she became a follower of Christ. That was no story. It was simply a history.

As she approached the altar, however, Irene was overcome with praise for Jesus and a renewed feeling of unworthiness to even be in His presence. Though she was aware that Raymie was right there, he was largely irrelevant at this moment. She prostrated herself and heard the whoosh of the fire as every moment of her life from the time Jackie had led her to Christ seemed to spill from her and into the flame.

Her own life flashed before her as it was beamed to everyone else, and she saw it in a new light, almost as if for the first time. Irene was seeing herself through the eyes of God. She had never before seen herself as sweet and precious and an object of desire. But the army brat who cavorted in rapid-fire scenes, the little girl Irene had always thought was conniving and selfish--because she had been told that over and over--had another side to her personality. Lost. She was lost for sure back then but didn't even know it. And how could she have?

Irene saw the young version of herself as a wandering, needy, longing, searching person who only grew and matured into more of the same. She was reminded of conversations she'd had in elementary and junior high school with other girls who wanted only to talk about boys. And yet young Irene was already asking questions about life and truth and the big picture.

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Irene had not even remembered those days, let alone wondered what it was she had really been after. But now it was so clear. She was seeking God. Seeking love. Seeking belonging. Purpose. A sense of family. Boyfriends had not brought that. Moving had only exacerbated her problems. It was as if she'd had no choice but to fall for the handsome jock and would-be pilot who had fallen for her.

But what she was really looking for in a man she could find only in God. She had given the marriage and the kids everything she had, but she was still empty, still searching, still facing a void in her life nothing else could fill.

Her eyes downcast yet her body feeling the warmth of the fire, Irene cringed at the wood, hay, and stubble of wasted hours as they burned to ashes. She hadn't known; that was all. Her sin had been dealt with, but how she wished she could have back every day she had spent as a child of God. What she would do with every minute now!

Her time reading, studying, working out, learning, discussing important matters, thinking and caring and praying about people--these were clearly lauded. And all that time was not necessarily Christian or even religious. Wasted were the times she devoted to herself alone and not for rest and recuperation or recharging her batteries. Rather it was the trivia that had filled much of her life that she now bitterly regretted.

And yet what was this? Not much flame had been spent consuming her wasted time. She lifted her face to

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see a rainbow of colors emitted from the flame. There, before Irene's eyes, came scenes of a woman she barely recognized praying, reading her Bible, studying, volunteering at a food bank, sending clothes to charity, teaching Sunday school, attending church, going to Bible studies, praying to receive Christ, being discipled by Jackie, and finally, leading Raymie to Jesus.

The flame disappeared, and in its place lay the ash from the wasted days and gold and silver and precious stones from her good works. She knew they had contributed nothing to her salvation but were rather spawned by her gratitude for the gift she had received. But now Jesus stood before His throne, arms outstretched, beckoning her once again.

As the masses stood cheering and clapping, Irene felt loved and affirmed and whole.

Jesus gathered her into His arms and said, "Well done, good and faithful servant. Yours are the Crown of Righteousness for loving My appearing and the Crown of Rejoicing for having won your own son's soul for My Kingdom."

Buck was steered back toward the stairs by a flight attendant with "Hattie" on her nameplate. She slipped past him and took the steps two at a time.

Halfway up himself, Buck turned and surveyed the scene. It was the middle of the night, for heaven's sake, and as the cabin lights came on, he shuddered. All over

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the plane, people were holding up clothes and gasping or shrieking that someone was missing.

Buck felt the same terror he had endured awaiting his death in Israel a little more than a year before. What was he going to tell Harold's wife? "You're not the only one"? "Lots of people left their clothes in their seats"?

As he hurried back to his seat, he searched his memory banks for anything he had ever read, seen, or heard of any technology that could remove people from their clothes and make them disappear from a decidedly secure environment. Whoever did this, were they on the plane? Would they make demands? Would another wave of disappearances be next? Would he become a victim? Where would he find himself?

Raymie's time before the judgment and the throne was brief, befitting his short time as a believer. But he found it nonetheless fascinating and thrilling to be welcomed to eternity by Jesus Himself. And he had to agree with his mother that seeing a replay of his own life from God's point of view would change forever how he saw the person he had once been.

How fun it was to see Jeremy and his parents, Jackie and her husband, and especially Pastor Billings get their rewards. The pastor was especially lauded for his foresight in leaving behind a recording to be discovered by those left, explaining what had happened and telling them how they could still come to Christ.

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Fear seemed to pervade the cabin as Buck climbed over his sleeping seatmate again. He stood and leaned over the back of the chair ahead of him. "Apparently many people are missing," he told the old woman.

She looked as puzzled and fearful as Buck felt.

The first officer came rushing from the cockpit, hatless and flushed. He hurried down one aisle and up the other, gaze darting from seat to seat.

Buck's seatmate roused, drooling, when an attendant asked if anyone in his party was missing. "Missing? No. And there's nobody in this party but me." He curled up again and went back to sleep.

William Franklin Graham had likely been the best-known Christian of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. From the moment he became a true believer, Billy Graham had been a devout follower of Christ, earnest in sharing his faith with others.

Graham's tent crusade in Los Angeles in September of 1949 was intended to last three weeks, but the preaching of the dynamic young evangelist was so compelling that it continued for eight weeks and saw several famous and high-profile people come to faith.

From there Billy Graham began to conduct mass evangelistic campaigns throughout the United States and Europe, filling the largest of the great arenas and stadiums of the world. He was soon the confidant of heads

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of state around the globe, never hesitating to share his personal faith with anyone. In whatever media situation he found himself, whether on a TV talk show or even a variety show, Mr. Graham found a way to share the gospel.

Throughout his life and ministry, Mr. Graham faced opposition, often from within the church, and also suffered myriad physical disabilities, including Parkinson's disease, fluid on the brain, pneumonia, broken hips, and prostate cancer. Through it all he never compromised his message that Jesus was the only avenue to God and that men and women needed to repent of their sins and be saved.

Irene particularly enjoyed seeing episodes in Mr. Graham's life that reflected his passion for Christ. She "watched" as Mr. Graham lay suffering at home with a broken hip and his doctor arrived to give him an injection, directly into the affected bone. He told Mr. Graham, "This is going to be extremely painful. You need to imagine yourself anywhere else you'd rather be than right here, right now--some Shangri-la."

Irene assumed Billy Graham would transport himself to heaven in his mind, but he said, "No, there's nowhere I'd rather be than right here, right now."

"How can you say that?" his doctor said. "I told you, this is really going to hurt."

"Because I believe I am in the center of God's will, and if this is where He wants me, this is where I want to be."

Billy Graham's works left a store of precious metals and stones from which Jesus formed the Crown of Life

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for all the trials he had suffered, the Crown of Glory for having taught and discipled so many over the decades, the Crown of Righteousness for his frequent emphasis on the appearing of Christ, and of course the Crown of Rejoicing for winning more souls to the Kingdom than anyone else who had ever lived.

As Mr. Graham left the throne there approached a small band of men and women, and as their story began to unfold, Irene glanced at Raymie. Something told her that to him this would prove the most captivating of all.

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CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE

First Officer Christopher Smith had been gone only a few minutes when Rayford heard his key in the cockpit door and it banged open.

Chris flopped into his chair, ignored the seat belt, and sat with his head in his hands. "What's going on, Ray? We got us more than a hundred people gone with nothing but their clothes left behind."

"That many?"

"Yeah, like it'd be better if it was only fifty? How the heck are we gonna explain landing with even one less passenger than we took off with?"

Rayford shook his head, still working the radio, trying to reach someone--anyone--in Greenland or an island in the middle of nowhere. But they were too remote even to pick up a radio station for news. Finally he connected

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with a French jet several miles away heading the other direction. He nodded to Christopher to put on his own earphones.

"You got enough fuel to get back to the States?" the pilot asked Rayford.

Christopher nodded and whispered, "We're halfway."

"I could turn around and make Kennedy," Rayford said.

"Forget it. Nothing's landing in New York. Two runways still open in Chicago. That's where we're going."

"We came from Chicago," Rayford said. "Can't I put down at Heathrow?"

"Negative. Closed."

"Paris?"

"Man, you've got to get back where you came from. We left Orly an hour ago, got the word what's happening, and were told to go straight to ORD."

"What is happening?"

"If you don't know, why'd you put out the Mayday?"

"I've got a situation here I don't even want to talk about," Rayford said.

"Hey, friend, it's all over the world, you know?"

"Negative, I don't know," Rayford said. "Talk to me."

"You're missing passengers, right?"

"Roger. More than a hundred."

"Whoa! We lost nearly fifty."

"What do you make of it? What are you going to tell your passengers?"

"No clue. You?"

"The truth," Rayford said.

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"Can't hurt now. But what's the truth? What do we know?"

"Not a blessed thing."

"Good choice of words, Pan Heavy. You know what some people are saying?"

"Roger," Rayford said. "Better it's people gone to heaven than some world power doing this with fancy rays."

Why twenty people approached the altar and throne together, Raymie had no idea, until their unique story began to unfold on the panoramic screen in the theater of his mind. It was as if he had been carried to another century, living and breathing and experiencing the sights, sounds, temperatures, hopes, and fears of people from another generation.

It soon became apparent to Raymie that these twenty people included five missionary men and their families at the time the men had been martyred. He--and he knew this was true of everyone else in God's house-- followed Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Pete Fleming, Ed McCully, and Roger Youderian to the jungles of Ecuador in January of 1956 as their small plane landed on a tiny strip of land in the midst of a violent tribe, the Waodani.

They were all aware of the danger. Jim Elliot told his wife, Elisabeth, that if it was what God wanted, he was ready to die for the salvation of the Waodani.

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The initial approaches seemed favorable. The missionaries were able to coax one of the first Waodani they met into their plane, and Nate flew him over his tribespeople, who waved and smiled as he waved down at them. When they landed, the man jumped out, clapping and smiling.

But then Nate's plane was discovered on the beach, stripped of its fabric. There was no sign of anyone, neither the men nor the Waodani. When the missionaries were reported missing to the American military, the news spread quickly around the world.

After a search, the bodies of the missionaries were found in the river, speared to death. A Life magazine photographer arrived just as the last body was being buried by the overland search party, and the massacre became the most celebrated missionary story of the 1900s.

Now as the five missionaries knelt before the altar and were then welcomed to the throne, Jesus praised them and their families, who had all continued in Christian work despite their grief and loss. The outcry from around the world had given voice to some who thought the men had died in vain. Yet their deaths created the biggest influx of new missionaries the world had ever seen.

After the missionaries' deaths, members of their families had moved in among the Waodani, and the children played with the children of the men who had killed their fathers.

First one, then another of the six murderers became

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believers in Christ. "Jesus' blood has washed my heart clean," one told Rachel, Nate's sister. "My heart is healed." The other five killers soon believed.

The five missionaries had not died in vain. Countless thousands who heard their story came to faith and dedicated their lives to mission work. God's house resounded as billions celebrated the awarding of martyrs' crowns to the missionaries.

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CHAPTER THIRTY

Christopher Smith saw himself as a good 'ol boy, and that was the way he liked to portray himself to colleagues and passengers. He was no Rayford Steele; he knew that. Steele seemed to have his whole life together. Wonderful wife, beautiful family.

Chris knew people saw him in much the same way, even though he frankly didn't think his wife was much to look at, and he didn't look the part either. He was slight and some might have said weak-looking. He didn't have that great bearing that the six-foot-four and darkly handsome Steele had. Chris got his share of action though, and that was the problem. That was his ugly secret. Part of it, anyway.

He'd grown up a nerd, had never been an athlete, not even close to being popular. So he buried himself in academics, had a scientific bent, and decided the shortest

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route to the kind of income and respect he wanted was in aviation. How could Chris know that with accomplishment and a uniform would come opportunities he had only dreamed of?

He had married another academic type and at least knew enough to never tell her that he assumed her romantic prospects were as limited as his. She had never been described as cute by anyone but her parents, and Christopher couldn't imagine even they had called her that since she was about nine years old. Her name fit. Jane. Plain Jane.

What made Chris feel so bad, though, was that despite her virtual invisibility and a shrill voice that could make him cringe even after sixteen years of marriage, Jane had actually turned out to be a good friend and a good wife. She was efficient and hardworking, and she seemed to care for and about him, even though he had quit trying years ago.

He had simply wanted more than he was capable of achieving, and it didn't help to have other than a trophy wife. Chris knew he had no business even dreaming of one, but once he found that certain flight attendants and even some lonely passengers were impressed by his station and uniform, his wedding vows had flown out the window.

A girl in every port? Sure. Any who really cared for him? Only one, from what he could tell, and he had treated her as shabbily as he had Jane. Chris had given up hoping that one of the attractive ones would really take to him for more than a salve to her own loneliness

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or the occasional gift he brought from faraway destinations. Those secret liaisons left him miserable and depressed, but not enough to get him to quit. In fact, he had made a huge mistake with the only one he thought really cared. He had married her too. Under a different name. Chris was living a double life.

What should have been complicated he had found easy. His second wife thought he was an international cargo pilot, gone for days and weeks at a time.

Since his sons had become teenagers and developed minds of their own, Chris's trysts--private and shortlived and with no futures--seemed all he was really living for. The bigamy was merely for convenience, and that hadn't amounted to much.

Now as he sat stunned in the cockpit with some sort of Twilight Zone cosmic phenomenon having affected not just Steele's and his plane but also apparently all planes and every country of the world, Christopher Smith was overcome with fear and dread. Overhearing his captain discuss the possible religious aspects of all this didn't do much for him either. All that did was remind him of his sons.

Those boys had once been the joy of his life. Then in junior high school they had become troublemakers, both of them. He was constantly being called in to answer for them or to be informed of their latest mischief. On the one hand he liked that they had their own ideas, but he didn't like what was happening to their grades and their reputations. His reputation.

But what had happened with them lately was worse.

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They had found religion. One of their friends invited them to some sort of church activity, and while they got into trouble there too, they all of a sudden decided they wanted to go to summer camp the year before with that same bunch. That was all right with Chris and Jane, even though it cost them a little money. Maybe the kids would learn something. Maybe they wouldn't. But at least they would be out from underfoot for a couple of weeks.

Well, the worst happened. They came back Holy Rollers. There was no other way to put it. Now they were churchgoers, and not only that, they thought everybody else in the world--Chris and Jane included-- ought to go too. But Chris knew better. Thankfully, so did his wife. They'd both had enough religion as kids, and the best they could hope for was that the boys would grow out of this.

But they didn't. It had been nine months now, and the boys were worse than ever. Carried their Bibles to public school, no less. Became known as church kids. Their grades perked back up. That was all right. But the cost.

Oh, my, Chris thought, the terrible cost. Now he was the Pan-Con first officer with a long, boring marriage, a plain wife, two Christian-kook kids, and a guilt-inducing private life that included another wife. Why did it make him feel so bad when he didn't claim any moral authority? He couldn't say. He just knew that what he was doing on the side was something Jane--for whatever her shortcomings and weaknesses--would never do to him and didn't deserve having done to her.

Strange, Christopher barely thought of wife number

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two in this moment of crisis, but he found himself frantic to know how his real family was. The boys were supposed to be at some church thing tonight, and Jane was to pick them up when it was over. If these vanishings really happened at the same time all over the world, they could very well have been right out in the middle of it at the time.

As a woman knelt before the altar of fire, Jesus stood and began to narrate scenes from her life depicted in Irene's mind. She noticed that Raymie looked just as fascinated as she.

First Irene watched as the woman, clearly from the first century, buried her husband. Then she moved from a comfortable home into a small room at the back of a hovel shared with two other families who seemed to ignore her. Irene watched her visit the Temple in Jerusalem and pray.

The woman ate from gleanings of the fields she passed on her way to sweep out the home of a rich family in an area where she had once lived. Often she stopped to pray. At the end of each week the house owner pressed into her palm a single coin.

Now she was visiting the Temple again, standing in line behind wealthy people making a show of dumping huge amounts of money into the coffers. In the background Irene could see Jesus sitting opposite the treasury.

As the woman's works were tested in the fire and

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resulted in precious metals and stones, Jesus said, "And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites--the least valuable Roman coins, two of which make a farthing. I called My disciples to Myself and said, 'Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.""

Chris Smith hadn't talked--really talked--to his boys for years. Oh, they'd had shouting matches, threats, reprimands, punishments. There had been a full complement of cold shoulders, slammed doors, epithets, and ultimatums. But in the end, just before the boys had found that old-time religion, Chris had given up. He'd been no prize as a teenager either, and look how he turned out. Yeah, just look.

Did he want them to turn out as he had? A dishonest, cheating weasel? A bigamist? All Chris knew was that no matter what he did or said, he was no example to them and they were going to do what they were going to do, regardless.

But he was curious. Could this, whatever it was, be a religious thing? a God thing? And if so, what did it mean? Would the boys know? They really seemed into church, and they were smart, but had they learned enough to know about stuff like what had happened

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now? Chris felt an urgent need to talk with them, to see what they made of it all.

He also began having a crisis of conscience. Little from the real world had ever affected him to any significant extent. To Chris, news was news, something that happened to everybody else. But now he was the number-two man in a jumbo jet with a third of her passengers gone. This wasn't going to be something he could watch on TV and gas about with his poker buddies.

Worse, as the 747 made the huge turnaround and he set the coordinates to get them to ORD by early morning Central time, Rayford asked him to start twisting the dials to see if he could dredge up some news signal from anywhere. They were in one of the worst spots in the world for that, but it wouldn't be long before they would come within range of Greenland and Canada and even the eastern seaboard of the U.S. If it was true that this was some kind of global phenomenon, Chris couldn't imagine what the news would sound like.

New emotions began to roll over him as he played with the dials. Captain Steele seemed preoccupied and wasn't checking in with him for a progress report, apparently assuming that as soon as Christopher found something, he'd let Rayford know. But as Chris encountered solid static for several minutes, he couldn't keep his mind from going where he really hadn't wanted it to go. What was it about a natural disaster that seemed to focus one's inner eye squarely on one's self?

Except for knowing that his private liaisons--and of course the other marriage--were not things he ever

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wanted Jane to know about--and especially not the boys--Christopher had rarely had a problem keeping his conscience at bay. There was much in his life he wouldn't be proud to have made public, so he just rarely thought about it.

That wasn't working now. It was as if a black cloud was descending on Chris Smith, and he couldn't get out from under it. What kind of person, what kind of man, was he? For whatever shortcomings his wife had, Jane was a good person, surely more than he deserved. She could even be sweet. And she was a servant.

Guilt. That was what Chris was feeling. In one sense he was grateful that he had always been careful and that she had no clue what he did on the road. That was big of him, wasn't it? To consider her feelings? That's what he had always told himself. He deserved these secret pleasures, but he was considerate enough not to hurt or embarrass his wife. Hadn't that been his motive?

Of course it hadn't, and he had known that all along. He had been covering for himself, but now this crazy worldwide-vanishing business was making him focus, keeping him from hiding behind his usual blather. He was feeling like the scoundrel he was.

Chris shook his head and tried to block these thoughts and feelings by busying himself even more with his task. But it wasn't rocket science. He was spinning dials hoping to lock onto some signal strong enough to bring the news into the cockpit. He could have done that in his sleep, and what a relief that would be.

He had to admit that this was becoming a personal

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crisis. Chris found himself desperately wanting to talk with his wife, yet he knew that it would take an awful lot longer to come within range of air-to-ground telephoning than it would to finally pick up some scratchy radio-news report.

Christopher was actually shaking and wondered if it showed. What would he do if something had happened to Jane? And the boys? While they had become a nuisance and an embarrassment, he was suddenly overcome with the reality that they were his flesh, his life, his heart. What was this? Love? Was he loving his family, or was he just afraid for them... or for himself?

The longer the plane droned on, the deeper Chris felt himself burrowing into a dark hole of despair.

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CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE

Irene and Raymie sat fingering their crowns and--Irene knew--thinking the same thing without speaking. It was so joyous to be in the presence of Jesus, the lover of their souls. But just as Pastor Billings had predicted so many times in so many sermons on so many Sundays over so many months, there was something unique not only about their new, glorified bodies but also about the way their new, glorified minds worked.

As wonderful as it had been to hear "Well done" from the only perfect man to have ever lived and to be welcomed into God's house and to receive crowns of reward, none of that hit them as some cheap imitation as it might have on Earth. Irene had attended countless meetings where people were thanked and lauded and presented with plaques, trophies, cups, framed certificates, and the like for any bit of service they had rendered or accomplishment they might have achieved.

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But to be holding in one's own hands a reward for your works in service of Christ would have been beyond comprehension and expression on Earth. This gold-and-silver amalgam was unlike anything Irene had ever seen. And the jewels embedded in it were so exquisite and dazzling that even her new eyes had to adjust to light reflected not from the sun or artificial sources but from God Himself.

As she sat there, somehow able to cherish and admire the headpiece while missing nothing of the hundreds of thousands of judgments and rewards as people filed past the altar and the throne, Irene came to realize what her pastor had been driving at all that time.

As thrilled as she was to be here and to feel the personal attention from the One loved and admired and exalted by all of creation, she had no more interest in her crown than she did in leaving this place. As beautiful and meaningful as it was, representing her life in Christ, she simply did not want it and could not keep it. Raymie was experiencing the same emotion; she could tell. They glanced at each other and shrugged.

This jewelry had one purpose only, and that was to be returned to the Giver, bestowed, laid at the feet of Jesus. In Raymie's eyes Irene saw that he was getting the same impression she was, that the 20 billion or so other saints in God's house had come to the same conclusion. And above the din of constant praise to the Lamb who had been slain for the sins of the world and the bursts of celebration by the angelic choir every time someone on Earth was welcomed into the Kingdom, there seemed a palpable

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hum, a buzz of excitement and anticipation. For at some point, Irene realized, everyone there was going to cast their crowns at Jesus' feet.

"Mom," Raymie said, "we don't even have to discuss things here, do we?"

She shook her head.

"I mean, at first it seemed like we were on the same wavelength and I could communicate with you without words, but I wondered whether it was true, whether we were thinking about the same thing at the same time. But I don't wonder anymore. I just know."

"Me too," Irene said.

"How much fun is this? What am I thinking right now?"

Irene felt like smiling, only to realize that her grin couldn't get any bigger anyway. She had been in a constant state of euphoria since she had arrived, and somehow it invigorated her, didn't exhaust her. She wanted it to never end, and she knew it would not. "You're wondering how much we can do all at the same time."

"Right."

"You want to study the crown, witness the judgments, talk with your heroes--old and new--sing with the choir, praise Jesus, talk with me, communicate silently with me, and--above all--you want to tour the rest of this place."

"I do. But I'm a little hesitant to ask. What is that? I should know by now that God knows what I want before I say it, even before I am aware of it myself. Why do I wonder if I'm bothering Him or if something is too much to ask?"

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Irene shrugged. "We have new minds and bodies, but we have memories. Maybe in a million or so years we'll be completely free of our humanness."

Raymie laughed. "We already are."

"I know."

Christopher Smith was frantic by the time he finally realized the Pan-Continental 747 was within satellite communication range of the United States. For some reason the usual connections with Greenland and Canada had produced no results. He couldn't make that compute. Had something happened in the atmosphere to interrupt the signals? Radio and TV signals couldn't be jammed from overloading.

A superstation out of New Jersey reached his headphones, faint and staticky and in and out at first. Finally Christopher was able to catch every word if he pressed the earphones tight, shut his eyes, and concentrated. He would let Rayford know as soon as the signal was listenable without such work. The captain clearly had enough on his mind.

Chris's neck and shoulders tightened and cramped as he concentrated, but suddenly, as if they had passed some invisible barrier, the signal came through strong and clear. He flipped a switch that allowed him to communicate directly to Rayford's headphones. "Patching you through to Jersey Shore All-News Radio, Cap."

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"Roger, thanks. Keep us on course."

That was Rayford's way of saying he would listen to the radio while Chris did the work for a while. Fat chance. Chris was as curious as the boss was, and the plane was on autopilot. Chris knew how to appear as if he were concentrating on the controls while leaving the radio frequency open to his own headset.

Once the controls were set Chris stared out the window at the strange colors in the sky. Here they were heading back toward the States at an unusual time of day, working with various towers to stay on course and at the right altitude as thousands of planes sought landing strips all over the world. How different, he thought, to have the rising sun at our backs.

The impact of the global tragedy was transmitted directly into Chris's ears. Depressed, terrified, despairing--that had been one thing. Now thoughts of suicide began to invade, and he knew if he didn't talk to his loved ones soon, he might go mad. Loved ones. When was the last time he had referred to Jane and the boys as his loved ones? His women had been his loved ones, but he knew he had never loved one of them. Not even his other wife. Not even Hattie, the young senior attendant on this very flight. Of course, she had not given him the time of day since a one-night stand they had enjoyed in Spain several months before. He'd had no illusions about that. Half the time even then she had peppered him with questions about Rayford. As if she would have a chance with a dyed-in-the-wool family man like Steele.

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"Yes," God told Raymie Steele, "you can do anything and everything you wish simultaneously."

"Without missing anything?" Raymie said.

God did not answer that, which was okay with Raymie, as he knew the answer as soon as he had blurted the question. And in the next instant he was in his mansion. When first he had heard this business about a "mansion over the hilltop" in heaven, Raymie hadn't known what to make of it. He knew what a mansion was. It was a home much bigger than the comfortable suburban house his father had provided. He had seen incredible houses on TV shows. Maybe it would be something like those.

On the other hand, Pastor Billings had hammered home the point that Jesus had left the earth two thousand years before "to prepare a place for you," so it would have to be something more spectacular even than the earth itself, which was created in six days.

The first surprise to Raymie was that his name was on the door. He had been expected. And inside his seventy-five-cubic-acre estate was a stunning reproduction of Earth, a gigantic sphere suspended before him like a school globe come to life in full color, so bright and glittering that he was irresistibly drawn to it.

There was no chair, no table, no bed--none of the necessities of earthly life. Raymie simply wouldn't need anything like that. The question was, what did he need with this replica of Earth, big enough for him to walk around on and in it? He learned that as soon as he stepped aboard. It proved merely a trigger to his mind.

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Regardless of where he stepped, artifacts from various periods of history appeared, and by merely looking at them or touching them, he was instantly conveyed to that time and place and could watch as history repeated itself.

Why not start from the beginning? he thought, and he moved toward the Fertile Crescent and found himself in the Garden of Eden. A gleaming piece of fruit caught his eye, and there he was, watching as Eve conversed with the serpent and took the fateful bite. The snake hissed in glee, Eve's countenance fell, and Adam soon joined her.

It had all been true, the biblical record, and Raymie could immerse himself in every incident and see as it played out. He leaped from there to Mount Ararat and saw Noah's ark bobbing on forty days and nights' worth of water. He would get back to this, for there was a pile of bricks and mortar and thousands of men milling about and working, building... what? The tower of Babel.

Raymie had all of eternity to watch and listen and experience everything that had ever happened. He experimented with speeding ahead in time and saw the assassinations of Julius Caesar and then Abraham Lincoln. And how about that time his friends had all sworn he was out at second base, when he just knew they were wrong? He touched the base and watched the play, bursting with laughter when his friends were proved right.

All the time Raymie was experimenting, hopping from here to there and from this age to that, he was also enjoying the judgment of the works of the saints from the ground floor of God's house. What could be better

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than this? In due time he would return and witness the death of Jesus on the cross and then the triumphant Resurrection.

When the captain had come back on the intercom with the information about returning to the United States, Buck Williams was surprised to hear applause throughout the cabin. Shocked and terrified as everyone was, he assumed most were from the States and wanted at least to return to familiarity.

Buck nudged the businessman on his right. "I'm sorry, friend, but you're going to want to be awake for this."

The man peered at Buck with a disgusted look and slurred, "If we're not crashin', don't bother me."

Irene soon realized that with all she had seen in what supposedly was just minutes on Earth, those "first" on Earth who were to be "last" here had finally begun. It seemed that many of the heroes of the Bible, despite all they had been through and all they had accomplished, were considered first because they had been made known to generations through the Bible.

Irene was fascinated by the stories of many of the disciples, some of whom approached the altar from their positions among the twenty-four elders before the throne. Matthew, the tax collector, of course had none

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of his conniving and scheming held against him, as all that predated his experience with Jesus and his calling as one of the Twelve. Mark and Luke were lauded for their writing and their various ministries, as well as Stephen, the first martyr; the great women of the New Testament; and hundreds of others Irene had heard and read about.

As the line grew shorter and shorter, Irene saw three more rise from the twenty-four elders, plus one more woman and two more men. She had been keeping track mentally of the Bible greats she had seen here and the ones she knew were yet to come. She was pretty sure she knew who these last six were, and she could hardly wait to find out if she was right.

Christopher Smith felt as alone as he had ever been in his life. As he sat listening to the Jersey radio outlet he learned that communication lines were jammed all over the world, so the disappearances affected people from every continent. Medical, technical, and service people were among the missing. Every civil service and emergency agency was on full red-alert status, trying to keep up with the unending chaos. Chris had seen coverage of natural disasters and terrorist attacks and mass-transit crashes that saw hospital, fire, and police personnel called in from miles around. He could only imagine that multiplied tens of thousands of times.

Even the newscasters' voices were terror filled, as much as they seemed to be trying to cover it. Every

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conceivable explanation was proffered, but overshadowing all such discussion and even coverage of the carnage were the practical aspects. What people wanted from the news was simple information on how to get where they were going and how to determine whether their loved ones were still around and to contact them if they could.

Chris had to flip off the news and reconnect with a tower when they were instructed to get into a multistate traffic pattern that would allow them to land at O'Hare at a precise moment, now just hours hence. Only two runways were open, and every large plane in the country seemed headed that way.

Thousands were dead in plane crashes and car pileups. Emergency crews were trying to clear expressways and runways, all the while grieving over their own family members and coworkers who had disappeared. One report said that so many cabbies had disappeared from the cab corral at O'Hare that volunteers were being brought in to move the cars that had been left running with the former drivers' clothes still on the seats.

Cars driven by people who spontaneously disappeared had careened out of control, of course. The toughest chore for emergency personnel was to determine who had disappeared, who had been killed, and who was injured, then communicate that to the survivors.

"Cap," Chris said, "I hate to ask, but do you think we could get somebody in the Chicago tower to try to connect me--us--to our home phones?"

Rayford shrugged. "Worth a try." So he asked.

He was laughed off.

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CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO

With only half a dozen saints to go and Raymie glorying in what he had found in his personal living space, Irene watched and listened as a tall dark man slowly approached the altar and fell to his knees.

His works were tested and polished by the fire, then formed into a beautiful Crown of Life, which Jesus gave to him following an embrace and a "well done."

"Just as the virgin was chosen," Jesus said, "so were you, My earthly father. This reflects your perseverance through many trials for My sake."

"But at first I was angry," Joseph said. "Frustrated, confused. I did not respond as one chosen."

"As soon as you knew the truth, you gave of yourself for Me and My mother and treated Me as if I were your own."

"It always felt to me as if You were."

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Irene enjoyed peeking in on Joseph's life and eavesdropping on his conversations with Mary, with the angel, and with Jesus at various ages. She couldn't wait to test the features in her mansion and physically enter the world at any place and era she wished.

For the first time in his life, Christopher Smith understood what it meant to be beside oneself. His private agony was so acute that it was as if he had left the very presence of his body and could see himself from afar. There he sat in his usual spot behind the cockpit controls he knew so well. And yet his soul wrestled within.

He made himself sick. Something about this horrible universal incident had forced him to shine a spotlight on his character, and he could not hide from himself. His life was a waste. He was worthless. And he was desperate to connect with his real wife, his boys.

Why? Why now after all these years? What could Jane do? What did the boys have to offer, other than some theological treatise they had learned at church or mumbo-jumbo camp? And even if they could tell him this was indeed somehow connected with God, what would that do for him? It was too late to become one of "those." He had traveled his own road much too long and much too far. God could never forgive what he had done, could not really change who he was.

It wasn't answers Chris sought from his wife and kids. It was some remedy for this enormous loneliness. Why

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did he feel so isolated? Had he done this to himself? Of course he had. He had made Jane in particular an emotional hostage, and he might as well have abandoned his sons. They had offered little protest, apparently not needing him. And that was okay. That helped assuage any guilt. Maybe his presence and support--being the sorry excuse for a man he knew himself to be--should not be missed.

But now. Now. He needed theml How might they respond to such a cry of want? He knew them. They were good people at heart. Even with what he had become, they would rally round him, be there for him despite the fact that he had been so detached from their lives for so long.

Chris didn't know what he would do if he could not somehow reach them soon.

"I am most unworthy," the man said who now knelt before the altar of flame.

"You were a doubter, Thomas," Jesus said. "But I forgave you of that, and once you were convinced, you became most energetic and devout. See how you atoned for your disbelief! Your works have tested favorably. The stones will make a beautiful Crown of Righteousness. You were one who wanted to know where I was going, so you could be here with Me."

"And here I am!" Thomas said.

"And here you are."

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Funny how a terrifying disaster changes a man's perspective, Rayford thought. Any thoughts, hopes, or desires for Hattie Durham now struck him as the most ludicrous ideas he had ever had. If she had thrown herself at him right then, he'd have cast her aside. Cold? Yes. Mean? That too. Rayford had, after all, been encouraging her for weeks. But what in the world had he been thinking?

All he wanted now was to reunite with Irene and Chloe and Raymie. But deep in his gut he feared the worst: that Chloe and he would be the only half of his family left.

Rayford had told Hattie that he didn't know what was happening any more than she did. But the terrifying truth was that he knew all too well. Irene had been right. He and Chloe and most of his passengers had been left behind.

Thirteen-year-old Lionel Washington was proud of his mother, but for reasons other than that she seemed wise in the areas of forgiveness and acceptance. The truth was, with her job as Chicago bureau chief of Global Weekly magazine, she was the star of the family. Not just Lionel's family, but the whole Washington clan. They traced their roots to the freedom riders on the Underground Railroad during the days of slavery, and many of his ancestors had been active in the civil rights movement, fighting for equal opportunities

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among the races. His mother was one who had proved that a person--regardless of her color or the housing project she had grown up in--could achieve and make something of herself if she really committed herself to it.

Lucinda Washington told Lionel that she had been born and raised in a Cleveland ghetto, but "I loved to study. And that was my way out of the projects." She said she fell in love with reporting and writing. She had graduated from journalism school and worked her way up finally to Global Weekly.

She made good money, even more than her husband, Charles, who was a heavy-equipment operator. He was as proud of her as anyone, and secretly Lionel was proud of her too.

But Lionel had another secret, and it caused him no end of anxiety. Lionel knew something no one else in the family even suspected. He was not really a Christian, even though the whole family history revolved around church. Family legend said his mother had taken him to church when he was less than a week old.

Actually, he liked church a lot. Church was what the Washington family was all about, but Lionel knew it went deeper than that. His mother not only loved church; she also truly loved God. And Jesus. And the Holy Spirit.

Lionel admitted to his mother's younger brother, his uncle Andre, that he had never really become a Christian. Andre was the criminal of the family. Lionel told him, "Everybody thinks you're a Christian who has bad

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spells once in a while. They think I might become a preacher or a missionary someday."

"You ought to talk with your mother about this," Uncle Andre said. "I'd rather see you grow up like her than like me."

"I can't. It'd kill her. She thinks I'm one of the best young Christians she knows. Hey, Uncle Andre, aren't you afraid it might all be true and we might end up in hell?"

Andre threw back his head and cackled that crazy laugh of his. "Now that I do not believe. I may have once, but I've outgrown that. Some of these stories and legends about what's going to happen at the end of the world--I don't know where the preachers get them. I can't imagine they're in the Bible."

The evening before, the last time Lionel had seen his mother, she had pulled him close and said, "Isn't the Lord wonderful? Don't we have a good God? Hmm? Aren't you glad to serve a God who loves you so much?"

"Um-hmm," Lionel said. "Sure, Mama. "Course I am."

He felt terrible. Like a hypocrite. Like the liar he was.

There was no clock in the basement of the Washington home, where Lionel slept. The next morning it seemed too bright, too late, when he awoke. He didn't feel like moving. He merely opened his eyes, squinted at the sun rays that had somehow found their way through the tiny windows, and watched the dust dance in the columns of light.

When the phone rang upstairs and Lionel heard no footsteps, he groaned and whipped off the blankets,

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marching up to answer it. It must have been really early for his mother to not be up yet. And his dad usually made some racket heading out. Lionel noticed that his dad's truck was still parked in front of the garage, where his mother's car was kept. Both still sleeping? Strange.

The call was from Global Weekly, asking after his mother. Lionel was stunned to see that it was the middle of the morning. He could be the hero, the one who roused everyone so they wouldn't be even later for work.

Lionel went from the kitchen through the dining room toward the stairs that led to the upstairs bedrooms. He noticed something in his peripheral vision. On his dad's easy chair lay his oversize terry-cloth robe. Lionel stopped and stared. He had never known his father to take his robe off outside the bedroom. Mr. Washington considered it impolite to walk around in public in just his pajamas, even referring to his own family as the public.

Maybe he had been warm and shed his robe while half asleep, not thinking. But that wasn't like him. He had always taken great pride in not being "one of those husbands whose wife always has to trail him, picking up after him."

Lionel's father's slippers sat on the floor in front of the chair. The robe lay neatly, arms draped on the sides of the chair almost as if Dad's elbows still rested there. When Lionel saw the pajama legs extending from the bottom of the robe and hanging just above the slippers, it was obvious that his father had disappeared right out of his pajamas and robe.

It was as if life had switched to slow motion. Lionel

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was not aware of his body as he carefully advanced, holding his breath and feeling only the pounding of his heart. The harsh sunlight shone on the robe and picked up sparkling glints of something where Dad's lap should have been.

Lionel knelt and stared at his father's tiny contact lenses, his wristwatch, his wedding ring, his dental fillings, and his hearing aid. Lionel's hands shook as he forced himself to exhale before he exploded. He felt his lips quiver and was aware of screams he could not let out. He crept forward on his knees and opened the robe to find his dad's pajamas still buttoned all the way up. Lionel recoiled and sat back, his feet under him. He lowered his face to between his knees and sobbed. If this was what he feared it was, he knew what he would find upstairs.

He ran to the stairs and bounded up two at a time. The master bedroom was more than he could bear. His parents' bed was still made, his mother's nightclothes draped on one side, where it was obvious she had been kneeling in prayer. How Lionel wished he had been taken to heaven with his family and that he had been found reading his Bible or praying when Jesus came.

Only for an instant had Lionel wondered if he was dreaming. He knew better. This was real; this was the truth. All doubt and question had disappeared. His family had been raptured as his church, his pastor, and his parents had taught.

And he had been left behind.

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CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE

Everybody in God's house knew who the young woman who now approached the altar was, and all, including Jesus Himself, rose to cheer and applaud her. As she knelt facedown before the flame, the praise continued as her works were tried by fire.

Irene found it amusing that she felt a kinship with Mary, simply because she also was a woman. There, she decided, any similarity ended. Well, Irene had had children, as Mary had. And she had been married. But clearly Mary had been a young person of such character that God chose her for the greatest responsibility a woman could sustain. Irene was eager to enter that first-century world and get to know Mary as a child and then the young woman so chosen.

As Irene watched, the young Mary was startled to see the angel Gabriel appear to her. Abject terror marred her

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face, but Gabriel said, "Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!"

Mary was speechless, pale, and trembling.

Gabriel said, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end."

Mary said, "How can this be, since I do not know a man?"

Gabriel said, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. For with God nothing will be impossible."

Mary said, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word."

Now, as Mary rose from the altar and approached the throne, Jesus presented her the crowns of Life and Righteousness, embracing her and saying, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

Mary said, "My son has become my Father. My soul magnifies You, O Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. For He regarded the lowly state of His maidservant, and all generations have since called me blessed. He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name. His mercy fell on those who feared Him from

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generation to generation. He showed strength with His arm; He scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted the lowly."

By the time the plane began its descent into Chicago, Buck Williams noticed that the senior flight attendant looked dangerously shaky. He beckoned her and reached for her wrist, looking again at her name tag. "Hattie, we're all going to go home and cry today. But hang in there. Get your passengers off the plane, and you can at least feel good about that."

His words didn't help. She began to sob. "You know we lost several old people but not all of them. And we lost several middle-aged people but not all of them. And we lost several people your age and my age but not all of them. We even lost some teenagers."

Buck stared at her. What was she driving at?

"Sir, we lost every child and baby on this plane."

"How many were there?"

"More than a dozen. But all of them! Not one was left."

The man next to Buck finally roused and squinted at the early morning sun burning through the window. "What in blazes are you two talking about?"

"We're about to land in Chicago," Hattie said. "I've got to run."

"Chicago?" ~

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"You don't want to know," Buck said.

The man nearly sat in Buck's lap to get a look out the window, his boozy breath enveloping Buck. "What, are we at war? Riots? What?"

Smoke. Fire. Cars off the road and smashed into each other and guardrails. Planes in pieces on the ground. Emergency vehicles, lights flashing, picking their way around the debris.

As O'Hare came into view, it was clear no one was going anywhere soon. There were planes as far as the eye could see, some crashed and burning, the others gridlocked in line. People trudged through the grass and between vehicles toward the terminal. The expressways that led to the airport looked like they had during the great Chicago blizzards, only without the snow.

Cranes and wreckers were trying to clear a path through the front of the terminal so cars could get in and out, but that would take hours, if not days. A snake of humanity wended its way slowly out of the terminal buildings, between the motionless cars, and onto the ramps. People walking, walking, walking, looking for a cab or a limo.

Raymie Steele was pretty sure he knew who the next man to be judged was, and his suspicion was immediately proved right as a rugged young man fell weeping before the altar. His works shone brightly in the flame, and there was certainly no wood, hay, or stubble. He had

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not been a perfect man, and he had failed the Lord more than once, but he had been forgiven his sins and had served God faithfully to the day of his death.

When beckoned to the throne for his crowns and his "well done," Peter hesitated and asked Jesus' forgiveness "for denying You thrice on Your way to the cross."

"My friend, you were forgiven the first time you repented, and it was never remembered again--except by you when you confessed it again and again. I commend you for your faithfulness in leading My early church, for your passionate preaching on what has become known as the Day of Pentecost, and for being the first to communicate My truth to the Jews in Jerusalem. And I praise you for your willingness to preach to the Gentiles, opening the door of faith and salvation to millions.

"You never again denied Me following My resurrection and return to heaven. And when you were martyred for My cause, you chose to be hung upside down, considering yourself unworthy to die in the manner in which I did. I welcome you to the eternal joy of My Father and present to you the crowns of Life, Glory, Righteousness, and Rejoicing."

Jesus placed one of the crowns on Peter's head, and Peter turned to face the masses with the other three in his hands. Raymie thought he looked embarrassed to be holding them.

Raymie and his mother leaped to their feet with the rest of the endless throng, cheering and clapping as Peter turned and praised Jesus. And as they watched, Peter removed the crown from his head and, putting it with

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his other three, knelt and placed them at the feet of his Savior.

Thus began a parade of saints doing the same, one after the other in crowds so huge one couldn't tell where they began and ended. And when the crowns piled so high that they nearly blotted out the view of Jesus, they melted away and became part of the glassy sea and the gold-paved streets.

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CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR

Christopher Smith had his cell phone plastered to his ear as he helped the rest of the crew get everyone off the plane, directing them to slide down plastic chutes. A few buses arrived for the infirm, but almost all the passengers walked.

Chris was unable to reach Jane or the boys, so he called everywhere he could think of. Finally he reached his local police department and a desk sergeant so harried that Chris was surprised the man would talk to him at all.

"Your wife was involved in a TA, yes."

"ATA?"

"Traffic accident--sorry."

"And is she all right? Where is she?"

"I am not at liberty to discuss this by phone, sir."

"What are you talking about? I need to know if she's

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all right and, if not, what hospital she's in. And my sons. Had she picked them up? Were they in the car yet? We both know you know. Now tell me."

"You are to call a Mr. Ira Smith. You know him?"

" "Course I know him. He's my uncle. Why do I need to call him?"

"He can tell you what you need to know."

Chris was dialing his uncle as he and Rayford and Hattie disembarked. The driver of the last bus insisted that the crew ride with him.

Rayford refused. "I can't see passing my own passengers as they walk to the terminal. How would that look?"

Christopher said, "Suit yourself, Cap. You mind if I take him up on his offer?"

Rayford glared at him. "You're serious?"

"I don't get paid enough for this."

"Like this was the airline's fault. Chris, you don't mean it."

"The heck I don't. By the time you get up there you'll wish you'd ridden too."

"I should write you up for this."

"Millions of people disappear into thin air and I should worry about getting written up for riding instead of walking? Later, Steele."

Only two men remained. When Jesus stood and said, "John," the masses erupted. The disciple Jesus loved

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knelt at the altar, and his works also showed no waste-- no hay, wood, or stubble. He was awarded all but the martyr's crown, as he was the only one of the faithful disciples who had not been put to death for his faith.

Jesus and John embraced like the old friends they were, and Jesus said, "I commend you for never denying My name before men, for writing your Gospel and the three letters that bear your name. Also for faithfully recording My revelation, chronicling the vision I bestowed upon you. You were a witness for many years as shepherd of many flocks, primarily the church at Ephesus, where you also tutored and mentored so many of those who carried on the work after the deaths of the apostles.

"Thank you for taking care of My earthly mother. Well done, good and faithful servant. Because you have been loyal and trustworthy and dependable in so many things, I will therefore make you ruler over many cities. Welcome into the joy of the Lord forever."

"Chris, you need to get home," Uncle Ira said. "I'll be waiting for you there."

"No, you don't! Tell me right now what's happened to my family!"

"I really need to do this in person. I'm not going to try to get into everything over the phone."

"Yes, you are! Now I mean it, Ira! I'll be hours getting out of here and into the suburbs. Don't make me wait that long. They're dead, aren't they? They were all killed."

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"Not exactly."

"What does that mean? If they're there, let me talk to them!"

"If you have to know and won't take no for an answer, I'm sorry to tell you that, yes, Jane is gone."

"What happened?"

"She was on her way to pick up the boys, and a tractor trailer hit her head-on. The driver was one of those who disappeared right out of his clothes."

"No! But the boys weren't with her?"

"No, but, Chris, they're gone too."

"Oh no! No! How did they die?"

"Their wallets were found at the church in the parking lot, along with the clothes and personal effects of several dozen other kids and staff from the church. I guess they were out there waiting for their rides when this happened."

Chris was mentally reaching for anything that would keep him from going over the edge. "Then they'll find them. The boys will be back. The boys aren't dead."

"Nobody knows where these people are, Chris," Ira said. "There wasn't one person left at the church. The truth is nobody knows if we'll see these people again."

"Don't say that!"

"You wanted the truth. Now, I'm sorry, but there's both barrels. You come straight home as soon as you can now, hear? Your aunt is putting together a meal for you."

"Tell her not to bother."

"She's already bothered. We can only imagine how awful this is for you. Get here so we can take care of you."

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"Yeah," Chris said, letting his phone flap shut. Take care of him? Unless they could bring back Jane and the boys, there would be no taking care of Christopher Smith. That everybody at the church had disappeared told him everything he needed to know. God was behind this. His boys had somehow qualified, and he and Jane hadn't. In some absurd way, that made sense.

He deserved this.

But he couldn't imagine life without them. He wouldn't even consider it. Christopher Smith was not about to go home to an empty house, to be the object of concern and pity by his elderly relatives. As soon as he could find a private place and the means, he was going to make sure he didn't spend more than ten more minutes on this godforsaken planet.

"Paul."

There was a reason the apostle who had never personally met Jesus had been saved for last. He was the most well-known person in the New Testament besides Jesus Himself. And he had so profoundly articulated the faith in deep theological treatises that millions through the ages had come to understand and believe the gospel.

What a story, Raymie thought. A scholar who had been so opposed to the Christian message that he had actually killed Christians had become the writer of so much of the New Testament.

Paul seemed eager to meet Jesus, even as he knelt

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before the flame that left a precious residue of only gems and gold and silver. And when he approached the throne, he dropped to his knees, begging forgiveness for having originally been a persecutor of the church.

"Your sins," Jesus said, lifting him and embracing him, "have been removed as far as the east is from the west. You came to believe in Me so completely that you offered every fiber of your being in service to Me. Yours was the ultimate expression of a lifetime of worship. I award you all four crowns of reward, good and faithful servant. Thank you for being the first to take My gospel to Europe, which became the gateway to the rest of the world."

Facing Jesus, with his back to the crowd, Paul was still able to be heard. "I thank You for Your sacrifice, which provided eternal life to all who believed in Your name, for Your finished work on the cross, for Your resurrection. And thank You for sending Your Holy Spirit to be our Comforter, who guided and strengthened us through all our trials and sufferings. I will praise Your name forever."

And with that, Paul too laid his crowns at the feet of Jesus.

Rayford Steele feared he had a better idea than most of what had happened. If he was right, if it was true, it explained why he was not getting an answer when he dialed home. Most shocking, as he stood in the terminal,

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was watching a TV monitor above him broadcast images of the chaos. From around the globe came wailing mothers, stoic families, reports of death and destruction. Dozens of stories included eyewitnesses who had seen loved ones and friends disappear before their eyes.

A woman in labor, about to go into the delivery room, was suddenly barren. Doctors delivered the placenta. Her husband had caught the disappearance of the fetus on tape. There was a scream, 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.

Local television stations from around the world reported bizarre occurrences, especially in the time zones where the event had happened during the day or early evening. CNN showed via satellite the footage of a groom disappearing while slipping the ring onto his bride's finger. A funeral home in Australia reported that nearly every mourner had disappeared from one memorial service, including the corpse, while at another service at the same time, only a few disappeared and the corpse remained.

Unable to reach more than the answering machine at home, Rayford finally caught a helicopter to the landing pad at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights. He was about five miles from home, and he bet he could hitch a ride easier than finding a cab. As he trudged along, his trench coat over his arm and his bag in his hand, he had an empty, despairing feeling.

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A woman of about forty stopped for Rayford on Algonquin Road. As he got in and thanked her, he said, "Have you lost people?"

"Traid so," she said, her voice quavery. "About a dozen nieces and nephews."

As she drove, sniffling, into Mt. Prospect, Rayford felt fatigue he had never endured before. "Can I offer you anything?" he said as she pulled into his driveway.

She shook her head. "You could pray for me, if you think of it."

"I'm not much for praying," he said.

"You will be, sir. I never was before either, but I am now."

Rayford stood in the driveway and waved at the woman until she was out of sight. The yard and the walk were spotless as usual, and the huge home, his trophy house, was sepulchral. He unlocked the front door. From the closed drapes in the picture window to the bitter smell of burned coffee when he opened the door, everything pointed to what he dreaded.

Buck Williams checked the phone log in his laptop and dialed.

A teenage boy answered, "Washingtons." "Cameron Williams of Global Weekly calling for

Lucinda."

"My mom's not here. I'm the only one left. Mama,

Daddy, everybody else is gone. Disappeared."

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"Oh, man! I'm sorry, son."

"That's all right. I know where they are, and I can't even say I'm surprised."

"You know where they are?"

"If you know my mama, you know where she is too. She's in heaven."

Lucinda and Charles Washington, filled to overflowing with what they had already witnessed in the short time they'd been in glory, knew what was coming next. Seven Earth years after the signing of a covenant between the Antichrist and Israel, Jesus would return for His glorious appearing and establish a thousand-year reign of peace.

But just before that would come the marriage of the Lamb with His bride, the church.

Lucinda looked into the eyes of her husband and thought his thoughts. Time clearly meant nothing here. That wedding might seem eons away, yet it could happen within the next few moments. She couldn't wait. Best of all was that when the time came and Jesus rode His white stallion in triumph to the Battle of Armageddon, the saints in heaven would descend with Him and constitute His avenging army. She and her husband would be part of that. Imagine.

Like everyone else in the great assembly hall on the first floor of the house of God, Lucinda Washington was finding heaven way more than she had ever dreamed.

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AUTHOR'S NOTE

The second coming of Jesus Christ is the most frequently mentioned subject in the Bible, other than the doctrine of salvation, what the Bible is all about. The Second Coming is clearly taught in both the Old and the New Testaments. It was promised 321 times in Scripture, predicted by Jesus Christ Himself, by all the writers of the New Testament and by many of the Old Testament prophets. It is the capstone of all Christianity, without which God's merciful plan for mankind's future cannot be understood.

The Second Coming is easily the most fascinating event predicted anywhere and is the only message that gives hope to the chaotic world in which we live. Jerry Jenkins and I have often been asked why the Left Behind books comprise the most popular fiction series ever. My answer, aside from Jerry's incredible fiction-writing gift,

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is that it is based on the Bible's forecast of the last days, starting with the Second Coming, which many find fascinating. Surveys tell us that more than 65 percent of the population of America believes Jesus Christ is coming back to this world, just as He promised. It is the last best hope of mankind, if, of course, you are ready for His return by having personally invited Christ into your life. This is the primary reason we wrote the Left Behind series. Fortunately, from the letters, e-mails, and personal contacts we receive, we know that thousands say they have come to faith through reading these books.

Satan clearly does not want anyone to understand prophecy, for there is no more spiritually motivating subject than the return of Christ. Jesus called Satan "a liar" and "a deceiver," so we can expect him to "[sow] discord in a family" and confuse those who are seeking the truth /Proverbs 6:19). Keep in mind that Jesus predicted there would be "false messiahs and false prophets" who would come on the scene in the last days (Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:22). If these are really the last days, as many Bible scholars believe, we should not be surprised to find false prophets and those deliberately teaching error. For that reason it is important for the serious student of the Scripture to learn...

The Two Keys to Understanding the Second Coming

1. You must take the Bible literally, including prophecy. That does not mean we are "wooden literalists," as some detractors accuse. Every language has metaphors and

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other figures of speech usually revealed by context. We follow the time-honored principle used by many Bible scholars: "When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense, but take every word at its primary literal meaning, unless the facts of the immediate context clearly indicate otherwise." This, of course, allows for no allegorizing or spiritualizing of prophecy, which is what leads to so many divergent and confusing interpretations of end-time events. Most amillennialists, postmillennialists, and preterists fall into this category. Whereas they may take other Scriptures literally, they tend to spiritualize or allegorize prophecy, which, in our opinion, makes it all but impossible to rightly divide the Word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). As the Old Testament prophecies of Jesus' first coming were literally fulfilled, there is every reason to believe that the New Testament prophecies of His second coming will also be literally fulfilled.

2. You must keep in mind that there are two stages to the Second Coming. By studying all 321 Second Coming passages in context, we find that they fall into one of two categories: They relate either to the rapture of the church--when Christ calls all believers to meet Him in the clouds (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) just before taking them to heaven as He promised (John 14:1-3)--or they describe the Glorious Appearing (Matthew 24:29-31; Revelation 19:11-21) just before He returns to earth and establishes His one-thousand-year kingdom. In our series we show the Rapture coming just before the Tribulation

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period, which we cover in books one through twelve, and then the Glorious Appearing, which we cover in book twelve and the final sequel.

In four of my nonfiction prophecy books--Are We Living in The End Times?, The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy, The Rapture (not to be confused with this novel), and Charting the End Times--I list the fifteen differences between these events. In fact, after you compare them, you will realize that they cannot possibly be describing the same event. For example, the Rapture could take place at any moment without warning; the Glorious Appearing cannot take place for at least seven more years after many prophetically forecast events. The Rapture finds Christ calling believers to meet Him in the air so He can take us to His Father's house as He promised. The Glorious Appearing finds believers coming with Christ to the earth when He sets up His kingdom. This may be why the apostle Paul referred to the Rapture, our Lord's coming, as "the blessed hope," and gave us the name "Glorious Appearing" for the public coming of Christ to earth. Personally, I think Paul was distinguishing these two phases or stages of Christ's second coming.

The miniature chart on page 351 shows these two phases of Christ's coming separated by the seven-year tribulation period. If you have read most or all of the books in the Left Behind series, you will find it easy to locate where each book appears on this chart. I hope you find this exercise helpful in understanding

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the entire plan of God for your future and that of the rest of the world.

For further information on end-times prophecy, check my Web site, www.timlahaye.com, as well as our publisher's site, www.tyndale.com. And take a look at the entire Tim LaHaye Prophecy Library.

--Dr. Tim LaHaye

THE TRIBULATION IN CONTEXT

Antichrist-- The Abomination * of Desolation

MATTHEW 24 15 2 THESSALONIANS 2 4

Glorious Rapture Appearing

1 THESbALONIANS 4 16 17 MATTHFW 24 27 31

i *

church age 7-\ear tribulation millennium eternity

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ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Jerry B. Jenkins (www.jerryjenkins.com) is the writer of the Left Behind series. He owns the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild (www.ChristianWritersGuild.com), an organization dedicated to mentoring aspiring authors, as well as Jenkins Entertainment, a filmmaking company (www.Jenkins-Entertainment.com). Former vice president of publishing for the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, he also served many years as editor of Moody magazine and is now Moody's writer-at-large.

His writing has appeared in publications as varied as Time magazine, Reader's Digest, Parade, Guideposts, in-flight magazines, and dozens of other periodicals. Jenkins's biographies include books with Billy Graham, Hank Aaron, Bill Gaither, Luis Palau, Walter Payton, Orel Hershiser, and Nolan Ryan, among many others. His books appear regularly on the New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Publishers Weekly best-seller lists.

He holds two honorary doctorates, one from Bethel College (Indiana) and one from Trinity International University. Jerry and his wife, Dianna, live in Colorado and have three grown sons and three grandchildren.

Dr. Tim LaHaye (www.timlahaye.com), who conceived the idea of fictionalizing an account of the Rapture and the Tribulation, is a noted author, minister, and nationally recognized speaker on Bible prophecy. He is the

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founder of both Tim LaHaye Ministries and the Pre-Trib Research Center.

He also recently cofounded the Tim LaHaye School of Prophecy at Liberty University. Dr. LaHaye speaks at many of the major Bible prophecy conferences in the U.S. and Canada, where his prophecy books are very popular.

Dr. LaHaye earned a doctor of ministry degree from Western Theological Seminary and an honorary doctor of literature degree from Liberty University. For twenty-five years he pastored one of the nation's outstanding churches in San Diego, which grew to three locations. During that time he founded two accredited Christian high schools, a Christian school system of ten schools, and Christian Heritage College.

There are almost 13 million copies of Dr, LaHaye's fifty nonfiction books that have been published in over thirty-seven foreign languages. He has written books on a wide variety of subjects, such as family life, temperaments, and Bible prophecy. His current fiction works, the Left Behind series, written with Jerry B. Jenkins, continue to appear on the best-seller lists of the Christian Booksellers Association, Publishers Weekly, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and the New York Times. LaHaye's second fiction series of prophetic novels consists of Babylon Rising and The Secret on Ararat, both of which hit the New York Times best-seller list and will soon be followed by Europa Challenge. This series of four action thrillers, unlike Left Behind, does not start with the Rapture but could take place today and goes up to the Rapture.

He is the father of four grown children and grandfather of nine. Snow skiing, waterskiing, motorcycling, golfing, vacationing with family, and jogging are among his leisure activities.

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IN ONE CATACLYSMIC MOMENT MILLIONS AROUND THE WORLD DISAPPEAR

Experience the suspense of the end times for yourself The best-selling Left Behind series is now available in hardcover, softcover, and abridged audio editions.

1

LEFT BEHIND®

A novel of the earth's lost days...

2

TRIBULATION

FORCE

The continuing drama of those left behind...

3 NICOLAE

The rise of Antichrist..

4

SOUL

HARVEST

The world takes sides.

5 APOLLYON

The Destroyer is unleashed...

6 ASSASSINS

Assignment: Jerusalem, Target: Antichrist

7

THE

INDWELLING

The Beast takes possession...

8

THE MARK

The Beast rules the world...

9

DESECRATION

Antichrist takes the throne...

10 THE REMNANT

On the brink of Armageddon...

11 ARMAGEDDON

The cosmic battle of the ages...

12

GLORIOUS APPEARING

The end of days...

FOR THE MOST ACCURATE INFORMATION VISIT

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FOR THE LATEST INFORMATION

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JERRY B. JENKINS CHRISTIAN WRITERS GUILD

Let Us Teach You to Write

"Join me in the experience of a lifetime, communicating the truths of God through the written word. We can help you master your craft and fulfill your call"

-- Jerry B. Jenkins, author of the Left Behind series

You've been told you have a way with words. And you've wondered what it would be like to use your God-given gifts to touch hearts. Capture imaginations. Even win souls.

Now it's time to pen the next chapter of your story: the part where you work to establish a rewarding writing career.

We offer mentor-guided correspondence courses for adults and youth designed to develop the writer within.

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Contact Us Today for More Information

[email protected] (866) 495-5177 * www.ChristianWritersGuild.com

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The PC Game is here!

LEFT BEHIND: Eternal Forces is an epic, inspirational real-time strategy game based upon the best-selling Left Behind book series created by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. Join the ultimate fight of Good against Evil, commanding Tribulation Forces against the Global Community Peacekeepers!

Conduct physical & spiritual warfare against the forces of the AntiChrist

Join Buck, Rayford, Chloe and more in riveting Storyline Play

Command your forces within a breathtaking, authentic depiction of New York City

Recover ancient scriptures and witness spectacular angelic activity

1

LEFT BEHIND

ETERNAL FORCES

Preview the game at www.leftbehindgames.com

Visit www esrb org for updated rating information

Left Behind Games ® and LB Games ® are trademarks of Left Behind Games nc Left Behind ® trademarks and copyrights are licensed exclusively by Tyndale House Publishers Carol Stream Illinois All Rights Reserved All other trademarks are property of their respective owners

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The Rapture is the third book in the

Countdown to the Rapture. The first

fourteen books in the Left Behind series, with sales of more than 42,000,000, comprise the fastest-selling adult fiction

series ever. Seven of the titles reached

number one on the New York Times best-seller list as well as those of USA

Today, The Wall Street Journal, and Publishers Weekly.

Desecration book nine, was the best-selling novel in the world in 2001.

"The Left Behind series... is among the best-selling fiction books of our

times--right up there with Tom Clancy and Stephen King."

-Time

"Christian thriller. Prophecy-based fiction.

Juiced-up morality tale. Call it what you

like, the Left Behind series... now has a label its creators could never have

predicted: blockbuster success."

-Entertainment Weekly

Tim LaHaye, who conceived the Left

Behind series, is a renowned prophecy

scholar, minister, and educator. He has

written over fifty nonfiction works that

have been published in over thirty-seven

languages. He and his wife, Beverly, live in Southern California.

Jerry B. Jenkins, writer of the series, is the author of more than one hundred and fifty books. His books can be found regularly on the New York Times bestseller lists. He and his wife, Dianna, live in Colorado Springs.

Comments

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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