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       John's Story: The Last Eyewitness, p.1
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         Part #1 of The Jesus Chronicles series by Tim LaHaye
John's Story: The Last Eyewitness


  Tim LaHaye is a noted author, minister, and nationally recognized speaker on Bible prophecy. He is founder and president of Tim LaHaye Ministries and a cofounder of the Pre-Trib Research Center. A pastor for thirty-nine years, Dr. LaHaye has written more than fifty nonfiction books and coauthored the Left Behind series, the most successful Christian fiction venture in publishing history, with Jerry Jenkins. LaHaye and his wife, Beverly, who have been married for more than fifty years, live in Southern California. You can visit his website at www.TimLaHaye.com.

  Jerry B. Jenkins, formerly vice president for publishing and currently writer-at-large for the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, is the author of more than 150 books, including the Left Behind series with Tim LaHaye. Dr. Jenkins’s writing has appeared in Time, Reader’s Digest, Parade, and Guideposts, and dozens of other Christian periodicals. He owns Jenkins Entertainment, a filmmaking company based in Los Angeles, as well as the Christian Writers Guild, which aims to train tomorrow’s professional Christian writers and has nearly two thousand members worldwide. A sought-after marriage and family speaker, Jenkins lives with his wife, Dianna, in Colorado Springs. You can visit his website at www.JerryJenkins.com.

  THE JESUS CHRONICLES

  Book One

  JOHN’S STORY

  THE LAST EYEWITNESS

  TIM LAHAYE and JERRY B. JENKINS

  BERKLEY PRAISE

  Published by The Berkley Publishing Group

  A Division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

  Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

  Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

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  Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

  Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the authors’ imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

  Copyright © 2006 by LaHaye Publishing Group LLC and the Jerry B. Jenkins Trust.

  Excerpt from Mark’s Story by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins copyright © 2007 by Tim LaHaye and the Jerry B. Jenkins Trust.

  Cover photograph by Darren Greenwood/Design Pics/Corbis.

  Cover design by Steven Ferlauto.

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the authors’ rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

  BERKLEY® is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

  BERKLEY® PRAISE and the PRAISE logo are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

  ISBN: 1-4295-4690-5

  The Library of Congress has catalogued the Putnam Praise hardcover as follows:

  LaHaye, Tim F.

  John’s story: the last eyewitness / Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.

  p. cm.—(The Jesus chronicles; bk. 1)

  1. Jesus Christ—Fiction. 2. John, the Apostle, Saint—Fiction. 3. Bible, N. T.—History of biblical events—Fiction. I. Jenkins, Jerry B. II. Title.

  PS3562.A315J64 2006b 2006027012

  813'.54—dc22

  Scripture is from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

  To the memory of

  DR. KENNETH N. TAYLOR,

  a lover of the Word

  Thanks to

  John Perrodin

  for research assistance,

  and to D. Michael Hostetler

  for advance exposure to

  the invaluable reference work,

  The Nazareth Jesus Knew

  © 2005 by Nazareth Village

  www.NazarethVillage.com

  CONTENTS

  PART ONE THE HERETIC

  CHAPTER ONE

  CHAPTER TWO

  CHAPTER THREE

  CHAPTER FOUR

  CHAPTER FIVE

  CHAPTER SIX

  CHAPTER SEVEN

  CHAPTER EIGHT

  CHAPTER NINE

  CHAPTER TEN

  CHAPTER ELEVEN

  CHAPTER TWELVE

  CHAPTER THIRTEEN

  CHAPTER FOURTEEN

  CHAPTER FIFTEEN

  CHAPTER SIXTEEN

  CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

  CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

  CHAPTER NINETEEN

  CHAPTER TWENTY

  CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

  PART TWO THE REVELATOR

  CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

  CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

  CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

  CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

  EPILOGUE

  THE WORDS OF JOHN

  JOHN

  1 JOHN

  2 JOHN

  3 JOHN

  REVELATION

  CHAPTER ONE

  CHAPTER TWO

  PART ONE

  THE HERETIC

  ONE

  Rome, A. D. 95

  Bright sunlight interrupted the old evangelist’s reverie, and when dust invaded his stone chamber, John was spurred to stand and peek out. He had been extradited the night before in chains from Ephesus to Rome, the capital of the empire, where he was to stand trial before Caesar Domitian.

  Once Jesus’ youngest disciple, John was nearing his ninetieth year, and his long, lanky frame bore a massive crown of white hair and a full, long beard that framed his leathery face. Thick brows hooded dark eyes his friends had always described as piercing, at times accusatory. Robust for his age, especially considering the long, arduous journey, he had been unbound and imprisoned in a dungeon cell beneath the Colosseum. Now, at dawn, he discovered that by standing on tiptoe he could peer out a tiny barred opening at ground level to the vast stadium’s athletic fields. It was much too early for festivities, and yet men, women, and animals had begun to fill the grounds. Large, powerful women practiced wrestling holds in the rising dust, and brightly costumed dwarves ran in place and stretched. Ferocious animals, prodded and agitated by their handlers, were led snarling to cages. John had only heard of such bizarre acts, confirming reports of the emperor’s fascination with the macabre. Clearly all these participants were preparing for some spectacle. John could assume only that it was his own execution. His stomach growling, he retreated to sit with his back to the wall and pray silently.

  Having long outlived all the other disciples of Jesus the Christ, John had known this day would come. He had invested his life in telling the world of the Man he believed rose from the dead more than half a century before and held the power of eternal life. All his compatriots, every one, had been martyred for the cause. He expected no less for himself. And yet, despite his years, it seemed too soon. No, he didn’t anticipate living another decade to reach a hundred years, but it struck him that there remained so
much to do. The flock he led in Ephesus was growing in number and in maturity. And what of all the other churches in Asia? His frequent journeys had endeared him to all of them. Perhaps it had been all that traveling that had spared him from the Romans for so long.

  Others—the younger, the more robust—could accomplish the work. But John took what he believed was a justified pride in his station as the only remaining disciple of the very Messiah Himself. John neither feared nor dreaded death. He did not welcome it; who would? And yet the privilege of dying for his faith, for his Lord…

  With his bony shoulder blades pressed against the cold stone, John lowered his chin to his chest and prayed silently. “Father, my life has been rich and full, and if I am to perish in Your service, then I willingly commend my spirit into Your hands and consider it an unspeakable privilege to follow my Lord. But there seems so much more to accomplish in Your name. Nevertheless, not my will…”

  John jerked to attention at the sound of a sniff and saw a guard leaning against the bars of his cell. “I can douse the torch if the oil bothers you,” the man said, his beard greasy from the fowl flesh he’d been gnawing. He appeared a civilian, unarmed, glassy-eyed, perhaps from drink. And yet those were the first kind words John had heard since his capture.

  “If it’s not too dark for you, sir,” John said.

  “I need no more light than the sun this time of the day,” the guard said, reaching for the torch with his free hand and plunging it into a bucket of water. He smiled at the hissing and the steam, nodded at John’s thanks, then reached a grimy hand through the bars, offering the rest of his meal.

  John hesitated, hoping not to offend but reluctant to eat that which had touched the man’s mouth, his hands. Even as he fashioned a courteous response, he was inwardly bemused by his own concern just hours before his certain death. “I am obliged,” he said. “But I prefer only a bit of bread if I have a choice.”

  The man’s countenance fell and he withdrew. “Another hour, then,” he said, “and you’ll share a stale chunk covered with creatures you won’t want to eat.”

  “Forgive me,” John said. “I—”

  The guard waved him off and settled against the wall, appearing to doze between bites.

  “What’s happening here today?” John said.

  The man raised a brow. “Oh, my meat is no good for you but my conversation is?”

  “I’m sorry. I—”

  “No need to apologize to me, sir. You’ll get your chance to plead your case before our master and god this evening.”

  “This evening? Not today?”

  The man shook his head. “Today the event is for the citizens, not for the emperor. He won’t be back from Alban until late in the day, they tell me. The preparations for you are being made at the Latin Gate.”

  John’s shambling, wood-cart transport had rumbled through the Latin Gate just hours before.

  “Preparations?”

  The scruffy guard’s eyes livened and he struggled to his feet. “Oh, his lordship excels at pageantry. Were you here for the Capitolines last summer?”

  “The games? No.”

  “Spectacular,” the guard said, moving closer. “Domitian hosted chariot races, sports of all kinds, music, and poetry too. Some were held at night! Imagine. Great torches lining the field. Gifts of food dropped from ropes stretched across the Colosseum. The people loved it!”

  “They admire the emperor, then?” John said.

  “When he does that they do, yes sir. We don’t see much of him, though. You know the rumors.”

  “Rumors?”

  “What a solitary man does with his time.”

  “No,” John said, though he had heard of Domitian’s dalliances with women, his having forced a divorce so he could marry his lover, his new wife’s later adultery and banishment and eventual return to the palace to marry him yet again.

  The guard smiled. “You never know who to believe, but people say they’ve seen him torturing.”

  “Torturing? He handles the torturing himself?”

  “No! Not of people, man! Flies. Catches them alive and tortures them to death.”

  John was eager to change the subject. “You’ve been to the nighttime spectacles?”

  “A gladiator bout, yes sir. Don’t know how they did it in the low light, but they did. Today’s show features jesters and all. You should be able to watch. They won’t move you until it’s over and the emperor is back.”

  “Move me to the Latin Gate?”

  “For the hearing, yes. And the inevitable sentence.”

  John squinted.

  “They have told you what happens if—when—you’re found guilty, no?”

  John let his eyes close and shook his head.

  The man, who seemed at least cordial, now laughed. “I am not permitted to say, but I can tell you this: I will be there. I wouldn’t miss it.”

  Domitian’s penchant for cruelty was legend. God, grant me grace. Allow me to endure without crying out. Dying for the most righteous cause imaginable was one thing; departing this life ignominiously was another. If the eyewitness accounts could be believed, all John’s colleagues had faced their ends with dignity. He longed to do the same.

  “What was it you did, sir?” the guard said.

  John sighed. Was it what his gospel had accomplished, as he had with his preaching in Jerusalem years before, urging citizens to follow the Man Rome considered a false god? Or was it what he would not do?

  “I do not worship the emperor as God,” he said.

  The guard blanched and stepped back. “Oh! You can remedy that by bowing to him tonight, and all will be well.”

  John shook his head and stood. “He is not God. I serve the one true God and His Son, Jesus the Christ.”

  Shuddering, the guard tossed the remains of his meal into the water bucket. “Please tell no one you have said this in my presence! I do not wish to testify. I have nothing against you.”

  “Be at ease, my friend,” John said. “I am the one the emperor wants. Jesus did not call me a Son of Thunder for nothing.”

  The guard shook his head. “You speak with the bravado of one who has never been arrested before.”

  John smiled. “On the contrary. Being apprehended by the proconsul of Asia and held in prison in Ephesus reminded me of decades ago when my friend Peter and I were arrested in Jerusalem.”

  “Jerusalem! Before the destruction…”

  “Of course. This was nearly forty years prior.”

  “And the charge there?”

  “Preaching in the name of Christ following His resurrection.”

  “Following His crucifixion, you mean. There’s no evidence He actually—”

  “Now, young man, do not start down that road with me. You’re talking to one who knew Jesus, before and after His death. And let me tell you further, I resolve to answer any Roman charges as I did in Jerusalem all those years ago.”

  The guard ran his filthy hands through his hair and pressed his lips together. “I’m surprised you weren’t put to death, then.”

  “Such matters are in God’s hands,” John said. “I spent more than a dozen years after the resurrection taking care of Jesus’ mother. And with my friends, Peter and James—Jesus’ brother—I served the fledgling Christian church in Jerusalem.”

  “So you really are the only one remaining,” the guard said.

  “The only one. I have seen no end of danger. All my fellow disciples—save Judas, the traitor, who committed suicide—perished as martyrs. My own older brother—also called James—was the first, accused of leading citizens to worship false gods. He was beheaded by authority of Herod Agrippa I.”

  “Were you chased from Jerusalem by the attack?”

  “No, I left after Jesus’ mother’s death some twenty years before that. I believed God wanted me to spread the truth to the rest of the world. How I loved encouraging new churches and founding several others! But while it seemed I was revered and even loved for my bold proclaimin
g of the faith, which thousands found fascinating because of my eyewitness accounts of Jesus Himself, naturally Rome considered me an enemy.”

  John had heard not another sound in the underground, yet the guard looked about, as if to be sure they were alone. He whispered, “You ought to be proud of yourself, eluding capture until you were too old to run anymore.”

  “Run? I never ran, young man. Believe me, Rome knew where I was. If I was not leading the church at Ephesus, I was in Asia Minor visiting the other believers. They did not find me cowering somewhere. I was taken right from my own church.”

  “Sit, sit,” the guard said, and John lowered himself to the floor as the younger man did the same.

 
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