Kingdom come the final v.., p.24
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       Kingdom Come: The Final Victory, p.24
 

         Part #13 of Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye
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  It soon became apparent to Rayford, however, that those with natural bodies—himself, Chaim, and Mac—had way less stamina than the glorifieds. Without consulting anyone else, Rayford began planning a long break after what he expected to be a huge meeting in Siwa the next evening. The naturals needed it, and perhaps some respite from the work would calm his troubled mind.

  Successful as it was, the work was not easy, partly because Rayford and the others remained committed to living in the motor home. They could afford to stay elsewhere, but crowded as it was, it seemed the most prudent use of their resources.

  As they sat debriefing after a particularly stressful but also successful day of ministry, Chaim reported that the welcoming committee in Siwa expected one of the biggest crowds of their entire effort. “Apparently there will be protestors, too,” he said. “But we’ve never worried about opposition before.”

  In the middle of their confab, the awful news about Kenny arrived by fax from Israel. Rayford distributed the document to the others, then phoned Chloe for further details. He told her of the planned break and promised to be back as soon as possible.

  When the others had read the document and Rayford had told them what Chloe had said, he added, “There is no question Irene and my daughter and I are biased, so I would ask that we simply accede to my grandson’s request that we covenant together in prayer and seek the Lord over this.”

  And so it was that Rayford and Irene and Chaim and Tsion and Mac and the Barneses knelt and prayed. Tsion began, and then Chaim, and soon all were praying at the same time. Several minutes later they prayed in succession again, but Rayford noticed a change. Whereas they had begun haltingly, seeking God’s wisdom, asking Him to shed light on the truth, now they seemed to be praying for Kenny, for strength, for endurance. One by one, those with glorified minds and bodies—those who had been in heaven—expressed in their prayers that the charges against Kenny did not resonate with them.

  Finally Mrs. Barnes closed the prayer meeting. “Lord,” she said, “I barely know this boy, but I know You and You know him, and You’ve made it clear to my spirit that he belongs to You. I pray swift justice for him and for those who seek to destroy him. In the name of Jesus . . .”

  And they all chorused their amens.

  __

  For some reason, despite how long Rayford had lived in this new world, it still surprised him to emerge from the heavily curtained mobile hotel to a moon brighter than the sun had once been. But with a wide-brimmed hat and dark wraparound sunglasses, he could pretend. And an hour’s amble at midnight often cleared his head.

  This night, however, after whispering his intentions to Irene, Rayford found the night wasn’t much cooler than the day had been. He rolled up his sleeves as he moseyed along, trying to pray, trying to imagine the future, and, yes—despite the interest and challenge and novelty of the Millennium, longing for heaven. Such complications as the clearly bogus charges against Kenny would not invade such a paradise.

  Rayford had learned much about the Lord and about the future, yet still he did not understand God. Why was it that some days He seemed closer than even His throne in Israel, answering Rayford before his prayers were voiced, and other days—like now—He seemed distant and silent? Perhaps heaven would provide those answers.

  The occasional car and light truck passed Rayford in the wee hours, one driver stopping to see if he needed a ride. While on his way back to the camper, Rayford was startled to not see it in the distance where he thought he’d left it. Shrugging and assuming he had merely misjudged the distance and that it would appear on the horizon around the next bend, he lowered his head and continued trudging.

  Rayford looked up quickly at a sound and saw a plain black sedan racing toward him. It skidded into the dust on the other side of the road as the window rolled down and an Egyptian with a leathery, lined face leaned out and hollered in a raspy, ancient voice, “Are you Rayford Steele, the man of God?”

  Rayford considered joking that he was at least half right, but the man seemed so urgent that he simply said, “I am.”

  The man emerged quickly and crossed the road, leaving the door open. “I am Ishmael,” he said, embracing Rayford tightly and then shaking his hand in a firm grip. “I have need of you.”

  “But how did you find me and—?”

  “I asked around and stopped by your motor home. I was told I’d likely find you on the road. You must come with me. Believers are being persecuted and the undecided harassed.”

  “Where? And what can I do?”

  “Come! Come!” Ishmael said, pulling Rayford across the road to the other side of the car and opening the door.

  Rayford noticed dark green blankets covering lumpy mounds in the backseat. “Where are we going?”

  “Not far, but we must hurry. And thank you in the name of the Lord. Sit in the front; I have foodstuffs filling the back.”

  Rayford settled in and was buckling his seat belt as Ishmael rushed to slide behind the wheel. Before the driver had even shut his door, Rayford felt the cold steel of a weapon pressed against his neck. He turned far enough to see a young man and woman who had emerged from under the blankets. “What is this?”

  “Just cooperate and you will not be hurt,” Ishmael said, his voice suddenly sounding younger as well. The man covered his own face with his hand and pulled away what appeared to be a buildup of rubber cement and hair. His face was youthful and smooth.

  As the car spun in the dust and then lurched onto the road, the man behind Rayford said, “Put your hands behind your neck and interlace your fingers.”

  Rayford hesitated.

  “Do it now,” the young woman said, producing handcuffs.

  Still Rayford waited. “You could shoot me through the brain or I could leap from this car and still God would spare me,” he said. “Surely you know that.”

  “Risk it then,” Ishmael said.

  Rayford considered it. What a message that would send! He could envision himself tumbling and rolling in the dirt, then jogging unharmed back to the others. But the Lord suddenly spoke quietly to his heart. “Comply. I am in this.”

  How could it be? God was in this?

  Rayford locked his fingers behind his head, and the young woman cuffed him. He knocked off his own hat returning his manacled wrists to his lap and used his elbows to balance as the car careened through the countryside, dust billowing behind them.

  “So you fooled my compatriots like you fooled me,” Rayford said. “They believe I’m assisting you in some spiritual emergency?”

  “Hardly,” the young woman spat.

  Ishmael shushed her with a raised hand. “Do not speak to the hostage,” he said.

  “I’m a hostage now? And who do you think will pay a ransom for me?”

  “We have no need of ransom,” Ishmael said. “We require only you.”

  Rayford became aware of the tightness of the cuff on his left hand and tried to maneuver his wrist to relieve the pressure. Immediately the young woman leaned over the seat and checked it herself, unlocking and loosening it before securing it again.

  “Rehema!” Ishmael shouted at the black-haired girl. “What are you doing?”

  “It does not need to be so tight,” she said, a whine in her voice.

  “He is not here to be coddled!”

  “What am I here for?” Rayford said.

  Ishmael kept his eyes on the road, now moving at more than a hundred miles an hour. “You are here so you will not be there.”

  There? “And where is that?”

  “Siwa.”

  “You intend to hold me the entire weekend?”

  “Perhaps longer.”

  “And may I ask for what purpose?”

  “To prove our god is greater than yours.”

  Rayford couldn’t stifle a laugh. “Good luck.”

  “So far, it’s working.”

  “How will keeping me from Siwa accomplish anything?”

  “You made the mistake of advertising.


  “All of our visits are advertised. We want the people to know we’re coming so they can prepare their hearts and minds, not to mention mustering teams of volunteers to help us improve their cities.”

  “You have done nothing more than frighten the people into believing God will strike them dead if they don’t comply with His wishes.”

  Rayford shook his head. “It seems God Himself may have persuaded them of that. So you are with the Other Light.”

  “We don’t call ourselves that.”

  “You don’t? You’re not TOL? I was unaware there were other rebel factions.”

  “Oh, we are TOL, but our O does not stand for other. It stands for only. Consider us the enforcers, the hard-liners. We aver that we are not fighting your God. We treat Him as if He doesn’t exist.”

  “So you’re pretty much idiots.”

  Rayford saw Rehema cover her mouth.

  “You’re not in a position to insult us, Mr. Steele.”

  “Come now. You were born in this Millennium, but surely you know the history, have seen the power of God, know Jesus is on the throne.”

  “So the rulers would have us believe.”

  “But you don’t.”

  “We don’t, and we will prove it, as we also are advertising. We have publicized that our god will keep you from appearing in Siwa, proving once and for all that you claim to represent a God who is capricious, unjust, and nonexistent.”

  “He does not exist and yet He is capricious and unjust? Detaining me will prove nothing. God will do what He chooses.”

  “But the hearts of the people will no longer be swayed. Or if they are swayed, they will be swayed our way.”

  “Toward Lucifer.”

  “Yes, toward our god, who shall overcome.”

  “Overcome what or whom? A God you say does not even exist?”

  “He will lead us to overcome all who oppose him. Even now, centuries before he is released, massive preparations are under way.”

  “Released by whom?”

  “We believe he will release himself.”

  “From confinement by whom?”

  “He incarcerated himself to prove a point.”

  Rayford laughed aloud. “If he did that, he’s proved my point!”

  “Your point?”

  “That you’re idiots. Now who’s capricious? You really believe your all-powerful leader locked himself away for a thousand years and will eventually emerge to prove he’s in charge?”

  Ishmael shook his head. “When you see what is happening in his name, you will not be so cavalier.”

  Ishmael finally slowed about a half mile from a lonely intersection, then turned right onto a road lined on either side by black-uniformed, armed soldiers. They stood at attention and saluted as the sedan passed. Ishmael waved and waved. The route led to an underground entrance wide enough for the car, and Rayford was intrigued by the quick plunge into utter darkness and a coolness he had not experienced for years.

  The decline must have continued more than three hundred yards, but Rayford soon quit trying to calculate how far below the surface they must be. They rolled to a stop before a small structure that reminded him of a modular home, and Ishmael signaled for several personnel to take Rayford from the car.

  “When did you last eat?” Ishmael said.

  “About six hours ago.”

  “Good. Let him wait another eighteen for just enough food to keep him functioning. And take his shirt, shoes, and socks. Chilly, Mr. Steele?”

  “Of course.”

  “Your slacks and undershirt should be enough. A little chill will keep you alert.”

  Rayford was led to a cavernous opening that proved incongruous, as it sported walls bearing huge flat-screen TV monitors and high-tech desks and workstations but was ringed by dirt-floored cells enclosed by prison bars. Each cell bore a prisoner—a man, a woman, or a young person, all sitting on steel mesh beds. Each wore an expression of fear and resignation. And each had one armed guard posted outside his or her cell.

  Rayford found himself grateful beyond measure that his guard was Rehema. “You know what your name means, do you not?” he said as she gently guided him inside, removed his handcuffs, and pulled the cell door shut.

  “Do tell,” she whispered, her face a mask of boredom but her eyes dancing.

  “ ‘Compassionate.’ And you have already proven to be that.”

  She shrugged and sat with her back to the bars, her weapon tucked between her knees. Rayford sat on his metal frame, already beginning to shiver, and talked loudly enough so only she could hear. He asked her to tell him about herself, but she demurred.

  “Come now,” he said. “I can tell you’re smarter than this. More curious than this. It’s written all over you that you know better.”

  “My back is to you,” Rehema said, turning her head to make herself heard. “How can you tell what’s written all over me?”

  “What did you mean when you said ‘hardly’ when I asked if Ishmael had also fooled my team?”

  “So much for how much you know,” she said. “We never even found your team.”

  “Then how—?”

  “We’ve been following you. Not a week passes that you don’t venture out in the night. We merely waited for you. We sent one team to neutralize your people, and we picked you up.”

  “My people have also been seized?”

  “No, I told you; we couldn’t find them.”

  “You saw me leave the motor home and then lost track of it? It’s a big, slow, ponderous thing—”

  “Believe me, I know. Ishmael is irritated to the point of exasperation. You must not tell him I said anything.”

  “Yeah, I’m going to tell on you, get you into trouble.”

  She giggled.

  “What happens in here, Rehema?”

  “Monitoring, tracking.” She pointed to the screens, where Rayford could make out huge manufacturing operations in progress. “Munitions plants all over the world. In virtually every country.”

  “All planning for the big war at the end of the Millennium?”

  She nodded. “It will make the so-called Armageddon look like child’s play.”

  “Jesus Himself took care of that.”

  “So you would have us believe.”

  “And this buildup of armaments is for what?”

  “For Lucifer, who will lead the charge.”

  “Against the nonexistent God?”

  Rehema hunched her shoulders as she seemed to throttle a laugh again. “I know how it sounds,” she said. “But the battle is against the believers in the God who is not there.”

  “But we believe so deeply that we have obeyed His edict against weapons of war. You and yours would attack an unarmed people?”

  “Better safe than . . . you know.”

  “And you will not even be there. How old are you?”

  “Ninety.”

  “A mere child. Does it mean nothing to you that all your older compatriots are dead? Does that not tell you anything?”

  She fell silent.

  “It does tell you something, doesn’t it? How do your fearless leaders explain that one? The God you claim does not exist—and yet whom you oppose—somehow curses those who reject Him for a hundred years, and no one gets the picture?”

  She shook her head slowly. “No wonder you call us idiots.”

  “Don’t be an idiot, Rehema. Think.”

  Again she was quiet for several minutes. Rayford knew he shouldn’t be hungry until morning, but just knowing he would not be given any food until dinnertime the next night gave him pangs. And he was shuddering. He rubbed his arms and brought his knees up to his chest, wrapping them in his forearms.

  “We’re not all atheists, you know,” Rehema said.

  “Of course I know. How could you be?”

  “I couldn’t. You’re right. I’ve seen friends and relatives die, right on schedule. Only a fool denies that.”

  “So you believe in God.”
<
br />   “I believe He exists. I just don’t like Him much.”

  “Let’s talk about it.”

  “I’d better not.”

  “Then I’ll talk and you listen.”

  “Is it going to bother you when I eat? They deliver my meal to me right in front of you. It’s part of the deal.”

  “Of course it’ll bother me, but I’ll survive.”

  But Rayford had underestimated the power of her simple sandwich. He smelled it as if it lay under his nose, and he imagined every bite. He looked away, tried to think of something else, and concentrated on his recitation of history—especially his own. He talked of his life, his family, the Rapture, being left behind. And while Rehema appeared interested and even at times enthralled, she furtively passed the last few bites of her sandwich through the bars to him.

  Rayford eagerly wolfed it down, worrying aloud about the cameras that might reveal her deed and get her into trouble.

  “What’s the worst they can do to me?” she said. “They need me. We’re still in the minority, and history proves I’ll be around only ten more years anyway.”

  Rayford smiled. “Whose side are you on? You’re proving my points.”

  When Rayford began telling her of his own salvation and all his experiences during the Tribulation, Rehema finally turned to face him. He surprised himself by how much Scripture he had committed to memory over the years, and as he held forth, he quoted passage after passage of prophecy that had come true just as the foretellers had predicted.

  Finally Rehema said, “How could anyone doubt God after all that?”

  “They couldn’t,” Rayford said. “To oppose Him they had to acknowledge that He existed but that they simply wanted to go their own way. Like you.”

  With that Rehema stood and turned her back, pacing before his cell.

  THIRTY-ONE

  IRENE WAS awakened just before dawn by a gentle rap on her door.

  “Forgive me,” Chaim said. “I was looking for Rayford.”

  Irene sat up and pulled back the blind, making her cover her eyes. “He went out for a walk around midnight,” she said. “I don’t recall his returning.”

  “I’m sure he’s about,” the old man said, smiling. “It’s not as if we moved.”

 
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