Journal Entry: Sunday, November 3
It was only two days after we had heard the president’s address on that Sunday, October 13, that we were hit with even more jarring news. The next thunderbolt of news came from the Middle East and confirmed absolutely (as if we needed any further confirmation) that we really were on the brink of entering the seven-year Tribulation.
Almost immediately after the president’s speech, all major news outlets resumed their regular programming, but it was all news everywhere. There was no other programming at all. Naturally, the news was filled with nonstop coverage of the exponentially expanding disasters on the West Coast and film coverage of the rioting taking place in all major cities across America and in cities around the world. Hearing about the destruction was bad enough, but watching the continual footage was almost debilitating. There was continued instability all along the West Coast with as yet no letup in the fires despite an already overtaxed federal government doing its best to provide aid. There was simply too much going on. Now there were rumblings from Mt Shasta and Mt Rainier that seemed to indicate that those volcanoes may be threatening to erupt. Although an eruption from Shasta would be horrific, if (or when?) Rainier goes, it will be disastrous beyond belief in addition to everything else. Everyone is concerned about the increasing rumblings.
We couldn’t stand to watch the news except for short periods of time; the carnage was dismaying. The West Coast has been just…obliterated. Conditions in the cities look like war zones, although the president’s directive of martial law was beginning to make some headway with the national guards of each state starting to bring some order out of chaos, especially in smaller cities. The situation in the large cities, though, remains highly volatile. We thank and praise God every day that we live up in the mountains in podunk little Norrisville.
The following Tuesday Mitch, Trail, Mike, Will and myself were gathered at the girls’ house putting our thoughts together for the following day’s weekly Wednesday town meeting. We had been joined by Izzy Blake – the older lady who had volunteered to help Byllie and Mike coordinate food and resource distribution. Carter and Eva were at the farm, while Clyde was with Dewey and Rod at the PD. They were meeting with Jim Casey, Jimmy Morgan, Vinnie Sawyer, Vern Sadler and Norm Baker to determine if any of these men would be qualified to add them as auxiliary officers. Both Jim Casey and Norm Baker would be solid, I thought. Vern too was reliable. I knew Jim, Vern and Norm had level heads and knew how to handle a gun. Vinnie Sawyer was smart and a hard worker, but he couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn from two feet away, and Jimmy Morgan could shoot but wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer when it came to being observant or thinking on his feet. I knew Clyde would sort it all out.
The rest of us had gathered in the girls’ den. Mitch and Will had been setting up a computer connection in the girls’ spare room. He wanted to link it to the setup he had at Doc’s – I mean our place. He told us that he was going to bypass the big search engines to set up some of the Christian websites online by mirroring them or rerouting them using the deep web or dark web or something like that. I really had no clue what he was talking about.
“Mitch,” said Trail. “Bobby and I want to know how y’all are going to do all that.”
“Trail, if I had 20 years to explain it to you pool cues, and if y’all both had complete brain transplants, y’all still wouldn’t have a clue,” Mitch said, grinning. “Do y’all even know what a VPN is?”
We both looked at him blankly.
“I didn’t think so,” said Mitch. “You boys just finish your coloring and let Will and me, the thinking men of this outfit, do all the heavy brain work.” Trail threw a pillow at him as everyone laughed.
After an hour or so, we had just about finished our planning session and were ready to stop for a break, when both Mitch and Will came downstairs. The lighthearted banter from earlier was gone. Both of them looked pale and shaken.
“Bobby, turn on the TV. There’s something y’all need to hear,” said Mitch.
We tuned in and heard the following report from one of the cable news channels:
“At 10:00 PM Israeli time, a barrage of missile attacks launched from Damascus, Syria, hit the Israeli cities of Tel Aviv and Nazareth. Nazareth, the city known as the birthplace of Jesus, along with the former Israeli capital of Tel Aviv, both suffered severe damage in the surprise attacks with Tel Aviv being left in ruins from the unexpected Syrian attack.”
We hardly had time to adjust to the news coming out of Israel when the next round of news came across the air.
“This afternoon at 4:00 PM Eastern time – 11:00 PM Damascus time, it is being reported that – in retaliation for the earlier strikes on Nazareth and Tel Aviv – Damascus, Syria, has been hit by a high-yield nuclear detonation launched from Israel. The ancient sprawling city of Damascus, the longest continuously inhabited city in the world, has been utterly obliterated.
The governments of Russia, Iran, Syria and Turkey have severely condemned the Israeli government for launching a strike against Damascus. Iran is promising a swift retaliatory response against the state of Israel.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s condemnation of Israel’s nuclear response in Damascus called the Israeli government’s actions a case of ‘outrageous and unprovoked aggression.’ He further stated that it was time for the Arab world to ‘take care of the infidel usurper Israel once and for all.’ Rouhani stated that the Israeli occupation of Palestine ‘must finally come to an end.’ He called for the entire Muslim world to band together to destroy Israel from the face of the earth so that even the name of Israel would be remembered no more.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking on behalf of the Israeli government, called the Israeli strike on Damascus ‘inevitable’ given the continued aggression and escalation of Iran and its proxies such as Syria. Netanyahu also stated that the increasing missile attacks coming from the Damascus area targeting multiple cities in Israel, particularly Israel’s northern cities, were intensifying the threat to Israel to an ‘unacceptable and unendurable level.’ Netanyahu went on to say that these latest rounds of attacks demanded that Israel take the ‘ultimate step’ to protect and secure the Israeli people from Iran and its Syrian proxy’s escalating aggression and hostility.
The Prime Minister has called for the IDF, IAF, and Israel’s Iron Dome defense systems to maintain at their highest level of alert. All Israeli citizens are being told to either go to or remain in their homes and take shelter.
The government of Israel accused Syria and Iran of ‘sacrificing Damascus’ by their own repeated and escalating attacks on Israel in order to provoke and force Israel into making a preemptive strike, thus giving Iran a casus belli to strike Israel in the eyes of the world. Netanyahu continued, “Since Iran was willing to use Syria and Damascus as ‘expendable aggressors,’ Israel had no choice but to end the Syrian threat once and for all.”
The Israeli Prime Minister further stated that the continued barrage of longer range, more accurate missiles launched from Damascus constituted continued and unprovoked acts of heightened aggression so that Israel had no choice but to respond to with ‘any means necessary to resolve the threat once and for all.’ Netanyahu stated that his mandate is to protect the nation of Israel from the ‘continued and ratcheting escalation of aggressive maneuvers from Iran and its proxy states which include Syria. He said that “Iran’s continued and unabated goal has always been nothing less than the complete annihilation of the state of Israel.”
The government of Israel has issued a warning that if Iran or any other of its proxies attempt to launch any further retaliatory strikes against Israel, Israel will respond with ‘decisive and devastating force.”
Over the next twenty-four to thirty-six hours, we stayed glued to our televisions. Iran responded by launching a continuous barrage of non-nuclear surface-to-ground missiles, most of which Israel’s Iron Dome defense system was able to deflect and destroy. The news reports continued:
“In the continuing and escalating series of attacks in the Middle East, the Israeli port of Haifa was struck and severely damaged from missiles fired by Iranian-backed Hamas. Israel immediately countered by striking at the heart of Iran’s most dangerous threat – Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactor facility. The weapons that Israel used were conventional; however, Iran’s Bushehr facility, built along the coast of the Persian Gulf, was built over the confluence of three highly unstable tectonic plates. Israel’s destruction of the Bushehr nuclear facility apparently triggered a high-magnitude earthquake that exponentially multiplied the severity of damage done to the reactors. As a result of the Israeli hit on Bushehr, the ensuing earthquake caused massively high levels of radiation to be released into the entire area surrounding the facility. Satellite images showed a huge area of destruction. Those left alive have been forced to scatter into any nation that will take in the surviving Iranian refugees.”
On Wednesday the 16th, the church was again filled to capacity. The mood was solemn. The people of Norrisville who had just begun to adjust to the rapture and the subsequent ruination along the West Coast and in the cities, once again had the foundations of our world knocked off kilter by the continued relentless fulfillment of prophetic events about which Will had just taught us the previous week. Will concluded the meeting by reminding us again of other, even more calamitous events which were yet to come.
“You know,” Will said in closing, “when I was the ‘senior pastor’ here at New Hope before Rapture Day, I was the biggest fool on God’s earth. I was pompous, arrogant, condescending, and above all, a pride-filled, ignorant fool. I thought I was destined for greener pastures. I had my eye on becoming senior pastor of a mega church somewhere making mega bucks. I couldn’t wait to leave this little speck of nowhere stuck up in the mountains. Of course, I was as lost as last Tuesday, as is obvious by my having been left behind. But see, what I didn’t credit or even care was that Hank Brock, my assistant pastor, was the real deal – a genuine believer. I treated him contemptuously; and for that I will forever be sorry.
I had no idea just how well-versed in Bible doctrine and eschatology – the study of end-time events – Hank really was. He knew I only had a head knowledge of scripture at best, and not much of that. I think Hank sensed, or the Lord led him, to leave a full outline of what he knew was coming. You see, Hank left for me a desk drawer full of teaching outlines, sermon notes, and lists of resources all related to the pre- Trib rapture and other end-time events. The bookshelves in his office were filled with commentaries by the likes of Matthew Henry and H A Ironside; with books from such Biblical scholars as Dr John Walvoord, Dwight Pentecost and many others. His bookshelves were filled with books and commentaries that approached the subject of Biblical doctrine and eschatology from a literal perspective, while the content of my office was filled with post-modern garbage and self-promoting prattle – the post-modern narcissism of wanting to have the best of everything now.
After Hank and the others were raptured, his office became a gold mine to me. In going through his desk, I found that he had also written me a long personal letter explaining to me salvation according to the scriptures, and events to look for after the rapture. Hank knew I was lost. I think Hank suspected that it would take something as earth-shaking as the rapture to get my attention and open my eyes to the truth. I’m telling you all this because I want you to know that even though he’s gone, Hank is still, in a way, continuing to pastor this church – continuing to be a pastor to me as well.
Since my salvation, I have been studying my Bible like I never have before. Through studying scripture, and perusing Hank’s notes and resources, the Holy Spirit is opening the scriptures to me in a way I’ve never experienced. I am not a scholar. What we learn here in our services and meetings, I am learning right along with you. From now on, we will be living events that were prophesied nearly three millennia ago by prophets such as Daniel, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and Jeremiah among other Old Testament prophets, as well as the Apostle John in 95 AD. We are living the fulfillment of these ancient Biblical prophecies.”
Walking from behind the podium to stand in front of the assembled group and address them eye to eye, Will continued.
“I want to close our meeting today by reminding us all of the recent, literal fulfillment of events that were prophesied long ago; events that we have witnessed. We now await the fulfillment of other events that will shortly be coming to pass. We are very close to the invasion of Israel from the Golan Heights by a coalition of nations led by Russia, Iran, and Turkey among others. This invasion will be the fulfillment of Ezekiel 38-39. We have just learned of the destruction of Damascus which was prophesied in Isaiah 17:1, and the destruction of the ancient Biblical area of Elam which today was the locale of Iran’s Bushehr nuclear facility. That event was the fulfillment of Jeremiah 49:34-38. At any time now, we should be expecting the fulfillment of Ezekiel 38-39 to commence. In that short conflict, it will be God Himself who will intervene to rescue Israel from what would otherwise be certain annihilation.
After this event occurs, we can expect the man who will be the Antichrist to rise to global prominence and power. He will confirm a covenant between Israel and himself, backed by what the Bible in Revelation 17:10-13 calls a 10-kingdom confederacy. The Antichrist, led and backed by these 10 ‘kingdoms,’ will guarantee Israel’s safety and secure Israel’s right to rebuild her Temple on its ancient site. The confirming or strengthening of that covenant will be the event that will begin the countdown of the last seven years before the Lord Jesus returns. Israel will make what the Bible calls ‘a covenant with death.’ Make no mistake, although this man will appear to be Israel’s defender, he will in truth, be the very one whom the Bible calls, ‘the man of sin’ who will, in three- and one-half years’ time, betray Israel and finally become indwelt by Satan himself. Never forget that this man will be the consummate deceiver,” Will finished.
We didn’t know at that Wednesday’s meeting just how quickly that invasion would take place. We knew the Ezekiel war was coming, so we were somewhat prepared for it to happen. What we didn’t know about were the other events that would occur along with the Ezekiel invasion – events that would, in one fell swoop, remove the United States from ever being a global power again.
Friday, October 18, began for us as a stunningly gorgeous day. I slept in until noon. I had been on patrol with Dewey all night. I was glad Clyde was getting a good response of volunteers qualified to be auxiliary officers. I wanted to help Byllie, Mike and Izzy with the resource scouting and setting up the school. Pooling all the town’s resources was by far the biggest task we were facing. All clothing, extra bedding and blankets, quilts and stuff were to be stored in the school; all medicines, medical supplies and such found in the abandoned homes were to go to Trail at the clinic. Any ammo and guns left in any homes went to Clyde and the PD, and all food items, cookware, and sundries such as matches, lighters, paper products and stuff like that went to Mike’s. We had already set up a system of barter for those who needed any of those things. What we bartered was work for needs. Clyde made it very clear that the barter system was both fair and firm. If you didn’t pitch in and work in some capacity, you didn’t eat. It was as simple as that. He especially drove that point home to the five teenagers.
Izzy Blake was turning out to be worth her weight in gold. She was a natural organizer. She had already coordinated with Carter and Eva and had set up groups of women doing canning, food dehydration and smoking using both the big kitchens at the Pines and the school. She oversaw all the food prep for the winter which would then go to Mike’s. Izzy along with Mike, Eva and Carter worked with everything that pertained to harvesting the crops and the butchering of meat and such while Byllie Duncan, Karen Parnell and Cindy Lane took care of sorting out the items in the school, and forming sewing and quilting committees to work during the winter months. Vin Sawyer, Paul Digger, Rusty Palmer and I were the dray horses that schlepped all the big stuff from homes to the school. We didn’t mind a bit but it was laborious work at times. Still, we were pulling together. It was good to see. Clyde had told me yesterday that last night would be my last night being a part-time deputy, and I was glad to give up that position.
After I got up, I went downstairs to the clinic to help Trail, Lilly and Sarah sort and restock the clinic and pharmacy. I hadn’t had much time to see Sarah, so I was happy to be able to be around her and be helpful. They were all well underway revamping the clinic when I got down there. It was clear that all three girls, Sarah, Lilly and Byllie were becoming fast friends. I jumped in; and within a couple of hours, we had made a lot of progress.
We decided to take the rest of the afternoon off and meet back at the girls’ place for dinner around 7:00. The girls had promised to cook us a real spaghetti dinner that didn’t come out of a can. Byllie, as we were learning, was a better than good baker. She had baked a huge double-fudge chocolate cake. She threatened Trail with six kinds of death if he even glanced in the direction of the kitchen before supper. As Trail and Mitch tossed a football around in the backyard of our house, I asked Sarah if she’d like to go for a walk. We decided to walk over to the playground of the elementary school. We waved to Byllie, Karen, and Cindy who were sitting outside in front of the school sorting clothes into big piles on sheets spread out on the ground. Sarah and I walked around back to the playground. We sat on the school’s ancient old merry-go-round – you know, the old kind that goes around at the speed of vomit and causes your brain to scramble inside your head like an egg.
“Wanna take a whirl,” Sarah asked teasingly?
“Not on your life,” I said, grinning. “Mitch, Jack and David loved riding this instrument of torture, but Trail and I always had better sense.”
“Well, I am a nurse; so if you’re game…”
“Absolutely not,” I said, smiling.
“Just kidding. I never could ride one of these either. Let’s just sit here and keep it steady,” she said, her dimples widening as she smiled.
“Bobby,” she finally asked, her smile fading as her brow furrowed, “how long do you think it will be before the Ezekiel war starts, and how long do you think our little ‘bubble of protection,’ as Clyde calls it, will last?”
“I don’t know, ” I replied, “but from what I can understand of scripture, once the Antichrist comes on the scene and confirms the covenant, then according to Revelation, things begin to happen quickly.”
“I wish everything could stay the way it is right now,” said Sarah, sighing and turning her face up to catch the sun.
“I wish we could wrap up both Norrisville and this little slice of time in a bubble – a slice of time suspended like a bug in amber until Jesus comes back. I know that’s awfully selfish, and I don’t mean that I am not anxious to meet Jesus and see my family, because I really am. It’s just that, well, for the first time ever, I’ve finally gotten out of the hellish rat maze of the city. I was so burned out working in the ER and living in the non-stop asylum that is city life in Atlanta. I was sick to death of trying to patch up young men and women with multiple gun or knife wounds – babies, and children who were in the wrong place at the wrong time, teens and young adults who had already given up on life – the walking dead shuffling through a culture of nihilism where they believe that they have no future; nothing to live for; no hope and no way out but death.
Atlanta – although nowhere near as bad as say, Chicago – was well on its way to becoming as big a killing field as the other major US cities already are. I didn’t want to see it become another Chicago, or Los Angeles or San Francisco. These young victims who grow into emotional zombies, if they live long enough, came in and out through the ER like it was a revolving door; kids who all had the same expression – the cold, dead eyes of a shark; gazes that held nothing of humanity in them. I was tired of trying to save the same kids over and over who had already died inside until finally their broken, dying bodies caught up with their already dead souls. After a few years, all I could see awake and asleep in my dreams were the faces and mangled bodies of kids whose eyes were flat and emotionless and whose bodies were scarred, empty shells housing a giant howling fury of hate and despair.
When I came here to visit, I was immediately struck at how different it is here – how peaceful and laid- back life is here; the beauty and serenity of the mountains in this tucked-away little town of Norrisville. I knew after my first night here that I would make any trade off, moneywise or other, to get away from Atlanta. I thought Norrisville was the perfect place to – I don’t know, recover my sanity? heal my own cynical and dying soul? I don’t know. I thought if I did decide to come here for good, maybe I would be leaving Hell behind back in Atlanta. I guess I never realized that Hell would be coming to Norrisville too.
What I’m trying to get at is that, even after all that’s already happened and with all we know is soon going to be happening, I’m the happiest and most at peace I’ve ever been right here, right now, among all of you. Of course, knowing Jesus as my Savior is where true peace comes from. I know that now, and God placing me here right now has filled that longing deep inside, even though I know that Norrisville won’t be immune from the Tribulation.”
Here she paused, and looking me full in the face, she said, “Then there’s you, Bobby; you’re part of my little bubble too. Looking back, we all could be in heaven right now if we hadn’t been so prideful and so…so stupid. I guess we all regret that more than anything, but if I’m going to live my last seven years going through all the horrors of the Tribulation, then for as long as God allows me to live, I can’t tell you how grateful and blessed I am to be living through them here with you. I think I’m falling in love with you, Bobby.”
I leaned over and wiped away a single tear that slid down her beautiful face. She looked at me, those stunning blue eyes shimmering with tears that threatened to spill over the rims of her eyelids and said, “See, that’s another reason I wish we could stay in this little bubble. I think I’ve finally found home – a home on this earth, and even that’s going to be gone soon.”
Sarah’s tears were untamed now, flowing freely. I put my arm around her and just held her while she cried. Finally, I said, “Sarah, I have loved you from the moment you lifted your head and looked up at me the day you threatened to blow my head off.” That drew a sad, sweet smile from her.
“We are all here because of our own folly in rejecting Christ,” I continued, “but God has protected us and may still for a while. He has brought us all together here in this place; and come what may, we do have a life, a home, and well, we’ll see what comes next. But if it’s possible, and if God allows it, then maybe we can build a life here together for as long as possible. Let’s see how things go; but whatever happens, don’t lose heart, sweet Sarah. I love you too, Sarah Arrowood. Sarah…my Sarah.”
We walked back to the girls’ home hand in hand. Why bother pretending that she and I weren’t exactly what we were, a guy and girl in love – at the beginning of the apocalypse.
As the girls cooked supper in the kitchen, Mitch, Trail, and I talked more about the situation in Israel and where it might go from here. After we had all eaten our fill near to bursting, we resumed a game of Monopoly that we’d all had going on for the past three nights. Byllie was skunking us all. Around 9:30, we got around to the chocolate cake and coffee. After two plates of spaghetti with two slices of garlic bread, Trail ate two pieces of cake with a cup of coffee when the girls served dessert. Lilly and Sarah both told him that if he was going to explode, to go outside and do it; they’d just cleaned the house.
At 9:00 we turned on the TV to see what latest atrocities the news might hold in store. The situation in the Pacific Northwest was moving from concerning to alarming. Mt Rainier was becoming a real threat. Around 10:00, we all said our goodbyes, we guys heading to our own home at Doc Barnett’s. As it turned out, the next big disaster that came didn’t happen on the West Coast at all – not then anyway. In twelve hours’ time, the last vestiges of the great United States of America were swept into the dustbin of history.
In one moment of time, the balance of power shifted from American superiority to the rising multi-headed beast of the end times that was, even then, rising from the ashes of an old empire. In the Middle East, Israel was invaded and God came to her rescue. That next morning, everything changed.