10 Retreat to Petra

Heloise looked out the door of the ancient tomb of Nabatean Sela (later renamed Petra by the Romans who conquered it) that had become their refuge since fleeing the invading forces of the World Union. Their arrival at such a setting was both spectacular and hair-raising, and she could see everything distinctly, even the Via Traiana, the ancient and once magnificent Roman road Emperior Trajan had built to connect the chief city of the new province of Arabia to his empire.

For hours afterwards the images kept coming back to her, so that it was hard to keep her mind on domestic arrangements.

Since then the soldiers had done some work of clearing for them—-ordered by the lone, surviving general who had led the desperate break-out from the city, but there was still much dirt and dust in the tomb to be gotten rid of somehow. As for the remains of an ancient altar of rough stones at the entrance that roughly took a crosslike shape, they had to be left as is, due to the weight of the stones no one would help her with. Oddly, when she first looked at them, the image of a robed man flickered in her gaze, lying outstretched upon the altar, his face turned up and his eyes radiant with light. But the desert did strange things to optics-—the next moment, she saw nothing and then wondered if sleepless nights had caught up with her and was playing tricks with her mind.

Was it a vision from God? She wasn’t in the least interested in receiving a vision at that moment, however.

Having thus dismissed the robed man of prayer in the cave entrance, she glanced back anxiously and saw Anna had not stirred where she was last resting. Thank God for that! How the old woman complained with every bump in the road as they raced across the desert, avoiding the patrolled roads, hiding amidst the innumerable sandstone ravines and big rocks in order to get to the defensible and almost inaccessible refuge of ancient Petra.

It was early morning, but already the light was almost blinding to her eyes, reflecting off the rocks of the sandstone cliffs of red and purple varying to pale yellow that pierced, colored or not, into her eyes. But as her sight adjusted and she could make out the spectacular columns and architectural marvel of the great Ad-Dayr, she could also see soldiers moving in and out of cave sites with equipment and sometimes whole armored vehicles and missilry of various kinds. Except when in-coming or maneuvering in the area, the copters were hidden from view under camouflaged netting, she observed. Under them crouched mechanics making repairs after the last flights from various army depots that had not yet been seized by the enemy forces. No military craft moved during the day, she knew. Though they had first come in broad daylight, subsequent maneuvers would wait for dusk or darkness. Then the Israelis could fly out again or take any in-coming reinforcements. By that time their camouflaged vehicles and aircraft made themselves almost invisible in the rocky desert terrain, and they could still see well enough to move into position without tell-tale artificial lighting.

Wearily, she went back inside, wondering if she had the strength and will to go and get a broom from the army depot. If only she could sweep away some of the dust of centuries, she might make the tomb somewhat endurable. How long would they have to live there, she had no idea. Where else could they flee that would be easier to defend?

Once called "Sela of the sons of Esau," Petra, which meant “Rock,” was ringed by rock formations hundreds of feet high, with a miles long crevice access that could be defended by a single squadron. Approached from the east by a narrow gorge called the Sik, or Wadi as-sik, Petra was a marvel of superb natural defense. Only from the air was it in any way vulnerable, yet the enemy wouldn’t attempt to penetrate the mobile missile defenses of the camp—-it would be suicide for them. They also had all the army’s chemical and biological warfare equipment in case the world emperor tried something particularly nasty on them with his own missiles. If the antichrist fired a thousand of his best and smartest missiles, it wouldn’t achieve anything-—for they could run quickly into another ravine of the thousands available that wasn’t contaminated, and so they could hide indefinitely in the environs of Petra.

Certainly, no army could force itself in without tremendous, unsustainable losses-—so they were quite safe for the present time until the Beast’s planners could come up with a way to force the defense system and capture the Free Israeli redoubt proclaimed Earth’s "City of Refuge” by its residents on banned government radio channels just to spite the enemy.

Heloise sat down by Anna, checking her for a moment to see if she was breathing regularly.

Then, satisfied that the old woman was doing as well as could be expected after hours in a racing jeep and then a helicopter making endless circles and dives, she tried to find some rest for her own bruised body.

It comforted her to think that she still might see her family and also Esther. It had been a traumatic moment when the army separated them, splitting the convoy in order to better elude their pursuers. Would they be coming soon? Probably not until after dark, she thought. Wherever the other half of the survivors of Jerusalem were hidden, it was probably miles and miles away.

As for the Beast, the Antichrist, no doubt he was hatching some way to destroy Petra, maybe contemplating the massive use of hydrogen bomb weapons-—but he might hesitate at first using them, since he wouldn’t want to alarm his remaining Arab allies by throwing such powerful bombs at targets within their own borders. No, he would first try weaker, more conventional means, probably because it was also a well-known UN-protected "cultural preserve" and nukes would contaminate it irretrievably. When various options open to him failed, he would be forced to go after Petra with his full nuclear arsenal-—but only then. This bought them some time before the beast struck. How long they had, she had no idea.

In the days of her high-flying televangelist career back in the states, she had taught on just these very developments as an End-Times expert, yet living them, she found, was a very different experience. There just too many large gaps in which anyone could possibly know—where anything could happen! All she knew were the generalities, but as for the specifics which really matter to her—such as whether her family and Anna’s would be spared to join them at the Rock-—they were pure guesswork.

Her mind whirled with the events she had witnessed for the last seven years—-the Divine Judgments of the Apocalypse--everything had happened just too quickly to absorb! At mid-point in the whole range of disasters, the Antichrist-orchestrated assassinations of Enoch and Elijah, the Two Witnesses at the wall...

Afterwards, without trying to explain how the bodies had not been blown to atoms by the 1,000 pound TNT-warheaded missile, the whole world celebrated with parties as their bodies were viewed for several days running via CNNC and other global networks.

All over the world, the remaining believers in Yeshua mourned, while the 666-marked masses partied in the streets, non-stop!

It was like a world-wide earthquake, then, their glorious, stupendous resurrection from the dead! She was just as overwhelmed as any 666-branded follower of the Antichrist as the Two Witnesses turned from being decomposing, stinking corpses to living men right before the cameras and masses of celebrants. How that dampened their festivities! The people at the scene were so upset and furious they tried to tear the two men to pieces on the spot, but they weren’t given the chance.

The prophets, having prophesied destruction for all Yeshua’s enemies, rose up into the air, then vanished out of sight, leaving the astonished newscasters and reporters speechless at the scene. It was sheer anarchy for quite a while, before troops were sent in and the crowd was dispersed.

Driven underground, the resistance of the liberal, secular Jews stiffened tremendously from that moment. An alliance between Jews and Christians was cemented-—it was brother helping brother surive, with the religious differences no longer any issue. Bits and pieces of her own involvement came to mind. The only thing that really comforted was the underground network of food banks she had organized, using some of her financial and logistical talents to move donated assets to where they were most desperately needed. She had found herself sticking in her oar because, Shin Bet or not, she couldn’t just stand and see the Antichrist starve innocent men, women, and children--who were simply helpless to do anything--even if she and Anna and Esther still had something to eat.

Just after the Two Witnesses had been taken up into heaven in a tornado like whirlwind, the unthinkable had happened. An assassin had successfully struck down the Beast himself! Yet, horror of horrors, within a couple days he came back from the dead!

That very day he came back to life the newly "resurrected Messiah" held a world press conference and, bare chested and garbed in long, white robes like a Hindu holy man or Buddha incarnation, proclaimed his divinity and Messiahship to the whole world! The proof of the pudding, of course, was his "resurrection," a fact no one could deny, though Christians who knew the Book of Revelation took a different view of it. To them it had to be a counterfeit, achieved by the Devil, which was borne out when they later heard his body required massive injections of formaldehyde to keep it from stinking.

While watching him utter blasphemy after blasphemy, taking the titles of God for his own on the strength of his "resurrection," she had been impelled by the Spirit to go to the Fourth Temple the Antichrist had erected, as if she were one of the Jews holding loyal to him and wanted to go and worship his newly erected image.

Most Jews, however, stayed away, for the image portrayed this "Messiah" as a combination Sun-God, Baal, Christ, and Hindu holy man.

Looking like many others the Anti-Christ had erected across the globe, this was a holographic abomination he had set up in the holy temple precincts despite the protests of the orthodox Hasidim and even quite a large number of the liberal Jews.

Thanks to the meager numbers of Jewish worshipers, which was embarrassing on camera to all those who turned in CSPAN, the guards were anxious not to exclude anyone who could possibly add to the appearance that the Jews were coming out in good numbers. For this reason, the regular security checks were waived that would have screened her out as non-Jew and sent her to a detention center in the Falkland Islands.

It took that kind of miracle to get her in, she knew.

Once in she gave the prophecy that the Spirit had directed her to give—-and the moment she uttered it a change came over the towering image. It flickered and then vanished—-due to a malfunction of the transmitters, apparently. The computer systems governing the image software must have been prepared for an outage, for the image was restored—-but only in part. Obvious to her, the software had been damaged somehow, for the image looked more like a spiritual beast it represented than it did a human being.

She and the Levite priesthood and a few common worshipers present in the vast sanctuary saw a beast with golden crowns appear in the restored version. It was just as lifelike as the former image too, for it moved and looked about, smiling down at the people. But how horrible it was! Its seven heads had ten horns, and golden crowns hung on the horns, and on the heads were blasphemies against God. It had a torso of a leopard, the feet of a bear, and a mouth of a lion. One head was scarred hideously, but obviously healed.

It was such a blasphemous mockery of the resurrected Antichrist that the image was soon deleted by the Temple, while technicians went to work on repairing the damage.

Hurrying back home, Heloise caught a broadcast referring briefly to what had happened at the Temple. The grotesque transmogrification of the image in tune with the Christian, Biblical image of teh Anti-Christ was explained away as a mere failure of the software—-and the world was promised a quick restoration of the holy image of “Michael-Jehovah God” in a few days.

It took only a few hours for the reaction from the Jewish community. It was all-out revolt! Mainly the Hasidim rose up in rage, unable to contain their fury after seeing the blasphemous names on the televised beast defling their holy temple. It had confirmed their worst suspicions, and they accepted it as the truth that the Antichrist was an infidel, profane beast of the worst stripe, and the great defiler had taken the holy God’s place in the temple. It only added fuel to their fire that the beast claimed to be their Messiah come to earth to save them. Thousands formed in an instant mob and ran to destroy the restored image of the Antichrist as well as burn down the Dome of the Rock and various mosques. They ran right into the armored might of the world union army—-and the slaughter was indescribable. Actual rivers of blood ran through the city’s streets below the carnage. Yet the enormous loss of Hasidic lives served to raise up the remaining Jews who, though secular and liberal, hadn’t gone so far as to take the Antichrist’s chip implant or take part in worship of his image. It was these the army had most success in saving-—as the Hasidim who survived the bloodbath refused to leave the city.

Even Anna--the faithless, reprobate, old Jewess--was stirred up! As the blood of fellow Jews poured like water from burst hydrants in the streets of Jerusalem, she could see that it was her own life and Esther’s and the children’s next at stake. But what could she, one old woman, do to protect them all? For the first time she turned to Heloise as an equal, insisting that Heloise think of some way out for them. But how angry Anna became when she had to tell her that she was powerless to do anything. There was no place they could go, now that the Antichrist had shut off all the airports within reach and sealed the borders. Jerusalem was a rat trap with no exit! The Beast of Blasphemy, evidently, wanted to exterminate every last Jew, and now he could do so with the whole world’s approval since the latest uprising.

Within hours after the government soldiers came knocking, thousands of Jews, including Esther and her children, Anna, and Heloise, were in the first "detention" camp called Hillel. What went on there, with the government soldiers showing no mercy, was a nightmare which held no surprises to Anna, who had seen the worst (and rehearsed it countless times in her mind) the Nazis could do to helpless Jews. It was seemingly all over for them--they might as well abandon hope as think they might escape from the Hillel hellhole.

How could she have guessed that the Israeli IDF army would revolt against its own commanders and follow a renegade general, attack Jerusalem and seize the key centers long enough to stage an evacuation at Hillel?

The insurgency was valiant and completely unannounced, taking its government guards by surprise.

Beyond question, it was the most daring maneuver of the century-—and the Antichrist, who thought the will of the Israelis to resist had been completely crushed, was caught completely off-guard by this master-stroke of sheer courage and genius. By the time he had reconfigured his huge, unwieldly forces to deal with it, the tiny, highly mobile rebel Israeli army calling itself the Gideon Task Force (or GTF) had gotten away with thousands of Jerusalemites—-and in the confusion, Evangelical Christians, Arab Christians, Greek Orthodox, were mixed with all shades and types of Jews-—Moroccans, Ethiopians, native Sabras-—and hustled via trucks, jeeps, and armored buses out into the Judaean desert as they made a dash for the Jordanian wilderness.

With missile launchers of all kinds on mobile platforms, escorted by U.S.-manufactured attack helicopters they were well prepared to deal with larger but less coordinated attacking forces.

The evacuation was two-pronged, with two groups diverging in the Edomite desert for opposite destinations to confuse the enemy. Only later would they reunite in the safest place available and board helicopters for the last lap fo their journey in to Petra.

Who was the courageous, Patton-type general who had saved their lives? Heloise had tried to find out, but his name was top secret, so that he was referred to only as "General M" or "Maccabeus" after the famous Maccabean revolt against King Antiochus in pre-Roman times.

No one would admit to knowing whom it could be, since assassination by infiltrating agents was feared. It was that Seleucid Greek king who proclaimed himself god and set up his own idol in the Temple, so the general's moniker was more apt than the Israelis guessed, she reflected. As for the general, he couldn't be identified by sight either as the commanding officer, since the top command worked as a team and accorded no special recognition to their commander.

Only when after they arrived at Petra and she recognized the place did she hear from the soldiers that the Temple had been blown up-—by order of the ESC--“Emergency Supreme Commander,” as the Anti-Christ beast now styled himself. The news hardly affected her, since she had grown almost numb to news of catastrophic events since the outbreak of the world fires, world famines, world earthquakes, Wormwood, etc., etc., each catastrophe worse than its predecessor.

What bowl of wrath, what vial of disaster, hadn’t already been poured out by judgment angels upon the earth? Two thirds of Earth’s population had been wiped out, she figured. Two thirds of the Earth had been rendered uninhabitable. The oceans were a stinking, rotting mass of slop that couldn’t support any sea life. They had lost a third of the daylight. Hell's locusts (identified by the spin shamans as "stellar insectivora from planets holding a superior, super-intelligent civilization") appeared to make things worse, if they could be made worse. For a time they ran rampant, with no defense against them, as they tormented and tortured countless millions with not only their physical hideousness but scorpion-like stings that made life unbearable for the victims, though it did not kill them. What a stench they had too! It polluted the ground and air wherever they appeared, lingering for weeks after they had gone off elsewhere for victims.

With all this going on simultaneously, creating unbelievable chaos and mayhem, she only knew for sure that Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, couldn’t be far off-—perhaps it had already happened.

What, for instance, had happened since the evacuation? Surely, the Antichrist would be so furious that he would order a quick and vicious response to stamp out all remaining opposition. Indeed, he did just that, she found out within hours after climbing out of the troop-sized helicopter that had carried her and Anna and a Morroccan family to safety. Anna couldn’t even walk after the ordeal of being thrown about in the back the helicopter as it maneuvered round the monoliths in the Judean canyons for hours to mislead any electronic satellite tracking systems recording their escape route. She had to be carried from the copter.

Heloise was not much better. Fortunately, the two sturdy teen-aged Moroccan boys that came with their parents and sisters hadn’t minded the journey a bit and helped Heloise, joining her in carrying Anna on a stretcher, so that she could be taken up to one of the tomb shelters in the cliff faces. As for the soldiers, they couldn’t be bothered, as they were furiously setting up defense systems and hiding their equipment from view during the few precious hours of light that remained in the abbreviated daytime of the Tribulation.

She found only a few things, from remarks the soldiers made while they were being registered as camp inmates by the army. She was told that they could not expect to return to their homes any time soon. Jerusalem, in fact the entire country, lay cut to pieces in enemy hands, occupied by World Union forces, and Jerusalem’s remaining Jewish population was presently being ‘processed’ for removal and, no doubt, extermination.

“What will they do with the rest of the Jews of Jerusalem?” she asked the soldiers when she got her first chance after landing at Petra. She was too afraid to name Esther, for fear of what they might say in Anna's hearing.

“Those that aren’t being executed without trial are being ‘detained and certified’ as Zionist Jews by the UN-World Union forces and then will be sent to concentration camps,” she was told by the soldier who had come to take their names and some other information.

Heloise went pale at the news. “I suspected as much,” she said, her stomach giving her a painful knotted feeling, while she felt sweat on her forehead, and cold at the same time-—the signs of war revulsion and shock starting to take its toll on her system. The soldier answered a call on his radio, too busy to spend any more time with civilian concerns.

She desperately wanted more information, and Anna too, despite her looking like she was near death, wouldn’t let the soldier leave without telling them what had happened to her daughter Esther and the children. They had been taken out of Hillel but had been parted from Anna and Heloise in separate vehicles.

“Can you tell me please anything about Esther my daughter and my grandchildren?” she interrupted him. “Please! We were separated back there. Check and see! Are they all right? When will they be coming?”

“They're in transit and will join you here--if they make it past the enemy patrols,” the corporal said brusquely after calling someone in the secret Petra headquarters. He refused to say when that might be, though Anna screamed at him in the most threatening way, throwing in a Yiddish obscenity about his lack of manhood.

After the soldier had gone, Heloise and the Moroccans tried to set up housekeeping in the tomb without any means to clean it. Some soldiers returned with a few pieces of army camping gear-—cots, army blankets, some army-style utensils for cooking, all which helped, but there was no broom, no vacuum cleaner, and nothing electric. Could they stand to live in the filth of this ancient tomb? Wasn’t an animal better off than they, being accustomed to the dirt?

“It’s all your fault we’ve come to this-—this [Yiddish expletive] place!” Anna shrieked at Heloise, seeing the tomb for the first time for what it was-—fit only for a wild animal or the crumbling bones of some ancient Nabatean Arab trader of ancient Roman times.

Heloise looked at her, her eyes closed as she waited for the expect torrent of abuse.

“Yes, you Americans are all to blame for this! Now I have only the filthy, stinking rags on my poor, old back, since you wouldn’t let me take anything nice with me from my home! How can you make me live like this! I send you all to hell for this atrocity!”

Having gotten this much off her heaving chest, Anna tried to get up as if she meant to leave for Jerusalem. But she couldn’t manage to stand on her feet, and it took quick action to catch her heavy body before she crashed on the boulders and half-sculptured masonry blocks littering the tomb floor.

The cursing Heloise got for all her concern and trouble she took for Anna (nearly breaking her own back carrying the stretcher!) made her almost want to run as far as she could from this horrible old battle-ax.

“It’s your fault, you ugly, stinking golem from the Gentile sewers!” Anna kept moaning and yelling. “It’s you rich bugger Americans who have done this to us poor Jews and victims of the Nazis, as as for you bung-sucking Christians...!”

Unable to stand the obscenity and screams any longer, Heloise left the tomb, stumbling over the makeshift altar at the entrance. She started climbing down the rugged path that led to the valley floor. It was dangerous at any time, and particularly now as dusk came on. But she had to get away for a breath of free air where Anna’s voice couldn’t reach her.

Once she reached the ground below, she looked back up, and wondered how she had made it without falling. The rocky slope looked so steep and full of crevices! She couldn’t even make out the path in the dying light.

She hadn’t even got the breath she had come for when, suddenly, the ground began to shudder. Was it an earthquake? She crouched down, as dust and whirling red sand and flying rocks made it impossible to see what was going on.

Frightened, she found herself in a maelstrom, which turned out to be a squadron of camouflaged army helicopters in swift descent. She had expected it, but when it came she wasn't really prepared. And they swooped down so fast that she hadn’t even heard their approach. All of a sudden, as she was trying to see with blinding grit in her eyes, she glimpsed dark figures darting out from the copters in the whirlwind of flying dust, guns at the in hand as they fanned out below the still moving rotors. Terrified, she fell flat, and just lay there. A moment later a boot toe rolled her over. A practiced rifle butt was thrust into her face, then for an agonizing moment she thought she was going to die right there. But the Israeli laughed, shook his head, and turned back to his comrades who then hurried away.

Heloise, shaking, got to her knees. By then the choppers were silent, with groups being led quickly to various parts of the valley and then up the slopes to hiding places.

She didn’t think, she just had to scream the names of her daughters and husband. No one turned toward her. Her heart sank. She ran from her spot and tried to intercept the soldiers and their refugees.

She caught up to one group, and the sergeant turned to her with a surly look. He held his rifle on her as she asked for her family. He shook his head, and using his rifle made her stand back as he led the group away.

Desperate, she tried again. She ran, fell in a hole in a grave dug by some ancient, long-gone grave-robber, got up, her clothes torn and a cut on her cheek, but kept running. She thought of Esther and the children too, and screamed her name at the top of her lungs as she leaped and ran, throwing up her arms to get somebody’s attention.

Suddenly, a woman turned to her and began running away from the group she was part of.

Heloise nearly fainted as she knew what that meant. “Esther!” she screamed.

The two women, when they met, rushed into each other’s arms. Heloise couldn’t believe her own feelings. She was sobbing on the shoulder of the younger woman who seemed to be bearing up much stronger than her in the situation. But Esther too was crying-—as the tears spurting down her dusty cheeks testified.

“Where is my mother?” she was whispering in a hoarse voice, before pausing to cough.

“ No, wait, where are my girls?” Heloise shrieked in return. “I won’t let you go until you tell me!”

When they could hear each other and had calmed down somewhat, Heloise pointed toward the tomb she had just left. Giving a parting word to a friend, Esther took off running toward the cliff, climbing up without any help of the path that she couldn’t see in the dark.

“But where are my girls? And Aloes? Didn’t they make it here?” Heloise cried, despair almost overwhelming her first joy in finding Esther alive and well.

She didn’t have long to agonize. Myrrha was the first to reach her. Unable to recognize the young woman, Heloise stood as the stranger came running to her. “Mother!” Myrrha cried. Then Heloise came out of her daze and held out her arms to the voice she recognized beyond a doubt. She and Myrrha were still clinging to each other when she felt Myrrha release and someone else take her place. Through tear blinded eyes she felt the arms of a man. Her son Aloes? No, she realized, it wasn’t her son. She had lain once in those arms--but it had been a long, long time ago.

“Harry, I--” she moaned like someone about to die.

He put his fingers over her lips and as her heart felt like it might stop she almost fell in his grasp before she could steady her nerves and accept what had happened.

The words and touches that then passed between them were like blind people searching the identity of each other.

When they could face the others again, they had a million things to say but no time yet to say them. But where was Aloes? Had he come along, or was he separted from them and coming in on another flight?"

Myrrha seemed to read her mind. "He's not with us, mother. Don't worry. He'll be coming. I saw him board another helicopter right next to ours."

Almost sick with relief, Heloise felt weak in the knees, but she somehow stayed on her feet. After all, so much, so much was going on. Who could take it all in?

“I found we have secret friends in the old CIA that we thought was hopelessly corrupt,” Harry Turnbull explained to her as soldiers escorted them to the tomb she shared with Anna. “You wouldn’t believe it—there’s a whole underground conspiracy in the states going against the world government, and they look on you as a heroine, a sort of latter-day Joan of Arc, by choosing to share the fate of Israel, just when it was going to be made to pay the ultimate price--extinction--for ‘world peace’.”

“What? But I’m no conspirator and certainly no heroine!” she cried. “After running from the law, all I’ve done over here is try to keep house for a senile, evil, old hellcat who calls herself a Jew but who had taught me what Christian love has to be, only I could never love like that!”

“That’s not what they told me in the states!” he laughed. “After all those ingenious food banks you organized that saved thousands of Jews and Christians’ lives when the “compassionate” Jayson shown weeping in his public broadcasts cut off their incomes, they all see you as the victim of a witch-hunt by your enemies in the media and the UN puppet-government ruling the U.S. The investigations all turned up much more evidence of collusion and conspiracy by a combine of media giants, rival NGOs, and courts than was charged against you! To protect themselves they pulled back from prosecuting you, for fear there would be a leak and they’d all be exposed, especially after news came of how you have been helping the Jews these last seven years of hell on earth. Then, MJ’s turn to his unbashed, no-stops-pulled policy of exterminating the Jews was held back until just recently by the fact all the security heads knew you were living in the Jewish community in Jerusalem! You’ve grown to be such a symbol of liberty and decency in the states for your stand for Israel that he was deathly afraid of losing all of the North American ‘Dream Ranch,’ as he calls it, if he took you out while taking out all the Jews and putting Arabs in their place! Now, of course, he’s making up for lost time since he must crush all opposition now or never!”

All together except for Aloes and safe in the cross and altar-guarded tomb, the family talked while Esther and Anna held each other and rocked back and forth.

“Where are Esther’s children?” Heloise thought to ask.

“All the little kids and the babies are being held back in a special refuge, that’s even safer than this place,” Cassia explained. “If we are killed, at least they will have a chance to survive—-that’s what the soldiers told us. They let us come here because, even if we’re non-Israelis, we’re of age to use weapons if they need us in an attack.”

Heloise shuddered, looking up around the tomb walls that were so badly lighted with dimly glowing chemical lights the army had supplied. Was this to be the scene of savage fighting, should Jayson give the order to attack with his main forces?

She asked Harry, who told her, “No, you haven’t heard the news apparently. We’re very small potatoes at the moment. There’s been an earthquake, so violent it broke up all the roads between Petra and the north. Worse, millions of Russians are moving down upon Israel with a coalition of northern mullah-dominated states. At the same time China is moving the world’s biggest army to the Middle East to take the world’s greatest oil reserves for its gigantic economy and war machine. And all the Western nations’ coalition fighting forces that Jayson can muster for the world government are converging on Israel, what is left of Israel, that is. Jayson has got to take full control before he can turn the Russians and their allies, not to mention the Chinese, back in their tracks. Once Jayson has liquidated the remaining Jews, he can feel confident he has the country securely in his bloody, manicured, diamond-smothered hands. But even his death camps must wait—-as the Russians and her northern Arab allies, which are God and Magog, we know, and the Chinese who are out to fight both Jayson and the Russians for control of Middle East oil-—will soon reach the area. Once they converge, they will start going at each other with every nuclear and biological-chemical weapon they can muster from their immense arsenals."

“Then what?” she said in a low voice.

He didn’t answer right away. All they could hear was the yipping of a desert jackal, and the moans of Anna as Esther comforted her over in their corner of the tomb.

Heloise, feeling suddenly sick with dread, waited. She need not have asked. She had taught on the subject a hundred time, perhaps a thousand times in her decades of public ministry. In the last three and a half years she had seen the fulfillment of hundreds of prophecies. Even before that time she had identified many fulfilled prophecies about the Last Days. She had drawn up a list, detailing the increase of wars and rumors of wars, the extreme materialism, lawlessness, population explosion, the increase in speed and knowledge, the departure of Christians from the faith, intense demonic activity, the unification of the world religions, the unification of political and economic systems, the lack of any rival leaders in other countries so that Jayson could become the ‘Man of the Hour,’ the universal drug culture mixed with witchcraft, the promiscuity and the international Nazi brotherhood-organized drug cartels, the global killing of the unborn and also unwanted small children, widespread violence and abuse, the rejection of the Bible, the rejection of God himself, rampant blasphemy, hedonism’s rise to the status of a major religion, the common acceptance and widespread choice of homosexuality, devil worship, the false prophets, false claims of peace, tremendous growth in military technology, paralleled by the explosion of genetic sciences, the cloning of human beings and the hybridization of humans and animals, a most dangerous and unstable mix of forces made totally ungovernable by great upheavals of every kind in Israel that would call the world’s powers to try to solve the dilemma and stop the fighting between Arabs and Jews-—the atrocious list went on and on.

But the Tribulation Period’s prophecies, too, had been fulfilled just as emphatically before her eyes. The barbaric savagery of the new warfare, the craze for sex, drugs, and violence all mixed together in the most perverse and evil practices imaginable, people dying from the stresses of a world culture falling apart, horrible persecutions of remaining believers in Yeshua, world-wide famines, unbelievably big hail in storms that covered entire nations at a time, earthquakes that were so frequent and powerful they had literally gone off the charts in number and intensity, tsunamis and disasters of all kinds in the oceans, the loss of light from the moon and the sun, meteorites striking the earth’s surface, causing massive destruction in many places, scorching, unbearably hot winds, a new species of locust that appeared like a nightmare out of a horror film, striking victims with indescribable painful stings before vanishing, a universal dictatorship that turned increasingly bloody, the revival of the Roman empire under Jayson, the conversion and ministry of the 144,000, the abomination of desolation which was Jayson settting up his statue in the rebuilt Temple, the martrydom of the Two Witnesses, Jayson’s assassination and satanic resurrection—-she had seen it all except for the concluding events soon to happen: things like the destruction of cities like Paris, London, Shanghai, Taipai, Tokyo, New York, and Beijing, the all-out attempt of every power on earth to destroy Israel, and the last battle that would bring all the major contestants to grief.

“We could be just one hour, maybe one week at the most, from the dawn of the Millennium of Christ,” Harry said, as if he had divine her thoughts.

“What about the Book of Revelation’s 144,000 newly converted Jews—-can you tell me anything about their world-wide evangelism campaign? We here in Israel can’t get the news of what is really going on with them.”

“They’re just as active as ever, but by the tens of thousands they are being hunted down and executed, wherever Jayson can get his bloody hands on them! They are rapidly being killed off. There can’t be too many of them left, as most, just like St. Paul and the other Apostles, keep preaching right in the face of the authorities without any fear whatsoever!”

She thought a moment about one most amazing thing. Her friend, the false prophet who had claimed amidst his followers that he alone knew the lost pronunciation of God’s name, Jehovah, had finally seen the light and turned in his shingle and given his life to Christ Yeshua! He had run to her on the street one day, full of joy, so full of light she hadn’t recognized him at first. They couldn’t talk long before he had to break it up, or get arrested. But he was just one of the many Jews, she suspected, who had found the real thing after seeking everything else first. Only death—-a martyr’s end-—could stop such firebrands now, she knew. Seeing his transformation was the most thrilling thing that had happened, up to being reunited now with her family and dear Esther too. And it was the family-—she discovered—-that made it possible to think of facing the final catastrophies of the world.

They fell silent, each thinking private thoughts, but finally Myrrha must have spoken for them all, for she said, “To think it took this dirty, old hole in the desert rocks, half across the world from home, to bring us back together!”

Heloise turned away. She couldn’t trust herself not to lose all control. But a strong hand reached out and gripped her, pulling her toward the owner

“I really ruined it, I messed up royally with you all,” she blurted out. “You all know what a crook I am—exploiting all my devoted, self-sacrificing ‘faith partners’ just to build up my own selfish empire and glorify myself! I was acting like some kind of vampire, feeding on the sacrificial life blood of all my trusting supporters. How can you want me back! I’ve done nothing to earn it! Nothing! I am really glad you’re all safe and alive, but I can’t go asking to return to—to--”

Now she couldn’t help herself, spilling her guts. She had to get away if she still could. At the tomb’s entrance she was blocked by her son. He whispered in her ear. “Mom! I’ve got to tell you something!”

“I’m so proud of you for—“

He made an ugly face and shrank back away. The next moment he flung away, and was gone from sight.

“What did I say?” she said.

“He’s ashamed, that’s all,” said a voice behind her, and Heloise spun around in surprise.

She saw Cassia. “What do you mean ashamed?”

Cassia went and took her mother’s hands. “He needs to tell you himself. Give him some more time and space. He will come around, but he needs some slack.”

Heloise searched Cassia’s eyes, then relented, and turned back into the cave as Cassia spoke to her.

“Go back to dad! How can you think you have to do anything! He’s forgiven you unconditionally! We’ve all forgiven you--totally! Can’t you accept? that?“

Heloise pulled back from Cassia, she nearly choked at the thought. What was this-—a television melodrama? In real life, it couldn’t happen this way, could it? How could they forgive her everything? She had preached it for others, but for herself and her crimes--this was dfferent. It did not seem humanly possible. Why, Anna would agree with her there! She never forgot or forgave one blessed thing the Nazis had done to her when she was a girl! And she was determined to go on that way to her grave, God or no God!

Cassia left her, seeing it was impossible to force her mother on this point.

Heloise stood there dumbly for a time. Finally, she did go back to the group, but started to tidy up in a ridiculous way, trying to arrange the army cots with blankets, but making a mess she could see even in the dark. Cassia finally intervened. “Stop it, Mom! You’re supposed to know everything, yet you’re acting like a fool! Take it or leave it, we love you! Yes, you! We’re not the same people, you see. Why can’t you just accept that?” Heloise shook her head. What had happened to her daughters, who had hated her with a passion. How could they want her now? What had the jail time and torture done to them back in the states—-an experience they wouldn’t have had except for her! Surely, they couldn’t honestly claim to let bygones be bygones and accept her back into the family.

Myrrha fell down at her mother’s feet, grabbing her legs. “Mom, try to listen a moment. They really hurt me, in that prison’s security ward. I had so many fractures from their beatings I couldn’t count them. But it woke me up! It got my attention! I had to have something like that to get me back on track with God, and with myself. They beat me up, when I wouldn’t confess anything and sign anything—but I am a new person they can’t touch or change! I wouldn’t ever want to go back to being the person I was before those horrible things happened. I wasn’t alive, I was stone, cold dead! Now I can face anything, I think. Yes, anything, with Christ helping me!”

At last something broke in Heloise. The sea-change in her daughters was undeniable. They had become grown women, and she was still acting like a child! How could she resist what they were offering? She wanted to punish herself--but they were making it too hard--way too hard--so she gave up. She sank down and put her arms around Myrrha. They sat for a time, neither saying anything.

Meanwhile, she gradually became aware that a blanket was draped around them, as it was getting very cold in the tomb. After a time, when she started to doze off in Myrrha’s embrace, she felt Myrrha slip away gently, and before she could lay her head down—the night covered what she could not have hoped would ever come her way again.

“Harry, I—“ she began lamely, as an old impulse reared its head despite the indescribable happiness she was feeling in his arms. Somehow, somehow she still felt she had to try to pay for it.

“Shut up, stupid,” he said. “Remember sheer grace-—you preached it often enough. Now it’s time to take it-—a completely free gift nobody, but nobody can deserve--if you’ve never really taken it before!”

That made her burst out laughing-—the first laugh in 1,250 days, ever since the Two Witnesses began hurling long-deserved woes and destructions at the God-defying, rebellious world! p> Then something spoke to her, stopping her.

“What is it?” Harry whispered.

She shivered. “I don’t know. I just remembered something about myself-—and us-—having to do with the holy anointing oil.”

The moment she said that Harry stiffened.

“What did the Lord tell you about it?”

“Oh, it was that we are the various ingredients of this oil somehow—and I got the impression that God is going to use us to anoint the Jews and maybe Christians too—-how and when I have no idea—with some kind of ministry for which He’s prepared us, but which I can do nothing to create. Could it have something to do with the coming age, the Millennium, the Reign of Christ? Meaning, something the Lord is planning for the next thousand years of His reign on earth?”

Harry seemed to relax when she finished with admitting her inability. “That is what I thought I heard the Lord saying. The kids also have heard it, so we’re not just imagining things.”

Heloise was startled, though she reminded herself that she shouldn’t be surprised, knowing that God shows no partiality, even with family members. Why should she presume to be the one who had God’s ear? God spoke to anyone who sincerely sought Him. One needn’t be even a washed, baptized, churched Christian to hear from the Lord, she knew.

It was food for thought anyway. God already had planned exactly everything He would do in the coming Thousand Year Reign of Christ. Meanwhile, on the eve of the Reign, the lunatic, blaspheming world was even at that moment preparing to commit suicide, just a few miles to the north of them. They could drive to the battlefield in about two hours--a valley that was so large it could accommodate the hundreds of millions of China’s army and her allies, with room to spare for Jayson’s legions and also the entire forces of Russia and her Arab allies.

It was so close, in fact, they could stand outside the tomb and probably hear the first maneuvers of the world’s greatest armies as they began to face off to decide who would rule over Israel and the oil of the Middle East-—how utterly insane it all was!

In the night as they slept, the sound of helicopters coming in roused Heloise.

“Aloes?” she called.

Whoever it was hurried back out the entrance, nearly falling over the crossed altar.

The moonlight was dazzling like technicolor—-to the point of bleaching her vision. It was a poor night to be walking, much less running.

Hurrying, she made her way down the cliff.

She nearly reached the ground below the cliff when her ankle turned and she fell the rest of the way. She groaned weakly where she lay for the pain was like a knife stabbing her.

Getting up, she started limping, and made it the rest of the way to the helicoper.

Refugees got out along with the soldiers and pilot.

Someone came running in the dark to meet her where she stood, incapacitated with pain.

She sank down. A moment later, Aloes came up to her. “All you all right, lady?” he said, then he must have seen her face, for he fell down on his knees and his arms went around her. They hugged for quite some time.

“Yes, I'm all right,” she gasped, despite the shooting flames in her left ankle. She rose up, with Aloes helping her to a big rock to sit on while she grasped her ankle and began to massage it. The pain began to decrease to manageable portions. “It’s just a strain. Maybe I can walk on it if I just rest a little while. If not, can you help me back to the shelter?”

Aloes seemed to want to pull away now that he saw she hadn’t broken any bones.

“Hey, we’ve got to talk!” she said to him.

He turned away, and she could see the shaking of his shoulders, as if he were at war with himself. His voice, when he spoke, sounded like a tormented animal’s breaking in bursts from its throat.

“I signed--my soul away—to-- the devil himself!”

Her heart nearly stopped. She thought only one thing-—666! He had taken the beast's Mark?

“You did what?” she gasped, feeling like she might faint.

“I signed the confession!”

Heloise was bewildered for a moment. “I’m sorry, you’ll have to explain. I’m an old woman now, and you have to take more time to explain things. Please!”

Her soft pleading, so utterly unlike the old commanding general of a Heloise, seemed to make his whole body relax. He dropped to the ground before her and sat, his head in his hands for a moment.

Finally, he let all his breath out, and began speaking in a torrent of words full of self-loathing. “I couldn’t stand the beatings and the other things they did—-the lights and questions and all the rest-—and I signed the document. They wanted me to accuse you of all kinds of crimes I supposedly saw you commit! I was a coward, afraid of what more they would do to me with the bloody torture equipment they showed me, and I gave in! You wouldn’t believe it-—there were pieces of skin and hair all over the equipment-—even somebody’s eyeball! I just lost it completely when I saw that eye staring at me! I would have done anything they asked after that. I was jelly in their filthy hands! Oh, God—-“

Heloise was at a loss for words, unusual for her. He hadn’t committed the unforgivable sin, but he was more concerned with signing a confession against her than blaspheming or taking the Beast’s number. What could she say? She just knew she needed to take extra care before making a judgment he might take badly.

She decided it was best to say nothing. Actions spoke louder when words could not. She hobbled over to him, and put her arm around his shoulders. For a moment he let her.

“I can’t forgive myself!” he blurted out after shaking himself free.

Now it was time to say something, she knew. She heard anger in her voice, which startled her, since she didn’t feel any. “But what about me? I can’t forgive myself either! That makes two of us! Now can’t we at least forgive each other. Okay, let me start the process. I forgive you, if you will forgive me? Agreed?”

Aloes’ eyes widened in the brilliant moonlight as he seemed to bend to the hard tone of her voice. “All right,” he said slowly. “If you really mean that—“

“Yes, I mean it!” she said—an incredible tenderness now flooding into her voice.

He searched her eyes like a child hurt too many times not to suspect another great betrayal, yet coming close despite his fears. The extreme danger she had sensed now seemed to drain from his presence. He was coming back to earth, putting his feet once again on the ground. “Yes, I forgive you. What you did was far less than what I did, but--”

“Enough said!” she interrupted him, feeling vast relief that Aloes wasn’t going to explode or hurtle himself like a missile off a nearby cliff. “Thanks for forgiving me, I think I’m beginning to forgive myself now. After all, didn’t the Lord say once to the Apostle Paul when he needed to hear it: ‘My grace is sufficient for thee’?”

She took a deep breath for strength, then smiled at him and her smile seemed to light up something in his eyes for the first time—something like the old Aloes. Reassured, she reached out her hand to him.

“Can you help me back up to the shelter now? It’s too cold out here to sit on bare ground like this.

Together, they slowly made their ascent to the tomb with the crossed altar at the entrance. But it wasn’t a tomb to them anymore, they sensed the moment they entered it. Truly, it was a place of utterly new beginnings—of being given back, not only to family, but to life itself. It was almost a second “Genesis.” It was more nearly amazing Grace.

Heloise, when they all finally settled down enough to attempt sleep, drifted off at some point near morning, but an image came sharply enough to mind to force her groggily awake. She was still staring at the image with open eyes when she sat up. What was it? Vaguely, it looked primitively Viking or Scandinavian to her. A "stav church," if her memory served her right? What was God doing by showing her an old wooden church, hundreds of years old? And why on earth was it leaning?

Leaning Church

Suddenly, she saw something else that made her nearly jump to her feet. A man, very shining in his robe, was standing in the open doorway. What was an Israeli soldier doing there at such an early hour? she thought first off. Then she nearly collapsed, when she realized no Israeli would dress in such shining togs as this visitor.

He began speaking, dispelling her ignorance in a moment.

"Daughter, the Lord is speaking to you. He says to you, "I will take away now the wall you built inside your heart. to shield you from the world and its pain. What they did against you, the pain they gave you, but not the scars, I will take away now. I am the Balm of Gilead and will heal you. You do not need the wall any longer..."

Heloise could scarcely keep from going ballistic and screaming out. What was he saying to her? A wall inside her heart? Well, yes, maybe so! she thought. She too had a sort of wall built, to shield her feelings, and it was a wall of wailing and tears, just like the one in Jerusalem. But how could it be taken away? It had grown to be a part of her! How could she be separated from it now? It had existed and festered inside her for years and years!"

The shining one did not wait for her to come to any conclusion. An image shone now, not in the air, but right out from her belly. She clapped her hands over it, as if in shame, but it didn't stop the vision from growing. It was a wall of huge blocks of stones set together, coming straight out from her midriff--and once it was out, it shot right into the darkness of the tomb's ceiling like a wind-blown feather and vanished. The same moment another vision appeared, drifting down toward her, tiny at first, but then recognizable. A woman was seated on a throne, surrounded by stars. What in the world was this? Heloise wondered.

Her visitor resumed his message.

"My daughter, the Lord says to you, this is you, as I see you. You are among those who are my Bride, glorious in my love. You will no longer weep and wail, and hide your tears and troubles, but now you will begin to reign with Me on the throne. I give this to you, to reign with me everlastingly, as My beloved."

The vision was now in full view. Heloise stared, unable to take it in.

A moment passed, then suddenly it vanished away, leaving her blinking in the darkness, her hands floundering to catch the visitor, who also vanished.

"Come back, you!" she cried aloud. "I want to know--"

But she realized how foolish it was, she clapped a hand over her mouth. For some moments she lay, face down on the cold and gritty tomb floor, trying to gather her thoughts. She was that indescribable, beautiful woman, or somehow a part of that reigning queen called the Bride? How could someone so ugly as herself become so lovely? It was impossible? Yet the angel had clearly identified her with the starry queen in the vision.

Could it be, she wondered, could it really be her?


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