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Nicholas ran through the narrow gorge, dodging magnificent horses carrying tourists seated in shiny brown saddles. Arabs held the reins loosely as they led their animals into Petra, ignoring the small cars waiting to enter. Hotels towered above the market gardens outside the city, which had survived both Macro's attacks and recent earthquakes. The Arab market gardeners sold their produce to anyone with cash or gold, whether Jew, Christian or Muslim. Cash was rare since Macro introduced his card system.


Nicholas dumped the fruit and vegetables on the ground.   "Did you see the writing in the sky? Someone told me to run home and pray because the world is coming to an end. Is this true Dad?"


Nicholas had grown into a fine adolescent. He had come through their ordeals with a maturity that bred responsibility. At times however, Ari was amazed at his son's childlike qualities. He never forced his beliefs on Nicholas. Rather, he secretly longed for the day when his son believed Jesus was God's own Son.


"What will it take to convince you Nicholas? Haven't you seen or heard enough to know what you must do? The words in the sky say it all. They are true."  Nicholas could hear the love in his father's quiet pleading.


"I believe God created heaven and earth and all things Dad.(1) Although I don't quite understand why innocent people die. I know I don't want to ever be separated from you or Mum. I still miss Elena, and was angry with God and everybody when she disappeared. I want to believe, but something seems to stop me." Ari pulled the rickety wooden chair closer to where his son sat.


"You can never be free of the past until you confess your sin of not accepting Jesus Christ. This will remove any blockages. Is this really what you want to do?"  "I suppose it's now or never," came Nicholas' strangled reply.

 

Ari helped his son speak out the difficult words until he was able to say he wanted Jesus Christ in his life. Helen and Simon wondered why Nicholas and Ari had been deep in conversation. They walked to where they sat and heard the end of Ari's prayer. "Thank you Father, that nothing separates us from Your love."(2)

 

Suddenly, the skin of those bearing Macro's mark began to fester with painful oozing boils.(3) They were worse than any ever treated and failed to respond to antibiotics. Doctors could do little but issue anaesthetizing ointments. Some patients experienced excruciating pain when needles were inserted into nasal septums in an effort to drain accumulated pus from swollen faces. At Petra, Simon and Ari were saddened to see people suffering the effects of this latest epidemic. Some wondered if the mark itself caused the infection, polluting the bloodstream. Those who suffered these boils thought it strange and unfair that people without the mark escaped.(4)

 

Macro issued orders that his six delegates meet on Cyprus, where he and Warwick had arrived some days earlier. It bored them to watch people suffering the aftermath of earthquakes and so called epidemics. They thought they were invincible and indeed seemed immune to disease and disasters. As they walked along the shore, the stench of rotting fish filled their nostrils. Fishing boats and trawlers lay idle here, as did others around the world. The seas were polluted and devoid of any living creatures. Waves washed the shores of every land with a bloody red foam like the blood of many martyrs.(5) Rivers and springs emptied their putrid red contents into the oceans lap. Although it was autumn here, a relentless scorching sun burned into Macro and Warwick.(6) "Curse this damned heat," exclaimed Warwick as he kicked a rotting fish head. A cloud of angry black flies rose from their grisly feast and buzzed around their legs. Macro laughed as they walked back towards the white and blue stone villa.


"The searing heat has killed many around the world, not just here. There are reports from many of the normally cooler latitudes that people are dying like flies because they are not used to such heat. In one old apartment building in New York, some residents were found dead, caused by dehydration after the water supply was cut off. At least we still have plenty of bottled water. People will blaspheme God's name and hate Him. We can use all disasters to turn many from Him to us. We are real flesh and blood, not just some unseen God that might save them."


As Macro and Warwick entered the conference room, all eyes focused on their leader, bringing an immediate silence. The delegates rose while Macro and Warwick took their places. Macro droned on and on, mostly congratulating himself for his part in the total decline of society. He delighted in the lawlessness that was prevalent around the world. His total control was reaching fruition. Jackson, from America, noted the atmosphere was somewhat different from their last meeting. The delegates had suffered the same catastrophes, plagues, diseases and discomforts as the ordinary man. Oceans and rivers in and around their native countries were full of the same blood red pollution that emptied stinking dead contents onto burning sands. Jackson lacked some of his initial optimism as one of Macro's devoted followers. He, unlike Macro, had gained neither fame nor fortune, and was in fact, ostracized by family and friends. He hated the devastation, dereliction and despair in America. It was no longer a place where people stood and fervently sang their rousing national anthem. Rather, they voiced a wavering entreaty for someone or something to lift them out of these times.


The conference room was suddenly plunged into darkness. Lights sputtered overhead and faded, as the air conditioner shuddered and died.   "Get the generator going one of you. The meeting is not over yet."


Jackson and Ashley, the delegate from Europe, felt their way to the door. Outside it was pitch black, although not yet night.(7) Ashley tripped over something on the ground and fell headlong onto the rocky path.


"Blast this weather. I am sick of heat, power shortages and blackouts. My body is on fire and the last of those filthy boils continue to plague me. I long for the cool greenness that was once England."


Ashley lived in the Lakes district of England and loved its coolness and relative quietness. Cyprus was stifling. Just before flying to Cyprus, Ashley had driven from Edinburgh to London and noticed the drastic effects of this unprecedented heat. A driveway attendant refuelling his car that day commented, "Hell has come to earth gov'ner."


Jackson helped Ashley to his feet and keeping close together they edged their way along the chain fence to the room housing the generator. Ashley reached for the torch hanging on a hook behind the door. Its light guided Jackson as he worked. Very soon the generator throbbed into action. Security lights lit up the grounds like an airport runway. Inside the villa the conference room leapt into brightness.


Some delegates reached for jugs of iced water in front of them. With sweaty hands they poured the cool water into glass tumblers and drank greedily. The room was stifling and they complained of ulcerated tongues and sores in their mouths. Some wondered if the water had been tampered with. Peter, who had been responsible for media control, cursed loudly as he bit his swollen painful tongue. Macro silenced him with a disdainful glance.


"I am leaving Cyprus tonight with Warwick. We fly to Babylon where Satan is waiting. Rumours have been heard that recent converts to Christianity say Jesus will return any day. We are more than ready to crush any uprising this idea may cause."


The meeting ended abruptly, leaving the exhausted delegates not much wiser than when it began. Their heads and mouths hurt and conversation was the last thing they wanted as they left Cyprus and returned to their own countries.

 


The NovelNotes Feature

These are a helpful feature of this novel. Their use is optional. They may be used if you want to understand more of the underlying Biblical aspects of the story, or the historical and factual material. However, you do not have to use these to follow the story line of the novel.


Chapter 28 NovelNotes

1.When the subject of creation is considered, childlike faith is often more useful than philosophy or scientific research. Despite the efforts of Charles Darwin and other evolutionists over the last century, the Biblical account of creation still stands up to every test of man. The Bible itself says that, 'For by Him, all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible...' See Colossians, Chapter 1, verse 16. A belief in evolution and not in creation, can seriously interfere with an ability to believe in God.

2.The Bible tells us clearly that, if we believe, nothing can ever separate us from the love of God. See Romans, Chapter 8, verses 35 to 39.

3.This is the beginning of God's final series of judgements on a wicked earth. This first one is known as the first bowl (of God's wrath) judgement. It is found in Revelation, Chapter 16, Verses 1 and 2.

4.Those who have become believers in Jesus Christ since the rapture, are now protected by God from His judgements, but not from the Antichrist.

5.These are God's second and third bowl judgements, where all water expanses are turned to blood and all sea creatures die. Find this in Revelation, Chapter 16, verses 3 and 4.

6.With this pouring out of the fourth bowl of God's wrath comes scorching heat, way beyond that usually experienced. See Revelation, Chapter 16, verses 8 and 9.

7.In some ways this fifth bowl of God's wrath poured out on earth is the most devastating. Imagine the earth suddenly plunged into darkness, and the fear that would cause! See Revelation, chapter 16, verse 10.

Continue to Chapter 29