Chapter Eleven: Followers of "the book" revealed
"Come on, dad," Nick said excitedly. "It's almost time for it to start."
"Oh thrills," Jeff said. He had been sitting at the kitchen table reading a book. He found lately he liked reading fantasy, for it took him off the earth and into another universe where Balazons didn't exist. For a few short minutes, he could escape the unwelcome reality of his own time and space.
For the past several days, the Balazons refused to leave his house. They moved in as if part of the family: Acin-om, Garlez, Marcach, and Stro-kar, one for each member of his household. Acin-om was trying to be Jeff's personal Balazon, but he hardly ever talked to her. Despite Jeff's repeated efforts at getting her to leave him alone, she would not, as she was supposedly under strict orders from Khur-ak to try to win his trust before the special broadcast. Jeff was convinced, however, she was trying to drive him insane.
By the time Jeff got to the VRT room, his wife and kids were already huddled on the couch. They looked as if they were ready for an exciting movie, popcorn and coke the only things missing. Stephanie fidgeted with excitement and urged him to hurry up and activate the VRT.
Jeff closed the partition to the VRT and sat in the reclining chair across from the couch, while Acin-om joined the three Balazons standing in one corner like silent sentinels watching over their prisoners.
"Computer, please turn on the VRT room," Nick said. "Channel GNT. Volume level twenty."
"My name is not 'Computer'."
"Sorry," Nick huffed. "Bert turn to GNT then."
Nothing happened for several seconds. "I'm waiting," Bert said. "You know what you must do."
Nick sighed. "Bert, p-l-e-a-s-e turn on the VRT room, channel GNT, volume level twenty."
Instantly, they were in a bright studio. Khur-ak sat behind a wide brown desk, appearing in his native state, a shining alien of light, having long since shed the human disguise he had worn years ago at the initial unveiling. Behind him, pictures showing the positive advancements the Balazons had initiated since the unveiling flashed across a screen.
"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen," Khur-ak said. It is good to be addressing you again. I feel we have come so far in the last several years. You have responded to our presence better than expected. What a joy! Once again you humans surprise us.
"I will get right to the point. We desire to do something wonderful for you, but it requires your direct involvement, or it will be ineffective. You, the people, must embrace what we are about to tell you with all your hearts, minds, and wills."
Khur-ak stared at them lovingly. "Even before we appeared, you had progressed beyond your infancy and were reaching out with your spaceships, telescopes, science and technology. You yearn for the freedom only knowledge can bring. I knew Xsalma was wrong." Khur-ak nodded his head with satisfaction. "And I was right. I have found that once an evolving race becomes as technologically advanced as you are, the exultation stage is near--with a little help, of course. It's going to be so wonderful; you're going to burst forth from your physical ties and fly out to the stars like a caterpillar bursting out of its cocoon and soaring through the skies."
Khur-ak stopped talking and closed his eyes for several seconds before opening them. "I can sense many of you are eager to hear more. You are still limited in many ways, but this need not continue. However, you must voluntarily leave your old life behind. We can help you become a new creation, but we cannot do it without your support. My dear children, if you accept our assistance, together we can bring you to a place of unbridled joy."
Khur-ak closed his eyes again, pausing to absorb the emotions of his audience. "The exultation stage will not happen for you for many millions of years yet. However," he said with emphasis and opened his eyes, "we can speed up the process. Within your own lifetime, you can experience the thrill of exultation if you will do as my representatives tell you.
"I will leave you now, for my fellow Balazons will explain the rest."
The VRT projection of the studio suddenly shifted to a news room, and a man and woman began discussing Khur-ak's speech and its probable impact. Jeff was too stunned for words, and he imagined his family must feel so too.
Nick was the first to speak. "Wow, cool!" The newspersons' images kept talking, blissfully unaware of anything except their own computer world. "I want to be like you, Stro-kar. Tell me what I need to do."
"You must admit you need our help and fully accept us into your heart and mind by a conscious act of your will," Stro-kar said as he broke rank with his fellow Balazons and knelt beside Nick. "Let my essence merge with yours and we will become one being. Then I can remake you from the inside, renewing your mind and body with changes that would naturally occur if you lived for millions of years. You will feel an immediate difference when I come in, but we will need to work with you over time to cause full integration. Eventually, you will become like us, exultation entities, with mental powers beyond your ability to fully appreciate right now."
"Wow," Nick said. His eyes were glazed over with the possibilities.
The rest of the Balazons, including Acin-om, knelt by their human assignments. "I hope you can be open-minded about this," Acin-om said to Jeff.
"No," Jeff replied. "Don't even come near me. I don't like looking at your face, let alone allowing you to affect my mind. Go possess somebody else."
"What we are proposing here goes far beyond merely taking over a body temporarily, as we have done in the past," Acin-om said. "We need your help for this to work, as it is a cooperative process that, over time, will eventually elevate your consciousness and essence to our plane. Why don't we just merge for a short time and I can show you how it works? If you become uncomfortable, I can always leave."
"I'm already uncomfortable! Get lost!" Jeff looked at his family and panic started to overtake him. "Don't do it, kids! Valerie! Valerie!" But they ignored him. They had gotten used to his protests and knew there was little he could do.
Stephanie seemed a little reluctant. Jeff stood up to help her, but Acin-om used her mind powers to push him into his seat.
"You are not permitted to interfere," she said. "Everyone must make their own choice."
Jeff was in a hazy dream. He moved in slow motion, and when he spoke, the words were drawn out. He could see Acin-om smiling.
"What are you doing to me?" he said. He was a helpless prisoner watching his family drink slow-killing poison. Already, Stro-kar was dissolving into Nick as if Stro-kar was water and Nick was a sponge. The alien was merging with his son as easily as if Nick was simply putting on a new set of clothes.
Jeff struggled with all his might, but barely managed to stand up. He tried moving but became paralyzed and floated through the air at Acin-om's direction: she took him outside.
Jeff could move again, but Acin-om wouldn't allow him back inside. Another walk in the park was what he needed. The setting sun and cool evening air would help him feel less tense.
Acin-om followed close behind.
They were halfway to the park when a young woman came up to Jeff. "Good day, mighty warrior," she said.
Jeff stopped walking. He looked at the young lady, then Acin-om, then back to the young lady. There could be no mistake. "It's you! Monica!"
Monica nodded and said, "Acin-om has been lying to you. She is not me."
"Who are you talking to?" Acin-om asked.
Jeff's eyes became slits of anger. "You made yourself look like her. I can't believe I didn't suspect anything. That's what's been bugging me all these years."
"Come," Monica said as she took Jeff's arm firmly and motioned in the direction she had come from. "This way please."
As they started to walk away, Acin-om angrily demanded Jeff come back. But she was whirling around and screaming at the empty air. Apparently she could no longer see him. He tried asking Monica questions but she wouldn't answer.
They turned right and left down various streets and walked for blocks, until Jeff found himself in an unfinished section of town. The only car in sight was a white van with a mini-satellite dish on its roof, parked beside a tall, antenna-like structure.
"You must go inside," Jeff's escort commanded and pointed to the van. Jeff looked at it curiously. He was about to ask his kidnapper why, when he noticed the woman was no longer holding his arm. He whirled around, but there was nobody there.
Jeff shrugged his shoulders, walked up to the back of the van, and tapped on the door. There was no answer. He tried the handle and heard it click. As he slowly opened it a crack and peeked inside, he heard men talking. Then he saw them.
"Do you have the satellite uplink secured yet?" one of the men asked.
"No," the other replied. "They must have already changed the prefix code. Our informant died in vain to give us this information."
The other man's face became downcast. "Try it again." Then they both noticed Jeff. It almost seemed as though they were both afraid of him. They held their breaths and didn't say anything.
Jeff was the first one to speak. "I'm sorry. I think I'm lost. I was out for a walk when a lady dragged me here and said I had to go inside. I'll be on my way."
The two men exhaled, obvious relief on their faces. "No problem," the brown-haired one said. "My name's Len. This here is Ellis."
Jeff hesitated. "My name's Jeff Saunderson."
"Don't be frightened," Len said. "We know why you're here. Come on in." Len turned to his comrade and said, "Call headquarters and tell them we've got another one."
As Ellis turned to grab the CB, Jeff entered the van cautiously and closed the door. He noticed complicated looking electronic equipment lined both sides of the interior. One small monitor had an image on it like a radar view screen.
"Don't worry," Len said. "He's called you to be here. We'll send a car to take you to our hideout."
Ellis finished with the CB and said, "They're sending a car right away. It'll be here in about ten minutes."
"Would someone please tell me what's going on here. You guys sound like spies or something."
The two men looked at each other and smiled as if understanding some private joke. "In a way we are," Len said. "We're enemies in a foreign land fighting for freedom and truth."
"That's nonsense," Jeff said. "We're citizens of America, the land of the free. Or are you guys Russians?"
Ellis laughed. "No, we were born in this country, but we're not free."
Jeff nodded. "You mean the Balazons."
"Yes," Len said. "Have you felt free since the unveiling?"
"No," Jeff conceded. "So you're a part of an underground organization fighting the Balazons?"
"Yes," Ellis said and added, "but it's much more than that. It would take too long to explain and there's no time. We have urgent work to do before the authorities can get a fix on us."
"What are you doing?" Jeff asked.
Ellis seemed a little reluctant to answer. "Should we trust him?" he asked his friend. "Mavis hasn't had a chance to certify him as one of us."
Len rolled his eyes. "You're being overly cautious. If he wasn't one of us, how did he find the van? Anyway, it's not like they don't know we've been trying to do this uplink for some time now."
Len said, "We've been trying to connect with the Balazon channel to interrupt their broadcasts. We've got a message on this tape we'd like the viewers to see." Len pointed to a VRT disk on top of the main instrument panel.
"What's it about?" Jeff asked.
"They'll explain everything at headquarters."
The two men politely excused themselves from further conversation and continued their work. Jeff silently watched Len push buttons on a computer keyboard and keep getting the message "Access Denied." Ellis fiddled with the computer on the other side. After a few minutes, they heard a knock on the van's back door--two knocks, a pause, one knock, a pause, and then two knocks.
"That's for you, Jeff," Len said. "Go with them and do exactly as they tell you. Don't worry about anything. They won't harm you."
Jeff didn't know why, but he trusted them. After blindfolding him, the men put him in the back seat of their car, and drove on without saying much. In reality, it was a short trip, probably ten minutes since that was how long it had taken them to pick him up, but it seemed longer.
When they stopped the car, the two men escorted Jeff through rough terrain. He felt soft mud and dirt beneath his feet. Soon he heard a large, creaking door open and they walked through a building smelling of manure. He heard shuffling noises as if animals were moving about. After a short distance, he heard another door being opened.
"Go down there," one of the men said. "When you get to the bottom knock twice, once, then twice again." They hurried him down a few steps and closed a door behind him.
"Is anybody there?" Jeff asked. There was no reply, so he took off his blindfold. He was at the top of a flight of concrete stairs leading down to another door, cement walls on either side. Soft white lights dimly lit the corridor. Behind him, he saw the cellar-type door he'd come through. Out of curiosity, he tried to open it, but it was locked. On the right hand side there was a small numeric keypad, probably used to enter a pass code.
He walked down and knocked as he'd been told.
The door made an unlocking noise and opened. Come in, Mr. Saunderson," a lady said. "I'm Mavis, the greeter." She held out her hand to shake so Jeff offered his. She grasped his hand, held it tightly, and closed her eyes. "Oh, the Lord has got great things in store for you. He sometimes gives me visions of the future. Yours is glorious."
"What are you talking about?" Jeff asked, as he pulled away his hand.
Before Mavis had a chance to reply, a big bearded man came up to her. "Well?" he asked her.
"He's one of us, all right," Mavis told him.
"Then come with me." The big man motioned for Jeff to follow him.
Jeff followed his new escort through a tunnel that opened to an area as big as an aircraft hangar. Cars, trucks, and white vans were lined up along one wall and hundreds of people were scurrying about doing various tasks. Elaborate electronic equipment was randomly stationed throughout the room.
The big man led Jeff up another flight of stairs to an office with a window overlooking the activity below. Jeff entered the room, and a tall man in a suit and tie greeted him.
"Welcome, Jeff, my name's Lawrence Shumacker" the man said as he held out his hand. Jeff was reluctant to shake after what had happened the last time, but he did anyway. "You can leave now," Lawrence said to the big man before turning his attention back to Jeff. Lawrence sat down behind his desk, and motioned Jeff to sit across from him.
"So, what brings you to our humble abode?" Lawrence asked.
"An invisible woman," Jeff said bluntly as he started to relate his story. Lawrence listened patiently to Jeff for the next few minutes, occasionally nodding his head.
When Jeff finished, Lawrence took a deep breath and said, "Doesn't surprise me. A dozen others have joined our ranks today, all with similar stories."
"Who are these invisible kidnappers? Who are you?"
Lawrence cocked his head to one side and seemed to be searching for the right words to say. "I don't know how much you know, but I'm going to tell you plainly. After all, you wouldn't be here if you weren't one of us." Lawrence paused for a moment before continuing. "We believe the mysterious strangers are angels sent by God to lead His people to places of relative safety. Very soon now, Khur-ak is going to start destroying this planet, as well as all people who have been deceived into following him."
"I see," Jeff said as seriously as he could, humoring the man. He knew what these fanatical religious groups were capable of. "So I take it you don't believe the Balazons are who they say they are."
Lawrence shook his head slowly. "No. Khur-ak is the devil in disguise. Everything he says is a lie. The Balazons are his demons, likewise deceiving the world with their humanistic religion of evolution to virtual god-status. And many are buying it because they want to believe they can have eternal life without repenting of their sins. The Bible says the deception in the last days would be so great God's own people would fall away if it were possible. Well Jeff, now is that time."
"You're starting to sound like my psychotic friend, Brad. He went off into religion too. I just can't stick my head in the sand. There's something to the scientific concept of biological evolution. Didn't the first computers cost millions and fill warehouses?"
Jeff pressed. "Now they've 'evolved' to become small and cheap and they're available everywhere. My cell phone has more computing power now than the first computers."
Lawrence nodded again. "I can see you are an intelligent man, and it might not be easy to break the hold Satan has on your mind. I'm not saying what scientists have discovered about evolution is totally false, but the concept has many logical flaws. Yes, computers have 'evolved' in a sense, but human intelligence was bettering their own invention and guiding this evolution, just as perhaps God has been guiding biological evolution for millennia."
"Good comeback. I guess that was a stupid analogy. That should have been obvious."
"No, it's an excellent example, as it shows how easily we humans can tend to forget that intelligence must be behind all forms of evolution. Let me give you another example that will cut right to the chase. When you were, say 7 or 8 years old, could you have even understood the concept of biological evolution?"
Jeff shook his head and said, "Probably not. I was too young."
"Exactly. Your mind, your consciousness, had not grown enough, matured enough, 'evolved' if you will, to be able to fully comprehend the concept. But now you can process a deeper abstract way of thinking. As an adult, you have many mental faculties your younger self just didn't have."
"That's just because I grew up. That naturally happens to everybody."
"Ah, but that's what evolution is all about, growing, getting better, more complex, more capable, more adaptable to real life, becoming something greater than what existed at earlier stages. To use your analogy earlier about computer evolution, you can now easily admit that humans must have guided this process, right?"
Jeff nodded sheepishly.
"But were you there in the computer design house to witness it personally?"
Jeff shook his head.
"You only saw the completed products, the new models that came out and were better and better and more powerful. Even your own consciousness development from childhood to adulthood is an evolution of sorts, but you don't see the invisible God guiding that process any more than you saw people guiding the design of computers. But you can perceive God's completed product, a fully developed adult mind, capable of complex abstract thinking and reasoning. The final stage in consciousness evolution for any human is when God brings a person to a choice: to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior or not. We only get one life to make that choice, as Hebrews 9:27 says it is appointed unto man once to die and then be judged and go to heaven or hell. We will all live forever somewhere, Jeff. Heaven or hell. It's your choice. Make it a good one. I believe the Lord brought you here to make a good one though, and we're going to help you with that."
"Nice way to try and smooth out the scare tactics. I'm not going to respond to something out of fear. I'm still not convinced. How do I know for sure the aliens aren't right, and that evolution just happens by natural forces that no being, not even the Balazons, can fully explain? Maybe we are evolving into 'gods' somehow."
"You're very bright, Jeff. There will always be some mystery, of course, but that's where faith comes in. Yes, we are gods of a sort, as even Psalm 82:6 says all humans are gods and children of the Most High. But we can never evolve to become fully like Father God. That's Satan's trick. He throws a little bit of truth in with some lies to confuse and deceive people. God the Father as the ultimate authority is not just a concept like the Balazons want you to believe, nor does God rule His creation by some sort of democratic consensus. Rather the Lord speaks His will and all of His sentient creation willingly and lovingly and wholeheartedly obeys Him out of passionate love for who He is... at least the angels on God's side do, and you could say we believers are in process. Obviously, I don't mean to say Satan and his followers happily obey God, but they do obey Him nonetheless.
"Father God is a personal being that is Almighty and even Satan answers to Him, as the book of Job clearly shows. Satan tormented and destroyed Job as much as he could, but the scripture records that God put the limit of life on Satan. The devil was not allowed to kill Job, and no amount of power Satan might have brought to bear to try and kill Job would have been successful. Satan didn't even try it. He would have failed anyway, and he knew it, and would have suffered more than Job for even trying. Satan has certain power and authority but he's nothing like the real God, and though some sort of evolution is happening, and human beings will one day be something like God, there's only One Almighty Creator and all the universe is soon going to learn that."
Jeff shrugged. "The bottom line is the Balazons have an explanation for just about everything and are very convincing," Jeff said. "And what about their powers? How do you explain that?"
"God is allowing the devil to use his evil power to deceive those who are not His. Even in the Old Testament when Moses was contending with Pharaoh, the Pharaoh's magicians were able to duplicate some of the supernatural miracles Moses did, but they could not duplicate them all. Likewise, the Lord has told me He will soon send His people out in such power that the signs and wonders they will do will dwarf everything the Balazons have done to date. They will go forth to warn the world about the coming Judgment and the only way of escape--forgiveness of sins through repentance and the blood of Jesus Christ."
Lawrence noticed Jeff fidgeting. "Is there something wrong, Jeff?"
"No, nothing. I think you've made a mistake here, though. I'm not a Christian."
Jeff immediately wondered if that had been a wise thing to admit. They might kill him. But if he pretended he was, they would want him to stay and take part in their preaching bloodbaths--something he just couldn't do.
Lawrence looked puzzled as he crossed his arms and frowned. "That's very strange. Mavis has certified you as one of us. She's never wrong. God has given her the gift of discerning true believers from false ones. Perhaps you're a Christian but don't know it. Sometimes the Lord sends people to us who haven't had the conversion experience yet. Others were genuine saints at one time, but have let themselves be taken captive by the enemy, falling into sin and unbelief. If you're one of the latter groups, Jeff, the mercy of the Lord is still available. I have people here with the ability to cast out demons and free you from bondage."
Lawrence picked up the phone and hit an intercom button. "Mara report to my office please."
Jeff craned his neck around to look at the hangar behind him.
"Pretty impressive, huh, Jeff?"
Jeff looked back at Lawrence. "Yes, I find it hard to believe you could build all this in a few months." That might not have been a wise thing to say, Jeff realized. If Lawrence knew Jeff had been watching negative news coverage about them lately, it might set him off.
"A few months?" Lawrence looked at him incredulously. "Oh, no, Jeff. Before my dad died, he had been working on this complex for years. You see, the Lord had seen fit to bless my dad by talking to him in an audible voice. About seven years ago, the Lord told him to start building this complex. He gave my dad very explicit instructions on how to do it and where to get the money."
Jeff was getting uncomfortable, and he was sure it showed.
"I know you're probably thinking he was schizophrenic; so did I at the time. I wasn't even a Christian, but my father was a strong believer so he obeyed the voice. My dad went right up to the wealthy businessmen the voice told him to and said, 'The Lord told me to tell you I've come for the money.' He was amazed when they immediately wrote out checks for hundreds of thousands of dollars. I guess the Lord had already prepared them. At any rate, when he was done collecting the money, he had more than enough to complete the job exactly the way God told him to. He did everything God said, right down to the brand name of hammer He told my dad to buy."
"Sort of like Noah building the ark," Jeff mused.
"Not exactly. At least Noah knew he was building an ark because of an impending flood. God never did say what this was for. My dad always told me he'd disappear one day in the rapture, but I didn't believe him. I thought religion was for kooks. Well I'll tell you, when millions disappeared off the face of the earth and several thousand reappeared in this complex along with myself and my dad, I got right with God pretty quick! My dad and I had been having lunch at our favorite restaurant and then suddenly we were just here! Now God has seen fit to bless me with the same gift my father had and leads these people through me. Although some weren't ready to come here and be prepared for what is to come, God made sure places of relative safety would be available for those who would become Christians throughout the great tribulation."
"Wow," Jeff said, half-believing Lawrence because of the sincerity with which he spoke. And there could be no denying the superstructure surrounding him. But what was this rapture thing he was talking about? He asked Lawrence to explain it further and also asked him how his dad had died.
"It was quite a shock when we first all found ourselves here. My dad started obediently explaining to the people what God was telling him to say. Apparently, the most commonly held Christian view was that the rapture was a term given to describe the Lord's taking His saints to heaven before the great tribulation, a time of great deception and distress in the world. My dad admitted that he had believed this too, but the Lord was now telling my dad that he had been influenced by a mistaken notion that God would allow His end-time saints to escape trouble. That was not God's plan. This confusion about the rapture issue was similar to the confusion the Jews had around the Messiah's appearance in history, as the Jews did not understand that the Messiah would come first as a physical being, and His second coming would be as a spiritual being. Likewise, there was to be a physical rapture first followed by a spiritual rapture later.
"The first physical rapture was to these relative places of safety, complexes that had been constructed all over the world, and the people were to be prepared for going out and preaching the gospel about three years later. Many would die in the future battle to preach the gospel as a witness and a warning to the whole world, and then the end would come, when Jesus would return to earth, and a spiritual rapture would take place when all true Christians, both dead and alive, would be changed in a twinkling of an eye and become spirit beings, just like the Lord Himself. Well, some couldn't accept they had been wrong in their interpretation of the Bible. They thought it was all a demonic deception or a government conspiracy or something and some rushed my dad and killed him. Then God started talking to me and told me to complete the message. I was scared they would kill me too but the Lord told me not to fear, and somehow I trusted that voice, and spoke God's words."
Jeff leaned forward in his chair, curious to hear more. "Then what happened?"
"I explained how the Lord told me to say that what He was doing was consistent with God's revealed character in the Bible. For example, during the worldwide flood judgment of Noah's day, God saved His people in the ark, both a supernatural and a natural saving in that Noah heard from God, but Noah also took action in the natural to build the ark. Another example is God sending angels to remove Lot and his family from Sodom and Gomorrah before raining down fiery judgment on the city for its sins, supernatural in that angels assisted but natural in that Lot and his family still had to physically run from the city. Similarly, God supernaturally directed the building of the worldwide network of complexes and miraculously transported His people to protect them from the alien deception, but these hidden places of safety are also a natural means of protection and were still constructed naturally by human hands. Ever since that first day, we've been praying, fasting, and studying God's Word, the Bible, in preparation for reaching the world for Christ."
Jeff shrugged. "Obviously you said the right things. They didn't kill you too."
"No, the Holy Spirit shamed the crowd into acquiescence when I relayed the Lord's words. I said their escapist attitude was wrong, and they should consider it an honor to be chosen to suffer and die for Christ. Jesus had suffered and died for God's glory, and almost all the early apostles had been martyred, along with countless millions down through the centuries. I asked why they thought they were all so special that they deserved to be exempt from persecution and suffering?
"After a moment for silence and reflection, I proved I was hearing from God by prophesying that at that very moment fallen angels disguised as aliens were revealing themselves on TV and deceiving the world. We turned on the complex's large projection screen TV and watched Khur-ak's unveiling firsthand. I couldn't have known that otherwise, as the so-called alien presence hadn't been revealed yet. I plainly said Satan was pretending to be the alien leader, Khur-ak, and was about to pull off his masterful deception. With all of the true Christians taken away, it was fairly easy for the devil to mentally suppress people's minds from seriously considering the possibility that the aliens were demons in disguise. They didn't want to believe the truth anyway. In the deepest parts of their souls, those left behind desired to believe evolutionary lies, wanted to believe they could evolve into gods themselves without having to obey the one true God, Jesus Christ. So the Lord allowed the devil to deceive people with the lies that they wanted to believe."
Jeff frowned and shook his head. He was finding this all very difficult to believe.
"For those God brings here, this is always difficult to accept at first. But the reality is that it wasn't Xsalma who caused the disappearance of millions. Rather it was God. Those millions disappeared because they were true believers, walking by faith in the Spirit and ready to come here and be prepared for what must come. Even my dad's murderers totally repented and changed their attitudes, proving their true allegiance and worthiness. Of course, I forgave them, even though it took me some time to work it out, as I was a new believer thrown into a leadership position and had a lot of adjustments to make in my way of thinking. God showed me how we all make mistakes in life, even serious ones. Salvation is about grace and forgiveness for the past and learning to do better for the future. We are all prepared now to endure the horrors of the persecution to come, but it will also be a time of great glory for God. He will pour out his Spirit without measure, and His people will do great things." Lawrence paused. "You're thinking about Monica, aren't you?"
"How did you know?"
"God just told me the devil has been deceiving you about her. Acin-om is a demon pretending to be Monica, and the real Monica was actually an angelic protector God sent to protect you from behind the scenes until you had a chance to accept the truth and be saved. The devil has been trying to kill you for a long time now. Satan realized you were one who would be left behind and might become a Christian after the physical rapture. You could possibly frustrate his plans."
"That sounds pretty incredible to me. Are you saying this whole Xsalma thing is a cover-up to hide Satan's attempts at murdering potential believers and distracting the world's attention from the physical rapture?"
"Precisely. It also gives them a good excuse to do all kinds of deceptive miracles to make up for what happened. Many are impressed. But don't believe it. It's all a lie."
Jeff paused. "This doesn't make sense. When Xsalma's people attacked me, they looked like Balazons. Aliens. Not demons. Well, I've never actually seen a demon, but I imagine they look different than Balazons. And the people in my support group have similar stories. If the devil wanted to kill us, why not do it quickly and efficiently? Why all the games? And why disguise themselves as aliens?"
Lawrence nodded his head in understanding. "Because Satan knew his attempts might be thwarted by God's angelic protectors. In such an eventuality, the devil wanted to have an alibi in case the survivors tried revealing his true identity to the world. It worked. And the devil even has the power to transform himself into an angel of light, so don't be surprised if he disguises himself as an alien when it suits his purposes."
Jeff shook his head. "I still don't understand. Monica came into my life about three and a half years ago. Why would God let me be deceived for all this time, no more messages from the real Monica?"
"The Lord's timing isn't something I try to figure out. The Bible records how God let the Israelites suffer persecution at the hands of their enemies, the Midianites, for seven long years. Then He suddenly appeared to a man named Gideon, and used him to free the nation. Why wait seven years? I don't know. And God could have freed His people Himself, right? Why use Gideon?" Lawrence shrugged his shoulders. "All I know is God's got a reason behind everything He does, and His timing is perfect, even if we can't understand it all. And He does need us to do our part. That's how this spiritual war is fought. He's been working behind the scenes all this time to prepare your heart to accept Him. You were to continue on in unbelief until your appointed time. Now is the hour of your destiny, Jeff. You know the truth, and must make a choice, like Gideon did, to follow the Lord or not. Which will it be?"
A lady opened the office door. "You wanted me for something?"
"Yes, come in, Mara." Lawrence motioned for her to sit down beside Jeff. "I want you to tell me what you think of this man."
Mara sat down, closed her eyes, and began whispering a prayer. Jeff could only make out odd phrases such as "Lord hear me," and "reveal to me, Lord." After several seconds, she started to twist and turn. Her body seemed to be writhing in agony as it contorted and convulsed uncontrollably. Lawrence remained calm.
"Is she OK?" Jeff asked.
"She's fine. It won't be long now."
Mara stopped moving and began to speak. "Pain, anger, turmoil. Disappointment, disillusionment. He wept for hours. His tears will fill the bottle of God's remembrance for eternity. He would have made it, but gave up the fight. He's locked in so many chains now he can't even see the light. He turned his back on God and returned to his old lifestyle. Even so, the Lord has chosen him to be his possession forever. He will come back."
Jeff's mouth started to get dry. Suddenly, he didn't care what they might do to him. "What is this junk she's saying? Tell her to stop. Tell her to stop, or I'm leaving."
Lawrence shook her gently and she immediately opened her eyes, seeming as fresh as the moment she had entered. "Tell me more," he said.
Mara turned towards her leader. "He was a baby Christian, and nobody helped him. The devil stunted his spiritual growth at infancy and eventually succeeded in overcoming him."
"Go on," Lawrence said.
"He became a Christian about a decade ago, but had a very bad experience with a cult. He became so disillusioned he simply decided not to believe anymore in a Being he couldn't see or hear. So sad." She looked at Jeff. "The devil succeeded in totally extinguishing the tiny flame within his heart. He fell away from the God who loved him."
Tears came to Jeff's eyes.
Mara looked at him with compassion. "The enemy is a deceiver, Jeff. Only you can allow the devil to extinguish the fire of God's Holy Spirit. But the Lord is an eternal flame and doesn't need oxygen. Even in a vacuum, He can be ignited again. And He can grow to engulf any prison that holds Him, consume all things in His way, but you must allow this to happen."
Something started to stir in the depths of Jeff's being. He wanted to believe it could be true, but was almost beyond feeling. He had been so for many years and had grown used to it. It was comfortable. He'd long ago pushed away all thoughts of God and ridiculed believers, including sometimes his own wife--back in the days when she believed that is.
"God works all things for good," Mara continued. "He has been using this difficult experience to help insulate you from the Balazon deception by fueling your fear of being deceived again. It has kept you suspicious and questioning until you could come to us and be exposed to the truth. I know a person who can pray for you, Jeff. We can help set you free."
"No! I'm not a Christian. Never have been. Religion is for weak-willed fools. I'm not going to let you control my mind. I won't let it happen again."
Mara said, "I know you're afraid, but there is a difference between cults and us. We don't want to mold you into our likeness, just listen to Him. Then you will fit into the body of Christ perfectly, and you won't feel guilty for not being exactly like everyone else or for not obeying a million nonsensical rules." She reached out her hand.
Jeff wasn't sure if she was trying to comfort him or pray for him. Either way, he wanted no part of it. "I don't need you or God, and I don't want to have anything to do with your organization. I don't know how you're able to know these things, but then again, I don't understand the Balazons' powers either. Perhaps you're both from the devil. But I do know I want to leave now. Either let me go or kill me."
"The media is Satan's puppet, Jeff," Lawrence said. "If you want to go, you're free to do so. Reports of us killing people are lies fabricated to discredit us."
"Not true," Jeff said. "I was attacked by religious fanatics myself."
"Yes," Lawrence said. "The devil has some false preaching groups that kill people as a counterfeit to our own efforts. Their purpose is to scare people by creating bad press. They want to prevent people from listening to the true gospel message from our own groups. But Satan is driving these people. We have nothing to do with them. We believers have been waiting for years for the Lord's command to go forth and start evangelizing the world and these false groups are just Satan's way of trying to stop us. As a sign of good faith and sincerity, I will let you go home without a blindfold."
Lawrence called the big man with the beard to his office. When he arrived, Lawrence said, "Take this man back into town and drop him off wherever he wishes. And don't blindfold him."
"Yes, sir," the man replied without hesitation.
"You see, Jeff," Lawrence said, "we will not force you to do anything you're uncomfortable with. However, Satan's cohorts will be watching you. If you show signs of believing, you might become a target again. The demons have the ability to constantly monitor your thoughts and whereabouts."
"I know. My personal Balazon, Acin-om, told me she was aware of my every move but couldn't interfere too much in my life. Something about needing to follow the higher priority of walking the fine line of exerting influence but not interference in human affairs."
"That's another lie, Jeff. You can't see it, but there is a mighty battle going on in the spirit realm. Truth is, God simply doesn't allow the demons to do certain things. The Lord is still restraining the evil and deception to some degree, but this will not last for much longer. I urge you to consider all I have said and come back to God before it is too late. And remember, our complex abounds with God's supernatural protection. The demons can't follow you here, and you can be totally free of their influence if you come over to the Lord's side. You are welcome to join us anytime."
Jeff nodded stiffly and left with the big man. After they had gone, Mara said, "Are you sure that was a wise thing to do? He'll know our hideout location now."
"It was the right thing to do," Lawrence said. "The Lord told me to do it. He also told me he'd be back."
Mara didn't say anything more.