Score: 9.1+ out of 10
It's the end-times—the last years of human history as prophesied in the book of Revelations.
A charismatic leader from France named Elyon has captivated the world, bringing a temporary peace to the Middle East. A renegade cardinal, Francis, joins Elyon in influencing the world, bringing about a one-world religion. Believers, particularly traditionalists called “Full Gospel Christians” and Jews, are coming under increasing persecution. This persecution is subliminal at first as their ideas are suppressed and twisted to fit the prevailing world view akin to globalism. The seven seals and the four horsemen of Revelations are in full effect as the world spirals toward the apocalypse.
If there was any group of judges equipped for a book like Left Alive it's us. We are quite familiar with eschatology and end-time prophecy. We've read many books on the subject including, of course, The Bible as well as the mainline Left Behind series and its spin-off series for children. Some of us have also read the Christ Clone Trilogy. Our founder incorporated many of these same ideas in his works including The Destroyer of Worlds. So, we generally understand and applaud the message of this book.
It's impossible not to compare Left Alive to the Left Behind series, for better or for worse. Left Behind by Jerry Jenkins and Tim Lahaye had a lot of problems both in terms of basic storytelling terms and in theological terms. For one, the Left Behind books are notoriously drawn-out with huge spaces between lines and wooden dialogue seemingly designed to eat up even more page space.
The Parkers seem to address this problem by combining about one-third of the tribulation period into a single book. This is a valiant effort, but it has a problem of its own: it feels very rushed and jumps around a lot. In this telling, the obvious Antichrist/Beast, Elyon, dies, resurrects, and desecrates the Temple of Solomon VERY early on in the story. In fact, it pretty much kicks off the Tribulation period. This all happens very abruptly with little to no build. Yes, you get mentions here and there that the Temple of Solomon was being rebuilt and that there was peace in the Middle East (somehow), but it doesn't seem all that convincing or realistic. First of all: what about the Dome of the Rock? You know, the giant golden-domed Muslim structure that's consuming much of the old temple grounds? Well, we get a little bit of an explanation that the Dome of the Rock was turned into some kind of globalist religious center, but... it's still there. So, did they build around it or something?
If you thought Nicolae Carpathia was a bit of an underdeveloped villain, then Elyon definitely gives him a run for his money. Elyon, amazingly, seems like someone who doesn't fully grasp or understand who he is or what he's doing. He just does things because he feels like it. His motivations are actually quite shallow: he's a megalomaniac who loves the attention and adoration, so he says and does what makes him popular.
Elyon just seems like a very arrogant and delusional person who apparently became fascinated with mysticism, Tarot cards, and Ouija boards from a young age. So... he's a Satanist who doesn't quite understand that he's a Satanist, which is a bit strange. He doesn't seem to have as close or intimate a relationship with Satan or the demon hierarchy as he probably should. He needed to pray to them and ask for assistance just to have them slam some doors and scare some politicians (including the American president).
Elyon is definitely inspired by Emmanuel Macron, the real-life French president whom many end-time watchdogs thought might be the actual Antichrist due to the fact that he declared himself to be the son of Jupiter, had some pretty questionable policies, and had a rather meteoric rise in popularity. There are definitely aspects of this book that reflect real-life and current/recent events. This book is also loaded with social commentary, much of it quite thinly veiled. However, again, we applaud the efforts and overall message of the authors in trying to tell an interesting story while also warning a lost world about the trials and tribulations to come.
Going back to the social commentary, there are clearly some parts of this book that are critical of the Woke movement in which children are encouraged to call out and reject their parents for thinking and believing differently from what is accepted and pushed by the media and mainstream culture. Speaking of the media, there is also scathing criticism of the way that the news and information are presented to the general population. These are real and pressing concerns as we now find ourselves in a culture war in America that seems to be getting more heated by the day. Look at what we learned about Twitter's suppression of various types of information. This also, very obviously, happens on other platforms.
There are also some things about this book, like the Dome of the Rock scenario, that seem somewhat difficult to believe. For one, America BANS the eating of meat and effectively makes everyone a vegetarian. Do you believe for a second that would actually happen in yippy-kayay US-of-A? Well, you could make an argument that there are a lot of things that seemed implausible decades ago that are second-nature today.
The authors treat the Mark of the Beast as a microchip/barcode in this scenario in which people get them implanted on their hand or forehead, then use them to buy and sell goods. This seems rather plausible. You do get the sense that there's some social commentary about the way that 2020/2021 went buried in there somewhere, and we really can't blame them for feeling that way considering how that all went down.
Another problem with the Left Behind series that this book is being compared to is that the characters were not very good or very deep. That, unfortunately, is a bit of a problem with this book as well. Part of that is that there are just too many characters and not enough room to explore them all. Yes, you do care about them and empathize with them to an extent, but they seem to fly in and out of the pages and in and out of the story, moving around like pieces on a chess board rather than actual living people. This, again, is a problem with both Jenkins/Lahaye's telling and the Parkers' telling of these events.
The most we can say about most of these characters is that they fall under the “somewhat interesting” category. One of the interesting yet strange things about this book is that Elyon is arguably the main character of the book (though John is listed as the lead) and we actually get Elyon's perspective of events. However, despite that, it's a surprisingly shallow and naive perspective. Again, Elyon does not seem to grasp or understand what he's doing, what he's saying, or even what he's thinking. You'd think that being in the mind of the Antichrist for a little while would be this really fascinating, intriguing, spine-tingling thing, but it's actually not. The perspective we get from Elyon is very matter-of-fact. He seems to think and believe that if it has to be, it's up to me.
And, yes, we know that Elyon is another title for the first sephira in the tree of life in Kabbalah (Keter) and that it means “the crown.” It's a fitting name because it has three ominous-sounding syllables (a MUST for any Antichrist character) and a deeper, occult meaning in Jewish mysticism. It also almost sounds like a combination of “Emmanuel” and “Macron”--further punching home that comparison. What's a little strange though is, well... does this guy even have a first and/or last name? Is he like Kanye West and he just goes by Ye now? It's another thing that just makes him seem not quite real or believable.
And, yes, we know that Francis, the crooked cardinal with the twisted beliefs about religions, is the False Prophet. That's no secret. That and Elyon's role as Antichrist are immediately clear. For all its faults, at least in Left Behind tried to keep Nicolae's role a little veiled for 3/4ths of the first book. There was some shock and surprise when Nicolae had his dun dun duuuun moment. But, yes, Leon Fortunato was not much better as a False Prophet. We likewise thought: who the heck would listen to and follow this loser? He's a twerp! Then again, people followed Goebbels and many other idiots throughout history. People follow idiots nowadays. So, there's that.
Michael is a decent character, a police officer with prophetic dreams like Daniel or Joseph had, but he really gets drowned out by the other voices and perspectives over the course of the book. He just doesn't get the screen time he seems to deserve. It's interesting that he seems to be one of those tweener-like characters: a character working for one side while understanding the other side. He knows that there are bad things and corruption going on around him, yet he's torn between ethics and duty.
There's also a Jewish couple and their children in here and we steadily see the erosion of their rights to practice and believe. Likewise, there's a Christian couple in here whose son openly rebels against the Christian faith and embraces the belief in Elyon and globalism instead.
This book entirely covers the seven seals of Revelations, and it's surprising how the plagues of the seals themselves don't come across as awe-inspiring as they should. For example, the world war just happens. A billion or so people die in it, yet it just happens in the background. It seems to happen in passing like an afterthought. Likewise, the global earthquake just happens. When Americans and Christians are persecuted, it's almost like the authors are wanting to maintain a PG or PG-13 rating and angling the camera in such a way that we don't quite experience the savagery and barbarity in its fullness. This is primarily the result of the authors rushing the telling of this story. While this isn't a story that should be drawn-out like Lahaye and Jenkins did in the 2000s, it's also not something you should just skim over in a paragraph or page or two. When cataclysmic things happen, you need to zero-in on them and focus on them. That gives these things gravity and weight.
Another area of comparison is how the Rapture is treated in Left Behind and Left Alive. Now, we can definitely commend the Parkers for going with this angle. One of the issues with Left Behind is that the authors seemed dead-set on a particular timeline of events, especially the Rapture. They insisted that the Rapture would have to happen before the Tribulation period. The problem is, the Bible doesn't provide that much evidence for this happening at such a specific time or in a specific way. It could happen before the Tribulation, during the Tribulation, or even after the Tribulation. It doesn't necessarily have to be a “mass disappearance” as is so often portrayed. People very often take Bible verses out of context to support things like a pre-Tribulation Rapture, when these verses could simply be referring to the Second Coming of Jesus or death in general.
It could be damaging to the faith of those who aren't raptured to believe that it has to happen in a very specific way and at a very specific time. It really doesn't. The fact of the matter is that God works in mysterious ways.
What have we learned about prophecies both in biblical and literary terms? Prophecies always come true, just not always in the way you think they will. The life of Jesus is the perfect example of that. Many would not accept Jesus as Messiah because they stubbornly thought he had to be a military or political leader, not a humble preacher.
All in all, you have to commend the authors for giving us so much fuel and things to talk about!
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