14. Peace! Peace! When the Temple was opened, 12 Tribes membership froze at144,000. No new members joined them. But Rayford and Chaim were prepared. They switched emphasis from out-reach to in-reach. Bases moved from paying rent to squatting in disused buildings. And laptops started picking up email from phone booths. Few of the 144,000 had found time to read, much less digest material that Chaim and Rayford had prepared. Now they had whole days to study and discuss together. Translators completed unfinished articles, and Neville updated Rayford’s studies on the internet. Tons of DVDs and literature were printed and stockpiled. Material was updated for the next phase in the movement’s brief history. In an article called “The Seal and Beyond”, Rayford wrote to the 12 Tribes: “You have been sealed by God to proclaim his message in the last three and a half years of history. “The seal is invisible, known only to God. Our miraculous coming together is the greatest proof that he has chosen us. “God may bring others to replace any who die or who turn away from following the Lamb. “Apart from that, there will be no further growth. “Our fate has been sealed, within the limits of free will. “Reject your calling and you will be lost. “Don’t believe the lie that God cannot take away your inheritance. “He did it with the Jews, and with the institutional church. “He can give your place to someone else too. “But God knows the end from the beginning. “He knows most of us will not turn back. “And he knows that most of those who did not join us, will refuse to turn to him in the days ahead too. “But we must point the way for others to escape the curse of the Antichrist. “Doing that will create the Great Tribulation. “I will explain: “People are accepting the Mark of the Beast by the millions. Their religious leaders have told them that they can do it and still be saved. “We must preach against that lie. “But we will one day offer the billions who now have the Mark one last hope of salvation.” The 12 Tribes were shocked. Salvation even after accepting the Mark? No way! But Chaim backed Rayford’s promise. Rayford and Chaim gave no details. The details, they said, would only be revealed when the last three and a half years had started. For now, they must preach against such hope. The tribes needed to do two things. They needed to ask God for protection against deception. In this time of great deception, Rayford and Chaim were saying what sounded like the lie they had each been delivered from. The other thing they needed was a better attitude toward people who had taken the Mark. It was easy to think there was no need to love these eternally damned people. But what if they were not yet eternally damned? And what if the 144,000 could be eternally damned? Doubt about their own salvation and about the hopelessness of others was a good antidote for religious pride. While the Tribes waited, it was hard to believe that they were living in the last days. The world had miraculously recovered from the greatest disaster in human history. More than thirty-five million died in America. But the rest of the world was prospering as it had never done before. Xu Dangchao’s leadership had benefited almost everyone. Even the 12 Tribes benefited from this period of religious tolerance. Yet greater suffering lay ahead. It would make the fall of America shrink by comparison! “Use it! Use it!” Chaim had written on how to approach this period of world peace. “But don’t for a minute believe it is genuine.” Chaim and Rayford believed the authorities must have heard about their little movement. It was just a matter of time before the axe would fall. They sought unsuccessfully to interpret a prophecy about “the wings of an eagle” helping them to escape the coming persecution. It obviously was poetic. They would not grow literal wings. But even if it was talking about aircraft, available technology could be used to track them anywhere. Air travel was further complicated by the the need for a Mark to purchase a ticket, and by regulations governing international flights. Earlier Bible experts had taught that the hiding place was in Petra, in Jordan. But commentators who published this “secret” had blown away any cover that it might have offered. The place of refuge was called, “the wilderness”, or “a desolate place”. Neither Rayford nor Chaim could say where it was. For now, they urged members to lie low, and take comfort in the Rock of Ages, and in his teachings. Jesus said his teachings are like a solid rock, protecting us from all “floods” and “storms”. (Matthew 7:24-25) Neville and other tribal experts devised a series of satellite relays for their website, making it difficult to track them down. But sooner or later, that important link of communication was also going to be cut off. The Temple in Jerusalem had been open for less than three years. Six security experts gathered around sophisticated computers in an office in Moscow, one evening in June. Other staff had left for the night. A big man named Sergei, broke the silence as they waited for something to happen. “Any of you ever visit the site?” he asked innocently, to ease the boredom. The others hesitated nervously. Sergei tried to ease the tension with further talk. “It’s crazy. They say people can live without money, that the implant is from the Devil.” Sergei laughed nervously. Still no response. The others looked at Sergei, waiting for him to say more. “I… I only went there because my son told me about it,” he said defensively. His dilemma worsened. Eyebrows raised. Sergei realised what he had done to his son by trying to excuse himself. “He didn’t really… I mean…” he began. “There it is!” shouted an officer, who pointed to the monitor. Sergei and his son were forgotten, at least for a moment. “It’s in England. West London!” The men had tracked down Rayford Strait’s internet provider. “We’ll stop these traitors now!” said an older man. “First we will find out who is behind it. Oleg, get London on the phone!” The staff at Web Wonders were finishing up for the night when it happened. The explosion came not from within, but from above. A powerful laser cut through the building, and then exploded outward, reducing everything to a pile of ash. Neighbouring buildings experienced little more than scorch marks on their walls. Web Wonders and their staff ceased to exist. The Great Tribulation had started.