Chapter OneA Line in the Sand
Judd Thompson and the other three kids
living in his otherwise abandoned suburban
house sometimes felt as if it was just them
against the world. Judd, at sixteen, was the
oldest. Then came the redhead, Vicki Byrne,
a year younger. Lionel Washington was thirteen,
and Ryan Daley, twelve.
They were the only ones left from their
families. Judd's parents and his twin younger
brother and sister had disappeared right out
of their clothes a few days before. Vicki
Byrne, who had lived in a trailer park with
her parents and little sister, had seen the
same thing happen at her place. Her older
brother, who had moved to Michigan, had
disappeared too, according to one of his
Lionel Washington had lost his parents,
his older sister, and his little brother and sister.
His uncle, the infamous André Dupree,
was thought dead, but Lionel now knew he
was alive somewhere-but where?
Ryan Daley had been an only child, and
now he was an orphan. His parents had not
disappeared. They had died in separate accidents
related to the worldwide vanishings of
millions of people-his father in a plane
crash, his mother in an explosion while in
The kids knew what had happened. At
least the three older ones did. Ryan wasn't
sure yet. All he knew was that he had been
left alone in the world, and he didn't much
like the explanation the other three had
come to believe.
All three of the older kids had had parents
who were Christians. They believed not only
in God, but also in Christ. And they weren't
just churchgoers. These were people who had
believed that the way to God, the way to
heaven, was through Christ. In other words,
they did not agree with so many people who
believed that if you just tried to live right and
be good and treat other people fairly, you
could earn your way to heaven and to favor
As logical as all that may have sounded,
the parents of Judd and Vicki and Lionel
believed that the real truth, the basic teaching
of the New Testament, was summarized
in two verses in the book of Ephesians.
Chapter 2, verses 8-9 said that a person is
saved by grace through faith and that it is not
as a result of anything we accomplished. It is
the gift of God, not a result of good deeds, so
nobody can brag about it.
They also believed that one day, as the
Bible also foretold, Jesus would return and
snatch true believers away in the twinkling of
an eye, and they would immediately join
him in heaven. That was what had happened,
Judd, Vicki, and Lionel realized, since
most of the people in their churches had disappeared
But what convinced them more than anything
was that they themselves were still
here. Judd had never received Christ, though
he had grown up in church and knew the
Bible. Vicki had hated it when her parents
had become Christians two years before, and
she didn't want anything to do with it, even
though her older brother and younger sister
had also believed. She had seen the changes
in her family and realized there was some
truth to what was going on. She had an idea
they were onto something real, but she wasn't
willing to give up her lifestyle or her freedom
to join them in their faith.
Lionel had been more like Judd, having
been raised by a Christian family and having
gone to church every Sunday for years. He
had not become a rebel as Judd did when he
became a teenager. Rather, he had pretended
all along to be a Christian. It was his and his
uncle André's secret. They were not really
Those oldest three kids realized their tragic
mistake immediately when the vanishings
had taken place. In the midst of chaos, as cars
crashed, planes fell from the sky, ships collided
and sank, houses burned, and people
panicked, they had to admit they had been
wrong-as wrong as people could be. They
were glad to find out there was a second
chance for them, that they could still come
to Christ. But though that gave them the
assurance that they would one day see God
and be reunited with their families, it didn't
keep them from grieving over the loss of their
loved ones. They were alone in the world
until they had discovered each other and
Bruce Barnes, the visitation pastor at New
Hope Village Church who had agreed to help
teach them the Bible. He had given them each
a Bible and invited them to the first Sunday
service following the disappearances, which
the Bible predicted centuries ago.
But Ryan Daley was still a holdout. He was
scared. He was sad. He was angry. And while
he had been hanging with Lionel since they
had met, Lionel made him feel like a wimp.
Well, he didn't just feel like one. He was one.
Lionel seemed brave. He confronted his
uncle's enemies, he had been to the morgue
to try to identify his uncle's body, and he had
gone into Ryan's house after a burglary. Ryan
couldn't force himself to do any of that stuff,
and it made him feel terrible.
Judd had invited everybody to live at his
place. Vicki didn't have any choice after her
trailer had burned to the ground. Some of
Lionel's uncle André's "associates" had virtually
taken over Lionel's place, so he needed
somewhere to crash too. Ryan could have
stayed at his own house and Lionel would
have stayed there with him, but Ryan couldn't
make himself go inside. There were too
many scary memories. It had been just him
and his parents in that house, and now they
were dead. And then there had been the burglary,
so he wasn't about to set foot in the
place. Lionel could make fun of him all he
wanted, but Ryan was glad to take Judd up
on his offer.
Judd's family had clearly been the wealthiest
of the four. His house was a huge mansion.
Well, almost a mansion. There were
bigger and nicer homes around, but not
many. In Judd's house, each kid could have
his own bedroom and lots of privacy.
No one knew what the future held, at least
among the kids. Bruce Barnes sure seemed to
know. He had made it his business to
become a student of Bible prophecy and
must have been spending almost every spare
minute buried in the Bible and reference
books. He told the kids that it was time to be
on the lookout for a man the Bible called the
Antichrist. "He will come offering peace and
harmony, and many people will be fooled,
thinking he's a good man with their best
interests at heart. He will make some sort of
an agreement with the nation of Israel, but it
will be a lie. The signing of that agreement
will signal the beginning of the last seven
years of tribulation before Christ returns
again to set up his thousand-year kingdom
Bruce explained the Tribulation as a period
of suffering for all the people of the world,
more suffering even than they had endured
when millions of people had disappeared all
at the same time. Bruce promised to teach
the kids all of the judgments that would
come from heaven during those seven years,
some twenty-one of them in three series of
Judd had called the kids together one
evening after they had all received their
Bibles from Bruce. "I'm not trying to be the
boss or anything," he began, "but I am the
oldest and this is my house, and so there are
going to be some rules. To stay in this house,
we all have to agree to watch out for each
other. Let each other know where you are all
the time so we don't worry about you. Don't
do anything stupid like getting in trouble,
breaking the law, staying out all night, that
kind of stuff. And I think we all ought to be
reading what Bruce tells us to read every day
and also going to whatever meetings he
invites us to, besides church of course. I
mean, we're going to church every Sunday to
keep up with what's going on."
Vicki and Lionel nodded. "Of course,"
Vicki said. "Sounds fair."
"Not to me," Ryan said. "I'm not into this
stuff, and you all know it."
"Guess you're going to have to live somewhere
else then," Lionel said.
"That's not for you to say, Lionel!" Ryan
said. "This isn't your house! Judd's not going
to make me read the Bible and go to church
meetings just to stay here. Are you, Judd?"
"Matter of fact, I am," Judd said.
"I can hardly believe I'm saying this," Judd
said, "because just last week it made me so
mad when my parents said the same thing.
But here goes. As long as you live under my
roof, you follow my rules."
Ryan's face was red, and it appeared he
might bolt out of there like he often did
when he heard something he didn't like.
"I'm not going to force you to become a
Christian," Judd said. "Nobody can do that.
Even Vicki and I needed to decide that in our
own time on our own terms. But I'm taking
you in, man. You're staying here because I
asked you to. The least you can do is to join
in with what the rest of us are doing. It's all
for one and one for all. We're going to look
out for you and protect you and take care of
you, even if you don't believe like we do, and
we're going to expect you to do the same for
us. I can't even make you read the Bible, but
we're going to go to church and to Bruce's
special little meetings, and we're going
together. You can plug your ears or sleep
through them, but you're going."
"And if I don't?"
"Then you can find someplace else to
"He'll never do that," Lionel said. "He's
too much of a scaredy-cat."
"Shut up!" Ryan said.
"Lay off him, Lionel," Vicki said. "You're
not going to win him over that way."
"You're not going to win me over at all,"
Ryan said. "Just watch."
"Well," Judd said, "what's the deal. You in
"I have to decide right now?"
"We have a meeting with Bruce tonight
and church tomorrow morning. You go with
us tonight and you promise to go tomorrow,
or you move out this afternoon."
"The man's drawing a line in the sand for
you," Lionel said.
"Lionel!" Vicki scolded.
"I'm just sayin', the line has been drawn.
You crossing the line, Ryan? Or are you with
"I'll think about it," Ryan said, and he was
gone. The others heard him banging around
in the bedroom he had been assigned.
"We need to pray for him," Vicki said. "It's
hard enough for us, but imagine what it's
like for him. We know where our parents are.
If he believes like we do that our parents
were raptured and his weren't, he has to
accept that his parents are in hell. Think
about that. He's going to fight this a long
time, because even if he wants to become a
believer, that means he's accepting that his
parents are lost forever."
"It sure would be nice if we could somehow
find out his parents, or at least one of
them, was actually a Christian or became one
before they died," Lionel said.
"Get real," Judd said. "That rarely happens
in real life."
Lionel was dealing with his own dilemma.
His uncle had left a long message on Lionel's
answering machine, going on and on about
killing himself and feeling so bad that he had
influenced Lionel to not be a Christian. He
was clearly drunk or high or both, and Lionel
had been convinced that André had killed
himself. When Lionel and Ryan had ridden
their bikes all the way to André's neighborhood
one night to investigate, the cops had
told them André's body was at a nearby
morgue. It had indeed been a suicide, they
told Lionel. Because André, had had enemies
to whom he owed money, and those guys
had moved into Lionel's house and kicked
him out, Lionel figured they had murdered
André and made it look like suicide.
But when Judd had driven Lionel to the
morgue a few days later so Lionel could identify
the body, he had run into a shocker.
While the victim was the same height and
weight as André, and while he had carried
André's wallet and wore André's clothes and
jewelry, the body was clearly not André's.
Finding the truth about that mystery
would be Lionel's mission over the next several
days. Meanwhile, he was as eager as Judd
and Vicki to learn more about what life was
supposed to be like, now that Christ had raptured
Judd agreed that they should pray for
Ryan, and that in fact they should pray at the
end of all their little house meetings, the way
Bruce had them pray at the end of their
meetings at church. But first he asked, "Is
there anything else either of you needs to
talk about now?"
"Yeah," Lionel said. "I just want to say that
I'm not really trying to put down Ryan. I'm
trying to toughen him up the way I did my
little brother and sister and the way my sister
did me. I don't want to make him mad or
feel bad, but he's such a wuss. It's time for
that boy to grow up."
"It's hard to grow up this way," Vicki said.
"I don't know about you guys, but I'm having
trouble. I have bad dreams, have trouble
sleeping, find myself crying over my family
as if they're all just dead and gone and not in
heaven where I know I'll see them someday.
I know we're all going to be called back to
school one of these days, and I can't imagine
sitting through class with all I know now. If
this Antichrist guy shows up soon and does
sign some sort of a contract with Israel, we're
gonna have only seven more years to live."
Judd and Lionel sat nodding. "Anyway,"
Judd said, "Lionel, you do have to try to
encourage Ryan. If he decides against becoming
a Christian, I sure wouldn't want to have
it on my conscience that I pushed him away.
As much as you guys squabble, I still think
he looks up to you."
"Oh, yeah," Vicki said. "I think that's obvious.
He wants your approval."
"You might want to encourage him."
"Hold up," Lionel said. "I'll do it right
Lionel hurried to Ryan's room, trying to
decide what to say. When he peeked in and
knocked, Ryan whirled from what he was
"Hey, little man," Lionel said.
"I thought I asked you to quit calling me
that," Ryan said.
"Yeah, sorry. Listen, I just want to say that
I'm sorry about getting on your case all the
Ryan didn't respond.
Lionel tried again. "I mean, uh, I'm just
Ryan approached the door, where Lionel
stood, tongue-tied. "You're just saying you
don't know what you're saying, right?"
Lionel did not respond.
"Are you finished?" Ryan asked, his hand
on the door.
"Yes, you are," Ryan said. And he pushed
the door shut in Lionel's face.
Lionel returned to Judd and Vicki, clearly
troubled. He told them what had happened.
"We do need to pray for that boy," Vicki
But before they did, Lionel said, "You need
to know he was packing up."
"Really?" Judd said. "He's leaving?"
"I don't know," Lionel said, "but he was
getting all his stuff together."
And they prayed for him.