Early morning in Seoul. The sunlight was starting to flash across the windows of the high-rise towers of the city, causing the panes of glass to look as if they were mirrors of fire.
In his hotel room on the city's outskirts, a few blocks from the huge Junggye Gospel Church, a North Korean national, Han Suk Yong, was getting dressed. Soon he would climb into his rented car and drive to a service at the church. He was breathing faster. His heartbeat had quickened, he could tell. He would have to control it. He had to look and act natural, collected, if he was going to accomplish the single passionate plan that burned within like a flame. By the time the church service ended, he hoped to have fired several bullets into the man he hated.
Han knew his target would be heavily protected. He had cased the church the night before and noticed the security staff setting up metal detectors in the lobby, at each entrance to the ten-thousand-seat sanctuary. The main speaker was controversial, and the church was not taking any chances. But Han anticipated that. During his time with the North Korean military, he had worked with a team that specialized in advanced small-arms weaponry. When he had slipped covertly across the border the week before, he had brought a sample with him.
The newly developed .45-caliber lignostone handgun was perfect for the job. A super-compressed wood product, lignostone was as strong as steel but much lighter. More important, it could pass through metal detectors. Russia and their Arab allies had used the material for many of its weapons in the recent ill-fated invasion against Israel. The lightweight material had avoided radar detection, and the newly designed Russian trucks, Jeeps, and tanks constructed from it would have been effective had it not been for the frightful forces of nature that seemed to revolt against the military assault.
But Han told himself that his plan was different. He was a skilled assassin against a single high-profile target. And no one, he told himself, had a more powerful reason to kill.
After straightening his tie, Han assembled his lignostone gun and inserted the clip full of bullets made of the same material. He put it in his suit-coat pocket, packed his suitcase, and carried it to his car in the parking lot. Before turning the ignition, he sat behind the wheel for a moment. He pulled out a photograph and stared at it. He saluted the North Korean officer in the picture, gave a quick bow, and put it back in his pocket. Then he reached over to the passenger seat where he had a printout of a Seoul online city newspaper. He lifted the front page to his eyes, reviewing the photograph, just under the headline, which showed the man who was scheduled to be the main speaker at the Junggye Gospel Church. The target of his rage. Han studied the smiling face of the man who would soon be dead.
The gunman glanced once more at the headline—"Joshua
Jordan to Speak at Seoul Church."
* * *
Every seat was filled as the thunderous applause echoed through the mammoth sanctuary. On the dais behind the pulpit the church's pastor, Lee ko-po, was smiling broadly and nodding. Next to him was Jin Ho kim, one of South Korea's hottest professional pitchers. Earlier that day he had pitched a no-hitter with his blazing fastball and led his Nexen Heroes in a 5-0 victory over the Han Wha Eagles. The baseball player seated behind the podium had his eyes glued on the speaker in front of him.
At the lectern, against the backdrop of a fifty-foot stained-glass cross on the wall behind him, Joshua Jordan was trying to finish his message, but the crowd kept interrupting him with wild applause. This was not just because he was the man whose engineering genius had saved new York City from a north Korean missile attack three years earlier—or because in so doing he handed South Korea's communist enemy to the north its most humiliating defeat to date. It had more to do with the fact that Joshua was connecting powerfully with the audience by articulating a timeless message that went beyond geopolitics or national security or even their most basic hopes about good or their fears about evil.
What Joshua was speaking about was God's master plan and the future of every member of the human race.
When the crowd quieted down, Joshua continued. "Long before I started my defense-contracting business, I had been in the United States Air Force. And I chose that life for a specific reason—because I wanted to protect my country. I was honored to achieve the rank of colonel and to fly some of the most exciting missions a pilot could ever hope for. When I retired from the service, I started my defense company so I could work with the Pentagon and continue that mission—once again to protect America. While it turned out that my anti-missile invention was the right answer to the greatest airborne risks that faced America—it proved to be popular with the wrong kind of people ... Some bad folks wanted their hands on my design, and the next thing I knew they had me in their clutches and I was taken by force to Iran. I was locked in a jail cell as a hostage, and as you know, they did some rough things to me there. But frankly, it made me appreciate the courage of other brave men who have endured much, much worse. On the other hand, there's nothing like being tortured, totally alone, in a totalitarian state, thousands of miles from home to make you feel utterly helpless. Yet all of that taught me something. Yes, I believe in a nation's right to defend itself. But in the final analysis, it is the living God who is our ultimate protection. We can trust in Him. In Psalm 125 we read this:
Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people Both now and forevermore.
Joshua closed his Bible, which his wife, Abigail, had given to him two years before, the last time they had actually been together face-to-face. It was during their clandestine reunion on board a ship off the coast of New York, anchored on the very edge of American borders and the beginning point of international waters. Given the legal spider web that had ensnared the couple, and the outrageous and unfounded criminal charges lodged against Joshua, it was the only way they could meet. Now, on the platform of the church in South Korea, he reached out and touched the brown leather cover. Joshua longed to put his arms around the woman who had given it to him. For a moment he felt a tightening in his throat. But he steadied himself. He couldn't afford to think of that right now. So he looked over the sea of faces and moved to his final comment.
"When Israel was attacked two years ago by an advancing wave of Russian and Arab League armies of overwhelming strength, military leaders gave Israel little chance of victory. But the miraculous rescue of that nation was the fulfillment of a promise God had made thousands of years ago. You can read it for yourself in chapters 38 and 39 of the book of Ezekiel. So, what is the message? First, we see over and over in those verses from Ezekiel, God is telling us through His chosen prophet exactly why He could rescue Israel in such a stunning display. He says: 'So that the nations may know me ...' to prove that He is truly the Lord.
"But there is something else, and we must not miss this ... the message is that human history will shortly be wrapped up. All signs are pointing to that. The news of the day seems to be shouting it to us. The Son of God is on His way. Christ is coming—to establish His kingdom, to reign and to rule. Jesus Christ, the king, is returning ... get ready, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls. The king is coming ..."
As Joshua moved away from the podium the crowd leaped to its feet, clapping and cheering in a roar of praise and amens and hallelujahs. Then Pastor Lee, waving his hands to the sky, led the congregation in a hymn, followed by a closing prayer of benediction.
At the other end of the mammoth church, Ethan March, Joshua's tall, muscular young personal assistant, had been watching from a side entrance. Ethan's job, ever-changing it seemed, was to coordinate security that day and keep the media under control. There had been a request for a formal press conference, but at the last minute Ethan had nixed the idea, and Joshua reluctantly deferred to his assistant. But Ethan knew that some in the media would still try to grab a comment or two from Joshua as he exited the church. Ethan scanned the thousands of attendees who were starting to disperse. He eyed the two security guards stationed in each aisle, each with a wireless radio. One by one they delivered their messages to Ethan, and he bent his head slightly to the side and covered his other ear with his finger, so he could listen in his earpiece to their security check.
"All clear." "All clear."
Ethan felt himself unwind. The service was over. No incident. No threats to disarm. He knew Joshua was still the target of several hostile nation-states—some, like North Korea, partly out of a desire for payback against Joshua for engineering their missile failure and the destruction of one of their naval military vessels with all hands on deck. Other nations simply wanted to get inside Joshua's head and learn what he knew about his own RTS weapon design. Any one of them could have slipped their agents into a crowd like this. But now it looked like the risk to Joshua was over.
Being a part-time bodyguard, part-time scheduler, and full-time personal manager for Joshua Jordan was a job that Ethan, a former Air Force pilot like his boss, had never trained for. How could he? His job was just as improbable as the way that their lives had intersected. As Ethan watched the crowd slowly wind its way to the exits he thought about how, having once served under Joshua's command at an air base, they had been brought together again years later. This time through a chance meeting on a plane with Joshua's daughter, Deborah. Sure, there was some heartbreak, the way things ended between Ethan and Deborah. But it did bring Ethan face-to-face again with a man he had admired like few others. Joshua had his own take on that, saying that the two pilots had been brought together "by divine providence."
But that was what made them different too. Ethan just couldn't buy into Joshua's newfound faith. The "God thing" wasn't Ethan's thing. Not that it diminished Joshua in his eyes. After all, any guy who had been strung up from hooks by Iranian tormentors until his shoulders were dislocated, then beaten with rods and electrocuted—an experience like that could radically change anyone who survived. The way that Ethan saw it, religion was simply what got Joshua through the experience.
Ethan now strode up to the dais and shook hands with the pastor. Joshua was chatting with the pitching marvel, Jin Ho kim, who had just presented him with the winning baseball from the game he had pitched that day.
Joshua spotted Ethan and flagged him over. He introduced him to the pitcher. Motioning to Ethan, Joshua couldn't help mentioning his background to Jin, "This is my assistant, Ethan March, who knows something about pitching, by the way. Before joining the Air Force, he tried his hand on the mound in a triple-A ball club in America."
"Oh, you pitcher?" Jin Ho kim exclaimed with a bright smile. "Have a good fastball?"
Ethan blushed. "Yeah, well, Mr. Jin, I had a pretty good fastball. Except for one thing—"
Jin jumped in. "Problem with control?"
Ethan laughed loudly. "Exactly! Problem with control." Ethan was the only one who got the joke. His desire for control was the one thing that drove him onward more than anything else. But the reckless abandon that typified much of his life, the risk-taking, the broken rules at one Air Force base after another—didn't that seem to undermine his obsession in trying to control his own future? It was pretty funny that the one thing that dashed his dream for a big-league career was that very thing—a problem with control. On the other hand, maybe it wasn't so funny.
"I know one thing," Joshua said, pointing to Ethan, "he turned into an excellent pilot." Then with a smile Joshua added, "And I ought to know. He was one of my rookies at an airbase in Florida. He set a few flying records."
Ethan silently thanked his lucky stars that Joshua had too much class to mention his several trips to the brig for bar fights with a couple of Marines and his failure to get clearance before taking out a few new test planes.
Joshua looked at the baseball he had received from Jin Ho kim and tossed it over to Ethan. "Let's see if you still know how to handle one of these."
Ethan caught the baseball with ease.
"Okay," Joshua said, "you'd better show me the way out."
"The side door," Ethan told him quietly. "Less likely to be ambushed by the press." The two men moved toward the exit.
In the rear of the sanctuary, still hanging back as the crowds trailed out, stood two men. One was an Australian newsman. The other was a stone-faced Han Suk Yong, with forged media credentials hanging from his neck. He stared at Joshua and Ethan as they passed through a side door into an adjacent hallway. The Australian reporter was watching him. "You're a newbie, right?"
Han gave him a funny look but kept eyeing the doorway.
"A rookie reporter, I mean."
Han nodded a little nervously. The Aussie grabbed Han's fake press credentials badge hanging around his neck and studied it. "South Korean Weekly Journal?"
Han nodded again.
"Never heard of it. Must be small."
Han said, "Very small. Just started."
"Well, you're not exactly competition for me, I guess, so I'll do you a favor. I've got a hunch where we can get up close, get in Joshua Jordan's face for a quick Q&A. I've scouted out the church. I think I know which route he's taking. Follow me."
Han brightened. "Great idea." He slipped his hand into his coat pocket until he touched the smooth lignostone surface of his handgun. "I would like to get up close. You know ... get right in Joshua Jordan's face."
From behind a voice called out. A security guard trotted up. "Colonel Jordan, let me escort you."
Ethan turned and cut in. "Not necessary, thanks. I got it covered."
The security guard stopped, still looking at Joshua, who had a cautious look on his face.
Ethan lowered his voice and flashed a grin. "Josh, really, I got this. I know we're in South Korea," he said with the mock cadence of a school teacher, "which is right below North Korea, and I know you've got some nasty history with the North Koreans. But I'm your security guy on this trip. I've checked the route. Let me earn my salary here, okay?"
Joshua studied his assistant for a moment. Then he nodded to the security guard. "Thanks so much for your help. We'll take it from here. God bless."
The security guard smiled, waved, turned, and headed out of sight.
As the two men continued down the hallway, Ethan thought of something. It had been on his mind for a while, but it was touchy. Now seemed like a good time.
"So, Josh, I was going to mention something. I've got this friend back in the States. He knew pretty much everything that had gone on, you know, how I'd been interested in your daughter, and about the fact that Debbie eventually gave me the heave-ho, telling me that she didn't think it would work out between us. Well, when I told him I'd been hired as your personal assistant, he thought I was crazy. He told me this kind of arrangement would never work. He said, 'How can you ever hope to impress your boss, when your boss knows his daughter told you to buzz off?' Which got me thinking ..."
"My working for you. You have to admit we have a pretty unusual working relationship."
Joshua stopped in the hallway and studied Ethan's face. Then he said, "Actually I think you're missing something."
"After Debbie told you that it wouldn't work out between the two of you, I wondered why in the world you would still want to work for her dad."
"That's easy," Ethan responded. "Despite everything, you're still one of my heroes. I always wanted to work for the best. You're it."
Excerpted from Brink of Chaos by Tim LaHaye Craig Parshall Copyright © 2012 by Tim LaHaye. Excerpted by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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