Tag: PRE TRIBULATION

DOES JESUS’ “GATES OF HELL” QUOTE PROVE A PRE-TRIB. RAPTURE? (RAPTURE 26)

Hi everyone. And when I say “everyone” I’m well aware that only a very small number of people are the tiniest bit interested in the rapture of the Church. And only a tiny fraction of that tiny fraction is the slightest bit interested in asking whether their dearly-held pre-tribulation rapture  is a valid view. However, undaunted, I plow on with my critical expose of this teaching, because, having once been a pre-trib. believer myself, I can see how dangerous and myopic it is. More on that at a later date. Here, in an uncharacteristically short post, is excerpt twenty-six of my book on the rapture. 

Jesus, talking about the Church, said that “the gates of Hades (‘hell’ in KJV) will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18). The modern claim in support of a pre-tribulation rapture says that since we know Antichrist will overcome saints on the earth during the tribulation, according to Daniel 8:12 and Revelation 13:7, the saints of Revelation cannot be the Church, because Jesus said that the gates of hell will not overcome the Church. Therefore the Church, it is claimed, must be in heaven at that time. 

Think about what will happen to the saints alive during those trying times in Revelation. They will be persecuted, and some or many of them will be killed. So what’s new? Thousands or even millions of Christians have been persecuted and killed for their faith over the centuries since the time of Jesus, and the opposition to the Church goes on today. So either Jesus was wrong to make this statement that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church, or persecution and the martyrdom of saints is not the gates of hell prevailing against the Church! Jesus said to his original disciples, and so to us:

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (Matthew 10:28).

The persecution of the believer is not by any means a victory of Satan or his minions. In fact, those who “hold to the testimony of Jesus” and are persecuted in Revelation are anything but defeated. Even those who will be killed in this persecution will not have been “prevailed” against, in fact, quite the opposite. At the beginning of the reign of Antichrist, we read the following:

Then I heard a voice from heaven say, ‘Write, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on’” (Revelation 14: 13).

The Church, consisting of all true believers of all time, will not be conquered, even in the physical death of its members, but will be raised to life, and will reign with Christ for a thousand years (20:4). The Church is an entity which cannot be defeated or harmed, no matter how much it is opposed or persecuted. The Bride of Christ is eternally secure, and the overcoming of the saints’ temporal earthly existence has no effect on her status at all. 

RAPTURE 25: FALL AWAY FROM WHAT?

Welcome readers. Here’s another installment of my book* on the timing of the rapture. I was a pre-tribulation believer for twenty-eight years: I now know how wrong I was to unquestioningly accept everything the “experts” taught. The good news is that this post is considerably shorter than most…

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Paul wrote that a preliminary and unmistakable sign that the Day of the Lord was beginning or about to begin will be a “falling away”, or a “rebellion”, followed by the revealing of Antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2:3). What exactly this “falling away” will be is a matter of some debate, though it’s generally considered to be a falling away of nominal believers from the faith.. Some have attempted to interpret it as being the rapture. More likely it’s a movement of those loosely associated with the faith away from it. This is the most common view and makes the most sense, but the exact interpretation of what the falling away may be isn’t the subject of this post.

Imagine this: the rapture has taken place before the tribulation. The Church is gone. Besides the millions and billions of unsaved people on earth, only nominal believers and hangers on are “left behind”. In this case, I want to ask the question: What will there be for anyone to “fall away” from? If the Church is gone, and with it the Holy Spirit, what is there left to fall away from?

Is it the Church? How can you fall away from a Church which has already gone? How can you lose a faith you didn’t really have anyway? How can you rebel against God or against Christ if you’re already so weak in the faith or hypocritical that you missed the rapture? And in that case, if the Church were raptured and then all the weak “left-behind” people fall away, where do “those who remain faithful to Jesus” spoken of several times in Revelation, come from (Revelation 14:12)? We would have to assume that these weaklings suddenly become the toughest, most fearless and faithful believers in history. So why didn’t they get raptured? We ourselves, supposedly the ones to be raptured, are not that tough. We aren’t out there sharing the gospel in the midst of severe persecution. Is it because they just happened to be going through a phase of spiritual weakness that they didn’t get raptured? Haven’t we all experienced that? If this is the case, Jesus is willing to “dump” us if we experience a time of discouragement and weak faith. Isn’t he more faithful than that? Doesn’t he uphold us? Didn’t God say “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5,6)?

With all the persecution going on and the mark of the beast being instituted in the tribulation, it has to be nothing short of remarkable that those saints living at that time will have such incredible faith that they’re prepared to die for Jesus! How can there be any “falling away” during the tribulation if the Church is already gone, and “those who hold to the testimony of Jesus” are prepared to die for their Lord?

If we try to say that the “falling away” will happen before a pre-tribulation rapture in order to escape this conundrum, we only create another conundrum, because Paul, giving the initial signs of “The Day of the Lord” here, surely would have said something like “that day cannot come before there is a falling away first, and we are all changed to immortal, and then the man of sin be revealed”. Also, if the falling away is to come first, before tribulation, the rapture would not be so “imminent” and unexpected, would it? Why would Paul speak of the falling away, and then go straight to the revealing of Antichrist, giving these two signs as the initial signs of the Day of the Lord, without mentioning the rapture, if it is supposed to come before either of these events?

If the rapture has already occurred at the point Paul is speaking about-that is, before the falling away and before Antichrist is revealed, why did Paul not mention it to the Thessalonian church in the same chapter? He had already mentioned the rapture in his first letter to these believers when speaking of the coming of the Lord: it was not a hidden mystery to be kept from the Church. Surely, that would be an ultimate sign of the arrival of the day of the Lord, particularly to anyone “left behind”? He wrote to them about the rapture in his first letter, and it’s no longer a “mystery”: why not mention it now? If the rapture is indeed the first “sign”, which it would have to be if it’s “imminent” and must come first, why not mention it when speaking of what to look out for as signs of the Day of the Lord coming?

THE CAUSE OF REBELLION

The most logical answer to all these questions is that the Church will still be around when Paul’s initial sign-events of the Day of the Lord take place, and that those who are weak in the faith and who attend church for something to do, or who are trusting in their church organization or favorite teachers instead of Jesus, will rebel against the true Faith when the going gets tough. This will be the “falling away”. The tribulation will be a divider between the people of God and those who don’t want to know God. Jesus said that there will be such great deception and distress in those times that if it were possible even the elect will be deceived. Those who are not the elect will be deceived. They will be the ones to fall away. There will be a sharp division between the saved and unsaved.

*ALL LEFT BEHIND:THE CASE AGAINST A PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE, by Nicholas Fisher, available on Amazon.

RAPTURE 24: WHICH LAST TRUMPET IS THE LAST LAST TRUMPET?

Not only do to teachers of the pre-tribulation rapture theory insist, without scriptural statements, that the first of two resurrections is in stages, but they also have to resort to claiming that there is more than one “last trumpet”. This is the subject of excerpt twenty-four of my book*

Paul, when telling the Corinthians that “we will all be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51) speaking of the resurrection and the rapture, said that “the last trumpet” will sound (verse 52). Then, when writing to the Thessalonians on the same topic he mentioned “the trumpet call of God” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-19, esp. verse 16). Jesus, when speaking of his physical and visible return to the earth, said that he would send his angels “with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds” (Matthew 24:30-31).

Since there will be a “last trumpet” according to Paul, at which the rapture will take place, there must be previous trumpets, or a series of trumpets. We know from Revelation that there are trumpets sounded as a part of the final judgments on the earth. However, pre-tribulationists claim that the loud trumpet call which Jesus said will be sounded upon his glorious return at the end of the tribulation is a different trumpet call, or part of a different set of trumpet blasts entirely to the trumpet call Paul spoke of. They say that there is more than one series of trumpet calls, and so Jesus’ trumpet call announcing the gathering of his elect at the end of the tribulation has nothing to do with the trumpet sounded at the rapture. This has to be their claim to avoid the otherwise clear fact that Christ will return for his bride and his elect at or near the end of the tribulation.

Do they know that to be so, or is it necessary for them to invoke different trumpets or series of trumpets in order to preserve their theory? If there are other trumpets or series of trumpet blasts, and since “the”, or “a” “last trumpet” heralds the resurrection and the rapture of the living, we could rightfully ask when these other trumpet blasts or series of trumpets were or will be heard, what did or will they announce, and…which last trumpet is the last last trumpet?

Trumpets are heard from time to time throughout the Bible. However, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to find any other series of trumpets related to end times events, other than the one found in Revelation, which announces a final series of judgments. There are only two other trumpet sounds mentioned in Revelation. One is the voice of Jesus in the first chapter when he spoke to John, which sounds like a trumpet, and the second is speaking of the fact that musicians will no longer be heard in Babylon when it is destroyed (18:22). These are clearly not related to the rapture.

Zechariah tells us that “…the Lord God will sound the trumpet”, in a prophecy sounding very much like an end-times deliverance of his people Israel (Zechariah 9:14). This does nothing to alleviate the pre-tribulationist’s problem, but only adds to it, because it fits with the principle of Christ appearing in power and glory to deliver Jerusalem, to bring judgment, and to gather his people. And the fact that God was only speaking of the deliverance of Israel in Zechariah’s prophecy does not mean that the return of Christ is only to deliver Jews. This could simply be a part, a detail of the bigger picture.

Exactly what happens at the seventh trumpet judgment of Revelation anyway-is it at all relevant to this question? An angel gives us the answer in chapter 10:

…in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished…” (10:7).

Didn’t Paul also call the resurrection and the rapture a “mystery”? (1 Corinthians 15:51). Hmm, that’s quite a coincidence isn’t it? Perhaps that’s a different mystery…

Here in chapter 10 of Revelation we’re told what will happen when the seventh-and last-trumpet is about to be blown, but in the next chapter it is actually blown, and this is the result of it:

The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15).

The seventh trumpet announces that God and his Christ have taken over the world and have begun to reign. Another outcome of this seventh trumpet follows:

The nations were angry and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name…” (11:18).

Believers, according to Paul, will appear at “the judgment seat of Christ”, and will be rewarded or shamed for what we have done while alive in the world (2 Corinthians 5:10). I wrote about this in my chapter on the resurrection.

The seventh and last trumpet of Revelation has delivered “the kingdom of the world” into the hands of God and of his Christ (11:15), and at the same time set up the judging of the dead and the rewarding of God’s people (11:18). Can it really be coincidence that Paul wrote how, upon Christ’s return in “blazing fire” and not before, that the persecutors of God’s people (and here he was referring to Church age saints) will be judged, and the persecuted rewarded (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10)? There is just too much agreement with these two accounts for them to be unrelated.

The seventh trumpet of Revelation is the last. To the unbiased this is at least reminiscent of the “last trumpet” and the “trumpet call of God” spoken of by Paul as a herald of the resurrection and the rapture (1 Corinthians 15:52 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18). It’s also undeniably similar to the return Jesus spoke of, when, in the space of two verses, he described both his return to the earth in power and glory, and the “loud trumpet call” upon which the angels will gather his elect (Matthew 24:30-31). At this point, the kingdom of earth will have become the kingdom of God and of his Christ.

IMMINENCE THEORY AND LAST TRUMPETS DON’T FIT TOGETHER

Warning and announcement is the purpose of trumpet blasts in Biblical and secular history. But if, as pre-tribulation believers say, the rapture and the coming of Jesus Christ is ‘imminent’, so that there is nothing to occur before it in terms of last days events, what were the previous trumpets for, and when did they sound, according to scripture? If the rapture is imminent, what could any previous trumpets possibly mean to us: surely we cannot know them or recognize them-we aren’t supposed to. And if we could, why is there nothing in scripture about them? Where are the previous trumpets described in Bible prophecy? Jesus said nothing about them in his Olivet Discourse. Paul said nothing about any trumpets previous to the “last trumpet” heard in the resurrection and rapture. In truth, they’re absent from scripture, and the only series of trumpets we’re told about is the seven trumpets in Revelation which lead up to the transfer of earth’s kingdom to our God. Some pre-tribulation teachers have attempted to attach trumpets to past events in history, such as the First World War, but this is simply guesswork and not supported by scripture. No-one can confirm such things, so how are such “trumpet” blasts of any use at all?

So then, the last trumpet spoken of by Paul when referring to the resurrection and rapture of believers could easily match the seventh trumpet- the last trumpet- described in Revelation chapters 10 and 11, which will occur at the end of the tribulation, not before it.

*ALL LEFT BEHIND: THE CASE AGAINST THE PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE”, by Nicholas Fisher, available on Amazon.

RAPTURE 22: THE FIRST RESURRECTION

I was a pre-tribulation believer and proponent for twenty-eight years. Therefore I am, I  believe, well qualified to critique this mistaken position. Open your minds to reality, dear Christian brothers and sisters…

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Today’s excerpt from my book* is taken from chapter 14. The chapter is rather long, so today’s post contains a part and the rest will appear next week.

Paul, writing primarily about the resurrection of Jesus Christ, wrote that the dead will be raised “imperishable”, and that “we will all be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51). He gave us more detail of these events in his letter to the Thessalonians. Here he made clear that the resurrection will occur first, and then, “after that” those who are still alive will be taken up to meet the resurrected and the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). Therefore, if the rapture were to occur before the tribulation, the resurrection would have to also occur before the tribulation. Conversely, of course, if the resurrection were to be at some time later, say, during or after the tribulation, then the rapture would have to be even later than that. So is it possible to pinpoint the time of the resurrection in relation to the tribulation using scripture?

Pre-tribulation believers have to assert that the resurrection will be in stages, because when we read of a resurrection of martyred believers at the end of the tribulation, occurring after the victorious return of Jesus Christ to the earth, it is called in Revelation, “The first resurrection” (Revelation 20:5). There are only two resurrections in total, according to Revelation, and John informs us that if you miss the first resurrection, there’s a long wait until the second:

The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended” (verse 5).

If it were to be the first “first” resurrection (intentional repeat) in which martyrs of Revelation are raised in chapter 20, then the rapture has to be at the end of the tribulation. So pre-tribulation theory has no choice but to say that the resurrection is in stages, that the resurrection of the martyrs is a second or even a third stage, and that the first stage, taking place with the rapture, occurred at least seven years earlier than chapter 20. Are pre-tribulation believers correct in invoking stages for the first resurrection? Or instead, could this resurrection of martyred believers in Revelation chapter 20, labeled by John “the first resurrection” actually be the same event as the resurrection Paul talked about to Corinthians and Thessalonians, which he associated with the rapture?

There’s no doubt that only the martyred are mentioned at this point in Revelation, giving the distinct impression that they’re the last ones left to be raised, and other believers must have been raised at some time before this. However, the fact that they’re the only ones mentioned here doesn’t exclude the possibility that their resurrection is actually just a featured detail; a part of the simultaneous resurrection of all believers. In that case the focus here, as it has been for several chapters of Revelation, is the persecution of all ages under the Harlot, and more specifically during the tribulation, where those living through it- the “saints who hold to the testimony to Jesus”-have been harassed and persecuted by the Beast. In this case their resurrection is most relevant to the account of tribulation events, and so the one in focus at this point.

WHERE ARE THE OTHER STAGES OF RESURRECTION?

Even though Paul had revealed the “mystery” of Christ’s return; the resurrection and the rapture, many years before the writing of Revelation, there’s no other reference in Revelation to the first resurrection before this one in chapter 20. Why not? It’s not at the beginning, or in any of the letters to the churches, or in the account of John being taken up to heaven. There’s no mention in heaven of resurrection before any seals are opened, or during or after them, until this talk of the “first” resurrection in chapter 20, after Christ’s return with his angels in chapter 19.

Verse 4 of chapter twenty, in which we see the martyrs raised, and before the martyrs are mentioned, speaks of “thrones, on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge”. We normally associate judgment with the physical return of Jesus to the earth. Indeed, how can anyone be judged without him? We, even as Christians, are going to receive a form of judgment, without condemnation (2 Corinthians 5:10 with Romans 8:1). So if the “judgment seat of Christ” is going to occur at the time of the resurrection of the martyrs, either the resurrection of the martyrs is a part of the general resurrection occurring simultaneously, or if the rapture occurred years earlier, the raptured have had to wait seven years to by judged. The other unlikely alternative is that Christ keeps getting out his judgment seat for each proposed phase of the resurrection. Why are seats of judgment being brought into view now for the first time in chapter 20? There’s no mention anywhere of any judgment occurring seven years before or at any previous point in Revelation.

Note, again, what Paul didn’t say to the Thessalonians or the Corinthians in the very scriptures we use as evidence of the resurrection and the rapture. He didn’t say, “some” of the dead will be raised imperishable (1 Corinthians 15:52). He didn’t say that those who are “ready” for the rapture will be taken and the others left. He didn’t say “some” of the dead will rise first and the rest later (1 Thessalonians 4:16). He said nothing in these passages about a two or three-staged resurrection, or a two-staged rapture, or for that matter a two or three-staged return of Jesus.

DANIEL’S RESURRECTION

Daniel’s prophetic book gives us an early, Old Testament glimpse of the resurrection. Chapter 11 first foretells some narrative of military and political struggles in the Middle-East in a chronological order, and then, by the end of chapter 11, we’re brought all the way up to the actual time and location of last-days tribulation events. There we learn a little about the movement of Antichrist and his forces in the Middle East.

Chapter 12 continues the order of events Daniel was shown, speaking of a time of “great distress” for the nation of Israel. This description closely resembles Jesus’ remarks in his Olivet Discourse, in which he speaks of the appearance of Antichrist, and the time of “great distress”, unequaled at no time past or future (Matthew 24:15-22). It also evokes Paul’s description of the time of Antichrist’s revealing which will release all sorts of evil on the world (2 Thessalonians 2).

It’s at the end of the succession of events Daniel is told about, and not at the beginning, that the angel talking to him speaks of the resurrection. First comes the warning of “a time of great distress, such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then”. Then the resurrection is described:

Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2).

*ALL LEFT BEHIND: THE CASE AGAINST THE PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE”, by Nicholas Fisher, available on Amazon.

WILL JESUS KEEP US FROM THE HOUR OF TRIAL? (RAPTURE 21)

Will Jesus Christ keep true believers from the coming “hour of trial”, meaning the tribulation? That’s the claim of many people who teach an early rapture. This phrase is taken from a verse in Christ’s letter  to the church in Philadelphia, and the promise applied to believers in our age:

I will keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 3:10b).

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I have to wonder just how the Philadelphian church received the benefit of this promise, because if you think about it, they, being first-century Christians, didn’t get raptured before they died. Their bodies still sleep even now while their souls are “present with the Lord”. In the pre-tribulation rapture sense which people now hope for, that is, going to heaven while alive and so escaping persecution and death, there was no fulfillment for the Philadephians. Why would Jesus make a promise of rapture, if that’s what this is, to a first century church?

Could it be instead that the promise is being misinterpreted? Perhaps we could look at it in a different way. And the way I”m going to suggest isn’t going to be popular with some of you: the natural death of those in the first century church was their escape from trial. Isaiah wrote:

The righteous perish, and no one takes it to heart; the devout are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find their rest as they lie in death” (Isaiah 57: 1-2).

Being human in the twenty-first century West we think that escape from trial should mean instant transport to heaven. But perhaps God has a different idea. Jesus told the Philadelphians that as they’d patiently endured they would be kept from trial, and we think that we deserve the same treatment-that is, rapture-while those “left behind” to live through the tribulation don’t. This attitude isn’t borne out in scripture. Even those who will bravely live through the tribulation, and refuse the mark of the beast, are said to “patiently endure” and remain faithful to Jesus (Revelation 14:12). At this very point in John’s book we’re told that those who die in the Lord at this time are “blessed”. And in language very reminiscent of the Isaiah quote above, we’re told that their deaths are their “rest”:

Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on”…”Yes, says the Spirit, they will rest from their labor, for their deeds follow them” (verse 13).

Here, we’re told what we cannot grasp in our relatively free and safe Western culture-that escape from trial does not have to entail rapture. And the obvious observation must be made that millions of believers through the centuries, and even today in many parts of the world, have not been delivered from persecution by being raptured. Jesus said,  No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you as well (John 15:20).

PATIENT ENDURANCE

Here’s that quote from Jesus’ letter again:

I will keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 3:10b).

It seems easy to apply this phrase to the pre-tribulation rapture, doesn’t it? And yet there isn’t really any mention of “rapture” or of being changed and transported to heaven. Perhaps we should look at the context of this phrase before we make a decision. With the first part of the verse in place, it reads like this:

Because you have kept my word about patient endurance…I will keep you from the hour of trial…” (etc).

The reward of the Philadelphians was in return for their patient endurance. What does Jesus mean by “patient endurance”? When I was first a Christian I was waiting for the rapture to happen any day. I thought I didn’t need to get a job because I would be zipping off to heaven before I’d even signed the application form. I had told my unbelieving family members where I would be when I disappeared along with millions of others around the world, and I’d written out a large “Where I’ve Gone” note for them to find. Is that what Jesus meant by “patient endurance”, or was I missing something? We can get a good idea of what the Philadelphian church was patiently enduring, and what other churches were patiently enduring, by reading through Revelation, particularly the letters. In John’s opening testimony, he wrote:

I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (Revelation 1:9).

John was suffering persecution because of his testimony-the testimony of Jesus. Because of this suffering he was “patiently enduring”, just as the Philadelphian church was (3:10).

Interestingly, Jesus also expected the Philadelphians to “hold on” to what they had, and he said to them (and to us) “Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God” (3:11-12). Despite the fact that they were going to be kept from the world-wide trial which we may see as the tribulation, they were still expected to endure and to overcome. Their lives were not trouble free. They were not delivered from all trouble, and they were not raptured.

Overcoming is a common theme in the letters to the churches. It speaks of enduring persecution (Revelation 2:7; 2:11; 2:17; 2:26; 3:21). The Olivet Discourse includes a very relevant passage in which Jesus speaks of those living in those future, last-days times of “distress”. Speaking about all the trials they will experience, he said:

But he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:13).

These words, “stands firm” are translated from the very same word which is also translated “patient endurance”. The first-century church in Philadelphia lived through their own trials and patiently endured, just as the tribulation saints will be expected to patiently endure, because they will be the ones living at that time. The Philadelphians died nineteen hundred years ago and so by natural death were kept from the future hour of trial which will affect the whole world, if that’s the trial Jesus was speaking of. He may have been speaking about judgment instead.

Again, the “hour of trial”, if it is the tribulation, is not necessarily seven years long. The world will be in some sort of relative peace and security before Antichrist is revealed three and a half years before the return of Jesus, not seven years (Revelation 13:5). Therefore, even if Jesus had meant in his letter to the Philadelphians that we, in our time, will escape the tribulation, there is no guarantee that the rapture will occur seven or more years before the visible return of Christ.

Thanks for reading. This post is the twenty-first edited excerpt from my book, “ALL LEFT BEHIND: THE CASE AGAINST THE PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE”, by Nicholas Fisher. It’s available in paperback and kindle editions on Amazon.