A burned-out minister in small town Antioch, Washington, must wrestle with his confusion and cynicism when a self-proclaimed messiah takes over his ministry. The replacement minister looks like Christ. He even heals the sick and performs miracles. Could this messenger of hope and renewal be the real thing?
At first, this small town is abuzz with reports of miracles and religious sightings (a weeping statue of Christ, a disappearing hitchhiker warning of Christ's arrival, a soothing angel). But suddenly there's a twist of evil and demonic mystery in the air. It's up to the jaded minister Travis to track down the real story behind this visitor and somehow find a way to stop him.
Frank Peretti has been a hit sensation in the Christian thriller market but admits that up until now his books have surfed in the shallow waters of pop fiction. In The Visitation, Peretti has worked his craft more carefully--exploring how suffering leads to disillusionment in God as well as deepening his characterization. (The main character is a thinly disguised reflection of Peretti's own bout with doubt.) Fans will be relieved to know that Peretti is still dedicated to suspenseful drama, and there's still plenty of spine-chilling mayhem when all hell literally breaks loose on this small-town cast of characters.
Though there are elements in Peretti's latest novel reminiscent of his contemporary Christian fiction classic, This Present Darkness
(1989), this time he tells a quieter, more personal story that reflects some of his own experiences as a minister. It's told from the point of view of a lonely widower named Travis Jordan, who feels he has failed as a minister in the little town of Antioch, Washington. He and his replacement in the pulpit, a fervent and earnest young man, are called upon to do battle against a false christ. Not an Antichrist, but a drifter, "Brandon" has assumed many identities. The false christ heals the sick and the lame, but there are hints that he's under Satan's power and that his miracles are hollow. Travis traces his history back to rural Texas, where the young Brandon, then called Justin, was nailed to a cross by his zealot father. Thus was born the false christ. Events in Antioch grow ever more bizarre and violent, with other christs showing up to denounce each other and a showdown brewing at Brandon's ranch. A fine Peretti effort distinguished for its honest considerations of religious excess: from the zealotry of born-again teenagers, convinced that signs from God are all about them, to the impersonality of a great church in Los Angeles, so big that the minister can only be seen on closed-circuit TV. John Mort