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I have been an avid reader from as early as I can remember. Since becoming a Christian in my early 20s, my passion for reading led to specifically Christian fiction and this has developed into reviewing them on this blog. I love reading debut author's novels or those author's who have not had many reviews thus providing them much needed encouragement 
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Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Pay For My Sin: The Revelation Diary by Iryna K Combs


Maria is a Christian woman with one purpose – save her corrupt family from eternal death. As the apocalypse rages around her, she makes an unlikely friendship with one lost soul and the two women flee into the southern wilderness. Forced to take shelter in a long-forgotten church, they fight to survive as all hell breaks loose outside.

The Guru's Review: 


I was asked to review this novel by the author at the recommendation of a previous author whom I reviewed recently (Brett Armstrong).

I take this as a compliment. This novel is not the author's debut novel, it is her second. Her first novel, Black Wings, became an Amazon bestseller and a finalist in 2 different book awards. Quite a good start and introduction to my reading of her new novel. I was also drawn to the genre and the plot of this novel, eschatological fiction (end times), the supernatural and spiritual warfare.

This novel draws you in from the start. There is a quick introduction to Maria and her family which provides enough information and description to establish them as the characters that Mara ends up fighting for. Once this happens, Combs wastes not time in plunging the reader into the Rapture of the Church. Then the pace revs up and you hit the road running.

I was enjoying this novel up to that point. I was concerned at the plot twist of this Rapture description. I must warn the reader now that there is a major spoiler alert ahead, but I add this for one very specific reason. I don't believe it will totally spoil it for any reader but hopefully be a launching pad to continue with renewed enthusiasm. I must confess, I was aghast with surprise that biblical theology and I guess, “Rapture Theology” (my terminology, I think!) could be stretched to the limit that the author has.

Before I continue, I did contact the author and expressed my concern at what constituted this stretch and asked her to explain her rationale. I am reluctant to being “critical” in a review when I am unable to contact the author for an explanation. In this modern age, access to authors is easily accessible than previously and they are willing to be transparent to explain their work. Their credibility I guess is at stake, especially in today's publishing world. Their explanation helps me understand their mindset and enables me to review it honestly and fairly. I do state in the “Why Christian Fiction” tab on this blog about contacting the author for issues that I am concerned about or where the Bible is silent.

My concern was as follows. Here is the spoiler alert. Combs depicts the Rapture with Jesus appearing to Maria to take her to heaven. She is about to accept Jesus's hand when she falters, realizing that she cannot bear to see her family be left behind because they have not accepted Jesus as Saviour. She then decides to sacrifice herself by pleading with Jesus to take them to heaven in her stead and her to remain on Earth for the duration of the Tribulation until He comes again. Jesus grants her request. Her unsaved family goes to Heaven and Maria remains on Earth for the Tribulation.

I halted reading for a while as this plot twist threw me. It discouraged from reading further but then I decided to see how the rest of the novel would pan out. I got to half way before I contacted the author. I was anxious about what her rationale would be but was pleased that Combs had expected some flack from her poetic license. This to me, meant that she had weighed up the consequences of such a move and therefore would be open to discuss any concerns from readers.

She replied to me as follows, 

Hi Peter,

Thanks so much for writing and letting me clear out this part of the book. Yes, any Christian knows and should know that there are NO exchanging fates when the times comes...In fact, I do not think we will even have time to react, it would just happen. However, please, accept this book that I wrote as a Fictional book. And even though most of it is really close to the Biblical prophecies, the exchange part is what makes it speculative and twisted. Otherwise, how would someone left on the earth to pay for sins?

I feel like it makes the plot unique. I know this theme has been written about many times but I wanted to come up with something a little different....

The other thing I want to share with you is this.. the idea or an innocent woman staying in the earth to pay for her family sins came from my own thoughts. I strongly believe my family is saved but there for a while I was wondering what would I do for my loved ones. And that came to mind.... Thank God I would not have to do that, but I think many people, after reading the book, will realize how unfair it was for Maria and might want to think twice and hopefully work on their non-Christian families. I hope that makes sense.

As for criticism..... I am expecting to get a lot of that from non-believers that will stumble across my book and read it (if they finish, LOL) and as far as believers, that's fine too. I know this is NOT a book for everyone on this earth and people will critique no matter what I write. So far, the Christians that have read it, are fine with it and gave me good reviews and feedback.

I was satisfied with this explanation. It does show the author's mindset and that her stretch of Biblical theology relating to eschatology was not a defiant or an alternative stance from what the Bible states on this issue. As she states, it is purely within the confines of the nature of speculative fiction.

I was able to continue reading with assurance. The rest of the novel was sheer joy to read, despite depictions of horror and demonic activity. Combs has created a character-driven novel written in the first person narrative. Maria is one character that is very relational and three dimensional.

There are some novels where the first person narrative does not work, but in this novel, it works very well. Through Maria, we experience what it is like to live in the post-raptured world under the rule of the Antichrist with all the events of Revelation unfolding. In other novels of eschatology, it seems to be plot driven with the characters being part of the unfolding of Revelation so that the reader can see what happens to Christians and non-Christians alike. In this novel, I found it a breath of fresh air. The events of Revelation unfold in the background with the main focus on how this affects a Christian's faith. In other novels of this genre, we have Christian characters who are left behind because of their unrighteous relationship with Christ. Then there are those who become Christians during the Tribulation.

In this novel, we have a unique situation. We have Maria, a pre-raptured Christian who enters the Tribulation with her faith intact and being in a righteous relationship with Christ. From this perspective, the author uses this to show how it stands up against the attacks of Satan who now rules the earth. With every event from Revelation, every demonic and satanic attack through various means and events has Maria praying, seeking God's wisdom and strength. Her prayers at the end of the chapter that concern its events are very honest, genuine, uplifting and from the heart. They show her asking for forgiveness of her shortcomings and sin during this time, even when her faith is faltering as she is affected by the horrific, demonic and desperate times as Revelation unfolds. You feel her pain, despair, desperation, you experience her joy of knowing the Lord, the love, and security, reassurance she experiences from her faith, from prayer, from the many angelic visitations that occur that show God's faithfulness and protection and physical healing. Maria always looked toward Christ throughout every event of the seven-year tribulation. Even when she experienced those negative emotions mentioned previously, she took them to God and offered them to Him with praise and thanksgiving for who He is, and what He has done for her.

From this perspective, Combs is sending Christians a message of hope in this novel. The Great Tribulation is the worst attack and affront to a Christian's faith and relationship with Christ. Many of us won't experience this as we will be raptured, but through Maria, Combs shows what spiritual attitude and behaviour is needed to overcome the adversity of this fallen world. It is such an encouragement and spiritually uplifting experience to read through this novel. Through Maria, we see how her relationship with Christ can overcome the very worst of what life can deal. So based on this, we can also overcome what is going on in our lives in the pre-raptured world. What is the constant here? Jesus. The Word (Hebrews 13: 8) says that He is the same, yesterday, today and forever. He is the key for the now of our lives and for those who will endure to the end during the Tribulation.

I really appreciated the Revelation timeline of verses and events that set the pace and plot of this novel. This aspect will aim to show Christians and non-Christians the events of Revelation and the associated Judgements and how they will affect every level of life during this Tribulation period. I found it interesting that despite the many supernatural events of the various Judgements having such a horrific and devastating effect on the environment and the human race, including Zara, her healing from some of the effects of these Judgements and the explanation from Maria of what these mean, she still did not see this to look toward Christ. So strong was the deception from Satan and the stubbornness of her will that she chose Satan's temptation over the liberating and saving grace of God. Even when an angel explained the specifics of Zara's deception, it shows how easily someone who does not believe can be lured away to eternal and spiritual destruction. I pray that this example will lead any reader who does not know Christ to see the folly of this and to be encouraged to see what the Bible has to say about it. I also pray that it reinforces in the Christian this principle as well and to use this to witness to their unsaved family and friends.

When the relationship between Maria and Zara deteriorated, it still did not deter Maria from upholding her to the Lord and asking Him to show her what to do to continue to be an example to her of His love. Again, I found this to be such an encouragement to not give up on people despite their circumstances or attitude that are leading them astray, even if they do not respond to God's call. It is like the act of forgiveness, our responsibility is to forgive whether we are forgiven back or not. For Maria and every Christian, our responsibility is to witness, pray and be there for those who are struggling or being rebellious despite the choice they make.

I really appreciated the spiritual side of this novel and the challenge in the message of this novel, to never give up but continually look toward Jesus in everything that occurs in our lives and to be submissive and obedient to him. More of Him in our lives and less of ourselves.

Well done, Iryna. I am definitely looking forward to more from this author. 


Highly Recommended. 

World Building 5/5

Characterisation 5/5

Story 5/5

Spiritual Level 5/5

Enemy Spiritual Level 5/5

Overall Rating 5/5 Stars

                             ------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Spiritually, based on this review and on the following reference booklet,
 
A Spiritual System for Rating Books by David Bergsland, and that Pay For My Sin contains elements of the criteria of what constitutes Christian Spirit-Filled Fiction outlined in this booklet, I award Iryna K Combs with


The Reality Calling Spirit-filled Fiction Award


Congratulations, Iryna!


To preview an excerpt from this novel or to buy it, click on the BUY/PREVIEW icons below:

3 comments:

  1. Well done, Peter! I am concerned by the non-Biblical speculation, but you laid out the issue well. Iryna doesn't work for me. If she and the Lord are OK with the book, that's what matters. I pray the Lord will protect the readers.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you SO much, Peter! I am blown away! Totally did not expect anything like that. Your review is fulfilling and thought provoking. I love how detailed it is yet, still leaves more than enough room for readers to discover the story when they read Pay for My Sin.
    Thank you for your time and effort! So glad we connected!
    Many blessings to you!

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  3. When a BIG time review Guru gives you a fantastic 5 STAR review (seriously, it is mind-blowing), a badge and a certificate "For presenting Truth realistically in Christian Spirit-Filled Fiction"... you just ������
    I am literally going though my whole dictionary of words but falling short of explaining how I feel.
    'Thank you' says nothing, but Peter, THANK YOU with all my heart!

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