Left Behind is a series of 12 best-selling novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, dealing with Christian dispensationalist End Times. The series began in 1995 and has now made it to the box office as a movie. Total sales for the book series surpassed 65 million copies. Seven of the titles in the series have reached #1 on the bestseller lists.
Michelle Goldberg has written that, “On one level, the attraction of the Left Behind books isn’t that much different from that of, say, Tom Clancy or Stephen King… People disappear and things blow up.” Jerry Falwell commenting on the first book in the series: “In terms of its impact on Christianity, it’s probably greater than that of any other book in modern times, outside the Bible.”
At the heart of “Left Behind” is the doctrine of pre-millennialism. This doctrine teaches that there will be an event called “the rapture” in which all Christians will disappear from the earth. The result of this is pandemonium and mayhem result on the earth. And, as is quoted in the final scene of the movie, “this is just the beginning.” According to the doctrine, after Christians disappear, then begins a period of seven years of tribulation. Everyone “left behind” must endure great hardship. It is during this time that many who rejected Jesus as Lord will accept Him. Unfortunately this is a critically dangerous and destructive doctrine. Why? It is a doctrine of a second chance! One can reject Jesus, refuse to obey His gospel all their life and have a second chance after the rapture.
The Bible Clearly Teaches The Return of Christ – ONCE
The Bible is plain in its teaching. Jesus states, “Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment” (John 5:28-29). Notice “all” and “hour.” To put this in perspective we examine this in light of 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, “we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” The clear view of the end times is all who are in the grave and all who are alive will be raised – the evil and the good.
1 Corinthians 15:22-24 clarifies our view of the end times even more clearly, “in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.”
It is bewildering that we can read passages that are easy to understand regarding the second coming of Christ but men develop incredible story lines, sell millions of books, and lead people into believing that they can be “left behind” at Christ’ second coming. Jesus said the hour is coming when “all” will be raised – then comes the judgement. The Hebrew writer clearly states, “He (Jesus) has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9:26-28).
The Danger Behind “Left Behind”
We should all be motivated to be ready for the second coming of Christ. However, the implication underlying the idea of being left behind, as portrayed in the books and the movie, and at the heart of the doctrine is there will be a second chance. According to the doctrine of of Pre-millennialism and the Left Behind series if you are not ready for Christ at His coming you will have seven years to endure the tribulation and be converted and saved during that time. This is a tragic conclusion. “The day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar” (2 Peter 3:10). Why did Peter write such an admonition? Because God desires we come to repentance NOW. (ref. 2 Peter 2:9, 11)
Does the figurative language of the book of Revelation alter these easy to read and understand passages? No! When we read Revelation Chapter twenty we see a dragon (is that a literal dragon?), we read of a bottomless pit, (is that a literal hole in the ground?), we see the souls of beheaded saints on seats of judgement, (is that a literal depiction of an earthly reign?), we read of 1000 years, (is that a literal period of time?). The point of the symbolic language of Revelation 20 is to encourage those who were loosing their lives for the cause of Christ in the First Century to be encouraged that there “cause” would not die and they would victorious. Chapter One Verse One of the Revelation tells the reader, “the things must soon take place.” This did happen. The Revelation is not written to teach us that if we miss Christ at the fist “second” coming that we can get ready for His second “second” coming! The entire doctrine is destroyed by Jesus Himself in John 5:28 and the inspired apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:22-24.
by Dennis Carrow