Left Behind series of books is a popular account of end times events told through fictional characters. Although the books are fiction, their authors wrote the books with the intent to influence the theological thinking of the Christian masses, as suggested in their last novel:
"Jerry and I felt uniquely led of God to take on this challenging task of presenting what we believe is the truth of end times prophecy in fiction form. Our prayer was that it would take admittedly complex and often confusing elements of Scripture and help them come to life in your eyes. . . . we believe what we have portrayed here will happen someday."1
David A. Reed is concerned about the theology presented in the Left Behind books so much so that he has written a book, Left Behind Answered Verse by Verse, examining the theology from a biblical standpoint. Although Reed's books in the past have been concerned with the theology of the cults,2 his current book specifically examines the end times theology promulgated in the Left Behind series.
Left Behind theology
Left Behind theology presents a futurist interpretation of Revelation (all events will occur in the future), a complete distinction between Israel and the Church, a belief that Jesus Christ will return soon and perhaps imminently, a secret rapture in which the Church is taken to heaven before the tribulation begins, a two-stage return of Christ prior to the Millennium, an Antichrist-led tribulation period of three and-a-half to seven years, and a Millennium, in which Christ will reign on earth. Reed examines these ideas beginning in the Old Testament. Since many of the prophecies of the New Testament are first described in the Old Testament, an understanding of those passages are critical to a proper interpretation of the biblical end times prophecy. Reed begins in Genesis and continues through the prophetic books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Joel, and Zachariah.
The second part of the book examines the New Testament prophecies, beginning with Jesus' descriptions and parables in the gospels. Reed examines what Jesus taught about His second coming and finds no evidence for any kind of third coming. In addition, Jesus' parables regarding His coming indicate that faithful followers would be rewarded, but those who are found unfaithful would be sent "where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." So, Jesus didn't ever suggest that the unfaithful would get a second chance during the tribulation. Paul's teachings reveal that Jesus returns after the great rebellion and the revelation of the antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3), in contrast to that taught by Left Behind theology.
Reed's concerns about Left Behind
David Reed has four main concerns about the theology of the Left Behind books. First, the series has convinced a large portion of the Christian population that Left Behind accurately presents what the Bible itself says, although it doesn't. Second, many Christians believe that Left Behind represents the traditional teachings of Christianity over the history of the Church, although it was first taught in the 19th century. Third, the teachings of Left Behind encourage its followers to not worry about the signs of the end, since God will rescue them before things get really bad. As a result, they are unlikely to follow Jesus' command to "be always on the watch." (Luke 21:36) Fourth, the nominal (read non-Christians) who follow the series believe that they will get a second chance to truly trust in Christ after the rapture of their friends. However, Jesus warned us that we should watch for his return to avoid severe punishment at that time.
David Reed's book, Left Behind Answered Verse by Verse, examines pretribulation rapture theology from a biblical perspective. Being at 142 pages, the book is a relatively concise critique of Left Behind prophecy.
- Book Review: The Origins of Left Behind Eschatology
- Book Review: End Times Passover: Etymological Challenges to Millenarian Doctrines
- Book Review: Why Christians Will Suffer "Great Tribulation"
- Will Christians Go Through the Great Tribulation?
- Will Christians Suffer the Wrath of God?
- Kingdom Come: The Final Victory, pages 355-356.
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