When people thing of the Bible book Revelation it conjures up mental images of fire and brimstone and great calamity. The Left Behind series brings to life in a story format what the end times might look like. It kicks off with the first book “Left Behind” and ultimately encompasses 16 books and movies as well. The Left Behind series is penned by American authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.
Left Behind starts out with the main characters – Rayford Steele and Buck Williams – on a plane when there are thousands of disappearances around the globe are reported. The weird thing is the people who are gone left everything material behind down to contact lenses and hearing aids. Needless to say they are baffled.
Some say it’s the result of nuclear accidents, others say aliens disintegrated them, while some few realize that they have been left behind in God’s Rapture; the time when God takes all the Christians to heaven and their eternal reward.
The power of the book is how it provides a very realistic representation of what might happen when the rapture actually comes. The author has developed some great characters in the book who you can immediately identify with and truly understand.
The concept of the Rapture is largely found in 1 Thessalonians 4: 16-18
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
In order to best understand the book its important to know the authors and their backgrounds.
Tim LaHaye is an Christian evangelical minister and speaker. Before his name turned up in many best-sellers’ list, he served as a pastor in churches in South Carolina, Minnesota and California. It was also in California where LaHaye also hosted a radio program (along with his wife), which dealt mostly with Christian values.
Ever the conservative in faith, LaHaye has written over 50 books of mostly non-fiction which deal matters regarding spiritual growth, marriage and family, temperament and prophesies based on the Bible. In the 1970s he became politically active, co-founding an organization called the Moral Majority along with his wife and another evangelical pastor Jerry Falwell. Moral Majority promoted national defense and strong traditional family values as well as campaigned against liberal views, homosexuality, abortion, and others.
LaHaye subscribes to dispensational premillenialism, which means that he strictly and literally interprets the Bible’s Book of Revelations, and believes that the end of the world is coming. He seemed to stress this part of theology called eschatology, the study of what is believed to be the final events, humanity’s ultimate destiny or simply “the end of the world.” Like any other fundamentalist Christians, he also believes in the pre-tribulational Rapture which proclaims that certain people will be taken to heaven and meet Jesus Christ there, while others left behind on earth will endure an extended Tribulation period — a time where the Antichrist rules.
(To learn more about interpretations of Revelation and the end times check out this overview of the different prominent theories.)
Jerry B. Jenkins
Jerry B. Jenkins is an American author, having written over 150 books. He writes on a variety of themes and subjects, including children’s stories, romance, mysteries as well as non-fiction. He has also authored biographies of Hank Aaron, Brett Butler, Nolan Ryan, Bill Gaither, and others. Jenkins is also an editor and publisher as well as a comic strip author. He has often featured evangelical Christians in his works.
LaHaye’s and Jenkins’ apocalyptic beliefs were stressed in their Left Behind series. The first book of the same title was first released on New Year’s eve, 1995.
The Left Behind Series
Fifteen other novels in the series followed (in publication sequels):
- Tribulation Force (1996)
- Nicolae (1997)
- Soul Harvest (1999)
- Apollyon (1999)
- Assassins: Assignment (2000)
- The Indwelling: The Beast Takes Possession
- The Mark (2000)
- Desecration (2001)
- The Remnant (2002)
- Armageddon (2003)
- Glorious Appearing (2004)
- The Rising (2005; the first prequel to the first book Left Behind)
- The Regime (2005; second prequel)
- The Rapture (2006; third prequel)
- Kingdom Come (2007)
At first these books were only available in Christian bookstores. But soon word-of-mouth recommendations brought the first few titles strong sales, and finally got the notice of major book chains and become widely popular. The series has sold over 60 million copies worldwide and been translated into several languages. It has been adapted into graphic novels, children’s edition books as well as three straight-to-home video films.
The series owes its popularity in large part to controversy. Some critics believe there is a negative portrayal of Judaism and Roman Catholicism as well as liberal secularism, which is presented as “evil”. LaHaye’s political leanings are also seen in the series, which featured the fictional Romanian president Nicolae Carpathia (the character may be strongly based on real-life Romanian communist dictator Nicolae Ceasescu) as the Antichrist. Some non-practicing Christians who have also read the book even express concerns over the series’ sensationalized and starkly violent treatment of death and mass destruction.
There has also been controversy around the concept of the Rapture which is never specifically mentioned by name in the Bible. My Christian critics feel while the books are fictional they can possibly be misleading.