Updated June 28, 2001 (first published June 3, 2000) (David W. Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061-0368, email@example.com) - The Left Behind series of novels about events following the Rapture have been a phenomenal commercial success. The books have doubled both the profits and staff of Tyndale House Publishers. More than 30 million copies have been sold. Twelve volumes are proposed. The seventh, "The Indwelling," released on May 23, 2000, pre-sold 1.4 million copies before it was even released, and some stores opened at midnight to long lines of fans. It immediately hit number 1 on the New York Times best seller list. The same was true for the eighth volume, "The Mark." In addition to the 30 million books, Tyndale House has sold 10 million related items, such as screensavers and postcards. There is a Left Behind kids series, an audio series, a movie, and an upcoming television series. The Left Behind website attracts 60,000 hits a day.
The authors are Jerry Jenkins, writer-at-large for the Moody Bible Institute, and Tim LaHaye, well-known author and Bible teacher. (See the article "BBF Church Hosts Ecumenist Tim LaHaye" at the Way of Life web site under the Compromising Fundamentalists section of the End Times Apostasy Database.)
As entertainment, the books are tolerable; but I believe there is a serious problem with fictionalizing Bible subjects. Fiction, by its very nature, is not truth. At best, it goes beyond truth and reality. It is not wise to fictionalize the Bible. The Scriptures tell us exactly what God wants men to know, no more and no less, about future events. "The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law" (Deut. 29:29). The Left Behind series go far beyond what the Bible says and speculate about things God has not said. Revelation 22 warns about adding to or taking away from the words of God in prophecy. Why would that warning not apply to the Left Behind series? One can argue that it is only fiction, but will the intermingling of Bible truth and fiction not leave wrong impressions in the minds of people? Will the average reader be able to tell truth from fiction?
The issue of fictionalizing Scripture aside, though, the theology presented in the books is certainly intolerable. Though some spiritual good might come from the wide distribution of these books (i.e., the Gospel is clearly presented and Bible prophecy is interpreted literally), the false doctrine scattered across their pages is cause for concern.
Following are just a few samples of the unscriptural things I have found in the first four volumes:
(1) Large numbers of left-behind loved ones get saved. One of the alleged goals of Left Behind series is to challenge the unsaved to receive Christ before it is too late. At the Left Behind web site there is a section on Frequently Asked Questions. One of those is "What is the 'take-away' message of the 'Left Behind' series?" The answer: "Nothing is more important than making a decision NOW where you stand with Jesus Christ. Don't wait until it is too late. Read the Gospel of John from the Bible and consider your life in light of God's love." This is an important challenge, and I believe some people will probably be saved through the witness of these books. The problem is that the Left Behind series depict large numbers of relatives and friends of Christians getting saved after the Rapture occurs. This sends the message that it is possible to wait and get saved later, but the Bible never offers such hope. 2 Thessalonians chapter two describes the coming of the Antichrist, and it plainly states that those who are left behind who have rejected the truth will not be saved but will be deluded by God Himself.
"And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; BECAUSE THEY RECEIVED NOT THE LOVE OF THE TRUTH, THAT THEY MIGHT BE SAVED. AND FOR THIS CAUSE GOD SHALL SEND THEM STRONG DELUSION, THAT THEY SHOULD BELIEVE A LIE" (2 Thess. 2:8-11).
While it is true that many people will be saved during the Tribulation (i.e., Revelation 6:11; 7:14), it would appear that these are people who did not have opportunity to hear the Gospel before the Rapture. There are multiplied millions of people in the world today who have not heard a clear and true presentation of the Gospel. While we do not know enough perhaps to be dogmatic about exactly who will and will not be saved after the Rapture, it is irresponsible on the part of the Left Behind authors to present a position on this that at least appears to be directly contrary to 2 Thessalonians 2:8-11.
(2) The books feature the formation of a "Tribulation Force" to resist the antichrist. There is nothing like this even hinted at in the Bible.
(3) Prayers to the dead. During the funeral for a Tribulation-era pastor, one of the leaders of the Tribulation Force is depicted as praying to the dead man (vol. 3, Nicolae, p. 315).
(4) Satan is in charge of the weather. One of the key figures in the Left Behind books is the supposed leader of the 144,000 Jews. In book four he sends out a message to believers throughout the world via the Internet and makes the following statement: "Eons ago, God the Father conceded control of earth's weather to Satan himself, the prince and power of the air" (vol. 4, Soul Harvest, p. 232). The Bible does not say that Satan has been given control of the weather. When the Bible mentions thunder and hail and such things, it refers to them as coming from the hand of God (i.e., Job 38:22-29; Ps. 77:18). Psalm 104 describes the various aspects of this present creation and attributes the control of everything to God. Satan is not called the "god of this world" because God turned the world over to him but because mankind in general has rejected God and believed the serpent's lie.
(5) The Christians make major decisions based on their intuitions and human reasoning rather than Bible precepts. For example, two of the heroes of the Left Behind series become romantically involved. Though they discuss the matter and wonder if it is God's will, they get married and have a child in the midst of the Great Tribulation with no apparent consultation of the Scripture. 1 Corinthians 7:29-35 would have settled their question. Another example of this is the decision made by two of members of the "Tribulation Force" to work for the Antichrist, one as his pilot and one as the head of a news magazine. They question the propriety of their decision, but they "feel" it is God's will instead of consulting plain Scripture. One would think that 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 and Revelation 18:4 would easily have settled that question.
(6) Female Bible teachers are acceptable. The book has two female members of the "Tribulation Force" trained to teach the Bible to mixed groups of people (vol. 3, Nicolae, pp. 354,355). Contrast 1 Timothy 2:12.
(7) The book teaches the error or infant baptism. In volume 4, one of the key characters of the series is pregnant with the child of the antichrist! She wants a member of the Tribulation Force to be the "godmother" of the child (vol. 4, p. 390). That is language, of course, which pertains to the unscriptural practice of infant baptism.
(8) The pope is raptured away! The books depict the Roman Catholic pope as a saved man who is taken away in the Rapture. This encourages the ecumenical movement and its powerful back-to-Rome emphasis. It adds support to the false ecumenical concept of "evangelical Catholicism." No pope can be saved unless he rejects what his own church teaches. The Roman Catholic Church dogmatically teaches that works and sacraments are necessary to salvation, and that man cannot be saved by the grace of Christ alone. Note the following statements from the New Catholic Catechism which plainly state this:
1263 By Baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin.
1129 The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation.
It is obvious that the pope would have to reject Catholic doctrine in order to be saved. He would also have to repent of his idolatry. Like many of his predecessors, John Paul II is a fervent devotee to Mary. He prays to her and gives her glory for his protection and guidance. When he was preserved from death after an attempted assassination, he thanked and praised Mary. On his garments he has the words "I am Yours" embroidered in Latin. In his book Crossing the Threshold of Hope he said that these words refer to his devotion to Mary. At least five times Pope Paul II has referred to Mary by the title "Co-redemptrix" (co-redeemer) in his papal teachings. In 1985, for example, in Guayaquil, Ecuador, the pope said: "Having suffered for the Church, Mary deserved to become the Mother of all the disciples of her Son, the Mother of their unity. . . . In fact Mary's role as Co-redemptrix did not cease with the glorification of her Son" (Inside the Vatican, July 1997, p. 23).
To be saved, the pope would have to repent of Rome's unscriptural dogmas and idolatry, including the blasphemy of his own office (claiming to be the Vicar of Christ, Holy Father, etc.), and if he were to do that he would no longer be the pope.
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