The Left Behind series of novels about events following the Rapture has been a phenomenal commercial success. The authors are Jerry Jenkins, writer-at-large for the neo-evangelical, psychologized Moody Bible Institute, and Tim LaHaye, well-known author (over 40 books), "noted authority" on Bible prophecy (e.g., Revelation Unveiled), and promoter of the heretical "Four Temperaments" theory.
The books have more than doubled both the profits and staff of Tyndale House Publishers (Wheaton, Illinois). More than 65 million copies have been sold(over 75 million counting the graphic novels and children's versions), generating more than 650 million dollars in sales since first published in 1995. Twelve volumes are now in print. The seventh, The Indwelling, released in May of 2000, pre-sold 1.4 million copies before it was even released (total sales of 2.9 million as of 2/04), and some stores opened at midnight to long lines of fans. It immediately hit number one on the New York Times bestseller list. The same was true for the eighth volume, The Mark (3 million total sales as of 2/04). The ninth volume, Desecration, published in 10/01, had a first printing of 3 million, the largest-ever print run for a "Christian" novel. Book number 10, The Remnant, was released in 2002 with a 2.75 million print run. Book number 11, Armageddon: The Cosmic Battle of the Ages, was released in April 2003, and book number 12, Glorious Appearing, was released March 30, 2004.# [One must question LaHaye's true contribution to the writing of these books. Pentecostal Evangel interviewed LaHaye on May 28, 2000, and this is LaHaye's declaration regarding the place of Scripture in the Left Behind series: "As the series enlarges, I give Jerry an outline of the Scripture for each book, and he hangs the story on the outline."]
In addition to the more than 65 million Left Behind series books, Tyndale House has sold more than 10 million related items, such as computer screensavers, postcards, calendars, board games, music, apparel, and collectibles. There is a Left Behind kids series (Left Behind: The Kids -- 34 books published with sales of more than 10 million -- targeted at 10-14 year-olds), an audio series, two movies, and a television series that premiered in 2003. The Left Behind web site attracts more than 60,000 hits a day.
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 goes far beyond what the Bible says, and instead, speculates 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 the books are 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 fictionalizing of Scripture is an egregious offense in and of itself, but the theology presented in the books is intolerable (despite the publisher's claim that "The series is guaranteed to be theologically sound."). Following are just a few examples of the unscriptural things found in the Left Behind series:
(1) Large numbers of relatives and friends of Christians are 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. Second 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).
[Edit made 9/20/14 I do not agree with this teaching that some holding the pretrib postulate 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 is taught in one of the books. 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) New Age/occult out-of-body experiences are encouraged. One of the characters in The Indwelling has an elaborate and richly detailed out-of-body experience (OBE); LaHaye glorifies OBE as a good way to pray. LaHaye's OBE account is identical with OBEs described and marketed by countless New Agers on the Internet and in myriads of occult based books (vol. 7, The Indwelling, pp. 232-248).
(5) 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.
(6) One of the very questionable doctrines the Left Behind series teaches is that at the time of the rapture pregnant women will suddenly become un-pregnant (that is, the unborn babies will be taken in the rapture and will leave the unsaved mother, who is left behind, many pounds lighter!). A rapture for embryos! (vol. 1, Left Behind, pp. 46-47).
(7) The Christians in the books make major decisions based on their intuitions and human reasoning rather than on 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 Scriptures. First Corinthians 7:29-35 would have settled their question. Another example of this is the decision made by two of the 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 instead of consulting the Scriptures, they "feel" it is God's will. One would think that 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 and Revelation 18:4 would easily have settled that question.
(8) Easy-believism and low moral standards are promoted in the Left Behind series. Based on a bathroom scene where the hero, Buck, gets converted, it appears all that is needed to be saved is mental assent to God's existence. Then when Buck uses his credit card to embezzle and steal from his boss, this "Christian" deems all okay because the theft is for the cause of Christ (and his boss is the Antichrist). Then in Tribulation Force, Buck expresses his embarrassment at having to admit to Chloe that he is still a virgin at age 30. In Nicolae, Buck tells Verna, an admitted lesbian, that "My Bible doesn't differentiate between homosexuals and heterosexuals." Also in Nicolae, Rayford becomes "angry at himself" for trying to persuade Hattie to not have an abortion, and later apologizes to her for hurting her feelings (p. 195). Later Chole, sounding like a Planned Parenthood counselor, tells Hattie concerning her abortion, "These are personal decisions only you can make," and that even if she aborts her baby, "we won't love you any less," nor will God, who loves aborters unconditionally, "regardless of what we do" (p. 248). Later in The Indwelling, Chloe considers killing herself and her son, and Tsion wonders, "Is this a sign of faith or lack of faith?"
(9) Female Bible teachers are acceptable. Book three 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 this teaching with 1 Timothy 2:12.
(10) Books 8 & 9 teach that recipients of the mark of the beast can still be saved. In The Mark, "the Chang scenario" is developed, whereby a character receives both the mark of the beast and the sealing of the Lord. In Desecration, Chang's dual-marking was justified in the storyline. The question about how a Christian can have the mark of the beast and still be saved has been asked many times by perplexed readers on the Left Behind messageboard, and was answered on the FAQ page at LeftBehind.com. "God looks on the heart," says Jenkins. "He [Chang] was a believer first, and thus, always." Notice that Jenkins did not say, "It is only fiction, so do not take it seriously." He also did not say, "You must understand that in real life, no Christian may receive the mark of the beast and be saved" (cf. Matt. 10:32,33). [LaHaye and Jenkins also teach this "true Christians may deny the Lord Jesus Christ before men and still inherit eternal life" concept in their non-fiction book Perhaps Today -- see LaHaye report for more details.]
(11) The pope is raptured away! The books depict the Roman Catholic pope as a saved man who is taken away in the Rapture. This is perhaps the most serious and dangerous error in all the books. It encourages the ecumenical movement and its powerful back-to-Rome emphasis. It adds support to the false ecumenical concept of "evangelical Catholicism." Of course, for any pope to be saved, he would have to reject 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. So with this series, LaHaye and Jenkins help Chuck Colson, Billy Graham, Charles Stanley and the rest of the Catholic sympathizers to further blur the clear line of demarcation between true Christianity and apostate Christianity.
In summary, the Left Behind series may be tolerable fiction, but it is definitely intolerable theology, and thereby, must be rejected by true Christians.
* This report (and the Notes below) was excerpted and/or adapted from the following sources: (1)
"Left Behind: Tolerable Fiction, Intolerable Theology," 6/28/01, FBIS; (2)
"Left Behind: One of Satan's Latest Wiles," Raymond Blanton, The Perilous Times, Feb/Mar 2001; (3) "Should We Promote the Left Behind Theology," Christian News, 2/23/04; and (4) The "Left Behind" official Internet web site (3/04 & 1/05).
Note#1: Books in the Left Behind series thus far: Left Behind, Tribulation Force, Nicolae, Soul Harvest, Apollyon, Assassins, The Indwelling, The Mark, Desecration,
The Remnant, and Armageddon, and Glorious Appearing (released by Tyndale in March, 2004).
[In late October of 2004, Tyndale announced three more book titles to be added to the series -- two of the new books will be set prior to events depicted in the original book, while the third will conclude the series. The first new volume, The Rising, is due March 1, 2005.] The Left Behind: The Kids series, geared to 10-14 year-olds, includes 40 titles. So convinced is Tyndale that the Left Behind series has dramatically changed lives, it conducted a nationwide search for photos of readers whose lives had been influenced by the series. Winners pictures were used on the cover of These Will Not Be Left Behind, a book released in 2003; it features testimonials of those who have made "faith decisions" after reading the series:
"With over two-dozen real life stories of Left Behind series readers, this book chronicles the miraculous way that God has used the series to change their lives" (3/04, Left Behind web site).
Note#2: In July of 1999, co-author Tim LaHaye filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court against Namesake Entertainment, the Kentucky-based firm that originally bought the film rights to Left Behind, and Peter and Paul Lalonde's Cloud Ten Pictures, claiming breach of contract and requesting unspecified damages. LaHaye sought to have the original contract voided so that he can control the film rights to sequels and children's video spin-offs. At the time film rights were sold in 1997, fewer than 100,000 books in the Left Behind series had been purchased, and some believe the suit was an attempt to renegotiate the terms. LaHaye's suit alleged that Namesake representatives pledged to spend $40 million on a major motion picture that would be released in theaters before January 2000, the time when the public was most interested in the millennium. Namesake reportedly was unable to interest a major Hollywood studio in the project, and with its option for the film rights due to expire, contacted Cloud Ten. (According to the contract, Cloud Ten owns the rights to future Left Behind films.) LaHaye claimed the companies breached their contract by making a film of lower quality than promised (they spent $17.4 million instead of the originally agreed to amount of $40 million). LaHaye's suit also states that he has been "caused ' to suffer 'emotional and mental distress, including anxiety, worry, mental anguish and sleeplessness.'" Apparently, LaHaye's "all-inclusive" contract with Namesake and Cloud Ten will also cost him millions in potential revenue from the planned movie of the Left Behind: The Kids series. (Fighting the pain of this potential revenue loss, Tim and Beverly LaHaye still managed to scrape together enough cash to give Jerry Falwell's Liberty University $4.5 million toward a new student center; in return, the new School of Prophecy, which opened in January 2002, was named after LaHaye, and he serves as its president.) The question one has to ask is: "If Tim LaHaye is primarily concerned for lost souls and the imminent return of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, why is he suing for more money? Does he plan to take it with him, or does he fear being 'left behind' and needing it?" [In March of 2003, the Federal judge in the case dismissed all of LaHaye's claims.]
Note#3: In addition to many of the same doctrinal problems with the Left Behind books, we have a couple more problems with the Left Behind I film/video. (A second video was released in 2002 -- Left Behind II: Tribulation Force.) The most serious problem is that the GOSPEL of our Lord was LEFT BEHIND in this film (actually LEFT OUT!). There was no gospel presented anywhere in the film. The name of Christ is mentioned only three times in the film (during about a one minute segment, a scene where a video was being played to explain the rapture; the video was prepared by a pastor prior to the rapture with the hope that it would help people to understand what was happening after the rapture). Apart from this, Christ's Name is never mentioned. When people pray to be saved, it is in the most general terms ("God, please forgive me"), and invitations to salvation are also very general ("You need to believe in God"). There is no mention of the cross (Christ's substitutionary death), no empty tomb (the Resurrection), no emphasis on the sinfulness of man (man's total depravity), and no clear presentation of the terms of salvation (God's sovereignty in salvation). Any religious person who "believes in God" would probably think that they have met the conditions. Also, some of the music in the video was horrible ("Christian" rock music of the worst kind). At the end of the video, after the movie was completed, there was a review of some of the scenes in the movie with rock music in the background, along with some scenes of a "Christian" rock group performing with typical body movements and awful facial expressions as they sang a song called, "The Midnight Cry," which was not even worthy to be called music. (Source: "LEFT BEHIND: The Gospel Being LEFT OUT," George Zeller, The Middletown Bible Church, Middletown, CT; Zeller also viewed Left Behind II, and found it much less objectionable than the first film, albeit still with major problems.) [Return to Text]