Leaving Behind Left Behind Theology

Nicolas Cage is slated to one-up Kirk Cameron in the latest Left Behind movie this October. The movie is based on a novel based on a theology based on Darby’s method for reading prophecy in the Bible.

Leaving Cage BehindI myself read all 16 of the Left Behind books in high school and college. Voraciously. With pleasure.

The series had topped the New York Times Best Seller List in 1998 and I was an adolescent Christian with budding adolescent desires for God, life, and literature; Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins’ books gave me all three.

Kirk Cameron’s Left Behind movies quickly followed – along with children’s books, graphic novels, and the Eternal Forces video game, each celebrating a vision of a future filled with acts of God.

That’s really what it was all about – acts of God. Every page spoke of a Deity acting malevolently toward some and graciously toward others, but acting none the less. We were hungry for God as a character; modernism, secularism, and scientific discovery had all but ruled out God’s part in our world. Anticipating God’s plan to break the silence and vindicate our faith was nothing short of worship.

So I dove in.

I studied the signs and wondered the wonders. I even begged my parents for a copy of LaHaye’s Prophecy Study Bible.

prophecy bible


Then I went to Bible college and read commentaries that wove Daniel 7 with the contents of Revelation into a unified theology of the future – a future in which Christians were expected to be raptured, the rest of the world experience a horrific tribulation, and Jesus return with a vengeance to judge the living and the dead.

But I eventually left rapture theology behind.

I learned about the foreignness of apocalyptic literature, started reading the biblical texts against the backdrop of their historical contexts, and discovered the novelty of the dispensational movement as a whole. Reading through passages of a long-extinct genre with the eyes of modernists had given rise to “faithful” interpretations that managed to miss the point. These interpretive conclusions, in turn, rippled out in unique readings of other biblical texts and so on into an eschatological system supporting the rapture.

A system that only came into existence during the last half of the 1800’s.

But when I read 1 Thessalonians 4 these days (the only supposed rapture passage in the Bible), “we will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air,” I hear hope for the future public return of Jesus and a metaphor for the authority that he will bring with him. The whole vision for this text is the comfort of grieving Christians with news of life after death, not a sneaky snatching of pilots from airplanes and babies from birth canals.

The Christian hope is not rapture; it’s resurrection.

That said, I’ll probably watch the Left Behind movie anyway. There’s just something about Nicolas Cage playing the role of a womanizing-pilot-turned-Jesus-radical that I can’t look away from.

you dont say


Related Articles |

Our Beliefs About the End Times Might Be Poisoning Us

Why the Rapture isn’t Biblical… And Why it Matters

10 Things I’d Rather Do Than See The New Left Behind Movie

Why the Rapture and Santa are Both Fairy Tails


Allen Marshall O'Brien

Allen Marshall O’Brien is the pastor of a UCC church in Northern California and co-host of the Irenicast. He believes in the importance of education, peace, and ecology, throws things to his border collie Sonata, and writes for multiple platforms.

Latest posts by Allen Marshall O'Brien (see all)

Share this:

2 thoughts on “Leaving Behind Left Behind Theology

  1. The Pretrib Rapture Jackpot!

    by Bruce Rockwell

    Attention, writers. You can make a fortune by promoting the pretrib rapture!
    First, some background. As you know, pretrib began in Scotland in 1830. The earliest developers, including Edward Irving and John Darby, admitted that it was then a totally new view that had never been part of any church’s theology.
    They also admitted that it had suddenly sprung from only OT and NT “types” and “symbols” and not from any clear Bible statement!
    As late as 1957, pretrib expert John Walvoord admitted in “The Rapture Question” (p. 148) that “pretribulationism” is NOT “an explicit teaching of Scripture”!
    Since the early 1900s pretrib has been sold by novelists like Sydney Watson (in 1913) and by Salem Kirban whose “Left Behind”-type novel “666” came out in 1970 – the same year Hal Lindsey’s “The Late Great Planet Earth” started breaking sales records.
    The very first rapture novel titled “Left Behind” came from the joint pens of Peter and Patti Lalonde in mid-1995, resulting in some competitors being left behind.
    The pretrib rapture view, which admittedly is only an “inference” and not “explicit,” rests basically on verses in John 14, I Thess. 4, and I Cor. 15, none of which have either a “taken/left” separation or exciting, nail-biting scenarios that can “sell” pretrib.
    You have to go to Revelation’s action-packed chapters instead. When you do, you discover they can be tied to end time details found basically in the Olivet Discourse.
    As you know, pretribs believe in two stages; Stage 1 is the pretrib rapture which supposedly occurs several years before Stage 2 which is the posttrib second coming to earth.
    Since the three “rapture” chapters listed above don’t have any clear rapture-type separation between the “righteous” and the “wicked,” your best launching pad if you want to be a bestselling author is “the one shall be taken, and the other left” phrase in Matt. 24:40, 41 and Luke 17:34-36.
    Trouble is, Dr. Walvoord and many other pretrib leaders declare that the “one taken” are the “wicked” taken in judgment while the “righteous” are left! But since the average pew-sitters don’t seem to know this, you can easily convince them that the “one taken” is a sort of code for an any-moment pretrib rapture!
    And the pew-sitters don’t know that Walvoord etc. also teach that the same phrase is part of “non-imminent” Stage 2 which is posttrib (and not pretrib) and is on “Jewish” (and not “Church”) ground!
    In order to preserve and emphasize Stage 1 (the pretrib rapture), pretrib merchandisers in recent decades have been stretching forward various aspects found in Stage 2 and quietly applying them to Stage 1. Aspects include “the day of the Lord,” “God’s wrath,” “the taken/left phrase,” “the unknown day and hour,” and Christ’s coming “as a thief” (which is always tied to Armageddon and other posttrib events).
    (For more on the above Google “The Correct Answer to Who’s Taken” etc. on Joe Ortiz’s blog of Apr. 12, 2010. Also Google “Pretrib Rapture Stealth.”)
    Yes, I’ve told you how you can turn yourself into a bestselling, wealthy author.
    But unfortunately you have some competition because Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins have already become opportunists and made millions of dollars that are destined to be left behind!
    For more on them and their partners, Google “The ‘Left Behind’ Rupture,” “LaHaye’s Temperament,” “Jerry Jenkins Apologizes for Being Seen Gambling in Casinos,” “Pretrib Rapture Diehards,” “Thomas Ice (Bloopers),” “Walvoord Melts Ice,” “Famous Rapture Watchers,” “Margaret Macdonald’s Rapture Chart,” “Pretrib Rapture’s Missing Lines,” “Roots of Warlike Christian Zionism,” “Evangelicals Use Occult Deception,” “Pretrib Rapture Secrecy,” “Letter from Mrs. Billy Graham,” “Pretrib Rapture Politics” and “Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty.”
    In closing let me say that Jeremiah 17:11 warns that “he that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool.”
    And you can bet on this!

    / What’s above was spotted on the web by yours truly! /

Comments are closed.