Should We Promote the "Left Behind" Theology
By Thomas Williamson
In any good-sized American city, you will see upscale neighborhoods with fine, expensive, well-maintained homes and wealthy people. And you will see poorer run-down areas, on the wrong side of the railroad tracks, full of poor folks and riddled with graffiti, trash, high crime and immorality.
Sociologists will tell you that the people in the upper-class neighborhoods are mostly future-oriented people, who are willing to defer instant gratification of their desires, in order to save and make sacrifices for the future. That is how they can afford to live in a nice neighborhood.
Those in the slums are mostly present-oriented people. They make no plans or sacrifices for the future, or for future generations. They are not concerned about improving themselves or leaving any legacy for their children - they just live for today.
Most pastors, if given a choice of pastoring a congregation of future-oriented people, or trashy present-oriented slum dwellers, will choose the future-oriented group.
Why, then, would we want to create an entire generation of present-oriented people, who believe that our movement has no future and there is nothing to sacrifice for? This world-view is the logical conclusion that many readers will draw from the "Left Behind" prophecy novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, which are now being so heavily promoted among Christians.
Why should we expect any church member to sacrifice anything to perpetuate a ministry that is going to be broken up anyway in just a few years, according to the message of the "Left Behind" books? Why pay for an expensive building program, just for the Beast to take it over for his coming world church? If there is no possibility of leaving any legacy for the future, why not just spend the money on ourselves, like the lowlifes on the poor side of town do?
THE TRUTH HAS BEEN LEFT BEHIND. Millions of people are reading the "Left Behind" books in the belief that what they read is based on the Word of God, even though co-author Jerry Jenkins has described the books as "fiction" and "entertainment." Some of the "Left Behind" fans bristle and become defensive if it is suggested that future events will not unfold exactly as described in these favorite fictional entertainment books of theirs. It becomes almost impossible to preach straight Bible doctrine on prophecy to folks who have been indoctrinated with the "Left Behind" propaganda.
On the dust cover of the hardback version, we are told that "When you realize that these stories represent events that millions believe will actually occur, it could change your life." Is that the new standard for truth - not because the Bible says so, but because "millions believe it will happen this way?" If so, why not let the Quran or Book of Mormon change our lives? Millions of people believe in those books also.
The Left Behind novels are full of prophecies which are allegedly biblically based, but in reality are not substantiated from the Word of God.
Page 18 of "Tribulation Force" describes "one world government, a one-world currency, a treaty with Israel, moving the UN to Babylon" as marks of the coming of Antichrist, but with no Scripture cited. In reality, the Bible does not predict any of these things as marks of the coming of Antichrist.
On page 214 of "Nicolae" we are told that "the Tribulation did not begin with the Rapture. It begins with the signing of that treaty" (between Israel and the Antichrist). But the Bible does not teach that there will be a gap between the Rapture and the Tribulation, nor that the Tribulation begins with the signing of a treaty between Israel and Antichrist, nor that such a treaty will ever be signed at any time in history.
SECOND CHANCE AFTER THE RAPTURE? On page 21 of "Tribulation Force" we are told that "the Bible talks about 144,000 Jews springing up and traveling throughout the world. There is to be a great soul harvest, maybe a billion or more people, coming to Christ." (This is supposed to happen after the Rapture). No Scripture is cited to prove this, but I guess we donít need Scripture, if our standard of truth is "what millions of people believe will actually occur."
This is just a warmed-over version of Hal Lindseyís preposterous myth of the "144,000 Jewish Billy Grahams" who will bring about the greatest number of conversions of all time after the Rapture (after the Holy Spirit and all true churches have been removed from the earth!) Christians who believe this will not be motivated to bother to evangelize the world now. They can just slump down in their Lazy-Boy chair in front of the boob tube, and wait for the world to be evangelized by Hal Lindseyís 144,000 Jewish Billy Grahams who are supposed to pop up in just a few short years anyway.
However, the passages concerning the 144,000 in Revelation chapters 7 and 14 say absolutely nothing about the 144,000 traveling the globe, preaching to anybody, making converts, or bringing about a revival. Thatís our job (Matthew 28:19-20) and we are not allowed to slough it off onto an elite corps of "Jewish Billy Grahams" in a future dispensation.
In 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12, we are told that as a result of Christís coming, "For this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness."Some understand this to teach that no one will be saved after the Rapture, while others say that there will be people saved, but not anyone who heard and rejected the Gospel prior to the Rapture.
The "Left Behind" novels clearly teach that people who heard and rejected the Gospel before the Rapture will have a second chance to be saved after the Rapture. This may be "what millions of people believe," but it is contrary to what the Bible says. This is false doctrine, with serious consequences. How many unsaved "Left Behind" readers will find themselves being dragged off to the Lake of Fire, wondering what happened to that "second chance to get saved after the Rapture" that LaHaye and Jenkins promised them?
WHY WE FIGHT. The "Left Behind" books contain many teachings that may influence our national policy toward conflicts in the Middle East, if believed by enough people.
One of the key teachings of the series is that the UN headquarters must be moved from New York to Iraq. Again, no Scriptural backing for this belief is ever provided.
Those who have been wondering why America is fighting a seemingly pointless and unnecessary war in Iraq need wonder no more - we are doing it to fulfill prophecy. Not Bible prophecy, but LaHaye/Jenkins prophecy about the establishment of UN headquarters in Iraq.
Lest there be any doubt as to the need to invade Iraq in order to fulfill his own prophecies, LaHaye in late 2003 issued a statement saying, "the present-day tension in the Middle East is falling in line with biblical [sic] prophecy . . . Iraq will play a prominent role in upcoming events leading to Christís return. . . . The author and theologian says the war to liberate Iraq will pave the way for that nation eventually to emerge as a world power . . . Scripture suggests that Iraq is going to rise to prominence."
Hard to believe as it may seem, part of our motivation for the war in Iraq may be the desire to fulfill some extremely speculative prophecies "suggested" not in Scripture but in this second-rate series of pseudo-Christian soap operas, called "Left Behind."
BABYLON OR BUST. LaHaye and Jenkins have gone out on a limb, and painted all of evangelical Christianity into a corner, with this speculative prediction about the UN moving to Iraq. If it doesnít happen that way - if the UN moves instead to Ouagadougou, Pago Pago or Titicaca, or what is more likely, stays put in New York, this will create the impression, in the minds of some, that the Bible is not true.
In reality, the Bible says absolutely nothing about UN headquarters being moved to Iraq. This is just one of many science-fiction type fantasies that are recklessly set forth as gospel truth throughout the Left Behind novels.
Like all other sensationalist popularizers of the book of Revelation, LaHaye and Jenkins are selective as to what elements of Revelation to take literally, and what to spiritualize. They convert the "stars of heaven" of Revelation 6:13 into mere meteors. They regard the reference to the virginity of the 144,000 in Revelation 14:4 as non-literal, since Michael Shorosh, card-carrying member of the 144,000, is depicted as being married with children. He is also a murderer who kills anybody who looks suspicious, and he almost blows Buckís head off.
PROMOTING THE ARMAGEDDON THEOLOGY. The Armageddon Theology is the belief that there must be devastating wars in the Middle East, with heavy loss of life, in order for Christ to return. In reality the Bible does not teach this, but LaHaye and Jenkins promote this mistaken belief in the book "Armageddon:"
"When the shooting stopped in Jerusalem, the ghostly silence returned. The One World Unity Army did not immediately attack, but Buck almost wished they had. The quiet was disquieting. He feared the next sound would be the proverbial freight train that tornado victims always mentioned, only this twister would consist of an unending horde of marauders who would stomp Jerusalem to dust. But if thatís what it took to usher in Jesus, well, bring it on."
As Christians, we ought to avoid giving the world the impression that we favor war, death and destruction in order to "usher in Jesus." We need to distance ourselves from the Armageddon Theology and from the Left Behind mentality.
It is unthinkable that the followers of the One who told His disciples in Gethsemane to put their swords away (Matthew 26:52) would ever advocate war for the purpose of fulfilling so-called "Bible prophecy" or for forcing Christ to return to earth.
EASY-BELIEVISM AND SITUATION ETHICS. Reviewers of the "Left Behind" movie noted, quite correctly, that there was no gospel presentation in it. Based on the bathroom scene where the hero, Buck, gets converted, it appears that all that is necessary to be saved is mental assent to Godís existence. Based on this gospel of easy-believism, even the Roman Catholic Pope is presented as saved and as going up in the Rapture, in "Left Behind."
Not only is it really, really easy to be considered a Christian in the wonderful world of Left Behind, but the moral standards for a Christian are not all that exacting, either. The Christian hero Buck is portrayed as using his credit card to embezzle and steal from his boss - itís okay, because itís for the cause of Christ, and besides, the boss is a real Beast, the Antichrist himself.
STILL A VIRGIN? YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED. On page 134 of "Tribulation Force," Buck expresses his embarrassment at having to admit to Chloe that he is still a virgin at age 30. The book does not explain why any man, at any age, who has never been married, should have to hang his head in shame because he has never committed fornication with anyone.
Unsaved "Left Behind" readers who have been told that "everyone" is indulging in premarital sex will find confirmation on page 136 when 20-year-old Chloe laughs and says to Buck, "What are the odds that 2 unmarried people are taking a walk at midnight in America and both of them are virgins?"
In "Nicolae," Buck tells Verna, a lesbian, that "My Bible doesnít differentiate between homosexuals and heterosexuals." Oh, really?
ABORTION NOT SO BAD. In "Nicolae," Rayford makes a commendable effort to persuade Hattie not to abort her unborn child, but then he becomes "angry at himself" for what he said, and apologizes to Hattie for hurting her feelings (page 195).
Later, on page 248, Chloe, sounding just a bit like a Planned (Barren)hood counselor, tells Hattie, concerning her abortion, "These are personal decisions only you can make. And while they are life-and-death, heaven-and-hell decisions, all we can offer is support, encouragement, advice if you ask for it, and love. . . . We are going to love you anyway. Weíre going to love you the way God loves you. Weíre going to love you so fully and so well that you wonít be able to hide from it. Even if your decisions go against everything we believe to be true, and even though we would grieve over the loss of innocent life if you chose to abort your baby, we wonít love you any less. . . . We have to let God love you through us. Heís the one who loves us regardless of what we do."
Chloe assures Hattie of Godís unconditional love even if she aborts her baby, and there is no hint of Godís judgment or even disapproval regarding abortion, which is presented as merely something that goes against what Chloe and her friends believe to be true (that is to say, a matter of opinion). LaHaye and Jenkins have given their readers a truly "uncertain sound of the trumpet" concerning the issue of abortion.
Later on, in "The Indwelling," Chloe considers killing herself and her son Kenny, and Tsion wonders, "Is this a sign of faith or lack of faith?" Tsion, the great Bible scholar, argues against killing Kenny, not on the basis that murder would violate the law of God, but because "that child has brought so much joy to this house." Sounds like situation ethics - if Kenny had not brought so much joy to his house, it might be all right to kill him, and the desire to kill him might be considered "a sign of faith."
SERVE GOD AND THE DEVIL AT THE SAME TIME? In "Desecration," Chang is represented as receiving the mark of the Beast and yet is still considered to be a Christian afterwards. Chang is represented as serving 2 masters, Christ and Satan. It would be hard to imagine anything more unscriptural and anti-scriptural than this. In "The Indwelling," Chang pretends to worship Antichrist.
In "The Mark," when Chang expresses concern over his dual loyalties, his Christian buddies assure him that itís no big deal, saying, "Whatís done is done, and a smart guy like you ought to be able to see the upside of this. . . . What are you going to do with the Ďadvantage,í as you call it, being bi-loyal for lack of a better term?"Tsion comes up with a clever justification for "Christians" like Chang who serve both God and the Devil. He teaches that there is a difference between the Book of Life and the Lambís Book of Life. The Christian who messes up really bad will have his name blotted out of the Book of Life but will remain in the Lambís Book of Life and still go to heaven. The Left Behind mentality is that Christians can live like the devil and still be saved.
This is just a sample of the ungodly anti-Christian rubbish that the "Left Behind" series teaches, thus encouraging readers to believe that abortion, murder and taking the mark of the Beast are not so bad and that you can do those things and still go to heaven.
The book "Soul Harvest" teaches that "Eons ago, God the Father conceded control of earthís weather to Satan himself, the prince and power of the air." This is unscriptural - the Bible does not teach that Satan controls the weather.
Also in this book, one of the characters seeks a godmother for her baby, which hints of infant baptism.
Christians who read the "Left Behind" novels in an attempt to learn "Bible prophecy" will have to wade through hundreds of tiresome pages describing car chases, traffic jams, transcontinental flights, romantic subplots, endless phone conversations, and transcripts of Tribulation Force members bickering and arguing with their bosses and with each other, in order to come across an occasional tidbit of "prophecy" that often is not backed up by the Word of God and is in many cases openly anti-scriptural.
IíVE GOT PLENTY OF NOTHING (TO DO). According to the Left Behind worldview, none of the great religious achievements of the 21st Century will be accomplished by any of us who are already saved. Only the 144,000 and the Tribulation Force, all of them denizens of a future dispensation, have any important work to do for the Lord.
For the rest of us in the so-called "Terminal Generation," there is not much to do except watch our bloodthirsty Armageddon doomsday videos, lobby for Middle East wars in order to fulfill "prophecy," and fuss and fight with each other while we wait for the Rapture.
The massive circulation of the Left Behind books among Christians is helping to create a subculture of lethargic, apathetic church members with substandard morals and a ghetto mentality that says, "Ainít nothing gonna get accomplished until after the Rapture, when the 144,000 come along, so we may as well just sit in the mud and do nothing."
We cannot and should not try to control everything our people read. But we should be aware of the detrimental influence of the "Left Behind" theology, and try to counteract it as best we can. It will become more and more difficult to teach sound doctrine and morality in our churches, as the philosophy of "Left Behind" tightens its death grip on modern Christianity.(From Northern Landmark Missionary Baptist, February, 2004, also reprinted in Christian News, February 23, 2004 and Biblical Examiner, July, 2004).