Left Behind Series
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In the past, terms such as "The Second Coming", "The End of the World", and "Armageddon" were used
to capture the overall message of The Revelation, the last book of the Bible. However, in recent
years, the term "Left Behind" has caught on as a dramatic focus for what many Bible expositors
believe is the most immediately significant event in connection with endtime prophecy.
The picture is painted of a world in which tens (if not hundreds) of millions of professing
Christians suddenly disappear. The entire planet is left in shock, as it wakes up to find friends,
neighbours, and relatives gone, and themselves "left behind". If this is how it is going to
happen, then that is a good phrase to encapsulate the significance of the events to the rest of the
world, that is, to those who are left. The story could begin with instructions on what the rest of
the earth's population should do to make up for having missed out on the much vaunted "secret
rapture" that passed them by. And that is more or less what the "Left Behind" series does.
But there is one small problem. It is not going to happen that way.
According to what the Bible really does teach, the ones who are going to be caught most off-guard
and most thrown into confusion when things start happening will be the professing Christians
themselves. Having for decades been fed on a line about how they will be carried to the skies on
flowery beds of ease, these same people will find themselves totally unprepared for the realities
of the Great Tribulation.
Listen to this description of the confusion that Jesus spoke of when the various endtime prophecies
begin (and in particular, when the Great Tribulation begins) to take place: "Listen! I have told
you this ahead of time. If people should tell you, 'Look, he is out in the desert!' don't go
there. Of if they say, 'Look, he is hiding here!' don't believe it. For the Son of Man will come
like the lightning which flashes across the whole sky from the east to the west." (Matthew
24:25-27) The picture gien in this passage is not one of raptured saints celebrating in heaven,
but rather it is one of disillusioned believers, who had thought their Saviour would have already
arrived and taken them away; and the warning that Christ gives is that there will be NO "secret"
To be more specific, Jesus says, "Immediately AFTER THE TRIBULATION of those days... the Son of Man
will appear in the sky; and all the peoples of earth will weep as they see the Son of Man coming on
the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. The great trumpet will sound, and he will send
out his angels to the four corners of the earth, and they will gather his chosen people from one
end of the world to the other." (Matthew 24:29-31)
When I was in my early 20s, I asked a wise old pastor to tell me whether Christians were going to
go through the Great Tribulation or whether they were going to escape it through the "rapture". He
said, "I'm going to askyou one question, and when you answer that question, you'll answer your own
question as well. Here it is: How many trumpets are there after the LAST trumpet?"
I was such a novice at the time that his question only confused me. Of course there are NO more
trumpets after the LAST one,I said. But what did that have to do with the rapture. I turned to I
Corinthians 15:51-52, which is a universally accepted description of the rapture. It says, "Listen
to this secret truth: We shall not all die, but when the LAST TRUMPET sounds, we shall all be
changd in an instant, as quickly as the blinking of any eye. For when the trumpet sounds, the dead will be raised, never to die again, and we shall all be changed in a twinkling of an eye"
This verse clearly says that the rapture will take place at the sound of the "last trumpet". But
what does that mean? It was some time later that I learned that the "Great Tribulation" is
punctuated in The Revelation by blasts from seven different trumpets. This, too, is universally
accepted to be true: the seven trumpets mark seven aspects of the Great Tribulation.
In other words, both sides agree that the I Corinthians 15:51-52 passage refers to the Rapture, and
the Seven Trumpets of the Revelation (chapters 8-11) refer to the Great Tribulation. Tim LaHaye
himself would agree. Together, these clearly place the rapture at the sounding of the "last
trumpet". And yet the most widely accepted teaching about the endtime today is that the rapture
will not happen at the last trumpet, but rather that it will happen even before the FIRST trumpet
of the Great Tribulation has sounded. Why is this?
The answer is quite simple: Popularity. People in today's pampered Western world do not want to
even think about the possibility that they may have to suffer and die for their faith. So any
teaching (and any teacher) who tells them that they can escape it all by saying a little prayer, is
going to be terribly popular. It is doubtful that any book which teaches otherwise would ever make
it to the New York Times bestseller list.
The secret rapture teaching is the great escape from sacrifice, persecution, suffering, obedience,
discipline. According to these people, all you have to do is say the magic word ("Lord, Lord!")
and in return you will get unbridled wealth, health, and popularity.
As we have said, it is good that the "Left Behind" series is getting people thinking about the
return of Jesus. But until people face up to the fact that they are going to have to make some
rather costly changes to their lifestyle, they are going to end up just as lost when they have
finished reading the series as they were when they started.
Mind you, if we are wrong, and there should actually be a secret rapture before all the trouble
begins, we will have lost nothing. We will have been prepared for a trial that God never asked us
to endure. But what about the reverse? What about the possibility that the people believing the
Great Escape theory are misguided? If they are wrong, there will be hell to pay for it. Literally
as well as figuratively! Isn't it worth some serious consideration?