What ‘Left Behind’ teaches
The central teaching of the Left Behind series is that Christ returns twice, and that this gives those who reject Christ before the Rapture a ‘second chance.’
The novels show Christ returning first invisibly to rapture the Church to heaven, then seven years later to destroy the wicked and to take “Tribulation saints” to heaven.
The volume Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist summarizes this teaching from the post-Rapture perspective as “belief in the one true God, that Jesus is his Son, that he came back, and that he’s coming back again.” (p. 380)
In their nonfiction work Are We Living in the End Times? authors LaHaye and Jenkins describe Christ’s return as:
“two totally different events. One is a select coming for His church, a great source of comfort for those involved; the other is a public appearance when every eye shall see Him, a great source of regret and mourning for those whose Day of Judgment has come. . . . Seven years would allow time for all these things and the Tribulation to take place.” (p. 103)
Second Chance is the title of one of the novels in the children’s series Left Behind: The Kids. And in their nonfiction book Are We Living in the End Times, LaHaye and Jenkins state specifically that the seven-year interval grants this second chance to those “left behind after the Rapture” because they had “rejected God’s offer of salvation.” (page 158)
Verse-by-verse Answers—Old Testament
The reader may be tempted to skip past this discussion of Old Testament verses, to get the last word on prophecy from the New Testament. However, a word of caution is in order.
The Old Testament is key to understanding the New, especially in matters of prophecy.
The “beasts” of Revelation cannot be identified correctly by a reader unfamiliar with the beasts Daniel saw in his visions. Jesus’ sermon on the end times and his Second Coming rested heavily on the assumption that his listeners already knew what Daniel wrote about the “abomination of desolation.” (Matt. 24:15 )
Trying to understand the New Testament’s end times prophecies without first examining what the Old Testament said on the same matters can lead only to misinterpretations and confusion.
And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him, into the ark, because of the waters of the flood. …and the Lord shut him in. …And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man. (KJV)
The fate of those left behind when Noah and his family took refuge in the Ark is very significant to end times theology, because Jesus said the end of this world would be the same:
“And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.” (Luke 17:26-27)
Those left behind were destroyed.
Bible commentator Matthew Henry (1662 – 1714) understood there was no ‘second chance’ for that wicked world. He wrote, “the shutting of this door set up a partition wall between him [Noah] and all the world besides. God shut the door, to secure him, and keep him safe in the ark. The door must be shut very close, lest the waters should break in and sink the ark, and very fast, lest any without should break it down. …To exclude all others, and keep them for ever out.” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary)
There was no second chance for those left behind when God shut the door. They were kept out “for ever.”
Similar to the pre-deluge society Noah had lived in, today’s world has abandoned the righteousness of God to follow every wicked way.
“And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth…” (Gen. 6:5-7)
As God looks down upon our modern society with its movie star sex goddesses, its high rate of promiscuity and divorce, its criminal and military violence, and its denial of his creatorship in favor of the theory of evolution, it must similarly grieve him at his heart.
Will the Creator again assert his sovereign right to wipe clean his creation?
Jesus leaves no doubt: “As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.” (Luke 17:26)
He will again take his people to safety, and will destroy those left behind. Just as there was no seven-year reprieve for those left behind when the Ark floated above the flood waters, so there will be none for those left when Christians are taken to be with the Lord at the end of this world.
Genesis 19:15-16, 24
And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot…and they brought him forth and set him outside of the city. …Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven; and he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities.
What happened to those who were left behind when holy angels led righteous Lot and his family out of Sodom?
Everyone left behind was destroyed.
This prefigures what will happen to those left behind when Christ raptures the Church.
Jesus said, “Also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom, it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.” Luke 17:28-30
Was there a seven-year delay after the angels took Lot to safety? No, Lot was taken out of the city and “the same day” all of those left behind were destroyed.
Writing in the early 1700s, Matthew Henry again got the point.
Commenting on Luke 17:28-30, he wrote:
“. . . they continued in their security and sensuality, till the threatened judgment came. Until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and Lot went out of Sodom, nothing said or done to them served to alarm or awaken them. Note, though the stupidity of sinners in a sinful way is as strange as it is without excuse, yet we are not to think it strange, for it is not without example. It is the old way that wicked men have trodden, that have gone slumbering to hell, as if their damnation slumbered while they did. . . .That they were surprised with the ruin which they would not fear, and were swallowed up in it, to their unspeakable horror and amazement. …In like manner, when Jesus Christ shall come to judge the world, at the end of time, sinners will be found in the same secure and careless posture, altogether regardless of the judgment approaching, which will therefore come upon them as a snare.” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible)
After referring to Sodom and Gomorrah and saying, “even thus shall it be,” Jesus went on to describe the Rapture:
“two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.”
How will it be at the Rapture? “As it was in the days of Lot,” Jesus declared. Luke 17:30-36, 28
Everyone knows the sin of Sodom. Our word “sodomy” comes straight from that city’s name. When Lot entertained visitors in his home, two angels sent by God, “Sodomites young and old from all over the city…surrounded the house and shouted to Lot, ‘Bring out those men to us so we can rape them.’”
Prior to that the Bible reported that “the people of Sodom and Gomorrah are utterly evil, and that everything they do is wicked.” Gen. 19:4-5, 18:20
Like Sodom and Gomorrah, our modern society has become pervaded with homosexual perversion. It is difficult to visit a movie theater, turn on a television set, or read a newspaper without encountering it.
Elementary school textbooks feature “families” with two fathers or two mothers instead of the traditional married couple. Practicing homosexuals serve as clergy in countless churches. There is public debate over whether or not to sanctify “gay marriage,” but the practice of homosexuality is already protected nearly everywhere by anti-discrimination legislation. Politicians jostle each other to march in Gay Pride parades.
God, however, does discriminate.
Has this world yet reached the point where Sodom and Gomorrah have been recreated worldwide? When that stage is reached, it is difficult to imagine that the God who brought destruction on those ancient cities will simply turn his head and allow it to continue this time. When he does step in again to put a stop to the sin of Sodom, Jesus assures us it will be much the same as the first time. People who belong to Christ will be taken, and those who are left behind will be destroyed.
Will the destruction come seven years later, as the authors of the Left Behind novels would have us believe?
Jesus said, “the same day that Lot went out of Sodom, it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be…” Luke 17:29-30
After you, another kingdom will rise, inferior to yours. Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth.
According to the authors of the Left Behind series the second chapter of Daniel predicts a future world government like their fictional “Global Community” ruled over by a man like their character Nicolae Carpathia, the Antichrist:
“The governments of the world will relinquish their sovereignty to one head, an international world leader,” say LaHaye and Jenkins in their nonfiction book Are We Living in the End Times. “This is clearly predicted in … Daniel 2.” (page 169)
Is that really what Daniel wrote? Was he predicting that a United Nations Secretary General like Carpathia would become world Potentate with all the nations surrendering their sovereignty to him?
Daniel did use the expression “rule over the whole earth”—but in reference to the Greek empire of Alexander the Great, not as a prediction of Left Behind’s “Global Community.”
The second chapter of Daniel, where LaHaye sees such a prediction, actually centers on a strange dream that Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar dreamed in the seventh century B.C., and which the prophet interpreted for him.
The dream had left the monarch troubled, but he could not recall anything about it. He summoned “the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans,” (Dan. 2:2) who were in his service and demanded that they make known to him both the dream and its interpretation.
They, in turn, asked the king to tell them what he had seen in the dream. If only he would tell them about the dream, they would be glad to interpret it. That would be an easy matter. But, alas, the king could not remember. He insisted that his wise men give him both the dream and its interpretation.
Even under the ruler’s sentence of death, none of them could tell Nebuchadnezzar what he himself had forgotten. Then Daniel came on the scene. With God’s help he told the king exactly what he had dreamed:
“You looked, O king, and there before you stood a large statue—an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were broken to pieces at the same time and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth.” (verses 31-35)
How could he tell what someone else dreamed, when even the dreamer himself had forgotten? Daniel attributed this knowledge to the “God in heaven who revealeth secrets.” Dan. 2:28
Nebuchadnezzar recalled the dream, of course, after Daniel reminded him, and therefore recognized Daniel’s authority to interpret it as well.
The prophet explained it to him this way:
“You, O king… You are that head of gold. After you, another kingdom will rise, inferior to yours. Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth. Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron—for iron breaks and smashes everything—and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others. Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the strength of iron in it, even as you saw iron mixed with clay. …In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. …The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future.” (verses 31-45)
So, the dream showed the Babylonian ruler that other world powers would succeed his empire, and that the Kingdom of God would eventually replace them all.
Daniel’s later prophecies used symbolic “beasts” to reveal who those successors would be. Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian Empire would fall to the Medo-Persian Empire, followed later by the Greek Empire. (“The two-horned ram that you saw represents the kings of Media and Persia. The shaggy goat is the king of Greece.” – Daniel 8:20-21)
In chapter 2, Babylon was the image’s head of gold, Persia the chest and arms of silver, and Greece the belly and thighs of bronze. Although Daniel did not name it (because it had not yet come into existence as a nation in his day), commentators are nearly unanimous in identifying the Roman Empire as the legs of iron.
But where is Left Behind’s “Global Community” ruled by world Potentate Nicolae Carpathia?
The only mention here of a government ruling “the whole world” is the reference to the “bronze” belly and thighs of the statue, the Greek empire of Alexander the Great.
“After you [Babylon], another kingdom will rise, inferior to yours. Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, that will rule over the whole earth.” Dan. 2: 39
What did Daniel mean by that expression? Evidently that Babylon and its Persian, Greek and Roman successors all ruled over the civilized world, the known world of their day, from the standpoint of the nation of Israel and the Jewish people. None of them ruled over southern Africa, east Asia, Australia or North and South America.
Daniel was not speaking of what we today would call a ‘world government.’ Nothing in Daniel chapter 2 speaks of the sort of global one-world government portrayed in the Left Behind novels. Although the authors of Left Behind may see a future world government “clearly predicted” there, it is not clear where they derive that understanding.
To be continued