Left Behind (Part 8)

See: Previous Parts, OneTwoThreeFourFiveSixSeven


“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be
weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Matthew 24:45-51 (NIV)

This parable does not fit the end times scenario Left Behind presents, and therefore argues against the fictional seven-year tribulation having any basis in fact.

How so?

Well, the master returns and rewards the faithful and wise servant, while at the same time sending the unfaithful servant into everlasting punishment (“weeping and gnashing of teeth”).

This could not describe an invisible return of Christ to rapture believers while leaving the rest behind to face the  tribulation, because no one is sent into everlasting  punishment in this scenario. Nor could it describe Left Behind’s supposed second return of Christ, when all believers will display a holographic cross on their foreheads and unbelievers will wear the mark of the beast.

The novels depict all of Christ’s servants knowing that his Glorious Appearing is due precisely at the end of the seven years, rather than ‘on a day when they do not expect him.’

The novels also fail to depict any unfaithful servants of Christ who are found carrying on badly at his supposed second return.

So, the two-stage return of Christ presented in the Left Behind novels completely ignores this parable where Jesus shows the Master returning unexpectedly with eternal rewards and punishments for his faithful and
unfaithful servants.

Bible-believing Christians have traditionally understood this parable to picture Christ and the Church at his return.

Methodist founder John Wesley wrote,

“If ministers are the persons here primarily intended, there is a peculiar propriety in the expression. For no hypocrisy can be baser, than to call ourselves ministers of Christ, while we are the slaves of avarice, ambition, or sensuality. Wherever such are found, may God reform them by his grace, or disarm them of that power and influence, which they continually abuse to his dishonour, and to their own aggravated damnation!” ( John Wesley’s Notes on the Bible, Matt. 24:51)

So, Wesley expected Christ’s return to plunge unfaithful clergymen into damnation, like the servant in Jesus’  parable. Instead, Left Behind shows hypocritical assistant pastor Bruce Barnes receiving a second chance.

* Compare also, Jesus’ parables of the wheat and the tares Matt. 13:36-43,  the sheep and the goats, Matt. 25:31-46, and the ten virgins, Matt. 25:1-13.  All of them point to a sudden separation when Christ returns, with some rewarded and others sent into everlasting punishment at the same time, not seven years later.

Matthew 25:1-13

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. Later the others also came. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they said. ‘Open the door for us!’ But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’ Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” (NIV)

This parable belies the Left Behind theory that nominal Christians who fail to keep watch will have a second chance to enter the kingdom.

Consider the novels’ prominent character Bruce Barnes, the assistant pastor who finds himself left behind at the Rapture. He is certainly a ‘foolish virgin’ who failed to ‘keep watch,’ and was not ready when the bridegroom arrived and took the rest of his congregation to heaven. But, unlike those in the parable who find the ‘door shut’ because they had not kept watch, Bruce and others like him get a “Second Chance”—the title of the second volume of the Left Behind “Kids” series.

Such a thought is foreign to the understanding Bible readers have had for centuries.

In the mid-1500’s John Calvin (1509-1564) wrote, “all who shall not be ready at the very moment when they shall be called will be shut out from entering into heaven.” (Calvin’s Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists)

The idea of a second chance at Christ’s return was unknown to the Reformers.

Two hundred years later in the early 1700’s commentator Matthew Henry got the same point from Jesus’ illustration:

“The state of saints and sinners will then be unalterably fixed, and those that are shut out then, will be shut out forever.” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary, Vol. V, p. 371)

And in the late 1800’s British pastor and teacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon wrote,

“when once in the last days as Master of the house he shall rise up and shut the door, it will be in vain for mere professors to knock, and cry Lord, Lord open unto us, for that same door which shuts in the wise virgins will shut out the foolish for ever.” (Morning and Evening: Daily Readings, for the morning of June 5, titled “The Lord shut him in,” commenting on Genesis 7:16).

Yes, Bible readers have always understood that the ‘foolish virgins’ would not get a second chance.

* Compare, also, Jesus’ parables of the wheat and the tares  Matt. 13:36-43,  the sheep and the goats, Matt. 25:31-46, and the faithful and the evil slave, Matt. 24:45-51.

Matthew 25:14-15, 19

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to every man according to his ability; and straightway took his journey. …After a long time the Lord of those servants cometh, and reckoned with them.” (KJV)

This is another of the parables Jesus used to illustrate his coming.

As noted above, the authors of Left Behind say that the unexpected coming Jesus referred to is the Rapture before the tribulation. (See our discussion of Matthew 24:44.) But when the Lord of the servants comes in this parable, he rewards his faithful servants and casts “the unprofitable servant into outer darkness” where “there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (vs. 30)

Hypocritical assistant pastor Bruce Barnes in the Left Behind novels would certainly fit the picture of the unfaithful servant who failed to do business with his talent. But, instead of being thrown into outer darkness, he is given a second chance.

Writing later in Glorious Appearing: The End of Days, the Left Behind authors say it is at the end of the seven-year tribulation that some are “cast into outer darkness.” (page 382) Yet Christ’s appearing at that time is not portrayed as unexpected.

These contradictory interpretations are a natural consequence of their attempt to divide the return of Christ into two separate events seven years apart.

Matthew 25:31-46

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. … Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. … Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels….Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (NIV)

This parable offers strong evidence against the dispensationalist view of the rapture followed by a seven year tribulation.

Here the Lord separates the sheep from the goats, those who treated him and his followers well from those who abused him by abusing his followers, and tells the abusers to “Depart from me… into everlasting fire” (vs. 41)

Dispensationalists can’t place this event at the rapture, because no one is sent into everlasting fire then, according to their Theory. So, they must place it at the end of their seven-year tribulation.

However, the parable doesn’t fit that situation either.

Those who are sent into everlasting fire are surprised, and ask, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?” (vs. 44) And even those rewarded ask, “’Lord,
when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?”
(vs. 37)

How unlike the picture the dispensationalists offer where, at the end of a seven year tribulation, nearly everyone is clearly marked with a cross on their forehead or the mark of the beast! No room for surprises in that case! Everyone is already clearly identified as being on Jesus’ side or against him.

This “sheep-and-goats judgment” is discussed and portrayed in No. 12 of the Left Behind series, Glorious Appearing: The End of Days. It is shown to take place at the end of the seven years. One of the characters remarks:

“Those are the ‘goats’ over there, the followers of Antichrist.” (page 376)

Apparently the authors forgot how they interpreted Matthew 24:44 above, stating that it applies to the Rapture, before the seven years.

In that verse Jesus exhorted followers to be “ready” for his unexpected return and gave a string of parables illustrating this: the faithful and unfaithful servants, the ten virgins, the talents, and the sheep and goats.

As noted above, on page 116 of Are We Living in the End Times? LaHaye and Jenkins quote verse 44 and say,

“Only the pre-Tribulation rapture preserves that at-any- moment expectation of His coming.”

Here, though, they try to make the sheep and goats parable fit a later time. Such confusion should be expected—it is a natural consequence of trying to divide Christ’s return into two different events.

It should also be noted that LaHaye and Jenkins apply Jesus’ words:

“whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine”

…to the Jews. (Matt. 25:40 NIV)

They assert:

“Those who honored the Jews are the sheep, and those who did not are the goats.” (Glorious Appearing, pages 367-368)

Was Jesus referring to the Jews as his “brothers” here?

No, because the Lord made clear that “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother.” (Matt. 12:50) And Hebrews 2:11 explains that “those who are made holy” are the ones Jesus calls “brothers.”

So, Jesus was referring here to his faithful followers rather than to the Jews.


9 comments on “Left Behind (Part 8)

  1. The author of this series has obviously done a lot of research. The problem however, is the fact that “The Left Behind Series” is a work of fiction albeit based on the Bible.

    To have academic merit, a nonfiction source such as Chuck Missler’s 70 part study of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, a work of nonfiction, would have been a better choice.

  2. I wonder how they, LaHaye and Jenkins would square this verse in their minds?

    Heb 6:3 And this we will do if God permits.

  3. Hey I saw you mentioned the Left Behind series by Tim LeHaye? I know they are trying to build a community of us fans of the series. If you want to join the group we are at http://www.foundthisbook.com

  4. Rebecca,

    from part 2-

    A “note from Dr. Tim LaHaye” at the end of the last novel in the series says:

    “Jerry and I felt uniquely led of God to take on this challenging task of presenting what we believe is the truth of end times prophecy in fiction form. Our prayer was that it would take admittedly complex and often confusing elements of Scripture and help them come to life in your eyes. . . . we believe what we have portrayed here will happen someday.” (Kingdom Come: The Final Victory, pages 355-356)

    In many churches the Left Behind view of the end times is accepted as a virtual extension of the Gospel. To question its theology is to question orthodoxy itself.

    Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins have been heralded as “The New Prophets of Revelation” on the cover of Newsweek magazine (May 24, 2004).

    from part 3..

    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)

    from part 4

    A “Note from Dr. Tim LaHaye” at the end of the volume portraying streams of milk and wine says,

    “We’ve attempted to follow the Scriptures carefully in a time honored pattern of taking the Bible literally wherever possible. . . .we believe what we have portrayed here will happen someday.” (Kingdom Come: The Final Victory, pages 355-356)

    The author quotes from quite a few instances in which the authors of the Left Behind series claim that while the series is fictionalized [names etc] they believe the bible supports their theories based on dispensationalist teachings…..that’s really what this is concerning. .

  5. I wonder how they, LaHaye and Jenkins would square this verse in their minds?

    Heb 6:3 And this we will do if God permits.

    Michael i wonder about that too…i actually wonder how any Christian who staunchly stands by their own speculations concerning end time prophecy, feels about it.

    Many are going to in for a surprise when their ‘die-hard’ interpretations are proven wrong…God will have the final say as to how his word is fulfilled.

  6. Hi John…

    i checked out your link…and the idea of a community of staunch believers in the Left Behind series, is one of the valid points the author is trying to convey in this manuscript im posting… how people believe these books are biblical fact!

    I’ve seen Christian boards/forums set up for the express purpose of discussing bible prophecy according to the Left Behind books…not to discuss the right or wrong of the doctrinal presentations in them, but because they believe every word.

  7. It sounds like LaHaye and Jenkins are neglecting to take into consideration whole chunks of the Bible. I know there are a lot of people who take these books as Gospel inspired. Do the authors at least mention that their ideas aren’t the only view, and that they, in fact, may be wrong?

  8. (Here is a web article that simply floored me a short while ago. What do you think of it? Lillian)


    Many these days are abandoning the pretribulation rapture view, and the June, 1995 article by Chuck Missler (”Byzantine Text Discovery: Ephraem the Syrian”) reveals why there is such a mutiny! First of all, the authoritative scholar that Missler cited, Dr. Paul Alexander, referred only to “Pseudo-Ephraem” and not to Ephraem the Syrian. (If an unsigned ancient manuscript resembles the real Ephraem but there is a question of authorship, they assign it to “Pseudo-Ephraem” – the word “pseudo” meaning “possibly.” For some groundless reason, Grant Jeffrey, the one who reportedly found the “discovery,” changed Dr. Alexander’s terminology! For more info on Jeffrey, Google “Wily Jeffrey.”) And Missler’s scholarship is also questionable. According to the Los Angeles Times (July 30, 1992), about one-fourth of Missler’s 1992 book “The Magog Factor” (which he co-authored with Hal Lindsey) was a daring plagiarism of Dr. Edwin Yamauchi’s 1982 book “Foes from the Northern Frontier”! Four months later Yamauchi’s publisher revealed that both Lindsey and Missler had promised to stop all publishing of their book. But in 1995 they were found publishing “The Magog Invasion” (which was either a revision or a replacement of “The Magog Factor”) – which had a substantial amount of the same plagiarism! (Dave MacPherson’s 1998 book “The Three R’s” has complete documentation on this and other pretrib scandals.) After listing “1820″ as the reported date of the birth of pretrib (he should have said “1830″), Missler sees a pretrib rapture in that Medieval writer’s phrase “taken to the Lord” and, since he evidently favors rewriting others instead of researching, is unaware that Dr. Alexander explained that this phrase really means “participate at least in some measure in beatitude” – which has reference only to doing acts of virtue on earth and not being raptured away from earth! Alexander added that the same ancient writer held to only one final second coming (and not to any prior coming) which would follow the time of Antichrist! (Readers can Google “Deceiving and Being Deceived” by MacPherson to see how groundless the Pseudo-Ephraem claim is and to learn how desperate pretribs are to find any pre-1830 evidence for their escapist view. Dr. Robert Gundry of Westmont College has also demolished the Pseudo-Ephraem claim in his 1997 book “First the Antichrist.”) Since Missler also leans on Thomas Ice, readers can evaluate Ice’s qualifications by Googling “America’s Pretrib Rapture Traffickers,” “Thomas Ice (Bloopers),” “Thomas Ice (Hired Gun),” and “Pretrib Rapture Diehards” (the latter part). For further light on the 179-year-old, fringe-British-invented pretribulation theory, Google or Yahoo “Pretrib Rapture – Hidden Facts.” Finally – why would anyone who has the brains of a rocket scientist want to be taken up with the concept of an any-moment pretrib rapture? The answer may well be that there’s more money in elevating a rapture than launching a rocket!

    • Hi Lillian,

      Its true that rapture books have made their authors oodles of money. This form of theology [dispensationalism] has produced more books [just check out your christian bookstores shelves] here in the west, then any other view of eschatology in the last 75 years.

      It doesn’t surprise me to read they’ve plagiarized each others writings. LOL

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