Left Behind (novel)

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For other uses, see Left Behind (disambiguation).
Left Behind: A Novel of the Earth's Last Days
Left Behind cover
Reissue of Left Behind using original artwork
Author Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins
Cover artist Westlight/H. Armstrong Roberts
Country United States
Language English
Series Left Behind (series)
Genre Christian fiction,
Apocalyptic fiction
Publisher Tyndale House Publishers
Publication date
Sunday, December 31, 1995
Media type Print (Hardcover, Paperback; also made into Graphic novel and audiobook)
Pages 320 pages, hardcover
468 pages, paperback
ISBN ISBN 0-8423-2911-0 (HC), ISBN 0-8423-4270-2 (PB)
OCLC 32509183
813/.54 20
LC Class PS3562.A315 L44 1995
Preceded by The Rapture
Followed by Tribulation Force

Left Behind: A Novel of the Earth's Last Days is a best-selling[1] novel by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins that starts the Left Behind series. This book and others in the series give narrative form to a specific eschatological reading of the Christian Bible, particularly the Book of Revelation inspired by dispensationalism and premillennialism. It was released on Sunday, December 31, 1995. The events take place the day of the Rapture and the two weeks following.

Plot introduction[edit]

The story takes place during the Rapture. Millions of people suddenly vanish and frantic "survivors" of the disappearances begin their search for their friends and families, as well as answers to what has happened. Among them are pilot Rayford Steele, his daughter Chloe Steele and Cameron"Buck"Williams, and pastor Bruce Barnes, who begin to discover that the Rapture has taken place. Meanwhile,Cameron "Buck" Williams, follows an unknown, but charming, Romanian politician named Nicolae Carpathia, who quickly attracts millions of followers - seemingly overnight.

Characters[edit]

Major themes[edit]

Christian tribulation theory is played out in a context around the theme of the "Rapture", based on the First Epistle to the Thessalonians. Amongst those who believe there will be a Rapture, there are three main theories on the timing of this event: Pre-Tribulation, Mid-Tribulation, and Post-Tribulation. This book takes the Pre-Tribulation Rapture position. The story is built around such End times themes as the Second Coming, the Antichrist, the Tribulation, and the expected coming Millennium of Messiah.

Reception[edit]

This novel has received a wide range of reactions. The American Evangelical Christian community in general has approved the idea of representing in a worldly language the end times theology. Jerry Falwell said: "In terms of its impact on Christianity, it's probably greater than that of any other book in modern times, outside the Bible."[2] Nonreligious reviewers and reviewers with differing religious viewpoints have typically given it unfavorable reviews.[3]

The New York Times stated in an article that, "The formula combines Tom Clancy-like suspense with touches of romance, high-tech flash and Biblical references."[4] The Chicago Tribune called it "...an exciting, stay-up-late-into-the-night, page turner story."[citation needed] Publishers Weekly called Left Behind "...the most successful Christian Fiction series ever." A review in the Washington Post called the novels a "stodgily written blend of B-movie science fantasy and horror."[5] A review from the Biblical Discernment Ministries claims that, "The fictionalizing of Scripture is an egregious offense in and of itself, but the theology presented in the books is intolerable."[6]

Controversies and criticisms[edit]

Some evangelicals[who?] are concerned about the message of the genre. Their objections are based on the paucity of scriptural evidence for the pre-Tribulation Rapture which forms the basis for the story. The supposition is that the Christian churches will not be present for the "final witness", nor need to prepare themselves in the faith for that possibility. It forms a growing basis for discussion among evangelicals who hold to a Post Tribulation Rapture, amillennialism, or forms of preterism.

Other evangelicals object to the message of Left Behind because they say it is not a Christian message, though framed as a Christian series. Loren L. Johns, the Academic Dean of the Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, writes: "At the end of the day, this series is ultimately a rejection of the good news of Jesus Christ. I say this because it rejects the way of the cross and Jesus’ call to obedient discipleship and a new way of life. It celebrates the human will to power, putting Evangelical Christians in the heroic role of God’s Green Berets. ... Love of enemies is treated as a misguided strategy associated not with the gospel, but with the Antichrist."[7]

The Commission on Theology and Church Relations of the Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) reported that "the ideas expressed in the Left Behind series are in many ways contrary to the teaching of holy scripture. Though containing a fictional story line, the books promote a theology that is, in important respects, at odds with the biblical revelation."[8]

The interpretation of Revelation, as presented in the Left Behind series, also appears to encourage a highly individualistic approach to salvation that eschews responsibility for performing good deeds or missionizing: “Because, in the novels, those who take the mark of the beast cannot be saved, saving oneself and punishing one's enemies are the only viable courses of action for believers… Working toward social justice is not necessary and might even distract believers from their steadfast focus on their own salvation and the salvation of their family, friends or community.” (824-5)[9] According to Kilde and Forbes, the books promotes a violent context for viewing and resolving social problems, one in which the only solution to social problems is to kill those who engage in any practices considered by the authors as "evil".[10]

While both the authors and the publisher have claimed that thousands of readers have experienced a Christian conversion due to the novels, scholars such as Frykholm have been unable to document even a single case in which a reader experienced a Christian conversion. When Frykholm requested evidence of conversion from the publisher, Tyndale submitted only seven cases; four were reportedly hearsay and three were reportedly readers that had reaffirmed their lapsed faith in Christianity.[11]

Film adaptations[edit]

This book has been adapted into a feature film, Left Behind: The Movie, first released on video and DVD, and then to cinemas where it fared poorly.[12] In the movie, Cameron "Buck" Williams was played by former Growing Pains star Kirk Cameron, who said he finds the series inspiring; he is a practicing evangelist and co-host with Ray Comfort on the TV show The Way of the Master.

To date, two sequels have been released straight to video - Left Behind II: Tribulation Force and Left Behind: World at War, the latter of which premiered in churches before its video and DVD release. A fourth installment was announced by Cloud Ten Pictures in 2006, but the development has been placed on hold since the July 2008 settlement of a lawsuit over rights involving the first three films.[13]

In August 2008, a website revealed that LaHaye plans to remake the series and possibly turn all twelve (or sixteen) novels into feature film adaptations.[14]

Release details[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Forbes, Bruce David and Jeanne Halgren Kilde (eds.), Rapture, Revelation, and the End Times: Exploring the Left Behind Series. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. ISBN 1-4039-6525-0
  • Frykholm, Amy Johnson. Rapture Culture: Left Behind in Evangelical America. Oxford University Press, 2004. ISBN 0-19-515983-7
  • Reed, David A., LEFT BEHIND Answered Verse by Verse. Morrisville, NC: Lulu.com, 2008. ISBN 1-4357-0873-3
  • Rossing, Barbara R., The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation, New York: Basic Books, 2004. ISBN 0-8133-4314-3
  • Shuck, Glenn W., Marks Of The Beast: The Left Behind Novels And The Struggle For Evangelical Identity. New York University Press, 2004. ISBN 0-8147-4005-7
  • Gribben, Crawford, Rapture Fiction and the Evangelical Crisis. Evangelical Press, 2006. ISBN 0-85234-610-7.
  • Snow Flesher, LeAnn, "Left Behind? The Facts Behind the Fiction". Valley Forge, Judson Press, 2006. ISBN 0-8170-1490-X
  • Gansle, Daniel J., "Rapture Redux: Living With Hope and Purpose in the Last Days." Infinity Publishing, 2007. ISBN 0-7414-4052-0
  • Gansle, Daniel J., "Your World, Your Future, & Bible Prophecy: How the Merging of Technology, Spirituality, & Bible Prophecy Will Rock Your World." Infinity Publishing, 2007. ISBN 0-7414-4328-7

References[edit]

External links[edit]