Left Behind

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Left Behind
The Rising, The Regime, The Rapture, Left Behind, Tribulation Force, Nicolae, Soul Harvest, Apollyon, Assassins, The Indwelling, The Mark, Desecration, The Remnant, Armageddon, Glorious Appearing, Kingdom Come
AuthorTim LaHaye
Jerry B. Jenkins
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
GenreChristian novels
Published1995–2007
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)

Left Behind is a series of 16 bestselling religious novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, dealing with Christian dispensationalist End Times: the pretribulation, premillennial, Christian eschatological interpretation of the Biblical apocalypse. The primary conflict of the series is the members of the Tribulation Force, an underground network of converts, against the NWO-esque organization "Global Community" and its leader, Nicolae Carpathia, who is also the Antichrist.

The series has been adapted into four films to date. The original series of three films are Left Behind: The Movie (2000), Left Behind II: Tribulation Force (2002), and Left Behind: World at War (2005). A reboot starring Nicolas Cage, entitled simply Left Behind, was released in 2014 through Cloud Ten Pictures.[1] The series inspired an audio drama as well as the PC game Left Behind: Eternal Forces (2006) and its several sequels.

Plot summary[edit]

Based on a dispensationalist interpretation of prophecies in the Biblical books of Revelation, Daniel, Isaiah and Ezekiel, Left Behind tells the story of the end times (set in the contemporary era), in which true believers in Christ have been "raptured" (taken instantly to heaven), leaving the world shattered and chaotic. As people scramble for answers, an obscure Romanian politician named Nicolae Jetty Carpathia rises to become secretary-general of the United Nations, promising to restore peace and stability to all nations. What most of the world does not realize is that Carpathia is actually the Antichrist foretold in the Bible. Coming to grips with the truth and becoming born-again Christians, airline pilot Rayford Steele, his daughter Chloe, their pastor Bruce Barnes, and young journalist Cameron "Buck" Williams begin their quest as the Tribulation Force to help save the lost and prepare for the coming Tribulation, in which God will rain down judgment on the world for seven years.

Characters[edit]

Response[edit]

Multiple books in the series have been on the New York Times Bestseller List. Starting in 2000, Books 7 and 8 reached number one on the list followed by book 10, which debuted at number one.[2]

One reason often cited for the books' popularity is the quick pacing and action, and reflects the public's overall concern and fascination with the Apocalypse as portrayed in the Biblical Book of Revelation. Michelle Goldberg has written that, "On one level, the attraction of the Left Behind books isn't that much different from that of, say, Tom Clancy or Stephen King. The plotting is brisk and the characterizations Manichean. People disappear and things blow up."[3] The New York Times also compared the series to Clancy's works.[4] However, those views are not universally shared. Other reviewers have called the series "almost laughably tedious" and "fatuous and boring."[5][6]

Jerry Falwell said about the first book in the series: "In terms of its impact on Christianity, it's probably greater than that of any other book in modern times, outside the Bible."[7]

Laurie Goodstein, writing in 1998 for The New York Times, placed what she called the ""Left Behind" phenomenon" in the calendrical context of the approaching year 2000. Goodstein noted a 'proliferation' of similarly apocalyptic texts appearing at that time, by authors such as Jim Bakker and John Hagee. Goodstein cited the opinion of University of Wisconsin historian Paul Boyer, who described such authors as "cashing in on the public preoccupation with the year 2000".[8]

Influences on the authors[edit]

LaHaye and Jenkins cite the influence of Russell Doughten, an Iowa-based filmmaker who directed the Thief in the Night series, a series of four low-budget but popular feature-length films in the 1970s and 80s about the Rapture and Second Coming, starting with 1972's A Thief in the Night.[9] Indeed, the title Left Behind echoes the refrain of Thief's early Christian rock theme song by Larry Norman, "I Wish We'd All Been Ready," in which he sings, "There's no time to change your mind, the Son has come and you've been left behind."

Reception[edit]

While writing that the series fulfills the norms of mass-market fiction, as mentioned above, magazine writer Michelle Goldberg characterized the books as an attack on Judaism and liberal secularism, and suggested that the near-future "end times" in which the books are set seem to reflect the actual worldview of millions of Americans, including many prominent conservative leaders.[10]

Christian criticisms[edit]

From Catholics[edit]

The books are written from a Protestant viewpoint. As a result, some believe the books are anti-Catholic, noting that many Catholics were not raptured, concluding that no religion is free of false converts[11] and that the new pope establishes a false religion.[12] While the fictional Pope, John XXIV, was raptured, he is described as having embraced some of the views of the "Father of Protestantism", Martin Luther, and it is implied that he was raptured for this reason.[13] His successor, Pope Peter II, becomes Pontifex Maximus of Enigma Babylon One World Faith, an amalgam of all remaining world faiths and religions. Catholic Answers describes the series as anti-Catholic.[11][14]

The co-author of the book, Jerry B. Jenkins, as well as LaHaye, stated that their books are not anti-Catholic and that they have many faithful Catholic readers and friends.[15] According to LaHaye, "the books don’t suggest any particular theology, but try to introduce people to a more personal relationship with Jesus".[15]

From Orthodox[edit]

David Carlson, a Professor of Religious Studies and a member of the Greek Orthodox Church, wrote that the theology underpinning the Left Behind series promotes a "skewed view of the Christian faith that welcomes war and disaster, while dismissing peace efforts in the Middle East and elsewhere—all in the name of Christ".[16]

From Protestants[edit]

While many Protestants may agree with the literal interpretation of Revelation and other eschatological passages presented in the Left Behind series and view the Rapture as biblically sound, others do not. Some Protestant Christians who feel biblical evidence pointing to a Rapture before the second coming is lacking still value the evangelistic nature of the series, while others feel the books emphasize vice for entertainment purposes. However, the gospel message presented in the series by Jerry B. Jenkins is one that puts a strong emphasis on grace, which is popular among most Protestants (see e.g. Sola fide and Justification).

From others[edit]

Along with some other rapture fiction novels, the Left Behind series demonstrates a specific understanding of the Gospel and the Christian life, one with which many have taken issue theologically. The books have not sold particularly well outside of the United States.[17] Dispensationalism remains a minority view among theologians.[18] For instance, amillennial and postmillennial Christians do not believe in the same timeline of the Second Coming as premillennialists, while preterist Christians do not interpret much of the Book of Revelation to predict future events at all. Brian McLaren of the Emergent Church compares the Left Behind series to The Da Vinci Code, and states, "What the Left Behind novels do, the way they twist scripture toward a certain theological and political end, I think [Dan] Brown is twisting scripture, just to other political ends."[19] John Dart, writing in Christian Century, characterized the works as "beam me up theology."[18]

Violence[edit]

Some practicing Christians, evangelical and otherwise, along with non-Christians have shown concern that the social perspectives promoted in the Left Behind series unduly sensationalize the death and destruction of masses of people. Harvey Cox, a professor of divinity at Harvard, says part of the appeal of the books lies in the "lip-licking anticipation of all the blood", and theologian Barbara Rossing, author of The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation, said the books glorify violence.[20][21][22] Additionally, Paul Nuechterlein accused the authors of re-sacralizing violence, adding that "we human beings are the ones who put our faith in superior firepower. But in the Left Behind novels, the darkness of that human, satanic violence is once again attributed to God".[23] Time said "the nuclear frights of, say, Tom Clancy's The Sum of All Fears wouldn't fill a chapter in the Left Behind series. (Large chunks of several U.S. cities have been bombed to smithereens by page 110 of Book 3.)"[21]

Books[edit]

Note: The books are listed initially in story-line (chronological) order but then numbered in order of publication.

Chron Seq. Pub Seq. Title (with subtitle) Pub Date
1 13 The Rising: Antichrist is Born: Before They Were Left Behind 2005[24]
2 14 The Regime: Evil Advances: Before They Were Left Behind #2 2005[25]
3 15 The Rapture: In the Twinkling of an Eye: Countdown to Earth's Last Days #3 2006
4 1 Left Behind: A Novel of the Earth's Last Days 1995
5 2 Tribulation Force: The Continuing Drama of Those Left Behind 1996
6 3 Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist 1997
7 4 Soul Harvest: The World Takes Sides 1999
8 5 Apollyon: The Destroyer Is Unleashed 1999
9 6 Assassins: Assignment: Jerusalem, Target: Antichrist 1999
10 7 The Indwelling: The Beast Takes Possession 2000
11 8 The Mark: The Beast Rules the World 2000
12 9 Desecration: Antichrist Takes the Throne 2001
13 10 The Remnant: On the Brink of Armageddon 2002
14 11 Armageddon: The Cosmic Battle of the Ages 2003
15 12 Glorious Appearing: The End of Days 2004
16 16 Kingdom Come: The Final Victory 2007

The series written for teens, called Left Behind: The Kids, has the same plot as the adult series, but the main protagonists are teenagers. Several of the main books have also been turned into movies by the Canadian motion picture studio Cloud Ten Pictures; the film titles include: Left Behind: The Movie (2000), Left Behind II: Tribulation Force (2002), and Left Behind: World at War (2005).

Two spin-off series have been written: a political series by Neesa Hart and a military series by Mel Odom.

A video game, Left Behind: Eternal Forces, was released for the PC on November 6, 2006. Its sequel, Left Behind II: Tribulation Force, was released in 2009.

In other media[edit]

Film adaptations[edit]

The success of the Left Behind books has led to the release of four motion pictures based on the series so far. All four have been produced by brothers Paul & Peter LaLonde, and have been released through Cloud Ten Pictures, an independent Canadian-based Christian film studio.

The first, Left Behind: The Movie, was based on the first book of the series and was released in 2000. In a very unusual marketing scheme, the studio released the film on home video, and then theatrically. It fared poorly in theaters.[26] The film starred former Growing Pains star Kirk Cameron as Buck Williams. Cameron, who praised the book series as "inspiring", became a practicing evangelist (and co-host with Ray Comfort on the TV show The Way of the Master).

The sequel, Left Behind II: Tribulation Force, based on the second book, Tribulation Force, was released in 2002. The film debuted at #2 on Nielson's video scan reports, behind Spider-Man,[27] and was #1 in terms of overall sales for two days on Amazon.com.[28]

The second sequel, World at War, was released first to churches on October 21, 2005 for church theatrical viewings and was released via home media on October 25. Much of the main cast from the previous two films, excluding Clarence Gilyard, reprised their respective roles for World at War. Gilyard, who played Bruce Barnes, was unable to return due to a scheduling conflict with a play in New York.[citation needed] It is based very loosely on the final 50 pages of Tribulation Force and features Louis Gossett Jr. as the President of the United States, Gerald Fitzhugh. The third installment was the least identifiable with events in any of the books. Recognizable events were the marriages of Buck with Chloe Steele, and of Rayford Steele with Amanda White; the death of Bruce Barnes; and President Fitzhugh's heading an attack, resulting in World War III, with Great Britain and Egypt fighting against the Global Community. Major parts, however, were taken from subsequent books; these events include the poisoning of Barnes by GC forces, instead of Nicolae Carpathia himself, and an attempt by Fitzhugh to assassinate Carpathia. Buck's meeting with the President in the books takes a different form in the film.

The film series have been criticized for, among other things, low production values. A Slate reviewer commented that in 2004, Cloud Ten Pictures made a deal with Sony Pictures Entertainment to release all of its pictures under their banner and has been doing so ever since.[29]

In 2010, Cloud Ten announced that a remake of the Left Behind series was in development, with production set to begin in late 2012 for an October 2014 release date.[30] The reboot, starring Nicolas Cage as Steele and Chad Michael Murray as Buck Williams, was released to theaters October 3, 2014. It focused mainly on the very beginnings of the first book and added much to the plot. The remake focuses on the experiences of the passengers on the plane and partially on Chloe Steele as she comes to terms with her missing family. It earned overwhelmingly negative reviews and flopped at the box office.[31]

Video game[edit]

A video game, Left Behind: Eternal Forces, (2006) and its three sequels, Left Behind: Tribulation Forces, Left Behind 3: Rise of the Antichrist and Left Behind 4: World at War, were developed by a publicly traded company, Left Behind Games. The games are real-time strategy games wherein the player controls a "Tribulation Forces" team and allows the player to "use the power of prayer to strengthen your troops in combat and wield modern military weaponry throughout the game world." The original game was released in the United States on November 14, 2006, and received mixed reviews. Distribution was initially planned to work through churches and megachurches.[citation needed]

Although the original game was accused of encouraging religious violence,[32] not all reviewers of the game or critics of the Left Behind series shared that view.[33][34][35][36] Representatives of the company have responded that the game's message is pacifist, because shooting nonbelievers instead of converting them costs the player "spirit points", which can be recovered by pausing to pray.[37] The company also responded to these criticisms in an online newsletter, stating, "There is no violence, only conflict," and, "The most successful way to fight, is through the means of spiritual warfare; PRAYER and WORSHIP. Soldiers and military weaponry are available, but once anyone plays the game, they’ll see how difficult it is to succeed by using these less effective means of warfare."[38]

Music[edit]

People Get Ready
Soundtrack album by
Various artists
ReleasedNovember 17, 1998
GenreChristian music
LabelForefront

People Get Ready: A Musical Collection Inspired by The Left Behind Series (1998) is "a musical collection inspired by the Left Behind series".

Books[edit]

Williams professor Glenn Shuck has written the book Marks of the Beast: The Left Behind Novels and the Struggle for Evangelical Identity, published by NYU Press in 2005. He followed this with a collection of original essays co-edited with Jeffrey J. Kripal of Rice University on the Esalen Institute in California, published by Indiana University Press in 2005.

Robert M. Price has written the book The Paperback Apocalypse published by Prometheus Books in 2007 which reviewed the whole genre of apocalypse fiction.

Graphic novels[edit]

In 2002, a series of graphic novels published by Tyndale House was launched that comprised the first two books in the series, Left Behind and Tribulation Force. The original idea was to release sets of 3 to 5 novels (each about 45–50 pages) for each book in the original series. However, after the fifth and final novel for Tribulation Force was released, the graphic novel series was apparently discontinued, and the novels that were released are now (as of December 2006) out of print. A compilation of the graphic novels for the first book was later released as one novel.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Watch Nicolas Cage in the Left Behind Trailer". Vulture. May 30, 2014. Archived from the original on October 6, 2014. Retrieved October 4, 2014.
  2. ^ "New York Times Bestsellers". New York Times. June 11, 2000. Archived from the original on August 3, 2017. Retrieved February 19, 2017.
  3. ^ Goldberg, Michelle (July 29, 2002). "Fundamentally unsound". Salon. Archived from the original on December 14, 2007.
  4. ^ LaHaye, Tim; Jenkins, Jerry B.; Swanson, Sandi (2005). The Authorized Left Behind Handbook. Tyndale House Publishers. p. 336.
  5. ^ Dreyfuss, Robert Dreyfuss (January 28, 2004). "Reverend Doomsday: According to Tim LaHaye, the Apocalypse is now". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on August 6, 2007.
  6. ^ Haber, Gordon Haber (August 23, 2004). "The Ministry of Fear". New York Sun.
  7. ^ "Tim and Beverly LaHaye". TIME. Archived from the original on February 3, 2005. Retrieved September 8, 2007.
  8. ^ Goodstein, Laurie (October 4, 1998). "Fast-Selling Thrillers Depict Prophetic View of Final Days". The New York Times. Archived from the original on January 31, 2018. Retrieved January 29, 2018.
  9. ^ Dean A. Anderson, The original "Left Behind" Archived April 16, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, Christianity Today, Published March 7, 2012, Retrieved March 13, 2012.
  10. ^ [dead link]"Salon.com: Fundamentally unsound". Archived from the original on August 31, 2011. Retrieved October 4, 2014.
  11. ^ a b Catholic.com – No Rapture for Rome Archived July 6, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ 'Left Behind' authors begin tour of the South, The Associated Press via USA Today, March 31, 2004.
  13. ^ Writing the Rapture: Prophecy Fiction in Evangelical America, Crawford Gribben, Oxford University Press, 2009.
  14. ^ Akin, Jimmy (2008). "Catholic Answers Special Report: False Profit: Money, Prejudice, and Bad Theology in Tim LaHaye's Left Behind Series". Archived from the original on July 11, 2008.
  15. ^ a b "Tim LaHaye: The Left Behind Series". Catholic League. Archived from the original on June 29, 2007. Retrieved December 31, 2007. When a reader complained online that Tribulation Force was anti-Catholic, Left Behind co-author Jerry B. Jenkins vehemently insisted that the books are “not anti-Catholic” and that “almost every person in the book who was left behind was Protestant. Astute readers will understand where we’re coming from. True believers in Christ, regardless of their church ‘brand’ will be raptured” (Amazon.com, August 26, 1999). LaHaye responded by insisting that “our books are not anti-Catholic. In fact, we have many faithful Catholic readers and friends” (Religion News Service, June 26, 2003). The books don’t suggest any particular theology, he said, but try to introduce people to a more personal relationship with Jesus.”
  16. ^ "Left Behind" and the Corruption of Biblical Interpretation". Archived from the original on June 2, 2015. Retrieved May 12, 2015.
  17. ^ Boston, Rob (February 2002). "If Best-Selling End-Times Author Tim LaHaye Has His Way, Church-State Separation Will Be... Left Behind". Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Archived from the original on November 18, 2011. Retrieved April 1, 2015.
  18. ^ a b Dart, John (September 25, 2002). "'Beam me up' theology—The Debate Over 'Left Behind'". Christian Century Foundation. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved April 1, 2015.
  19. ^ McLaren, Brian (May 9, 2006). "Brian McLaren on the Da Vinci Code". Grace Fellowship. Sojourners Magazine. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved April 1, 2015.
  20. ^ Barbara R. Rossing (March 1, 2007). The Rapture Exposed. Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-465-00496-6.
  21. ^ a b John Cloud and Rancho Mirage. "Meet the Prophet Archived 2008-12-01 at the Wayback Machine". Time. June 23, 2002.
  22. ^ John W. Whitehead. "God So Loved the World that He Gave Us World War III Archived 2008-01-12 at the Wayback Machine". OldSpeak. July 1, 2004.
  23. ^ Re-Sacralizing Violence in the Left Behind Books Archived November 19, 2007, at the Wayback Machine". May 18, 2004.
  24. ^ The Rising: Antichrist Is Born. Tyndale House Publishers. 2005. ISBN 978-0-8423-6193-4. OCLC 57124481.
  25. ^ Lahaye, Tim F.; Jenkins, Jerry B. (2005). (All Libraries). ISBN 9781414305769. Retrieved October 4, 2014.
  26. ^ "Imdb.com: Left Behind (2000) – Box-office/Business". IMDb. Archived from the original on August 4, 2014. Retrieved October 4, 2014.
  27. ^ clarionledger.com: Audition for TV role or be 'Left Behind' Archived July 1, 2001, at Archive.today
  28. ^ "End-Times Thriller Left Behind II: Tribulation Force Ousts Spider-Man Over the Weekend to Become the #1 Selling Video Overall on Amazon.com". Manta. Retrieved October 4, 2014.
  29. ^ Hendrix, Grady (December 1, 2005). "How to end the world on a budget". Slate Magazine.
  30. ^ "Cloud Ten Plans Big Budget Left Behind Remake" (PDF). October 13, 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 27, 2011. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
  31. ^ "Left Behind". Retrieved October 4, 2014.
  32. ^ "Critics blast 'Left Behind'". USA Today. December 14, 2006. Archived from the original on August 31, 2010. Retrieved May 7, 2010.
  33. ^ "Left Behind: Eternal Forces – The Video Game". Adl.org. Archived from the original on March 7, 2012.
  34. ^ "Left Behind: Eternal Forces Review". IGN. November 14, 2006. Archived from the original on June 17, 2012. Retrieved October 27, 2007.
  35. ^ "Reviews: Games: Left Behind: Eternal Forces". Artstechnica. December 14, 2006. p. 1. Archived from the original on December 4, 2008. Retrieved June 14, 2017.
  36. ^ "Left Behind: Eternal Forces Review". GameSpy. Archived from the original on August 25, 2012. Retrieved October 27, 2007.
  37. ^ Lelchuk, Ilene (January 9, 2011). "'Convert or die' game divides Christians / Some ask Wal-Mart to drop Left Behind". The San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on October 18, 2011. Retrieved November 15, 2018.
  38. ^ "LB Games – Newsletter". Archived from the original on October 11, 2007. Retrieved October 27, 2007.

Further reading[edit]

  • DeMar, Gary, Left Behind: Separating Fact from Fiction. Powder Springs, Georgia, 2009. ISBN 0-915815-38-9
  • Eford, James M. Left Behind? What the Bible Really Says about the End Times. Macon, Georgia, Smyth & Helys, 2006. ISBN 1-57312-461-3
  • 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
  • Monahan, Torin. (2008). "Marketing the Beast: Left Behind and the Apocalypse Industry" (PDF). Media, Culture, & Society. 30 (6): 813–830. CiteSeerX 10.1.1.691.2622. doi:10.1177/0163443708096095.
  • Olson, Carl E. Will Catholics be Left Behind? San Francisco, Ignatius Press, 2003. ISBN 0-898709-50-4
  • Standaert, Michael, 2006 Skipping Towards Armageddon: The Politics and Propaganda of the Left Behind Novels and the LaHaye Empire (Soft Skull Press)
  • 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
  • Tuley, Glenn, Not Left Behind: A Tribulation Survival Manual. Bedford, TX, Burkhart Books, 2015. ISBN 978-1-940359-25-0

External links[edit]