What Does the Bible Say About the End Times?
The Left Behind series calls its readers to pay attention to the Bible. But does the Bible really say what the Left Behind authors suggest? Is the series trustworthy in its interpretation of the Bible? To answer these questions, this chapter considers the interpretive choices Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins have made on a number of issues and compares them with some alternative viewpoints. My conclusion is that while the biblical views of the Left Behind authors may be legitimate readings, they are not mandated by the biblical text. The Left Behind scenario is not what many Christians believe will happen, nor is it the only picture of the end times that one might glean from the Bible.
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- 1.Robert M. Grant with David Tracy, A Short History of the Interpretation of the Bible, 2d. ed. (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984), chapters 6–7.Google Scholar
- 2.Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today (Chicago: Moody, 1965), 87.Google Scholar
- 3.Tim LaHaye, Rapture Under Attack: Will You Escape the Tribulation? (Sisters, Ore.: Multnomah Publishers, 1998), 11.Google Scholar
- 6.Michael D. Coogan, ed., The New Oxford Annotated Bible, 3rd. ed., New Revised Standard Version (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), New Testament 420.Google Scholar
- 7.For example, LaHaye and Jenkins write, “we are indebted to Daniel, the great Hebrew prophet, who asked the same questions we would ask about spiritual conditions during the end times.” Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, Are We Living in the End Times? (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House, 1999), 309.Google Scholar
- 8.A helpful discussion of the three approaches can be found in Craig R. Koester, Revelation and the End of All Things (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2001), pp. 1–40.Google Scholar
- Alternatively, a description of four views, preterist, historicist, futurist, and idealist, can be found in Merrill C. Tenney, Interpreting Revelation (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1957), 135–146.Google Scholar
- 15.N. T. Wright, “Farewell to the Rapture,” Bible Review 17 (August 2001), 8. Compare this to Tim LaHaye’s rejoinder in his The Merciful God of Prophecy: His Loving Plan for You in the End Times (n.p.: Warner Books, 2002), 57–58, 73. LaHaye does not address Wright’s use of Old Testament imagery to explain 1 Thessalonians 4:17 nor, in my view, does he seek to represent Wright’s position accurately in his rejection of it.Google Scholar
- 16.Gary DeMar, End Times Fiction: A Biblical Consideration of the Left Behind Theology (Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson, 2001), 36. Both quotations from DeMar in this paragraph mention “pretrib Rapture” or “pretribulationism.” This refers to the belief that a rapture will occur before the period of tribulation. Others believe that a rapture will occur in the middle of the tribulation (“midtrib”) or at the end of the tribulation (“posttrib”).Google Scholar
- 20.Neil Wilson and Len Woods, Left Behind Bible Study Guide #1: The Rapture (Chicago: Moody Press, 2003), 12;Google Scholar
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- 32.Tim LaHaye, Revelation Unveiled, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1999), 207, as quoted in DeMar, End Times Fiction, 135.Google Scholar