The Truth is Left Behind
“Left Behind” has reached Wales. On Saturday April 28 the religious section of the Western Mail contained the following large block advertisement. In capital letters it announced:
“NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL CALAMITIES, FLOODS, EARTHQUAKES, TORNADOES,
ETC, ETC, ETC. IS GOD SPEAKING TO US? WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD? See the film “LEFT BEHIND” (based on the Bible book of ‘The Revelation’) Ebenezer, Corporation Rd, Cardiff (The final part) Sunday April 29th at 6.00p.m.”
If this wretched movie is being shown in Wales there can be few other places in the world where it is not being projected. One’s heart sinks. Why? “Let Behind” is a series of religious novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins which have made those men millionaires. These have been the bestselling religious books in the USA for the last few years and have even made the New York Times bestsellers’ list. The books are in the tradition of Hal Lindsey’s “The Late Great Planet Earth” which also sold many millions of copies and made him a rich man. But Left Behind has been made into a movie which is being shown everywhere. It is now being produced in this series of motion pictures with video releases. It will be (or has been already) dubbed into Spanish and Portuguese for the South American market and into Chinese for the underground church in that nation to be watched there by millions of credulous young Christians. It will be shown all over Russia and eastern Europe. There will not be a nation in Africa where this movie will not be advertised and used evangelistically followed by tortuous appeals for people to walk to the front for many years to come. It is being paraded as the new millennium’s evangelistic tool. It tells the immanent end of the world as understood by dispensational premillenial attitudes.
Fiction it is. Biblical teaching it is not. As fiction – what a plot! The secret rapture has elevated every Christian from the earth to heaven and the books and film tell us what happens to those ‘left behind.’ A vindictive God battles against a superman antichrist for the souls of men. The time frame is the seven-year tribulation in which this vindictive God rains all sorts of horrors on the followers of Antichrist. A gigantic burning mountain and falling stars kill hundreds of thousands. Fire burns up one-third of the earth. The horrors continue. By the end of three and a half years, three billion people are killed.
The series is not fully released but LaHaye has already told us the outcome. Cataclysmic killings continue. Finally, a worldwide earthquake wipes out all the cities, mountains and islands. And you know what? Whatever people are left curse God. This Antichrist character certainly has extraordinary influence.
The superman Antichrist does get his comeuppance. He is thrown into the lake of fire to be tormented forever. That is not half of it. All those deceived by Antichrist – the majority of the world’s six billion inhabitants – are also thrown into the lake of fire. Antichrist went down fighting, but he won! He won the battle for men’s souls. Antichrist got the majority.
Left Behind is breathtaking drama, but Bible teaching it is not It is revisionism. It disowns the historic Protestant teaching expounded by Martin Luther, Calvin, Chemnitz, and other Reformation reformers. No Protestant embraced the secret rapture seven-year tribulation literalism before 1829. It did not even become popular among Christians until after World War II.
Historic Evangelical scholars believed Revelation was symbolic, not literal. Mountains are symbolic of nations (Isaiah 2:2-4), stars symbolic of teachers (Jude 13) and earthquakes symbolic of revolutions (Rev. 11:13 KJV margin). The beast is symbolic of Antichrist which is a church state system – Papacy (Rev. 13:1-3).
Over against this flawed concept of Left Behind, Scripture clearly teaches, and we teach accordingly, that the kingdom of Christ on earth will remain under the cross until the end of the World, Acts 14:22; John 16:33; 18:36;
Luke 9:23; 14:27; 17:20-37; 2 Tim. 4:18; Heb. 12:28; Luke 18:8; that the second visible coming of the Lord will be His final advent, His coming to judge the quick and the dead, Matt. 24:29, 30; 25:31; 2 Tim. 4:1; 2 Thess. 2:8; Heb. 9:26-28; that there will be but one resurrection of the dead, John 5:28; 6:30, 39; 40; that the time of the Last Day is, and will remain, unknown, Matt. 24:42; 25:13; Mark 13:32, 37; Acts 1:7, which would not be the case if the Last Day were to come a thousand years after the beginning of a millennium.
According to these clear passages of Scripture we reject the theology of Left Behind, since it not only contradicts Scripture, but also engenders a false conception of the kingdom of Christ, turns the hope of Christians upon earthly goals, 1 Cor. 15:19; Col. 3:2, and leads them to look upon the Bible as an obscure book. So beware of the Left Behind series. It is fiction.
There is no better time for a definitive book on the subject of the second coming and the end of the world to have appeared. We are speaking about “The Promise of the Future” by Cornelis P. Venema. The Banner of Truth Trust. pp.538, hardback, £20.95. ISBN 0 85151 793 5. In a recent review in the Gospel magazine a writer says,The Promise of the Future fills a gap in Reformed theology in the area of eschatology. For too long the last things have been understood to be only about the Parousia and the final judgement. Cornelis Venema has written an exhaustive treatment of the subject with the view that eschatology began with the birth of Christ, continues at the present time, and will be finally consummated at the restoration of the heavens and the earth. This is completely correct, and his handling of the subject is wide-ranging and very good. I believe that this book could very easily become a standard work on eschatology from the viewpoint of Classical Reformation theology.
What is refreshing is to see printed the historic view that the future of the world and the human race is not in some abstract realm beyond time and space, but in the transformed and gloriously restored creation. For too long a neo-Platonistic model of salvation as post-mortem disembodied bliss has occupied the minds of believers, instead of the biblical and apostolic vision of the resurrection to a glorious bodily immortality in a restored earth without end.
If I have one reservation it is with Dr. Venema’s handling of the Olivet Discourse. He uses Jesus’ prophecy concerning the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem in AD 70, and the signs accompanying it, as a reference to the return of Christ as well. In other words he gives them a double meaning as applying to the destruction of the old order of Judaism as well as the destruction of the earth at the Second Coming of the Son of God.
This book is useful to theologians and laymen. It is readable and enjoyable. I recommend it.
Four Meditations from John Owen September 26, 2023
This is a reprint of an article that was first published in the Banner of Truth magazine, July – August 1968. His words remain searching and pertinent today. * * * The Value of the Gospel No men in the world want help like them that want the Gospel. A man may want liberty, and […]
Peacocks and Rutterkins: Calvin the Colloquial Communicator August 31, 2023
John Calvin is thought of, principally, as a theologian. Of course, he was that. But, as Andrew W. Blackwood once told me, in his day he was first of all considered a preacher. Too few of his sermons have been preserved.1 English translations are mainly in 16th century English!2 Nevertheless, the more I read them, […]