Bible Review 18:4, August 2002

What the Left Behind Series Left Out

A biblical text taken out of its original context can mean whatever anyone wants it to mean.

By Ben Witherington III

Bible Review

One of the most amazing phenomena of recent Christian publishing is the remarkable success of Timothy LaHaye’s Left Behind series. These novels have been outselling all other Christian literature, with the possible exception of the Bible itself.

It’s not difficult to understand the popularity of these apocalyptic accounts. We live in uncertain times, a time of rapid change and considerable chaos. It is an age ripe for apocalyptic and eschatological speculation.

The Left Behind novels tap into the curiosity of many about what the future holds, and what the forces are that control our universe. They present an apocalyptic worldview that many conservative Christians find comforting and helpful as they try to live in an increasingly non-Christian environment.

Unfortunately, not all apocalyptic thinking is good apocalyptic thinking, and this is especially true of the so-called dispensational theology that informs these novels. The most distinctive feature of dispensational theology is what I call the “Beam me up, Scotty” belief—the notion that at the end-time, believers will be raptured into heaven and will thus avoid the Great Tribulation forecast as the precursor to the end of the world.

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