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Leaving Behind Left Behind: Pt. 1

This week I am going to begin a series of posts examining the teachings of the Left Behind dynasty. In particular, I am going to, through some simple exegesis (Scriptural analysis) and contextual work, show how they distort and misuse the very passages of Scripture that they base their belief system on. What follows, then, is the first part in the series. Enjoy.

North American Christianity has seen fads come and go. We have seen the WWJD bracelet craze (which took the country by storm). We know all about the Christian t-shirt phase, a time period when religious t-shirt makers hijacked secular slogans and Christianized them (for example, the t-shirt that resembles the John Deere Green logo but reads: John 3:16). While seemingly harmless trends such as these come and go, there are other fads the Church must be more cautious with. For instance, many years ago, a new translation and interpretation of the Bible came out, which was called The Message. This work, done by scholar Eugene Peterson is easy-to-read, inexpensive (usually) and fitting for a new Christian. However, in many ways, this type of work misses the mark when it comes to being a valid and trustworthy translation. Thus, when it comes to serious study of the Bible, this translation must be set aside.

Perhaps, though, the most widespread and faulty fad yet has been Left Behind. The theology and belief system that undergirds these films and books is simply wrong. Moreover, their methods for interpreting the Bible are flawed, which leads them to misread and misinterpret it. The sad thing is that many Christians have followed along and bought into this mess, which has no precedence in the first 1800 years of Church history—and there’s a good reason for that!!! Let me give you an example of how they misinterpret the Bible.

The foundational passage of Scripture that the Left Behind corporation is based on is Matthew 24.37-41. Those verses read: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a handmill; one will be taken and the other left.”

Now, the Left Behind corporation makes people think that this passage means that at some point in time, God will snatch-up or rapture believers into the sky and leave sinners behind. However, such a reading makes a mockery of the passage. In fact, if you read it closely, they’ve got it all wrong. First of all, these verses never talk about anyone going “up” into the sky, much less staying there forever. It simply suggests some will be taken (with no “direction) mentioned. I could come to your home and “take” you but that does not mean that we have to travel through the sky; we could go anywhere.

Read closer still. In these verses, Matthew uses the story of Noah to make a comparison. He says that the people who were eating, drinking and marrying knew nothing of the ensuing flood (of course, the text implies that they “knew” about it but chose to ignore it or not take it seriously). In short, they were unprepared, while Noah and his family were prepared. The picture painted here is of two groups of people: those who are obedient to God and those who are not. This fits perfectly with the following analogy.

Now, a question should be posed here: What happened to Noah and his family and what happened to the unprepared people (e.g. the wicked or disobedient)? Answer: The wicked were “taken” by the flood (which was God’s form of judgment) and the righteous (Noah and family) was “left behind” on the ark. The point that Matthew wants to make is this: Just as in Noah’s case, when Jesus returns, the wicked will be “taken” for judgment and the righteous will be “left behind” to dwell in the New Earth (or New Jerusalem). In short, as Christians, we want to be left behind—we don’t want to experience God’s wrathful judgment.

Do you see, then, how the Left Behind crew has misread, twisted and perverted Scripture? Moreover, they have founded and based their whole company and agenda on this. They have even tried to frighten people by telling them: “Don’t be left behind.” However, the Scriptures urge that you do want to be left behind—again, you don’t want to be in the company of the wicked who are “taken” to experience wrathful judgment. The thing is, when it comes to the Left Behind dynasty and their faulty rapture theology, there are many more problems. In the next several posts, I am going to expose and lay them bare. Still, it goes without saying that this is a fad that we must reject; it distorts and misrepresents the Bible and the Christian faith.

You know that when passages of Scripture that a company founds itself on are misinterpreted, that is a sure sign that they ought to be question (and probably not trusted). Thus, it is high time to leave behind Left Behind. After all, I don’t want to be in the company of the wicked who are taken away to experience harsh judgment, instead, I want to dwell here, with God on the New Earth. In short, I, like Noah and the author of the Gospel according to Matthew, want to be left behind.

3 comments

Clay | June 27, 2007 at 2:25 AM

Michael,
I'm no Left Behind fan, and I realize you're just getting started with your teaching here, but what about Matthew 24:30-31?

30 And then the sign of the Son of man will appear in heaven; then, too, all the peoples of the earth will beat their breasts; and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet to gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

Obviously they see Christ coming "in/on the clouds" and it is "the elect" who are gathered--a group I most definitely want to be among.

Would you mind speaking to that?

T Michael W Halcomb | June 27, 2007 at 9:20 AM

Clay
See part 3 of this series, it deals with exactly what you're referring to.
Good thoughts.

John | June 30, 2007 at 7:07 PM

Is it okay to also point out that Left Behind is a profoundly badly written book? I mean just in the craft of writing alone. There aren't many books in which I say "I could have written better than that", but Left Behind is one of them. The authors desperately needed to hire a speculative fiction writer, like William R. Forschten, as a consultant on how to write speculative fiction.

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