As careful students of the Word of God it is our responsibility to Prove all things. We have the great privilege of receiving the Truth from God in the Bible. Any teachings that are presented to us must be harmonized with this Divinely appointed authority. The Left Behind series has enjoyed unprecedented popularity. The authors of the Left Behind series openly admit that their writings are not fact, but FICTION. The important question for each of us is: what does the Bible teach on this subject?
The Bible is Good News (the literal meaning of the word Gospel). The Scriptures teach that God is love and that His compassions fail not. (1 John 4:16; Lam. 3:22) How do we harmonize these inspired statements of the Bible with the overly dramatic and sadistic views of end time prophecy presented in the Left Behind series? The two cannot be harmonized. Which God should we worship—the Bible God who is loving and compassionate or the fictional God who is cruel and unsympathetic? The fictional account portrays a God who battles for the souls of men, but who is essentially powerless against the superior skills of a superhuman Antichrist. The Bible account portrays a God who spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast. (Psa. 33:9) Thus saith the Lord: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. (Isa. 55:11) God our Saviour; will have all men to be saved, and to come unto [an accurate] knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim. 2:3,4) No one will be left behind in the True Story of Salvation. All men will have an opportunity to come unto an accurate knowledge of the truth.
The historic Protestant teaching expounded by Luther, Calvin, Wesley and many others was that Antichrist is not an individual but rather a church-state system. The Catholic Jesuit Counter Reformation concept of the Antichrist—put forth between AD 1580 and 1595—invented the concept of a one-man Antichrist.
Much misunderstanding on the subject of the Antichrist comes from insisting on a literal interpretation of highly symbolic language found in the book of Revelation. Many Bible scholars, including historic Evangelicals like the Baptist giant, John Gill (1697-1771), believed Revelation was indeed symbolic and not literal. Mountains are symbolic of nations (Isa. 2:2-4), stars symbolic of teachers (Jude13) and earthquakes symbolic of revolutions. (Rev. 11:13 KJV margin) The beast is symbolic of Antichrist, which is a church-state system. Rev. 13:1-3
Literal interpretations of these passages ignore the highly symbolic language surrounding end time events. The first resurrection, commonly termed the rapture, is the resurrection of the Church of Christ who have been asleep in their graves and who are awakened at the return of Christ. Because it is the spiritual body that is resurrected, this event is not visible to the human eye. 1Thess. 4:15-18; 1 Cor. 15:35-44
A Compassionate God?
Amidst this series’ depiction of God’s anger for the punishment of sin, the issue of His mercy is briefly addressed. The Left Behind scenario is that children under the age of accountability are spared because of ignorance. (Man’s own compassion cannot abide the thought that innocent children will be sentenced to an eternity of torture for not having had the chance to knowledgeably accept Christ.) But there is nothing in Scripture which exempts children from the condemnation of Adamic sin—we are all born in sin and shapen in iniquity. (Psa. 51:5) If this type of salvation were possible, one should reasonably hope and pray that their children would die before reaching the age of accountability, thereby being guaranteed life in Heaven. Under this very shortsighted interpretation, when children reach adulthood, they have a 60% chance of not accepting Christ and thus, will burn eternally. No, God has a more merciful plan for not only the little children, but also, for all of this poor groaning creation in due time. Rom. 8:19-23
A Due Time for Selecting the Church
and A Due Time for Converting the World
Christ himself stated that the Bible was purposely written in parables and symbols so that the majority would not be converted at this time. Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without all these things are done in parables. That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them. (Mark 4:11-12) If this was the time for all to be converted, why didn’t Jesus give a clear message so that all could have an equal opportunity to understand his words of salvation? If Jesus tasted death for every man (Heb. 2:9), but only a small proportion of the six billion living today is saved, was not the redemption a comparative failure?
The key to understanding these seeming contradictions is found in the words of 1 Timothy 2:6: Jesus Christ, who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. Now is not the time for all to hear the name of Jesus. God is not trying to convert the world between the first and second advents of Christ. If He was, then He has failed. For only one-third of the world’s population even profess to be Christian.
God has not even attempted to convert the world but is only calling and testing a little flock at this time. (Luke 12:32) Acts 15:14-17 reveals that God is visiting the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name (not to convert all). After this I will return and build again the tabernacle of David [set up the kingdom of God]that the remainder of men might seek after the Lord and all the Gentiles.
The due time for the little flock to hear and believe on the name of Jesus is between the first and second advents of Christ. The due time for the remainder of men to hear and believe is in the thousand-year Kingdom of Christ. The little flock or Church of Christ will reign with Christ as kings and priests to bless and judge the world in righteousness. Rev. 20:6; 1 Cor. 6:2; Psa. 96:13
The Bible uses two words to clarify the scope of salvation: all and every. In Luke 2:10 the angel who announced the birth of Jesus said, Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be unto all people. Verses 30 and 31 speak of salvation for all people. I Timothy 4:10 states that God is the savior of all men, specially of those that believe. The Apostle Paul states in 1 Cor. 15:22, As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. Similarly, Romans 5:18 shows that by the offense of one [Adam] judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one [Christ] the free gift came upon all men. Since all were lost in Adam, it was necessary that Jesus by the grace of God should taste death for every man. Hebrews 2:9.
The Rapture: A Scriptural Examination
There are several different definitions used by Christians to describe the doctrine of the rapture. The basic concept of the secret rapture is that Christ will return to earth, unknown to the world, and will take those who have accepted salvation through him up to heaven before the great tribulation. This term rapture does not appear in scripture to describe such an event. The proper concept is described by the Apostle to depict the resurrection of faithful Christians at the second advent of Christ.
To fully understand the events surrounding Christ’s return and the resurrection of his saints, there are certain problems with the common King James translation of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 that must be resolved. For example, in verse 15 Paul states that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. The two troublesome words here are coming and prevent. The Greek word translated coming is parousia, and should be translated presence. The word prevent is the 16th century English word for precede. Thus, the scripture should read: we which are alive and remain unto the presence of the Lord shall not precede them which are asleep. The resurrection of the Church, then, takes place at the Lord’s return with those who have been sleeping in Christ—faithful Christians who have died (slept) before the Lord’s return. These will be taken to heaven first. After the Lord’s return, the remaining Church members are resurrected one by one as they die, but not, as the common theory of the rapture states, all at once, leaving cars driverless or airplanes pilotless to crash.
And what of those who are not taken with Jesus at his return? After the completed Church is resurrected, then Jesus and the Church will begin the resurrection of the world at large who have yet to learn righteousness.
Hope Beyond Armageddon
The Left Behind series concentrates on the tribulation upon the people. The scriptures do speak of a momentous time of trouble coinciding with the return of Christ and culminating in Armageddon. However, the true purpose of Armageddon is to cleanse the earth of the systems of corruption which have been under the control of Satan and his servants. It is important to understand that the corrupt ecclesiastical and civil systems need to be destroyed—not the ignorant people misled by these systems. Every valley [the poor, suffering world of mankind] shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill [kingdoms of this world] shall be made low… (Isa. 40:4) This is not a time to burn billions of possibly good-hearted people because they have not known and accepted Jesus. The conversion of those people is after Armageddon. This leveling destruction will prepare the way for the righteous kingdom of Christ and his Church. Then, under their benevolent reign, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness without the fetters of selfish and oppressive powers. Isa. 26:9
Of this time, 1 Timothy 2:3-4 states, God will have all men to be saved and to come unto the [Greek: accurate] knowledge of the Truth. Christ’s ransom for all guarantees that all who died in Adam will be saved from Adamic death. That is, all will be awakened from the sleep of death and given a full opportunity to learn the Truth of God and His loving character. In the thousand-year kingdom of Christ the earth shall [gradually] be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. (Isa. 11:9) Also Jeremiah 31:34 says, for they shall all know me from the least of them unto the greatest. Verse 29 shows that for the majority of mankind, the kingdom will provide the first full, fair opportunity for salvation. They will no longer die for the inherited sins of their fathers but for their own iniquity (Jeremiah 31:29,30). Jesus’ ransom sacrifice for all guarantees this full and fair opportunity for all. Praise the Lord!