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THE TRUTH BEHIND LEFT BEHIND
By Mark Hitchcock Thomas Ice
Multnomah Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2004 Mark Hitchcock and Thomas Ice
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTHE TRUTH BEHIND THE FICTION
The Left Behind series has enjoyed an incredible run in the publishing world.
Talk about understatement!
Left Behind has blown the lid off previous publishing records. It has been wildly successful. It's not just the new standard in the world of fiction; it's its own standard. And the juggernaut shows no signs of slowing down.
Millions of readers can't wait for the next installment. They mark the release date on their calendars and wait with eager anticipation-even prebuying the book weeks before it hits the shelves. They look forward to rejoining the story and continuing the breathtaking journey through the book of Revelation and the major events of the end times.
As you might well imagine, the success of the series has brought out two distinct and very different responses: one positive and one negative. This book was written to address both of these responses.
Beyond all doubt, the Left Behind series has led many people to assess or reassess their relationship to Jesus Christ. Authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins have received thousands of accounts of people trusting Jesus Christ as their personal Savior from reading these books. At the same time, the series has also aroused a renewed interest in study of the end times-much as Hal Lindsay did with his milestone book The Late Great Planet Earth back in the early seventies. People who read the books are left wanting to know more about the climactic final days of our world as prophesied in the Bible.
Haven't you wondered, after reading these books, what the Bible really says about the final days of our world? Wouldn't you like to know more about the fact behind the fiction? Wouldn't it be great to know more about the Rapture, the Antichrist, the mark of the beast, and the future city of New Babylon?
If so, then this book is for you. One of our key reasons for writing this book was to provide the readers of the Left Behind books with more information on what the Bible says about God's plan for the ages. After all, everybody knows that Bible prophecy can sometimes (to put it modestly) be a bit confusing. Many sincere and diligent students of the Bible experience difficulty in attempting to sort it all out. This is where The Truth Behind Left Behind comes in. We wrote this book with you in mind, to help you gain a deeper understanding of the end times-and how some of the key persons, places, and events fit together.
But there is another reason for this book as well. Even though the Left Behind series has engaged millions of readers worldwide, a handful of well-placed critics have been calling into question the whole premise of these books. As we will see in the coming pages, these detractors are claiming that both the stories and the theology of the series are nothing but fiction.
We take strong issue with such attacks.
And we want to show you why.
We all know that when something-anything-enjoys great success, it will inevitably stir up some controversy. That's just the nature of things. Success always brings a swarm of critics. Detractors immediately begin lining up to take their best shot.
The Left Behind phenomenon is certainly no exception. People have criticized the series from every angle-even going so far as to question the intentions and motives of the authors and publisher.
If you think we're exaggerating, just go on-line and search for "Left Behind," "fiction," and other related words. You'll find dozens of articles and reviews attacking the fiction, faith, and alleged faulty end times theology of the series.
But the most steady, sustained, serious criticism has come from those who say that the entire series is based on fiction. Of course, the series is fictional; what we have here are immensely entertaining stories. But what the critics mean is that the whole end time view of the series is nothing but fiction-that the future events portrayed in the story are completely fabricated and unbiblical.
In the last few years, numerous books, papers, and articles have tried to chip away at the very foundation of the series. They have leveled strong attacks on the entire theology or end time view that undergirds these books.
Among the detractors of Left Behind are some of the major Protestant denominations, such as the Presbyterian Church USA, Seventh-day Adventists, and some fundamental Baptists. Left Behind has also been strongly condemned by Roman Catholics as "anti-Catholic." Roman Catholics have stated clearly, "We don't believe in the rapture."
Additionally, numerous books have been written with the express purpose of critiquing or in some cases even mocking the Left Behind view of the end times or some aspect of it.
Some of the better known books include:
End Times Fiction: A Biblical Consideration of the Left Behind Theology (Gary DeMar, Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2001).
Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"? A Catholic Critique of the Rapture and Today's Prophecy Preachers (Carl E. Olson, Ft. Collins, CO: Ignatius, 2003).
The Rapture Trap: A Catholic Response to "End Times" Fever (Paul Thigpen, West Chester, PA: Ascension, 2001).
The Left Behind Deception: Revealing Dangerous Errors About the Rapture and the Antichrist (Steve Wohlberg, Ft. Worth, TX: Texas Media Center, 2001).
IRAQ: Babylon of the End-Times? (C. Marvin Pate and J. Daniel Hays, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 2003).
I Want to Be Left Behind (Ted Noel, Maitland, FL: BibleOnly Press, 2002).
I Want to Be "Left Behind": An Examination of the Ideas Behind the Popular Series and the End Times (Tim Kirk, Campbell, CA: Writers Club Press, 2002).
Since the end time view of Left Behind is the foundation of the entire series, we believe these criticisms need to be addressed. Otherwise the credibility of these powerful volumes could be seriously undermined. After reading some of these critiques, people might be left wondering....
Have the authors totally misread and misunderstood Revelation?
Is the Left Behind view of the end times unbiblical? Is there really going to be a rapture?
Will millions truly be left behind?
Does the Bible actually say that there will be a future, terrible time of tribulation?
Will there be a future person called Antichrist who will rule the world? Will people really have to take the mark of the beast or die?
Can people be saved after the Rapture?
An undiscerning acceptance of the criticisms of Left Behind could easily lead unsuspecting readers to view the series just like any other New York Times fiction bestseller. It could take the cutting edge off the overriding message of the books-the need to receive Jesus Christ by faith as your Savior from sin before it's too late. It could even cause many who have believed the gospel from reading these books to entertain serious doubts. To wonder if it's all just fiction.
We don't want this to happen.
The purpose of this book is to take a fresh look at the end time view presented in the Left Behind series-and to demonstrate that it is firmly supported by both God's Word and church history. We want to make it clear at the outset that we harbor no ill feelings toward those who disagree with our view. We aren't writing this book because we dislike any person or group who has criticized Left Behind. Our purpose is not to condemn or make fun of the views of others, but rather to present what we believe is the biblical view of the end times in light of the mounting criticisms that have come against those teachings.
To accomplish this purpose, we want to take you step-by-step through the key events presented in the Left Behind series and show you what some of the critics are saying. Following this, we will offer biblical and historical support for the Left Behind view of the end times. In order to keep the book more reader-friendly, we have tried to put most of the technical information in endnotes. Feel free to take your time and read the endnotes as you go. We think the information there will help you understand the background for much of what we have to say.
Here are some of the major events we will consider in this book:
the pretribulational Rapture
the coming Russian/Islamic invasion of Israel
the future seven-year Tribulation
salvation during the Tribulation period
666-the mark of the beast
the city of New Babylon
While Left Behind is a fictional series, we believe that the key events in the book are anything but fiction. In fact, this series proves the maxim that truth is stranger than fiction. Jenkins and LaHaye have told a story that has gripped and captivated a massive audience. But as incredible and enthralling as that story might be, the real events themselves-when they are unfolded in the end times-will eclipse anything people could imagine in their wildest dreams ... or nightmares. We firmly believe that the basic end time events in the Left Behind series will transpire someday. Perhaps very soon.
A LEFT BEHIND COMPANION
It's very possible that many of you who have picked up this book don't really know much or care much about the criticism of Left Behind. You've read the books, and all you want to do is take a more in-depth look at the truth behind the fiction. Maybe you would like to see the biblical evidence for the events in Left Behind laid out in a clear, easy-to-read format.
In either case-whether you have a strong interest in answering the Left Behind critics, or just want a concise primer on prophetic events-this book is for you. Our desire is for you to use this book as a kind of companion or support for the series. Our prayer is that God will use it to demonstrate and to confirm to the millions of faithful readers that the end time view presented in Left Behind is true, valid, and trustworthy. In other words, that it squares solidly with the Bible.
More than anything, we don't want the gripping, life-changing truth of the imminent, any-moment coming of Jesus Christ to get left behind.
So join us now, as we begin to look at The Truth Behind Left Behind. May God use it to give you greater confidence in Him, His Word, and His great plan for the end of this age ... and the beginning of the next.
As you will see, this plan has already begun to unfold.
Great events are just ahead.
Perhaps closer than any of us have imagined.
Excerpted from THE TRUTH BEHIND LEFT BEHIND by Mark Hitchcock Thomas Ice Copyright © 2004 by Mark Hitchcock and Thomas Ice. Excerpted by permission.
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