Left Behind . . . Forever?
An airline pilot relaxes in the cockpit
as his Boeing 747 flies over the Atlantic toward London's Heathrow airport. But at
the moment his mind isn't on flying. It's on his gorgeous senior flight attendant, for
whom he feels a powerful physical attraction.
Suddenly he has to see her. Now.
Leaving his first officer in charge of the plane, he exits
the cockpit. But what he finds is the last thing he'd expected. She grabs him, claws at
his arms, presses her face into his chest. She's weeping, terrified. "People are
missing! Just gone!"
The pilot is incredulous, but a few moments of checking persuade
him that it's true. People are screaming, leaping from their seats, trying to find their
missing friends and loved ones.
He knows what's happened: The rapture.
And he's been left behind!
What you just read is a summary of the opening
scene in a Christian novel that has now been turned into a film. Both the book and the
film are called Left Behind. And both have been making waves in conservative
Christian circles in recent months. 1
The pilot knows what happened because his Christian wife had been
telling him about the rapture, urging him to get right with God. Now he's
terrified-especially when he goes home and finds his wife and son missing too!
The pilot calls his wife's church, only to find that the pastor
and most of the members have also disappeared. However; a distraught church member who
realizes he too has been left behind lends the pilot a videotape that the pastor recorded
prior to his "departure."
The pilot plugs the tape into his VCR and watches as the pastor
explains what has happened. Then the pastor says, "It doesn't make any difference, at
this point, why you're still on earth.... The point now is, you have another chance. Don't
miss it." 2
The rapture theory
This story is based on the theory that the Christian church
will be "raptured" (taken out of the world) to heaven seven years prior to the
second coming of Christ. This theory became very popular in conservative Christian circles
during the last half of the twentieth century.
While we at Signs of the Times® Signs of the Times® respect people of all persuasions, we disagree with the rapture theory. The
consistent message of the Bible is that Jesus will return for His people once, not twice.
Speaking of His second coming, Jesus said:
The sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations
of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky,
with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they
will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. 3
These two verses describe Jesus coming in the
clouds "with power and great glory." His appearance at that time will be visible
to the entire world, including the wicked, because "all the nations" will see
Him and the wicked "will mourn." His coming will also be audible: He will come
with a loud trumpet call. This is the time when God's people all over the world will be
gathered together to live with Jesus. There is no way this can be anything other than the
The rapture is not supposed to be visible or audible.
Nevertheless, a passage in 1 Thessalonians that is said to apply to the rapture is similar
in several important respects to the description above that Jesus gave of His second
According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still
alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have
fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with
the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will
rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together
with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be forever with the
For an event that's not supposed to be audible
or visible, what 1 Thessalonians describes is very noisy: "a loud command,"
"the voice of the archangel," and "the trumpet call of God."
From beginning to end in Left Behind there's not a
word about any loud command of God, voice of the archangel, or trumpet call of God. And
there's not a word about clouds in the sky. The people who are raptured simply disappear.
Jesus said the wicked will be in despair at or during His coming, which means they
will be aware of it as it happens. But in Left Behind, people are totally
unaware of His coming till it's all over.
A second chance?
However; the most disturbing suggestion in Left
Behind is the idea that there will be a second chance at salvation. There
isn't a word anywhere in the Bible about anyone getting a second chance.
This point is perhaps best illustrated by several of Jesus'
parables about the end of the world. In the parable of the wheat and the weeds, the
farmhands ask the farmer if he wants them to pull up the weeds. The farmer tells them to
let the wheat and the weeds grow together till the harvest, lest in pulling up the weeds
they pull up the wheat also.
Jesus explained that "the harvest is the end of the
world," 5 when the angels "will weed out of his kingdom... all who do
evil." 6 There's not a word about a second chance for those who missed
the first one.
In another parable, fishermen collect the good fish in a
basket and throw away the bad ones. Jesus compared this to the end of the world when
"the angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous." 7 There's
not a word about a second chance for those who missed the first one.
And the parable of the sheep and the goats indicates that
Jesus will "separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep
from the goats." 8 There's not a word about a second chance for those
who missed the first one.
We consider the theory of a second chance to be extremely
dangerous because it suggests that if people miss the rapture, they'll still have a chance
at salvation between then and the Second Coming. This theory tempts people to live as they
please until the second chance comes around.
But if there is no second chance, then those who've put off
getting right with God will discover that they've waited too long and they'll be among
those who Jesus said "will mourn" at His second coming.
We'd hate to see this happen to any of the readers of Signs of
the Times! That's why we urge you to think carefully about the theology that
underlies the book and the film Left Behind.
1While the hook Left Behind was published several
years ago, interest in it has surged as a result of the recent release of the film and the
publicity associated with it.
2Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, Left Behind (Wheaton, Ill.:
Tyndale House Publishers, 1995), 214.
3Mattbew 24:30,31. 41 Thessalonians 4:15-17. 5Matthew
13:39, KJV. 6Verse 40, NIV.
7Matthew 13:47-50. 8Matthew 25:32.
· Marvin Moore is editor of Signs of the TimesMarvin Moore is editor of Signs of the Times®.
· March 2001 · Signs of the Times® p. 8, 9.