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
worshipthe 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
Antichristput forth between AD 1580 and 1595invented 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 (Jude 13) 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 sinwe
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 Christfaithful 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 destroyednot 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.
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!