On December 31st, 1995 Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins kicked off the Left Behind series with its first book of the same name. Since then, the series has been critically acclaimed and has made multiple appearances on the New York Times Bestseller List.
When I was younger, these books fascinated me and the movies that ensued were sensational! They highlighted what reality was to look like when the Church was raptured, and people were *Gasp*-
But looking back, I wonder how these books impacted Christian culture. Because yes, it is true that the Rapture will take the Church away and will begin an age of tribulation. However, for many, this truth has been used to alter and or subvert the Gospel of Assurance by Jesus Christ, with a form of a gospel that plummets the human spirit into turmoil and fear, always asking the question-
“Am I a true believer?”
Granted, the Bible does have ways to gauge this question but in matters of eternity, fear should not overcome God’s desire for a watchful spirit.
When the fear is in being left behind, we place more stock in the things that happen during tribulation than the God who institutes it to draw those who He loves back to Himself.
Jesus has a rule of thumb regarding this. He preaches,
“And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
To the Church I say this. Do not fear. We will not be there in the trial; we will be with our Savior. If you believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, you are sealed and can have assurance for the Spirit of God bears witness (Romans 8:16-19; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Ephesians 1:13-14).
From the moment of your belief, your responsibility is now to keep watch. To reach out while looking up.
As for the timing of Jesus’s coming to take His Church, it is uncertain. Nonetheless, uncertainty of timing should not equal uncertainty of His coming. God is certain of the timing and therefore He is coming (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). Have faith (2 Corinthians 5:7).
Augustine of Hippo once wrote,
“Uncertainty then as to the time of the Lord’s return is to promote the watchful spirit.”
Paul wrote to Titus that,
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,
Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;”
Notice a pattern here. Saved (On Earth). Live. Look. Saved (To Heaven).
Moving on, I have another word to Christians. Preach salvation for all today and not salvation for tomorrow.
The Left Behind series is told from the perspective of people who were, well… Left behind. The Church had gone to glory. Share the glory of God, for God desires a relationship with all and Heaven’s population to increase more than He desires to pour out wrath. A healthy relationship is centered in love, grace, and truth.
Entering this relationship with God and maintaining it out of crippling fear, is not ideal or healthy for maturation of new believers.
Therefore, share grace (Ephesians 2:8-9).