Left Behind (series)

Left Behind (series)

Infobox Novel series
name = Left Behind
books = The Rising, The Regime, The Rapture, Left Behind, Tribulation Force, Nicolae, Soul Harvest, Apollyon, Assassins, The Indwelling, The Mark, Desecration, The Remnant, Armageddon, Glorious Appearing, Kingdom Come
author = Tim LaHaye Jerry B. Jenkins

image_caption =
title_orig =
translator =
illustrator =
cover_artist =
country = United States
language = English
genre = Christian novels
publisher =
pub_date = 1995 – 2007
english_pub_date =
media_type = Print (Hardback & Paperback)
preceded_by =
followed_by =

'Left Behind' is a series of 16 best-selling novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, dealing with Christian dispensationalist End Times: pretribulation, premillennial, Christian eschatological viewpoint of the end of the world. The primary conflict of the series is the members of the Tribulation Force against the Global Community and its leader Nicolae Carpathia—the Antichrist. "Left Behind" is also the title of the first book in the series. It is published by Tyndale House, a firm with a history of interest in dispensationalism.

Plot summary

Based on dispensationalist interpretation of prophecies in the Biblical books of Revelation, Isaiah and Ezekiel, "Left Behind" tells the story of the end times, in which many have been "raptured," leaving the world shattered and chaotic. As people scramble for answers, a Romanian politician named Nicolae Jetty Carpathia rises to become secretary-general of the United Nations, promising to restore peace and stability to all nations. What most of the world does not realize is that Carpathia is actually the Antichrist foretold from the Bible. Coming to grips with the truth and becoming born-again Christians, Rayford Steele, his daughter Chloe, their pastor Bruce Barnes, and young journalist Cameron "Buck" Williams begin their quest as the Tribulation Force to help save the lost and prepare for the coming Tribulation, in which God will rain down judgment on the world for seven years.


The books have sold very well in the United States, many topping "The New York Times" list of bestsellers. In 1998, the first four books of the series held the top four slots simultaneously, [http://www.catholic.com/library/false_profit.asp Catholic Answers Special Report: False Profit: Money, Prejudice, and Bad Theology in Tim LaHaye’s "Left Behind" Series"] ] despite the fact that the New York Times' Bestseller's list does not take Christian bookstore sales into account. Book 10 debuted at number one on this list. Total sales for the series have surpassed 65 million copies. Seven titles in the adult series have reached #1 on the bestseller lists for The New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly.Left Behind Series, [http://www.leftbehind.com Leftbehind.com Official Website of the Book Series] , Retrieved on September 8, 2007]

One reason often cited for the books' popularity is the quick pacing and action. Michelle Goldberg has written that, "On one level, the attraction of the Left Behind books isn't that much different from that of, say, Tom Clancy or Stephen King. The plotting is brisk and the characterizations Manichean. People disappear and things blow up."Michelle Goldberg. " [http://dir.salon.com/story/books/feature/2002/07/29/left_behind/index.html Fundamentally unsound] ". "Salon.com". July 29, 2002.] The "New York Times" also compared the series to Clancy's works. [Tim LaHaye, Jerry B. Jenkins, and Sandi Swanson. "The Authorized Left Behind Handbook". Tyndale House Publishers. 2005. p. 336.] But those views are not universally shared. Other reviewers have called the series "almost laughably tedious" and "fatuous and boring."Robert Dreyfuss. " [http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/5939999/reverend_doomsday/ Reverend Doomsday: According to Tim LaHaye, the Apocalypse is now] ". "Rolling Stone". Jan. 28, 2004.] Gordon Haber. " [http://www.nysun.com/article/681 The Ministry of Fear] ". "New York Sun". Aug. 23, 2004.]

In 2007 the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) recognized the Left Behind Series at its CBA & ECPA Awards Celebration in Atlanta, Georgia with the ECPA Pinnacle Award. ECPA President Mark Kuyper said, "In many ways this series established Christian fiction as a significant category in publishing in general." Jerry Falwell said about the first book in the series: "In terms of its impact on Christianity, it's probably greater than that of any other book in modern times, outside the Bible." [ [http://www.time.com/time/covers/1101050207/photoessay/15.html Time magazine. Accessed 2007-9-8] ]

The popularity of this series has spilled over beyond the Americas and the English-speaking world. It has been translated to many languages including Chinese and Japanese. There is, however, a protracted lag in translation; as of September 2005, the Chinese version of Book 11 is in the press and the Japanese version of Book 6 has been published.

In other areas, such as Europe—where dispensationalism is largely non-existent—the books have been far less successful.

Influences on the authors

LaHaye and Jenkins cite the influence of Russell S. Doughten, an Iowan film-maker who directed a series of four low-budget feature-length films in the 1970s and 1980s about the Rapture and Second Coming. The films' popularity among Christians have led to increased study and speculation as to the events described in the Book of Revelation.

Crawford Gribben has shown that there were successful rapture fiction novels as early as 1913, with some earlier works identified as dating from 1905. Of the former, Sydney Watson's "Scarlet and Purple" (1913), "The Mark of the Beast" (1915) and "In the Twinkling of an Eye" are cited as examples of the genre.


In an article enquiring into the series' popularity, "Salon" magazine writer Michelle Goldberg described what she believed was one of the series' attractions:"On one level, the attraction of the "Left Behind" books isn't that much different from that of, say, Tom Clancy or Stephen King. The plotting is brisk and the characterizations Manichean." [http://www.salon.com/books/feature/2002/07/29/left_behind/ Salon.com: Fundamentally unsound] ] However, she considered the books to be an attack on Judaism and liberal secularism, and pointed out that the near-future "end times" the books are set in seem to reflect the actual worldview of millions of Americans, including many prominent conservative leaders.

The series has been criticized for the poor depiction of the pantheist and universalist belief that the Enigma Babylon World Religion indicates, which has overtones of Hinduism and Buddhism.

In 2004, episode #1-04 of Penn & Teller's TV show "Bullshit!" focused on the "end of the world" phenomenon, following centuries of incorrect prophecy. The show explained that Bible prophecy is nothing new, and that the vague descriptions in the book of Revelation can apply to almost any location at any time. The "Left Behind" series was featured, and Jerry B. Jenkins was interviewed. Jenkins stated, "In my mind, in a way, we are sales people for the Gospel." He continued, "People say money is the root of all evil, and actually it's the love of money that's the root of all evil. So there is nothing wrong with money if you use it right." The host, Penn Jillette, responded in voiceover, "What's the story on money if you get it by creating an irrational fear in people?"

The Slacktivist blog is notable for analyzing the first book at a rate of a few pages every week. [http://slacktivist.typepad.com/slacktivist/left_behind/ slacktivist: Left Behind ] ] From the perspective of a non-dispensationalist evangelical Christian, it generally criticizes the books for poor writing, bad biblical scholarship and for presenting an unflattering view of God.Fact|date=October 2007

The series has also been accused of plagiarizing. [http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/2001/0109fea3.asp Catholic.com: Recycled Rapture] ] One website states that:"These similarities [with earlier novel "666"] are noteworthy, I think, for a couple of reasons. The first has to do with Lahaye’s claim of originality for his series of books. In an interview in the March 28, 2000 issue of the Assembly of God magazine "Pentecostal evangel", [http://www.ag.org/pentecostal-evangel/articles/conversations/4490_LaHaye.cfm Pentecostal evangel: Conversation with Tim LaHaye - Prophecy-based fiction] ] he insists that "Left Behind" is the first fictional portrayal of events that are true to the literal interpretation of Bible prophecy. It was written for anyone who loves gripping fiction featuring believable characters, a dynamic plot that also weaves prophetic events in a fascinating story."

Christian criticisms

From premillennialists

Origins of the Rapture seems to have been invented by an Anglo-Irish religious figure named John Nelson Darby(1800-1882). He was ordained in the Church of Ireland and worked there to convert Catholics. He joined a dissident group called the Plymouth Brethren and became a prominent leader. Around 1830 he began teaching that Jesus' coming at the end of times would be preceded by a "rapture of saints." Some members of his own Brethren community objected that this was not biblically founded, but Darby dismissed their criticism since he claimed that the rapture had been revealed to him by God. Eventually he would distance himself from the Brethern group and travel Europe, United States, and Canada from 1860-1870 spreading his views on the rapture. Given Darby's hatred of Catholics, his influence on Protestants add an ironic touch. While speculation about the end of the world is as old as Christianity, this particular scenario is not; in fact, the preaching of the rapture is not yet 200 years old.

Some premillennialists, while accepting many of the basic beliefs behind the series, describe problems with specific prophetical teachings in the "Left Behind" books. For instance, in "The Mark", Chang Wong receives both the mark of the beast and the sealing of the Lord and he is later able to go to heaven, despite having the mark. In "Desecration", the character's dual-marking was justified in the storyline. He was saved because he did not accept the mark of the beast; he was forced to receive it because he was involuntarily put to sleep and then given it. This has led some readers to wonder how a Christian can have the mark of the beast and still be saved, which many readers voiced on the "Left Behind" messageboard, [http://www.rapidnet.com/~jbeard/bdm/exposes/lahaye/general.htm Tim & Beverly LaHaye: General Teachings/Activities] ] and which was answered on the FAQ page at LeftBehind.com. [http://www.leftbehind.com/channelhelpinfo.asp?pageid=186&channelID=93 LeftBehind.com - General FAQs] ]

Mainstream Christianity

Along with some other rapture fiction novels, the "Left Behind" series demonstrates a different understanding of the gospel and the Christian life than that taught within the historic orthodoxy of evangelical Protestantism. Most Christians deny the key eschatological beliefs underpinning the plotline and the books have not sold particularly well outside of the United States.Rob Boston. " [http://www.au.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5601 If Best-Selling End-Times Author Tim LaHaye Has His Way, Church-State Separation Will Be... Left Behind] ". Americans United for Separation of Church and State. February 2002.] Dispensationalism remains a minority view among theologians.Dart, John. " [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1058/is_20_119/ai_92589345 'Beam me up' theology--The Debate Over 'Left Behind'] ". "Christian Century". Sept. 25, 2002.] For instance, amillenial and postmillenial Christians do not believe in the same timeline of the Second Coming as premillennialists, while preterist Christians do not interpret the Book of Revelation to predict future events at all. Brian McLaren, a self-appointed spokesperson of the Emergent Church, compares the "Left Behind" series to "The Da Vinci Code", and states, "What the "Left Behind" novels do, the way they twist scripture toward a certain theological and political end, I think [Dan Brown| [Dan] Brown] is twisting scripture, just to other political ends. But at the end of the day, the difference is I don't think Brown really cares that much about theology." "Brian McLaren on the Da Vinci Code"; Sojourners Magazine] John Dart, writing in "Christian Century" characterized the works as "beam me up theology."


Some practicing Christians, evangelical and otherwise, along with nonchristians have shown concern that the social perspectives promoted in the "Left Behind" series unduly sensationalize the death and destruction of masses of people. Harvey Cox, a professor of divinity at Harvard, says part of the appeal of the books lies in the "lip-licking anticipation of all the blood," and theologian Barbara Rossing, author of "The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation", said the books glorify violence.John W. Whitehead. " [http://www.rutherford.org/Oldspeak/Articles/Religion/oldspeak-worldwar3.asp God So Loved the World that He Gave Us World War III] ". "OldSpeak". July 1, 2004.] "Time" magazine said "the nuclear frights of, say, Tom Clancy's "The Sum of All Fears" wouldn't fill a chapter in the Left Behind series. (Large chunks of several U.S. cities have been bombed to smithereens by page 110 of Book 3.)"John Cloud and Rancho Mirage. " [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,265422,00.html?iid=chix-sphere Meet the Prophet] ". "Time". June 23, 2002.]

More than one critic has pointed to a passage in "Glorious Appearing" in which Jesus, who is portrayed as a lamb in the Book of Revelation, slaughters millions of people:

The riders not thrown leaped from their horses and tried to control them with the reins, but even as they struggled, their own flesh dissolved, their eyes melted, and their tongues disintegrated. As Rayford watched, the soldiers stood briefly as skeletons in now-baggy uniforms, then dropped in heaps of bones as the blinded horses continued to fume and rant and rave.

Seconds later the same plague afflicted the horses, their flesh and eyes and tongues melting away, leaving grotesque skeletons standing, before they too rattled to the pavement. (pp. 273-274)

One Christian accused the authors of re-sacralizing violence, adding that "we human beings are the ones who put our faith in superior firepower. But in the Left Behind novels the darkness of that human, satanic violence is once again attributed to God." [" [http://girardianlectionary.net/res/left_behind_resacralizing_violence.htm Re-Sacralizing Violence in the "Left Behind" Books] ". May 18, 2004.] In that same book Jesus merely speaks and the bodies of his enemies are ripped open, forcing the Christians to drive carefully to avoid "hitting splayed and filleted bodies of men and women and horses."Nicholas D. Kristof. " [http://www.nytimes.com/2004/07/17/opinion/17KRIS.html?ex=1247803200&en=b9eee1a2743a902b&ei=5090%20#%20http://www.nytimes.com/2004/07/17/opinion/17KRIS.html?ex=1247803200&en=b9eee1a2743a902b&ei=5090%20#%20http://www.nytimes.com/2004/07/17/opinion/17KRIS.html?ex=1247803200&en=b9eee1a2743a902b&ei=5090 Jesus and Jihad] ". "New York Times". July 17, 2004.]


The series makes no secret of its Protestant-style view of Christianity. As a result some believe the books are Anti-Catholic, noting that many Catholics were not "raptured." The book says that many "who called themselves Catholics" but did not truly believe in Jesus were not raptured, but it does not mention the proportion who were. While the fictional Pope, John XXIV, was raptured, he is described as having embraced some of the views of the "Father of Protestantism" Martin Luther, implying that he was raptured for this reason. His successor, Pope Peter II, becomes Pontifex Maximus of Enigma Babylon One World Faith, an amalgamation of all remaining world faiths and religions. Jimmy Akin, writing for Catholic Answers, details the series as anti-Catholic, a view also held by other Catholics. [http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/2000/0011fea2.asp Catholic.com - No Rapture for Rome] ] However on page 343 of Book 10, "The Remnant", most of a Catholic church is raptured, similar to Tribulation Force's situation with their Protestant church."He and some of his friends from childhood raced to their little Catholic church, where hardly anyone was left.".


"Note: The books are listed initially in story-line (chronological) order but then numbered in order of publication."


Further reading

*Forbes, Bruce David and Jeanne Halgren Kilde (eds.), "Rapture, Revelation, and the End Times: Exploring the Left Behind Series". New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. ISBN 1-4039-6525-0
*Frykholm, Amy Johnson. "Rapture Culture: Left Behind in Evangelical America". Oxford University Press, 2004. ISBN 0-19-515983-7
*Reed, David A., "LEFT BEHIND Answered Verse by Verse". Morrisville, NC: Lulu.com, 2008. ISBN 1-4357-0873-3
*Rossing, Barbara R., "The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation", New York: Basic Books, 2004. ISBN 0-8133-4314-3
*Shuck, Glenn W.. "Marks Of The Beast: The Left Behind Novels And The Struggle For Evangelical Identity". New York University Press, 2004. ISBN 0-8147-4005-7
*Gribben, Crawford, "Rapture Fiction and the Evangelical Crisis". Evangelical Press, 2006. ISBN 0-85234-610-7.
*Snow Flesher, LeAnn, "Left Behind? The Facts Behind the Fiction". Valley Forge, Judson Press, 2006. ISBN 0-8170-1490-X

External links

* [http://www.leftbehind.com Official website]
* [http://www.oneplace.com/special/left_behind/ Archive of Left Behind radio shows] in Real Audio
* [http://www.eternalforces.com Eternal Forces.com Official Game site]
* [http://supernovawiki.com/Religion_in_Science_Fiction Religion in Science Fiction]
* [http://www.nytimes.com/2004/07/17/opinion/17KRIS.html?ex=1247803200&en=b9eee1a2743a902b&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Jesus and Jihad] , "The New York Times," July 17, 2004
* [http://www.nytimes.com/2004/11/24/opinion/24kristof.html?ex=1259038800&en=c982a8d18d38c2c4&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Apocalypse (Almost) Now] , "The New York Times," November 24, 2004
* [http://www.slate.com/id/2131365/nav/tap1/ Slate reviews the three Left Behind DVDs]
* [http://www.catholicconferenceofillinois.org/bins/site/wrappers/default.asp?pane_2=cci-pages-tyndale Statement from the Catholic Conference of Illinois]
* [http://www.lcms.org/graphics/assets/media/CTCR/LeftBehind.pdf A response from the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (PDF)]
* [http://www.met-uk.org/met/article.php?cat=general&id=166&PHPSESSID=8ad757ca16cf2787c16b37cc03b3b1ce "Has real hope been left behind" by Dr. Stephen Travis] Methodist Evangelicals Together, Jan. 2005
* [http://www.nationalministries.org/front_center_left_behind.cfm "Left Behind?: The Facts Behind the Fiction, Exposes errors of Pop-Theology] National Ministries, American Baptist Churches
* [http://www.trinitywallstreet.org/onlinetv/?portal&video=432 Barbara Rossing interview] ELCA Lutheran Professor Lecture

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Left Behind — The Rising, The Regime, The Rapture, Left Behind, Tribulation Force, Nicolae, Soul Harvest, Apollyon, Assassins, The Indwelling, The Mark, Desecration, The Remnant, Armageddon, Glorious Appearing, Kingdom Come Author Tim LaHaye Jerry B. Jenkins… …   Wikipedia

  • Left Behind (disambiguation) — Left Behind may refer to: * Left Behind , a novel by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. * Left Behind (series), a book series. * Left Behind (TV series), an unaired television series. * , a film. * , a real time strategy game for Microsoft Windows… …   Wikipedia

  • Left Behind (Lost) — Infobox Television episode | Title = Left Behind Series = Lost Caption = Season = 3 Episode = 15 Airdate = April 4, 2007 Production = 315 Writer = Damon Lindelof Elizabeth Sarnoff Director = Karen Gaviola Guests = Kim Dickens Beth Broderick… …   Wikipedia

  • Left Behind (TV series) — Left Behind: The TV Series was a project planned by Cloud Ten Pictures, for airing on the PAX Television network in the United States.While NBC (one of PAX s partners) wanted to tell the story as it was written in the Left Behind novels, Cloud… …   Wikipedia

  • Left Behind Games — Inc. (OTCBB:FNGP) is an American public corporation, engaging in the development and publishing of video game products based on the bestselling Left Behind book series for audiences in North America, Asia, and Europe. The company is based in… …   Wikipedia

  • List of Left Behind Characters — This a list of characters in the 16 books of the Left Behind series Contents 1 Rayford Steele 2 Cameron ( Buck ) Williams 3 Chloe Steele Williams 4 Tsion Ben Judah …   Wikipedia

  • The Rapture (Left Behind) — infobox Book | name = The Rapture title orig = translator = image caption = First edition edition author = Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins illustrator = cover artist = country = United States language = English series = Left Behind series genre …   Wikipedia

  • The Rising (Left Behind) — infobox Book | name = The Rising: Before They Were Left Behind image caption = Hardback 1st prequel cover author = Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins country = United States language = English cover artist = genre = Christian, Speculative Fiction,… …   Wikipedia

  • The Regime (Left Behind) — infobox Book | name = The Regime title orig = translator = image caption = First edition edition author = Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins illustrator = cover artist = country = United States language = English series = Left Behind series genre =… …   Wikipedia

  • Nicolae High (Left Behind: The Kids) — Nicolae High (Left Behind: The Kids #5)   Author(s) Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye …   Wikipedia