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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 Romanianmarker 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.

Response

In 1998, the first four books of the series held the top four slots simultaneously, 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.

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." The New York Times also compared the series to Clancy's works. But those views are not universally shared. Other reviewers have called the series "almost laughably tedious" and "fatuous and boring."

In 2007 the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) recognized the Left Behind series at its CBA & ECPA Awards Celebration in Atlanta, Georgiamarker 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."

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 Iowanmarker 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.

Criticism

While writing that the series fulfills the norms of mass-market fiction, as mentioned above, magazine writer Michelle Goldberg characterized the books as an attack on Judaism and liberal secularism, and suggested out that the near-future "end times" in which the books are set 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.

The Slacktivist blog is notable for analyzing the series at a rate of a few pages every week.

The series has also been accused of plagiarizing. 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, 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

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. It was noted in one particular paragraph in the book Desecration, after hitting the "motherlode" as he called it, that Chang at one point attempted to mumble to his father that he was a "Believer" as he carried him into the room to receive his mark. This has led some readers to wonder how a Christian can have the mark of the beast and still be saved.

Mainstream Christianity

Along with some other rapture fiction novels, the Left Behind series demonstrates a different understanding of the Gospel and the Christian life from that taught within the historic orthodoxy of evangelical Protestantism which denies the key eschatological beliefs underpinning the plotline . The books have not sold particularly well outside of the United States. Dispensationalism remains a minority view among theologians. 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 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 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." John Dart, writing in Christian Century characterized the works as "beam me up theology".

Violence

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. 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.)"

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)



Paul Nuechterlein 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." 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."

Anti-Catholicism

The books are written from a standpoint of the Protestant-style view of Christianity. As a result some believe the books are Anti-Catholic, noting that many Catholics were not "raptured." 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. However on page 343 of Book 10, The Remnant, most of a Catholic church (including the priest and the catechism teacher) are 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.".

Books

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

Chron Seq. Pub Seq. Title (with subtitle) Pub Date
1 13 The Rising: Antichrist is Born: Before They Were Left Behind 2005
2 14 The Regime: Evil Advances: Before They Were Left Behind #2 2005
3 15 The Rapture: In the Twinkling of an Eye: Countdown to Earth's Last Days #3 2006
4 1 Left Behind: A Novel of the Earth's Last Days 1995
5 2 Tribulation Force: The Continuing Drama of Those Left Behind 1996
6 3 Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist 1997
7 4 Soul Harvest: The World Takes Sides 1999
8 5 Apollyon: The Destroyer Is Unleashed 1999
9 6 Assassins: Assignment: Jerusalem, Target: Antichrist 1999
10 7 The Indwelling: The Beast Takes Possession 2000
11 8 The Mark: The Beast Rules the World 2000
12 9 Desecration: Antichrist Takes the Throne 2001
13 10 The Remnant: On the Brink of Armageddon 2002
14 11 Armageddon: The Cosmic Battle of the Ages 2003
15 12 Glorious Appearing: The End of Days 2004
16 16 Kingdom Come: The Final Victory 2007


There are also graphic novels, CDs, and a Left Behind series for teens. Audio dramatizations based on the first thirteen titles have also been produced for broadcast on Christian radio. The series written for teens is called Left Behind:The Kids. The plot of this series is the same as the adult series, but the main protagonists are teenagers. Several of the main books have also been turned into movies by the Canadian motion picture studio Cloud Ten Pictures, including Left Behind: The Movie, Left Behind II: Tribulation Force, and Left Behind: World at War.

Two spin-off series have been written: a political series by Neesa Hart, and a military series by Mel Odom.

A video game, Left Behind: Eternal Forces, was released for the PC on November 6, 2006.

Spin-offs

  • Left Behind: Apocalypse, by Mel Odom
    • Apocalypse Dawn
    • Apocalypse Crucible
    • Apocalypse Burning
    • Apocalypse Unleashed

  • Left Behind: The Kids by Jerry B. Jenkins & Tim LaHaye with Chris Fabry
    • The Vanishings
    • Second Chance
    • Through The Flames
    • Facing The Future
    • Nicolae High
    • The Underground
    • Busted!
    • Death Strike
    • The Search
    • On The Run
    • Into The Storm
    • Earthquake!
    • The Showdown
    • Judgement Day
    • Battling The Commander
    • Fire From Heaven
    • Terror In The Stadium
    • Darkening Skies
    • Attack Of Apollyon
    • A Dangerous Plan
    • Secrets Of New Babylon
    • Escape From New Babylon
    • Horsemen Of Terror
    • Uplink From The Underground
    • Death At The Gala
    • The Beast Arises
    • Wildfire!
    • The Mark Of The Beast
    • Breakout!
    • Murder In The Holy Place
    • Escape To Masada
    • War Of The Dragon
    • Attack On Petra
    • Bounty Hunters
    • The Rise Of False Messiahs
    • Ominous Choices
    • Heatwave
    • The Perils Of Love
    • The Road To War
    • Triumphant Return
  • Left Behind: End of State, by Neesa Hart
    • End of State
    • Impeachable Offense
    • Necessary Evils


In other media

Movies

The success of the Left Behind books has led to the release of three motion pictures based on the series so far. The movies have been produced and released by Cloud Ten Pictures, a Canadian Christian movie studio.

The first, Left Behind: The Movie, was based on the first book of the series and was released in 2000. In a very unusual marketing scheme, the studio released the movie on video and DVD first, and then released it to the theaters. The movie fared poorly in theaters. The movie starred former Growing Pains star Kirk Cameron as Buck Williams. Cameron, who finds the series inspiring, is a practicing evangelist (and co-host with Ray Comfort on the TV show The Way of the Master).

In 2002, the sequel, Left Behind II: Tribulation Force, based on the first four hundred pages of the second novel, Tribulation Force, was released. The film debuted at #2 on Nielson's video scan reports, behind Spider-Man, and was #1 in terms of overall sales for two days on Amazon.com

The second sequel, Left Behind: World at War, was released first to churches on October 21, 2005 for church theatrical viewings, and was released to DVD and video on October 25, 2005. Except for Clarence Gilyard, the entire cast of Left Behind and Left Behind II: Tribulation Force reprised their respective roles for Left Behind: World At War. Clarence Gilyard, who played Bruce Barnes, was unable to return for the third movie due to a scheduling conflict with a play in New York. The movie is based very loosely on the final fifty pages of Tribulation Force, and features Louis Gossett Jr. playing the President of the United States, Gerald Fitzhugh. The third movie was the least identifiable with events in any of the books. Recognizable events were the marriages of Buck with Chloe Steele, and Rayford Steele with Amanda White, the death of Bruce Barnes, and President Fitzhugh heading an attack, resulting in World War III, with Great Britainmarker and Egyptmarker, against the Global Community. Major parts of the movie, however, were taken from subsequent books in the series. These events include the poisoning of Barnes by GC forces instead of Nicolae Carpathia himself and an attempt by Fitzhugh to assassinate Nicolae Carpathia. Buck's meeting with the President in the books makes it into the movie, but in a totally different form.

The movies have been criticized for, among other things, low production values. A Slate reviewer, commented that
In low-budget movies there are just some things that you can't portray convincingly. The end of the world is one of them[...]

While each installment's budget is estimated to be around $17.4 million, I think that number might be off by $16 million or so. In Left Behind 2: Tribulation Force, for example, Kirk Cameron has to take Ben Judah, a respected rabbi, to the Wailing Wall so that he can tell Jews everywhere that Jesus Christ is Lord. Israel is represented by a few stone walls obviously made of plywood, some Christmas-tree lights, and 500 volunteer extras wearing leftover costumes from a Nativity pageant. The Wailing Wall is patrolled by soldiers dressed in World War II army uniforms. The producers have also dubbed in the sound of goats during scenes set in downtown Jerusalem, which leads to the unusual notion that modern-day Israel is populated by WWII re-enactors, nervous-looking people in bathrobes, and goats.


In 2004, Cloud Ten Pictures made a deal with Sony Entertainment to release all of its pictures under the Sony banner and has been doing so ever since.

An episode of The Simpsons portrays a parody of the Left Behind series called "Left Below", in which non-Christians, gays and people who believe in science are forced to live through Hell on Earth while the evangelicals go to Heaven.

Video game

The video game Left Behind: Eternal Forces was developed by a publicly traded company, Left Behind Games. The game is a real-time strategy game where the player controls a 'Tribulation Forces' team and allows the player to "use the power of prayer to strengthen your troops in combat and wield modern military weaponry throughout the game world." The game was released in the United States on November 14, 2006 and received mixed reviews. Distribution was initially planned to work through churches and megachurches.

Although the game has been accused of encouraging religious violence, not all reviewers of the game or critics of the Left Behind series shared that view. Representatives of the company have responded that the game's message is pacifist because shooting nonbelievers instead of converting them costs the player "spirit points", which can be recovered by pausing to pray.[2738] The company also responded to these criticisms in an online newsletter, stating, "There is no violence, only conflict," and, "The most successful way to fight, is through the means of spiritual warfare; PRAYER and WORSHIP. Soldiers and military weaponry are available, but once anyone plays the game, they’ll see how difficult it is to succeed by using these less effective means of warfare."

Album

People Get Ready is "a musical collection inspired by the Left Behind series."

Track listing

  1. People Get Ready Crystal Lewis 4:24
  2. UFO Geoff Moore & The Distance 3:08
  3. Come Quickly Lord Rebecca Saint James 4:29
  4. I Wish We'd All Been Ready dc Talk 3:44
  5. Horses Margaret Becker 4:05
  6. Eve of Destruction Barry McGuire 3:34
  7. People Get Ready Impressions 2:38
  8. Thief in the Night Big Tent Revival 3:38
  9. Elijah Rich Mullins 5:14
  10. New Body Audio Adrenaline 4:00
  11. I'll Lead You Home Michael W. Smith 5:22
  12. Jesus Is Waiting Al Green 8:08


Graphic novels

In 2002 a series of graphic novels was launched that comprised the first two books in the series, Left Behind and Tribulation Force. The original idea was to release sets of 3 to 5 novels (each about 45-50 pages) for each book in the original series. However, after the 5th and final novel for Tribulation Force was released, the graphic novel series was apparently discontinued and the novels that were released are now (as of December 2006) said to be out of print. A compilation of the graphic novels for the first book was later released as one novel.

See also



References

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


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