As battle lines heat up as to the particulars of Christ's next Return ("secret" or "visible"), it's time to take a closer look at Scripture
Things are serious when Christians tell other Christians they are "going to hell" if they don't hold the same end times' view as the popular 12-volume "Left Behind" series by LaHaye and Jenkins (Plain Dealer, 3-23-01, p. E-1). Christians fighting Christians-just what the devil wants!
Such intensity warrants Christians digging deeper into Scripture to check "what is the 'spirit of truth/error'" (1 Jn. 4:6). As such, don't believe one word this article says or what the "Left Behind" series says; rather, be like the Bereans who "every day...studied the Scriptures to see if those things [that Paul taught] were so" (Acts 17:11)!
As preliminary, we need to recall the words of God's commandment: "Do not take the Name of the Lord, your God, in vain." We forget that this commandment includes the spreading of false teaching-and its promotion. Thus, if one runs out and tells his friends to read a certain book because it's good for their souls, then the encouraging endorser is guilty of promoting false teaching if the book presents wrong views. Scary, huh? Read Matthew 7:15-23; Romans 16:17,18 to see how serious!
So isn't it equally dangerous when the "Left Behind" books claim to be FICTION and then turn right around in their movie promotional and encourage Christians to get the TRUTH presented in this series out to the world to save souls? That's interesting: promoting fiction as fact!
By the way, the dispensational view of the Last Times, as held by 'Left Behind' author, Tim LaHaye and many other Christians, sees Jesus returning three more times: (1) Jesus will secretly return to resurrect the "just," rapturing them along with "those believers still living on earth"-and all this before the tribulation begins; (2) Jesus will return again after the seven years of tribulation to win the battle of Armageddon and establish His physical Kingdom on earth for a millennium (1,000 years); and (3) Jesus will return again some 1,000 years-plus to raise the "unjust" and bring in the New Heavens and New Earth. (Thus, there is a 1,007 year-plus separation between the resurrection of the "just" and the "unjust.")
The differing view-held by the this present writer-is that Christ will only return one more time (visibly) at the Last Day, raising "believer and unbeliever" (in an instant) as well as rapturing all the living up to His throne for the Last Judgment (the spiritual Armageddon), and will establish the New Heavens and New Earth. The millennium is seen as a period of time (e.g., from the First Coming of Christ to shortly before Judgment Day) when the Gospel is free to be preached before Satan is loosed for His final onslaught. The Antichrist and Satan are destroyed on the Last Day.
It would be hard to imagine a 12-volume series on the basis of this latter scenario.
Let's start with a main item-and then pick up other points that need your Scriptural evaluation before you jump in with both feet for either view.
Let's go back to the time of Christ's First Coming. The Old Testament had predicted Him in seemingly clear terms. He was to be born in Bethlehem, preach, work miracles, suffer, die, rise again. And yet, His disciples didn't put much of it together until after Easter. Why? God's mystery and their hesitancy to believe (Lk. 24:25-27,45)!
Now doesn't it seem strange to think that Christ's Second Coming is more understandable than His First? Do you really think that the "Left Behind" viewpoint has it all figured out ahead of time? Or, doesn't it make more spiritual sense to suspect that we are all going to be quite surprised when Christ returns and we say: "Wow, I sure didn't picture it like this"?
Christians talk about the "Five Fundamentals." One of the basics is "Christ's Second Coming." A person should believe that Jesus is coming again at the end of the world. If not, his Christianity is suspect! But as to the particulars, will one be damned if he doesn't have all the exact details down perfectly? Certainly not (cf. Mk. 16:16; Rom. 10:9)!
Also, the "second chance" theology of "Left Behind" contradicts Hebrews 9:27. Good thing there were no Christian pilots in the series, or a lot of passengers like Buck would never have gotten another chance during the tribulation. But then, that might have been good since spouses wouldn't have had to be shocked by clothes, hip replacements, and breast implants on the seats next to them after the "secret rapture."
And isn't it amazing how the "Left Behind" series presents such a non-chaotic continuation of society's institutions after the rapture? Millions of Christians aren't even missed as the financial, health care, etc., industries continue smoothly as if nothing has happened. Besides, the Bible is contradicted as to what is involved with inheritance matters. Proverbs 13:22: "A good man leaves an inheritance to his grandchildren, but the wealth of a sinner is stored away for the righteous." Oops! Looks like the rapture reverses God's plan!
And while we are on money, what about all the millions being earned by the dispensational "prophecy gurus" like Lindsey, Hinn, Falwell, Van Impe, Copeland, and Robertson? Take Lindsey's The Late Great Planet Earth (1970 - over 15 million copies sold) and realize that not one word of it has been fulfilled to this day. And how about "88 REASONS Why The Rapture Will Be In 1988"? Nothing happened. And there's Benny Hinn who predicted peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians by the end of A.D. 2000. Is he held accountable for his error?
What does the Bible say about such prophets in Deuteronomy 18:21,22? And yet, some people go right on believing falsehoods as if it doesn't matter. On the other hand, the world is more watchful. Which leads us to suspect that the "Left Behind" scare will only be effective on society for a short time-and then the whole word of God will be laughed at again! Are the "prophecy gurus" really doing Christ a favor in the long run?
What about the big monies reaped by "Left Behind"-a quarter of a billion dollars (6 million each to LaHaye and Jenkins to this point)? Also LaHaye now has a lawsuit concerning "Left Behind" movie royalties, having himself been left behind as to a part of what is rightfully his (for the above, see Christian News, June 26, 2000, p. 19; Jan. 22, 2001, pp. 21f.; Mar. 12, 2001, p. 23; Apr. 16, 2001, pp. 1, 24).
Maybe 1 Timothy 6:5 is applicable when it says that some "...think religion is a way to make a profit."
But there are other big issues for Bible believers.
Why do dispensationalists think raptured Christians get to escape tribulation? Previous martyrs will have a right to be ticked off with God because of partiality. Christians should be upset with any theology that contradicts Acts 14:22: "It is through many troubles that we must enter into the Kingdom of God."
Maybe the biggest problem of all revolves around Jesus' clear words in Matthew 24. He says the day will come when people will say He [Jesus] has appeared secretly here or there. "Do not believe it," He warns (vv. 23-26). Rather, Jesus says that the next time He appears it will be visibly, not secretly! All will instantly see Him, like all see "lightning" when it flashes across the sky (v. 27)!
This alone throws the whole "secret rapture" theory into question!
Also, realize that the whole dispensational teaching never even made an appearance until the 1830's. Surprisingly, a lot of Christians died and went to heaven in past days-and without the benefit of LaHaye's insights!
Note that Matthew 24:40 says that the last times when Christ returns will be like the days of Noah (v. 37). Noting the Greek in verse 40, the man "taken," as Christ was "taken" prisoner (Matt. 27:27), would be "taken" to hell, not "taken" or "raptured" to heaven. And the man "left behind" (Gk. "pardoned, forgiven" - Matt. 6:12) would be like those on Noah's ark who were "left behind" for life and heaven. Makes the whole premise of "Left Behind" appear "backwards."
In closing, we Christians are certain that Christ will come again. But we'd better be a little more discerning as to all the "how's"! It is great to hear Mart De Haan, grandson of the famous M. R. De Haan, both strong dispensationalists, say: "...I've become even more sure that I need to respect those who have come to different conclusions about the last days" (RBC Ministries News and Comments, Apr. 2001, p. 1).
I hope the questions moved you to dig into Scripture a bit more! Soli Deo Gloria!