The Rapture–Left Behind Review

by Tim LaHaye & Jerry Jenkins, Tyndale House Publishers, ISBN 1414305818, available practically anywhere Christian books are sold:

A plot summary is here.

FINALLY, the last prequel.  So only one more book is left!  (I’ve been reading these books for more than five years now.  😛  Though that’s nothing compared to how long the Slacktivist has been doing this.  😛  )

It’s comforting, on pages 13 to 14, to see Irene’s new Christian friends and pastor counsel her to stop nagging Rayford into getting “saved.”

Another pleasant surprise comes on page 16, when their son Raymie asks, “Mom, is Dad going to hell?” and Irene answers, “Frankly, I can’t tell where your dad is on all this.  He claims to believe in God, and it’s not for us to say.”

Pages 17 and 18 inspired me to write this post on my blog, which I will copy for you here:

I’m currently reading the Left Behind book “The Rapture” for my series of Left Behind reviews.  My reviews and the Slacktivist describe the bad, ungodly behavior of the Christians in the books.  But what I read last night, really burns me up:

A good Christian woman, Lucinda Washington, middle-aged, who is not afraid to show her faith and is respected by all, is also Buck’s favorite colleague, a mentor of sorts.

After witnessing the dramatic, supernatural defeat of the air forces sent to decimate Israel, he comes to her office looking for answers.  He plops down in a chair with his feet on the desk and she says,

“If you were my son I’d whup you upside the head, sitting like that, tearing up your spine.”

“You don’t still smack Lionel, do you?” Buck said, peeking at the photo of the smooth-faced youngster [he’s 12].

“Can’t catch him anymore, but he knows I can still take him.”

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Excuse me, this isn’t set in 1950, but in 21st-century America, some indeterminate time after the present, right before the Rapture–and the book was written in 2006.

This barbaric practice should be universally condemned as child abuse by the time this book takes place.  It’s already illegal in some places.  And even 100 years ago, people knew that smacking kids anywhere on the head is dangerous.  I go into this in great detail in these posts:

Child Abuse, Examples of Child Abuse, Hitting Kids Upside the Head is ABUSE, Slapping Kids Upside the Head Causes Traumatic Brain Injury, and  …Because slapping kids on the head is ABUSE!  STOP THE VIOLENCE!

And this is the woman we are supposed to admire as a great woman of God?  A FRICKIN’ CHILD ABUSER????!!!!!

Here, I describe how two narcissistic “friends” turned out to be child abusers, whom I eventually reported to CPS because I could not get through to them, and who then threatened and began stalking me for calling them child abusers.  One of the things they did which most enraged me, was smacking their little kids in the head.

I also unfriended some old high school classmate a while back for advocating beating children on her Facebook status.  Then, a few months ago, unfriended (and eventually blocked) a girl in my social circles who said parents should beat their children.

Now, after all that, and enduring the stress and emotional anguish of being threatened and stalked for calling this child abuse, I’m supposed to read this “Christian” book and accept that a godly woman would abuse her child by smacking him upside the head?  I’m supposed to like this character after knowing this?  She’s just another hypocrite like the rest of the series’ Christians!

On page 26, Irene has turned into a Stepford Wife, even setting out Rayford’s clothes as if he were a child.  Since badgering him into converting doesn’t work, she’s taking the opposite tactic–still manipulative, but I guess she doesn’t see that.

But it drives him crazy, because he knows her various problems with him (church, his use of time, not spending enough time with their son) are still on her mind.  He’d rather argue than pretend they don’t exist.

On pages 63 to 66, Rayford explains to Raymie what many of us have realized over the years: that just because you don’t belong to a particular religion or sect, does not necessarily mean you’re going to Hell.  Raymie replies,

Wow.  You sound just like the people Pastor Billings talks about.  People who think they have it all figured out, but they don’t really believe in Jesus.

Say what?  Just because you have a different idea of who goes to Hell, you don’t really believe in Jesus?  Also, Raymie’s words have a distinct vibe of “Oh, you’re one of those people,” said with a curling lip.  ARGH!

And double-ARGH to the last few paragraphs on page 66:

Rayford…overheard the boy talking with Irene, who had asked how things went.

“Dad’s going to hell,” Raymie said.  “He doesn’t think he is.  He thinks he isn’t.  But he doesn’t believe in Jesus.  Not really.”

Meanwhile, back in Antichrist land, pages 71 to 74 depict a Mafia-style punishment of the family of a guy marked by Fortunato, Nicolae Carpathia’s right-hand man.  It’s full of evil and angst.

Where the heck was this kind of writing in the rest of the series?  If we see this along with Carpathia’s public image as a nice guy, we’ll know he’s evil.  No, all we get in the first books is that Carpathia wants world peace, which doesn’t sound so bad.

But if we got more of this behind-the-scenes evil instead of endless pages of traveling itineraries and phone conversations, the first books could have been awesome, instead of dull trudging wondering when this book will end.

On page 77, Rayford says to Irene,

“[Raymie’s] only interested because you are.”

She says, “And what’s wrong with that?  Aren’t we supposed to be examples to him?”

“Not of fundamentalists.”

Irene made a face.  “It’s not fair to use inflammatory language, Rafe.  Fundamentalists have come to be known as people who kill those they disagree with.  When was the last time you heard of a Christian doing that?”

“Granted…..”

Um….What?  Inflammatory?  Last I checked, even fundamentalists still use that word to describe themselves!

But even if it does become “inflammatory” by then, history is full of “Christians” killing others, even each other, over ideological differences, up until modern times.

And for Rafe to say “granted” shows that he obviously paid no attention in history class.  Irene needs to find a better argument.  You can’t use false arguments to impress the ones who don’t believe your way.

Then they start using the word “hobbyhorse” and arguing over that.  What the heck is a hobbyhorse (other than a kid’s toy)?

Somehow, I don’t think Millennials (or whatever generation they belong to) would use a word like that.  It sounds like a word their grandparents might use.

You don’t have to use slang (which would quickly date the book), but at least make word choices that fit the times!

On page 125 is a sermon by Pastor Billings, answering objections to only Christians going to Heaven, and everybody else being left behind to suffer God’s wrath.  I’ve already dealt with this here.

On page 128, the pastor says, based on 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, “So we are not to mourn those who die in Christ, for we believe that they too will be snatched away to be with Him on that great day [the Rapture]…”

No, that’s a misreading: Paul writes, “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep [died], lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.”

Paul is not saying, “Do not mourn,” but do not grieve without hope in the Resurrection of all.

I’m a bit particular about this because I actually heard in a sermon once that we’re not even supposed to mourn our lost loved ones, because that’s very cat-like (selfish) of us.

Also, if the pastor can get just a little thing wrong in his reading of the Bible, why not this entire Rapture-based theology?

On page 132, Pastor Billings says,

Just as our works cannot save us, neither can they cause us to lose our salvation.  But it is clear from Scripture that they will determine the level and extent of our heavenly reward.

So for those who say they have believed in Jesus just for fire insurance, just to stay out of hell, they would be wise to consider that everything they have ever done will be revealed in that judgment.

But–that contradicts the reasons we were given why his junior pastor, Bruce Barnes, got left behind in the Rapture, back in Left Behind!  As I wrote in my review,

On pages 195-198, Bruce, a lifelong Christian who loved church, describes why he got left behind.  His explanation struck me as being very legalistic:

He didn’t tithe ten percent, he occasionally looked at porn, he didn’t read his Bible, he didn’t tell people about Christ, he refused to say his church said Jesus is the only way to God.  It said nothing about, did Bruce love God and his fellow man–the two commandments on which hang all the others.

On page 150, Leon tells the secretary-general of the UN

of Nicolae’s fascination with the U.N. and his savantlike memory of its history.  “Trust me, sir, he will be able to tell you the day of your inauguration, how many five-year terms you have served, and how many you are expected to serve.”

Er, yes, we remember that terminally boring speech in Left Behind and how the masses inexplicably considered it marvelous.  It sounds like as much fun as listening to a litany of train schedules–possibly great fun for a savant who loves trains, but no fun for the rest of us.

On page 158, we finally see the first meeting of Amanda and Irene, which Amanda described to Rayford many books ago.  This was also their last meeting, since the Rapture occurred in the next chapter–and on page 160, we read that Irene could see in Amanda’s eyes that she pushed too far for Amanda’s conversion.

Yet when Amanda described this meeting to Rayford, she was full of all these glowing praises for a woman she only met once, making us wonder now at their sincerity.

Amanda seems very condescending, saying to Irene after the Bible study, “Well, aren’t you the most precious thing?  So vibrant and pleasant.”

Er–what?  Precious?  Like what you say to a child?

And when Irene tears up and says she’s afraid her husband and daughter won’t make it to Heaven, Amanda says, “Well, isn’t that something?  Isn’t that sweet?”

It sounds like a backhanded insult.  You don’t talk like that about grown adults, but about little children.

Another irritation is that Amanda says she and her family have been churchgoers all their lives, yet her family keeps pushing her to be “saved,” “saved by grace,” and Irene also pushes her to “make a decision.”  Isn’t she already a Christian?

On page 165, Irene finally realizes that Rayford may be having an affair with Hattie.  Credit to her for not being suspicious until she stumbled upon actual evidence, catching Rayford in a lie about when Hattie was last in his car.  Irene does not seem to be a jealous, suspicious wife; rather, she waits until she has actual evidence of an affair.

Then the Rapture comes, and we next see Irene, Raymie and other Real True Christians (the Slacktivist‘s term) in Heaven.

They’re also all naked, since their clothes have been left behind along with all the other sinners.  Which makes even their hugs and squeals of delight as they reunite, seem naughty…. And which also makes you wonder what sins their clothes could have committed to get left behind….

On page 183, we read that everyone in Heaven automatically knows everybody else’s histories.  So what’ll they do for all eternity if they can’t even talk to people about their lives?

Same for the Judgment (the first one–there are more to come), which happens for the Raptured believers in just a few minutes in Earth-time, but reviews each person’s life.  So in just a few minutes, they’ve already done what could have made eternity more interesting.  Now what?

On pages 255 to 257, we hear the story of Cyrus Scofield as he’s judged–Ah, yes, the author of the Scofield Bible, with the heretical interpretations which have led many into error (i.e., the system of interpretation used by premillennial dispensationalists such as the authors of the Left Behind series).

The Scofield Reference Bible promoted dispensationalism, the belief that between creation and the final judgment there were seven distinct eras of God’s dealing with man and that these eras were a framework for synthesizing the message of the Bible.[6] It was largely through the influence of Scofield’s notes that dispensationalism grew in influence among fundamentalist Christians in the United States.

Scofield’s notes on the Book of Revelation are a major source for the various timetables, judgments, and plagues elaborated by popular religious writers such as Hal Lindsey, Edgar C. Whisenant, and Tim LaHaye;[7] and in part because of the success of the Scofield Reference Bible, twentieth-century American fundamentalists placed greater stress on eschatological speculation.

Opponents of biblical fundamentalism have criticized the Scofield Bible for its air of total authority in biblical interpretation, for what they consider its glossing over of biblical contradictions, and for its focus on eschatology. —Wikipedia

I never heard of it until sometime in the past decade, but its influence was in the Nazarene church I grew up in.  Not surprising that the authors singled him out during these judgments, with Raymie thinking,

Raymie had heard Pastor Billings mention his Scofield Bible, but he had never quite understood what he meant and was fairly certain he had never seen one.

Now, as Raymie watched Jesus give Cyrus Scofield his crowns, he thought this was a man he’d like to talk with, and it was nice to know he had an eternity to do it.

I suspect that Jesus would actually scold Scofield for leading millions into error.

As the Slacktivist blogger has noted, in the first book (Left Behind) we read that young Chloe somehow got from Stanford to Chicago to be with her dad, even while the Rapture’s aftermath made travel virtually impossible–meaning she has accomplished an amazing feat all by herself.  But we don’t see how she did it.

On pages 249 and 257 to 259 of this book, we finally get to see how she did it, and yes, she is quite resourceful.

Yet another example of what should have gone into Left Behind, rather than endless phone conversations and other frustrating filler, but did finally make it into this last book.

On page 261–after several of the early books, before her death, depicted her as dumb and narcissistic–we get a surprising revelation about Hattie:

Hattie Durham enjoyed the delectable secret that she was not quite as ditzy as she seemed to be.  How people reacted to her–particularly men–she had recognized so many years before that she couldn’t remember not using it to her advantage.

Women seemed to baby talk to her, as if because she was a beautiful blonde she couldn’t have a brain.  And men seemed to talk to her with their eyes, as if their gibberish was meaningless, which it often was.

It was, however, not true that Hattie was other than calculating.  She had largely charmed her way to senior-flight-attendant status just after her twenty-seventh birthday–no small feat–but these jobs were not just handed out.

She had had to study, to be a quick learner, to gain favor with passengers, fellow crew members, and superiors.  They didn’t give such a title to a body, a face, a hairdo, and makeup in uniform.

What amazes me is how often we’re told that blondes and other beauties are treated as dumb just because they’re pretty.  I’ve never based my opinion of another’s intelligence on how attractive she is or is not.

Several of my best friends in college, all very intelligent, were also blondes.  The only time I heard them called a “wind tunnel” (when sitting next to each other) was by Shawn, but he knew they were smart.

Hattie certainly is not helping herself–or women’s lib–by pretending to play into the stereotype.

Another revelation is that Hattie never intended to be a cheap fling for Rayford: No, she was in love, and wanted him to give up his wife and marry her.

On page 271, Raymie realizes that the judgments are giving him a “crash course in church history.”  Yet we go from second-century martyrs Polycarp and Papias to fourteenth-century Bible translator John Wycliffe!

Where’s everything that happened in church history in the intervening 12 centuries?  Or does it not count until the beginning of the Protestant Reformation?

All of chapter 26 (other than the breakaways to scenes in Heaven) is what happens on the plane after the Rapture.  It is full of emotion, fear, and how the flight crew handles the sudden disappearance of dozens of passengers.

It also goes more into how Hattie and Rayford relate to each other, when they had planned to take their relationship to the next level, but instead were thrust into this crisis.

Where was this in the first book?

On page 309, we get into the thoughts of Rayford’s co-pilot Chris Smith (and soon find out why he killed himself in Left Behind); we read, “[The disappearances weren’t] going to be something he could watch on TV and gas about with his poker buddies.”

Er–what?  What th’ heck is “gas about”?  What generation used/uses that term, because it sure isn’t Gen-X or the Millennials?  If you’re going to use slang, shouldn’t it at least be from the 21st century?

We also learn about Smith’s wife, plain Jane, a good woman–whom Chris cheats on at every port (including recently with Hattie, as we learn on page 317).

Chris also has another wife and family (yes, a bigamist).  He thinks, “And [Jane] was a servant.”  What? a servant?  What, your wife waits on you hand and foot?  Some guys are never satisfied….

On page 319, Raymie, who has a big globe in his heavenly mansion, uses the globe to go back in time to watch the beginning of the world.  Sure enough, he starts in the Garden of Eden, and thinks, “It had all been true, the biblical record, and Raymie could immerse himself in every incident and see as it played out.”

Take that, evolutionists!  Even with all your fancy science, which has been proven to be correct again and again, yer wrong!

As we continue, the description of events on the plane is, yet again, what we should have seen in Left Behind.  Where was all this adventure and emotion back then?  I feel cheated!

On page 341, the apostle Paul is next up to be judged.  He “seemed eager to meet Jesus.”

But–Wouldn’t he have already met Jesus when he died and went to Heaven?  That’s how most of the Christian denominations seem to teach it: that when you die, you go to Heaven (or Paradise, the “holding tank” before the judgment), but not soul sleep.

Are the authors now telling us the correct teaching is soul sleep, which belongs to Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seventh-Day Adventists, not the Christian mainstream??

The end of the book leads into the second book of the series (Tribulation Force), as these last three have been prequels to Left Behind.

And then we get the author’s note, where we are assured that the authors’ version of the End Times is correct and anyone who would tell you different is a false messiah and false prophet deliberately teaching error and led by Satan (p. 348).

Which would include a large number of Christian denominations, including the most conservative ones, Catholic and Orthodox.

So we must follow the authors’ two keys to understanding the Second Coming, which are “You must take the Bible literally, including prophecy” and “You must keep in mind that there are two stages to the Second Coming.”

Never mind that both keys are just plain theologically WRONG.

And, of course, when the authors are asked why the books are “the most popular fiction series ever,” they say it’s “based on the Bible’s forecast of the last days,” “which many find fascinating”–and, of course, that’s “aside from Jerry’s incredible fiction-writing gift.”

Er–his what?  If it’s so incredible, then why is it mocked by the Slacktivist and so many others across the Net?  Why have I often felt like, “Why, again, am I slogging through these books?”

On page 350, LaHaye refers to his “nonfiction prophecy books”–I don’t think “nonfiction” means what you think it means….

Then he writes that “after you compare them” (the Rapture and the Glorious Appearing, as described in his books) “you will realize that they cannot possibly be describing the same event.”

Er–I’ve read many other books, including the Bible, and realized that they cannot possibly be describing TWO events.

And now on, FINALLY, to the LAST book!  Yippee!

[11/27/13-12/5/13]

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