Left Behind: Pure Genius or Pure Joke? You pretty…

Left Behind: Pure Genius or Pure Joke?

You pretty much have to be living under a rock to not know about the Left Behind series. A set of books that claims to explain the details of the end-times in an entertaining narrative fashion. You can get them in hardcover or paperback. New or used. Your local pastor or minister may even loan you a few of his.

Let me begin to show the kind of impact these have had on the Christian world as a whole (I used the term “Christian” there very loosely). Over 60 million sold. 2 movies released. Their own line of workbooks and Sunday school materials. One of the kids in my youth group actually told me that her teacher in school was giving extra credit to anyone who would read the books.

Popular, yes. Biblical, nope. This may surprise you. If so, please read on.

The Left Behind series is based on the doctrine of the “Pre-tribulation Rapture” which claims that 7 years before the Day of the LORD all Christians will be caught up (raptured) into heaven, being escorted by Jesus. He comes down, snatches them away, and does the U-turn back to the heavens to spend an eternity floating on the clouds. Where this verse, passage, or chapter is found in the Bible, I don’t know. What tends to happen in that the passage in 1 Thes. 4:13-17 is ripped out of its context in order to prove this theory. I say we take a closer look.

Let’s pause to make sure that the reader is still with me. We have one side that says that at any moment Jesus could return and rapture all the Christians away to heaven for eternity. On the other side, we have Jesus, who said that the meek shall inherit the earth (Matt. 5:5). Still with me?

I want to look carefully at v. 17. I’ll quote the NASB: “Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.” So far, the word heaven does not even occur in this verse. Those that still frantically search will be quick to point out that we are to meet the Lord in the air. But the word “air” is the Greek word αερα which is not the same word for “heaven” in the Greek (ουρανου).

I think the most convincing piece of evidence in the verse is the word that is translated for “meet.” This word, απαντησιν, is used only 3 times in the whole Bible. Once here, also in Matt. 25:6, and in Acts 28:15. Let’s have a look at those, just for fun.

Matt 25:6 NASB: But at midnight there was a shout, `Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet (απαντησιν) him. Note also v. 10 “And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut”

Acts 28:15-16 NASB: And the brethren, when they heard about us, came from there as far as the Market of Appius and Three Inns to meet (απαντησιν) us; and when Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage. When we entered Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who was guarding him.

Note how in both passages that the word for “meet” is used. More importantly, they both have the sense of a “meeting in order to escort back.” This is very significant because this shows that when we meet the Lord Jesus in the air it is to escort him back to earth. The powerful thing about this is that every occurrence of the word απαντησιν has this meaning. What does this mean in the long run? Well, the base text in establishing the whole agenda for the Left Behind series is not understood correctly. At the resurrection, we are caught up into the air to escort the Messiah down to his throne, where he will establish the kingdom of God on this earth (Matt. 25:31-34).

Left Behind…. Joke.

Thy Kingdom Come.


3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by JohnO on December 8, 2006 at 2:48 pm

    Nicely done. I’ve used that very thought process with that very greek word in a number of cases. No one has ever been able to make a meaningful statement against it.


  2. Posted by JMG on December 11, 2006 at 1:34 pm

    Great explanation. It’s amazing how much confusion can be cleared up just by using a dictionary, or in this case a concordance. Now if only everyone would use a concordance!


  3. Posted by Dustin Smith on December 13, 2006 at 6:28 am

    i used the Greek New Testament and a few commentaries. Yet, anyone without theological training can still find this out with a simple concordance.



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