Go ahead and enjoy the Nicolas Cage movie remake of “Left Behind,” but don’t believe Jesus is going to snatch Christians away so they miss the Tribulation, says theologian William Craig.
Scheduled for an October 3 release in theaters nationwide, “Left Behind” tells the story of those stranded on Earth after millions of Christians suddenly vanish and the world is plunged into chaos.
The film is based on the bestselling series of 16 novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, which were adapted into three action thriller films starring Kirk Cameron, Left Behind (2000), Left Behind II: Tribulation Force (2002), and Left Behind: World at War (2005) – as well as a computer game, Left Behind: Eternal Forces (2006).
Built around biblical prophecies in Revelation, Daniel, Isaiah and Ezekiel, the books tell the story of what happens after true believers in Christ have been "raptured," taken instantly to Heaven, leaving non-believers behind in chaos and conflict.
However, "This doctrine is not really found in the book of Revelation," says Craig, a research professor of philosophy at Talbot School of Theology and professor of philosophy at Houston Baptist University. “If you read the book of Revelation, you won't find any mention of the rapture there.”
Instead, says Craig, “the idea of the rapture comes from a misinterpretation of 1 and 2 Thessalonians where Paul is describing the coming of the Lord and resurrection of the dead, which will occur at His coming," reports Morgan Lee at the Christian Post.
"If you compare what Paul says there to what Jesus says about the End Times, Paul uses the same vocabulary, the same phraseology,” Craig told Lee. “I think it's very plausible that Paul is talking about the same event that Jesus predicted, namely the visible coming of the Son of Man at the end of human history to usher in his kingdom. But proponents of the rapture view say that Paul is not at all talking about the second coming of the Christ there. What he's really talking about is this invisible preliminary secret return of Christ to snatch believers out of the world before the great tribulation occurs. I think there's no textual warrant for that at all."
Not everybody’s thrilled with Craig’s warnings. “In our opinion, there's going to be a lot of theologians in hell,” comments the website Sanctified Church Revolution. “We think Satan is using William Craig … He allegedly argues that the creators of the movie are in error, because the book of Revelations says nothing about the rapture, but it does in Thessalonians. However, regardless of wherever the Bible speaks about the rapture, the main thing is, we've got to be ready when Jesus Christ comes back.”
According to Craig, the rapture theory became popular through the Scofield Reference Bible, published in the early 20th century, which explained John Darby's mid-18th century's rapture teaching. As a result, a number of Christian institutions, including Dallas Theological Seminary, began teaching about the rapture – spreading it to churches.
It’s a dangerous theology, taught bestselling author and Holocaust survivor Corrie Ten Boom, whose personal story was told in the movie “The Hiding Place.” Before her death, she said those who teach a pre-Tribulation rapture are among the false teachers Jesus in Matthew 24:4-5 warned the church to avoid.
"A good many Bible-believing Christians absorbed this view as their mother's milk as it were and have never thought to question its Biblical credentials," Craig told the Post.
However, don’t let it keep you from enjoying good Bible-based entertainment, says the professor. Craig told the Post that if Christians watch the upcoming "Left Behind" movie or read the series, they should resist accepting the theology.
"It could be maybe good fiction,” Craig told the Post. “It would be, say, like reading science fiction or fantasy novels like The Lord of the Rings. Just so long as you're not deceived into thinking that represents biblical eschatology."
Publication date: July 31, 2014