The movie Left Behind, claims to portray events from the Book of Revelation that will occur in this present age and is based on a bestselling 1995 novel. In the movie trailer for Left Behind, one reads, “In the blink of an eye, the biblical Rapture strikes the world. Millions of people disappear without a trace. All that remains are their clothes and belongings, and in an instant, terror and chaos spread around the world. The vanishings cause unmanned vehicles to crash and burn. Planes fall from the sky. Emergency forces everywhere are devastated. Gridlock, riots and looting overrun the cities. There is no one to help or provide answers. In a moment, the entire planet is plunged into darkness.”
Then it goes on to say, “Left Behind is an apocalyptic Action-Thriller movie starring Nicolas Cage based on the New York Times bestselling novel that brings biblical prophecy to life in modern times.”
This movie is being advertised with this banner: “Bringing biblical prophecy to life.” But the question we must ask is—is that true?
I trust this will be a helpful article for there are folk in Reformed circles that are reading these books, and no doubt some will attend the movie Left Behind. Sadly some of our members are unaware that this teaching is totally contrary and in conflict with Scripture and Reformed Theology.
So I ask, does Left Behind bring biblical prophecy to life?
First we need to understand [the doctrine that drives this movie is called Dispensationalism, which includes a belief in a secret rapture]. The teaching of a secret rapture first began to be taught in churches in the mid-1800’s. Such teaching had never been taught in or believed by anyone in the church prior to the 1800’s.
Now it is true, the second coming of Christ has been taught and believed from the Apostles forward. But the secret rapture cannot be found in the teaching of any of the early church fathers. Nor was it ever taught by the faithful stalwarts of the Reformed Faith such as Hus, Luther, Calvin, or Knox. And it was certainly not taught by the authors of our Heidelberg Catechism, Zacharius Ursinus or Casper Olevianus.
This teaching may be traced to J.N. Darby (1800-1882) who was an ordained minister of the Church of England. He began to reject the idea of the necessity of having a trained and ordained clergy and began to hold that the layman could rightfully be ordained to the office of pastor without being properly equipped to do so. He taught that everyone was a “pastor” and could preach. This teaching became the foundation of what is known as the Plymouth Brethren, of which movement he was one of the leaders.
C.I. Scofield (1843-1921), who was closely associated with the Plymouth Brethren, adopted the teaching of Darby’s “secret rapture” and thrust it upon the evangelical church when in 1909 he published the Scofield Reference Bible which promoted the teaching of Dispensationalism. It became an extremely popular Study Bible and made the teaching of Darby to be not only well known but an acceptable doctrine of the second coming amongst the major evangelical churches of that day. This doctrine of Dispensationalism is still taught today by the majority of evangelical churches.
One of the basic teachings of Dispensationalism is that the Christian Church will be secretly removed from the world and that unbelievers who will be “left behind” will find themselves wondering where the vast multitude of Christian believers have gone. These unbelievers will be left behind to endure seven years of tribulation. This will bring in the rule of the Antichrist, who will be revealed after the rapture has taken place. They use Revelation 7:14 as their scriptural proof for the seven year tribulation that is to take place after the rapture. We read in that passage that after John sees a great multitude, a multitude so great that man is not able to number them, the angel explains to John that, These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Read the whole passage in context; there is no mention of a seven year period in which this tribulation takes place. And it is also important to realize that during this seven year period they teach that a great number of people will be converted by coming to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Now mind you, this great number of conversions will take place after the church has been raptured. That means there will be no preaching of the gospel, no believers left to be a witness to them, and, more importantly, they are converted after the Holy Spirit has been removed from the earth, which Biblically makes conversion impossible.
This is an important error that people need to hear. They need to be told that after Christ comes again in power and great glory there will be no possibility of salvation.
So the question then is, does the Bible teach that there will be a ‘secret rapture’ in which the Christians will disappear from the earth that will be followed by a seven year tribulation under the rule of the Antichrist?
That is a definite no. So what, then, does the Bible actually say?
In Acts 1:11, when Jesus ascended into heaven and as the disciples were staring up into heaven, two angels appeared saying, This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven. That is, as his ascension was visible and physical, so also His second coming will be visible and physical.
Now, the Dispensationalist teaches that this second coming will be in two separate comings. The first second-coming will take place when Christ comes for His saints (the secret rapture) and the second second-coming will take place when Christ comes the second time with His saints, what they call (the revelation) and it is only at this revelation that Jesus will appear visibly.
But Scripture simply speaks of one resurrection wherein, both the redeemed and the ungodly will be resurrected at the very same time. In Daniel 12:2 we read that at the last day those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt. It does not speak of a secret rapture of those who first awake to everlasting life and then say that a thousand years later the ungodly will be resurrected to everlasting contempt. Rather it clearly teaches that both the saved and the unsaved will, at the end of time, be resurrected at the very same moment of time.
Regarding a secret rapture, the Bible does not even give a hint that the coming of Christ will be secretive. Instead the Bible clearly teaches that His second coming will be visible and with a shout, that is with a great noise. We read in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 where we are given a most crystal-clear description of the second coming that the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. That certainly does not describe a “secret rapture.”
It is true Scripture does teach that the coming of Christ will be sudden and unexpected. This is the teaching of Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:2. There we read that Jesus will come as a thief in the night. The fact that His coming will be sudden and unexpected does not infer in any way that it will be secretive. Instead we read that every eye will see Him. Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen. (Revelation 1:7)
We do need to ask, “Can anything positive be said about this movie?” I think that, yes, we can use it to warn those who would ask us about the secret rapture that it will in no way be secretive but that it will come upon mankind as a thief in the night. Therefore it is important that one prepare themselves for that great day of judgment that is coming upon all men. Scripture clearly states that all men will one day stand at the judgment throne of God.
We read in Revelation 20:11-15, Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
This will give us an opportunity to carefully explain to others that the only hope they can have on that day when Christ will come again with a great shout in the presence of the angels of heaven will be that before He comes again they need to come to God in repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Press upon them the words of the Apostle Paul, Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2).
When on the day of Pentecost the people asked Peter what they must do to be saved, he answered, Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).
When neighbors and friends ask you what you think about this movie, take time to tell sinners they need to repent toward God and have faith in Jesus Christ. Use it to tell sinners how Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, reminding them carefully it is appointed unto men once to die and after that the judgment. (Hebrews 9:27)
Rev. Wesley Brice
Bella Vista, Arkansas