(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Much of the power of the Left Behind series is in its immediacy. It brings the biblical prophecies of the end-time, starting with the Rapture of believers and continuing through the Tribulation (time of troubles) and the rule of the Antichrist to the triumphant Second Coming of Christ and then to a contemporary setting.

In Left Behind, a seemingly ordinary day is disrupted when millions of people unaccountably vanish, leaving chaos in their wake. Their one common characteristic is their Christian faith. As the media try to explain away the disappearances of a group of Christians, protagonist Rayford Steele, an airline pilot who witnessed the weird effects of this event during a flight, seeks answers in the Bible and discovers that this event is the prophesied Rapture, the first major event of the end-time that will culminate in the triumphal return of Jesus Christ. However, before that return, all those left behind will endure seven years of disasters known as the Tribulation. Biblical prophecy, if correctly interpreted, provides a roadmap for those seven years. In Tribulation Force, a small group led by Steele forms an organization named Tribulation Force to resist the evils that will overtake the earth before Christ’s return.

By Nicolae, the social dislocation caused by the Rapture leads a new group of questionable people to emerge as leaders. At their head is Nicolae Carpathia, a handsome Romanian business tycoon turned politician who has risen to the Romanian presidency in spite of his relative youth. In fact he is the Antichrist, created by immoral genetic experiments to be a cat’s-paw of Satan, facilitating his battles against God and his followers. After a ritualistic show of humility, Carpathia is made secretary-general of the United Nations.

Once in power, Carpathia transforms the United Nations from a loose alliance of nations into a despotic world government that he dubs the Global Community, with himself as its supreme potentate. He arranges for a crony, Cardinal Peter Mathews, to be named pope, because the previous pope disappeared in the Rapture. Mathews then becomes head of a new ecumenical church known as the Global Community Faith, which is later renamed Mystery Babylon One World Faith. Carpathia also moves the headquarters of the Global Community to a new city built on the ruins of Babylon in Iraq, which he calls New Babylon.

Steele becomes pilot of Carpathia’s personal airplane, giving him access to Carpathia’s inner circle. As his faith in Christ grows, Steele becomes uncomfortable with this role, but he decides it will be useful for the Tribulation Force to have a mole in Carpathia’s organization.

Alarmed by Carpathia’s rise to power, Jewish botanist Chaim Rosenzweig assassinates him in Assassins. However, the seeming triumph proves illusory, for after lying in state for three days, Carpathia rises from the dead in The Indwelling. Satan has reanimated his corpse and is now the animating force within him.

This apparent miracle enables Carpathia to sweep away the few remaining pretences of democracy or Christianity in his regime, and he decrees that henceforth all humanity should worship him as a god. He orders that golden statues of him be erected in every city and town and that...

(The entire section is 1364 words.)


(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Sources for Further Study

Capps, Charles. End Time Events: Journey to the End of the Age. Tulsa, Okla.: Harrison House, 1997. A discussion of end-time events with a heavy emphasis on Old Testament precursors and prefigurations, based on the idea that the souls of the dead are not conscious until the Second Coming.

DeMar, Gary. End Times Fiction: A Biblical Consideration of the “Left Behind” Theology. Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson, 2001. A criticism of LaHay’s novels from the perspective that the prophecies of Revelation actually refer to Nero’s persecutions of the early Church, the “preterist” interpretation of prophecy.

Frykholm, Amy Johnson. Rapture Culture: “Left Behind” in Evangelical America. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2004. Sociological study of responses to the Left Behind series among Christians and non-Christians.

LaHaye, Tim, and Thomas Ice, eds. The End Times Controversy: The Second Coming Under Attack. Eugene, Oreg.: Harvest House, 2003. A collection of responses to the preterist criticism of the Left Behind series, collected by LaHaye.

Marsden, George M. Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1991. Discusses the development of dispensationalism and premillennialism in the context of the history of evangelical Protestantism.

Noel, Ted. I Want to Be Left Behind. Maitland, Fla.: BibleOnly Press, 2002. A rejection of the pre-Tribulation Rapture theory that supports an otherwise premillennialist interpretation of Revelation.