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Jerry B. Jenkins
|Published||1995 – 2007|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
Jerry B. Jenkins
|Published||1995 – 2007|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
Left Behind is a series of 16 best-selling novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, dealing with Christian dispensationalist End Times: pretribulation, premillennial, Christian eschatological viewpoint of the end of the world. The primary conflict of the series is the members of the Tribulation Force against the Global Community and its leader Nicolae Carpathia—the Antichrist. Left Behind is also the title of the first book in the series. The series was first published 1995–2007 by Tyndale House, a firm with a history of interest in dispensationalism.
The series has been adapted into three action thriller films with the fourth being discussed by Cloud Ten Pictures. The films are Left Behind: The Movie, Left Behind II: Tribulation Force and Left Behind: World at War. The series also inspired the PC game Left Behind: Eternal Forces and its sequels, Left Behind: Tribulation Forces and Left Behind 3: Rise of the Antichrist.
Based on dispensationalist interpretation of prophecies in the Biblical books of Revelation, Daniel, Isaiah and Ezekiel, Left Behind tells the story of the end times (set in the contemporary era), in which true believers in Christ have been "raptured", (i.e. taken instantly to heaven) leaving the world shattered and chaotic. As people scramble for answers, a relatively unknown Romanian politician named Nicolae Jetty Carpathia rises to become secretary-general of the United Nations, promising to restore peace and stability to all nations. What most of the world does not realize is that Carpathia is actually the Antichrist foretold from the Bible. Coming to grips with the truth and becoming born-again Christians, airline pilot Rayford Steele, his daughter Chloe, their pastor Bruce Barnes, and young journalist Cameron "Buck" Williams begin their quest as the Tribulation Force to help save the lost and prepare for the coming Tribulation, in which God will rain down judgment on the world for seven years.
The tribulation saints are fictional characters who are converts to Christianity right after the Rapture. They are to face the Antichrist Nicolae Carpathia during the Tribulation, each in accordance with his or her own divinely-determined destiny.
The most well known of the Tribulation Saints include Rayford Steele, Chloe Steele, Cameron "Buck" Williams, and Tsion Ben-Judah.
In 1998, the first four books of the series held the top four slots in the New York Times best-seller list simultaneously, despite the fact that the New York Times ' best-seller list does not take Protestant bookstore sales into account. Book 10 debuted at number one on this list. Total sales for the series have surpassed 63 million copies. Seven titles in the adult series have reached #1 on the bestseller lists for the New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly.
One reason often cited for the books' popularity is the quick pacing and action. Michelle Goldberg has written that, "On one level, the attraction of the Left Behind books isn't that much different from that of, say, Tom Clancy or Stephen King. The plotting is brisk and the characterizations Manichean. People disappear and things blow up." The New York Times also compared the series to Clancy's works. However, those views are not universally shared. Other reviewers have called the series "almost laughably tedious" and "fatuous and boring."
In 2007 the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) recognized the Left Behind series at its CBA & ECPA Awards Celebration in Atlanta, Georgia with the ECPA Pinnacle Award. ECPA President Mark Kuyper said, "In many ways this series established Christian fiction as a significant category in publishing in general." Jerry Falwell said about the first book in the series: "In terms of its impact on Christianity, it's probably greater than that of any other book in modern times, outside the Bible."
LaHaye and Jenkins cite the influence of Russell S. Doughten, an Iowan film-maker who directed a series of four low-budget but popular feature-length films in the 1970s and 1980s about the Rapture and Second Coming, starting with 1972's A Thief in the Night. Indeed, the title "Left Behind" echoes the refrain of Thief's early-Christian-rock theme song by Larry Norman.
Crawford Gribben has shown that there were successful rapture fiction novels as early as 1913, with some earlier works identified as dating from 1905. Of the former, Sydney Watson's Scarlet and Purple (1913), The Mark of the Beast (1915) and In the Twinkling of an Eye are cited as examples of the genre.
While writing that the series fulfills the norms of mass-market fiction, as mentioned above, magazine writer Michelle Goldberg characterized the books as an attack on Judaism and liberal secularism, and suggested that the near-future "end times" in which the books are set seem to reflect the actual worldview of millions of Americans, including many prominent conservative leaders.
The series has also been accused of plagiarism. One website states that: "These similarities [with earlier novel 666] are noteworthy, I think, for a couple of reasons. The first has to do with Lahaye’s claim of originality for his series of books. In an interview in the March 28, 2000 issue of the Assembly of God magazine Pentecostal evangel, he insists that "Left Behind is the first fictional portrayal of events that are true to the literal interpretation of Bible prophecy. It was written for anyone who loves gripping fiction featuring believable characters, a dynamic plot that also weaves prophetic events in a fascinating story."
Some premillennialists, while accepting many of the basic beliefs behind the series, describe problems with specific prophetical teachings in the Left Behind books. For instance, in The Mark, Chang Wong receives both the mark of the beast and the sealing of the Lord and he is later accepted into heaven, despite having the mark. In Desecration, the character's dual-marking was justified in the storyline. He was saved because he did not accept the mark of the beast; he was forced to receive it because he was involuntarily put to sleep and then given it. It was noted in one particular paragraph in the book Desecration, after hitting the "motherlode" as he called it, that Chang at one point attempted to mumble to his father that he was a "Believer" as he carried him into the room to receive his mark. This has led some readers to wonder how a Christian can have the mark of the beast and still be saved.
Along with some other rapture fiction novels, the Left Behind series demonstrates a specific understanding of the Gospel and the Christian life, one with which many have taken issue theologically. The books have not sold particularly well outside of the United States. Dispensationalism remains a minority view among theologians. For instance, amillennial and postmillennial Christians do not believe in the same timeline of the Second Coming as premillennialists, while preterist Christians do not interpret much of the Book of Revelation to predict future events at all. Brian McLaren of the Emergent Church compares the Left Behind series to The Da Vinci Code, and states, "What the Left Behind novels do, the way they twist scripture toward a certain theological and political end, I think [Dan] Brown is twisting scripture, just to other political ends." John Dart, writing in Christian Century, characterized the works as "beam me up theology".
Some practicing Christians, evangelical and otherwise, along with non-Christians have shown concern that the social perspectives promoted in the Left Behind series unduly sensationalize the death and destruction of masses of people. Harvey Cox, a professor of divinity at Harvard, says part of the appeal of the books lies in the "lip-licking anticipation of all the blood," and theologian Barbara Rossing, author of The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation, said the books glorify violence. Time magazine said "the nuclear frights of, say, Tom Clancy's The Sum of All Fears wouldn't fill a chapter in the Left Behind series. (Large chunks of several U.S. cities have been bombed to smithereens by page 110 of Book 3.)"
Paul Nuechterlein accused the authors of re-sacralizing violence, adding that "we human beings are the ones who put our faith in superior firepower. But in the Left Behind novels the darkness of that human, satanic violence is once again attributed to God." In that same book ("Glorious Appearing") Jesus merely speaks and the bodies of his enemies are ripped open, forcing the Christians to drive carefully to avoid "hitting splayed and filleted bodies of men and women and horses."
The books are written from a Protestant viewpoint. As a result some believe the books are anti-Catholic, noting that many Catholics were not raptured and that the new pope establishes a false religion. While the fictional Pope, John XXIV, was raptured, he is described as having embraced some of the views of the "Father of Protestantism" Martin Luther and it is implied that he was raptured for this reason. His successor, Pope Peter II, becomes Pontifex Maximus of Enigma Babylon One World Faith, an amalgamation of all remaining world faiths and religions. Catholic Answers describes the series as anti-Catholic, while other Catholics[who?] dispute these claims. On page 343 of Book 10, The Remnant, most of a Catholic church (including the priest and the catechism teacher) are raptured. The co-author of the book, Jerry B. Jenkins, as well as LaHaye, stated that their books are not anti-Catholic and that they have many faithful Catholic readers and friends. According to LaHaye, "the books don’t suggest any particular theology, but try to introduce people to a more personal relationship with Jesus."
Note: The books are listed initially in story-line (chronological) order but then numbered in order of publication.
|Chron Seq.||Pub Seq.||Title (with subtitle)||Pub Date|
|1||13||The Rising: Antichrist is Born: Before They Were Left Behind||2005|
|2||14||The Regime: Evil Advances: Before They Were Left Behind #2||2005|
|3||15||The Rapture: In the Twinkling of an Eye: Countdown to Earth's Last Days #3||2006|
|4||1||Left Behind: A Novel of the Earth's Last Days||1995|
|5||2||Tribulation Force: The Continuing Drama of Those Left Behind||1996|
|6||3||Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist||1997|
|7||4||Soul Harvest: The World Takes Sides||1999|
|8||5||Apollyon: The Destroyer Is Unleashed||1999|
|9||6||Assassins: Assignment: Jerusalem, Target: Antichrist||1999|
|10||7||The Indwelling: The Beast Takes Possession||2000|
|11||8||The Mark: The Beast Rules the World||2000|
|12||9||Desecration: Antichrist Takes the Throne||2001|
|13||10||The Remnant: On the Brink of Armageddon||2002|
|14||11||Armageddon: The Cosmic Battle of the Ages||2003|
|15||12||Glorious Appearing: The End of Days||2004|
|16||16||Kingdom Come: The Final Victory||2007|
There are also graphic novels, CDs, and a Left Behind series for teens. Audio dramatizations based on the first twelve titles have also been produced for broadcast on Christian radio. The series written for teens is called Left Behind: The Kids. The plot of this series is the same as the adult series, but the main protagonists are teenagers. Several of the main books have also been turned into movies by the Canadian motion picture studio Cloud Ten Pictures, including Left Behind: The Movie, Left Behind II: Tribulation Force, and Left Behind: World at War.
The success of the Left Behind books has led to the release of three motion pictures based on the series so far. The movies have been produced and released by Cloud Ten Pictures, a Canadian Christian movie studio.
The first, Left Behind: The Movie, was based on the first book of the series and was released in 2000. In a very unusual marketing scheme, the studio released the movie on video and DVD first, and then released it to the theaters. The movie fared poorly in theaters. The movie starred former Growing Pains star Kirk Cameron as Buck Williams. Cameron, who finds the series inspiring, is a practicing evangelist (and co-host with Ray Comfort on the TV show The Way of the Master).
In 2002, the sequel, Left Behind II: Tribulation Force, was based on the second book, Tribulation Force, and was released. The film debuted at #2 on Nielson's video scan reports, behind Spider-Man, and was #1 in terms of overall sales for two days on Amazon.com.
The second sequel, Left Behind: World at War, was released first to churches on October 21, 2005 for church theatrical viewings, and was released to DVD and video on October 25, 2005. Except for Clarence Gilyard, the entire cast of Left Behind and Left Behind II: Tribulation Force reprised their respective roles for Left Behind: World At War. Clarence Gilyard, who played Bruce Barnes, was unable to return for the third movie due to a scheduling conflict with a play in New York. The movie is based very loosely on the final fifty pages of Tribulation Force, and features Louis Gossett Jr. playing the President of the United States, Gerald Fitzhugh. The third movie was the least identifiable with events in any of the books. Recognizable events were the marriages of Buck with Chloe Steele, and Rayford Steele with Amanda White, the death of Bruce Barnes, and President Fitzhugh heading an attack, resulting in World War III, with Great Britain and Egypt, against the Global Community. Major parts of the movie, however, were taken from subsequent books in the series. These events include the poisoning of Barnes by GC forces instead of Nicolae Carpathia himself and an attempt by Fitzhugh to assassinate Nicolae Carpathia. Buck's meeting with the President in the books makes it into the movie, but in a totally different form.
The movies have been criticized for, among other things, low production values. A Slate reviewer commented that in 2004, Cloud Ten Pictures made a deal with Sony Entertainment to release all of its pictures under the Sony banner and has been doing so ever since.
Cloud Ten Pictures has announced that a remake of the Left Behind series is in development. Production on the remake is set to begin in late 2012 for a May 2014 release date.
The video game Left Behind: Eternal Forces and its three sequels, "Left Behind: Tribulation Forces", "Left Behind 3: Rise of the Antichrist" and "Left Behind 4: World at War" were developed by a publicly traded company, Left Behind Games. The games are real-time strategy games where the player controls a 'Tribulation Forces' team and allows the player to "use the power of prayer to strengthen your troops in combat and wield modern military weaponry throughout the game world." The original game was released in the United States on November 14, 2006 and received mixed reviews. Distribution was initially planned to work through churches and megachurches.
Although the original game was accused of encouraging religious violence, not all reviewers of the game or critics of the Left Behind series shared that view. Representatives of the company have responded that the game's message is pacifist because shooting nonbelievers instead of converting them costs the player "spirit points", which can be recovered by pausing to pray. The company also responded to these criticisms in an online newsletter, stating, "There is no violence, only conflict," and, "The most successful way to fight, is through the means of spiritual warfare; PRAYER and WORSHIP. Soldiers and military weaponry are available, but once anyone plays the game, they’ll see how difficult it is to succeed by using these less effective means of warfare."
|People Get Ready|
|Soundtrack album by Various artists|
|Released||November 17, 1998|
People Get Ready is "a musical collection inspired by the Left Behind series."
Williams professor Glenn Shuck has written the book Marks of the Beast: The Left Behind Novels and the Struggle for Evangelical Identity, published by NYU Press in 2005. He followed this with a collection of original essays co-edited with Jeffrey J. Kripal of Rice University on the Esalen Institute in California, published by Indiana University Press in 2005. Robert M. Price has written the book The paperback apocalypse published by Prometheus books in 2007 ISBN 978-1-59102-583-2 which review the whole genre of apocalypse fiction.
In 2002 a series of graphic novels was launched that comprised the first two books in the series, Left Behind and Tribulation Force. The original idea was to release sets of 3 to 5 novels (each about 45–50 pages) for each book in the original series. However, after the 5th and final novel for Tribulation Force was released, the graphic novel series was apparently discontinued and the novels that were released are now (as of December 2006) out of print. A compilation of the graphic novels for the first book was later released as one novel.