Left Behind Series: End-Times Novel Reviews Part 2


leftbehindAfter the deflating letdown of “The Fourth Reich”, I once again ventured into the waters of end-times fiction.  This time it was the Left Behind series with best selling authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins.

The Left Behind series has unfortunately degraded into a curious franchise of movies, spinoffs, video games, comics, t-shirts and probably bed covers with matching pillow cases eerily reminiscent of Star Wars ( or perhaps rather Space Balls? ).  Yet for the sake of this review I’ll stick with the original 13 book series.

The story is about the events immediately following the aftermath of the pre-tribulationist concept of “the rapture”.  It takes us through the interweaving stories of a pilot, a reporter, a pastor.  Many other characters are introduced as the series moves along and subsequently exterminated in ever creative fashions.

The first book is all well and good, while the second is more buildup.  The third book, “Nicolae” is by far the best of the bunch due to its political intrigue.  I’m not sure what it is with Anti-Christ figures and the name “Nicolae”, but I suggest all you good parents be suspicious of little Nicki and to inspect him for any 666 birthmarks.  I’m just saying.

halloatesFrom books 4 on, it quickly spirals into drudgery.  It’s like Hall and Oates music: you’ll listen to it on the radio, maybe even tap your fingers…but it’s otherwise not memorable and simply an empty experience.  Not bad, just not good. OK, let’s put it this way…I can summarize each book after “Nicolae” by the following dialogue:

Buck: Hey, our friend Joe just got shot through the head.  Y’know, this reminds me of John 3:16.

Tsion: Yes Buck, and we must inform the world on the Internet because people always look to the internet for religious guidance.

Buck gave a grim look, because he knew many more of them would die in the days ahead.  But he was cool with that.

Ray: Hey, let’s pray!

Look folks, I’m as evangelical as they come, so I have to wonder…do any of us REALLY talk like this??  Maybe I need to broaden my social network.  Or maybe I’m better off leaving well enough alone.

What begins as entertaining fiction begins to take itself way, way too seriously.  The characters turn into cardboard-cutouts going through very predictable hoops.  And the Anti-Christ…oh man…

OK, here’s the deal.  I expect the Anti-Christ be somewhat more intelligent than, say, your average NASCAR viewer.  Nicolae begins as a rising star but becomes strikingly similar to Wile E. Coyote chasing the Christian Road Runner.  This guy in reality couldn’t get elected to the city council of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan let alone have all the leaders of the world give him their power, so it seriously lacks believability.

coyoteCome near the end of the series, Nicolae becomes such a cartoonish political figure I half expected him to roll out an ACME guillotine while writhing his hands.   As a reader you don’t want him to meet his demise because he’s evil.  You want it because he’s a freaking idiot.

And Jesus, well…he’s very…( looking for the right words )Baptist.

I don’t envy an author who must try and do justice to adding Jesus in a novel.   Unfortunately, Jesus comes off like an actor stealing his own lines.  Here is where LaHaye and Jenkins drop the ball.  The authors forget that they are writing FICTION, and instead feel they must “stick to the script” and not deviate from the acceptable evangelical norm.

Truly good books take artistic license. Unfortunately, the Left Behind series sacrifices creativity and originality and instead seeks more to convince the reader of the pre-tribulationist rapture instead…which I find a shaky theological view at best.  It is often overly preachy, and to any student of Biblical eschatology, is exceedingly predictable.

The books accomplish in 13 what should have been done in 3 or 4.  It rambles on, and you are only along for the ride so you can see the end.  I suggest reading books 1, 3, and 13. There you go, and you’re welcome.

The authors are now making a PREQUEL series…which seems redundant if you ask me considering you KNOW the outcome.  But I guess writers have kids to feed too.

Squeaks by with 3 Stars out of 5. Give it a 4 if you’re a member of the Southern Baptist Convention.

NEXT UP:  The Christ Clone Trilogy by James Beauseigneur…

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About Author

John Paul Parrot ( aka. The Dysfunctional Parrot ) is a disgruntled Systems Analyst who wanders the Canadian wastelands saving small villages with the power of Kung Fu.  His chair is also a little too close to the twenty year old microwave.  As you can well imagine, this has had certain side effects.

  • If Jesus is a Baptist then I'm a freakin' Dispensationalist!

    Good stuff man. I can't believe you can suffer through this crap. My Amillenial Radar would be driving me crazy by the end of the first chapter haha!

    Although I did see the movie. Have you seen that Family Guy episode where Kurt Cameron leads Meg to the Lord through his TV show?

    • DysfunctionalParrot

      Pre-Wrath guy myself. I must admit, I don't quite understand Amillenialism's position. Some tell me they push "replacement theology" ( ie: church replaces Israel…which I don't buy for a second ), but I don't see why that would necessarily be the case. Hey, maybe you can fill me in so I get it straight from the source!

      The third left behind movie was probably the best for two reasons…Louis Gossett Jr. Stole every scene he was in. And second, it wasn't based on any of the books!

      Never saw the Family Guy episode. Not really my forte' ( whatever that means ), and the whole anti-Kirk Cameron thing is getting old. I kind of admire the guy in many ways because he takes a very unpopular stance in a Hollywood workplace that crucifies anyone who goes against it.

  • Replacement Theology is a straw man argument. Covenant Theology doesn't preach that the Church replaces Israel, it teaches that the covenant is expanded to include Gentiles now. It teaches that Gentiles have been brought into the Covenant Community and while Jews by in large have fallen away and rejected the Messiah, at some point before the end, the Jews will turn to Christ and be regraphed back into the Covenant Community. We would say that terms like "Church" and "Israel" are pretty much interchangable when it comes to discussing the Body of Christ (the universal invisible body of believers). As Paul wrote in Galations, by faith we are the seeds of Abraham, heirs according to the promise. This has always been the historic position of the Church and no one questioned it until J Nelson Darby and CI Scofield in the 1800s. I have a hard time challenging a view that was so widely accepted in the Church until the 1800s…as if all of a sudden J Nelson Darby figured it all out.

    Amillenialism only makes sense inside of a Covenant Theology framework really. Though its not the only End Time view that is accepted by both the Historic Church and by Orthodox Protestants. Classical Premillenialism (which differs from Dispensational Premillenialism in that it does not believe in a rapture followed by a 7 year tribulation, followed by a 1000 year Jewish kingdom reestablished…again all ideas of the 1800s), post-millenialism, and pretorism are all accepted views historically. A "post wrath" view would probably fit in with historic Premillenialism. That's a good camp to be in. A lot of the early church was in that camp.

    Anyway, it doesn't really answer what Amillenialism is…but entire books have been written on that subject haha! Could I really do it in one comment!? Check out http://www.amazon.com/Case-Amillennialism-Underst

  • DysfunctionalParrot

    I think we're on the same page in everything that matters. The only thing I would clarify for myself is that although the Jews by in large have rejected their Messiah, God has not rejected them. We have also been grafted into them…not them into us.

    At the end of the day, I'm not sure any of us can claim with absolute certainty that our pre, post, mid, amil, or pre-wrath views are the right one. It is peripheral doctrine in the grand scope of the gospel. That is why LaHaye sort of burns me…he nearly implies that believing in pre-trib is almost a NECESSARY belief.

    I'll also see if I can track down your book suggestion!

  • :)

  • Yeah well the Dispensational Pre-Trib guys all pretty much imply that its an almost necessary belief. Only because though, its part of a much larger hermeneutic system. Dispensationalism has a set of "end times" beliefs that are pretty much foreign to all other thoughts in Christianity. So in reality, when guys like that are implying that its necessary to be "pre-trib", what they're really saying is that its necessary to be dispensationalists. That definitely doesn't jive with me…mainly because I'm not a dispensationalist and either was/is most of the Church!

    You have a good point about us being grafted into Israel, and I don't deny that. Calvin was pretty clear on that as well, Paul certainly was. Either way, Jews who believe and Gentiles who believe are part of both the Church AND the Israel of God. Terms don't REALLY matter. The "replacement theology" idea has to go though. Like I said, its an expansion of the Covenant, not a booting out of the Jews and replacing them with the Church. As Paul writes, there is a remnant (and he uses himself as an example), those who recognize Christ as the Messiah, and most good Covenant theology types recognize that before the "end", we'll see many many Jews turning to Christ and being regrafted back into the Vine! The big point is for me, is that we're all part of the same vine. When Romans 11 talks about the Jews coming back, Paul doesn't talk about two separate plants! All the same body!