Left Behind

Combining the prophetic fiction of Hal Lindsey with the dramatic story telling style of Frank Peretti, Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins have cashed in on a gold mine within the Christian community while barely drawing a yawn from the rapture-at-risk pagans. As you might expect, opinions about the story line and the movie quality run the gambit.

The New York Times, in a February 2, 2001 review wrote about the recently released movie:

As for basic credibility, Left Behind proudly belongs to the don't ask, don't explain, connect no dots school of storytelling. The central character, Buck Williams (Kirk Cameron), the most golly gee-whiz young journalist to appear since Jimmy Olsen stalked Superman, is a correspondent for the GNN cable network. Buck has an amazing knack for finding himself at the center of the action wherever he happens to be.

The movie's catalytic event is the Christian Rapture: 142 million people around the world are abruptly transported directly to heaven, leaving behind their clothes and personal belongings. The event triggers instant chaos, including thousands of traffic accidents and the declaration of worldwide martial law. It doesn't dawn on most of those left behind until late in the movie that the disappearances are biblical prophecy coming true. The moment they grasp the truth, they tend to fall to their knees in prayer as helpful clerical friends, citing chapter and verse, provide biblical confirmation.

Among the characters who cross paths are Rayford Steele (Brad Johnson), an adulterous pilot whose cold heart opens after he loses some of his family; his surly teenage daughter Chloe (Janaya Stephens), who sheds her nose ring along with her attitude shortly after the disaster; Chaim Rosenzweig (Colin Fox), the na´vely idealistic inventor of the Eden Project; Nicolae Carpathia (Gordon Currie), the sleek United Nations Secretary General; and Hattie Durham (Chelsea Noble), a flight attendant who, thanks to Buck's influence, makes a drastic career change to United Nations insider.

For all its intimations of fire and brimstone, the film isn't remotely frightening, and the high-school-level acting doesn't help. To see the same theme drawn out with visual daring and a genuine sense of awe, try renting Michael Tolchin's 1991 film
The Rapture.

Well, you might expect that from the New York Times. But what you might not expect is the following review from the one denomination you would think would be on line with the movie, the Seventh Day Adventist. In their December 7, 2000 issue of Adventist Review, Mr. Don O. Neufeld wrote of the books, in part:

The action swirls around the interplay of these groups during the seven years of the great tribulation. The events of the tribulation are taken, quite literally, from the language in Revelation and Daniel. The characters are believable and sympathetic, and the plotting and timing of the story well done. There is plenty of suspense, lots of action, and (reader be warned) strong violence in certain parts.

Unfortunately, many readers, Christians and the merely curious, have attached spiritual and prophetic meaning to these books. The series is a topic in many Christian discussion groups and Internet chat rooms, generating surprisingly intense debate about the rapture, "signs of the end" and other end-time events, and the meaning of the final judgment. This underscores two concerns I have about the series.

First, readers who have accepted Christ and long for His return—particularly new believers—may become unduly infatuated with the events so excitingly described in the books. They could, in turn, spend inordinate time analyzing, studying, and verifying the details portrayed in the books, shifting their focus away from more important pursuits, such as developing a personal relationship with Christ and simple, day-to-day Christianity.

Second, readers who are not believers, but who have had their curiosity piqued by the popularity of these books, may get a badly distorted view of Christian beliefs, reject them, and look no further. The authors describe the events from Revelation and Daniel in literal, almost slavish detail. In some cases this becomes, well, silly. Real giant flying locusts, wearing crowns and armor, and zapping their victims with scorpion tails? An actual star named Wormwood plunging into the sea? The potential new believer might find these events too ridiculous to accept and never discover the true focus of Christianity—eternal salvation through faith in our Lord.

In short, I recommend these books to anyone who is interested in—and has the time for—fun, well-written action fiction with an evangelical theme. On the other hand, the books are not for anyone seeking an accurate, serious analysis of Christ and biblical prophecies about His coming. For that, there is no substitute for prayerful, Spirit-guided study of the Bible itself.

But I believe the best movie review appeared in the Dallas Morning News Entertainment Section by none other than Gary North. Notice that I said the Entertainment Section. Wouldn't you have loved to been a fly in the soup of some innocent entertainment seeker who opened the paper only to be confronted by Gary North?

You need to read his review. It's very good. I wish you could read the review that was linked from his review to the religious section of the paper.  I think either the editors got confused or they were trying to play some kind of game.


Gary North Review



Patrick L. Hurd
Weatherford, Texas

EST. 01/01/01