Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Righteous are "Left Behind"

With the new "Left Behind" movie premiering this fall many people are writing about the film and its theological implications.  There are some very good points being shared and thought I might add a few. Basically Left Behind is built on a dispensational belief that Christians will be raptured, that is removed from earth bodily, while leaving non-Christians on earth to struggle, that is wallow in the results of their sinful reality.  While it makes for creative fiction in the vein of Steven Kings "The Stand" it is not all that biblical.

In his article, "Why the Rapture isn't Bibilical...and Why it Matters" Kurt Williams lays out three good points how people have misinterpreted I Thessalonians 4:15-17, that reflect the teachings of NT Wright.  In summary Paul is not talking about bodies going into heaven, but rather physically resurrected bodies joining Christ on Earth upon his return.

 Other popular rapture passages come from Matthew 24:40-41 and Luke 17:34-36 where Jesus talks of two people working in a field where, "One will be taken and the other left."  Matthew states this will occur at "the coming of the Son of Man."  It has often been interpreted that those taken were Christian and those left were lost people who missed the rapture.  Jesus also references the Noah flood and reminds us that in this time too and immenent disaster was threatened but in this image it was the wicked who were "taken away" and the righteous Noah and his family are "left."  Clearly in this image of Jesus being "taken" is applied to the wicked and lost, not the saved Christian. Steve Gregg's article "Who's Been Left Behind?" expands these points more fully.

Jewish eschatology of the Old Testament and "intertestimental" period did not look for the removal of the righteous from the earth. The whole point of God creating earth and placing humanity as care givers was so that we would remain in community with God on his created earth. Sin damaged this relationship with both God and creation but someday the ultimate eschatological hope is that all will be in perfect harmony together again.  Creation and Restoration are the main themes of Jewish and Christian hope.

God has given the earth to the children of men in Psalm 115:16.  Paul states God promises that Abraham's seed would inherit the world, not heaven in Romans 4:13.  Psalm 2:8 declares earth is Christs inheritance and the earth is his possession.  The messiah will one day fully rule over the earth but only after the wicked are removed in Proverbs 2:21-22 and Psalm 37:9-11.  Jesus says that the meek with inherit the earth in the Sermon on the Mount.

The idea that God will take away the righteous to a different reality and leave the wicked to wallow sinfully in his good creation is a foreign concept in the Jewish mind.  The New Testament does not contradict the traditional Jewish worldview.  Revelation 5:10 states that Christ's disciples will "reign on the earth."  Jesus' eschatology is the same as that of the Old Testament.  2 Thessalonians 1:7-8 and Revelation 21:4 and 22:3 states there will be a time of judgment but that the wicked will be removed not the righteous.  It s the righteous who will be left to enjoy what God created as he intended from the time of the Garden of Eden.

This matters because if we do not have an appropriate view of God's greater narrative for his creation it is easy to get off track and create our own narratives as those who support a dispensational eschatology do.  Because as many have argued lately including NT Wright and Christopher J H Wright (no relation) the earth has intrinsic value and it is not to be easily escaped or destroyed.  Therefore as important as heaven is, ultimately that is not our destination but rather a redeemed and restored heaven and earth as seen in Revelation 21-22.


  1. Good stuff. I can't wait to go see that movie. #hilarious

  2. BREAKING NEWS: The longtime No. 1 pretrib rapture authority, Dr. John Walvoord of Dallas Seminary, has written that the "Left Behind" books and movies have a NON-BIBLICAL foundation! Walvoord says in his book "The Rapture Question," p. 169, that the ones "taken" first in Matt. 24 are the wicked who are judged and killed, and the ones "left" behind are the righteous - which is just the OPPOSITE of what "Left Behind" books and films portray! For proof of this, Google "The 'Left Behind' Rupture" which was aired on Joe Ortiz's "The End Times Passover" blog on August 12, 2014. (For more shocks Google "Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty," "Pretrib Rapture Pride," "Pretrib Rapture Secrecy," "Letter from Mrs. Billy Graham," and "Pretrib Rapture Stealth."