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July 25 Left Behind, the Rapture & Armageddon

Today in 2016 in San Diego, the American Baptist pastor and author Tim LaHaye, died aged 90. He will be remembered as the author of the popular, Left Behind Series of books which sold more than 70 million copies. Based on the apocalyptic events described in the Book of Revelation, the last book of the bible, the 15 books of the series have led to a multimedia franchise that has been very profitable. Le Haye was involved also a key figure in a revival of the fundamentalist movement after it had been pushed to the fringe of the Christian community in the 1930’s and 40’s. after losing attempts to block the teaching of evolution in schools ( Pod May 5 ) Fundamentalists lost control of the denominational seminaries, but they regrouped around a set of independent Bible institutes and Bible colleges.


Christian fundamentalism had formed in reaction against Modernist theology starting among conservative Presbyterian theologians at Princeton Theological Seminary in the late 19th century. It soon spread to conservatives among the Baptists and other denominations around 1910 to 1920. They have an unwavering attachment to a set of irreducible beliefs, such as the age of the earth being 6000 years and refuse to change those beliefs in the face of counter evidence from geologists and main stream Christians. Therefore the term fundamentalism is usually a pejorative rather than a neutral characterization. Le Haye emerged alongside the televangelists Pat Robertson and Jerry Fallwell as a new champion of Christian fundamentalism and in 1979 they founded the Moral Majority, a civic organization that crusaded against what it viewed as negative cultural trends, legalized abortion, the women’s movement, and the gay rights movement. This struggle for dominance of their values, beliefs, and practices became known as the culture wars. They also were a growing influence politically in the Republican Party and lobbied for prayer in public schools, increased defense spending, a strong anti-communist foreign policy (pod Mar 8, and continued American support for the State of Israel.

Tim Le Hayes, Left Behind Series were based on the apocalyptic events described in the Book of Revelation, the last book of the bible, using a literal interpretation in one of the strangest genre of books in the Bible, Revelation spans three literary genres: the epistolary, the apocalyptic, and the prophetic and is not interpreted in a literal way by main stream Christianity, in fact many theologians argue it is dangerous to do so. The author names himself as "John" in the text, but his precise identity remains a point of academic debate. Some modern scholars refer to "John of Patmos" who wrote the book during the reign of the Roman emperor Domitian (AD 81–96), it is not clear if it is the John who was Jesus’ beloved disciple and author of the fourth Gospel. It begins with John on the island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea, addressing a letter to the "Seven Churches of Asia". He then describes a series of prophetic visions, including figures such as the Seven-Headed Dragon, the Serpent, and the Beast, which culminate in the Second Coming of Jesus.

A 19th-century English preacher John Nelson Darby took a literalist reading of the Book of Revelation, and the imminent coming of the Last Days, in which the saved elect are taken safely up to heaven while the forces of evil battle for seven years over control of the Earth until the triumph of the returning Christ at the Battle of Armageddon and the institution of a 1,000-year reign of peace and harmony. This eschatological theology is often referred to as 'pretribulationism'. Advocates of this fundamentalist theology predict an event called the Rapture, when all true Christian believers who are alive, along with resurrected believers, will rise "in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air." This is a relatively recent belief as Jesus himself warns in the Gospel of False prophets at the end of time, so there has always been a suspicion of making too fixed and accurate predictions. Darby’s theology and is based on a two-event understanding of the end of time, the rapture will precede the seven-year Tribulation, which will culminate in Christ's second coming and be followed by a thousand-year Messianic Kingdom. Most Christian denominations do not subscribe to this theology and interpret the rapture as an elect gathering with Christ in Heaven after his second coming, they reject the idea that a large segment of humanity will be left behind on earth for an extended tribulation period.

Le Hayes left behind series starts with the saved disappearing suddenly from among the passengers on a jumbo jet flying across the Atlantic, leaving only their clothes, jewellery, teeth fillings and surgical pins behind – LaHaye claimed to have got the original inspiration from watching cabin crew canoodling on a flight and wondering what would happen to them when the Rapture struck. In the book, cars on the ground are also suddenly left driverless – and the series continues excitingly through the following books with battles, helicopter chases, earthquakes, plagues of locusts and a supernatural horde of 200 million demonic horsemen. The books’ evil genius turns out to be a Romanian called Nicolae Carpathia, whose wicked Global Community regime, supposedly dedicated to fostering peace, world government and a single currency, bears a passing resemblance to the United Nations, or maybe the European Union. The series audience is mainly in the UStC, and LaHaye was among a party invited to meet Jimmy Carter for a White House breakfast in 1980, where they were shocked to find the president – himself a Southern Baptist Sunday school teacher – was fundamentally unsound because he supported equal rights and the supreme court’s abortion judgment. LaHaye immediately led the group in prayer outside saying: “God, we have got to get this man out of the White House and get someone in here who will be aggressive about bringing back traditional moral values.” They then mobilised their followers for the divorced, non-churchgoing, former Hollywood actor Ronald Reagan instead.

In 2017 the Donald Trump administration recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moved the US Embassy there in a very controversial foreign policy move. He would later tell supporters at a rally in Wisconsin that this was done for the benefit of his evangelical Christian supporters. This is shows that its dangerous to dismiss pretibulationism as a fringe belief. It has become politicised in Christian Zionism who believe thats God's promise of the Holy Land to the Jews is eternal and so Christ will return to Jerusalem, and specifically a Jerusalem controlled by the Jewish people. They will experience a great spiritual rebirth and rebuild the temple. This needs to happen so that the rapture will take pace and there is battle of good against evil at the ancient site of Megiddo, in northern Israel – hence Armageddon.

Pope Francis shuns a millenarian view of the future of humanity where some golden age of peace within history rules; his emphasis is on a God of Mercy not a God who viciously punishes those who have not been elected. Although a couple of times Francis has invoked an apocalyptic 1907 novel by an English priest, Robert Hugh Benson, called “Lord of the World.” (June 8) The novel lays out a dystopic vision of a final conflict between secular humanism and Catholicism, also ending with a showdown taking place on the fields of Armageddon . In 1988 Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) published a book called Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life which is now considered a classic. It his exposition of what Christian hope allows, and ia presentation or representation of the classic Four Last Things, death, judgment, heaven, and hell—which makes sense of each of our lives as well as our death. He begins by saying the eschatological problem is a question about the very essence of Christianity, which is based on hope not on a vengeful justification of an elect as Le Hayes Left Behind series portrays.


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