The following is an excerpt from The Left
Behind Deception. Copyright © 2001 by Steve Wohlberg and used with his permission.
n official Left Behind website on the
Internet declares: “In one chaotic moment, millions of people around the world
suddenly disappear leaving their clothes, wedding rings, eye glasses and shoes
in crumpled piles. Mass confusion hits while vehicles suddenly unmanned veer
out of control, fires erupt and hysteria breaks out as the living stare in disbelief
and fear at the empty places where their loved ones were just seconds before.
This is the rapture that God has planned as the first sign to begin the unraveling
of the end of time.”
Newspaper headlines are predicted to read: “Millions
Mysteriously Vanish!” “All Children Have Disappeared!” “Massive Traffic Snarls
Due to Missing Drivers!” “Planes Crash, Trains Wreck As Pilots and Engineers
Disappear!” It has been reported that some at American Airlines are worried
about this, so they want at least one non-Christian pilot aboard each flight
— just in case!
The Bible certainly does teach the exciting truth
that Jesus Christ will return for His people. Jesus Himself said, “I will come
again, and receive you to myself” (John 14:3). I fully believe these words,
and long to be ready for that great day.
Without a doubt, the most quoted passage in the
Bible now being used to support the idea of a Rapture is found in 1 Thessalonians
4:17. Countless Christians know it by heart, and it is cited in LEFT BEHIND:
The Movie. Paul wrote that believers in Jesus Christ will someday be “caught
up…in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). How wonderful!
This will be no imaginary, “Beam me up, Scotty,” event as in the television
series Star Trek. On the contrary, it will be very real, and no space
suits or oxygen masks will be needed. While I do believe in the return of Jesus,
and that believers will someday be “caught up,” there are still some major issues
of interpretation I want to examine. The first concerns the timing of
our being “caught up,” and the second has to do with the nature of the
Let me explain. According to Left Behind,
the return of Jesus Christ actually takes place in two distinct phases.
First, Jesus returns silently and secretly, unnoticed by the world. At that
moment Christians will be “caught up,” or raptured, which is interpreted as
the sudden vanishing of millions of people all over the globe. The rest
of mankind, having been left behind, are then ushered into a “seven-year period
called the Tribulation” (The Tribulation Force, inside cover, second
book in the Left Behind series). During the Tribulation, the Antichrist
rises to enforce his deadly mark. At the end of the seven years, Jesus returns
visibly before the eyes of all, an event referred to as Christ’s Second Coming
or “Glorious Appearing.” Thus, according to Left Behind, Jesus first
comes silently to rapture away true believers, and then, seven years later,
He comes visibly at the very end of the world. With minor variations, this sequence
is now accepted by millions of Bible-believing Christians as an accurate picture
of end-time events.
There are three primary pillars that stand out
in this teaching, and it is safe to say that the entire Left Behind house
rests firmly on top of each of them.
Pillar 1 – The Rapture, when the
Church is “caught up” (1 Thessalonians 4:17), does not take place at
the visible Second Coming of Jesus Christ, but seven years before it.
Pillar 2 – Those who miss the Rapture
will have a second chance during the seven years of Tribulation to be
Pillar 3 – The true Church
of today will escape the Tribulation and will not have to face
the Antichrist and the Mark.
Before we go any further, allow me to list three
logical alternatives, thus clarifying the issues.
Alternative 1 – The Rapture, when
the Church is “caught up” (1 Thessalonians 4:17), does take place at
the visible Second Coming of Jesus Christ at the end of world.
Alternative 2 – Those who are not
ready for the catching up of true believers at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ
will have no second chance to be saved.
Alternative 3 – The Church of today
will go through Earth’s final period of Tribulation and therefore must
overcome the Antichrist and the Mark in order to be ready for Christ’s Second
Can you see how serious these issues are? Which
view is right — The three pillars of Left Behind, or these three logical
alternatives? What does the Bible really say?
Let’s start with Pillar 1 — The Rapture does
not take place at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. As I have already
mentioned, the most widely quoted passage about the Rapture is found in 1 Thessalonians
4:17. There Paul wrote, “We which are alive and remain shall be caught up.”
Although the word “rapture” doesn’t appear anywhere in the Bible, the idea comes
from those two words “caught up.” A simple comparison of verse 17 with verse
15, which says, “We which are alive and remain to the coming of the Lord,” makes
it very clear that believers will be “caught up” at “the coming of the Lord.”
Here is the key issue — At which coming of the Lord? Will believers be
caught up at a silent and invisible coming of the Lord, before the Tribulation,
as taught in Left Behind or will believers be caught up at the highly
visible “Glorious Appearing” of Jesus Christ at the end of the world? Before
we read the entire context, it is important to realize that Paul uses a very
specific Greek word for “coming” in verse 15. The word is “parousia,” which
you can find in any concordance. You may find this a little hard to believe,
but a whole lot rides on that one word. If you are a high-tech person, click
“Save,” and store that word in your mental computer, for we will come back to
Have you ever driven down a highway without realizing
how fast you were going, and then, when you finally looked down at your speedometer,
you said to yourself, “I’m going too fast and must slow down!”? This is what
we need to do when it comes to our study of 1 Thessalonians 4. We must slow
down and take a full look. As we do, we will discover truth that is not only
clear, but also shocking. In fact, the implications are nothing short of cataclysmic.
Right in between verses 15 and 17, Paul wrote, “For the Lord himself shall descend
from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump
[or trumpet] of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first” (1 Thessalonians
4:16). Left Behind describes this event as silent and secret, yet doesn’t
it seem rather loud and visible? There is a shout, a voice, and a trumpet. Have
you ever heard of a silent trumpet? Some people have even called 1 Thessalonians
4:16 the noisiest verse in the Bible!
Now let’s put verses 16 and 17 together: “The
Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel,
and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we
which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds,
to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” Honestly,
do you see anything in these words about vanishing Christians prior to
the Tribulation? Does “caught up” necessarily mean “disappear without a trace”?
At the end of His earthly life, Jesus Christ was also “taken up,” (Acts 1:9),
but this doesn’t mean He disappeared, leaving His clothes on earth. Instead,
in full view of His wondering disciples, “while they beheld, he was taken
up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9). Just as Christ’s
ascension was highly visible, even so do Paul’s words about a shout, a voice,
a trumpet, a resurrection, and believers being “caught up” into the clouds seem
quite visible. That is, if we take them literally.
Let’s return to 1 Thessalonians and take a look
at the entire context: “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with
a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the
dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive and remain shall be
caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and
so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these
words. But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write
unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as
a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then
sudden destruction will come upon them, as travail upon a woman with child,
and they shall not escape.” (4:16–5:3, emphasis added).
Paul said this tremendous “day of the Lord” will
finally arrive like “a thief in the night.” The producers of Left Behind
interpret this to mean that Jesus will come like a silent thief to steal
believers out of this world before the seven years of Tribulation — then driverless
cars will crash, pilotless planes will collide, and babies will be found missing
from their cribs. After this the Antichrist will rise, the Mark of the Beast
will come, and people will yet have a second chance to be saved. The popular
Christian film, A Thief in the Night, which is similar to LEFT BEHIND:
The Movie, also presents this perspective. Yet is this really what Paul
Again, let’s slow down and take a closer look
at our Biblical speedometers. Paul wrote, “You yourselves know perfectly that
the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. For when they shall
say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction comes upon them, as travail upon
a woman with child, and they shall not escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:2, 3).
Do you see what Paul is really saying? Jesus’ coming as a “thief in the
night” does not mean He will come quietly and invisibly to steal believers out
of this world, as is taught in Left Behind. Rather, it means He will
come unexpectedly, bringing “sudden destruction” upon the unsaved. Thus it
is not a secret coming, but only a sudden one. And what about the unprepared
being given a second chance to be saved? Paul clearly answered this question
when he wrote, “They shall not escape” (verse 3).
Therefore, upon the closest examination, the
most widely quoted passage in the Bible used to support the Left Behind idea
of a silent return of Jesus Christ, of vanishing Christians, and of people being
given a second chance during a subsequent period of Tribulation, doesn’t
really say this at all! Paul said Jesus will literally come down from
heaven with a noisy shout, a loud voice, and with the blast of a trumpet.
This awesome and tremendous “day of the Lord” will come unexpectedly upon all
the lost like a thief in the night, resulting in their “sudden destruction.”
The apostle Peter also wrote about this same return of Jesus Christ as a thief:
“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in the which
the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements
shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein
shall be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10, emphasis added). According to Peter, the
return of Jesus as a thief is definitely not a silent and secret event before
any seven-year period of Tribulation. Rather, this day arrives suddenly, with
“a great noise,” and is clearly associated with the end of the world! A major
crack is starting to form in Pillar 1.
Now let’s go back to that mysterious Greek word,
“parousia.” There is absolutely no doubt that Paul used this word to describe
the coming of Jesus at which believers will be “caught up” (1 Thessalonians
4:15–17). This same Greek word is also used in a sizzling apocalyptic message
given by Jesus Christ Himself in Matthew 24, so we need to take a look at it.
On a certain momentous day, “And as he sat upon the Mount of Olives, his disciples
came unto him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when shall these things be? and what
shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?’” (Matthew
24:3, emphasis added). The Greek word there in verse 3 for “coming” is “parousia.”
The disciples associated this “coming,” or “parousia,“ with “the end of the
world,” and they were anxious to know more about it.
The immediate response of Jesus was: “Take heed
that no man deceive you” (Matthew 24:4). The forcefulness of this thought should
hit us like a hurricane! Why? Because it clearly implies that when it comes
to this exact topic of the “coming” or “parousia” of Jesus Christ and the end
of the world, there is going to be a great deal of deception whirling around.
And what is even more dramatic is that Jesus raised His “Don’t Be Deceived”
warning flag four times in this single sermon (Matthew 24: 4, 5, 11,
24). One gets the idea that last-day delusions would someday sweep over planet
Earth like a massive tidal wave. The only way to avoid being swept away in this
swirling sea of falsehood is to pay close attention to the words of Jesus Christ.
Our Lord continued, “For there shall arise false
Christs and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch
that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect” (Matthew 24:24).
Here Jesus said Satan’s delusions will eventually become so subtle and powerful
that only “the elect” will come through unscathed. But who are “the elect”?
Based on the context, they must be a group of people who know Jesus Christ and
the Bible so well that the devil can’t mislead them. Verse 31 also tells us
that “the elect” are people who are ready for the return of Jesus Christ.
Immediately after warning about tricky false
prophets and deception, Jesus Christ said, “Wherefore if they say unto you,
Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret
chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth
even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matthew
24:26, 27, emphasis added). Here Jesus draws a razor-sharp contrast between
false views of His return and the truth. When it comes to false views, don’t
miss that little word “secret.” Jesus plainly warned that people will mistakenly
“say” His coming will be in “secret.” In fact, based on the context, we discover
that this will be one of those powerful delusions which only God’s faithful
elect will avoid. So how should we respond when people say Jesus’ coming will
be in secret? Christ’s answer is stunning. Jesus said, “Believe it not”!
Why? Because “as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto
the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.”
Far from being a secret event, the return of
Jesus Christ will be like the brilliant flashing of millions of lightning bolts
blazing across the sky. Can you guess what awesome Greek word Matthew used for
“coming” in verse 27? It is “parousia,” and this mega-important word
is the exact same word Paul used in 1 Thessalonians 4:15–17 in his description
of that coming of Jesus at which believers will be raptured or “caught up”!
In many Hollywood action films, certain files are labeled “Top Secret,” yet
when it comes to Bible truth about the “coming,” or “parousia” of Jesus Christ,
this return will be anything but secret. The crack in Pillar 1 is getting
Paul plainly said that the Rapture would take
place at the “coming” or “parousia” of Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:15–17).
Jesus Himself said His “coming” or “parousia” will be like the brilliant flashing
of electrically-charged bolts of lightning hurtling across the sky. The disciples
associated this very same awesome “coming” or “parousia” with “the end of the
world,” and they asked Jesus what the major “sign” of this “coming” would be
(Matthew 24:3). After warning about “secret” coming ideas and deception, Jesus
finally answered this exact question by lifting the curtain of history and fully
unveiling what His high-powered and super-cataclysmic “coming” or “parousia”
will really be like: “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven:
and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son
of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall
send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together
his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew
This high-impact description of Christ’s return
contains an even Bigger Bang than the highly-speculative evolutionary Big Bang
theory. The “coming” or “parousia” of Jesus Christ, at which believers will
be “caught up,” will be unmistakably visible to “all the tribes of
the earth.” The amazed masses of mankind will literally “see the Son
of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” Certainly
no one will miss it, and no one will wake up the next day wondering where all
the Christians went. On that great day, all the unsaved will “mourn.” Why? Not
because their loved ones have vanished into thin air, but because Jesus Christ
has suddenly come, and now their life of sinning and partying is over.
And once again, this will be a very noisy and loud event that will include the
echoing of “a great sound of a trumpet” throughout the sky. When that booming
blast is heard, billions of shining angels will descend and circle the globe
to “gather together his elect from the four winds.” Thus, true believers
will be “caught up” into the air. Now don’t miss it. These are the very same
elements Paul wrote about in 1 Thessalonians 4:17!
In both Matthew 24:30, 31, and in 1 Thessalonians
4:16, 17, we read about clouds, noise, a trumpet, a gathering together, and
believers being transported up into the air. Any concordance will show you that
both passages refer to the “coming” or “parousia” of Jesus Christ. In
Matthew 24:27, 30, 31, this “coming” or “parousia” unmistakably applies
to Christ’s “Glorious Appearing.” As we are to be “caught up together,” let’s
put these shocking pieces together. The conclusion is inescapable, unalterable,
and irrefutable. True believers will be “caught up” or “raptured” at the loud,
climactic, highly-visible, and ultra-glorious Second Coming of Jesus Christ!
This book is like a race car whose engine is
just beginning to rev up. We have a lot more to cover, so let’s keep going.
In Matthew 24, after describing His “Glorious Appearing,” Jesus continued: “But
of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but
my Father only. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the
Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating
and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered
the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall
also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field;
the one shall be taken and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the
mill; the one shall be taken and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know
not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of the
house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and
would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready:
for in such an hour as you think not, the Son of man cometh” (Matthew 24:36–44,
Here Jesus Christ paralleled His return with
the sudden descent of billions of tons of water upon the lost in Noah’s day.
Those ancient people thought Noah was a crazy old man, until “the flood came,
and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be”
(Matthew 24:39, emphasis added). Can you guess what Greek word is used here
again for “coming?” Don’t take my word for it, but look it up yourself in your
own concordance. It is “parousia,” which, as we have already proven,
clearly applies to the visible “Glorious Appearing” of Jesus Christ. Now notice,
immediately after the word “parousia” is used in verse 39, Jesus continued:
“THEN shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken and the other left (emphasis
added).” This is probably the second most quoted passage in the Bible now being
used to support the Left Behind idea of a silent Rapture prior to the
Tribulation. Supposedly, when this verse is fulfilled, those who are “taken”
will vanish without a trace, leaving only their clothes, shoes, false teeth
and wedding rings, while those who are “left” will have to endure the Tribulation,
facing the Antichrist and the Mark. But is this really what Jesus Christ is
The correct answer to this question will not
come by depending on the interpretations of others. Actually, it is never safe
to lean wholly on any man. Christians should never be taught to rely completely
on Tim LaHaye, Jerry Jenkins, or any other popular teacher, including Steve
Wohlberg. We should all open our own Bibles, pick up our own concordances, and
find out for ourselves what is truth. If you are willing to do this, then this
is what you will most definitely find — believers will be “taken” (verse 40)
at the “coming” or “parousia” (verse 39) which the Bible clearly applies to
the loud, highly-visible, and ultra-glorious Second Coming of Jesus Christ at
the end of the world (Matthew 24:3, 27, 30, 31, 39)!
Jesus basically said, “It will be just like Noah’s
day” (verses 37–39). Now think about it. Did Noah and his family vanish before
the flood? No, they walked visibly into the ark. And what about those who were
left behind after the door of the ark was shut? Did they have a second
chance? No again. How were they left? They were left dead; they did not escape.
After saying, “the flood came, and took them all away,” Jesus made His power-packed
point, “so shall also the coming [“parousia”] of the Son of man be” (verse 39).
And then, without a break, Christ said, “Then shall two be in the field;
the one shall be taken and the other left” (verse 40). Upon careful analysis,
these words leave no room for the continuing lives of Left Behind’s Rayford
Steele and Buck Williams during the Tribulation after the Rapture. Why not?
Because those who are “taken” are taken up at the “coming” or “parousia,” which
applies to the final Second Coming of Jesus Christ!
Immediately after saying, “One shall be taken
and the other left,” the King of the Universe then compared His Second Coming
to the sudden arrival of a midnight thief, just like Paul did in 1 Thessalonians
5:2, 3. Jesus said: “But know this, if the goodman of the house had known in
what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered
his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as
you think not, the Son of man cometh” (Matthew 24:43, 44). To “watch” doesn’t
mean spending endless hours in front of the television set, nor does it mean
watching popular movies about the end times that may take detours away from
the straight truth. Rather, it means to watch out for deception!
Matthew 24 and 1 Thessalonians 4 and 5 fit together
just as perfectly as Adam and Eve before they sinned. Both describe a noisy,
loud, highly visible, trumpet-blasting and ultra-glorious return of Jesus Christ
in the clouds. Both describe believers being caught up and transported into
the air. Both declare this day will come with thief-like suddenness upon all
sleeping sinners. In Noah‘s day, when billions of tons of water came crashing
down, there were no second chances for those outside the ark. Paul said the
lost “shall not escape.” And both Paul and Matthew use the exact same Greek
word to describe this great, tremendous, and awesomely powerful “day of the
Lord.” Simply look in your concordance. That word is “parousia,” which clearly
refers to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. True believers are urged to watch,
be ready, and to avoid all subtle, satanic deceptions.
What about the Rapture taking place “in a moment,
in the twinkling of an eye”? This is probably the third most quoted passage
in the Bible now being used to support the idea of vanishing Christians prior
to the Tribulation. We have previously slowed down to look at our Biblical speedometers,
yet this time we must come to a screeching halt. Paul wrote, “Behold, I shew
you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed. In a moment,
in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound,
and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1
Corinthians 15:51, 52, emphasis added). Is Paul saying that believers will mysteriously
vanish from the earth prior to the Tribulation, while their loved ones blink?
Not at all! He is saying that the dead will be raised and our bodies will be
changed “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.” But when will this
“moment” take place? Paul’s answer is clear. It will occur “at the last trump,”
when “the trumpet shall sound,” that is, at the end of the world. This is
that very same “great sound of a trumpet” Jesus said would be heard at His Second
Coming (Matthew 24:31)! Pillar 1 is cracking and crumbling.
As we have previously noted, Pillar 2 supporting
the Left Behind house is the theory that those who miss the Rapture will
have a second chance to be saved during the Tribulation. If you think
about it, this idea can be dangerous. Some might rationalize, “If the Rapture
really takes place, then I’ll know for sure God is real. It may be tough, but
I can still join the Tribulation Force during the seven years. Even if that
Antichrist guy tries to kill me, I will still resist the Mark!” While the fostering
of this foolish attitude is not the intent of Left Behind, people can
easily adopt this “let’s wait and see” position, putting off their decision
to follow Jesus Christ. But Paul wrote that all who are not fully on the
Lord’s side when believers are “caught up…shall not escape” (1 Thessalonians
4:17; 5:3), and there were no second chances in Noah’s day. After the door of
the ark closed, all desperate attempts to get inside were useless. Therefore
Pillar 2 is becoming like a man diagnosed with cancer — it has very serious
If Pillars 1 and 2 supporting the Left Behind
house are wrong, and if the logical alternative about the Church being “caught
up” at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ is right, then this means that the
Church of today is destined to go through the Tribulation, rather than disappearing
before it arrives. Yet Christians often resist this conclusion with the argument,
“God wouldn’t allow us to go through the Tribulation because He loves us too
much!” But think about it. Does He love us any more than He would love the Tribulation
Force after the Rapture? Obviously not. Then why would He allow them to go through
such a period? Could it be that the doctrine of escaping tribulation is
really only catering to our middle-class American tendencies? We like comfort
and hate to go through trials, and we can hardly bear it when our TV-dinner
lifestyle is threatened. Yet historically, God’s people have gone through intense
suffering. All of the disciples of Jesus, except for John, were cruelly murdered.
Thousands of the early Christians were literally torn to shreds by wild dogs
and lions inside the Coliseum. Millions of others were horribly tortured by
the Inquisition and burned to ashes during the Dark Ages. Believers in Russia
and China have suffered terribly under Communism, and yet American Christians
say, “God wouldn’t allow us go through the Tribulation”!
When it comes to this topic of “tribulation,”
once again, concordances can come in handy. If you look up the word, “tribulation,”
in a Strong’s or Young’s Concordance, you may be shocked to discover
that almost every reference describes the suffering of believers. Jesus
told His followers, “In the world ye shall have tribulation” (John 16:33).
Paul told his early Christian converts, “…we must through much tribulation
enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). Paul wrote to the Church at Thessalonica,
“…we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and
faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure” (2 Thessalonians
1:4). On the lonely isle of Patmos, John was our “brother and companion in tribulation”
(Revelation 1:9). Jesus told His Church in Smyrna, “I know thy works, and tribulation”
(Revelation 2:9). In the light of these Scriptures, the idea of Christians
escaping tribulation seems like fantasy and illusion.
Some Christians might respond by saying, “Yes,
but those verses are talking about ‘tribulation,’ not ‘the Tribulation.’
” But think about it. If the majority of the Bible’s “tribulation texts” refer
to what believers go through, why would God’s Word suddenly shift gears
by teaching that “the Tribulation” is something believers will not
go through? Even in Left Behind, there are Christians who do go through
“the Tribulation” (the Tribulation Force), therefore the thought of Christians
going through this period is really not so strange.
Many Christians also argue, “If the Church is
going through the Tribulation, then why isn’t the Church mentioned after Revelation
4?” Let’s take a closer look. In Revelation 4:1, John was told to “come up hither.”
People conclude this represents the Rapture and they think the Church isn’t
mentioned anymore. First of all, John did not actually go to heaven in Revelation
4:1, he was simply taken up in a vision, while his toes were still on
Patmos. Secondly, the Church is on earth after Revelation 4. How do we
know this? Because the Bible says the Antichrist will make “war with the
saints” (13:7), then we read about “the faith of the saints” (13:10),
and then, during the Mark of the Beast crisis, Revelation refers to “the
saints” who keep “the faith of Jesus” (14:12). Some might respond
by saying, “Yes, but those are the Tribulation saints after the Rapture, not
the Church.” But consider this. Paul wrote his New Testament letters to the
“churches of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14:33). What does this tell us? It tells
us that wherever there are saints, there is the Church! Even if the saints
mentioned in Revelation 13 and 14 are only the Tribulation saints after the
Rapture, wouldn’t they, as sincere believers in Jesus Christ, still be the
Left Behind teaches that the Church will
not be here for Armageddon. Is this true? The word “Armageddon” occurs in Revelation
16:16, which is the great chapter about the falling of the seven last plagues.
Right before verse 16, during the time of the seven last plagues, Jesus
Christ thunders, “Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watches and
keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame. And he gathered
them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue, Armageddon” (Revelation
16:15, 16). Did you catch that? Who is Jesus talking to? To the Church! At the
time of verse 15, while the seven plagues are falling, which is definitely
during the Tribulation, and right before the battle of Armageddon, Jesus
Christ has not yet come as a thief! Therefore He must come like a thief at
Armageddon, after the Tribulation, and this must be the time when He comes
to gather His Church.
Like a good Commanding Officer, Paul urged the
soldiers of the cross, “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that
you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand”
(Ephesians 6:13). How can we stand in “the evil day” if we have previously disappeared?
Jesus Christ also said, “But he that shall endure to the end, the same shall
be saved” (Matthew 24:13). So how long must we endure? To the end. Yet
Christ will be with us, that’s why He promised, “I am with you alway, even unto
the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20). We can trust Him in this.
If everything in this book is true, then what
about “the seven years”? The concept of a seven-year period of Tribulation is
actually the underlying foundation of the entire Left Behind scenario.
Remember, the theory is that first the Rapture takes place, and then comes the
seven years of Tribulation. Book Two of the Left Behind novels declares,
“The disappearances have ushered in the seven-year period of Tribulation” (The
Tribulation Force, inside cover). Book Three reveals, “...the seven-year
Tribulation is nearing the end of its first quarter...” (Nicolae, inside cover).
Book Six tells us, “It’s the midpoint of the seven-year Tribulation” (The
Indwelling, inside cover). Book Eight begins with “...the dawn of the second
half of the seven-year Tribulation...” (The Mark, inside cover). Thus
this New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-selling series of Christian
books, now being endorsed by well-respected Church leaders nationwide, is built
completely around this seven-year framework.
The Great Granddaddy Bible Text for the entire
seven-year Tribulation theory is Daniel 9:27. This passage is the very first
verse quoted in LEFT BEHIND: The Movie. Here is what it says: “And he
shall confirm the covenant with many for one week, and in the midst of
the week he shall cause the sacrifice…to cease.” A day in prophecy represents
a year (Numbers 14:34, Ezekiel 4:6), thus this famous period of “one week” actually
represents seven years. Millions are now applying this to a future seven-year
period of Tribulation. “He” is interpreted to be the Antichrist who will make
a covenant with the Jews during the Tribulation. Book 6 of the Left Behind
novels is called Assassins. The subtitle reads, “Assignment: Jerusalem,
Target: Antichrist.” Its focus is “the half-way point of the Global Community’s
seven-year protection agreement with Israel” (p. 302).
According to Left Behind, immediately
after the Rapture, the Antichrist will make this “seven-year protection agreement
with Israel.” Yet I wonder how he could accomplish this so quickly right after
the Rapture, for wouldn’t he need some time to rise to power? An intrinsic part
of this story is the theory that, during the Tribulation, the Jewish temple
will be rebuilt and animal sacrifices will be resumed (more on this later).
Supposedly, half-way into the Tribulation, the Antichrist will break his “protection
agreement” with the Jews and stop the sacrifices, thereby causing them “to cease.”
This is how millions of Christians today are now interpreting Daniel 9:27.
What many don’t realize is that there is another
reasonable interpretation that is quite different. Not only does this alternate
view have a great deal of Biblical support, but it has also been taught in the
past by many credible Bible scholars who have written respected commentaries
which are now in the libraries of pastors across America. One example is the
world-famous Matthew Henry’s Bible Commentary. Shockingly, this commentary
doesn’t apply Daniel 9:27 to the Antichrist at all, nor does it apply the “one
week” to a seven-year period of Tribulation after the Rapture. Rather, it applies
it to Jesus Christ, who, after three and one-half years of loving ministry,
died “in the midst of the week,” which ultimately caused all animal sacrifices
Here’s the quotation from Matthew Henry’s famous
commentary: “By offering himself a sacrifice once and for all he [Jesus] shall
put an end to all Levitical sacrifices” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the
Whole Bible, Vol. IV — Isaiah to Malachi, Complete Edition. New York: Fleming
H. Revell Co., 1712, Notes on Daniel 9:27, p. 1095). Another excellent Bible
commentary written by the well known British Methodist, Adam Clarke, says, “This
confirmation of the covenant must take in the ministry of John the Baptist with
that of our Lord, comprehending the term of seven years, during the whole of
which he might well be said to confirm or ratify the new covenant with mankind”
(The Holy Bible with a commentary and critical notes by Adam Clarke,
Vol. IV — Isaiah to Malachi. New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, Notes on Daniel
9:27, p. 602). Here’s one more from the much-respected Jamieson, Fausset
and Brown Commentary: “He shall confirm the covenant — Christ. The confirmation
of the covenant is assigned to Him” (Rev. Robert Jamieson, Rev. A. R. Fausset.
and Rev. David Brown, A Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole
Bible, Complete Edition. Hartford, CT: S.S. Scranton Co., Notes on Daniel
9:27, p. 641). All of these commentaries are now available electronically on
the World Wide Web, so you can easily check these references yourself.
Which view is right — the one put forth in Left
Behind, or the one described in those old dusty commentaries? Does Daniel
9:27 apply to a future seven year period of Tribulation, or was it fulfilled
by Jesus Christ 2000 years ago? The only way to find out is by taking a careful
look at Daniel 9:27 itself. God’s Word says, “And he shall confirm the covenant
with many.” Now take a look at this. Jesus Christ Himself said, “For
this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many” (Matthew
26:28, New King James version). Behold a perfect fit! Both use the words “covenant”
and “many.” Popular teaching says the Antichrist will make a covenant or “protection
agreement” with the Jews and then break it after three and one-half years, yet
the Bible actually says, “He shall confirm the covenant with many for
one week.” Thus “He” is to confirm the covenant for the full seven
years, not break it! And it is not simply “a covenant,” as is commonly understood.
No! It is “the covenant” which applies to the New Covenant. Our Lord
Jesus Christ is the one by whom “the covenant,…was confirmed” (Galatians
3:17; see also Romans 15:8). In “the midst of the week,” after three and one-half
years, Jesus gave His life for us, “causing the sacrifice to cease.” He was
the final sacrifice. No more sacrifices are to be offered. Period. (Hebrews
In my other book, Exploding the Israel Deception,
Chapter 5 is called “The 70th Week of Daniel Delusion” (see the back of this
book for details). There I give many more solid reasons why Daniel 9:27 doesn’t
apply to the Antichrist at all, but to Jesus Christ alone. The fact is, the
entire Left Behind idea of a seven-year period of Tribulation after the
Rapture is a grand illusion, a massive mega-myth. It may even go down in history
as the Greatest Evangelical Misinterpretation of All Time! The whole concept
is like a gigantic bubble. Once Daniel 9:27 is correctly understood, and the
sharply-pointed pin of truth is inserted, “Pop! goes the seven years!”
I want to conclude this chapter by talking about
Pillar 3 which now supports the Left Behind house — The Church of today
will escape the Tribulation and will not have to face the Antichrist
and the Mark of the Beast. This is the Big One, and it is right here that emotions
fly and reason vanishes just as quickly as those disappearing people in LEFT
BEHIND: The Movie. Why? The answer is simple. If Pillar 3 is false, and
if the Church will not be “caught up” until the Second Coming of Jesus Christ,
then this obviously means that the Church must first pass through Earth’s
final period of Tribulation, and will have to face the Antichrist and the Mark.
Many Christians fear such a conclusion, and this is why, many times, underneath
the attempt to maintain the doctrine of a Pre-Tribulation Secret Rapture,
there often lurks a secret fear of having to face the Mark of the Beast.
This reminds me of the tragic deaths of 118 crewmen
inside the giant Russian nuclear submarine, Kursk. On Saturday, August 12, 2000,
way out in the icy waters of the Barents Sea, east-northeast of Moscow, something
went terribly wrong. An explosion took place, which was followed by another.
The “catastrophe developed at lightning speed,” (Newsweek, Nov. 6, 2000.
p. 43) and the doomed sub quickly sank to the bottom of the ocean. Newsweek
ran a story on this called, “A Cry From the Deep.” Twenty-three Russians survived
the initial blasts and flooding. A letter was later found by deep-sea divers
inside a pocket of one of the corpses. The note said, “There are 23 people here....None
of us can get to the surface” (Newsweek, Nov. 6, 2000. p. 43). Because
help didn’t come quickly enough, they all died. As I have thought about this,
I can imagine the feeling of fear in the hearts of those Russian sailors
deep down below the calm surface of the water.
Fear also lurks below the doctrine of a Pre-Tribulation
Rapture. Deep down underneath the surface of many arguments, lies a hidden fear
of having to face the Mark of the Beast. This fear may be unconscious, yet often
it is there, though it need not be. True Christians can learn a lesson from
popular bumper stickers which say, “Fear No Evil.” We don’t need to be afraid.
We can trust in Jesus Christ, for hasn’t He promised, “Lo, I am with you alway,
even unto the end of the world”? (Matthew 28:20). If the fictitious Tribulation
Force in the Left Behind novels can overcome the Antichrist and the Mark
of the Beast, then so can we! Yet Christians do fear the Mark,
and this fear often prevents them from even reasonably examining the clear Scriptural
evidence in favor of a Post-Tribulation gathering of the Church to Christ. And
thus, sadly, the Pre-Tribulation Rapture idea has become The Great Evangelical
Escape Clause for the Avoidance of the Mark of the Beast! And for those who
must have it that way, no amount of Biblical evidence will convince them. Like
a triple-bolted door in downtown New York, they are simply closed to the facts.
The result? Truth is left behind.
Steve Wohlberg is the associate pastor of the Ft. Worth First Seventh-day Adventist Church in Ft. Worth, Texas. You can contact Pastor Wohlberg at Steve@truthleftbehind.com