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Left Behind: A Novel of the Earth's Last Days () Top 100 Books of the Millenium (19)

This is the first installment in a 12 book series based on the Bible's Book of Revelation.  It concerns an intrepid band of hardy, but not quite good, souls who are amongst the billions of people left behind after the Rapture.  Rayford Steele is an airline pilot who is busy fantasizing in mid-flight about committing adultery with one of his stewardesses, Hattie Durham, when suddenly a bunch of the passengers disappear.  In what I thought were the best passages in the book, confusion reigns as folks try to figure out where everybody went and unbelieving husbands and wives pat down the piles of clothing their Christian spouses left behind.  Rayford is one of the first to figure out what's happened, his wife was recently born again, and he realizes that if the believers have been taken to Heaven, then the time of tribulations is upon the Earth.  He returns home to find his wife and son have been summoned, but Chloe, his skeptical daughter, remains.  Together, they go to his wife's New Hope Church, where they surprisingly find the pastor, Bruce Barnes, who reveals that he never truly believed that Christ was the Savior.   Over the succeeding pages these three join forces with Buck Williams, a tenacious reporter, to form the Tribulation Force.  Their clandestine mission is to stop the Antichrist, whom they identify as Nicolae Carpathia, a Romanian politician who is sort of half JFK, half Slobodan Milosevic.  The handsome, charismatic, multilingual, Carpathia plans to use the United Nations to disarm the world, establish a single currency and establish his own Global Village.  Most folks don't recognize the insidious nature of his plan--it doesn't help that the true believers are all gone and all of the evil folk are still around--so the Tribulation Force faces a lonely, uphill battle; it is truly "the most dangerous cause a person could ever join."

Now, I personally think that a person's religious beliefs are a matter best left to them and God.  As long as their religion teaches them the importance of virtue and morality, it seems same to assume that their faith will make them better citizens and better people.  But I do have to admit that I think that the teachings of many religions are completely ridiculous, none more so than the apocalyptic millenarian beliefs of some fundamentalist Protestant sects.  It is easy to understand the genesis of these beliefs, Christianity after all was originally the religion of the downtrodden in Rome and it is remained a potent force in the poorest strata of society.  A prophecy which predicts that you can be saved, regardless of your current position in society, simply be believing in Christ, has obvious appeal to those who are not doing all that well in the present world.  It is harder to understand the appeal of this idea to the white middle class Americans who are apparently buying these books by the shelf full.  In the first place it would seem they'd have less need to escape from life.  Secondly, you'd think that the rapid scientific and social progress of the industrialized West of which they are a part, would somewhat obviate the need for a Messiah.  It could be argued, indeed I would argue, that we're doing a pretty good job of becoming God ourselves, without the intercession of a divine figure to help us get to Heaven.  If we can become creators--as advances in medicine, physics, etc., seem to indicate we can--then mightn't it be time to stop looking for miraculous help from the Creator?  He did, after all, banish us from the Garden of Eden the last time we got to close to becoming His equal.

At any rate, there are many levels upon which you can read these books.  The true believers can read them for their predictive value.  Those who are more tepid in their adherence to prophecy can read them as speculative but plausible.  The ambivalent can appreciate a rollicking adventure story--one not unlike the old TV series V, or that current favorite, The X-Files.  Total unbelievers can have fun just mocking these beliefs as they go along for the wild ride.  And the true skeptics and ironists can read the whole thing as a parody--the story takes on something of the tone of the classic men's adventure series Remo Williams (The Destroyer), if you just assume that the authors are in on the joke.  But there's something here for everyone and what the novel lacks in nuance, character development, dialogue, and believability, it more than makes up for in energy, audacity, earnestness and pacing.


Grade: (C+)


Book-related and General Links:
    -Official Site of the Left Behind Series
    -ESSAY: In the "Left Behind" novels things get very bad -- the planet is invaded by "200 million demonic horsemen," for example, and that's before Armageddon and the Last Judgment (Michael Joseph Gross, The Atlantic Monthly)
    -BOOK CLUB (Slate)
    -REVIEW : of Left Behind (Douglas E. Winter, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW: of Left Behind (R.F. Briggs, Under the Covers)
    -REVIEW: "The Left Behind Series" - Book  Review  By Pastor Kevin Beier, Bible Believer's Baptist Church of Custer, South Dakota
    -REVIEWS: - Left Behind : A Novel of the Earth's Last Days

    -LEFT BEHIND:  It's the best selling Christian novel of all time and it's about to become a major motion picture! Hollywood Jesus will keep you informed as the details emerge.

    -Center for Millennial Studies


I read your review of the Left Behind book and my first thought was "Is this for real?" Does none of the contents of the book ring true for you (as the reader) at all? Would you say that the Bible is just a "nice book of old stories" but has no actual meaning to the lives we live today? The series is written in a way that we can not only enjoy the read of a book but we are able to get somthing out of the book as well. It goes way beyond mere entertainment because there is truth to what we are reading. For those who say that they do not read the Bible because it is confusing or boring, here is a series that is easy to comprehend what is going on and is based on scripture. The series causes us to think about where we are headed (spiritually) in life. You cannot deny that eternity is a long time and at the rate the human race it going, this world won't be around much longer.

I look at the world today and see a sad place. We are hurting, longing even, to be made "right" with our Creator. The strides that we make as human beings are only impressive because we are getting a glimpse of God, The abilities that we have, he gave us. Left to our own devises, in an absence of God, we would destroy ourselves. We are now. This is evidenced by all the sickness, murder, hate, dishonestly, selfishness, abuse...(I could go on)

There is a lot more to this series then just interesting reading material. The authors are men inspired by God to share a message with all who is willing to listen. The Rapture will happen and there will be an end to this world as we know it, but there will be a new Heaven & Earth. God does not want any one of us to miss out on coming back into a relationship with Him. Shouldn't we be a little appreciative that he continues to make us aware of his plans? He doesn't have to, He owes us nothing. We are His creation, not the other way around. What people seem to take for granted is that we were blessed with free will, with that comes the ability to make decisions and with decisions comes consequences (good or bad). The decisions we make to day will effect our eternity. Just like Adam & Eve, they would have lived in the garden forever had they not eaten from the tree. They had the choice to obey or disobey God, they made their choice. They were told the consequence for sin is death but instead of being physically killed, God showed mercy and they died spiritually, with a plan in mind that would restore the relationship between God & man. The plan is Jesus, He is the ultimate sacrifice. He died so we don't have to, He is atonement for our sins and brings us back into relationship with God so that when the day comes, which it will-whether you belive or not-and with out warning, we won't be Left Behind.

ps. I ahve enjoyed every book in the series that's been put out so far!

- Jenn

- Sep-26-2003, 13:09