The Left Behind Series

Christian authors Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye teamed up to write a series of books promoting dispensational premillennialism. The final product was the Left Behind series, published in 1995. In the books’ view of the end times, Christians are taken to heaven (raptured), while the rest of mankind stays on earth. The sensational series begins with Christians throughout the world simply disappearing in the secret rapture. The remaining non-Christians are left to wonder what happened to them.

A Scottish teenager, Margaret MacDonald, claimed she had a vision of a secret rapture in 1830. This supposed aspect of the last times was unknown before then. An early leader of the Plymouth Brethren, John N. Darby, gave credence to the teenager's secret rapture tenet in his writings. Other teachers and preachers embraced this view, which was eventually incorporated into the Scofield Reference Bible.

The word rapture does not appear in the Bible; however, the concept is worthy of your attention. The Latin word rapio means “to be caught up, snatch out, or gather out of.” The following three biblical passages pertain to the rapture.

Just as the Tares (Matthew 13:24–43)

First, look at the parable of the wheat and the tares. This parable is about the sowing of wheat and the sowing of tares, or weeds, in a field. Both the wheat and the tares were permitted to grow together in the field until the time of the harvest. At that time, the tares were gathered first and then the wheat was gathered by the reapers (Matthew 13:30).

The disciples later came to Jesus wanting an explanation of the parable. Jesus explained the parable by correlating its points to the elements of the second coming. Jesus made the following points of comparison:

  • The Kingdom of Heaven (13:24) equals a man (Jesus) who sowed good seed (13:37).

  • The good seed (13:24) equals sons of the Kingdom or God's people (13:38).

  • The field (13:24) equals the world (13:38).

  • The enemy (13:25) equals the Devil (13:39).

  • The tares (13:25) equal sons of the evil one/unbelievers (13:38).

  • The harvest (13:30) equals the end of the age (13:39).

  • The reapers (13:30) equal God's angels (13:39).

  • The rapture equals the gathering (13:28–30, 40, 41).

In Jesus’ explanation of the parable, he gives the order of the rapture. The Gospel of Matthew says that just as the tares are gathered, so it will be at the end of the age (Matthew 13:40). How were the tares gathered (raptured)? This Gospel also says the tares were gathered first, and then the wheat was gathered second (Matthew 13:30).

The Bible says that at the second coming of Jesus, he will send the reapers (angels) and gather out (rapture) all who offend and practice lawlessness (the tares/sons of the evil one/non-Christians; Matthew 13:41). This passage teaches a two-phase rapture, one of the wicked or unbelievers and one of believers. It says the wicked will be raptured before the believers (Matthew 13:30).

Just as in the Days of Noah (Matthew 24:36–44)

The Bible says no one except the Father knows the day when Jesus will return a second time (Matthew 24:36). The days before the second coming will be just like the days of Noah before the Flood (Matthew 24:37). What were the days of Noah like? They were characterized by people concerned with matters of the world. They were eating, drinking, marrying and giving in marriage until the day Noah entered the ark (Matthew 24:38). They (the unbelievers) did not know of their impending destruction until the Flood came and took them all away (Matthew 24:39), thus leaving only eight righteous people alive on the earth. According to the Bible, this is what will take place at the second coming (Matthew 24:39).

Bible Lesson

According to the Bible, at the time of the rapture, two men will be working in the field. One will be taken and the other will be left (Matthew 24:40). Which one was taken? The answer is the one who didn't know (Matthew 13:39)—i.e., the nonbeliever. Two women will be working at the mill. One will be taken and the other one will be left. The one taken is the one who corresponds to the days of Noah—those who do not know (the wicked). The righteous, as in Noah's case, will be left to be taken in the second phase of the rapture.

The Bible shows that no one knew the time of the impending Flood. But Noah and his family were watching for its coming. They were ready so they were not swept away (raptured) by the Flood. The second coming of Jesus also will come at a time when Christians do not expect it (Matthew 24:44). Those not ready or watching (the nonbelievers) will be raptured (swept away), leaving believers (just like Noah) to be raptured afterwards.

First Thessalonians 4:13–18

In this passage, Paul states that there will be a shout from Jesus, the voice of the archangel Michael, and a trumpet blast. It's hard to keep a secret making that much noise. Paul also says that when Jesus returns again, he will bring those who have fallen asleep (dead Christians) with him (1 Thessalonians 4:13–14). Christians who are alive when the Lord comes back will not precede those who have died in Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:15). Jesus brings Christians’ souls back to reunite with their physical bodies. The dead in Christ will rise first (physical resurrection; 1 Thessalonians 4:16). Second, those Christians who are alive and remain will be caught up in the air (raptured) and all Christians will always be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:17). The contrast or comparison is with two groups of Christians: dead Christians and living Christians.

Look in the Book

Paul does not mention the non-Christian phase of the rapture. He was only concerned with the rapture of Christians, whether dead or alive, at Jesus’ second coming. The viewpoint presented in the Left Behind series of a secret rapture leaving non-Christians behind on the earth is not supported in the very Bible that Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye use. Their novels are fun to read, but lack biblical support in their main thrust of a “secret rapture.”

The Bible teaches that all people, whether wicked or righteous, will be raptured. There are two phases of the rapture: The wicked will be raptured first followed by the rapture of the righteous. The Bible says God is going to clear the earth by rapturing everyone to his throne room. The physical universe will be evacuated for its redemption—the renovation of the universe—while mankind will stand before God in judgment (Romans 8:20–22; 2 Peter 3:10–13).

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