Also a Word About
"Left Behind II--Tribulation Force"
(The Second Movie in the Series)
I had the opportunity to view the video entitled "LEFT BEHIND" prior to its release in secular movie theaters in February 2001. It is based on the best-selling series of books by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. The book series has been extremely popular and has been on the best seller list. The film did not seem to achieve the same kind of success, even though, at the time, it was the most expensive "Christian film" ever made. Some positive things may be said about the film: 1) It correctly presents the pretribulation rapture position which is the correct Biblical position (see our booklet, What Does The Bible Teach About The Rapture?); 2) there is no profanity in the film; 3) there is no depiction of nudity or partial nudity ; nor are there inappropriate sexual scenes (although one of the main characters is depicted as being unfaithful to his wife); 4) the acting is very good; 5) the visual effects are impressive; etc.
Although those who made this film desire that it might be used as a tool to reach people for Christ, I have the following concerns:
1) It greatly overestimates the number of true believers on earth (car accidents, plane crashes and similar disasters everywhere, all over the world, etc. as the result of the rapture). In viewing this film you could get the impression that there are a great MANY saved people in the world, whereas our Lord has taught us that those who are on the road to life are very FEW (Matthew 7:13-14). The rapture is going to be far less catastrophic than depicted in this film and book.
2) It emphasizes repeatedly that at the time of the rapture all infants and young children will be removed from the earth, including infants and children of unsaved people. But does the Bible really teach this? The rapture is when Christ comes to remove ("catch up"-1 Thess. 4:16-17) the church (all true believers) from earth. He will come to receive His bride and bring her to heaven. Thus, the rapture is for those "in Christ," those who are part of the body and bride of Christ.
Infants are not saved and they are not in Christ; nor are they part of the church. It would be wrong to point to a living infant and say, "That baby is saved and has eternal life and his sins are forgiven!" On the contrary, every baby is born in sin and every infant has a wicked sin nature (Rom. 5:12, Psalm 51:5; Job 14:4; Psalm 58:3). Babies are not saved and they do not possess eternal life. If this were true, then does this mean that when they get older they become UN-saved and forfeit eternal life? This is Biblically absurd. It would also be absurd to say that all the unsaved children around the world growing up in Hindu and Muslim and Buddhist homes are part of the church that is in Christ.
Keep in mind that an infant that is a year old at the time of the rapture will be approximately 8 years old at the time when Christ returns to this earth to rule and reign, and thus will be certainly old enough to make a responsible decision for or against Christ at that time or even prior to that time.
Whether or not Christ takes infants that belong to saved parents is not revealed in the Scriptures, though it does seem reasonable to suppose that God would take such infants instead of leaving them parentless and defenseless. One thing we do know for sure is that God will do what is right (Gen. 18:25; Rom. 9:14). God is certainly far more concerned for every infant and young child (saved or unsaved) than we are.
What kind of concept of God does this book and film convey to the world when unsaved mothers are going around in deep panic crying, "Where's my baby?" It makes God look like a kidnapper! This gives Reformed men and others all the more reason to mock our "secret rapture theory" (as they call it). It is important to realize that the issue under discussion is not what happens to infants who die. Though it is not our purpose here to defend the doctrine of infant salvation, yet we are assured, based on Scripture, that they will be SAFE IN THE ARMS OF JESUS (see the helpful book by Robert P. Lightner entitled Heaven For Those Who Cannot Believe). The issue is this: What happens to infants that are alive at the time of the rapture? This is an entirely different question.
The book LEFT BEHIND is a fictional book based on prophecy, but it does teach doctrine. One of the very questionable doctrines it teaches is that at the time of the rapture pregnant women will suddenly become un-pregnant (that is, the unborn babies will be taken in the rapture and will leave the unsaved mother who be left behind, many pounds lighter!). A rapture for embryos! The following is found on pages 46-47 of the book LEFT BEHIND:
Most shocking to Rayford was a woman in labor, about to go into the delivery room, who was suddenly barren. Doctors delivered the placenta. Her husband had caught the disappearance of the fetus on tape. As he videotaped her great belly and sweaty face, he asked questions. How did she feel? .....
Then came the scream and the dropping of the camera, terrified voices, running nurses, and the doctor. CNN reran the footage in superslow motion, showing the woman going from very pregnant to nearly flat stomached, as if she had instantaneously delivered. "Now, watch with us again," the newsman intoned, "and keep your eyes on the left edge of your screen, where a nurse appears to be reading a printout from the fetal heart monitor. There, see?" The action stopped as the pregnant woman's stomach deflated. "The nurse's uniform seems to still be standing as if an invisible person is wearing it. She's gone. Half a second later, watch." The tape moved ahead and stopped. "The uniform, stockings and all, are in a pile atop her shoes." Etc.
According to this teaching, after the rapture there will be a period of nine months when no babies will be born anywhere in the world (the only exception being some babies conceived after the rapture that may be born pre-mature)! Maternity wards in hospitals will be empty for months! Later in the book there is an argument between Rayford and his flight attendant, Hattie, about Hattie's sister who is out of work because she worked at an abortion clinic and there simply aren't any abortions to be performed. In summary, the film and book teach that at the time of the rapture all infants on earth are raptured and taken to heaven including all unborn children (according to the book).
The tribulation is a period of time when God's wrath will be put on display. It will be the most severe period of judgment the world has ever known. It will be similar to the plagues that fell on Egypt, only on a world-wide scale and more severe. It is helpful to think back through history on other occasions when God's judgment fell in order to see what happened to infants.
Is it unthinkable that God should expose helpless infants to a terrible time of judgment? What about the babies in Jericho? Were they supernaturally delivered? What about the children of the kingdom of Bashan and the children of the kingdom of Heshbon (see Deut. 3:6)? In Egypt the firstborn of each household was slain from the palace of Pharoah and on down. In Bethlehem God allowed babies to be slain due to Herod's jealous rage (Matthew 2).
Children often in Scripture and in life bear the consequences of their parents' unbelief. Is this principle going to be overthrown at the rapture? Unsaved moms going around and saying, "Where is my baby?" eliminates one of the horrors of that time of judgment-having your children suffer with you throughout that period. It undercuts one important reason to be saved-that is, for the sake of our children and other family members (Acts 16:31; 2:39; 1Cor. 7:14 etc.). Was not one of the rich man's worst torments in Hell (Hades) the fact that his brothers were going to join him (see Luke 16:27-31)? One of the greatest reasons to be saved is for the sake of family and friends that we may influence, that they may save themselves from this wicked generation. Cornelius is to be the example of us all, who called together his kinsman and friends to hear the gospel (Acts10:24).
Why would God deliver infants and unborn of the unsaved just prior to the first half of the tribulation, which is much milder, and have other infants suffer in the last half which is more severe (Luke 21:23)? Why would God allow pregnant women to be ripped up in other historical judgments and do extraordinary things to avoid it in this last one (2 Kings 8:12; 2 Kings 15:16; Hosea 13:16; Amos 1:13; Isa. 13:15-18)? See also Deuteronomy 28:54-56 and Lamentations 2:20 for other examples of children suffering (being literally devoured) in historical judgments.
The fact that people have experienced historical judgment does not automatically mean they have come under damnation. Moses is the classic refutation of this. He came under historical judgment which involved death, but certainly he was a saved man ( Hebrews 11: 24-26; Matt. 17:3-4). Are we to believe that all the infants that drowned in the flood are in hell because they experienced an historical judgment? Certainly not.
Those who advocate that all babies throughout the world will be raptured might reason in this way: Since infant salvation is true, then infant rapture must also be true. The rapture of infants of the unsaved is a very bold extrapolation on no Biblical grounds and seems an unwarranted sensationalist device for creating a dramatic effect in a book or film. The real horror is not babies disappearing, but remaining to grow up in those awful times. "Woe unto them with child and to them that give suck in those days" (Matthew 24:19).
Consider the message our Lord gave to the women of Jerusalem who were bewailing Him on his way to the cross. "Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us [compare Hosea 10:8 and Rev. 6:16]. For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?" (Luke 23:28-31). If what God has done in the past is a indication of what He will do in the last great historical judgment, then this passage has great bearing. Children suffered greatly in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD which is a prototype of the last great judgment.
"But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people (Luke 21:23). This passage is significant because Luke seems to connect the sufferings in 70AD with end time events in the future at the return of Christ. The future tribulation will be a time of special suffering for those who are pregnant and for those who have small children who are nursing.
The days of Noah are parallel to the days just prior to Christ's coming to earth (Luke 17:26; Matt. 24:36ff). Certainly the unsaved babies of Noah's day did not escape the terrible judgment that came upon the entire world (and the fetuses did not escape either). They all drowned. I am not commenting on the eternal destiny of any of these children, but the historical judgments in this life certainly are experienced by them. Why would the judgments of the tribulation be any different than those of the past?
Conclusion to this section: It seems far more in line with Biblical teaching to suggest that infants of unsaved parents at the time of the rapture will enter the tribulation along with their parents, and with their parents will face whatever those frightful days will bring. If an infant should suffer physical death during the horrors of the tribulation period, God will take care of this person based on His abundant mercy and the work of Christ on the cross. The benefits of Christ's cross-work (justification, etc.) are applied to this person at the time of death and not before.
3. The most serious problem is that the GOSPEL of our Lord was LEFT BEHIND in this film (actually LEFT OUT!). There was no gospel presented anywhere in the film. The name of Christ is mentioned only 3 times in the film (during about a one minute segment, a scene where a video was being played to explain the rapture. The video was prepared by a pastor prior to the rapture with the hope that it would help people to understand what was happening after the rapture). Apart from this Christ's Name is never mentioned. When people pray to be saved it is in the most general terms ("God, please forgive me") and invitations to salvation are also very general ("You need to believe in God"). There is no mention of the cross (Christ's substitutionary death), no empty tomb, no emphasis on the sinfulness of man, no clear presentation of the terms of salvation. Any religious person who "believes in God" would probably think that they have met the conditions. I was told that Tim LaHaye had nothing to do with the making of the film and that he was troubled that the gospel was not presented. I have never read any of the books, but some who have read the books told me they were somewhat disappointed by the movie, especially in terms of gospel content. At the end of the video one of the main actors gave an appeal to the viewers, but no gospel message was given at this point either. [Note: In the book series, there is a Catholic pope who is taken in the rapture and other Catholics as well. This is very confusing. People might wrongly think that the gospel preached by the Catholics is the same gospel found in the Bible, when they are actually diametrically opposed].
4. Some of the music was horrible ("Christian" rock music of the worst kind). It's interesting that respected secular film producers generally know how to put together a respectable sound track using classical style music to form a suitable and pleasing background, create proper moods, etc. but Christian film producers feel a need to resort to music that is very unfitting and unsettling. "The children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light" (Luke 16:8). At the end of the video, after the movie was completed, there was a review of some of the scenes in the movie with rock music in the background, along with some scenes of a "Christian" rock group performing with typical body movements and awful facial expressions as they sang a song called, "The Midnight Cry," which was not even worthy to be called music.
5. One thing that the film probably accomplished was to bring thousands of professing Christians into secular movie houses. Years ago Bible believing Christians were almost unanimous in their refusal to attend movie theaters (even as the early Christians were unanimous in their refusal to attend the gladiatorial contests and other forms of worldly entertainment). Today those who hold such views are considered to be from the Jurassic era. What started this trend back to the movie theaters? The greatest influence was probably the Billy Graham films as Christians were encouraged to go to the theaters and bring their unsaved friends with them. LEFT BEHIND will encourage many more to go. At the end of the movie, one of the main male actors makes an appeal to the viewers. He does not share the plan of salvation, but instead urges everyone to tell their friends about the movie and get as many people as possible to attend the theaters. His goal is to get the movie shown in every major city. This is why the video was released prior to the showing of the movie (with most Hollywood movies the video is not released until months after the movie is shown in theaters), to encourage those who view the video to get people to attend the secular theaters. [See a very helpful paper, "Attending Places of Entertainment" by Charles Spurgeon].
A Word About "Left
Behind II--Tribulation Force"
(The Second Movie in the Series)
Compared to the first "Left Behind" movie, "Left Behind II--Tribulation Force" was like a breath of fresh air. In the first movie, the name of Jesus was rarely mentioned, but in this second movie, the name of Jesus is given its rightful place. In the first movie, the gospel was left out, but in this second movie, the gospel message was stressed repeatedly and many solid salvation verses from the Bible were shared. Also man's sinful condition before God was explained to some degree. The music of the second movie was far less objectionable.
I do have somewhat of a problem with "prophetic fiction" because it sometimes is hard for the unsaved viewer to distinguish between what is Bible truth and what is merely from the fanciful imagination of the writers, but overall I was pleased by the immense improvement of the second movie over the first movie with respect to the presentation of the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The first two points of concern that I had with respect to the first movie still apply to the second movie: 1. Vastly over-estimating the number of true believers on earth; 2. Teaching that all infants and young children all over the world are taken in the rapture. See the discussion above.
George Zeller (revised 1/18/03)
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