I was in 8th grade with a WWJD bracelet, listening to Songs for Life and reading the first 5 books in the Lahaye/Jenkins cash cow series, Left Behind, which eventually grew to include 16 installments, and to become a franchise including other books, movies, and even a video game.
The problem was, I was not looking for entertainment, I was looking for answers. Unfortunately, millions of people found “answers” in this popularly written series and millions more were simply entertained.
With that stated, here are a few reasons I will not be watching Left Behind tonight or going to a judgement house/trail this month or encouraging others to do so.
I will comment more on the movie hitting theaters this weekend, but I’m also quite concerned with local churches investing in and potentially cashing in on end times/judgment themed “trails” and interactive dramas. I highly recommend this article from Russell Moore: Seven Reasons Why Halloween Judgment Houses Often Miss the Mark I believe these concerns regarding judgment houses also extend to “end times” themed attractions.
In regard to this “reboot” Left Behind film starring Nicholas Cage, I’m disappointed and saddened by the promotion of this film in otherwise orthodox Christian book stores, ministry based social media accounts, and radio stations. I will not presently call them out, but I can assure you I have been in one of these stores this past week, I’ve listened to the radio station, and I follow some of them on Twitter.
One reality should slap us all In the face: It is obvious this present film is about money. If it were about the “message” then the literally millions of books sold and the original movie franchise starring Kirk Cameron would suffice and surpass.
Where this movie and these trails err primarily is this:
Eschatology is not a genre of Entertainment but a serious study of the end times, the return of Christ, and the eternal state. It is a future reality not present frivolity.
Here, I must note there is room for disagreement within Christian orthodoxy for last things and our views of the millennium. For point of full disclosure I’m an amillennialist with a soft spot for historic premillennialism who loves the statement by scholar A.T. Robertson, “I’m pro-millennial.” My eschatology starts missional and I believe all healthy eschatologies must. Jesus said, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”- Matthew 24:14 These comments by George Ladd on this verse are helpful:
“God alone knows the definition of terms [here]. I cannot precisely define who all the nations are, but I do not need to know. I know only one thing: Christ has not yet returned; therefore, the task is not yet done. When it is done, Christ will come. Our responsibility is not to insist on defining the terms; our responsibility is to complete the task. So long as Christ does not return, our work is undone. Let us get busy and complete our mission.” George Ladd
So that’s it. While we are reading books, watching movies, going to tribulation trails, and making charts, the people groups of the world are waiting for the gospel before Christ returns.
I highlight these points for this purpose: regardless of one’s views, the imagined events and interpretations portrayed in the Left Behind books and films fit comfortably within the genre of science fiction. Melodramatic acting, cheesy lines, and computer generated special effects are garbage compared to the reality of life and death, the word of God, and the actual event.
Perhaps we can say, “We just watch it for entertainment’s sake.” I will indict myself here, but while we are being “entertained” 2 billion people on this planet have yet to hear the gospel, let alone the billions more who have not believed. They are mourning now. Will they mourn for all eternity? Consider for just a moment: the Left Behind book series is among the best selling fiction series of all time with over 65 million books sold. We have sunk far too many dollars deep in the pockets of authors, publishers, actors and producers who are happy to take them while Satan is entertained with our hours wasted in movie theaters and End Times Prophecy conferences with charts and coffee. There is absolutely no contemplating the return of Christ for entertainment sake. Period.
“Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”- Matthew 24:30