A subtle concern that we had while reading through the Left Behind series was the authors’ treatment of the supernatural. Fundamentalists argue that Liberal Christians do not believe in the almighty, supernatural, miraculous aspect of God. Liberals talk of a force, of morality and ethics, of the God within, but they fail to grasp the concept of a personal relationship with a personal God who is bigger than themselves.

 

There is some validity in these concerns. However, something goes wrong when it comes to the particular aspects of this almighty, personal, miracle-working God which seem to be most important to fundamentalists, especially in the area of Bible prophecy. At times, for instance, when I would have expected the authors to be producing strong scriptural support for world events, they seem vague or totally silent. But at other times, when there appears to be no need for predicting something that would be contrary to all the rules of nature, including human nature, the Left Behind books launch into such supernatural fantasies that they tend to ruin their own credibility.

 

Some of the most sensational aspects of the series, and thus the things that will be most remembered after people have read the books or seen the movie(s?), are: God wiping out the entire Russian Air Force with meteors just when they were attacking Israel (including every scrap of wreckage landing in vacant blocks or empty streets, so that no one in Israel suffers so much as a single scratch either from debris or from the meteors); millions of people vanishing in a fraction of a second; the two witnesses appearing out of nowhere, speaking almost exclusively through quotes from the Bible (some of them used horribly out of context) which can be understood by anyone in the world in their own language, and being almost totally unapproachable; and the Antichrist not only rising from almost total obscurity to become world ruler in the space of a couple of days, but also restructuring the entire geopolitical world, bringing in one world currency, and shifting the United Nations to “New Babylon” (Iraq) in the process. Finally, there is this ability of the antichrist to “hypnotise” people at will that enables him to commit murder in front of witnesses and still get away with it. All of these points in the overall plot of the book need to be taken with some fairly large grains of salt. Yet, without them, the book pretty well lacks a plot.

 

We will now look at them one by one.

 

 

The Russian Air Force demise is one of the few sensational aspects of the series that comes with a Bible reference to supposedly support it (Ezekiel 38 and 39, as referenced on page 11 of volume 1, Left Behind). Yet these chapters from Ezekiel, about someone named Gog and Magog are (according to Revelation 20:7-8) actually referring to a battle that takes place after the thousand year reign of Christ on earth. The book wants us to believe (page 10, volume 1) that the earthquake mentioned in Ezekiel 38:19-20 somehow destroys the Russian Air Force flying overhead, without injuring anyone on the ground! It tells us that the “bows and arrows and handstaves and spears” which are described in Ezekiel 39:9-10 are actually the remains of Russian fighter jets, and that people in Israel will be able to burn them for fuel for six years! Incredible stuff.

 

We have already said plenty about the instant vanishing myth, which is based almost entirely on Matthew 24:40-41: There shall be two 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. One needs only to compare that with the account in Luke 17:31-37, to see that there is nothing instantaneous about it at all, or even miraculous, apart from some people hearing God’s voice and being instantly obedient, while others choose to ignore him. Here is Luke’s account: In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away; and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it, and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it. I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken and the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken and the other left. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. And they answered and said unto him, ‘Where, Lord?’ and he said unto them, ‘Wheresoever the body is, there will the eagles be gathered together.’

 

This is a description of true believers being called to drop everything and follow Jesus, who will lead them to a place of refuge if they will obey him. Nothing more supernatural than the still small voice of the spirit, and the obedience of true believers.

 

So what about the two witnesses? They will have miraculous powers, that will help to protect them from their enemies. But, there is nothing in scripture to suggest that they will not be otherwise normal human beings, with real parents, speaking in only one language at a time. They will most likely live in a house, eat normal meals, and sleep regular hours, preaching a message of warning and judgement to the world, but probably in their own words.

 

The fact that they are described as being Elijah and Moses does not mean that they must physically descend from heaven as full-grown supernatural adults. Jesus himself said that John the Baptist was Elijah in his day, and yet John was born as a baby and grew up like other children. Saying that John was Elijah (Matthew 11:11-14) may mean that Elijah was somehow re-born in the form of John the Baptist, or it could be that John the Baptist merely had the same spirit and ministry that Elijah had. Similarly, we expect that the Two Witnesses will be two fairly normal people... if you can call fire-breathing normal! (Revelation 11:5) Even their powers to stop the rain and to cause plagues will more than likely mean that they, like Moses, will be able to predict something that God himself will actually do. The supernatural element of their ministry will not be so totally overwhelming that there is not plenty of room for doubt. When it comes to the supernatural, God has always allowed room for doubt.

 

Interestingly, when Buck Cameron and Tsion Ben Judah start broadcasting to the world via the internet, their ministry becomes fairly consistent with what may well be the bulk of the ministry of the two witnesses. Such a clandestine operation, with them largely out of sight in the anonymity of the internet would explain how the witnesses might be able to survive without overuse of the fire-breathing phenomenon. But it is also possible, as La Haye and Jenkins have suggested, that they will stand right out there in public and goad the authorities for three and a half years, thus giving themselves worldwide TV coverage each time they supernaturally repel an attack by the authorities. Only time will tell.

 

The final area where we feel the Left Behind authors have overdone the miraculous is the subject of the Antichrist, Nicolae Carpathia (their fictional name for the character in his series). Although the Antichrist may rise suddenly and dramatically to power, we know of nothing in scripture which says that this will necessarily be how it happens. And there certainly does not need to be a complete restructuring of the United Nations Security Council in order for Bible prophecy to be fulfilled. The Bible says that the antichrist will be assisted by ten “kings” or kingdoms: The ten horns which you saw are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but they will receive power as kings one hour with the Beast. These have one mind, and they will give their power and strength to the Beast. These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them. For he is King of kings and Lord of lords. (Revelation 17:12-14)

 

Daniel also spoke about these kings. He said: The ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise, and another shall rise after them, and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings. (Daniel 7:24)

 

Now consider this: The thing that makes the ten rotating members of the U.N. Security Council so powerless is that they are controlled by the other five members of the council, who are permanent members, and who all have a veto power over one another.

 

Three of those five permanent members are non-communist: the United States, Britain, and France. The other two are (or were) communist: Russia and China. If three of those permanent members could be “subdued” by the communist powers, then dramatic changes could take place in the United Nations such as those suggested in La Haye and Jenkins’ books.

 

As for the one world currency, there is no real need for a single currency, as long as there is a single world “mark”. Regardless of what people may call their local currency, if they are all part of a worldwide computer system, and they all use an electronic micro-chip whenever buying and selling, the worldwide computer will be able to process all transactions as though they were using the same currency. The real point is that in a cashless society such as that predicted in The Revelation, there is no cash or currency anyway. And whether people choose to advertise their prices in shekels or rupees, it does not take much at all for a single computer system to process them all according to a single currency stored in its hard drive.

 

The shift of the United Nations to a place called “New Babylon” (in Iraq) is one of the most contrived aspects of the Left Behind plot, as well as one of the saddest indications of the authors’ lack of spiritual understanding with regard to the overall message of The Revelation. The Babylonian Empire is dead and gone as far as human history is concerned. But spiritually, the empire lives on in each succeeding empire (which is why it is described as having several different “heads”).

 

Part of the message of The Revelation is that no matter how much we may change the leaders, we still get the same beast underneath. Even today, Christians continue to delude themselves into thinking that one candidate or another can turn the American system (or some other country’s system) into the kingdom of heaven. But that will never happen. The kingdom of heaven is totally alien to all the other systems of the world, primarily because it is built on faith in God rather than faith in money. (Matthew 6:31- 33)

 

 

So the new world government is called Babylon in the Bible, not because it is headquartered in Iraq or Rome or Athens or Cairo, but it is called Babylon simply because it is the new world government, on whom the mantle of Babylon falls, just as it fell on Rome during Bible times.

 

Most disturbing of all the supernatural exaggerations in the Left Behind series is the talk of the Antichrist being able to hypnotise or brainwash people. The book suggests that Buck Cameron was able to escape the Antichrist’s hypnotic power after being born again; however it has been our experience that people professing to be born again are by far the ones who are most fearful of being brainwashed of anyone we have ever met. They run in fear from anyone labelled as a cult, on the grounds that cults are able to brainwash people. They refuse to read anything that anyone labelled as a cult member offers them to read, and they warn everyone whom they love not to listen to such people because they may be brainwashed or hypnotised. This fear, of course, leads them in the opposite direction to faith.

 

We have no doubt that the Antichrist is extremely deceptive. The Bible says that he and his false prophet will be able to deceive everyone on earth except those who have chosen to put God first in their lives. But he does not do it through anything so other-worldly as hypnotism or brainwashing. He does it through such subtle tricks as writing stories about the return of Jesus which generate fear of the Antichrist in its readers. Through such fear he will be able to totally control them. For every time someone like ourselves comes along teaching people to obey the teachings of Jesus, he will simply tell them that they already have enough religious books, thank you, and besides, if they listen to what we are saying, we will suck their brains out of them and turn them into zombies.

 

Now, after having suggested that the La Haye/Jenkins series has exaggerated the supernatural, we want to say that they have actually stripped God of his power in areas where he really has promised to take care of us. We will include more of this in a later article on the series.

 

 

But suffice it to say that throughout the series, the underlying lie of the devil’s system prevails, i.e. that the kingdom of heaven cannot be built without money, and that the answer to the mark of the beast or prophesied famines is simply to buy gold or stockpile food and other supplies. This is the philosophy of the rich fool who tears down his barns and builds bigger ones. And yet that is the message that comes through in the Left Behind series. On page 89 of the first volume, when Rayford Steele is about to make a decision to become a Christian, he states that he will attend church on Sunday if he is not rostered to work on that day. On page 159, the re-born pastor of the re-born New Hope church says, “We will not be taking any offering [today], though we will have to start doing that next week to meet our expenses. The church has some money in the bank, but we do have a mortgage and I have living expenses.” On page 228 we are told that only the Jews (well, 144,000 of them) will be preaching during the tribulation. Other Christians are pretty much free to go on living as they always have. And, indeed, our two heroes (Buck and Rayford) do exactly that, working for none other than the Antichrist himself! On page 306 there is reference to Jesus’ saying that we cannot serve two masters; but no hint that the other master (besides God) is money.

 

And finally, when it comes to the Mark of the Beast itself, the most significant of all the prophecies in The Revelation, the same book that pretends (page 309, volume 1), without even a hint of scriptural reference, that the execution of two bankers by the antichrist was foretold in prophecy, says only that there are “many theories” regarding the mark. It is as though the series wants right from the start, to cast doubt on the veracity of prophecies about the Mark of the Beast, while, at the same time, generating blind faith in the myths that it has put together to make a great blockbuster.

 

In fact, the prophecy about the Mark of the Beast is probably the most irrefutable prophecy in the whole Bible... one that is coming to pass before our very eyes. But we will say more about that in the next article.