Left Behind – Should Christians Be Known for End-of-the-World Fantasies?

I thought this Christian minister made a wise observation in classifying the forthcoming Left Behind movie with secular and horror fiction in general:

In today’s news the picking of your poison has become a veritable smorgasbord. There is tension with Russia, the Israelis/Hamas conflict, Islamic militants brutally killing hundreds of people, including children, earth-destroying asteroids and the Ebola virus to mention a few. Was there ever a time when there was so much seriously threatening bad news?

“Pick your poison.” How much poison can we take? One might wonder whether the so-called end of the world is nearer than ever. Is it? Is the world, as we know it, about to end?

Look at some of the TV programs, “The Walking Dead” as one of several examples, and you begin to realize that an apocalyptic anxiety has overcome our imagination. Remember the movie, “2012,” starring John Cusack. Soon to be released is the movie, “Left Behind,” starring Nicolas Cage, based on the bestselling novels, dealing with the world’s end from a Biblical perspective, as understood by its authors.

I wish he had done more with this comparison. I don’t think Christians have properly grappled with the fact that much of what they discuss on radio and television as “end times” fits with a contemporary fixation with end-of-the-word fiction. One might also contemplate what kind of lives we are encouraged to lead as Christians if we are raised to think that such a scenario might begin at any moment in the future.

[See also, “Are Meteors a Sign of the End of the World.”]

With all due respect to the writer, I don’t think he is entirely accurate when he writes,

However, it is true. The Bible does tell us that the world will come to an end. Jesus himself makes this clear. The Book of Revelation in the Bible is replete with cataclysmic images of God bringing his judgment upon humanity.

Yes, the Bible does teach a comprehensive Final Judgment and an end to history as we know it at the resurrection of the dead. Jesus believed that traditional Jewish belief and so did Paul—and both re-taught it as centered on Jesus. But, by far, most of Jesus’ words about the future were aimed at a much nearer event: the coming of God’s judgment on Jerusalem and the Temple at the hands of the Roman armies. This happened forty years later in AD 70.

[See also, “Can We Please Get Off the End of the World Kick.”]

Likewise, the “cataclysmic images” in the Book of Revelation are also about a much nearer event. Constantly we are told that the predictions are just about to be fulfilled—not two thousand years later. Compare this to the conclusion of Daniel’s prophecy:

But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase (Daniel 12:4 ESV).

Revelation does teach the doctrine of the Final Judgment (see chapter 20, verse 11 and following). But most of its predictions are about the same judgment on Israel that Jesus predicted.

So where does the Bible teach that people will disappear leaving behind empty clothes? Nowhere.