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Conversation with Tim LaHaye
Prophecy-based fiction

Author/minister/counselor/speaker on family life and Bible prophecy Tim LaHaye, D.Min., is teamed with writer Jerry Jenkins to produce the Left Behind series. The first six books — Left Behind, Tribulation Force, Nicolae, Soul Harvest, Apollyon and Assassins — have sold more than 13 million copies since the first book was published in 1995 by Tyndale House. The seventh, The Indwelling, is being released this month. Dr. LaHaye shared the following with the Pentecostal Evangel.

Evangel: Where did the idea for the Left Behind series originate?

La Haye: While I was on an airplane flight in the 1980s, I got the idea for a novel about the Rapture. The idea percolated for years. I needed a novelist. My agent put me in touch with Jerry Jenkins, whose more than 100 books include biographies of Hank Aaron, Meadowlark Lemon, Nolan Ryan and Billy Graham.

As the series enlarges [to 12 books], I give Jerry an outline of the Scripture for each book, and he hangs the story on the outline.

Evangel: The books have stayed on Christian bestseller charts and have climbed to the tops of lists kept by the New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, etc. Why do you think the series has been so successful?

La Haye: Left Behind is the first fictional portrayal of events that is true to the literal interpretation of Bible prophecy. They are written for anyone who loves gripping fiction. They feature believable characters and a dynamic plot that weaves prophetic events in a fascinating story. We haven’t received any special revelation that makes our novels better than others.

Obviously, we don’t predict a time frame for the Rapture. The novels are written to wake people up to the fact that Jesus is coming again, and they need to be prepared. Even if He tarries a thousand more years, His coming is supposed to affect how we live.

Left Behind triggers quest for Jesus

In late 1998, I saw the book, Left Behind, that my sister, Kathy Parker, had given to our sister, Pat, to read.

I had attended nominal churches all of my life, but I didn’t have a personal relationship with Christ. At times I had prayed and promised God I would live for Him, but I never followed through.

I began to read Left Behind and could hardly put it down. It touched my heart so deeply, as I visualized every scene.

When I saw Kathy again, I said, with tears in my eyes, "I just finished that book, and I want to know the Lord better because I don’t want to be left behind."

Over the next few months, I visited several churches before I went to Eagle Creek Assembly of God in Indianapolis, Ind., on May 16, 1999. (I knew that Kathy and her husband, Ken, were Assemblies of God.) About 30 minutes into the service, I said to my niece beside me, "I’m home."

As I prayed the prayer of salvation at the altar that morning, I knew I had met Jesus.

Left Behind had made the Rapture real to me. There was no doubt in my mind that the Lord was coming back and we were either going to go with Him or we were going to be left behind in misery and horror.

Left Behind is an extraordinary story. I encourage everyone to read it that way — as just a story. And by the time the reader is finished, he or she will be hungry to know Jesus.

If you do not know Him and are not concerned for the salvation of your soul and for the salvation of your loved ones, I feel that Satan must have a strong grip on you.

The Lord used Kathy and the Left Behind book to bring me home to Jesus. I can’t seem to get enough of Him, and I praise Him for the wonderful people at Eagle Creek who are family to me.

— Barbara Kiewitt, 54, is now a member of Eagle Creek Assembly of God, Indianapolis, Ind., where Randal Blankenship is pastor. She is involved in a cell group and in intercessory prayer. In June 1999 she received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. She is a grandmother of two and works in retail sales.

Evangel: The books are being read by Christians and non-Christians alike. What is their appeal to a secular audience?

La Haye: Last days are coming for all of us — whether it’s our own last days or the world’s. People know that. These books heighten readers’ awareness of the coming of the Lord and encourage them to live in that anticipation. The books make people aware of the dangers of being outside of grace when the Lord appears.

A college student who was saved after reading the first book said it helped her to understand for the first time that Jesus Christ is the only way to God and to eternal life in heaven. Before that, she felt that if God was going to accept her, He would do it whether or not she went to church. She had never gone to church in her life; now she’s attending regularly.

We heard from an elderly man who read the books through a magnifying glass and was saved. He said it was not what he read through the glass, but what he read through his heart.

Some have told us the books are the longest, most expensive gospel tracts they have ever seen.

Evangel: Are there any plans beyond the 12 books in the series?

La Haye: Movie rights have been sold and screenwriters are working on scripts. The last book in the series is projected to be published in late 2003.

Evangel: Tell us about Left Behind: The Kids series.

La Haye: These target children, ages 10 to 14. There will be 48 books in this series.

The Blessed Hope
The Left Behind series is a fictional account of events after the rapture of the Church. The Assemblies of God Statement of Fundamental Truths calls this event "The Blessed Hope."

"All Christians who have died will one day rise from their graves and will meet the Lord in the air. Christians who have not yet died will be raptured or caught up with them, to be with the Lord. Then Christians of all ages will live with God forever. The scriptural truth of the Lord’s soon return is ‘the blessed hope’ (Romans 8:23; 1 Corinthians 15:51,52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16,17; Titus 2:13).

"This doctrine is very important because it provides a primary motivation for witnessing and living a holy life. For the believer, the return of Christ for His redeemed is a blessed hope indeed. The translation or ‘snatching away’ of living Christians, commonly called the Rapture (‘to catch up’), will bring an end to suffering, pain, hardship and difficulty. We as Christians will then be with the Lord forever. Though the body is not alive between death and resurrection, the soul does not sleep but is consciously alive in the presence of the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8).

"For the sinner, however, the Rapture is anything but a blessed hope. To be left behind will involve indescribable suffering as God judges a rebellious and disobedient world. God desires that all mankind should ask forgiveness and be restored to fellowship with himself. He places this burden for the lost and their waiting eternal punishment on the hearts of those who already know His love and salvation. It is for this reason that a primary mission of the church is evangelizing the world, seeking to save as many as possible from the judgment to come."

— Reprinted from Our 16 Doctrines, with permission from the Assemblies of God Office of Public Relations.

 

 

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