33. Guest post: Not blown away by Kingdom Come

by E. Stephen Burnett

Originally posted on the website Speculative Faith. (Part 1: June 20, 2007; part 2: June 27, 2007; part 3: July 11, 2007)

(Reprinted with permission January 2016)

Part 1 of 3

“Well, I’m back.”

— Samwise Gamgee’s final words, The Return of the King

Firstly, I must apologize for being absent these past several weeks. My last column, about the film Spider-Man 3, was written and published [on the Speculative Faith website] in early May. Since then I have written nothing to fill my slots on Wednesdays, finding myself at first out of town for weeks on end, and then afflicted with a profound bout of writer’s block.

Now, 1.5 months and one job change later — to a position that involves much writing, oddly enough — I am ready to resume my weekly duties as columnist and cyber-promoter of the Christ-honoring speculative fiction genre: the field of literature that will surely, take over Christendom at last, even if we must wait for the New Heavens and New Earth to have that happen. I thank you all for your patience and hope I can make it up to readers of Speculative Faith with future columns.

Finally ending the end-times thrillers

My reading of such fiction has been lax during my absence, save perhaps for the certain double-book-length fifth installment in a highly popular fantasy series.

However, I have also recently read the last novel in another highly popular — though certainly not as well-executed — series about the End Times. That would be Kingdom Come, book no. 16 of the Left Behind series, and supposedly the final installment.

Yes, I’m another one of Those. Or rather, I was one at one time: a Left Behind freakazoid.

I have been hanging onto Tim LaHaye’s and Jerry Jenkins’ bestselling apocalyptic neo-thrillers since reading the first volume in 1997. Eventually I got to the point of reserving each succeeding hardback at the Christian bookstore in advance, eagerly awaiting its release date with almost an anticipation more worthy of the Second Coming itself, until finally — oh, joy! — I was able to stop by the store to pick up the new novel, and usually finish it by the next day. Since the “real” series ended with Glorious Appearing in March 2003, I have lost that level of enthusiasm. However, I continued to retrieve the books in a similar street-date manner, even up to last year’s The Rapture.

For the first time, I did not follow this routine for Kingdom Come, which takes place in a literal 1,000-year kingdom on Earth that follows Christ’s return in Glorious Appearing. Instead, still somewhat disillusioned by The Rapture’s stunningly un-rapturous portrayal of journeys to the intermediate heaven and such — and frankly, wondering if I even believed in a secret “pre-second coming” of Christ at all anymore — I held off on buying Kingdom Come. Those books are rather expensive, after all.

Instead, months after the release date, I grabbed the volume at the library and finished it two days later. And now, in addition to doubting the Biblical validity of the Rapture doctrine, I’m now in serious doubt about a literal Millennium. Who’d have thought this would be possible? that I would gain this from a book that so heavily advocated that exact view?

A dearth of fantasy for fantastic events

Some years back I pored over books on prophecy by Tim LaHaye and other writers, whose work made me quite convinced that 1) Christ snatching Christians from Earth would precede the Tribulation; 2) there would be seven years of an evil global government and divine plagues with the Antichrist, the False Prophet and everything; 3) Christ would return and reign over 1,000 years of relative peace, after which would be a final Satanically-inspired rebellion, followed by heaven at last.

But I am slowly coming to realize that little of this seems to make any sense — not when portrayed in nonfiction, with Biblical support — but when set to the music of fiction.

This is perhaps not the fault of fiction per se, but of Jerry Jenkins. I say this mostly because Jenkins is not a fantasy writer.

Left Behind’s original volumes were quite contemporary, light on the supernatural elements — the Rapture was overall portrayed realistically, despite the radical concept of people vanishing out of their clothes. As the Biblical plagues began, the series still read more like science fiction than anything else. I even bought into the demon locusts from the bottomless pit — partly because Jenkins included a few very interesting chapters about them, suspending disbelief for only that long, and then promptly ignored the demons in favor of more-epic elements, such as refueling planes and childbirth. Ahem.

Only when the demonic horsemen showed up did the story’s fantasy elements truly begin. And when the Beast rose from the dead and Jews started fleeing to the desert, things became slightly more interesting.

The problem was that Jenkins did not approach these elements as fantasy. While speculating, of course, on the manners in which God might protect his people, he didn’t nearly go far enough to be fantastically interesting. Other than people getting shot at and the bullets, missiles, etc., passing right through them, most described miracles would simply pattern themselves off those in the Bible, such as people surviving in a fiery furnace, or seeing light while others stumbled around in darkness.

But if we really can expect to see the Tribulation and such things someday — and I’m not saying they won’t happen; you are welcome to attempt re-persuading me to adhere to this view — should we not expect God to work miraculously in new ways rather than simply plagiarizing Himself?

That is what fantasy does. It does not merely repeat the Bible’s descriptions of true-life, supernatural events, because after all, we shouldn’t ever think outside of those anytime. Rather, a great fantasy takes into account the supernatural, awesome power of God — or His fantasy-world Equivalent — and invites readers to imagine what the possibilities are — most optimally, without contradicting Scripture.

But Jenkins’ series dared not to speculate upon, at least to the extent that I would have, the weird and utterly incredible, seemingly indescribable, events that might occur upon Christ’s physical return to Earth. And why not? Probably because to do so — to picture the new things God might do at such a time that are not directly forecast in Scripture — would generate outrage among readers, who are convinced that the Left Behind series does, or should, only rarely speculate on future miracles that aren’t forecast in Scripture, and nothing further whatsoever.

In my next column, I’ll explore more specifically how LaHaye’s and Jenkins’ final volume Kingdom Come failed completely to plant in me a yearning for that Earthly kingdom (if indeed it will really occur; again, you are welcome to argue as I haven’t yet made up my mind on this issue); and how instead, a nonfiction book like Randy Alcorn’s Heaven or a completely fantasy series like Lord of the Rings succeeds much better in making me long for the Creator/Savior and Heaven.

Yet in the meantime, what have been your thoughts about the Left Behind series? Do you consider its portrayal of end-times events “realistic,” because something like them will Really Happen Someday, as do its authors and many readers? Or can we consider these books as closer to fantasy/science fiction — a view that, I contend, may have made the stories better had the authors held that perspective themselves?

[TOM’s note: the original article contained a comments page, which is not reproduced here.]

Not blown away by Kingdom Come, part 2 of 3

Last week’s column, about the seeming failures of the Left Behind novels and particularly its last volume, brought many in-comment criticisms of the 16-installment series on both fiction and theological grounds. No one stepped up to defend Tim LaHaye’s understanding of the end times, or Jerry Jenkins’ style in portraying seven years of the Tribulation in fiction form.

Let me therefore be the first to support these guys more, at least here, and divulge that once upon a time, I had a few interactions with Jerry Jenkins on the (now-closed) “Left Behind” online message board. He was a great guy from what I could tell, with quite the sense of humor.

One of my first cyber-columns was a piece spoofing wacko-Christian predictions of the Second Coming: after a string of nonsensical “connections” between Biblical verses, supposed original languages and numerology, I set the date at April 1, 2000. And only a few people actually understood this as a satire — Jerry Jenkins among them. I still recall, nearly verbatim, his advice to other board participants: “The Indwelling releases March 30, 2000, so if you’re right, read fast!”

Anyway, that is my disclaimer of sorts, ensuring that my criticisms of the series do not cross over into perceived slams against its authors. My now-dislike of some of the Left Behind volumes, chief among them the most recent release Kingdom Come, in no way reflects any dislike for Tim LaHaye and “Super J,” as I used to call him.

At the same time, though, I sincerely doubt Kingdom Come will be very high on the reading list of timeless titles in the New Heavens and New Earth — or the real Millennium, assuming it does occur. Its portrayal of the prophesied “thousand years” is unimaginative, and failed to result in me, anyway, any sort of yearning for the “real” thousand-year period, or the New Heavens and New Earth to come. To me, only fantasy literature can do that — and Kingdom Come would never qualify as fantasy fiction.

Unresolved non-conflict

The first 12 books in the Left Behind series took readers through the seven-year Tribulation, including dozens of main characters and even more peripherals, 21 judgments and plagues, lots of action, and one villainous Beast and an evil Earthly empire, to be sure. In those one can find conflict aplenty, lots of death, destruction and significant levels of special effects from said judgments and plagues.

The next three volumes, prequels to the very first book, didn’t have as many supernatural occurrences but still, enough evil going around to make things interesting.

Kingdom Come nukes that approach thoroughly in favor of a dull and passionately uninteresting tour through LaHaye’s and Jenkins’ imaginings — sort of — of what the Millennial Reign of Jesus Christ on Earth might be like — or at least a few months of it. Most of the described events take place just short of 100 years into the era, a few years before the first expected waves of non-Christians are expected to start dying. (Yes, non-Christians exist during the Millennium but they automatically assume room temperature before blowing out their birthday candles — the authors base this on an obscure verse in Isaiah.)

Ergo, with world events finally proceeding quite nicely, there isn’t much to do — plotwise, that is. The storyline’s bulk is taken up with ripped-from-Scripture descriptions of the restored Temple (theologically dubious; why would we need another literal Temple and sacrifices under the New Covenant?), and then a bunch of dialogue and goings-on within an absurdly acronymed children’s ministry, inordinate levels of attention given to the nation of Egypt’s bad attitude and the need for a name change, some romance here and there, and, perhaps worst of all, chapter-length accounts of Bible stories with no speculation at all beyond anything anyone could learn from the Bible itself.

I am sure the actual Millennium, if it does occur, will be more than interesting.

Yet in a rather obvious attempt to scrounge for whatever conflict elements could be found, Jenkins winds up trivializing the notion of a peaceful Kingdom, absurdly portraying people’s interpersonal problems, for instance, although Christ is supposedly right there in Jerusalem and the saints are all over the place, any one of whom could just fix everything easily.

Meanwhile, somewhat interesting theological concepts could have been realized so much better in the realm of fiction, among them the seeming Scriptural forecast that nonbelievers will be present in a literal Millennium and will eventually join up with Satan for a final, though anticlimactic, showdown when the thousand years have passed. Again the narrative lets us down: a quasi-religious group called The Other Light is present fairly early on in the hodgepodge storyline, but isn’t so scary at all. Its beliefs are absurd — its advocates, transparently silly. (Non-Christians have often been shown as frightfully stupid throughout the Left Behind series.)

But again, that obstacle shows itself anyway: a novel about a utopia can’t have much conflict without disrupting the utopia, but an honest portrayal of the utopia would be boring. This seems an insurmountable catch-22 — and as I’ve said before, it didn’t help that Jenkins hasn’t much bothered about genre-shifting the Left Behind storyline from contemporary/thriller to fantasy.

Yet the Millennial Kingdom (thought the concept may be theologically up in the air) and the New Heavens and New Earth to come (much more clearly described in Scripture) will naturally be environments absolutely bursting with fantasy-story elements. Thus, only a fantasy style, attempting to render the real Heavenly elements or else portraying a parallel world, can even approach doing a future-forecasted utopia justice.

Fantasy forecasting Heaven

Frankly, once I put down Kingdom Come, I dove somewhat frantically for the next (and so far, last) books in the Harry Potter series. And I found in them — in this “pagan,” Godless, disobedient-kid-intensive, neutral-supernatural series — much more incentive to long for a new world to come, where the fantastic is no longer mere fiction, than I did in a novel about the “real” new world to come.

Have you found this yourself? — that a “secular” movie, musical composition, or work of literature can bring out in you that God-given desire for the next world — the world that was meant to be — more effectively than a bit of specifically “Christian” artistry did?

Meanwhile, what may be continued perspectives on the Left Behind series and its contributions to Christendom, or the perceptions of Christendom by others?

In my next column, I hope to explore the potential of alternatives: issuing suggestions for some author somewhere, perhaps merely a 30-years-later version of myself, to create a better portrayal of the New Heavens and New Earth / Millennium for use in fiction form. As Christ-followers, we really should be fixated more often on the world to come anyway, right? It’s not that future world’s Creator’s fault we make the future world seem so dull in our theological constructs, and worse in our fiction works. Surely something can be done about this very weird quandary.

[TOM’s note: the original article contained a comments page, which is not reproduced here.]

Not blown away by Kingdom Come, part 3 of 3

In my first column in this incidental series, I started picking — affectionately, though critically — on the final (we might hope, anyway) volume of the Left Behind end-times fiction series, Kingdom Come.

My chief complaints about that novel are first, that it attempts to portray a future utopia under Jesus Christ’s rule while inserting some semblance of conflict for dramatic interest, which both 1) cheapens the utopia and 2) makes the superficial conflict frightfully dull.

But more than that has been my other annoyance about scene-scribbler Jerry Jenkins’ portrayal of the Millennium. My objection, outlined mostly in the second part of this series, is chiefly because he’s a contemporary-fiction guy trying to make everything so “realistic” about a future world like that — so much so that he subconsciously dismisses any inclination toward fantasy. And that is exactly what an ambitious novel like Kingdom Come could have used most.

Last time, I wrote:

[T]he Millennial Kingdom (thought the concept may be theologically up in the air) and the New Heavens and New Earth to come (much more clearly described in Scripture) will naturally be environments absolutely bursting with fantasy-story elements. Thus, only a fantasy style, attempting to render the real Heavenly elements or else portraying a parallel world, can even approach doing a future-forecasted utopia justice.

When I think of Heaven, now, I think of very little I’ve read in specifically evangelical literature — partly because so much of that is so focused on the here-and-now, rather than the world in which we Christ-followers will dwell for eternity. Among contemporary Christian authors, only author Randy Alcorn has dared speculate on the specific, real-world, intermediate Heaven, and the New Heavens and New Earth, in fiction format — and even more effectively, I think, in his nonfiction book Heaven. But even he does so within a contemporary setting, at least from what I’ve read thus far.

Might someone, though, someday consider the challenge of speculating upon the Millennium and/or the New Heavens and New Earth, in fantasy or sci-fi form — and not even a fantasy-world equivalent?

Unfulfilled fantasy

As a Christ-follower, no doubt exists in my mind that the Earth will undergo an incredible refurbishment someday, transforming into something even better than its original existence before the Rebellion described in Genesis.

But let’s assume that the Millennium will occur first, as believe the authors of Kingdom Come.

Satan is locked up and they’ve thrown away the key, at least temporarily. Christ is ruling in Jerusalem, along with King David and everybody. The Temple is restored (which, theologically, makes little sense to me because believers are the Temple now and no further need exists for a sacrificial system!). Certain facets of entropy have been revoked, and it’s impossible for believers, anyway, to want to sin. (They don’t even want to want to sin — an incredible notion, that, and something Christians can only dream about for now.) Still, according to this view, some people, come down from Heaven, have an advance shot at glorified bodies; others, having eked out their lives through the Tribulation, still have Body Version 1.0 — somewhat of a bummer, come to think of it.

What differences would exist between these forms of existences? Would the glorified-body people have mental or physical powers that the non-glorifieds would not? Could they glow? Solve for the last digit of pi? Fly? Perhaps even “apparate” in the manner reminiscent of advanced wizards in Harry Potter?

This calls for in-depth imagination and speculation — something Jenkins has not done. And it’s likely he could never do this anyway, given that, on the surface, such things seem insane and un-Biblical and many of the Left Behind series’ audience members would go mad. For certain people, perhaps, only a Cliffs-notes-style barebones summary of nearly exactly what the Bible says about the Millennium, no more, no less, will be accepted; and speculation beyond what Scripture has told us is forbidden. (This is partly why, in Kingdom Come, cameo appearances by saints such as Joshua and Noah result only in long, dull rehashes of anything you could have ever found out about them already in Sunday school.)

Yet there is so much about the New Heavens and New Earth (or Millennium, whichever comes first) that we’re not told; and that, of course, makes sense — why would God want to ruin all the surprises?

What about technology? Kingdom Come skipped any incredible advances people could have developed in 1,000 years of near-absolute perfection. In merely a tenth of that time, humankind would surely have developed means of transport much more interesting than mere cars or planes (portrayed, rather listlessly, as being alive and well in their modern-day form a century into Kingdom Come’s Millennium). Meanwhile, our communications would be fantastic. Our nanotechnology would be astounding. And you know we would have developed warp drive by then. Can you say New Jerusalem Spaceport?

Combining the Kingdom with conflict

The quandary remains, though: how to tie in a fiction portrayal of a future perfect world — with thrilling adventure and exploration aplenty, to be sure, but no fighting — with potential for dramatic tension that marks the best fiction.

Perhaps an element of time travel could tie a human visiting the New Earth and returning to the present one, thus preserving necessary conflict but also allowing a writer to speculate on the perfect Kingdom to come. Perhaps a team of scientists could develop a virtual equivalent of Heaven. Or maybe even members of the angelic dimension could transfer from the New Earth to the historic old one for adventures; the Creator is outside of time, after all.

Surely someone could take a crack at this sometime. I’ve pondered the concept much myself, of course; and I suppose I can try for it if no one else does. Author Douglas Hirt, after all, “beat” me to the whole pre-Flood-world-as-fantasy-realm concept in his fantastic Cradleland trilogy and I loved his execution — therefore, I wouldn’t mind much if someone was inspired by anything I’ve written here. But fantasy and science fiction can do it, where traditional, limited-to-the-Bible stories dare not go.

While such a story would be speculative, of course, and perhaps contain things its author might like to correct in the real Heaven, the overall effect will be superlative: it will awaken within readers that desire for a new world, to go beyond our fallen and corrupt present-day existence, to yearn for a universe which Christ has at last, finally and fully, restored to the way it was meant to be.

When I picture the future Heaven, with or without a Millennium preceding it, I will likely never recall a scene from Kingdom Come. Instead, starships and the Shire will come to mind. I visualize a real-life and functioning Enterprise NCC 1701-D replica in spacedock over the New Jerusalem. I picture rolling green hills from the Hobbits’ homeland, majestic mountains overhung with epic soundtrack-level music, a seven-tiered city carved from stone. Swimming up waterfalls, flying on an eagle or dragon, or helping test a new transporter beam come to mind …

Oh yes. It will certainly be awesome. And it will last forever. That perhaps is more worth writing about than many other present-Earth, Christian-literature themes we can come up with today.

Meanwhile, what about you? Do certain fantasy and science-fiction story elements result in you a yearning for the New Heavens and New Earth? How could Christ-honoring stories further benefit from the perhaps-accidental inclusions in secular stories of elements reminiscent of Heaven? And what mistakes have Christians made, in fiction and otherwise, in cheapening or overly mythologizing the very real nature of the world to come?

[TOM’s note: the original article contained a comments page, which is not reproduced here.]



32. Guest Post: In Case of Rapture—the Bible will be wrong (post 2 of 2)

by Preacher Todd Clippard, Burleson Church of Christ, Hamilton, AL.

(Reprinted with permission January 2016)

The title of this article is an adaptation of a bumper sticker sometimes seen that reads, “In case of rapture, this car will be empty.” Many people believe in what is called “the rapture.” By the “rapture,” it is generally meant that all faithful Christians will be secretly carried away to heaven to be with Jesus (thus the driverless car). This secret “catching away” will precede an intense persecution of Christians and a period of world domination by the “Antichrist.” Following a 7- year period referred to as the “tribulation,” Jesus will descend from heaven with the raptured saints and make war against the Antichrist. They will overcome him and set up an earthly kingdom in Jerusalem where Jesus will reign over the earth for 1000 years, after which the final Judgment will take place.

Unfortunately, most of what is taught concerning the rapture is not consistent with what the Bible teaches. For example, most be surprised to know the word “rapture” cannot be found anywhere in the Bible. Despite this, many religious groups and people believe in what is called “the rapture.” The “rapture” and “tribulation” are central to the false theory of premillennialism. Not only is the word itself absent from the Scriptures, the concept of a rapture is nowhere to be found. Some cite 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 as proof of the rapture, “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” KJV. However, one can see that this verse actually refutes the notion of a rapture. Note how this changing “in the twinkling of an eye” takes place “at the last trump,” not 1007 years before the last trump as is taught by premillennial doctrine.

Consider John 5:28-29 – “The hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.” This verse clearly teaches that all men, both good and evil, will be raised from the dead at the same hour.

Finally, 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 should put this matter to rest once and for all: “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” NKJV

This text explicitly teaches that the Christian’s reunion with the Lord will take place “in the air” and shall remain in that state. Premillennialism says the “raptured” saints shall be with the Lord in the air during the 7-year tribulation and then return to Earth for a literal 1000-year reign of Christ upon the earth. A summary and biblical refutation of premillennial doctrine can be seen online at http://www.burlesonchurchofchrist.com/incaseofrapture.htm.

What About the Tribulation and the anti-Christ?

In our previous articles, we showed how Matthew 24 foretells the destruction of Jerusalem and not the end of the world. We also examined the false doctrine of an event called “the rapture.” By way of reminder, the event known as “the rapture” is nowhere taught nor even implied by the Scriptures. As the rapture is central to the doctrine of premillennialism (pre-mil), the whole of this doctrine must be rejected. However, for the sake of study, we will expose the false doctrines of a global tribulation and the character known as “the anti-Christ.”

Pre-mil doctrine espouses a seven-year period of global distress prior to the return of Jesus. This seven year period is called “the tribulation.” During this time, the Jews will begin to rebuild the temple. The Jews will also (unknowingly) enter into a 7-year agreement with “the anti-Christ.” After 3 ½ years, “the anti-Christ” will be revealed, at which time he will stop the daily sacrifice and set up his own image in the temple. During this time, Jerusalem will be trodden under foot, nations will unite against the city and overcome it. Great suffering will occur and many will be carried into captivity; those remaining will turn to Christ. When the kings of Earth gather to battle against the Christians, Jesus will descend with the saints to deliver the faithful and destroy the enemy. Thus ends the tribulation and the power of the anti-Christ.

Does the Bible teach such a thing? Absolutely not! In connection with the rapture, pre-mil says the faithful will escape the tribulation, being secretly snatched away prior to its outset. But Acts 14:22, entrance into the kingdom with tribulation, not after or apart from it. Second, in Revelation 1:9, John called himself a “companion in tribulation.” At the time of John’s writing, the distresses of Matthew 24 were already begun or accomplished against Israel, (depending on the time of the writing), and now the Romans had begun a persecution against the church (Rev 2:10, 13; 3:10).

Concerning the reality of a single character known as “the anti-Christ,” John wrote the following: “Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now there are many antichrists; whereby we know it is the last time” (1 John 2:18). John said there were many antichrists present at the time he wrote his epistle. But just exactly who is antichrist? John answered that question four verses later in 1 John 2:22: “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.” Also, anyone who denies that Jesus came in the flesh is antichrist (cf 1 John 4:1-6). Therefore, anyone who denies that Jesus came in the flesh or denies His deity is antichrist! This would include Jews, Muslims, or anyone who denies the deity and incarnation of Jesus. There is no such character known simply as “the anti-Christ.”

What About Jesus’ 1000-Year-Reign and Earthly Kingdom?

Will Jesus reign for 1000 years over an earthly kingdom? According to pre-mil theory, following the “rapture” and seven year “tribulation,” Jesus will return to make war against “the antichrist.” Tribulation martyrs will be raised to reign with Jesus and the other saints for 1000 years, during which time Jesus will sit on the throne of David, reigning in his earthly kingdom in Jerusalem.

Does the Bible teach this? It does not. For example, when on trial before Pilate, Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). Though admitting Himself to be a king (v 37), He makes it clear His kingdom was no threat to Caesar or any other earthly kingdom. Paul also said our war is not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual wickedness in high places (Eph 6:12). Yet pre-mil teaches world domination by the kingdom of Christ.

Also, the Bible prohibits Jesus from reigning on the earth. In Jeremiah 22:30, the prophet says of Coniah, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Write this man down as childless, A man who shall not prosper in his days; For none of his descendants shall prosper, Sitting on the throne of David, and ruling anymore in Judah'” (emphasis mine—jtc). Thus, the Lord Himself declared that no descendant of Coniah would sit on David’s throne, ruling from Jerusalem. Now look at Matthew 1:11 and the genealogy of Jesus. Jesus was a descendant of Coniah, called Jeconiah in this verse! Therefore, Scripture forbids Him from sitting on David’s throne in Jerusalem.

“But wait!” You ask, “Doesn’t the Bible teach that Jesus would sit on David’s throne?” Indeed it does, but it also defines what that means. Obviously, it cannot have reference to Jesus reigning over a physical kingdom in Jerusalem, but what does it mean? The answer is found in Acts 2:29-31, where Peter defined exactly what the Bible meant when it said Jesus would sit on David’s throne:

“”Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption” (emphasis mine –jtc). Peter says the resurrection of Jesus is what David meant by the Christ sitting on his throne.

This harmonizes perfectly with Daniel 7:13-14, “I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.” Jesus received His kingdom and began to reign in it following His resurrection from dead and His ascension into heaven. Jesus is a king reigning in His kingdom NOW. His kingdom is the church (Matt 16:18-19).

Judaism Re-established, the Resurrection, & the Judgment

Pre-mil proponents claim the Levitical priesthood will be re-established when Jesus returns, with animal sacrifices re-instituted in the temple. But to what end would such sacrifices be offered? Certainly not to effect remission of sins, for “Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation” (Heb 9:28).

Also, all Christians now serve as priests (1 Peter 2:5, 9). Finally, Hebrews 8:8-13 says the old covenant with the Levitical priesthood was faulty and in need of replacement. Jesus replaced this faulty covenant with the new covenant, the New Testament, which He brought into force when He died on the cross (Heb 9:12-28).

Pre-mil theology is also wrong concerning the resurrection. This ties closely to the error known as “the rapture.” Pre-mil’s rapture and subsequent doctrines of the resurrection teach three separate resurrections: one at the rapture, the second coming of Jesus (seven years later), and the general resurrection after the 1000-year reign. The Bible teaches no such thing. In John 5:28-29, Jesus said ALL the dead would be raised when He returns. In Matthew 25:31-32, Jesus said when He “shall come in all his glory and all His holy angels with Him, then shall he sit upon the throne of His glory: and before Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats.” While we understand these verses (through v 46) concern the final Judgment, we must also consider the time frame of this event. The text says the Resurrection and Judgment of the world will take place when Jesus comes again, not 1000 years afterward.

Another text for consideration is 1 Corinthians 15:23-26: “But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”

If you mark in your Bible, underline the words “at His coming” in verse 23. Then circle the words “then cometh the end” in verse 24 and draw a line connecting them to “at His coming.” This will help you to understand what will take place when Jesus comes again – THE END, meaning the end of the world.

Pre-mil theology says Jesus will return to begin a 1000-year earthly reign, after which comes the end. The inspired apostle Paul says the end will come when Jesus comes again, not 1000 years afterward. Verse 24 also says at the second coming Jesus will deliver up the kingdom to the Father, not establish it to reign for 1000 years. Verses 25-26 say Jesus now reigns and will continue to do so until the last enemy (death) is destroyed (by the resurrection of all men from the dead). Pre-mil theology is wrong at every turn from beginning to end, yet millions continue to believe and teach this dangerous doctrine.

Are the “signs” of Matthew 24 upon us?

With this article, we begin a series addressing many of the false doctrines currently taught concerning the second coming of Christ. First, it must be understood that there are no signs pointing to the second coming of Jesus Christ. Matthew 24 is one of the most wrongly interpreted chapters in all the Bible. In truth, the signs of Matthew 24 point to the destruction of Jerusalem, and not to the second coming. In Matthew 24:1-3 the disciples were asking about Jesus’ statement concerning the destruction of the temple, and incorrectly linked that event to the end of the world. The disciples (incorrectly) looked for the re-establishment of the physical nation of Israel, even until the day of Jesus ascension (Acts 1:6). It is inconceivable that they could consider the existence of a Jewish state without the presence of the temple.

Jesus’ answer in the remainder of chapter 24 and in chapter 25 corrects the disciples’ misunderstanding. In Matthew 24:4-35, Jesus tells the four the signs preceding Jerusalem’s destruction. In 24:36-25:46, Jesus tells of the events of His second coming and the Day of Judgment for all men that will take place at His return.

The key to understanding Matthew 24 is verse 34. Two phrases of utmost importance are “this generation” and “these things.”

Consider the phrase “this generation” in v 34. Of whom would the disciples understand Jesus to be speaking? Answer: Themselves and their contemporaries. However, some premillennialists believe “this generation” refers to the entire Jewish race. Thus, since the Jewish race is still present in some form, the events in question (vv 4-33) are yet in the future (though many are teaching the events are unfolding before us). Billy Graham has often said “Matthew 24 is knocking at the door.” Others believe “this generation” to be those who see the signs of verses 4-33. Both views are wrong.

“Generation” (Gr genea) appears 43 times in the New Testament and 17 of those occurrences appear as “this generation.” Matthew used the phrase “this generation” 5 times in his gospel account (11:16-19; 12:34-45; 23:33-36). Jesus was referring to then present-day Jews in all the previous accounts, particularly Matthew 23:36 which is in the immediate context of Matthew 24. So it only makes sense to believe “this generation” in Matthew 24:34 refers to the same people.

Also of importance is the identification and record of the events known as “these things.” “These things” refer to the signs found in Matthew 24:4-12 and included: false Christs – vv 4-5; wars and rumors of wars – v 6; famines, pestilences, and earthquakes – v 7; persecution of the saints – vv 9-10; multiplied false prophets and mass apostasy – vv 11-12.

Both biblical (Acts 11:28, cf v 7b) and secular (Josephus) accounts show the fulfillment of the list of “these things” in the years immediately preceding the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. (Flavius Josephus’ Wars of the Jews, Books V & VI is particularly helpful in this respect). Thus, there is no reason to believe the current state of national or world events has any bearing on the imminence of the Second Coming.

Concerning the presence or nearness of “the last days,” the Bible teaches that we have been living in “the last days” for nearly 2000 years (Acts 2:16-21;Hebrews 1:1-2; 1 John 2:18). The last days refers not to a specific date and time, but rather a dispensation of time. We are now living in “the last days,” the days of the Christian Dispensation. First was the Patriarchal Dispensation, then the Mosaic, and now the final period of time, the Christian Dispensation.

Premillennialism Denigrates Christ and His Church.

In the final installment, we examine how this doctrine denigrates Jesus and His church.

First, pre-mil impugns the power and authority of Jesus. In Matthew 28:18, Jesus said all power (authority) was given to him in heaven and on earth. In John 6:38, Jesus said He came to do the Father’s will. Pre-mil says Jesus’ original intent was to establish an earthly kingdom, but was rejected by the Jews. But as He breathed His last on the cross, Jesus cried, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Now, did Jesus accomplish His mission or not?

Second, pre-mil denigrates the importance God placed upon the church. Pre-mil says the church was God’s “Plan B” after the original plan to establish an earthly kingdom was thwarted by the Jews. However, one of Jesus’ stated purposes was to build His church (Matt 16:18). Jesus died to purchase the church (Acts 20:28). Jesus loves, nourishes, and cherishes His church (Eph 5:23-29). Also, the saved are added to the church (Acts 2:47), and Jesus will save only the church (Eph 5:23). Finally, the manifold wisdom of God is made known by the church (Eph 3:10).

Third, pre-mil denies that the kingdom is the church. In Matthew 3:2 and 4:17, both John and Jesus preached the message of the nearness of the kingdom. In Mark 9:1, Jesus said some then living would live to see its establishment.

In Matthew 16:18-19 and 18:18, Jesus gave the keys of the kingdom to the apostles. Why do that if the kingdom was still thousands of years from fruition?

Consider: from the Old Testament to Acts 2, the kingdom is always spoken of in the future, yet to be established tense. From Acts 2 onward, the kingdom is spoken of in the present, already established tense. What event took place in Acts 2 to cause this distinction? The church was established on the day of Pentecost.

In Acts 28:23 Paul testified of the kingdom as an established fact; he didn’t prophesy of it as being in the future. Colossians 1:13 says God has translated (note past tense) us into the kingdom of His Son. In Revelation 1:9 John identified himself as a companion in the kingdom. And the Hebrew writer spoke of having received a kingdom which cannot be moved (cf Matt 16:18).

The truth is that Jesus is NOW a king and is reigning in His kingdom—the CHURCH. When He comes again, it will not be to establish a kingdom, but to save it by delivering it up to God the Father (1 Cor 15:23-24).

End post 2 of 2

Questions welcome at http://www.burlesonchurchofchrist.com

31. Guest Post: In Case of Rapture—the Bible will be wrong (post 1 of 2)

by Preacher Todd Clippard, Burleson Church of Christ, Hamilton, AL.

(Reprinted with permission January 2016)


Most dispensational pre- and post-millennialists use passages from the books of Daniel, Ezekiel, and Revelation in support of their doctrine. The passages to which they refer are often highly symbolic and apocalyptic. That is, these texts use symbols and figures to represent spiritual concepts. Admittedly, many of these symbols and images are difficult to decipher. However, keep in mind that the Bible is one large book composed of 66 smaller books. “God is not the author of confusion” (1 Cor 14:40). Therefore, the Bible is uniform and consistent in its teaching throughout.

One of the most basic principles of interpretation is to interpret difficult passages in light of those easily understood. This method of interpretation applies to the Bible or any other document or concept. For example, when one learns mathematics, he must first learn addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division (in that order) before moving on to algebra, geometry, etc. All higher math must agree with the rudiments of mathematics. Unfortunately, many folks take difficult passages and make them teach something in direct opposition to easily understood scriptures.

The main points of this outline are the most common beliefs in the millennial system. Although every dispensationalist may not be in agreement on every point, the following summarization would garner the support of most. Also, the validity of each point is dependent upon all the others. Therefore, by refuting even one of the fundamental principles of premillennialism, one refutes the entire system without having to address the seemingly infinite minute details of the varying theories.


1. Initially, Jesus came to the earth to establish an earthly kingdom in Judah, was rejected by the Jews, and set up the church instead until He comes again.

2. There will be a secret “catching away” of the saints, both living and dead, before “the tribulation.” This is commonly referred to as “the rapture.”

3. The tribulation will last approximately 7 years, during which time the Jews will begin to rebuild the temple. The Jews will also enter into a 7-year agreement with “the Anti-christ”. After 3 ½ years, “the Antichrist” will be revealed, at which time he will stop the daily sacrifice and set up his own image in the temple.

4. During this time, Jerusalem will be trodden under foot, nations will unite against the city and overcome it. Great suffering will occur and many will be carried into captivity; those remaining will turn to Christ. When the kings of Earth gather to battle against the Christians, Jesus will descend with the saints to deliver the faithful and destroy the enemy. Thus ends the tribulation and the power of the Antichrist.

5. Tribulation martyrs are raised to reign with Jesus and the other saints for 1000 years, during which time Jesus will sit on the throne of David, having established his earthly kingdom in Jerusalem.

6. The tribes of Israel are restored and the Lord makes a new covenant with them. The temple will be completely rebuilt with Levitical sacrifices re-established and continued throughout the 1000 year reign.

7. After 1000 years- the final judgment will take place.


1. Initially, Jesus came to the earth to establish an earthly kingdom in Judah and reign as a king, but was rejected by the Jews, and set up the church instead until he came again. (Pre-millennialists view the church as a “Plan B.”)

The BIBLE says:

a. John 6:15 the Jews sought to make Jesus a king, but He rejected them
b. John 18:36 Jesus was no threat to Caesar (Ephesians 6:17; Micah 4:2)
c. Ephesians 3:9-11 purpose and design of the church was eternal, not secondary.

2. There will be a secret “catching away” of the saints, both living and dead, before “the tribulation.” This catching away is commonly referred to as “the rapture.”

The BIBLE says:

a. 1 Corinthians 15:52 – the changing “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” will take place “at the last trump”
b. John 5:28-29 ALL the dead shall be raised the same day
c. John 6:40 ALL believers will be raised the last day (not 1007 years before the last day)
d. Revelation 1:9 John was a companion in the tribulation (present tense, definite article)
e. 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 ALL the saints raised at the last day, the dead in Christ first.
f. “rapture” is a non-biblical term which cannot be found in word or principle in the Scriptures.

3. The tribulation will last approximately 7 years, during which time the Jews will begin to rebuild the temple. The Jews will also enter into a 7-year agreement with “the Anti-christ”. After 3 ½ years, “the Antichrist” will be revealed, at which time he will stop the daily sacrifice and set up his own image in the temple.

The BIBLE says:

a. Acts 14:22 entrance into the kingdom with tribulation, not after or apart from it.
b. Revelation 1:9 John a companion with 7 churches of Asia in tribulation
c. the Antichrist?
i. 1 John 2:18, 22 MANY anti-Christs already present = a signal of the “last days”
ii. 1 John 4:4 “ye have overcome THEM”

4. During this time, Jerusalem will be trodden under foot, nations will unite against the city and overcome it. Great suffering will occur and many will be carried into captivity; those remaining will turn to Christ. When the kings of Earth gather to battle against the Christians, Jesus will descend with the saints to deliver the faithful and destroy the enemy. Thus ends the tribulation and the power of the Antichrist.

The BIBLE says:

a. Ephesians 6:10-17 Christians not fighting against flesh and blood, but spiritual wickedness
b. 2 Peter 3:10-11 When Jesus comes again, the universe shall be dissolved

5. Tribulation martyrs are raised to reign with Jesus and the other saints for 1000 years, during which time Jesus will sit on the throne of David, having established his earthly kingdom in Jerusalem.

The BIBLE says:

a. John 18:36 – Jesus said “My kingdom is not of this world.”
b. Daniel 7:13-14 – Jesus was given His kingdom when He ascended to heaven (cf Acts 1:9)
c. Jeremiah 22:28-30 no descendant of Coniah shall reign in Judah, sitting on the throne of David
i. Matthew 1:11 Jesus is a descendant of Jeconiah = Coniah
ii. Acts 2:29-31 Jesus sitting on the throne of David = resurrection from the dead

6. The tribes of Israel are restored and the Lord makes a new covenant with them. The temple will be rebuilt with Levitical sacrifices re-established and continued throughout the 1000 year reign.

The BIBLE says:

a. Joshua 21:43-45 all promises to Israel fulfilled
b. Galatians 3
i. things spiritual (of Christ) not made complete by the flesh (the old law) vv 2-3
ii. justification comes through Christ, who redeemed us from the curse of the old law – vv 10-14
c. Hebrews 8:6-13 why would Jesus re-establish the imperfect, faulty law that He came to abolish?

7. After 1000 years- the final judgment will take place.

The BIBLE says:

a. Matthew 25:31-34,41 BOTH the righteous and the wicked shall be judged at his coming
b. John 5:28-29 ALL the dead will be raised together for the judgment

8. Other considerations:

a. This theory impugns the authority of Christ – Matthew 28:18
b. This theory denigrates the importance God placed upon the church:
i. Acts 2:47 – the saved are added to the church by the Lord
ii. Acts 20:28 – the church was purchased with the blood of Jesus Christ
iii. Ephesians 3:10 – the manifold wisdom of God is made known by the church
c. This theory denies that the kingdom is the church
i. Matthew 4:17, Mark 12:34, Luke 10:9-11 – kingdom is nigh or close at hand
ii. Matthew 16:28, Mark 9:1 – some living then would live to see it established
iii. Matthew 16:18-19; Matthew 18:18 If the kingdom was not close to being established, why  did Jesus give Peter and the other apostles the keys to it?
(1) From Matthew 1 to Acts 2, the kingdom is always spoken of in the future tense.
(2) After Acts 2, it is spoken of in the present tense, as already established.
(3) Thus, the kingdom was established in Acts 2 = the church (v 47).
iv. Some were already in the kingdom in the first century:
(1) Acts 28:23 Paul testified of it as an established fact, not prophesied of it as being in the future
(2) Colossians 1:13 God has translated (note past tense) us into the kingdom of His Son
(3) Revelation 1:9 John identified himself as a companion in the kingdom
(4) Hebrews 12:28 the Hebrews received a kingdom which cannot be moved (cf Matt 16:18)

End post 1 of 2

30. What others are saying about Left Behind, by denomination

Basically what it says it is. Your host (TOM) remembers when everybody was talking about these books but nobody was evaluating them. Now you have options that your host didn’t have, back in the day.

We have left the links in open (ugly) format so that if a link breaks, you have its address to type into the Wayback Machine.

Why are people reading LEFT BEHIND other than denominational considerations?

*Multiple personal reasons that involve doomsday stories.

POTLUCK. The Old Maid. On world-building and Things Go Boom: https://potluck2point0.wordpress.com/2016/01/18/on-world-building-and-things-go-boom/

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*As evangelical porn (i.e. commercializing the transcendent for entertainment and profit).

(NOTE: This website has moved at least twice. Readers should consider printing the articles. These links are from the internet Wayback Machine.)

(SECOND NOTE: This article references both the 16-volume adult and 40-volume children’s series.)

THE MATTHEW’S HOUSE PROJECT. Kenneth R. Morefield. LEFT BEHIND as Evangelical Pornography: http://web.archive.org/web/20051216182433/http://www.thematthewshouseproject.com/criticism/leftbehind.htm (part 1)

http://web.archive.org/web/20051221192607/http://www.thematthewshouseproject.com/criticism/leftbehind2.htm (part 2)

http://web.archive.org/web/20050422134633/http://www.thematthewshouseproject.com/criticism/leftbehind3.htm (part 3)

http://web.archive.org/web/20050426050353/http://www.thematthewshouseproject.com/criticism/leftbehind4.htm (part 4/end).

If all else fails, ask the author directly at http://kenmorefield.blogspot.com/2009/01/left-behind-as-evangelical-pornography.html


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Related articles making the same argument appear as links in one article.



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Vancouver Sun reviewer looks at the Kirk Cameron film series: http://web.archive.org/web/20010405164532/http://www.vancouversun.com/newsite/hotsites/stories/010224/5116324.html

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Michael Joseph Gross. Because it “appropriates and baptizes worldly standards”:


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Pro/fan of the series (denominational affiliation of the writer/blogger will be listed when known)

(Note: TOM does not necessarily endorse articles but includes each because of unique argument.)

BELIEFNET.COM An Exclusive Interview with Jerry Jenkins. http://www.beliefnet.com/Entertainment/2004/04/God-Prepared-Me-For-This-Interview-With-Jerry-Jenkins.aspx (part 1)

http://www.beliefnet.com/Entertainment/2004/04/God-Prepared-Me-For-This-Interview-With-Jerry-Jenkins.aspx?p=2 (part 2)

http://www.beliefnet.com/Entertainment/2004/04/God-Prepared-Me-For-This-Interview-With-Jerry-Jenkins.aspx?p=3 (part 3/end)

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LEFT BEHIND.COM OFFICIAL SITE. Includes the new Nicholas Cage film trailer.


The same website’s charts of the timeline of the series:


The same website’s Discussion Guides for:

PDF “Left Behind,” Volume 1: http://www.leftbehind.com/media/pdf/Guide_LeftBehind.pdf

PDF “Tribulation Force,” Volume 2: http://www.leftbehind.com/media/pdf/Guide_TribulationForce.pdf

PDF “Nicolae,” Volume 3: http://www.leftbehind.com/media/pdf/Guide_Nicolae.pdf

PDF “Soul Harvest,” Volume 4: http://www.leftbehind.com/media/pdf/guide_soulharvest.pdf

PDF “Apollyon,” Volume 5: http://www.leftbehind.com/media/pdf/guide_apollyon.pdf

PDF “Assassins,” Volume 6: http://www.leftbehind.com/media/pdf/Guide_Assassins.pdf

PDF “The Indwelling,” Volume 7: http://www.leftbehind.com/media/pdf/guide_indwelling.pdf

PDF “The Mark,” Volume 8: http://www.leftbehind.com/media/pdf/Guide_Mark.pdf

PDF “Desecration,” Volume 9: http://www.leftbehind.com/media/pdf/guide_desecration.pdf

PDF “The remnant,” Volume 10: http://www.leftbehind.com/media/pdf/Guide_Remnant.pdf

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TED THE THIRD. Ted Atchely. Volume 16 (“Kingdom Come”): http://tedthethird.com/book-review-kingdom-come-jerry-b-jenkins-tim-lahaye/

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GOOD READS. Assorted posters. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30820.Kingdom_Come

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RAPTURE READY. Various authors. LEFT BEHIND letters. (i.e., pre-written letters for Rapture believers to leave for non-raptured persons to find after the Rapture.)


The same website’s FAQ of many other topics according to rapturism: http://www.raptureready.com/faq/rap23.html

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Con/anti (denominational affiliation of the writer/blogger will be listed when known)

(Note: TOM does not necessarily endorse articles but includes each because of unique argument.)


….. ….. ….. AGNOSTIC ….. ….. ….. …..

MOUSE’S MUSINGS. Mouse. A multi-year ongoing skim-summary of the LEFT BEHIND: THE KIDS series (which is 40 volumes long). (NOTE: the site will ask if you wish to continue in case of content. This may just be a default setting.) http://mousehole-mouse.blogspot.com/

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EVOLUTION AND SCIENCE BLOG. Jason Rosenhouse. Specifically Volume 16 (“Kingdom Come”): http://scienceblogs.com/evolutionblog/2008/10/29/the-left-behind-series/


….. ….. ….. ATHEIST ….. ….. ….. …..

NATHAN DICKEY’S BLOG. Nathan Dickey. The subcultural apocalypse.

(NOTE: the blogger addresses the Olivet Discourse, translational disputes, and literal vs. literalistic.)


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LAUGHED BEHIND (NUTWATCH). Queen of Swords. (this one swears the most, most cruel, most funny)

Laughed Behind (volume 1): http://www.ludd.luth.se/~asmodean/nutwatch/reviews/laughed.html

Tribulation Farce (volume 2): http://www.ludd.luth.se/~asmodean/nutwatch/reviews/farce.html

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LATE REVIEWS AND LATEST OBSESSIONS. The Critic. Preposterous: Credo quia absurdum.

(NOTE: This review covers VOLUMES 1-3.)


Volume 3 (“Nicholae”): http://latereviews.blogspot.com/2004/05/slipshod-dress-of-thoughts.html

Volume 4 (“Soul Harvest”): http://latereviews.blogspot.com/2005/06/apocalyptic-placeholder.html

Volume 5 (“Apollyon”): http://latereviews.blogspot.com/2005/06/sociopatholical-eschatology.html

Volume 6 (“Assassins”): http://latereviews.blogspot.com/2005/06/90-less-fat.html

Volume 7 (“Indwelling”): http://latereviews.blogspot.com/2006/12/less-tricky-than-dicky-nixon.html

Volume 8 (“The mark”): http://latereviews.blogspot.com/2006/12/if-sparrow-falls-trib-force-sees-it.html

Volume 9 (“Desecration”): Best. Apocalypse. Ever. http://latereviews.blogspot.com/2006/12/best-apocalypse-ever.html


….. ….. ….. ASSORTED BAPTISTS ….. ….. ….. …..

BIBLE DISCERNMENT MINISTRIES. Pastor Kevin Beier, Bible Believer’s Baptist Church.

February 3, 2000 review: https://www.rapidnet.com/~jbeard/lbehind.htm

January 2005 review: http://www.rapidnet.com/~jbeard/bdm/BookReviews/left.htm

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NORTHERN LANDMARK MISSIONARY BAPTIST, February, 2004. Thomas Williamson. Should we promote the LEFT BEHIND theology? http://thomaswilliamson.net/left_behind.htm

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SLACKTIVIST. Fred Clark. (Warning: time sink! Also, comments board is unmoderated and open-table.) This ultra-liberal Baptist either got a calling or OCD which hath led him unto compulsion to blog about the series, “shredding” LEFT BEHIND both as theology and as literature. (That was someone else’s word describing it to TOM when TOM was first directed to the website. It should be noted that TOM saw someone else direct Jerry Jenkins to the site in summer 2015, without a spoiler hint of the sight to meet his eyes. Mr. Jenkins seemed taken aback but politely declined to engage, stating that the only criticism worth addressing was the charge of triumphalism, with which he disagreed.)

Slacktivist started from Volume 1, page 1 … in 2003 … over a decade ago. So far the blog covers all of Volume 1, Volume 2, and the first two Kirk Cameron dramatizations. At that rate, if the Lord tarries His coming, the blogger would have finished Volume 16 some time around the year 2048. However, as of Christmas 2015 Slacktivist has been bogged down in Volume 3, at about page 350, for about half a year as of Sept 2016. So it’s year 2049 now.

Master index of Slacktivist’s posts through Christmas 2015: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2015/11/05/left-behind-index-the-whole-thing/

Slacktivist’s posts (without audience comments) compiled as an e-book:
His Volume 1: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00TXWK43Y

His Volume 2: http://www.amazon.com/Anti-Christ-Handbook-Vol-Horror-Hilarity-ebook/dp/B017TJV66G

Slacktivist’s Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/slacktivist?ty=h

Can also read Slacktivist in reverse order by:

Category: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/category/left-behind/

or Tag: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/tag/left-behind/


….. ….. ….. CATHOLIC ….. ….. …..

CATHOLIC EDUCATION RESOURCE CENTER ( http://www.catholiceducation.org ). David Bristow. Questioning the LEFT BEHIND Rapture. http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/apologetics/ap0144.html

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CATHOLIC LEAGUE FOR RELIGIOUS AND CIVIL RIGHTS. Dr. Carl Olson. The Best-Selling Bigotry of LEFT BEHIND. Printed in CATALYST, December 2004.


Reprint of the article as Tim LaHaye: The LEFT BEHIND series. Posted December 19, 2004.


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CATHOLIC WORLD REPORT. Carl E. Olson. Five Myths about the Rapture and the LEFT BEHIND Industry. Posted September 29, 2014.


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Fr. Gary Coulter (Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska). “Critical Resources for the LEFT BEHIND novels.” http://frcoulter.com/presentations/leftbehind.html



….. ….. ….. CHURCH OF CHRIST ….. ….. …..

BURLESON CHURCH OF CHRIST, Hamilton, AL. Travis Quartermous (Pacific, MO). “Review of the LEFT BEHIND novels.” Contains Volumes 1-8 as of September 2014.

Preacher Todd Clippard welcomes your questions at http://burlesonchurchofchrist.com

General index of articles: http://burlesonchurchofchrist.com/articles-leftbehind.htm

Volume 1: http://burlesonchurchofchrist.com/articles/leftbehind/leftbehind1.htm

Volume 2: http://burlesonchurchofchrist.com/articles/leftbehind/leftbehind2.htm

Volume 3: http://burlesonchurchofchrist.com/articles/leftbehind/leftbehind3.htm

Volume 4: http://burlesonchurchofchrist.com/articles/leftbehind/leftbehind4.htm

Volume 5: http://burlesonchurchofchrist.com/articles/leftbehind/leftbehind5.htm

Volume 6: http://burlesonchurchofchrist.com/articles/leftbehind/leftbehind6.htm

Volume 7: http://burlesonchurchofchrist.com/articles/leftbehind/leftbehind7.htm

Volume 8: http://burlesonchurchofchrist.com/articles/leftbehind/leftbehind8.htm


….. ….. ….. EPISCOPAL ….. ….. …..

A ready-reference with easy charts and definitions: http://www.saintpaulsvergennes.org/assets/applets/Revelation.pdf

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ST JAMES’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH, West Hartford Center, CT. The Rev. Curtis Farr. Leaving Rapture Theology Behind. http://stjameswh.org/leaving_rapture_theology_behind/


….. ….. ….. I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THESE ARE ….. ….. …..

Some Australian home church (?) site whose homepage may have been hacked (i.e., just don’t click the link to their HomePage), but the LEFT BEHIND articles are still there to be printed.


LEFT BEHIND Series: The Supernatural. Mostly about Volume 1: http://cust.idl.net.au/fold/Left_Behind_series/The_supernatural.html

Volume 3 (“Nicolae”): Left Behind and pro-abortion propaganda. http://libertytothecaptives.net/left_behind_abortion.html

Volume 4 (“Soul Harvest”): Servants of the Antichrist. http://cust.idl.net.au/fold/Left_Behind_series/Servants_of_the_antichrist.html

Volume 5 (“Apollyon”): Wells without water.  http://cust.idl.net.au/fold/Left_Behind_series/Wells_without_water.html

Volume 6 (“Assassins”): Part Two: the Prince of Peace. http://cust.idl.net.au/fold/Left_Behind_series/Prince_of_peace.html

Volume 7 (“The indwelling”): Child murder and suicide: options for Christians during the Tribulation? http://libertytothecaptives.net/murdering_children_an_option.html

Volume 7 (“The indwelling”): Left Behind: New Age imagery helps popularize prophecy. http://www.crossroad.to/articles2/prophecy.htm

Volume 8 (“The mark”): The Mark. http://cust.idl.net.au/fold/Left_Behind_series/The_mark.html

Volume 8 (“The mark”): Tim LaHaye: false Mark of the Beast doctrines. http://libertytothecaptives.net/tim_lahaye_are we_living_in_the_end_times.html

Volume 11 (“Armageddon”): Torture and the Virgin Army. http://cust.idl.net.au/fold/Left_Behind_series/Torture%20and%20the%20Virgin%20Army.html

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Equip.org (a.k.a. Christian Research Institute: EQUIP). Gene Edward Veith. When Truth Gets LEFT BEHIND. Posted Volume 24 / Number 4, 2002.

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THE KNIGHT SHIFT. Christopher Knight. An ex-fan of the series. Specifically Vol. 16 (“Kingdom come”): http://theknightshift.blogspot.com/2007/04/review-of-kingdom-come-final-left.html

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EVIDENCE FOR GOD. Rich Deem. (Yes, the “hehind” spelling is correct.) http://www.godandscience.org/doctrine/left_hehind_answered.html

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BOOK 8, KINGDOM COME, LIVEBLOG. Lawful Good Wonk. The MST-3000 approach for the entire book. Not a fan, in other words. http://emlia.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php?n=Tripocalypse.KingdomCome



….. ….. ….. ASSORTED LUTHERANS ….. ….. …..

HOPE LUTHERAN CHURCH. Bryan Wolfmueller. “Dispensationalism: What and Why Not.”


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THE LUTHERAN CHURCH—MISSOURI SYNOD. “Concerning the Coming of Our LORD Jesus Christ and our gathering to Him: A Lutheran response to LEFT BEHIND” (a.k.a. “A Lutheran response to LEFT BEHIND”). [Note: this is the one I cited in my Potluck: Introduction post as having heard of it and having been unable to find it. Now I have found it. Here it is. It is 27 pages. Google also has a cached HTML version.]

[PDF] http://www.lcms.org/Document.fdoc?src=lcm&id=406

CONCORDIA SEMINARY. Dr. Reed Lessing, Associate Professor of Old Testament. “Concerning the Coming of our LORD Jesus Christ and our Being Gathered to Him … A Lutheran Response to the “LEFT BEHIND” Series Bible Study: A Bible Study Companion to the Commission on Theology and Church Relations Report (CTCR) prepared by the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.” A handy HTML 10-page outline of the 27-page PDF listed above.


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A LUTHERAN LAYMAN. Jeffrey K. Radt. “Why I Left Behind The ‘LEFT BEHIND’ Mindset (Amillennialism: The Lutheran Perspective On Bible Prophecy).”


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LUTHERANS ONLINE. Not listed. “The Minor Prophets (Hosea,Amos, Jonah) & Miscellaneous Issues. OT48—Response to LEFT BEHIND series.”


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WAYBACK MACHINE. Rev. A. J. Loeschman.

Concord TX Lutheran lost reviews:

Book 1: http://web.archive.org/web/20070203185757/http://www.concordtx.org/cpapers/leftbehi.htm

Book 2: http://web.archive.org/web/20070205040322/http://www.concordtx.org/cpapers/tribforc.htm

Book 3: http://web.archive.org/web/20070203184619/http://www.concordtx.org/cpapers/nick.htm

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WORLDVIEW EVERLASTING. Rev. Eric J. Brown. “In Case of Rapture, Can I Have Your Car?” Posted in “We Got Answers.”




….. ….. ….. MENNONITE ….. ….. …..

ASSOCIATED MENNONITE BIBLICAL SEMINARY. Loren Johns. Left Behind series: Description and critique. Posted 27 October 2002. http://ljohns.ambs.edu/Leftbehind.htm


….. ….. ….. ASSORTED METHODISTS ….. ….. …..

AMERICAN METHODIST UNIVERSITY UNITED METHODIST COMMUNITY. Mark Schaefer. Will There Be a Rapture? Posted May 20, 2011. http://www.aumethodists.org/devotional/will-there-be-a-rapture/

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BAD METHODIST. Bad Methodist [blog retired]. Skittles Theology. Posted January 28, 2005.



….. ….. ….. (EASTERN) ORTHODOX ….. ….. …..

ORTHODOXYTODAY.ORG. David Carlson. “LEFT BEHIND” and the Corruption of Biblical Interpretation.”


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NYSSA’S HOBBIT HOLE. Nyssa. Grew up in Pietistic Evangelical/Fundie circles. Now an Orthodox as adult.

General index of all LEFT BEHIND reviews: http://nyssashobbithole.com/wordpress/book-reviews/

Volume 1: http://nyssashobbithole.com/wordpress/book-reviews/left-behind/

Volume 2: http://nyssashobbithole.com/wordpress/book-reviews/tribulation-force/

Volume 3: http://nyssashobbithole.com/wordpress/book-reviews/nicolae/

Volume 4: http://nyssashobbithole.com/wordpress/book-reviews/soul-harvest/

Volume 5: http://nyssashobbithole.com/wordpress/book-reviews/apollyon/

Volume 6: http://nyssashobbithole.com/wordpress/book-reviews/assassins/

Volume 7: http://nyssashobbithole.com/wordpress/book-reviews/indwelling/

Volume 8: http://nyssashobbithole.com/wordpress/book-reviews/mark/

Volume 9: http://nyssashobbithole.com/wordpress/book-reviews/desecration/

Volume 10: http://nyssashobbithole.com/wordpress/book-reviews/remnant/

Volume 11: http://nyssashobbithole.com/wordpress/book-reviews/armageddon/

Volume 12: http://nyssashobbithole.com/wordpress/book-reviews/glorious-appearing/

Volume 13/Prequel 1: http://nyssashobbithole.com/wordpress/book-reviews/rising/

Volume 14/Prequel 2: http://nyssashobbithole.com/wordpress/book-reviews/regime/

Volume 15/Prequel 3 (“The rapture”): http://nyssashobbithole.com/wordpress/book-reviews/rapture/

Volume 16/Sequel 1 (“Kingdom come”): http://nyssashobbithole.com/wordpress/kingdom-come-left-behind-review-part-1-old-testament-law-reinstated/

And a general squawk about a character in particular: http://nyssashobbithole.com/wordpress/left-behind-novel-rapture-portrays-child-abuser-godly-woman/

Closing thoughts

….. ….. ….. ….. (and mine) ….. ….. …..

POTLUCK. (Technically Potluck 2.0 now.) The Old Maid (or TOM, if you prefer). Includes spoilers and study guide questions for Volumes 1, 2, 7, 11, and 16 (“Left Behind,” “Tribulation Force,” “Indwelling,” “Armageddon,” “Kingdom Come”). Trying to keep our words truthful but kind, because we all hope to meet in Heaven! https://potluck2point0.wordpress.com (formerly http://oldmaid.jallman.net )

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Here’s a lovely letter written to the followers of Harold Camping (a Rapture date-setter) and all who wait for that which has not yet come to pass, our deliverance and our home:


Book review: Mom’s Cancer by Brian Fies

(The post formerly known as http://oldmaid.jallman.net/entry.php?id=35 )

This article was originally published on the Toon Zone News & Reviews page, 2008


Mom’s Cancer is the account of one woman’s battle with Stage IV lung cancer, as witnessed by her adult children. Often called one of the best graphic novels you’ve never heard of, Mom’s Cancer has won numerous awards for its blend of universal experience and personal trial.

The narrative opens with Mom experiencing a TIA (transient ischemic attack) that is traced to a brain tumor. Believe it or not, that’s the good news. The brain tumor has even odds of being curable. Unfortunately Mom has cancer in so many corners that the doctor can biopsy a surface bump, “tapping” Mom like a maple tree in sugar season. “How bad are things,” the Narrator begins, “when a tumor in your brain is the least of your worries?”

Mom’s children—The Narrator (a writer in his forties), Nurse Sis (in her thirties), and Kid Sis (about twenty-five)—question doctors, shuttle Mom to her treatments, watch her hair fall out, and help her assemble the ubiquitous jigsaw puzzle in the waiting room. The narrative does not shy away from negative emotions and difficult situations, starting with, who should be told? Specifically, should they tell Divorced Dad, who left to Find Himself and now lives several states away? The Narrator decides that Dad needs to know, though one could argue that it is The Narrator (who really needs a parent right now) who needs to tell him.

Next come guilt and blame. Mom is told in uncompromising terms that her cancer came from her smoking. Unable to direct his rage against his suffering mother, The Narrator rails against every other smoker: “They deserve what they get. All of them.” It’s hard to admit that such feelings do influence a family’s attitudes toward its sick. Still, as Fies illustrates, actually being right in an “I told you so” argument is a lousy victory.

Good days exist but often conditionally. The Narrator grumbles about his sisters giving Mom a puppy (“I’m not taking it!”), and Nurse Sis and Kid Sis soon show the strain of doing the bulk of the caregiving. Character portrayals can be less than flattering, and the author admits that other people recall some events differently than he does. “Everyone is doing everything they can. But some of it conflicts, and none of it is enough.”

Doctors come in for their share of scrutiny. Mom’s family doctor never ordered a chest X-ray for a smoker who always coughed, but Mom’s dream team of specialists make her feel stupid. “Call if you notice anything unusual,” they say—but when Mom calls, they dismiss her symptoms as, “You have lung cancer; what did you expect?” Also, the doctors don’t do much to help Mom through depression. Their supervision and the flurry of activity ceases when the brain tumor has been treated, leaving Mom alone for long, silent days without distractions, watching the poisons drip into her veins.

The comic, originally published semi-anonymously on the web, was sold to print to give it permanence and a wider audience, and is a good title to introduce a non-GN reader to the graphic novel format. Panels are drawn in spare but eloquent black-and-white. Color is reserved for an occasional Dorothy-in-Oz fantasy (Mom as the “Operation” game; her children as superheroes), or for the few perfect days that felt unreal (Mom as the only figure in color at what might be her last birthday party). A flashback in sepia connects the peaceful death of Mom’s beloved grandfather to Mom’s present struggle.

Fies has cited Ollie Johnson, Bill Watterson, and Gus Arriola as inspirations, and their influence is evident in Fies’ strong line, shading, and effective use of negative space. Perspective amplifies Mom’s highs and lows. Mom’s relentlessly cheerful oncologist unnerves The Narrator from low-angle camera, her Suze Orman-like smile expanding in successive panels like an iceberg bearing down on a dinghy. Mom’s worst days are illustrated in high-angle as befits the days she feels herself sinking. Having come to expect high-angle on bad days, we, like Mom, are unprepared for her most fragile hour, when Mom breaks down in neutral view, looking the disease and the audience in the face at last.

While the book is more intended to be a how-it-happened than a how-to guide, two topics are missing. One, money is not a factor. In later correspondence between Fies and his fans, the author reveals that his mother had good insurance and some funds put away. Fies acknowledges that many cancer patients get only the care they can afford, and that Mom was fortunate to be spared that added misery.

Two, there is no mention of belief. Traditionally in times of crisis people turn to their faith traditions, question their faith traditions, or acquire faith traditions if they’re in a bargaining period and think it might help. Only the parents have any metaphysical musings, such as they are. Dad dares voice the opinion that Mom is not doing “a good job” of dying. Probably Mom would be eligible for hospice, but the Narrator hints that’s not what Dad meant. Mom is no Harrison Ford creation, defiantly crying, “Never tell me the odds,” but Mom trusts fate more than odds. This old-school medicine (patients don’t ask and doctors don’t tell) annoys her ex-husband and her son, but it’s her decision and it works for her. One of the hardest moments for The Narrator is to admit that Mom’s initial instincts were correct, that a patient’s “cancer team” needs to be on the same page, and Dad needs to be removed from that team.

“Tests and treatments vary; the emotional and practical impacts of a serious illness are nearly universal.” Fies expresses gratitude that some universities now use the book to help medical students understand a patient’s point of view. The narration includes the universal milestones but avoids the “the cancer in room 14” medical labels by remembering to make Mom “our” mom first. Mom is a young model, an experiment in a mad scientist’s lair, an aspiring actress, a tightrope walker, a dog lover, an aging-before-our-eyes grandmother, and a small, beloved granddaughter. Fies and his mother reiterate the simple truth: “Although I distrust stories with a lesson, here is one: No one will care more about your life than you do, and no one is better qualified to chart its course than you are. You are the expert.”

Against incredible odds, “Mom” survived cancer. She died two years later of complications caused by the drugs that cured her. She was sixty-six years old. Her name was Barbara.

Mom’s blog, her take on life after cancer, is now inactive but has been advertized by her family and remains on the net for the indefinite future. Brian Fies continues to maintain the central reference site and his current blog, as does Kid Sis at kidsisinhollywood.blogspot.com.

(TOM’s note: The author, Brian Fies, is “available to answer questions about my book(s), including this one.)

Mom’s Cancer by Brian Fies, 115 pages, Image (an imprint of Harry N. Abrams, Inc.), c2006. Originally published 2004 as a net comic. Winner, Eisner Award, Best Digital Comic, 2005. Winner, Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis, Sachbuch (German Youth Literature Prize, Nonfiction), 2007. Winner, Harvey Awards, Best New Talent, 2007. Winner, Lulu Blooker Prize, 2007. Artwork on museum rotation: Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, New York, as of April 2008. Scheduled to be exhibited at the Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, Mass., as of November 2008.

Book review: Soon I will be invincible! by Austin Grossman

(The post formerly known as http://oldmaid.jallman.net/entry.php?id=34 )

(Article was originally published on Toon Zone News, 2007.)

This affectionate deconstruction of comic books is narrated by supervillain Doctor Impossible (“smartest man alive, fourth most infamous”) and a rookie cyber-femme named Fatale (“I should’ve gone with Cybergirl, but I was on a lot of painkillers at the time”). Bring some popcorn and join Impossible’s Pinky and the Brain-styled quest to Try to Take Over the World, as Fatale and her super-friends solemnly try to stop him.

Impossible steals the show, naturally. As the doctor languishes in a prison he nicknames “Gilligan’s Island”—the guards won’t let him have dishes, a bed, or paper and pencil “lest I turn a coconut into a radio”—the smartest man in the world wonders whether he has done the smartest thing he could have done with his life. Clearly, Impossible needs to brush up on the list of Top 100 Things To Do If You’re an Evil Overlord, but on the whole, he’s survived. He has combat training courtesy of years in Metabrawl. He has bullet-proof skin. He has an island fortress. Now, the scourge of the Golden Age and supreme villain of the Silver Age must placate his Ben Stein-like therapist “Steve” and “shuffle in line with men who tried to pass bad checks.” It’s all too much for an Evil Genius—excuse me, a sufferer of “Malign Hypercognition Disorder”—and Impossible breaks free. In this he’s inadvertently aided by a Wolverine wannabe so inept it’s a pleasure to watch Impossible take him to school.

Part of what makes Doctor Impossible fun to watch is that he confides in us the things we always wanted to know. Why don’t supervillains have secret identities? “That’s a hero thing. Shows a lack of commitment. It wouldn’t mean as much if you could simply walk away.” What do supervillains think of superheroes? A bunch of Biff Tannens in leotards. Occasionally you meet one who can read or something, but you can’t plan your daily schemes around it. Why do so many super-geniuses become supervillains? Who the heck knows?

The other part of his charm is that Impossible’s schemes are half reasonably sound and half Wile E. Coyote loony. (How can you not love a villain with a Battle Blimp?) Why did he impersonate the pope, take over Chemical Bank, and hold the moon hostage? No law against it at the time, he protests. Those charges are totally grandfathered in! Seriously, house-to-house pacification is just too much work. Taking over the whole world is safer and easier. (Don’t bother with mind control, he adds. Making billions of people brush their teeth and get to work on time is such a headache.) Ask him what in the world would he do with the world if he finally got it? Answer: “I’d name some cities after me—Manhattan shall be The Impossible City—and a few for my mentors and friends. You’ll all choose fealty or death and hold a parade on my birthday. I might bring back the mammoths. Otherwise life will be much the same as before. It’s not like I’m going to be a jerk about it.” There’s just one problem: people don’t want to live beneath the red leather boot of a supervillain. It’s hero time, and it’s time to meet the heroes who would stop him.

The other narrator is Fatale, a female Victor “Cyborg” Stone who listens to police scanners and chases reward money to pay her bills. The “Iron Age” orphan gets recruited by a tarnished Silver Age” team called The Champions, and most of the deconstruction takes place through her eyes. (Fatale believes in only four ages: Golden, Silver, Iron, and Rust.)

Fatale is reasonably insightful and usually competent. She recorded all of Bruce Lee’s movies to have cool moves. (This surprises her enemies, who expect a 450-pound cyborg to move more like The Thing.) Otherwise, the character is refreshingly free of Mary Sue Self-Insert Disorder: she’s not pretty, funny, sexy, or popular. Her foes call her Tin Man. Other teammates see her as arrogant, and nobody falls in love with her. (Even the Champions’ lady-killer shuts her down, though he does cop a feel first.) Standing between the two worlds is Lily, a Mirage character trying to adjust to life as a good guy. She is a transparent woman, a time-traveler orphaned out of continuity, a former city-wrecker, the closest thing Fatale has to a friend—and she’s Impossible’s ex-girlfriend.

While the rest of the team is quick to accuse Lily of being Impossible’s eyes and ears, Fatale wonders if there is a different double agent in their team. The alleged product of some super-secret Super Soldier program, Fatale doesn’t actually know who built her or what she was meant to do. (“To tell the truth, it left me feeling rejected.”) When she finds a piece of technology in Impossible’s motel room that resembles her own implants, she flies into a giddy fantasy about whether she, The Next Generation of Warfare, was built by the Smartest Man Alive to be a spy or a bomb—or, horror of horrors, maybe he built her and threw her away as not measuring up to his high standards. It’s worse than being built by the lowest bidder! Of all the loose ends, this may be the most interesting, but the suggestion never really goes anywhere.

The novel’s B-plot traces Fatale’s attempts to help the team find a missing hero named CoreFire. Naturally, Impossible is blamed, what with them being arch-nemeses and all. But Fatale, the only Champion who never met CoreFire, wonders if she’s being given the run-around. Apparently Damsel and Blackwolf’s marriage got a little crowded after CoreFire’s reporter-girlfriend faded from the scene.

Characters of various types are well represented. Impossible goes for a Moriarty look. There’s an allusion to a famous Brothers Grimm character when a villain offers to let a hero out of a death trap if the hero can guess Impossible’s name. Fans of C. S. Lewis should watch for a chain-smoking Susan Pevensie as Damsel’s retired step-mother.

Marvel characters are modestly well represented here. Sue Storm’s powers are divided between two people; Human Torch is a petty thief; and Sabretooth is a hero. The DC-verse contributes most of the cameos. (Watch for the ditzy Captain Marvel villain who just can’t get anyone to take him seriously.) The Big Three—Damsel, the leader; Blackwolf, her ex-husband; and CoreFire, the (gasp) blonde—are plainly Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman with tweaked origins. The author is clearly a Batman fan (richest, fastest, sexiest, the only hero of whom Impossible is genuinely scared, etc.), but as sometimes happens in Batman stories, the Superman character suffers by comparison.

(Which brings up an editorial point: Damsel’s reference to Corefire as “an [f-word excised from this review] racist” is one of several questionable word choices which should prompt parents who would read aloud to read a few sentences ahead first. The novel also makes oblique reference to how the Golden Age was not golden for everyone. One half expects Steve the Therapist to inquire why Damsel slept with a boy like her dear old dad.)

If you’ve noticed by now that there’s a lot of trivia and not a lot of story, you’re right. The cameo-spotting should keep alumni of Comic Con University busy for days, but new readers will be wondering when we’ll see the fireworks. Almost all the whammo-blammo is told from Impossible’s point of view, leaving Fatale to do pre-game scouting reports or post-game analysis. Also, as a newbie, Fatale has to attend Superheroes 101 class, which means we have to attend too. (Lily earns some sympathy—not necessarily the kind the author intended—when she keeps interrupting the Exposition Expedition to ask, Are we there yet?) Finally, while Doctor Impossible wonders whether his life could have turned out differently, we rarely hear similar insights from the heroes. It’s the downside of borrowing from Waid/Ross’s Kingdom Come. Both stories are lush with cameos, and they’re deeply dedicated to conscience and duty, but the heroes are too intense to exhibit either wonder or joy.

This is the author’s first novel, and while it leaves room for a sequel, this episode could use a few red pencils. Descriptions can be repetitive, and many characters are developed who don’t actually contribute to the current story. A nice touch is that chapter titles are all stock hero/villain phrases (like “Those meddling kids!”) but do not always clearly mark a shift in narration. Get the audiobook if you can. Boehmer chews the scenery with enthusiasm—the narrator is a Star Trek: Voyager alumnus—nicely capturing the doctor’s hubris, ennui, geek passions, jealousy, and a hidden loneliness. Marlo, though a more experienced audiobook narrator, shoulders a disadvantage in that her character has a naturally more flattened affect; plus, she narrates the bulk of the murder-mystery (which turns out to be about looking for the wrong person). Marlo scores some points back by also voicing Lily, giving the character a languid, jaded air of someone who has burned too many bridges and knows it.

While Soon I Will Be Invincible has its flaws, it’s still a pleasant diversion and a charming visit to Cape-and-Cowl Land.

Soon I Will Be Invincible: a Novel by Austin Grossman, 288 pages, Pantheon Publishing, c2007. Audiobook narrators, J. Paul Boehmer and Coleen Marlo, ca. 10 hours. HighBridge Audio by arrangement with Pantheon/Random House, c2007.

29. On world-building and Things Go Boom

(The post formerly known as http://oldmaid.jallman.net/entry.php?id=37 )

Robert Frost speculates on the end of the world in a succinct poem, “Fire and Ice,” that outclasses so many longer works (including this one). Aside from poetry, many people will not read science fiction because “it’s so depressing.” This may be a reason that “Star Trek” is so popular, as it is one of the few futures that tries to be hopeful.

Sometimes readers are just doing what is best for themselves according to the Romans 14 stress test. That is, sensitive individuals, believers of tender faith, and the like may simply know what is good and best for them. Doomsday stories are hard, stark: they can break hearts, and not just because God is largely absent. For those with stronger constitutions, a Things Go Boom story can point out where we as a species are going wrong and what, if anything, we can do about it.

What got your host (that’s me) scribbling on this odd topic is the sheer work that goes into the suspension of disbelief, of immersing oneself in a story, and by extension, the effort that goes, or ought to go, into the author’s attempt to create a world to blow up. Rogue asteroids, exploding volcanoes, Acts of God, and the guy-with-his-finger-on-the-trigger-just-slipped-on-a-banana-peel theories may blow it all up, but why should the reader care?

Consider the reasons why people dwell on end of the world stories:

Entertainment. It’s spectacle. It’s big, it’s cool, it’s a release for the thrill-seeker to watch the world’s end without the inconvenience of experiencing it. It’s no coincidence that doomsday stories that vaporize faceless crowds tend to be more popular and profitable (Independence Day, anyone?). Ask these same people why they would not delight to watch the earth being born, Digory-and-Polly-in-Narnia style, and they’ll hastily reply that of course that would be good to see! in the same tone of voice of the spouse who forgot your birthday, and is making some excuse about the present being hidden behind the car, and to fetch it the car has to be moved, apparently all the way to the store.

Fear of death. Alternately, if Things Go Boom in a sufficiently extravagant manner, perhaps the end will be instantaneous and painless. The doomsday stories most likely to be labeled “depressing” are the ones that doom the characters to die of attrition. Examples include On the beach, The road, What Niall saw, and the “Moon novels” of Susan Beth Pfeffer. Such stories dwell upon an internal logic that some people want to live as long as possible even if life is misery: “where there’s life, there’s hope.” Characters trapped on a dying planet may resort to hoarding and clannishness, rationalizing it as “times are different.” In such works religious people often are portrayed rather poorly. Corrie ten Boom and Victor Frankl may have seen real-life individuals “who gave away their last piece of bread,” but that philosophy is not always found in fiction.

Also, in this category the line between hope and delusion sometimes gets blurred. A married couple in On the beach spend the last months of their lives planning a garden they will not live to see. Whether they are living Martin Luther’s observation that “If I knew the world would end tomorrow, I would plant a tree” or simply hiding their faces from death is something the novel chooses to leave unanswered.

Displacement. Aliens become substitutes for the stranger, the rival, the enemy, whoever that is from one decade to the next. Klingons and Romulans and Borg, oh, my! Even inanimate objects will suffice. One can “hate” the asteroid in Armageddon, for example, because it’s okay to hate the asteroid. (On a whim your host rented both Deep Impact and Armageddon for a weekend. Your host preferred DI, by the way.)

Distraction. Sooner or later, people get exhausted dreading all those killer rodent viruses, mosquitoes, flesh-eating bacteria, flu-of-the-week, melting icecaps, holes in the ozone layer, comet strikes, briefcase nukes, bad guys trying to light their shoes, Yellowstone’s super-caldera burps, Skynet/Borg potentials, and of course killer bees. Doomsday stories are the flip side of the man of the house turning off the football channel to watch a World War II film: “I just wanted to watch something I knew we would win.”

Extinction (of the earth, not of us). Subdivided into categories of Academic Curiosity and Disillusionment.

Disillusionment arises from the notion that the earth is a condemned house that needs to be torn down. Whether anyone escapes largely depends upon overlap with other categories such as Prophecy. Curiosity arises from an assent that the house is burning down but it’s not our house. Characters can lift off from the doomed world and watch its destruction from a safe distance (classic Christian rapture fiction, classic Star Trek).

Modern rapture fiction may fall into either category, but any novel (When worlds collide) or film (Deep Impact) that evacuates the chosen to a safe haven will do.

Extinction (of us, not the earth). This is the thinking behind the otherwise insightful book The world without us. How would the earth respond if humans simply vanished? Not “dropped dead,” since the corpses would pollute the ecosystem. Just vanished: bodily removed by the Kanamits, the rapture, or the Enterprise. Some parts of the earth would heal. Other parts would flood, burn, melt down into radioactive sinkholes, or drain into the whirlpool of garbage—plastic can’t sink—that even now roils in the far Pacific like a toilet that can’t stay flushed. In the last chapter, the writer argues that all we have to do to see Eden restored is to stop having children, to graciously go extinct, as if humans are not really native to this world and should be weeded like any invasive plant. (Amazon.Com readers almost melted down, themselves, at that: “God promised that humans will never go extinct!” being among the politer protests.)

Sin (ours). Things simply must Go Boom because of humanity’s fallen nature. See the classic A canticle for Leibowitz.

Sin (throughout creation). Things Go Boom regardless of which species acquires sentience: that sentience itself is the trouble. See the classic Planet of the Apes film series. Sometimes overlaps with Dystopia, in which the world does not end but the “other” is in charge.

Depersonalization. People find it easier to visualize the end of the world than the end of themselves. It is the individual’s fear of death, fear of growing old, fear of getting really sick, fear of outliving your money, your family, your church, or your wits. If the world goes Boom, you don’t have to worry about what you, personally, will need for the next 50+ years of your life.

This theory is popular among economists. They argue that Westerners buy on credit and save so little money because the discipline required to manage money derives from one’s ability to visualize the future and then to visualize oneself living in it. The theory is that those who see the future as too distant or otherwise unreal cannot plan for it.

Prophecy (inevitable). Different from disillusionment. Sometimes the prophecy is secular (say, when scientists predict that a meteor called “Aphosis” might hit earth in the 2020s), sometimes New-Age (say, the Mayan calendar), and sometimes religious (say, Jack Van Impe). Televangelists Jack & Rexella Van Impe (pro-Rapture, pro-animals-go-to-heaven) endorse the Mayan calendar’s 2012 date. Based on that calendar, JVI predicts the Christian Rapture in 2012 followed by 7 years of tribulation, with doomsday in 2019. JVI interprets it as that the Mayan calendar doesn’t “end” so much as predict a cataclysm, and that that calendar has already had several of them, one of which he says was Noah’s Flood. That sets him apart from most of the other rapturists, a lot of whom were betting on 2007 for the departure day. Where prophecy meets fiction, people may read Things Go Boom stories for rehearsal, for advice, for pointers. Stories become handbooks.

Message (also called Prophecy, negotiable). The future can be changed (The book of Jonah, Terminator 2, and A Christmas Carol ). Our world faces imminent catastrophes, some of which do not necessarily rise to the level of all life being wiped off the planet, but are nonetheless scary beyond what we like to acknowledge at a rational level. Keeping doomsday scenarios in mind on a more abstract level (e.g., in our history, literature and entertainment) may inspire people or help mobilize them, to keep the boat afloat or at least make an effort to patch the hole.

Once upon a time, Westerners had to pay the garbage truck to take old newspapers; now fundraiser recycling bins inhabit our parking lots. Until recently, lead was everywhere; now lead is banned from gasoline, paint, and from grocery store cans—staggeringly, the latter ban was not achieved until 1993. We know more about nutrition nowadays. And then something else “too big” comes along and knocks our baby steps out from under us. Sometimes we learn to walk and realize we have tied our shoelaces together. (The switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs may save a few coins in the electricity bill—but if you drop and break the bulb, it releases poisonous mercury into the room, carpet, and fabrics and can cost money to clean up. This is progress?)

The feeling of being overwhelmed makes us wonder whether our bit makes a difference. And that is “mere” calamity; sin adds so much to the mix. Fiction offers the satisfaction of detecting an “unsolvable” problem and then either solving it before the end of the story, or closing the book and being so thankful that it’s not us.

Note that in the Message category, the characters sometimes advertize a political message: both Life as we knew it and One second after chastise politicians. Also, the Message category tends to include an expositional character whose job is to blow a trumpet … a lot. “Someone should have prepared! Someone should have known! [Tech speak] [geek speak] [prophecy]! Message, people! Pay attention to the Message!” The story, in other words, can get heavy-handed. On occasion such views (of the characters) even influence the outcome in the sense of, say, the characters treating food and goods as as renewable or non-renewable resources e.g., should we farm or should we migrate. However, as no party or philosophy can make the sun shine or the rain fall, the reader needs to be alert for such distractions.

(As to your host’s observations on Things Go Boom, no one seems to pay attention to water. Where are we going to get water? There’s a crisis that could qualify as natural, supernatural, man-made, or all of them together. But it probably won’t be marketable as a manly action movie.)

Now that we know why fictional Things Go Boom, we return to the original question: why should the audience care?

Well, because the storyteller cannot destroy a nothing. He needs to blow up a Something. The reader needs to care about the Something that is being blown up. Otherwise, they both might as well watch a lightning display on a distant horizon: spectacular, but without risk or reward or context.

There are two popular techniques to make readers care about the world soon to Go Boom: make your own world, or use a world already in service. Less commonly, one encounters a world-within-a-world set in the aftermath of a super-catastrophe that the narrator cannot clearly describe or remember. (See What Niall saw, The road, and Part 1 of Canticle for Leibowitz.)

Life as we knew it and Deep Impact start with a world just like ours and then break one thing. All other consequence flows from that one ruined thing. Readers have little difficulty identifying with such stories, since the settings are familiar and character responses tend toward the realistic rather than the fantastic.

The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings are examples of a created world which C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien had to form, breathe upon, and populate before proceeding to blow it all up. If an imaginary world contains non-human species, the author also must create “point-of-view” characters with whom the audience can identify. It need not be restricted to human characters, but the POV must have relatable human characteristics. The purpose of all this extra work of world-building is much the same as with a prefab world: by the time the author gets around to destroying the world, the reader has to care that it’ll be gone. “See, I have watched my mother’s death,” declares Tirian of Narnia. “It were no virtue, but great discourtesy, if we did not mourn.” Tirian is comforted and overjoyed to realize that all which was good in Narnia came into the afterlife with him. For the author, that requires building yet another world, one without the defects of our reality.

The Left Behind series, as it does with so many other things, tries to have it both ways. It creates a new world after the old one Goes Boom but struggles to make that Edenic world both realistic and fantastic, or either realistic or fantastic. The Edenic world, called the Millennial Kingdom by the characters, is preceded by seven years of history during which the old, existing world gets blown up real good. This existing world is purported to be just like our world, thus no world-building ought to be needed. In the world of LB, the United Nations rules all, abolishes nations’ currencies, buys news outlets to promote itself, nukes defenseless cities at will, and makes treaties with “little Israel.” An Israeli scientist who lacks Galadriel’s magic ring independently invents her miraculous plant fertilizer, and Israel becomes the wealthiest nation on earth by growing cereal grains. Russia and Ethiopia become sufficiently annoyed by said cereal grains that they drop nukes on Israel in numbers like unto a locust plague (fortunately, no Israeli loss of life was recorded, God having performed a miracle to deactivate the nukes). A rabbi is spoken of as being eligible for a Nobel Prize (in which category?) for making a checklist of what his fellow Jews should look for in the Messiah. Every child on earth vanishes, but aside from a few hysterics behaving badly the world recovers nicely in two weeks. (No one actually looks for them.) A villain tells the world press that the children are vaporized (“like someone striking a match in a room of gasoline vapors”), and the parents react to this minor mystery solved by going back to work, remarrying, selling the big house with its unnecessary extra bedrooms, and buying gold while the market is good. And that’s before the fantastic elements of plagues and judgments rock the world until it is utterly destroyed. Other than that, though, it’s just like our world. It’s uncanny, really. Well, maybe not.

Having blown up that Tribulation-world, the authors of Left Behind go on to build an earthly Millennial realm supposedly modeled on Eden, populate it with mortals and immortals side by side, let them mingle for a thousand years … and then blow it all up and create a third realm, the New Heavens and New Earth … in ten pages. To paraphrase that planet-wrecker James T. Kirk, “Where’s the terror of blowing it all up? The suspense? The fun!” Here we have a Built-and-Boom story that is, well, lightweight.

To make the audience care about Things Go Boom, the storyteller has to create a world that is “heavy” and believable. How does one build a world? There are authors, directors and professors who make a living at this, but for our purposes, we can restrict the list to a few manageable elements.

The creator must decide if his world will be realistic or fantastic. He must decide how realistic to make his fantasy, how fantastic to make his reality. The creator must decide what will be retained from existing worlds, what must be invented, and what will be absent.

The creator needs characters, an environment for them to live in, and a belief system to explain them or, alternately, to explain their adversaries. When a character “comes alive,” he often surprises his creator, and the author must decide if the world should be changed to accommodate the character, or if the character can be said to be sent by his creator to change the world. It should be noted that many storytellers actually come up with the character first, then have to create a world to be his home. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth stories all sprang from the simple sentence, “In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit.” But what a world Tolkien had to create to support that sentence!

The creator has to decide how long the characters will live. Do any of the characters have health problems? Would the narrators sacrifice themselves for the sake of children, pets, friends, enemies? Will the narrator be among the first to die or among the last to die? The doomed narrator—a child or other person who can neither survive unprotected nor contribute survival skills—tends to live in a short book because the character’s life is cut short. Longer books may feature a narrator such as a retired soldier or some other person with survival training. That’s not a flaw, unless the readers cannot identify with this hero-person. The larger flaw with such narrators is when hero types crowd out better-trained survival types: One second after focuses on the retired soldiers, while the off-the-grid hippies and Tinfoil Hat recluses remain an untapped resource. In contrast in Life as we knew it the chief survivalist is a mother who has absorbed Great Depression penny-pinching skills from her grandparents. To feed her family, she knows which flower bulbs to eat from the garden. Both are among the doomsday novels with pets in them.

The creator must decide what coping mechanisms the characters will employ. For example, Left Behind, On the beach, and Panic in the Year Zero! enforce strict routines and gender roles. In the first and second, the dad does not even lose his job. In the third, the dad does not even lose his suit and hat. The world may be ending, but Dad will be impeccably attired and clean-shaven to meet this end! His wife and children, including adult children, will be deferential to his authority. It may not stop the rain of death, but it calms Dad and gives him a feeling of having protected his family, however fleeting that feeling might be. Alternately, gender roles can be used to tear a family apart as in Pfeffer’s “moon series”: Life as we knew it, The dead and the gone, This world we live in, Shade of the moon.

Finally the creator has to decide what he will and won’t attempt. As of this writing, One second after is almost too new for review, but an immediate reaction is that a doomsday novel takes a big risk when it skips the crucible known as Winter. This novel also includes a teenaged pregnancy conceived after the disaster. In contrast, in LAWKI a teenager is punished for dating because of the parent’s terror that it might lead to pregnancy and another mouth to feed. In A Canticle for Leibowitz the author decides not to explain how the nuclear war was begun. In The road, the author goes one step further by refusing to explain what disaster actually happened. Thus “the Man and the Boy” could be living ten years after Life as we knew it or ten years after Canticle or Niall, and we would never know it.

To build your very own world, it helps to understand the existing one a little. Such understanding itself may be shaped by the author’s belief system, and by extension, the experts upon whom he chooses to rely for his history lessons. Some Christians will not read a secular work because of the book’s starting point of old earth, evolution, and so forth. Others who do not have a Romans 14 stumbling-block response might browse the more digestible secular hits such as the world-building trio of Guns, germs and steel; A short history of nearly everything; and The world without us. The “humans should go extinct because we’re bad for the earth!” comment in World we have already noted. Short history lacks motive, though to be fair modern humans are its audience not its subject, and Guns fails to take into account either peer pressure or belief system as agents of culture.

A created world needs at least as much cohesion as the real one, and often a little more. (Writer’s proverb: “The difference between truth and fiction is that fiction has to make sense.”) To the extent that one can, a creator often borrows from our world what works. We can poke a stick at, say, Middle-Earth and build a speculative history of Man cultures, and Tolkien’s work would stand up to the scrutiny. The same theme of music as an accompaniment to creation appears in the Bible, The Silmarillion, and The Chronicles of Narnia: The magician’s nephew. The fictional Canticle for Leibowitz and Babylon 5’s “Deconstruction of Falling Stars” draw upon real-world instances of holy men preserving knowledge and civilization after a great fall.

Tolkien called fictional universes “Secondary Worlds” as opposed to the Primary world in which we live. Tolkien argued that an author shows respect for his Secondary World by making it internally consistent through character, language, geography, and timelines that fit together like puzzle pieces. When this is done properly the creation “comes to life” and becomes believable. In a bit of a mystical turn, Tolkien believed that creating fictional Secondary Worlds helps us to understand better our Primary, divinely created world and the God who created it. But this is Tolkien’s personal belief and does not necessarily reflect his religion as a Roman Catholic. More on Tolkien’s views on world-building can be found in his The monsters and the critics.

Building a world, in other words, is harder than it looks. But your host believes in giving points for degree of difficulty attempted.