Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Last Disciple & Rapture Theory

“The Last Disciple” replies to the “Left Behind” novels

“The Last Disciple” by Hank Hanegrfaaff and Sigmund Brouwer comes off the press very soon. It is a novel that gives another view of the world’s last days. A view I learned to appreciate fifty years ago at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Ray Summers’ class.

This new novel gives a more biblical response to Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind novels on the doctrine of The Rapture (which sold over 42 million copies). LaHaye’s take on the end of time comes from the 1850s apocalyptic interpretation of the Book of Revelation. LaHaye’s series is based on the notion of “premillennialism” or “dispensationalism” introduced to the modern world by in the 1850s by Rev. Dabney.

According to Harvy Cox, Dispensationalism was considered heresy in ancient times and suppressed. Dabney revived it and it has caught on today by many ultra conservative Christian believers.

The Rapture, according to Dabney’s theology and the LaHaye novels, will involve a sudden snatching up of millions of the faithful into heaven, followed by a seven-year Tribulation, during which the world will be ruled by the Antichrist, followed by the return to earth of Jesus and his triumph in the battle of Armageddon.

That is a simplified summary of the Left Behind novels that have been such a phenomenally popular publishing event. Now the same publisher, Tyndale House, is planning a new fictional series with another interpretation of the Last Days.

Revelation as penned by John the Beloved Disciple of Jesus and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God, was written in a typical Jewish method using code words and phrases. It was written for the Christians who were suffering great persecutions for their faith from the Romans in the first and second centuries. It is not a book of prophecy but one of comfort. Comfort amid sorrow that will ultimately find God triumphant.

Tim LaHaye, co-author of the Left Behind novels, called the decision by his publisher “stunning and disappointing” and said he felt betrayed.

“They are going to take the money we made for them and promote this nonsense,” he said.

Author of the new series disagrees. “I am elated with Tyndale’s support,” said Hank Hanegraaff, the host of a syndicated call-in radio show, The Bible Answer Man. The first book in the new series is titled “The Last Disciple.” Additional volumes are planned.

LaHaye said, “I don’t know what science fiction he is reading. We believe the Rapture is going to come, not his nonsense that Christ came back in 68 A.D

Writer Hanegraaff replies, “I am reading the Bible, specifically Revelation written for first-century Christians. I am not relying on some wooden, literal interpretation that is unsupportable.”

Nero is depicted as “the beast” with Christians in Rome and Asia Minor suffering through a tribulation-like persecution. In the novel Nero is trying to find the Apostle John’s letter and destroy it. To survive, the early Christians must decipher a mysterious code. Nero is number 666, mark of the Antichrist.

Eschatology, the branch of Theology dealing with the end of the world, is ambiguous, highly symbolic and subject to varying interpretations.

Revelation was a polemic against the corruption, debauchery and greed of the Roman Empire. The book is meant to be an encouragement for the Christians living under persecution. Just like Ray Summers expressed it in the best commentary on the Book of Revelation ever written. It is out of print but worth searching for and reading. The title is “Worthy Is The Lamb.”
(first published Dec. 3, 2004)

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