I would like to give you 10 reasons not to waste your money on the new Left Behind movie starring Nicholas Cage, which is a reboot of the first Left Behind movie which starred Kirk Cameron. I personally had serious problems with the movie from a theological, evangelical, eschatological and soteriological standpoint.
1. The movie was cheap. Now when I say “cheap,” I’m not talking about the fact that it was filled with cheesy special effects, poor production value, slow pacing, bad acting and that it quite honestly fell flat. I’m not even talking about the fact that it was given horrible reviews, including only a 3 out of 10 rating by Rotten Tomatoes. It was really cheap because the movie exploited a midget by playing into nearly every stereotype imaginable in developing his character. He is depicted as the running joke throughout the movie, not only because he is too short to place his luggage over his head in the airplane, but because he is defensive about his height throughout, and at the end of the movie he is literally punted down the airplane’s slide because he fears going down it like the “big” people. It is sad to see that a so-called “Christian” movie is so willing to exploit stereotypes far beyond what most secular movies even dare to do!
2. It is hard to believe that God would inspire the makers of a “Christian” movie to enlist the services of Nicholas Cage as their leading actor, since Cage openly claims that he uses shamanistic techniques to hone his craft as an actor. Shamanism is based on trafficking in spiritism (demonism). While it is possible that Cloud Ten Pictures was unaware of Cage’s sorcery, a little vetting would have revealed to them that they are employing a man who claims to use a form of spiritism to move his audiences!
3. Left Behind is supposed to be a Christian movie based on the first novel by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, also known as Left Behind (1995). However, you will have a hard time finding anything overtly Christian in the new Left Behind movie. The only time the name Jesus is ever used in the entire film is as a punch line to a joke! In fact, there is far more excitement about the band U2 in the new Left Behind movie than Jesus! Nicholas Cage’s character, Rayford Steel, and the flight attendant he is pursuing for an adulterous relationship, are depicted as being really excited about getting U2 tickets. Later, U2 is glorified in the movie as well! And Jesus? Not at all! Perhaps the makers of Left Behind have not seen our DVD where we document Bono, the front man of U2, has endorsed the work of Crowleyan Satanist Kenneth Anger! Many “Christian” movies have expunged Jesus’ name from the movies they claim to be about Him, because they want to be politically correct and/or attract wider audiences. They are more than happy when selling tickets to exploit Christian churches, but in the end, millions of Christians will be heart broken if they are hoping that the name of Jesus will be lifted up before lost souls so in need of Him. Jesus said that Christians “will be hated by all nations because of My name” (Matthew 24:9). However, Jesus warned that if we are ashamed of His name now, He will be ashamed of us at is coming:
“Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels” (Luke 9:26).
The end of every Christian witness should be for God’s glory and the exaltation of the name and person of the Lord Jesus Christ. His name is above every name (Philippians 2:9-11) and salvation is not found in any other:
"And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).4. The Left Behind movie was altogether devoid of a salvation message. There was no sharing of the gospel of Jesus Christ nor any mention of His death for our sins or bodily resurrection. There was no mention of the need to repent and put faith in Jesus to be saved from the penalty of our sins. If you take a friend to see the new Left Behind movie in the hopes that they might hear the gospel, aside from being nearly bored to death, you will leave sorely disappointed. Kirk Cameron told me that after he was given the script for one of the past Left Behind movies, he rejected it twice because it didn’t even present the gospel. He said that the movie’s producers finally threw up their hands and said, “Okay, you write the script” and he and Ray Comfort then inundated the content with the gospel. Obviously, Kirk wasn’t even consulted for the Left Behind reboot. Left Behind director Vic Armstrong said “[My agent] David Gersh said, “Well, what about the religious aspect?” And I said, “What religious aspect?” Even Christianity Today’s movie reviewer, Jackson Cuidon, gives the Left Behind a scathing review, stating emphatically "Left Behind is not a Christian Movie…”
5. Christians are portrayed in the Left Behind movie as creepy and delusional. A female street preacher in the opening scenes at an airport is made to look crazy. Rayford Steele’s Christian wife is also presented as delusional, not only because of her beliefs, but because of her twisted, fanatical persona. If you set out to make a movie to caricaturize Christians as bizarre, it would be hard to top the Left Behind reboot!
6. One of my biggest problems with the new Left Behind movie was that there were a number blasphemous things said about God. Tragically, His holy and loving character are depicted as evil and capricious. Questions about God’s character by non-believers abound throughout the film that are never addressed or answered. We hear nothing of God’s great goodness and His unfathomable love in dying for sinners. It seemed as though the film had become a platform for mocking Christians and venomous diatribes against the Lord via the atheist/agnostic characters played by Nicholas Cage and Cassi Thomson. Tragically, one could see many people leaving the film with far more sophomoric ammunition against God and His character, rather than anything engendering faith and trust. While the movie God is Not Dead presented questions about God and His character, it spent ample time giving solid reasons for faith to draw non-believers to the gospel and strengthen the faith of believers. On the other hand, the new Left Behind movie will likely reinforce the skepticism, and even outright hatred, against God that has been fomenting in our increasingly post-modern society. While you expect God and Christians to come out looking bad in secular Hollywood productions, few expect this to happen in a purported “Christian” movie.
7. While God and Christians are depicted as evil or strange, incredibly, the only sane religious person in this supposed “Christian” movie is a devout Muslim named Hassid. He is depicted as reasonable, kind and compassionate. When he seeks to have an ecumenical prayer to help everyone who is panicking after the rapture, the mean spirited, thieving midget claims they don’t have the same God, refuses to pray with him and menacingly shoots him down. You are made to feel sorry for Hassid, the devout Muslim, and think “all he wants it to do is pray” and feel disdain for the mean spirited midget, who was actually biblically accurate (2 Cor. 6:14-17)!
8. Another serious problem in the new Left Behind movie is the misuse of Scripture. At the end of the movie we read a reference in big, bold letters to Matthew 24:36, “No One Knows the Day and the Hour.” Now those who advocate that Jesus will rapture the church before the tribulation use this verse to suggest to their audience that Jesus can return at any moment and that there are no intervening events that must take place first. It is often used by pre-tribulation proponents who are begging the question when claiming it refers to a “pre-trib rapture.” However, when we look at the context of Jesus’ teaching about not knowing the day and the hour, we discover that He is speaking of a specific day. The verse actually says:
“But of THAT DAY and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Matthew 24:36, emphasis added).
What is “THAT DAY” that Jesus refers to when he says no one knows the day and the hour? The context reveals that Jesus is not speaking of some mysterious, secret, pre-trib rapture, but of His return to gather believers AFTER the tribulation. Let’s observe the context and note that far from a secret, sign-less, pre-trib coming, Jesus states of “THAT DAY,” that it will take place after the tribulation. Notice that Jesus not only reveals that “THAT DAY” refers to His post-trib coming, but that the events of the tribulation are signs that “THAT DAY” is drawing near:
“But immediately AFTER THE TRIBULATION of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door… But of THAT DAY and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Matthew 24:29-33, 36, emphasis added).
While we cannot know the day and the hour of Jesus’ return, He made it quite clear that we can know when it is in relation to the tribulation period, and He stated it would be “after the tribulation.” In fact, Jesus warned us to watch for the signs in the tribulation so that we would not be caught off guard and could be ready for His return. Those who believe the Lord’s return comes without signs are in danger of not applying Jesus’ teaching to their lives, watching as He commanded, and thus being caught unaware in that day!
9. The only other scripture reference to the rapture in this movie is found in a cover of Larry Norman’s old song “I Wish We’d All Been Ready,” which was the theme song for the 1972 pre-tribulation movie A Thief in the Night. This is scored at the end of the new Left Behind movie during the credits. What is interesting about this song is that it seems to be written from a post-tribulational perspective, as the rapture happens when “ a piece of bread could buy a bag of gold” and “There’s no time to change your mind,” when Jesus comes back. But I want you to notice the allusion in the song to Jesus’ teaching that one will be taken and one will be left:
Life was filled with guns and war
and everyone got trampled on the floor
I wish we’d all been ready
Children died the days grew cold
a piece of bread could buy a bag of gold
I wish we’d all been ready
There’s no time to change your mind
the Son has come and you’ve been left behind
A man and wife asleep in bed
She hears a noise and turns her head
I wish we’d all been ready
Two men walking up a hill
one disappears and one’s left standing still
I wish we’d all been ready
What is significant about Left Behind’s allusion to Jesus’ teaching that “one will be taken and one will be left,” is that our Lord’s teaching in this regard is clearly a reference to the rapture at the end of the tribulation, not before, just as the day and hour verse quoted above. Notice that after Jesus tells His disciples that they will go through the tribulation and be gathered after the tribulation, He then dramatically illustrates this gathering, which He has explicitly stated will be “after the tribulation,” as one will be taken and one left behind, in various scenarios. Examine that the context is again in a post-, not pre-trib, scenario:
“But immediately AFTER THE TRIBULATION of those day…He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other…THEN there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left” (Matthew 24:9, 21, 29, 31, 40-41, emphasis added).
Why is it that both references to the rapture in the movie, whether it is Jesus’ warning about not knowing the day and the hour, or His teaching of one being taken and one being left, are in a post-trib context? One reason is owing to the fact that there are no rapture verses found in a pre-trib context anywhere in scripture, as pre-trib leaders often admit. The other reason is that pre-trib’s often cherry pick verses by wresting them from their post-trib context and then try to use them as though they somehow refer to a pre-trib rapture.
Following John Darby’s dispensationalism, pre-trib leaders typically claim that Matthew chapter 24 is not for the church but for Israel, because they know it teaches that those who belong to Christ will go through the tribulation and they want to distance the church from Jesus’ teaching. However, when it suits their eschatological narrative, many inconsistently and unashamedly cherry pick a verse here or there from Matthew 24 and pretend that Jesus is all of a sudden addressing the church, even though they claim the passage does not address the church, but is spoken in reference to Israel! Such a cavalier and arbitrary use of scripture is necessary if pre-tribs are going to try to make any kind of believable case because, as noted ealier, pre-tribs have no real scripture to support their relatively new doctrine!10. Last, but not least, among the problems I see with the new Left Behind movie is the lie that God will not allow the church to be persecuted during the tribulation period. After the supposed pre-trib rapture takes place in the movie, a character named Chloe (Cassi Thomson) goes to her raptured mother’s church to find it emptied except for the pastor, who missed the rapture because of unbelief. Chloe speaks evil of God for taking her mother and little brother, and asks how God could be so evil to do such a thing? The pastor tells Chloe that God did it to “protect them.” Chloe then asks, “To protect them from what?” To which the pastor answers, “The persecution!”
Here, the Left Behind movie is teaching the delusion that God will rapture Christians from the earth because He doesn’t want them to face the persecutions of the tribulation! The idea is that God loves Christians so much that He will not let them suffer “the persecution.”
However, God’s Word teaches us:
“Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12)
God’s word states emphatically that the church is appointed to tribulation:
“No man should be moved by these tribulations: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto” (1 Thessalonians 3:3).
I have a question. Does the Father love us more than His precious, only begotten Son? Jesus “endured such hostility by sinners against Himself” (Hebrews 12:3), as God the Father allowed Him to be spit upon, incessantly and brutally whipped by “wicked men” who “put him to death by nailing him to the cross” (Acts 2:3). The Father allowed Jesus to suffer the greatest trial of all because of His glorious purposes in the gospel!
God also allows the church to suffer because He has great purposes in refining her character (James 1:1-2; Romans 5:3-5). Does Jesus love us more than His apostles? All of the apostles, except John, were brutally martyred! James was “put to death with the sword” (Acts 12:2) and Peter was crucified upside down in fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy (John 21:8). The apostle Paul was tortured and then beheaded by the Emperor Nero in Rome in fulfillment of the Lord’s revelation to him (2 Timothy 4:6). The apostle John was boiled in a huge basin of boiling oil and, after escaping martyrdom, was exiled on the isle of Patmos, where he wrote “I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus” (Revelation 1:9a). Did Jesus not love the apostles? Where was their pre-trib rapture? Are we more special than they? Jesus did not pray that they would be taken from the world in a pre-trib rapture, but that they would be left in the world and kept from the evil one:
“I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15).
Do American Christians have a special badge of exemption because we happen to be born in America? Does Jesus love American Christians more than He loves the millions of believers who are being persecuted around the world in African nations, the Middle East, North Korea, China and elsewhere, many of which are dying as Martyrs? Does He love Christians in the West more than those who are presently losing their heads to ISIS because of their faith? And what of His love for the innumerable “tribulation saints” from every nation, people and tongue, which will have been cleansed by the precious blood of the Lamb, yet have to endure the great tribulation (Revelation 7:9-14)? Why will they have to go through the tribulation period when many of them may hear the gospel for the first time during that period? Why will God not rapture them individually, one by one as they come to Christ? Could it be that the tribulation saints are actually the church who enter into that period, which is what the church believed for the first 1800 years of her existence, before the promulgation of the pre-trib teaching among the churches?
God the Father loved Jesus in an utterly unfathomable way, yet He allowed Him to be spit upon, persecuted and even crucified because of His great purpose in the gospel. However, Jesus made it clear that if He, our Lord, was so persecuted, how much more will we be:
“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also…. These things I have spoken to you so that you may be kept from stumbling. They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God…. These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world YOU WILL HAVE TRIBULATION, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 15:18-20; 16:1-2, 33, emphasis added).
Jesus didn’t just tell the early church that they would experience general tribulation, but He warned the apostles of the early church that the church would go through the great tribulation and face the Antichrist:
“Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another…Therefore when YOU (personal plural pronoun) see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand)…For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will…“But immediately AFTER THE TRIBULATION of those days…He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other…THEN there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left” (Matthew 24:9-10, 15, 21, 29, 31, emphasis added).
We know for sure that Jesus was addressing the church here because Paul’s warning to the church in 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 gives the exact same outline of events (e.g., the falling away, the Antichrist and then the rapture). This is stated in the clearest way possible and Paul even warns us not to be deceived into believing the rapture will happen first:
“Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4).Our hearts break for the millions of Christians who are being fed the delusion that God loves us too much to let us suffer in the great tribulation. It is owing to God’s great love that He allows us to go through great trials. It is through the precious blood of His Son that He saves us and cleanses us from our sins, but it is through trials that He perfects our characters (James 1:1-2; Romans 5:3-5). Jesus is not coming for some backslidden, lukewarm, apostate Western church that we see all around us today. Rather He is coming back for a bride that has been purified though the blood of Christ and refined through the fires of testing. Jesus uses trials in our lives to mold us into His blessed image! When Jesus returns He will “present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:27).
Jesus’ bride is not declared ready for her bridegroom’s return at the beginning of the tribulation at some secret pre-trib rapture, but at the end of the tribulation as we read in Revelation chapter 19, just before Jesus’ glorious second coming:
“Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he *said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” And he *said to me, “These are true words of God…And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war” (Revelation 19:7-9, 11).
Notice how Jesus’ bride is not clothed in “fine linen, bright and clean” at the beginning of the Tribulation period, but she clearly “has made herself ready” at the end of the tribulation. And her “fine linen, bright and clean” are the church’s righteous acts: “for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.”
The modern church in the West has received a palatable diet of greasy grace that promises salvation without repentance and a cross devoid of suffering. Millions have been taught the prosperity gospel that promises that God wants them healthy and wealthy, free of sickness and trials. Often times, when folks caught up in the prosperity gospel face adversity they turn against Christ as though He has somehow failed to keep His promises! Millions of others have been falsely taught, via the latest Left Behind movie, that Jesus is coming to rapture us before the greatest trial ever. Just as those who are caught up in the prosperity gospel, most of whom are also pre-trib (along with their leaders), are shocked when they actually get sick and face adversity and end up falling away; so also do millions of pre-tribs face a similar danger. Left Behind author, Tim LaHaye, has claimed that if there is no pre-trib rapture, the blessed hope is a “blasted hope!” One lady left a post on Good Fight’s Facebook site stating, “If the rapture is not pre-trib, then Jesus died for nothing!” Brothers and sisters in Christ, this mentality is especially frightening for the prospect of the church when the tribulation period actually begins. No wonder Jesus said that many would fall away and that the love of the many would grow cold!
This does not mean that all, or even most, of those who hold to a pre-trib rapture will fall away, but that a doctrine that claims we are exempt from the very sufferings that Jesus warned us so much about is very dangerous. Especially in light of the fact that God’s Word warns us not to be deceived regarding the timing of the rapture in respect to the coming falling away and the coming of the Antichrist:
“Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the COMING of our Lord Jesus Christ and our GATHERING TOGETHER to Him…Let no one in any way DECEIVE YOU, for IT will not come unless the apostasy COMES FIRST, AND the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction” (2 Thessalonians 2:1, 3, emphasis added).
If the prosperity gospel is dangerous because it teaches exemption for believers from general tribulation, then the pre-trib doctrine is also dangerous because it promises exemption from the great tribulation. If the prosperity gospel is very dangerous in the here and now, the pre-trib doctrine will become especially dangerous when the tribulation begins. It is especially dangerous because Jesus made it clear that those who are not ready to endure that time are in danger of falling away (Matthew 24:9-25).
I seek to warn those who are caught up in the prosperity gospel that Jesus did not promise perfect health this side of heaven. I give them such warnings so that they will not think Jesus has failed or abandoned them at the first sign of the sniffles. I also seek to warn my pre-trib brethren, whom I love very much, that they need to consider the warnings that Jesus gave to His church about the coming tribulation and the need to endure in their faith at that time.
Can you imagine what millions of believers may conclude when they find out that Jesus has left them to face the very tribulation they have been convinced He promised that they would never see? How many will turn from Jesus at that time because they have been so well taught that if there is no pre-trib rapture, then there is no real blessed hope after all? We have several quotes from pre-tribs that state that a loving God would never allow them to go through the tribulation and that if He does that “God is a liar.” Such quotations underscore our grave concern that the church is not prepared for what lies ahead, and how the pre-trib doctrine can easily contribute to the great falling away that Jesus said would take place when the tribulation period commences (Matthew 24:9-31).
The early church was taught by Jesus to recognize that she was blessed when persecuted and to rejoice that she had great reward in heaven:
“Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets” (Luke 6:22-23).
How far we have fallen from the attitude of the early church, which rejoiced when suffering for Jesus’ name and considered it an honor:
“They took his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them. So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ’ (Acts 5:40-42).
Jesus encourage His disciples that as the tribulation events are underway, to lift up their heads for their redemption is drawing close:
“There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:25-28).
He went on to state that after the tribulation events come to pass, He will be at the door:
“Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; so, you too, WHEN YOU SEE ALL THESE THINGS, recognize that He is near, right at the door” (Matthew 24:32-33, emphasis added).
May the Lord give us the grace to finish the task of the great commission as the days grow darker, and may He help us to remember that His promise is not to exempt us from trials, but to be with us always, even to the end of the age!
“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).
May the Lord bless and empower us to fulfill our marching orders as we seek to know Him better and make Him known!