This year in July, Tim LaHaye died. He was co-author of the Left Behind series, a set of 12 fictional books on the end times. The Left Behind books tell the story of how all the true believers in Christ are instantly raptured away into heaven, leaving the world in chaos. In this chaos, a new leader arises who becomes the secretary-general of the United Nations. It turns out that this new leader is the Antichrist, who is controlled by Satan. The Left Behind books sold millions of copies and made a lot of evangelical Christians believe that the world will come to an end any day now. LaHaye’s first book in the Left Behind series was published 21 years ago, but so far as I know the rapture hasn’t happened yet.
Tim LaHaye was a dispensational premillennialist. The modern roots of dispensational premillennialism go back to John Nelson Darby, a renegade Anglican priest from the 1800s who spent most of his adult life arguing that biblical history is divided into 7 “ages” or “dispensations.” He said that right now we live in the 6th age or dispensation, called “the dispensation of grace,” when God judges people based on their personal relationship with Christ. Soon the final dispensation will come. This is where things start to get murky, because different dispensational premillennialists disagree with each other about some of the details. But basically the idea is that Christ is going to return any minute now, snatch up all the good Christians into heaven, and for 7 years leave the world in a chaotic mess called “the tribulation.” At the end of that 7-year tribulation, the wicked will be destroyed in the final battle of Armageddon, and then Christ will return with all his saints to set up a new kingdom here on earth that will last 1,000 years.
- Matthew 24:36 - 44