Not too far in the distant past, I saw a little internet buzz that Nicolas Cage was cast to play the lead in a cinematic reboot of Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins’ “Left Behind” book series. If you are unfamiliar with that series, they are action adventure books that follow the outline of a dispensationalist, pre-millienial, pre-tribulation rapture understanding of Revelation. (If you just said “Whaaaat?” check out this wikipedia page under “eschatology”). But I dismissed the buzz rather quickly as they have already made one attempt at bringing that series to the big screen, so I thought the green light to make another was unlikely.

I was wrong.

Nicolas Cage really is going to play the lead in the “Left Behind” adaptation. Now, he is being joined by Lolo Jones and Jordin Sparks to bring those books to life. When I saw that, I groaned inwardly in my spirit. I thought that there was no way on earth, barring a miracle, that this wasn’t going to be a debacle.

But why was I so sure it would bomb? Was it that it casts Nicolas Cage? That’s not exactly fair. I like Nicolas Cage. I think “Raising Arizona” is hilarious. My family loves “National Treasure”. Was it that it casts Lolo Jones, an Olympic hurdler and Jordin Sparks, a singer from American Idol? As iffy as that can be, it could turn out that they are capable actresses. So no, that isn’t it either. Is it that I am not a dispensationalist? No, I think my dispy brethren make great points, and I agree with them in many of their positions regarding the end times.

My fears, then, are two-fold. One is that they will make the rapture look less than terrifying. The return of Christ, as pictured in Scripture, can really only be considered ‘horror’ writing for those who are not a part of the bride of Christ. Consider this excerpt from Revelation:

The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand? (Rev. 6:14-17).

Granted, this may be describing the “final” return of Christ, and not the secret rapture. But still, waking up one morning to realize that the dead are risen and that evangelical Christians are missing en masse would scare the devil out of people, wouldn’t it?

The second thing that bothers me is how fantastical this will appear in the theaters if it is treated in a campy way by the film makers. If the movie makes the rapture look ridiculous, it will be a huge disappointment to evangelicals everywhere. We know that the return of Christ and the resurrection of the dead are already madness to non-Christians. But please, let’s not add to the incredulity by having terrible acting and special effects.

The best case scenario would be that this is a good movie that an unbeliever can enjoy in a way that isn’t “B Movie.” Here’s hoping that they make this something that is quality entertainment.


27 Comments

  1. For a more modest look at the Rapture and this type of eschatology, may I recommend This Is the End? They got so much of it right by just taking what people think seriously.

    1. That’s the problem with re-making the “Left Behind” movie that goes over the Rapture and aftereffects yet again. Why not instead pursue the franchise into the really deep weeds: global earthquakes, Satanic resurrection counterfeits, demon locusts who bite you into five months of unavoidable torture, even worse demon horsemen in the invisible spiritual plain who kill you dead, and of course, Deep Impact-style meteors? Answer: well, budget restraints.

  2. I’d forgotten about this, but now it reminds me of a trailer I saw recently for a movie called Rapturepalooza (or some spelling like that). Anyone seen this? It definitely looks like it does not take this eschatology seriously. I’m kind of surprised I haven’t seen anything about it outside that trailer (which I’ve only seen on Hulu, not TV).

  3. My reading of the first book, anyway, was that it was a barely sublimated ethnic cleansing fantasy. The glorious, supernatural born-again race is removed to that very exclusive, Pearly Gated community where “those people” cannot enter, while “those people” get just what they deserve for not doing as they were told by God’s regents.

  4. “bothers me is how fantastical this will appear in the theaters” – As opposed to how absurdly fantastical the concept is in general?
    Is it possible to describe your ‘Rapture’ myth in any way which *doesn’t* absolutely paint a bizarre and fantastical picture? That your ‘reality’ is littered with angels and demons is bad enough, but to throw in zombies and paranormal ‘soul’ teleportation, from the start I might add, is pretty wild shenanigans, you’ve got to admit!

    1. I have to agree. Even a word-for-word sincere representation would be bizarre and fantastical. I am a Christian, but amillennialist because the other ideas I’ve studied don’t make any sense to me. There are times when people have wild imaginations and too much love for melodramatic theatrics.

    2. Bet you won’t think it’s all “melodramatic theatrics” when you are watching it happen in real life.

    3. “…don’t make any sense to me.”

      So? Does the Virgin Birth, The Ressurection, or The Atonement “make any sense” to you?

    4. I’m not saying that the rapture is orthodox Christianity or in any way a fundamental of the faith, simply that “what makes sense” is not a good measure of truth.

      The “inherent goodness of man” not only doesn’t make sense, it’s clearly not a biblical idea.

    5. The Bible clearly teaches those though, while the idea the Left Behind books promote is based on a highly controversial eschatology made in the late 19th century (google Darby) that Christians in the prior 1800+ years would have found very abnormal.
      I’m certainly not one who mocks those who believe in this sort of thing. The issue is more that it promotes this belief as what Christianity teaches as if all real Christians believe it will go down somewhat like this (even most conservative evangelical scholars do not subscibe to Darby’s ideas).

    6. The problem too is that by promoting something that clearly does not have incontrovertible Scriptural support (two or three clear Scriptural references without interpretative massaging), it discredits eschatology period.

    7. The return of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, and the saints meeting Christ in the air are core beliefs across the board in Christianity.

    8. Just because it is common in certain sects doesn’t mean it isn’t highly controversial. Please name one major denomination in which a pre-trib rapture is considered a ‘core’ belief. Most protestants certainly do not subscribe to a ‘left behind’ style eschatology. Maybe that is the case for your church or denomination, but not on a broader scale. Additionally, pre-trib views are basically unheard of in Catholicism and Orthodoxy, or during any period in early church history or during the Reformation.

      Most large denominations with official stances are amillenialists or post-trib premillenialists. Even among conservative evangelical scholars (which is of course different than the views of the lay people even within their denominations) the latter is the plurality view (at minimum), and the former is growing increasingly prominent while pre-trib has been waning for a while.

      So more broadly within Christianity it is a definite minority and very recent/modern interpretation. If that is made clear to people, then I am fine with it. But if promoters of the film try to make it seem as if this is what the Bible clearly says and what Christians should believe, then that is simply wrong.

    9. Did you not read my post properly? Fancy having a go at answering the question I pose? Or are you saying that you don’t feel non-believers should even be participating in these comments? If so, why?

  5. Does this mean Nicolas Cage is going to start making films with Ray Comfort and destroy the rest of his creditability?

  6. “eschatology”; I thought that was people who play with poo.

    Then I saw the names Nicolas Cage, Lolo Jones, and Jordin Sparks…yes, it IS people who play with poo…

  7. I believe in the Rapture (although that term is not used in the Bible). But I really don’t want to see any movie about it. Knowing most film makers it would come across as silly & cheesy. Let’s leave this to our own imagination b/c nothing we can conjure up will ever equal the real thing.

  8. I am a ‘born again’ Christian. I have no desire to read the books or see any movies. I find the notion of a rapture fascinating, but I am not convinced. However, the believers are harmless. They are not going to behead you for believing otherwise. Why are you are bothered that they think unbelievers will be eternally separated from their concept of God, when it seems that’s what you want anyway.

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