Movie Review

Left Behind

By S. Michael Houdmann, Got Questions Ministries

I am a fan of the Left Behind book series that was released between 1995-2007. Having strong premillennial and pretribulational leanings, I agree with the theology behind the series. Beyond that, I enjoyed the story-telling, the fast-paced action, and the intriguing characters. The books were adapted into three movies from 2000-2005, and now again in 2014, a new Left Behind movie has been released, with a different set of actors and a larger budget.

Despite the extremely negative reviews, I went to see the movie with an open mind. I left the theatre very disappointed. For me, the issue was not bad acting or poor special effects. I understand that it is a low-budget movie. The plot was slow, the character development was poor, and way too much of the movie was about the people in the airplane that Rayford Steele was piloting. But, not even those items are why I disliked the movie. I disliked the movie because it does not, in any meaningful way, explain what the rapture is and why it happened. Further, the Gospel is not presented.

If I remember correctly, every book in the Left Behind series clearly presents the Gospel. I personally know of several people who came to faith in Christ after reading one or more of the books. The Gospel is completely absent from the movie. The producers found time to show a person checking to see if a raptured person was actually invisible by trying to give him a wet willy, but completely skipped over the reason why some people were taken in the rapture while others were left behind.

In a conversation with Irene Steele before the rapture, Chloe storms out of the room before Irene can actually say anything. After the rapture, Rayford Steele apparently explains the rapture to Hattie Durham, but the conversation actually isn't in the movie, just Hattie's doubtful response. Chloe visits her mother's church, and discovers that the pastor, Bruce Barnes, was left behind. Bruce explains that he was left behind because he hadn't truly believed the words he was preaching. All he essentially says is, "God removed certain people from the earth to protect them from what is coming."

For a person familiar with the Left Behind book series, or at least knowledgeable of the pretribulational rapture viewpoint, this might be sufficient. For a person who has no idea what the rapture is or why it happens, the movie is woefully inadequate.

After seeing the movie, I tried to think what a non-Christian's reaction would be to the movie.

A good portion of the movie is spent on certain characters making fun of whacko Christians. In a scene in the airport, a stereotypical whacko Christian confronts Buck Williams, and is then embarrassingly refuted by Chloe Steele. Message 1 = Christians are whackos who can't explain their beliefs.

A bunch of people suddenly disappear and everyone who is still around freaks out. Apparently the Bible predicts this event. God evidently is going to someday take away all the whacko Christians along with all the children in the world, leaving everyone else behind for something really bad. Message 2 = Christians are whackos with some really freaky beliefs about the end of the world.

In my opinion, a non-Christian who sees the movie will likely leave the theatre thinking that Christians are even wackier than he/she thought they were before. And, the non-Christian will still have no idea what the rapture is all about. So, in conclusion, Left Behind: The End Begins = EPIC FAIL!

This is definitely one of the cases where the book is much better than the movie. And, that statement is true whether you are referring to the Bible or the Left Behind series. Don't get me wrong. I think a movie, or even a series of movies on the biblical end times could be amazing. What the book of Revelation describes makes all the famous disaster and end of the world movies pale in comparison. The problem is, I don't not think there is a movie budget large enough to do the biblical end times justice.

If you'd like to know what the rapture is, here are some articles:
"What is the rapture of the church?"
"What is the Tribulation? How do we know the Tribulation will last seven years?"
When is the Rapture going to occur in relation to the Tribulation?
What is the difference between the Rapture and the Second Coming?
Will babies and young children be taken in the Rapture?

If you'd like to know how to avoid being left behind at the rapture, here is an article:
" How can I be ready to be caught up in the Rapture?"

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Published 10/8/14