'Be Not Afraid': Interview with Tim LaHaye

Tim LaHaye, creator of the chilling Left Behind series, says God's not as scary as his books.

BY: Interview by Paul O'Donnell

Timothy LaHaye Tim LaHaye is the co-author, with Jerry Jenkins, of "Left Behind," the popular Christian fiction series about the End Times. Some Christians believe in the Rapture, an apocalyptic event in which believers will rise from the earth to meet Christ while others are "left behind" to endure the tribulation -- a time of rampant lawlessness, disaster, famine, and illness -- prior to Jesus' return to the earth.

In your new book, you seem to want to recast the Rapture in a warmer light.

Actually I want to cast the nature of God in warmer light. The Rapture is a time of incredible mercy and grace. If you only look at the people who defy God, it's a negative time. But if you look at the whole population, it's a blessed time.

But you can hardly blame people for being scared. You've done as much as anyone to plant the catastrophic events of the Rapture in people's minds.

I wouldn't plead guilty to that. All we're doing is fleshing out the prophecy of the Bible. There is going to be a time of tribulation, but keep in mind that that seven years comes just before the millenium. The Tribulation is there to let people make a decision about Jesus Christ. For those who accept God's plan, what follows is nothing but utopia. But for those who reject it, it's eternal loss. I don't think that's different than what any Christian would tell you.

And yet the Rapture isn't considered orthodox Christian theology .

I think that is an erroneous conclusion propagated by the amillennialist and reform church movements. The truth is, Christianity is divided between those who take the Bible literally and those who take it figuratively. Those who take it literally are far more in the majority, if you're talking about evangelical Christians--Southern Baptists, Assemblies of God and independent churches, like the Brethren. There are a lot of denominational groups that accept this, so I don't think it's fair to say [it's a minority view]. Lets face it, we've sold more than five million copies of Left Behind books, and they say every copy is read by 10 people. Five million times 10 is a lot of people.

Is buying the book a sign they ascribe to millenialism?

No, but it's a sign they think about the future. Some are not even Christians. In my new book, I want to show that God's future is merciful. I believe we've been silent too long about the mercy of God and overexaggerating the wrath of God.

Who has overexaggerated the wrath of God?

The church. Those who don't take the time to teach the truth about prophecy are leaving it to people who want to be negative about the wrath of God.

The Old Testament is full of God's wrath and vengeance. In the New Testament, Jesus preaches forgiveness and love. How do you account for the change in God's approach?

I don't think it does change. In the Old Testament, God shows mercy on those who turn to him. He never calls out to the holy people and says "Turn to me." He calls out to the sinful people. The acts of God are pointed at the adulterers, the abominators. And he sends people to warn them time and again. He sent a prophet to Nineveh and the people repented and he spared them for 100 years, before they strayed again and he destroyed them. Is the Lord to blame because they rebelled against him?

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