Conservative Christian authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins are not the most likely members of that club, but their 'Left Behind' franchise, which offers a controversial picture of the end of the world, is among the most successful book series of the last two decades. Beliefnet has visited with the authors individually (here and here), but on the occasion of the final installment of 'Left Behind,' we sat down with both authors to discuss their views on the Last Days--and their sense of how soon those days will come.
Christians hold all sorts of opinions about the End Times. How important do you think it is for Christians to agree with the version of the events as portrayed in this book?
LaHaye: It's not really essential. The important factor is that Jesus is coming, and almost all Protestant churches and other churches believe that, [including] many Catholic churches. It's in every covenant or council that the church has ever had.
Dr. LaHaye, do you see anything specific happening today that you feel is a precursor of the End Times?
LaHaye: Yes, there are many things happening today that warn us that we've got to be really prepared at any time. Daniel 12 [says that] people will run to and fro on the Earth, and knowledge will be increased. Well, look at the [today's] traffic pattern. There wouldn't be any traffic movement unless knowledge had been increased. In just the last 125 years, the speed of travel--people running to and fro--has gone up from horseback, which may be 20 miles an hour, until it just skyrocketed [to] 24,000 miles an hour today.
That's just one of the many fulfillments. Of course the stellar sign is Israel getting back in the land, and then the enemies of Israel are their neighbors, [which] are mentioned in the Bible as trying to destroy them in the End Times.
Parts of the new novel, "Kingdom Come," indicate that Lucifer's team, the Other Light, will play on the intellect of young people to try and win them to Lucifer. Do you think that reason can be dangerous in this sense?
LaHaye: Yes, reason without God. You show me two people with brilliant minds. If one believes in God and has a respect for almighty God, he can be like a Louis Pasteur or a Sir Isaac Newton or one of the many Christians who were scientists and contributed greatly to the well being of the world. Or, they can be like Karl Marx or Sigmund Freud or many of the others who hated God or were ambivalent about God, just had no time for Him or His word, and they went their own way.
We're living in a society where you have the wisdom of men on one hand and the wisdom of God on the other. Bible-free reasoning is going to lead you to one decision, [and] a Satan-filled [mind] or an empty vacuum is going to be contrary to that.
Jenkins: Even somebody like Hitler was known as a brilliant mind. He was a student of human nature. He knew how to play on the minds of people and their emotions. He was a brilliant tactician and a great politician. At some point he was the most popular politician in history, but clearly an evil mind.
I don't think we want to fear knowledge or fear insight, but the New Testament [says] to beware philosophy and vain deceit. You can question everything. You can question things so far that you never decide on anything. But, like Dr. LaHaye says, if you have the mind of Christ, then your intellect can be used for noble pursuits.
There's been a great interest in books by atheists today. What do you make of people being interested in these books about atheism by atheists?
LaHaye: An atheist is going to look for someone who is going to fortify his atheism and give him the excuse to believe in his atheism. And so, they have found that the printed page is a welcome tool to get into the minds of other people and say, "There is no God," whereas we come along and say, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth."
And we see this dichotomy today in struggling between the origins. Did man just originate spontaneously through evolution? It's always interesting to me that atheists who can't believe in God can believe in anything else. They believe in evolution, and evolution is the biggest fairy tale in our past two centuries. And yet, there are millions of intelligent, well-educated people who believe it because they just don't want to believe that there is a God.
What they don't realize is they don't want to have to give accountability to God.
In what ways does believing in evolution mean you don't want to be accountable to God?
LaHaye: Because you exist without any relationship to God. We who believe in the Creator, we believe that God created man in His own image, and he is to be responsible to God for his behavior. And they believe that you're just an animal. You're just like the animals. You just pop up from the slime pits, you know? And they want us to believe the fairy tale that something happened in the ooze of the past millions of years, that the sun came in at the right time and lightning struck, and something happened that has never been replicated in the greatest scientific laboratories today, and that caused life. And that leaves man unfettered.
One other reason I think the atheistic books are very prevalent in America is because, for 50 years, we've expelled God from the public school. We've expelled Him from many of our places. The ACLU and other anti-God agencies have tried to eliminate God from our public square. And so people are interested in reading from people like that to support their beliefs.
Jenkins: I've read these books by the atheists. I find myself respecting an agnostic more than an atheist. An agnostic at least is honestly looking and seeking and trying to figure it out. And when they say to me, "Is it possible there's no God," and I say, "Well, anything's possible, but I don't see evidence that there's no God." I see all this evidence that there is a God. An atheist has decided to ignore all the evidence that there's a God and, in my mind, takes a bigger leap of faith than I ever took to believe in God to say there is no God. To me, it's the height of folly to decide there is no God. And if there isn't, then what are they fighting against?
Jenkins: Our view has been from the beginning that we love everybody. Jesus loves everybody. We do believe the Bible says that Jesus is the only way to God. That's a divisive message in a pluralistic society, in a free society where people have the right to believe the way they want. We tell it to inform, not to offend. If people still scoff and disagree, or even feel offended, all we can do is apologize for offending them, but not for telling what we believe is the truth. We still love them. We still care about them. We still pray for them.
For the characters in our books that are devout of other faiths, some come to faith in Christ and then are ushered into the Millennial Kingdom, and some are not. Now, what happens to them, I don't know. I don't know how God judges them and where.
I do know this: He doesn't send anybody to hell. If hell is the antithesis to Heaven and that's the only other option, they may go to hell, but it's certainly not because of the sentence of God. His offer is life and hope for everybody.
LaHaye: God is really the great Hound of Heaven, seeking to bring men to a saving knowledge of his son. People ought to remember--and we share this vision--when it comes to heaven, God is not going to be there trying to keep people out. The loving God we find in the Bible is there trying to bring people in. There's any excuse to get someone in, dry-cleaned or otherwise. Just get them in. But, always, they have to put their personal faith in Jesus. He's the way, the truth and the life.
If you were living right now in the Millennial Reign, what would you like most about it?
LaHaye: There are many, many things I would love about it. One is visiting with all of our friends, like David and Job and Malachi and Daniel, one of my favorites. And of course Caleb, admiring his faith.
But, I think most of all--and I don't say this to be pious--to stand before God and thank him for forgiving me of my sins and accepting me into his family and for sending his Son, Jesus.
Jenkins: I look at it from probably a much more pedestrian viewpoint. But, first of all, I'd like to make the Millennium without dying, so maybe that would prove that all this happened during my lifetime.
But I'm fascinated by politics, and yet I grow weary of it, too. I mean, both sides of the aisle seem to be involved in shenanigans all the time, and everyday you're saying, "I can't believe what this or that leader did or said." You're not going to say that in the Millennium unless you're an unbeliever. Jesus is on the Throne, David is his Prince, and you won't find yourself reading the paper and saying, "Can you believe what that guy tried to pull today?" You [will] just admire and respect and love and be in awe of the leader, because it's God.
You said you hoped that you reach the Millennium without dying. Do you think these events might happen in the next 30 years?
Jenkins: That's an interesting question we get asked all the time, and we were actually forced on television the other day to say yes or no. In your lifetime, yes or no? And Dr. LaHaye said yes, and I said no. It isn't that I don't want it to happen or don't believe it could happen. I believe we're told to look for the imminent return of Christ. It could be any time. Could be right now.
But, I also believe and hope that God in his mercy waits one more day, and scripture says to him a day is as 1,000 years. If he waits one more day, that many more people could come to Christ in the meantime.
Dr. LaHaye will be 81 this month. He'd like to have it happen in his lifetime, which means it has to be soon, but I'll let him speak to that.
LaHaye: Oh, it's true. I'm expecting the Lord. In fact, my wife and I have enjoyed almost 60 years of wedded bliss. We've had a wonderful marriage because we were both Christians and committed to God to begin with, and we'd like to see it perpetuated in the Millennium without interruption, be taken up in the Rapture. And we've prayed that way. It's going to happen to some generation. Why not ours?
The best is yet to come, and I can't wait to get into this marvelous experience. It's going to be better than we ever dreamed.