Resources for Shaping a *RaptureLess* Theology: Where to Start to Debunk Left Behind

With the new Left Behind movie coming out this Fall, I think it’s fitting to reexamine what the Bible actually teaches about the “End Times.” One thing that I realize when we talk about issues pertaining to the End, is that many folks feel in their bones that what they were taught is wrong. The hard part is putting together something that makes sense and is backed up by Scripture. Yesterday, I posted an article called: Why the Rapture isn’t Biblical… And Why it Matters. In that post I looked at the most famous rapture passage and demonstrated why it is not about escaping planet earth.

Today what I want to offer are some next steps. Once we have deconstructed a theology that we intuitively know doesn’t reflect the way of Jesus, it’s important to rebuild – to reconstruct. In what follows, I am going to be somewhat strategic about the order of the following resources. If I were going to relearn this stuff all over again for the first time, here’s the path that I think would be the most fruitful.

So, without further ado, here are resources for shaping a raptureless theology. To be clear, the order I’ve arranged these in is intentional!

Introductory Resources

My post: Why the Rapture isn’t Biblical… And Why it Matters

My post: Corrective Strategies and Themes for Understanding Revelation

  • Here I offer some insights I gleaned from another resource, Reading Revelation Responsibly (see below). It’s a helpful overview of the major ideas in Revelation.

My series: Earthquakes – Signs of the Times? Based on this academic paper

  • This resource will help you understand Mark 13, and its parallels in Matthew and Luke, with clarity. It won’t solve every nuance to every question you may have, but it will give you a framework to move away from Left Behind theology.

This book: The Good News of Revelation, by Larry Helyer and Ed Cyzewski

  • I had the honor of being one of the book’s endorsers. Here’s an extended version of what I said about this resource – “In The Good News of Revelation, Larry Helyer and Ed Cyzewski accomplish exactly what the title suggests: good news! In a culture where doomsday scenarios rank high at the box office and even higher in certain strands of the church, this book beckons us to imagine the world (although “fallen”) as ultimately destined for a hopeful future. By placing Revelation within its first century context, the authors offer a compelling and poetic introduction to the most misunderstood of biblical books. They invite us to proclaim the upside-down victory of the Slaughtered Lamb through peacefully resisting evil in all its forms, choosing perseverance rather than compromise, and living as though Jesus is actually King and Caesar is a mere imitation. I HIGHLY recommend The Good News of Revelation to anyone interested in reclaiming Revelation as a call to faithful living – not in the midst of some horrific predictable future – but for RIGHT NOW!”

This book: Surprised by Hope, N.T. Wright

  • I’ve often said that this is the one book that every evangelical (and progressive) pastor should read. Wright outlines a vision of the Christian hope that is life-changing. What we believe about the future matters today! It matters for issues of justice, beauty, and art. Every pastor should read this – yes – but so should ever follower of Jesus!

This commentary: Revelation for Everyone, N.T. Wright

  • This is by far the most accessible commentary on Revelation out there. It’s also a fun read! This book will take the cryptic texts of Revelation and transform them into words to live by.

Resources for Going Deeper

This book: Reading Revelation Responsibly: uncivil worship and witness – following the Lamb into the new creation, by Michael Gorman (and Scot McKnight’s reviews)

  • This is the most helpful theological book on Revelation that I’ve read. Seriously, can’t recommend it enough. Read it. Then, tell others to read it!

This book: Apocalypse and Allegiance: worship, politics, and devotion in the book of revelation, by J. Nelson Kraybrill

  • Ever wonder what an Anabaptist might do if s/he were an expert on Roman culture and apocalyptic literature. Look no further. This book is amazing… especially if you want to go deeper with the imperial themes. A great complement and follow-up to Reading Revelation Responsibly.

This book: Unveiling Empire: Reading Revelation Then and Now, by Wes Howard-Brook and Anthony Gwyther

  • This book, co-authored by my friend Wes Howard-Brook, invites readers into the narrative of the Roman Empire. By the time you’ve engaged all of the theological and historical themes of the book, you’ll be ready to inaugurate a subversive revolution of love! Great resource for really digging deep while having implications for how we live.

This commentary: Revelation: believers church bible commentary, by John R. Yeatts

  • This commentary is part of the Believers Church series. Believers Church is “code” for Anabaptist, in case you are curious. This is a great resource for going a step beyond where Wright’s “For Everyone” commentary goes, in that it is more academic in nature (yet still highly readable!).


Other Helpful Resources

What other resources are helpful that would complement the theological ethos of the one’s I’ve listed?

Giving up Hell for a Year: How it could revolutionize our relationships
Lent: Because sometimes rich Christians simply need to starve a little
Lent: Because sometimes rich Christians simply need to starve a little
8 Signs That You Might Be An Evangelical Reject
  • Darrel

    It is obvious from the rest of your web site that there indeed will be no rapture for you and your friends for a multitude of reasons, the first of which is that you are still in your sins, lost and on your way to eternal damnation. That’s reason enough, but to add to the list your denial of the penal substation of Christ’s sacrifice, the need to repent of your sins and believe the real Gospel (not this faux edition you vainly spout here) and your dominion ‘light’ theology; no wonder your “jesus” will not return to gather together you and your co-hearts to himself since he is nothing more than a product of your wishful thinking nonsense “theology”

    • cipher

      the first of which is that you are still in your sins, lost and on your way to eternal damnation

      But just think of how much pleasure that will give you.

  • Paul

    this article by Wright really helped me

  • Jonathan Welton

    Seeing as you use the term several times in your article, maybe you have heard of my book which has been free on the internet and viral for the last two years. ??

  • Eric Weiss
  • Ed_Cyzewski

    I was going to recommend that book too. It was very helpful as I worked on the Good News of Revelation.

  • Ed_Cyzewski

    Thanks for including our book in your list! Our book aims to provide some very general points, and I’d say that Reading Revelation Responsibly is a good next step for those looking for a full length book, but everything you’ve listed would be great and “rapture free.”

  • Kitty Hahn-Campanella

    Left Behind and Loving It by D. Mark Davis.

  • Jane

    “Apocalypse” by Ana Mendez Ferrell is excellent!

  • Bonni

    Left Behind and Loving It, by D. Mark Davis.

  • Ravynwolfe Moondancer

    What I don’t understand is why so many who call themselves Christian , don’t realize that Christ speaks to them from within always and it is easy to know what is of Christ and what is of ego (satan). Why oh why do so many people try and squeeze God into a book…instead of the other way around? Why do they believe the brainwashing of never trust your instincts ……control is connected to fear and the best way someone can control you is to tell you that you can’t even trust your own instincts. We use our inner Christ to find the truth in the Bible, other texts and all situations. We don’t put all of our trust in an “idol” which is what people are doing. Humanity was here long before the Bible was written down. God is always with us….God is in his heaven and the kingdom of heaven lays within. Blessings.

  • John_QPublic
  • Joan Livingston

    please help if you can!

  • Irv Spielberg

    [Yo, Patheos. Great blog. Saw the following piece on the net. Any reactions?]

    The Pretrib Rapture Jackpot!

    by Bruce Rockwell

    Attention, writers. You can make a fortune by promoting the pretrib rapture!

    First, some background. As you know, pretrib began in Scotland in 1830.
    The earliest developers, including Edward Irving and John Darby,
    admitted that it was then a totally new view that had never been part of
    any church’s theology.
    They also admitted that it had suddenly
    sprung from only OT and NT “types” and “symbols” and not from any clear
    Bible statement!
    As late as 1957, pretrib expert John Walvoord
    admitted in “The Rapture Question” (p. 148) that “pretribulationism” is
    NOT “an explicit teaching of Scripture”!
    Since the early 1900s
    pretrib has been sold by novelists like Sydney Watson (in 1913) and by
    Salem Kirban whose “Left Behind”-type novel “666″ came out in 1970 – the
    same year Hal Lindsey’s “The Late Great Planet Earth” started breaking
    sales records.
    The very first rapture novel titled “Left Behind”
    came from the joint pens of Peter and Patti Lalonde in mid-1995,
    resulting in some competitors being left behind.
    The pretrib
    rapture view, which admittedly is only an “inference” and not
    “explicit,” rests basically on verses in John 14, I Thess. 4, and I Cor.
    15, none of which have either a “taken/left” separation or exciting,
    nail-biting scenarios that can “sell” pretrib.
    You have to go to
    Revelation’s action-packed chapters instead. When you do, you discover
    they can be tied to end time details found basically in the Olivet
    As you know, pretribs believe in two stages; Stage 1
    is the pretrib rapture which supposedly occurs several years before
    Stage 2 which is the posttrib second coming to earth.
    Since the
    three “rapture” chapters listed above don’t have any clear rapture-type
    separation between the “righteous” and the “wicked,” your best launching
    pad if you want to be a bestselling author is “the one shall be taken,
    and the other left” phrase in Matt. 24:40, 41 and Luke 17:34-36.

    Trouble is, Dr. Walvoord and many other pretrib leaders declare that
    the “one taken” are the “wicked” taken in judgment while the “righteous”
    are left! But since the average pew-sitters don’t seem to know this,
    you can easily convince them that the “one taken” is a sort of code for
    an any-moment pretrib rapture!
    And the pew-sitters don’t know
    that Walvoord etc. also teach that the same phrase is part of
    “non-imminent” Stage 2 which is posttrib (and not pretrib) and is on
    “Jewish” (and not “Church”) ground!
    In order to preserve and
    emphasize Stage 1 (the pretrib rapture), pretrib merchandisers in recent
    decades have been stretching forward various aspects found in Stage 2
    and quietly applying them to Stage 1. Aspects include “the day of the
    Lord,” “God’s wrath,” “the taken/left phrase,” “the unknown day and
    hour,” and Christ’s coming “as a thief” (which is always tied to
    Armageddon and other posttrib events).
    (For more on the above
    Google “The Correct Answer to Who’s Taken” etc. on Joe Ortiz’s blog of
    Apr. 12, 2010. Also Google “Pretrib Rapture Stealth.”)
    Yes, I’ve told you how you can turn yourself into a bestselling, wealthy author.

    But unfortunately you have some competition because Tim LaHaye and
    Jerry Jenkins have already become opportunists and made millions of
    dollars that are destined to be left behind!
    For more on them
    and their partners, Google “The ‘Left Behind’ Rupture,” “LaHaye’s
    Temperament,” “Jerry Jenkins Apologizes for Being Seen Gambling in
    Casinos,” “Pretrib Rapture Diehards,” “Thomas Ice (Bloopers),” “Walvoord
    Melts Ice,” “Famous Rapture Watchers,” “Margaret Macdonald’s Rapture
    Chart,” “Pretrib Rapture’s Missing Lines,” “Roots of Warlike Christian
    Zionism,” “Evangelicals Use Occult Deception,” “Pretrib Rapture
    Secrecy,” “Letter from Mrs. Billy Graham,” “Pretrib Rapture Politics”
    and “Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty.”
    In closing let me say that
    Jeremiah 17:11 warns that “he that getteth riches, and not by right,
    shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a
    And you can bet on this!

  • David Ozab

    Great post, Kurt, and I love the photo you found. Raptured while reading Hollywood Babylon II? Genius!

  • Steve

    With respect to another resource I suggest “the Rapture Exposed: the Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation” by Barbara Rossing.

  • Darryl Stringer

    For those who are interested in reading about the history and recent development of ‘Left Behind’ theology then I can recommend a book called “The Origins of Left Behind Eschatology” by David Malcolm Bennett.

  • Ignatz

    It seems odd to me that people would need to “shape” a “new” theology to replace an idea that didn’t even exist before the mid-1800s.

  • Ignatz

    You may be interested in this sermon, delivered by Reverend Jeff Krantz, Church of the Advent, Westbury, NY, AD 2000

  • Anonymous1844

    Some people believe this has already happened. A fascinating book is called “Thief in the Night” by William Sears.

  • John Stonecypher

    Jesus Benyosef seems to approach eschatology along these lines. (Jesus Benyosef is “a real-time interactive social media drama of Jesus’ ministry years”)