- This is about the novel. For the book series, see Left Behind (series)
 Plot summary
After Israel is miraculously spared from a massive assault of combined Russian- Arab forces, a dark period of biblical prophecy comes to pass. Millions world-wide have vanished, creating panic and chaos to those still left behind. A Romanian politician named Nicolae Carpathia, mysteriously risen to international power, promises to restore stability and order; however, he is no ordinary human being. The book follows the lives of pilot Rayford Steele, his daughter Chloe Steele, reporter Cameron "Buck" Williams and pastor Bruce Barnes , as they come to realize that the Tribulation has begun.
 Characters in "Left Behind"
- Rayford Steele – main character, Pan-Continental Airlines pilot, leader of the Tribulation Force
- Chloe Steele Williams – daughter to Rayford, Buck Williams wife
- Cameron "Buck" Williams – Senior writer of Global Weekly magazine and friend to Chaim Rosenzweig
- Bruce Barnes – assistant pastor of New Hope Village Church
- Irene Steele – raptured wife to Rayford
- Rayford (Raymie) Steele, Jr. – raptured son to Rayford
- Joshua Todd-Cothran – international financier, head of London Stock Exchange
- Jonathan Stonagal – international financier; wealthiest man in history
- Ken Ritz – charter pilot
- Chaim Rosenzweig– Botanist, discoverer of the Eden formula which makes the Israeli deserts bloom
- Steve Plank – Editor of Global Weekly and Buck's boss
- Hattie Durham – Former flight attendant, formerly Carpathia's mistress
- Nicolae Carpathia – Antichrist, former president of Romania, former secretary-general of the United Nations, Supreme Potentate of the Global Community
- Leon Fortunato – false prophet, second to Carpathia, later becomes the Most High Reverend Father of " Carpathianism"
 Major themes
Christian prophetic themes are explored in a fictional context around the theme of the "Rapture", an interpretation of the Book of Revelation that is not accepted by most major Christian denominations. Among those Christians who believe there will be a Rapture, there are three main theories on the timing of this event: Pre-Tribulation, Mid-Tribulation, and Post-Tribulation. This book takes the Pre-Tribulation Rapture position. The story is built around such End times themes as the Second Coming, the Antichrist, the Tribulation, and the expected coming Millennium of Messiah.
 Controversies and criticisms
Some evangelicals are seriously concerned about the message of the genre. Their objections are based on the paucity of scriptural evidence for the Pre-Tribulation Rapture which forms the basis for the story. The supposition is that the Christian Church will not be present for the "final witness" nor need to prepare themselves in the faith for that possibility. Corrie Ten Boom (1892-1983) expressed this concern . It forms a growing basis for discussion among evangelicals who hold to a Post Tribulation Rapture.
Other evangelicals object to the message of Left Behind because they say it is not a Christian message, though framed as a Christian series. Loren L. Johns, the Academic Dean of the Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary writes: "At the end of the day, this series is ultimately a rejection of the good news of Jesus Christ. I say this because it rejects the way of the cross and Jesus' call to obedient discipleship and a new way of life. It celebrates the human will to power, putting Evangelical Christians in the heroic role of God's Green Berets. ... Love of enemies is treated as a misguided strategy associated not with the gospel, but with the Antichrist." 
And the Commission on Theology and Church Relations of the Lutheran Church reported of the books "Yet the ideas expressed in the Left Behind series are in many ways contrary to the teaching of Holy Scripture. Though containing a fictional story line, the books promote a theology that is, in important respects, at odds with the biblical revelation." 
Lisa Ruby, writer of over 50 investigative articles about the Left Behind Series, and a book, God's Wrath on Left Behind, insists the novels are filled with soul-subverting messages: "My focus is not on the author's eschatological bent, but rather, the apostate thinking and behavior of the allegedly Christian characters. The Left Behind Series is conditioning people to believe that Christians may work at Satan's headquarters and even "pretend" to worship the Antichrist during the Tribulation without forfeiting their souls." 
Other Christians find the focus on the Rapture as a dramatic device in a "Christian" film gives too much credence to this debatable interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Some Christians find the use of Biblical interpretations for commercial entertainment somewhat exploitive and disingenuous, in spite of the claims of some that the books and movie have helped bring new believers to Christianity.
 Film adaptation
This book has been adapted into a feature film, Left Behind: The Movie, first released on video and DVD, and then to cinemas where it fared poorly . Cameron "Buck" Williams was played by former Growing Pains star Kirk Cameron who said he finds the series inspiring, is a practicing evangelist (and co-host with Ray Comfort on the TV show The Way of the Master).
So far there have been two sequels released straight to video. The most recent one, Left Behind: World at War, premiered in thousands of churches before its video and DVD release.
The film itself was the subject of parody in The Simpsons May 2005 episode " Thank God It's Doomsday". Homer sees the film "Left Below" and becomes greatly concerned about his role in the imminent Rapture.
- While the makers of "Left Behind" had the open intention of using Science Fiction as a vehicle for propagating their vision of Christianity in millieus not so open to more traditional forms of preaching, the veteran Science Fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein in his Job: A Comedy of Justice used the same medium in order to satirize the themes of the "rupture" and its aftermath. Among other things, in Heinlein's version the Norse god Odin holds his own "rupture," simultaneously with that of the Christian God, and takes his faithful neo-Pagan followers off to Valhalla.
 Release details
- 1995, USA, Tyndale House ISBN 0-8423-2911-0, Pub. date 31 December 1995, Hardback
- 1995, USA, Tyndale House ISBN 0-8423-1675-2, Pub. date ? December 1995, Audio Cassette
- 1999, USA, Tyndale House ISBN 0-8423-2912-9, Pub. date ? February 1999, Paperback
- 2000, USA, Chivers, Windsor, Paragon & Co ISBN 0-7862-2468-1, Pub. date ? September 2000, Large Print
- 2000, UK, Tyndale House ISBN 0-8423-4270-2, Pub. date 30 September 2000, Paperback
- 2001, USA, Sagebrush ISBN 0-613-13825-2, Pub. date ? October 2001, Graphic Novel
The setting of the book's beginning is, according to Jerry B. Jenkins, based on an actual experience Tim LaHaye had once on an airplane when he saw the captain, wearing a wedding ring, flirting with the senior flight attendant, who was single, and wondered what would happen if the Rapture were to occur at that moment.
The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation, by Rev. Barbara Rossing, ISBN 0-8133-9156-3 , 2004, Westview Press
 External links
- http://www.leftbehind.com – Official website
- Tyndale Press, website of the publisher
- 'Left Behind' and the specter of desertion showcased in Acts 27 with the shipwreck of the Apostle Paul
- Lengthy, ongoing critical review of the series from a Christian viewpoint
- A Lutheran response (PDF)
- Nicholas Kristof's critical op-ed in the New York Times, July 17, 2004
- Left Behind: Eternal Forces Game Fansite