An Alternative to Left Behind

As I have shared in the past, I really do enjoy reading fiction books. I have not necessarily read that widely, but I do enjoy a good ol’ fiction work. Some of my favourite works are from the suspense and fantasy genres. Specifically with regards to suspense, I have kept up with authors like John Grisham and Dan Brown. With fantasy writers, I have kept up with C.S. Lewis, J.R.R Tolkein, Chris Paolini and J.K. Rowling. (I’m just noticing that a lot of fantasy writers use initials in their names. Is that the proper thing to do for fantasy writers?)

Most Christians are aware of the Left Behind series. These books have become mega-sellers mainly in the U.S., though they reached into the UK, mainland Europe and other places. For those who might have been living in caves and just resurfaced into reality, these books are a fictional account of the end times from a more classical dispensational outlook. And, even now, you have the Left Behind movies being made. Though I won’t take time to explain in detail the classical dispensationalist view, suffice it to say, most traditional dispensationalists hold that a majority of prophecy, especially the book of Revelation, speaks of future events to come. Specifically, we are awaiting these three major events: 1) the rapture of the church by Christ, 2) this being followed by a 7-year great tribulation, and then 3) the millenial reign of Christ on earth as spoken of in Revelation 20.

I have tended to see dispensationalism, even in its more recently reformed views, as an unhelpful theological understanding of redemptive history. While I have not formed any overly dogmatic views in regards to a millenial view or my specific view of the book of Revelation, I am definitely convinced the end times are not simply a seven-year period before Christ returns, as some seem to suggest. Matter of fact, Peter made it quite clear at Pentecost that, with the outpouring of the Spirit of God, we entered the ‘last days’ way back then. Thus, we’ve been in the last days for about the past 1,979 years (or more). This is the time in which the kingdom would break into human history, the Messiah would set up His reign amongst God’s people, and the Spirit would be given to all of God’s people. This was in fulfilment of the what the Old Testament prophets foretold of the eschatological age.

So, while I stated that I am not overly stiff in the specifics of my eschatological views, I have tended to lean more towards a partial preterist view. Preterism, as a whole, is mainly expressed in two major categories: full and partial preterism. Now, I must say I completely reject full preterism, as the orthodox church has mainly done throughout its history. I cannot see that all of the prophetic words of Scripture have been fulfilled. I believe we are still awaiting the second and final coming of Christ, awaiting the full recreation of a new heavens and new earth, all of creation is still longing for it’s redemption with the sons of God, and we still anticipate the future gift of our resurrection bodies.

Yet, I do believe that we have begun to taste of all of these things in the eschatological new creation that came in Christ and His first coming. And I specifically believe that certain things have been fulfilled because the kingdom has come now. No, not fully. But it has come. Thus, such things as Daniel’s 70 weeks, most of Matthew 24 and a lot of the book of Revelation has been fulfilled. Again, this is known as partial preterism.

Thus, I have taken the long route around to get to the main point of this article. I wanted to let you know of an alternative fiction series to the Left Behind books. It is the Last Disciple series by Hank Hanegraaff and Sigmund Brouwer. Whereas the Left Behind series takes up the classical dispensationalist view (which I want to call the ‘doom and gloom’ view), the Last Disciple series is written from a partial preterist view.

Now, I admit from the beginning that I don’t believe the Last Disciple series is the best thing since sliced bread. I suppose it is better than the Left Behind series since I agree with its theological outlook more than that of Left Behind. But I know it has its shortcomings as a fiction work.

Still, the book is interesting if you want to consider partial preterism through a fictional series. Obviously, knowing that partial preterists see the book of Revelation as mainly taking place pre-AD 70, the setting of the series is the Roman Empire of the first century. John, the apostle, is the only remaining original disciple of Jesus. And, recently, he has penned his final and somewhat ‘cryptic’ writing, which we now call the book of Revelation. Within this writing of John, when considered from a Jewish apocalyptic perspective, the words become more and more comprehensible.

No doubt the book is an attempt of two Americans to write about the first century Roman Empire, so, here, it fails in some respects. I am no expert in Roman history, but I can sense some of the twenty-first century Americanisms throughout the book. And, again, I would not put it up there as some of the best fiction writings to get your hands on. But I share about the books for those interested in exploring the theological framework of partial preterism, but from a fictional setting.

So far, two books have been completed: The Last Disciple and The Last Sacrifice. It is my understanding that the series will simply be a trilogy rather than a 12-book series like Left Behind. The second book was released in 2005 and so it has been a while with no release of the third book as of yet, but I’m not sure why. I did a brief search on the internet and could not find a scheduled release date, so we shall wait and see when it comes. I doubt Hanegraaff could go without finishing a project.

Thus, you have it. I don’t suppose many will be running to bookstores to get these books. And I don’t think this series will sell the tens of millions that Left Behind has. But I do believe it is an interesting alternative to consider to Left Behind, especially if you want to consider the tenets of partial preterism but not dive in to too much heavy theological works. Therefore, if you are interested, but want to ‘test the waters’ first, you can always go to the website and read or listen to some of the first chapters.

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