I do not believe the rapture is a biblical teaching, yet God used the Left Behind books to awaken me to His grace. Some of you reading that first sentence may not have caught the last part because you were so fixated on the first part. No, I do not believe the Bible teaches of a rapture of the church. In the entirety of church history, no one had ever even thought to teach the idea of the church being raptured away to Heaven (while everyone else remained on the Earth) until the 1830s. The purpose of this article is not to hash that out—though I think it may be a worthy article to write soon—but to show how God mysteriously works through things in ways that may surprise us. He can use a false doctrine not found in the Bible as a means for opening my eyes and stirring my heart.
Back when I was in the Army, I got a call from my then girlfriend—now my wife, Katrina—that she had trusted Christ as her Savior and was getting baptized. I praised her news while I sought to recover from a pounding headache from the previous night’s over-indulgence. I congratulated her faith and pointed out that I too went to church as a kid and knew all about the “Jesus stuff.”
Katrina’s newfound faith caught my attention more than I let on. I could tell over the next several weeks that she was serious. This didn’t get me to sign the dotted line, but it did open me up to thinking about faith. I dabbled with a cheap Bible I owned and attended church services when I visited her.
One day, my roommate, Brian Thomas, told me about a book we should read. He was one of my best friends and the catalyst for my interest in reading. He was five years older than me, a Bostonian with a thick accent and a love for Dunkin’ Donuts. Marlboro Reds were his cigarette of choice, and he liked to read. Thomas was one of the guys. He was funny, athletic, and a good solider. He was a walking enigma. It was Thomas that encouraged me to pick up books. I assured him I never read my assigned books at school and doubted whether reading was a hobby I’d enjoy now. I was wrong. He introduced me to the glory of the bookstore. My love for the smell and feel of books found their start with Thomas’ nudging. A love for reading blossomed because of his influence.
Now, back to the book he said we should read…
His mom called him one day about a book she read everyone was raving about. The book title was Left Behind.
“What’s that about?” I asked him.
“It is a fictional book about that portrays something from the Bible happening.” he told me.
“Dude, I don’t want to read fiction.” I spouted back.
But then he explained to me what the book was about.
“The story is about the Rapture. Jesus takes his people out of the world and there are people left behind who were not Christians.”
He had my attention. I’m not sure how wide my eyes were or if my mouth dropped open, but it pricked my heart.
“Okay, let’s read it.” I calmly replied.
We returned from the bookstore with our fresh copies of the bestseller and retreated to our parts of the room to tear through the pages. It gripped me. The book rattled my heart. Thoughts about Jesus returning assaulted my mind for days. We both finished the book in just a few sittings, talking about it over meals, at work, and in our room. We were talking to our other buddies about it. I called my uncle, who pastored a church and discussed it with him.
The biggest question I could not shake: What would happen to me if Jesus came back now? Was I a Christian? I knew my life did not reflect a love or devotion to Christ. Katrina’s new faith and this book felt like a perfectly timed ambush. I couldn’t escape thinking about my soul.
One evening, while reading the Gospels, I put my Bible down and prayed. I cried out to God to save me. I didn’t know if I belonged to Christ—even though I knew all the church answers about Christianity and didn’t disagree with any of them—and I asked the Lord to have mercy on me. My life changed from that point on. I never went back to the way I lived before.
The reason for these details is that I want to relay the drastic change that occurred in my life. Left Behind was an absolute tool in the hands of God to bring me to faith. The book changed my life. Moreover, what’s shocking about this is I don’t believe the theology the book teaches is correct. Now that I’ve matured, studied the Bible, and have a degree in theology, I know that the Rapture is not a doctrine found in the Bible. However, God used this book, built on a doctrine I now disagree with, to awaken me to my need for Christ.
This is the mystery of God’s providence. This is the unknown work of God, whereby He does what He pleases through any means that He chooses. He works His will through people’s sin, natural disasters, and wrong teaching. In fact, I know in all my years of preaching and teaching that I’ve been incorrect about a theological point I’ve taught on, yet know God has used it to bring people to Himself. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t scrutinize what we read or listen to. We don’t purposely sit under false teaching, or continue in false teaching, just because God can use it. Rather, it is a reminder that God can redeem whatever and whomever He pleases, even in our ignorance.
Consider how God orchestrates the betrayal of Joseph by his brothers and the lies of Potiphar’s wife about his attempted sexual assault to catapult him to the highest position of power and authority in Egypt. And to what end? To spare His covenant people during the famine. And the promise of them being a great nation as numerous as the stars of the sky and sand on the shore is fulfilled while they are oppressed as captive slaves at the hands of the Egyptians. These are mysteries of God’s providence. Even our salvation comes as a result of Judas’ betrayal, Pilate’s cowardice, and the religious leaders’ jealousy. In all this, God is at work to bring to pass His perfect and wise plans.
This should breed confidence in our hearts about the work of God in our lives. He works His plans in our lives despite our ignorance and errors. He is sovereignly directing our course to accomplish His eternal plans. We should take responsibility to seek the truth, obey His Word, and avoid error. But we should take heart that even when we fail, or others around us fail, God’s will is never diverted from its course. This is why Job (Job 42:2 ESV) stated, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” In Isaiah (Isaiah 14:27 ESV) we see, “For the LORD of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?” He can use traitors, donkeys, storms, politicians, thieves, and junkies to accomplish His will. He can even use a book I wouldn’t recommend to people now.
This resounds to the glory of God! He saves my girlfriend and gets my attention. Then, He uses my roommate’s mother to recommend a book. I will later disagree wholeheartedly with its premises, yet find it as the source of rescuing my rebel heart to the wonderful grace of Jesus.
Erik is the Lead Pastor of The Journey Church in Lebanon. He also founded Knowing Jesus Ministries, a non-profit organization which exists to proclaim timeless truth for everyday life. He is married to Katrina, and has three children: Kaleb (who went to be with the Lord), Kaleigh Grace, and Kyra Piper.