Eschatology is the study of the End Times. Christian eschatology specifically involves the study of the End Times as described in the Bible from a Christian point of view. There are a variety of Christian eschatological viewpoints. The Left Behind series are a Christian eschatological book series; the authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins support a Dispensationalist, Premillennial, Pre-tribulation point of view, and thus the series is written from this perspective.
Timing of the End Times
There are different opinions among believers about when the events of the books of the Bible, including Revelation, Isaiah, Daniel, and Ezekiel, that involve End Times prophecies are to take place, or to have taken place, and as to whether or not these events may be taken literally. These include:
- Past, that the Biblical prophecies have already been fulfilled in the past, typically in a literal, physical, and local context.
- Historicism, that the Bible prophecies are associated with actual historical events and that the symbolic beings are identified with historical individuals or societies.
- Preterism, that the Biblical prophecies have already been fulfilled, with the events of Daniel having taken place around the second century BC and the events of Revelation having taken place around the first century AD.
- Present, that the Biblical prophecies are being fulfilled in the present.
- Idealism, that the imagery of the Bible prophecies of Revelation as nonliteral, allegorical, and symbolic.
- Future, that the Biblical prophecies will be fulfilled in the future.
- Futurism, that the Biblical prophecies are to be interpreted as future events to come in a literal, physical, apocalyptic, and global context.
- Dispensationalism, that God has related to human beings in different ways, under different Biblical covenants, in a series of dispensations or periods in history; and that the Biblical prophecies are to be interpreted in a futurist manner.
The authors of the Left Behind books, Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, support the Futurist, Dispensationalist view of the Biblical prophecies, and thus the story of the Left Behind series follows this view.
Timing of the Rapture
There is a difference of opinion among believers about the actual timing of when the Rapture takes place. These views include:
- Pre-Tribulation, that the Rapture can happen at any time prior to the Tribulation. This idea is commonly supported by Matthew 24:36 which says that no one knows the day or hour of the Lord's coming. It is also commonly supported by Revelation 3:10 which says that God will keep believers from the hour of testing (tribulation) that will come upon the whole world, and those who dwell on it.
- Tribulation, that the Rapture will happen at some point during the Tribulation, possibly during the time of the Judgments.
- Sixth Seal Judgment, that the Rapture will happen around the time of the Sixth Seal Judgment, the Wrath of the Lamb. This idea is supported by Matthew 24:29-31 and also Revelation 6:12-17 followed by Revelation 7:9-17, which some Bible students interpret as indicating that the Rapture will happen after the Sixth Seal Judgment.
- Seventh Trumpet Judgment, that the Rapture will happen around the time of the Seventh Trumpet Judgment. This idea is commonly supported by 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, which states that this will happen at "the last trumpet", which some Bible students interpret as being the Seventh Trumpet Judgment.
- Mid-Tribulation, that the Rapture will happen at the midpoint of the Tribulation. This idea is supported to some degree by 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4, stating that the day of His gathering of the saints will not come unless there's a "falling away", and that the "man of sin", the "son of perdition" (two terms used for the Antichrist) has been revealed.
- Pre-Wrath, that the Rapture will happen somewhere during the last 3 1/2 years of the Tribulation, which is when they believe the Antichrist will be revealed, and when Christians start to become martyred. This is when some believe that the Sixth Seal Judgment, the Wrath Of The Lamb, will take place.
- Post-Tribulation, that the Rapture will happen at the end of the Tribulation. This is commonly supported by Matthew 24:29-31.
- Pan-Tribulation, that the Rapture can occur at any point during the Tribulation. This is usually supported by those who are completely unsure about the timing and simply put it in God's hands, that it will all "pan out" in the end.
- No Rapture, that the Lord will simply put an end to this world at His coming and bring all those who are faithful to Him into the "new heavens and new earth", or that the Lord will simply come with His army of angels to defeat Satan, the Antichrist, and their armies and will set up His Millennial Kingdom here on earth.
Timing of the Second Coming
There are differing views as to when the Second Coming of Jesus Christ will take place in relation to the Millennium, the thousand year reign of Jesus Christ, based on differing interpretations of Revelation 20. These views include:
- Premillennial, that the Second Comping will happen before the Millennium.
- Postmillennial, that the Second Coming will happen after the Millennium.
- Amillennial, that the Millennium is not a literal but rather a figurative thousand year reign, after which the Second Coming will happen. A common belief is that this figurative Millenium is happening in the present day.