Soon: The Rapture Timeline Question
We’ll get right back to our semi-regularly-scheduled Soon critique, but I was intrigued by a comment/question and promised I would tackle it. (I know, I said I would tackle it quite some time ago. I…was busy. Heh.)
Anyway, here is the comment, from Ivan:
Sure, characters like Rayford and Buck were officially made up, but all the events were right from the Bible, weren’t they? And those characters were all so amazed that every event happened exactly like the Bible said it would )even if the Bible doesn’t really say it). So why does this book describe completely different events? There doesn’t seem to have been a Rapture, but WW3 already happened, and the miracles are starting. The EVIL goal of world peace has been achieved minus the persecution of RTCs but the AntiChrist doesn’t seem to be around yet. Is this book not intended as ‘hystorical science fiction’ but some light reading for RTCs who like to be reminded atheists will kill them all given half a chance but no worries cause God will kill them right back? Did LaHaye make some changes to his timeline, and is the LB timeline now defunct? Does anyone know what the official reason for this book series is next to the LB series?
So, I set off to find the answer, using Jerry Jenkins’ How To Be A Novelist Who Spits Out A Book In Six Weeks opus, Writing for the Soul, and Tim ‘n Jerry’s book, Are We Living in the End Times? (Their answer, as I’m sure you will be shocked to learn is: Yes.)
It is important to note that by Jenkins’ own admission, he is not a Bible prophecy expert. For the Left Behind series:
Dr. LaHaye would serve as theological expert and prophecy consultant and would not attempt to co-write. I would defer to him on the theology, and he would defer to me on the writing.
-Writing for the Soul, p. 3
He wrote the words of the Left Behind books; Tim LaHaye supplied the timeline of events, both pre- and post-Rapture. On the other hand, the Underground Zealot series is all Jenkins’ own.
In Are We Living in the End Times?, Tim and Jerry try to be very careful about not saying specifically when the Rapture will happen:
…we wish to state categorically that we refuse to predict that Christ will come in our lifetime, for He may delay His coming for another fifty years or more.
But sometimes they just can’t help themselves. The very next sentence is:
Still, we believe the evidence is to the contrary.
-Are We Living in the End Times? pp. 23-24
Way to hedge your bets, guys.
I actually thought there would be more (and more specific) pre-Rapture events than there are. In fact, there is really supposed to be only one concrete event that will take place around the time of the Rapture: the attack on Israel by Russia, which God will thwart. (This event takes place at the very beginning of Left Behind.)
No one knows for sure whether [the attack] precedes or follows the Rapture; a case can be made either way. One thing is apparent: Russia’s attack and the Rapture are the number one and two end-time events.
-AWLITET, p. 25
So, since no mention is made of this event during the Underground Zealot series, it may simply be that the end times is still going on thirty-odd years from now, in the Dystopian Atheistopian FutureWorld. (That certainly is the theory of Straight and the Watchmen.)
LaHaye talks about more vague signs of “the time of the end,” but these can be applied to Atheistopia as easily as to the world today, such as “the increase in travel and the increase in knowledge” (AWLITET, p. 28).
Another vague event is “a time…when men and women would turn away from the faith ‘once for all delivered to the saints’ (Jude 1:3) and instead embrace heresy” (AWLITET, p. 69). Sounds like Atheistopia to me!
As for the Antichrist, Nicolae Carpathia doesn’t really make the scene until after the Rapture has happened. (The prequels describe his youth and his rise to power, but he is little known outside his own country until Left Behind.) The Underground Zealot series is basically Antichrist-free. (Perhaps Jenkins didn’t want to create a character who would inevitably be compared to Carpathia, or he simply wanted to maintain the vagueness that the Rapture would happen “soon,” not necessarily “next week.”)
Another note: the leader of the Worldwide Atheistopia, one Baldwin Dengler, is definitely not the Antichrist. We haven’t met him yet, but we will in Silenced.
So, this is all feeling to me like the ending of Clue: it could happen this way, but it could also validly end this way. But it does not appear that any timelines have been changed or ignored in the making of either series of books. They each just represent a different possibility for how the world will come to its gory end.
And finally, Jenkins himself, on the writing of Soon:
I’ve said that I am not an outliner, but before I wrote the first book in the Soon trilogy, I got cold feet. I knew it would be compared to the Left behind books, and I wanted to ensure I had the safety net of a well-conceived plot. No simply putting interesting characters in interesting situations and seeing what happens, this time.
Even with that security, however, I found it difficult to write. I didn’t leave myself enough rabbit trails to intuitively follow to let the story play out. The book sold well, and readers seemed to like it, but the writing experience left me frustrated.
-WFTS, pp. 135-6
Soon leaves me frustrated, too. 🙂
Oh! One final notes on WFTS (for now–there are other bits I will bring up in December):
Jenkins got the name “Jae” from a television commercial.