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.

 

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Posted on October 15, 2011, in Books, Silenced, Soon. Bookmark the permalink. 35 Comments.

  1. “…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.”

    Can’t you see what they’re doing? If we predict Christ’s coming, that makes him stay away. So if they continually claim we’re in the End Times, the actual End Times will be pushed back indefinitely!

  2. I love the idea of a book called Are We Living In The End Times that would dare to say “actually, no, we’re not”. Like Lawrence Kusche’s excellent The Bermuda Triangle Mystery – Solved, which does exactly what it says – it solves the “mystery” once and for all, by bringing in actual evidence rather than urban legends.

    At least some Rapture-fans explicitly believe that there will be no advance warning of the Rapture – this seems to be the view in the A Thief in the Night series, for example, making the event into the ultimate Hypothetical Bus. (And, conveniently, not allowing anyone to point to the date they’d predicted and say “ha ha”.)

    I find that bit about plotting utterly fascinating – thanks for the quote! I think there is a palpable difference between the two series; Ray ‘n’ Buck are hauled along from set-piece to set-piece by the Power of Prophecy, while Paul is hauled along by the Force of the Plot (incidentally, try reading dialogue from the Star Wars series substituting the word “plot” whenever “force” comes up). I have to say that in neither case do the characters’ own personalities seem to come into things, but there’s an argument that, like heroines of badly-written romances, they’re meant to be audience-identification figures and thus shouldn’t have any personality quirks that make the reader thing “but I’m not like that”.

    • It’s really something that he seems to think that the plot is the most important part, and it’s somehow admirable to sacrifice characterization to that.

      My own writing keeps going very weird places because my characters keep stepping out from the page and saying, “Really, PF, we thought you knew us. But clearly you haven’t been paying attention if you thought we do that.”

      And then I have to apologize and fix it.

    • (incidentally, try reading dialogue from the Star Wars series substituting the word “plot” whenever “force” comes up)

      Then, when you’re done that, watch the Matrix and substitute “The plot” for whenever “the Matrix” is mentioned.

      “The Plot has you, Neo.”

  3. How does it make Russians feel to know that a lot of American Christians think they’re destined to kick off the apocalypse? I’d be pretty offended, myself.

    Our story’s big bad is named Baldwin Dengler? Is Jerry Jenkins pathologically incapable of coming up with regular-sounding names? I tried doing an anagram search and the best I could manage was “New Bag End Drill”, so my guess is that he does terrible things to some hobbits in a later book.

    • >>>How does it make Russians feel to know that a lot of American Christians think they’re destined to kick off the apocalypse?

      It makes this one Russian feel that we should immediatedly adopt “Absolute Destiny Apocalypse” as our new anthem!

      Actually, I doubt that most people here (regular Christians, atheists or others) know about those theories at all, unless they’re specifically interested in/have jobs related to theology/eschathology or read lots of Ameriican blogs. But, yes, I don’t feel especially happy about us still being stereotyped as Always Chaotic Evil.

      • It is a pretty kickin’ anthem.

        Actually I don’t think the Russian – no, let’s be fair, Russo-
        Ethiopian – attack on Israel shows up Russian evilness any more than its destruction shows up Israel’s wonderfulness. Everyone is unsaved puppets to dance to the RTC tune.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy

        It makes this one Russian feel that we should immediatedly adopt “Absolute Destiny Apocalypse” as our new anthem!
        …But, yes, I don’t feel especially happy about us still being stereotyped as Always Chaotic Evil.

        More like Lawful Evil; I’ve heard about Russian bureaucracy.

        But then, Redcrow, it’s another legacy of the Cold War. Gog & Magog and all that. Maybe it’ll fade away over time, maybe not. During the 1970s and early 1980s I listened to Christian (TM) radio a lot, and you’d be amazed at some of the stuff they preached about Russians. Until the Second Russian Revolution, you guys were Orcs. Period.

  4. Baldwin Dengler? Jesus. Does this guy purposely pick out the silliest names ever? I mean, look at what sterling examples he has:

    1. Rayford Steele – helLO porn star.
    2. Chang Wong – hello all of 5 seconds picking a name.
    3. Paul Stepola – gee, hello anagram.
    4. Baldwin Dengler – how can anyone not see this pruriently? I mean, seriously? (“ball dangler”)

    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.)

    PS. This? *snorting and giggling now*

    PPS. EoA update!

    • Anyone catch Left Behind: Tribulation Force on TV yesterday? I haven’t watched it yet, because the Eagles game was one, but I did record it.

      The part that I did watch before the game came on had Kirk Cameron going full Ray Comfort on some guy named Chris. I couldn’t breathe, I was laughing so hard. I mean, the Rapture has already happened, and you still have to Comfortize people to get them to convert? Really?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy

        The part that I did watch before the game came on had Kirk Cameron going full Ray Comfort on some guy named Chris.

        Did he give a banana a blow job?
        To prove Young Earth Creationism?
        If not, he wasn’t going FULL Ray Comfort.

        • “So, Chris, if you’ve told a lie, what are you?”
          “A liar?”

          I mean, running around screaming “They’re gone, they’re all gone!” wasn’t his first choice in that situation?

          • I just love that Ray Comfort bit, because it fails on so many epic levels. I’d actually like to be preached to in such a way, because it is the easiest thing in the world to turn around:

            So, Kirk, have you ever told the truth? What does that make you?

      • Those three films are way too much fun for a bad movie aficionado like me. It’s that lovely blend across the cast of “let’s put on a show RIGHT HERE” and “I’m a pro, I’ve done what I’m paid for, outta here now” – and the guy playing Nicolae is so unconvincingly menacing that he’s perfect for the role.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      2. Chang Wong – hello all of 5 seconds picking a name.

      At least it isn’t “Ming Toy”…

      3. Paul Stepola – gee, hello anagram.

      More like “See How Clever I Am? See? See? See?”

      4. Baldwin Dengler – how can anyone not see this pruriently? I mean, seriously? (“ball dangler”)

      Freud would have quite a time analyzing these names. And some other of his tropes.

      Jerry “Buck” Jenkins, Greatest Christian Author of All Time, is infamous for his “tin ear” for character names. Over at Slacktivist, the subject comes up periodically.

  5. Bwahaha, that quote at the end is priceless.

    I had the safety net of a well-conceived plot. No simply putting interesting characters in interesting situations and seeing what happens, this time. .

    So A) jenkins actually put some thought (or so he says) into this hot mess of a story. B) Apparently he thinks either the characters, the situation, or both are boring. Way to sell your work, Jenkins. And C) all that work of actually plotting out the events of story was so hard (call the whaaaaambulence quick).

    • Eh, on your point B, what he said really doesn’t imply either the characters’ or situations’ being boring, and you would have to rather willfully and spitefully misread it to get that out of it. I wouldn’t, not that I think Jenkins deserves better, so much as that those reading my comments here deserve better.
      A and C, though, hell yeah.

  6. I had no idea when I asked that quesiton when I first found these deconstructions that it’d be so much work for our host. But it’s interesting to hear after all. Though it does leave me wondering about all the extremely explicit miracles that keep popping up in Soon. This isn’t the weaksauce ‘Buck sitting next to Chloe when she needs a sign’ miracle, this is the real deal. People being turned into metal. Precision-guided earthquakes. If this isn’t the end times and this is supposed to be a realistic sci-fi world (calling it ‘Soon’ is a pretty big hint that it’s supposed to be a realistic scenario. Well, my ‘light reading’ comment covered my opinion on that pretty well I think), why is God making a head-start on the smiting? Is Jenkins of the opinion that these highly targeted miracles are already happening? Or does he admit that it is it’s own addition to the world? (If it would be just as much work to find that out as it was to check the timeline, a “I don’t know” is a fair answer :))

    On the quotes:
    I wanted to ensure I had the safety net of a well-conceived plot. That’s a very good idea Jenkins. It would have served you well in LB. Granted, you don’t have a very well-conceived plot here either, but it couldn’t help to try.

    No simply putting interesting characters in interesting situations and seeing what happens Okay, after I stopped laughing I had to admit he had a point. The end of the world according to the Rapture mania IS filled with interesting events, and the characters… well, I have to admit they’re interesting. A group of unlikable, sociopathic douchebags who can’t see their feet due to their bloated ego’s in the way who nonetheless consider themselves superior moral authorities, and consider everyone who doesn’t believe in God as willfully stupid, forgetting they didn’t believe either a few days ago, and only realised these were Divinely prophecised miracles because Rayford had a wife would told him this every single day, and he was there to explain it all to Rayford. Yeah, those are interesting characters alright. And Fred has mentioned plenty of times how amazing Jenkins can screw a no-miss setting of interesting events happening to (arguably) interesting characters by making it boring and moronic. So yeah, another good idea, if Jenkins can’t manage to throw characters in an end-of-the-world setting and make it exciting, you need to plot ahead more. Too bad this is the result.

    Oh, and Jae came from a television commercial? Well, that’s about consistent with how much importance the story gives her. BTW, I got her name from this and used it as an NPC’s name in my D&D campaign. She isn’t a critical character there either, but so far she’s been treated a lot better than her Soon counterpart. (Though admittedly, I can’t be 100% sure she’ll survive the campaign. My players don’t know it yet, but there’s a lot stronger opponent on the field who’s hell-bent on getting an item they left in her temple and keeping a low profile, in that order of importance. So she might get glassed yet. Sorry about that Jae. But it’s still a better fate than Soon-Jae gets.)

    • “I had no idea when I asked that quesiton when I first found these deconstructions that it’d be so much work for our host.”

      Oh, it wasn’t that it was so much work–just that I was procrastinating on this one. 😀

      “Oh, and Jae came from a television commercial? Well, that’s about consistent with how much importance the story gives her. BTW, I got her name from this and used it as an NPC’s name in my D&D campaign. She isn’t a critical character there either, but so far she’s been treated a lot better than her Soon counterpart.”

      I love it! I hope you’ll keep us updated on the fate of D&D!Jae.

    • Are you quite sure your players never read here? My GM comments here (hi, Redwood!), and something like that could be quite a spoiler! (I actually went back to double-check you weren’t she.)

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      Okay, after I stopped laughing I had to admit he had a point. The end of the world according to the Rapture mania IS filled with interesting events, and the characters… well, I have to admit they’re interesting.

      That’s because Christian Apocalyptic IS Event-driven, i.e. the End Time Prophecy Checklist, running completely on rails. The function of characters in this sub-genre is to serve as roving viewpoints, watching (“Witnessing”) each and every Checklist Event go down, then breaking the fourth wall to tell the reader “What we just Witnessed fulfills such-and-such End Time Prophecy!” Roving viewpoints, nothing more.

      A group of unlikable, sociopathic douchebags who can’t see their feet due to their bloated ego’s in the way who nonetheless consider themselves superior moral authorities, and consider everyone who doesn’t believe in God as willfully stupid, forgetting they didn’t believe either a few days ago, and only realised these were Divinely prophecised miracles because Rayford had a wife would told him this every single day, and he was there to explain it all to Rayford.

      Oh, and Author Self-Inserts to boot.

      Jenkins made a major strategic blunder when he decided to limit the viewpoints to only the two Author Self-Inserts. This means the Author Self-Inserts HAVE to be on-hand to Witness (TM) EVERY Event on the End Time Prophecy Checklist — events of literally Cosmic scale.

      And “as-you-know” idiot conversations over the phone can only stretch so far…

      • Yeah. Even when he expands out the POV character spectrum to people like David Hayseed (I’m sorry, I just cannot stop using Guy Blod’s in-book nickname for him), he still is hobbled by the fact that the POV characters are stuck spying on all the things instead of being actively involved with events in the plot.

      • Indeed, the POV characters were a terrible bug, though probably a feature for Jenkins: We’ve spend a huge chunck of the second book maneuvering the POVs into a position close to the Anti Christ so they can have the faintest idea what’s going on. On the plus side (for Jenkins), this allowed him to pad this book immensly, thus justifying spreading the stories over more books at 20 bucks each or so. On the down side, it means our great RTC heroes have to justify working for the Anti Christ. Because God wants them to help him! The hypocracy would have been there anyway, but this put it on such grand display. And yes, there’s the other problem than any events they aren’t there for must be explained by the characters watching TV or the president of the United States suddenly deciding to reveal his innermost secrets in a heart to heart with a journalist.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy

          If anybody came up with a Jerry Jenkins Novel Drinking Game, all the players would be dead of alcohol poisoning by the second chapter.

          In twenty years in Furry Fandom, I’ve had lots of Bad Fanfics inflicted on me, and ol’ Call-me-Buck Jenkins does EVERY one of the bad-storytelling tropes I’ve experienced in those bad fanfics. But he’s still not the worst.

          Jenkins’ stuff is the Eragon of Christian Apocalyptic, but there is one far worse.

          666 and 1000 by Salem Kirban, the “Eyes of Argon” of Christian Apocalyptic. Both still in print and selling to RTCs after 30+ years.

  7. Eh, that second Rayford should be ‘Buck’.

  8. Headless Unicorn Guy

    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.

    Yet SOON, in addition to a typical Near-Future Persecution Dystopia, HAS to have some sort of End Times tie-in. Because Rapture/Trib/The End (kicking off tomorrow at the latest) is the ONLY future RTCs are permitted to have.

    Christians have no future; they signed any Future over to The Antichrist.

  9. Base Delta Zero

    Am I the only one hoping this series’ Antichrist turns to out be the AI secretly running Atheistopia, or something of the sort?

    Of course, that would be interesting.

  1. Pingback: Soon: The Rapture Timeline Question – endtimesprophecyblogs

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