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Paperback Apocalypse: How the Christian Church Was Left Behind

Paperback Apocalypse: How the Christian Church Was Left Behind


Will there be a Rapture? Will Jesus return from heaven? Who is the Antichrist? Will all these things happen? They won’t, according to Robert M. Price.

The great popularity of the Left Behind novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins attests to the strong appeal of apocalyptic beliefs in many conservative Christian communities. As biblical scholar Robert M. Price reveals in this history and critique of Christian end-time beliefs, LaHaye and Jenkins’s famous novels are just the latest examples of a long tradition of popular fundamentalist eschatology.
Price traces the origin and scriptural basis, which is sometimes astonishingly skimpy, for such beliefs as the Rapture, the Second Coming, the Antichrist, and Messianic prophecy. He emphasizes that the writers of the New Testament consistently set a first-century deadline for the return of Jesus Christ, and yet the stubborn fact that the Second Coming obviously did not occur has not deterred fundamentalist Christians from blindly predicting the event throughout the centuries up to the present day.

Price then critiques the raft of previous apocalyptic novels before turning to the Left Behind series. He offers both literary and theological criticism, while explaining the psychological appeal of the books. Finally, he offers a parody chapter on the Left Behind series called “Tribulation Farce.”

With its approachable, engaging style, The Paperback Apocalypse makes complex scholarly research accessible to the interested lay reader. Seminarians, religion scholars, interested observers of the American religious scene, and even fans of the Left Behind series will learn much from Price’s in-depth scholarship.


Introduction: The Beginning of Sorrows     9

The Evolution of Apocalyptic     17

Messianic Prophecy     41

The Gospel of the Antichrist     69

The Second Coming     89

The Secret Rapture     123

The Delay of the Parousia     145

Earlier Christian Apocalypse Novels     175

Later Christian Apocalypse Novels     203

Mainstream Apocalypse Novels     241

LaHaye’s Behind     271

Conclusion: The Eschaton     309

Wastin’ Away in Millenniumville     313

Yet More Christian Apocalypse Novels     325

Bibliography     361

Indexes     371


“There is no end in sight for the American obsession with the End Times. But Dr. Robert Price does put an end to many of the most absurd claims made by Christian writers who peddle their apocalyptic nightmares to unwary buyers…. Dr. Price threads his way expertly through both popular and scholarly media in order to explain the depth of the failure of biblical prophecy. With the scalpel of a trained biblical scholar, and the inside knowledge of a former fundamentalist preacher, Dr. Price is fully equipped to issue this relentless exposé of how the Left Behind series, among other Christian musings on the apocalypse, actually represent attempts to hide one of the greatest prophetic failures in history.”

Hector Avalos, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Iowa State University, Author of The End of Biblical Studies and Fighting Words

“Oh what fun it is to read Robert M. Price skewer modern apocalypticism in general and fundamentalist pretribulationism in particular, with his rapier-like wit and his daunting scholarship. Not content to point out the biblical errors and theological absurdities in the Left Behind series, Price takes us on a guided tour of the whole notion of the End-Times, from the first stirrings of biblical apocalyptic to its appropriation by 19th century fundamentalists who invented the idea of the Rapture. Along the way we get a perceptive and funny review of every significant novel in the apocalyptic genre. Price closes with his own, side-splitting contribution to the genre, a ‘lost’ final chapter of the Left Behind series, in which Rayford Steele and the rest of the Trib Force begin to suspect that the Millennium isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. A wonderful, enjoyable read.”

– Scott Knickelbine

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