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Tim LaHaye passed away Sunday, leaving in his wake the enormous empire of his "Left Behind" book-turned-film series, whose impact the late Jerry Falwell said was "probably greater than that of any other book in modern times, outside the Bible."
According to co-author Jerry B. Jenkins, the series still sells in the six figures each year. The books themselves offer the popular Protestant theme that Our Lord will return secretly near the end times to "rapture" up the saints, while leaving the reprobate on earth to suffer through the tribulation. This will supposedly take place before the Second Coming, when Our Lord will return to judge the earth.
Such eschatology, however, contradicts Scripture and the teaching of the Church, which states that the rapture takes place after the tribulation (through which the saints must suffer), and which also indicates that it is the reprobate, not the saints, who will be gathered up by God and punished.
Although this "Rapture" phenomenon is a uniquely American and relatively recent thing, it finds its roots in the writings of a Jesuit priest by the name of Fr. Manuel de Lacunza in his 1812 book "The Coming of Messiah in Glory and Majesty" — a book that was eventually condemned by the Holy See and placed on the Index of Forbidden Books.
Lacunza was the first to popularize the idea that there would be a pre-tribulation rapture of the righteous — an idea that finds no precedent among the Early Church Fathers, and which was roundly rejected by the Catholic Church from the third century onwards. Lacunza, however, ignored the Church Fathers in his theological musings, even going so far as to link the Roman Catholic hierarchy with the second beast of Revelation 13 and the Whore of Babylon of chapter 17 — a scriptural interpretation that has been widely accepted by Protestants.
The Church issued a formal condemnation of the work on January 15, 1819, eight years after its Spanish publication, with the Tribunal of the Sacred Office ordering that the book be removed from circulation. And in 1824, it was placed on the index of forbidden books by order of Pope Leo XII, accompanied by the brief note "in any language."
Watch the panel discuss confused eschatology in "The Download—The Rapture."