This morning I suddenly came to the end of the original book #1 of the "Left Behind" series, which is of course titled Left Behind. You may remember my post from a few weeks ago stating my disappointment in the three prequels. That disappointment in the series evaporated when I got into Left Behind. Now I understand what people were so excited about back in 1995! The story is interesting, the pacing is fast and exciting, you care about the characters. Characters that came off as one-dimensional in the prequels gain depth in the original novel. I watched the movie version a long time ago, and I remember hearing that the book authors were disappointed in the result... now I think I can see why. If I remember the movie correctly, an awful lot of story was left out for the big screen.
One thing that kept striking me as weird on my way through the book were things that were commonplace in 1995 but are dated now. A reporter on a plane when the rapture happens tries to get through by communicating with his home office via a modem in his computer... who has a modem in a laptop these days? Some people, but these days Internet is so prevalent that I doubt the home office would even have a modem pool to dial into. A college student is out of touch with her father as she tries to get home because there is no way to reach her... what college student these days doesn't have a cell phone? A pastor makes a videotape explaining what has happened, and after the rapture his left-behind parishioners view the tape... who even has a VCR these days? A man knows he is receiving telephone calls even when his phone ringer is turned off because he can hear his answering machine clicking... who these days even has an answering machine, much less one with mechanical parts? Everybody these days has voice mail from the phone company. It was kind of weird running into those things, knowing that it's because the book was written 15 years ago, but also knowing that the story is supposed to be about the end of time... dated technology kind of throws you out of the narrative when you bump into it.
What is definitely not dated is the human story... the way the characters themselves feel and interact. The panic of learning that millions of people are gone without trace or explanation. The horror of learning that you're not as great of a Christian as you thought you were. The agony of people who are struggling with their decision for Christ, wanting to be true to themselves but slowly coming to the recognition that they do believe. The joy when they accept Jesus into their hearts, even though they know that very hard times are ahead for them. The terror when the reporter is face to face with the man he knows to be the antichrist, and that man is holding a gun, killing people in cold blood. The story certainly draws you in! I enjoyed it as much as any book I've read in quite some time.
For Christians, the book has the added effect that it presents a scenario that, we believe, will quite possibly match future events pretty well. It reinforces an idea that maybe we don't think about very much... there are going to be masses of people left on the Earth to suffer through the seven years of the tribulation. The little technological glitches are nowhere near serious enough to distract from the true message of the novel: the time to get ready is NOW. The time to make sure your family is ready is NOW. If you are a believer and you are gone, there is no guarantee that your loved ones will be exposed to someone who will know enough about the Bible to be able to reach them, and Satan's persuasiveness during the Tribulation will be strong. Our chance to share Jesus with those around us is now; once we're gone, we can't do it any more. There will be no ten-minute warning. If the prophecies of the Bible are true, one day there will be a generation of Christians who will disappear without warning or trace. If that's us, let's use the time until then wisely.