Several months before "Left Behind" opens in theaters, a prominent Christian philosopher is reminding the American church that the movie's claims about the rapture are false.
"This doctrine is not really found in the book of Revelation. If you read the book of Revelation, you won't find any mention of the rapture there," said William Craig, a Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology and Professor of Philosophy at Houston Baptist University.
Instead, Craig says, the idea of the rapture comes from a "misinterpretation of 1 and 2 Thessalonians where Paul is describing the coming of the Lord and resurrection of the dead, which will occur at His coming."
"If you compare what Paul says there to what Jesus says about the End Times, Paul uses the same vocabulary, the same phraseology. I think it's very plausible that Paul is talking about the same event that Jesus predicted, namely the visible coming of the Son of Man at the end of human history to usher in his kingdom," said Craig. "But proponents of the rapture view, say that Paul is not at all talking about the second coming of the Christ there. What he's really talking about is this invisible preliminary secret return of Christ to snatch believers out of the world before the great tribulation occurs. I think there's no textual warrant for that at all."
According to Craig, the rapture became a popular theory about the End Times due to the influence of the Scofield Reference Bible, which was published in the early 20th century and promulgated John Darby's mid-18th century's views on the rapture. Later, Christian institutions, among them Dallas Theological Seminary, and churches began teaching the validity of the rapture.
"A good many Bible-believing Christians absorbed this view as their mother's milk as it were and have never thought to question its Biblical credentials," said Craig.
Craig affirmed that it was completely possible for Christians to watch the upcoming "Left Behind" movie or read the series, but they should resist taking its claims seriously.
"It could be maybe good fiction. It would be say like reading science fiction or fantasy novels like The Lord of the Rings. Just so long as you're not deceived into thinking that represents biblical eschatology," said Craig.
Craig, who leads Reasonable Faith, an apologetics organization that equips Christians with the resources to speak about their faith in an "intelligent, articulate, and uncompromising yet gracious" manner, called upon Biblical scholars, pastors and other church leaders who also refute the rapture to speak out about their position.
"It is astonishing, if I'm correct about this, American evangelism is very widely misled, that it has departed from the historic Christian position about the second coming of Christ. That's really rather sobering, because if we're wrong about this, what other things might we have misinterpreted?" he said.