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Revelation Unveiled Paperback – June 6, 1999
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From the Publisher
For thousands of readers, the best-selling Left Behind series coauthored by Dr. Tim LaHaye has painted a vivid scenario of events preceding the return of Jesus Christ. Combining page-turning drama, gripping, human perspectives, and a keen knowledge of the Bible, Dr. LaHaye has depicted with graphic immediacy the time to end all times. Revelation Unveiled lays the Scriptural foundation for Left Behind and Tribulation Force. Filled with references to the novels, this commentary helps readers get an in-depth grasp of the book of Revelation from a premillennial view. Stamped by Dr. LaHaye's trademark gift for making complex topics plain, Revelation Unveiled explains such critical topics as the Rapture of the church, the breaking of the seven seals and the blowing of the seven trumpets, the seven bowls of wrath and the destruction of Babylon in the Great Tribulation, the return of Christ and the final battle against Satan and his hosts, the Millennial reign, the Great White Throne Judgment, and the establishment of a new heavens and a new earth. The first edition of Revelation Unveiled, titled Revelation Illustrated and Made Plain, sold over 250,000 copies. This new, revised and expanded edition includes 50 black-and-white illustrations, redrawn to add visual clarity and emphasis to LaHaye's engaging, easy-to-understand style. With simple and accessible language, Revelation Unveiled will help readers better understand this mysterious final book of the Bible, and its implications for the times we live in.
From the Author
Tim LaHaye is founder and president of Family Life seminars, a national family ministry that organizes seminars throughout the country. In addition he was instrumental in founding the Institute for Creation Institute, an organization that forms debates on secular college campuses and produces a monthly magazine. He was president and founder of Christian Heritage College and San Diego Unified Christian School System. LaHaye has published many best-selling books, including How to Manage Pressure Before Pressure Manages You, How to Win Over Depression, The Act of Marriage, and The Coming of Peace in the Middle East
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In it LaHaye interprets The Book of Revelations, the last book in the New Testament, which prophesies the return of Christ to earth. His analysis rests upon the belief that all prophecy constitutes “love letters from God.” But as anyone who has read the Bible knows, prophecy in general and the Book of Revelations in particular is full of bizarre imagery and indecipherable ramblings. While LaHaye writes that “It simplifies Bible interpretation greatly if we accept God’s word at face value and do not try to force upon it any other meaning” (p. 150), he then, somewhat tragically, confines himself to searching for God’s love in hallucinogenic visions of supernatural torments unleashed by a vengeful, rampaging deity.
His efforts would be merely misguided if he were a bumpkin preacher screaming at his congregants in a shack somewhere. But he’s not. In the 1990s LaHaye’s fictional Left Behind series, which portrayed the End Times taking place in contemporary America, sold over 65 million copies in a nation of 310 million people. More than any other preacher, LaHaye succeeded at making the End Times a common Evangelical belief as that faction rose to prominence in the Republican Party. Indeed, George Walker Bush turned to LaHaye for advice as a candidate and as President.
Certain that they would soon witness the Second Coming, largely because of the analysis in Revelations Unveiled, Evangelicals’ desire to publically prove that they were true Christians became extreme. The 2000 campaign, more than any other in modern times, was fueled by religious passions. Bush overtly sought to assure Evangelicals that he agreed with their extreme positions on issues like gay rights and abortion. He never publically declared he believed in the End Times, but he made scriptural references throughout his campaign to reassure Evangelicals that he was a believer.
It is striking that over the same years that led to Bush’s election End Times preachers crisscrossed the country to tell people that Saddam Hussein was the Antichrist. General William G. Boykin, most egregiously, did so while wearing his military uniform. When terrorists attacked on September 11, 2001, the End Times movement took a quantum leap forward. Televangelists with audiences in the hundreds of millions preached that the attack was God’s punishment for America’s tolerance of gay rights, abortion and other perceived moral failures. They also characterized the attack as Satan’s opening End Times salvo.
End Times beliefs informed the Bush Administration’s real-world response. Even when it became clear that Al-Qaeda had orchestrated the attack, Bush focused the nation’s attention on counter-attacking against Iraq. For over a year President Bush never mentioned 9/11 without mentioning Iraq in practically the same sentence. I believe that he associated them because Babylon, which is mentioned by name in the Book of Revelations, is in Iraq; because Boykin and others had demonized Saddam Hussein as the Antichrist; and because Bush’s Evangelical constituents understood the attack as an End Times event.
We now know that the Bush Administration intentionally lied when it came before the United Nations and presented its case for a pre-emptive war on Iraq. By the time the attack began, in 2003, over 90% of Americans erroneously believed that Iraq was responsible for 9/11. Many Americans understood the war as a battle of Christ versus Satan, and it was widely referred to as a “war of civilizations.”
In this context, I think we can say that LaHaye’s enormous success at convincing people to believe the End Times had begun had a direct impact on American history. Of course, he was not the only one proselytizing these beliefs, but in 2005 Time magazine named him one of the twenty-five most influential Evangelical preachers because of his leadership in this realm.
Therefore it is important to understand what he believes, and why.
Let us start with the Book of Revelations itself. It has a tawdry history. Since it is clearly the ranting of a mentally unstable zealot, many detractors tried to prevent it from becoming part of the Bible. At the Council of Nicea in 323 C.E., where the Christian Bible was first compiled, it was hotly debated and ultimately rejected because, as the scholar Eusebius commented, “it contained nothing of spiritual significance.” It didn’t become part of the Bible until 419 C.E. at the synod of Carthage. Even centuries later when Martin Luther re-organized the Protestant Old Testament, he almost excluded it from the Protestant New Testament for the same reason.
But LaHaye considers it the most important scripture of all. He says “[it] is the only book in the world that truly presents [Christ] as He really is today.” (p. 247). That statement reveals a great deal about LaHaye’s Christianity because even a casual reading leaves no question but that it is a hyper-violent fantasy about a jealous god wreaking bloodthirsty havoc on non-believers. Yet in LaHaye’s hands the book’s grotesque nature – including sadistic monsters, horrific epidemics and extensive descriptions of torture – all become secret messages revealing God’s instructions to his faithful.
His interpretation – complete with charts and graphs – validates hatred towards non-believers: “Any church that preaches a gospel other than the gospel of Jesus Christ is a synagogue of Satan, regardless of what it is called” (p. 55). Revelations Unveiled crystalizes around this “synagogue of Satan” idea, returning to it over and over. In his analysis, all non-believers are minions of the Antichrist: “Once a person receives the Antichrist as his or her master, he or she will have made a decision for eternity” (p. 150).
Since LaHaye was one of Bush’s advisors, I do not think it is a stretch to align that sentiment with Bush’s black-and-white declaration, on the eve of the war in Iraq, that “you’re either with us or against us.”
While it is easy to establish that Jesus deplored absolutist interpretations of scripture by contemplating his eloquent Sermon on the Mount, LaHaye never bothers to address such an obvious criticism. Instead, he expands the “synagogue of Satan” concept into contemporary social issues.
In the Book of Revelations the author speaks to several churches in the ancient world, loosely following the structure of Paul’s Epistles, and the church he hates the most is the one in Laodicea. For LaHaye, the Church of Laodicea becomes a stand-in for everything progressive in American society, beginning with the Transcendentalists and continuing on to modern civil rights movements: “The church of Laodicea has the distinction of being the only one whose conduct was so reprehensible that even Christ of Glory, who knew all about her, could not find one thing on which to commend her…The Laodicean church age began around 1900 and is increasing in intensity at a breathtaking pace...[Laodicean] churches are usually more interested in social action than gospel action…Consequently, they are sickening to the Lord…[The Laodicean church] today would be at the forefront of the gay rights and feminist movements and be leaders in the ordination of women and the feminizing of the deity.” (p. 85-86)
In this way LaHaye justifies the social agenda of the Evangelicals. Since Christ hates gay people, feminists, and progressives, true Christians must be deeply conservative. “The only time Christians have the unlimited power of the Holy Spirit at their disposal is when they are obedient to the will of God,” he writes. “When they disobey God and make alliances with the world, they are entering into a powerless state that will enmesh and ruin them.” (p. 62)
Moreover, people who demand change – especially those who demand civil rights – are also in the “synagogue of Satan.” “Whenever a person rebels against God,” he explains, “whether the person be Cain, Lamech, Nimrod, Pharaoh, Judas, Voltaire, Thomas Paine, or Robert Ingersoll, one is deceived by the devil.” (p. 347). I love the reference to Thomas Paine, because Paine was adamant about individual rights and the separation of church and state. To LaHaye, freethinking itself is satanic: “The spirit of rebellion in the heart of any person signifies that he or she is a subject of the Antichrist even before he arrives.” (p. 213)
Rebelling against bigotry is even more odious: “People today demand religious tolerance for all,” he writes, “which is why Christians and the Tribulation saints cannot go along with it.” (p. 211) Moreover, “The most pitiful people in all the world are the religionists who, representing modernistic liberalism or the cults and the ‘isms,’ do not understand who Jesus Christ really is.” (p. 247) Tolerance is sinful because “...Christ is not only the truth, but the ultimate truth. No truth will be given to this world other than the truth revealed in Jesus Christ.” (p. 80)
Throughout Revelations Unveiled statements like the ones above are woven into interpretations of prophecy that LaHaye believes prove that the End Times are happening now. Most of these are so poorly argued they are simply silly, but I’ll review the one that has impacted American society the most to show you how just how sloppy these widely held “interpretations” of scripture actually are.
The one that “proves” we are living in the End Times is about the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. In the Book of Revelations, Jesus returns to earth at this Temple. LaHaye’s argument begins by asserting that in order for Jesus to return, the Temple must exist. It used to, but currently it does not. Moreover, the Temple must be tended by Jews, and that’s where LaHaye’s historicism comes into play. To understand it, you need to know the Temple’s history.
The Jews took over Israel around 1,200 B.C.E., and by 1,000 B.C.E. Solomon ruled over a united Jewish kingdom and built the Temple for the first time. Then Nimrod invaded Israel in 587 B.C.E., destroying the Temple and driving the Jews out of Jerusalem into slavery in Babylon. They remained there until 539 B.C.E., when Cyrus the Great allowed them to return to Jerusalem and build their Temple the second time.
Safe in Jerusalem, for the time being, by 250 B.C.E. the Jews had written down their sacred Pentateuch, or the five books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. In those stories the Jews are God’s “Chosen People” and he gives them Israel, the “Promised Land.” Also by that time the Roman Empire had become a force to reckon with in the Mediterranean.
The Book of Isaiah was written around 100 B.C.E. It is not a core sacred text to the Jews; its actual purpose was to revisit the concept of the “Promised Land” from the Pentateuch. Working from oral traditions about Isaiah, the authors made him a prophet who, after the Nimrod disaster, prophesied that a Messiah would come and return them to Jerusalem so they could rebuild their Temple. They made Cyrus the Great that Messiah. It is critical to understand that the “prophecies” in the Book of Isaiah were inserted long after they had been “fulfilled.”
For the next couple hundred years the Jews lived in Jerusalem and their Temple became an important trading center, which was the typical function of all temples in those days. The Romans colonized Israel, but the Jewish Pharisees in Jerusalem dealt with them so they could keep their Temple and the wealth it generated. They let the Romans dominate the poor Jews in the countryside. Needless to say, those Jews did not appreciate that their rich leaders cooperated with their colonizers. Jesus was one of many messianic Jewish rebels who protested against the Pharisees and their alliance with the Romans (see Zealot by Reza Aslan). His rebellion inspired people spiritually, but political success didn’t come until thirty years after he was executed when the rural Jews revolted and overthrew the Pharisees and expelled the Romans from Jerusalem.
The Romans retaliated in 70 C.E. Not only did they destroy the Temple for the second time, they also massacred all the Jews they could find and drove the rest of them out of Israel altogether.
The Gospels of the New Testament were written in that time of crisis. The writers were Jews, and the “prophecies” in the Book of Isaiah gave them an inspiration. Cyrus the Great could not have been the Messiah because the Jews were again driven out of the Promised Land. So when they wrote the Gospels they showed that the prophesied Messiah was actually Jesus. The last and most elaborate Gospel – that of John, written about eighty years after Jesus was executed – was carefully constructed to show that Jesus fulfilled all the prophecies in the Book of Isaiah. LaHaye ignores this history completely. Instead he writes, “As the Word of God, the Scriptures predictably reveal superb planning and organization.” (p. 16)
So here’s the kicker: if Jesus was the Messiah prophesied in the Book of Isaiah, why weren’t the Jews back in the Promised Land with their Temple? Because, according to LaHaye and two thousand years worth of End Times believers like him, Jesus is going to come back again. The Second Coming. And in order for him to come back, according to the Book of Revelations, the Jews must rebuild the Temple of Solomon to welcome him.
Fast-forward nearly two thousand years. LaHaye believes that when the Jews established the State of Israel in 1948 they were beginning to fulfill the prophecy in the Book of Revelations. To him, the existence of the State of Israel is an “Infallible Sign” that Jesus is on his way. Now that the Jews have Israel, he argues, surely they will soon rebuild the Temple. In fact, LaHaye knows that they will do so within his own lifetime. He knows this because in Matthew 24:34 Jesus says, “I tell you this: the present generation will live to see it all.”
To LaHaye, that means the generation alive in 1948 will witness the rebuilding of the Temple and the Second Coming. He and others like him have convinced millions that this belief is an expression of God’s love for Christians. As for everyone else, beware: “When Christ came the first time, as a Lamb, though he displayed certain powers, he did not manifest all of his power. When he comes the next time, as a Lion, at his glorious appearing, it will be in the manifestation of his omnipotence, his all-consuming power.” (p. 128) He goes on to describe how “Christ the Lion” will inflict vast vengeance upon non-believers.
LaHaye says that he proselytizes this belief to bring people into his Church. He seems to truly believe that by doing so he is saving souls from eternal damnation.
However, his actual impact has been to create a modern war god. He anchors that war god in contemporary history, and he puts all non-believers into the “synagogue of Satan.” In classic war god fashion, he declares that his war god is the true god, and all other gods are actually Satan. This is an ancient, primitive religiosity used by rulers throughout history to embolden their people as they set out to attack their enemies.
It’s time we abandon it. Christians would better prove their spiritual attainment by proselytizing Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, not LaHaye’s Revelations Unveiled.
And lastly, his writing style is easy to follow. His detailed analysis and descriptions of the various harder verses to understand, whereby he lets other Bible verses help to interpret the more difficult ones, as it should be. I found it a good read. Did I agree with everything that he said, almost but not quite, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt for he has studied it longer and harder than I have.
I am involved with a Prison Ministry and after I purchased the first one and read it, I have purchased about 15-20 others and have used them in Bible Studies with inmates from various prisons, for I felt it was worthy of suggesting it to others to read. I have also distributed about 10 complete sets of the Left Behind Series to various Prisons for their Libraries. I have found that they are easy reading and it generates an interest into looking deeper in the Bible and God Himself.