For 25 years, Tim LaHaye pastored one of the nation’s outstanding churches in San Diego, California, which grew to three locations. He holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from Western Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Literature degree from Liberty University.
He has written more than 50 non-fiction books on a wide range of subjects, such as family life, temperaments, sexual adjustment, Bible prophecy, the will of God, Jesus Christ and secular humanism, with over 13 million in print, some of which have been translated into 32 foreign languages. His writings are best noted for their easy-to-understand and scripturally based application of biblical principles that assist in facing and handling the challenges of life. He designed the LaHaye Temperament Analysis that has been used by over 30,000 people; many have found it to be a life-changing tool for self-improvement. His latest book, JESUS: Why the World Is Still Fascinated by Him, is scheduled to release in August 2009.
LaHaye is perhaps best known as the co-author with Jerry Jenkins of the Left Behind series, with many of the titles reaching the #1 best sellers lists on the New York Times, USA Today and Publishers Weekly lists. This series has garnered national media attention, sparked debate over end times issues and changed the Christian publishing industry. Because of the largely popular series and its unprecedented book sales, secular bookstores have crossed over into the Christian market and are now marketing a wider distribution of religious materials. LaHaye and Jenkins were among the top 10 best-selling authors of Amazon.com’s 2005 list, appearing in Amazon’s 10th Anniversary Hall of Fame.
While the Left Behind series has been a crossover success, his other works have profoundly influenced the Christian community. Two LaHaye books were among Christianity Today’s Top 50 Books That Have Shaped Evangelicals, posted online in October of 2006. Surprisingly, THE ACT OF MARRIAGE (written with his wife Beverly) was book #28, while Left Behind listed as #36. In 2005, TIME magazine named him one of the Top 25 Most Influential Evangelicals.
Tim LaHaye has appeared on such national television programs as 60 Minutes, Today Show, ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, ABC Good Morning America, ABC Nightline, Scarborough Country, Hannity and Colmes, Larry King Live, and many others.
LaHaye and his wife Beverly, who is chairman of the board and founder of Concerned Women for America, have been married for over 55 years and live in southern California. They have four grown children, nine grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.
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Chris Fabry, host of the radio program "First Edition," interviews author Dr. Tim LaHaye about the Left Behind series. Dr. Tim LaHaye is a noted author, minister and nationally recognized speaker on Bible prophecy. He's the founder of both Tim LaHaye Ministries and the Pre-Trib Research Center. He conceived the idea of fictionalizing an account of the Rapture and the Tribulation almost 20 years ago, and that idea culminates now in the 12th book in the series, THE GLORIOUS APPEARING, which he authored with Jerry B. Jenkins. Since 1995, millions of people have been captivated by these books, which Dr. La Haye discusses in depth here.
Fabry: Did you ever think we'd actually get to book number 12?
LaHaye: (chuckle) There were times I didn't think we would ever make it, even when we were cranking two out a year.
Fabry: What were your expectations back in the early days, back in '95?
LaHaye: Jerry and I hoped that it would be a popular bestseller. We hoped it might make number 1 on the CBA list, and God has certainly exceeded our fondest expectations.
Fabry: And when you actually came up with the idea, was it when you were on an airplane a number of years ago?
LaHaye: Yes, in fact, it's hard to believe this, but it was almost 18 years ago when I first got the idea. In those days, I was a very successful nonfiction writer and had the egotistical idea that maybe I could write fiction myself, but it didn't take long to dispel me of that idea. New fiction writers are a special breed in my estimation, and I never dreamed that so many people would be interested, but I remember being led by God.
In fact, my agent, Rick Christian, sent me a copy of a picture that he took in 1990 when we were skiing at Breckenridge in Colorado. Someone took our picture in front of a lodge, and it reminded me that we had prayed that night that God would guide us to the right fiction writer, and a couple of years later he called and said, "I think I've found our man. Signed Jerry Jenkins." And then I met Jerry and he's such a creative fiction writer, and I don't know if there's ever been a team put together the way we are --- where one person does the theological way out and suggestions, and the other person goes into the cave and does the fiction writing. But it's turned out to be a very successful enterprise.
Fabry: Well, he really has put flesh to these characters. I believe, when you first began, you had the idea of Rayford Steele; he was an airline pilot. But to be able to meld that character and kind of flesh him out, and then have his wife who is caught up in the Rapture and his son and his daughters left behind, Chloe, and all that they go through in those next seven years, has really made this something that people wanted to read.
LaHaye: One of the things that I've never run into is anyone complaining about Jerry's ability to flesh out characters, as you indicated. When he gets through, they actually feel like they have seen them and talked to these people; they've become so real. In fact, a funny thing happened one day. A lady wrote me a letter and said, "I am so into these stories that the other morning in my devotions, I found myself praying for the safety of Rayford Steele."
Fabry: Jerry's traveling as we're doing this interview, so we are sorry he's not here, but I have a lot of questions for you, Dr. LaHaye. Part of the real thrust of what you do is deal with the theology, so I want to talk about the end times and what the millennium's going to be like. But, first, you have had some incredible opportunities lately in the media from Time Magazine's cover to Larry King to a piece on 60 Minutes that maybe some of our listeners have heard. Has the media coverage surprised you at all?
LaHaye: Well, you forgot Rolling Stone!
Fabry: (chuckle) That's right, Rolling Stone.
LaHaye: Yeah, I have been because, generally speaking, to we Biblical literalists, the media is very hostile. They usually are not Christians, or they certainly aren't Biblical literalists. They believe in allegorizing or spiritualizing Scripture, making it mean anything they want it to mean. And we're intolerant. When you allegorize, you're gonna get everybody saved somehow. But when you take the Bible literally, for what it says, you have to come back to the fact that there is only one way of salvation; there's only one Savior. You have to come to grips with Him, and I'm so grateful that's one of the things that comes out clearly in our books. Our listeners might be interested to know that it is one of our tactics (it's kind of like a trademark with this 12th book coming out). Jerry and I really made it a matter of prayer that he could be gifted to and inspired by the Holy Spirit to write what I call a believable conversion. It's hard, as you know, Chris, to write a believable conversion. Then, we add believable conversion that's reproducible in the heart of the reader by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. And we have had literally thousands, tens of thousands of people, indicate that they have prayed to receive Christ.
Fabry: But the one question that keeps coming up in those interviews is: "You're saying that if I don't believe the way that you believe that I am destined for hell?" The interviewer or the person being interviewed shifts the focus of what you've talked about in the books, and makes it look like Christians are somehow exclusive and that we're almost arrogant in a way.
LaHaye: I'd like to point out to them that that's not the real question. The real question is: "Who is Jesus?"
If Jesus is the Son of God in human flesh, He's one of a kind of the 13 billions of people who have ever lived.
He is one of a kind, and He alone, being God in human flesh, would qualify to die for the sins of the whole world. And if that's the only way of salvation, it was purchased by the only person who could do it. And, as He said in the garden, you remember, "Let this cup pass from me if it be possible." But it didn't pass from Him; it wasn't possible. There was no other way to atone for the sins of the whole world. Consequently, we have to bring people back to the person of Jesus.
Fabry: I'd like to talk with you about the end times as we reach "the glorious appearing." There's a big cliffhanger in book number 11 and we, of course, are not going to give away who it was who died on the last page of that book. In some ways, you say that when we talk about Armageddon, this is erroneous. We shouldn't really call it that battle, should we?
LaHaye: No, it's a series of battles. That's why I was so grateful that we were able to delineate it and to make it clear to people that the whole world is coming against Christ. I love the part where the Lord inspired us to have the big lie. You know, I saw it when I wrote my commentary on the book of Revelation a few years ago and wondered then, "What was the big lie that three frog-like spirits would go out and deceive the whole world?" And then it finally dawned on me. It's the lie of evolution that all man are just evolved and that they're all equal, and that all creatures are equal. That's where Satan gets the idea that he's equal with God. So, it was a beautiful way of conveying something that people need to understand, that it's a dangerous religious heresy --- evolution. It's going to be used in the last days to get people to come against Christ, and that's the issue: they come against the Lord Jesus Christ. And in this new book, we show Christ coming to settle that big issue.
Fabry: Yeah, and I'm wondering, you know, the Scripture that says that no one knows the hour of Jesus' coming. But these people, when they're looking for the glorious appearing, they have it down pretty much to the right day. How do you find that out?
LaHaye: The tribulation period is seven years, and when the signing of the covenant occurs, people who know the Bible and take it literally will know that, seven years later, Christ is going to come in His power and glory. Jerry does an incredible job of pulling the events, working up, up, up toward a climax. That climax is when Christ comes to do battle with Satan. The armies of the world are there because of the big lie to dethrone Him, because they honestly think that they can overcome Christ Himself --- take over the world and run it the way they want.
Fabry: It is fascinating, and it is scary as you're reading this to think about the Antichrist indwelt by Lucifer himself. There is one scene in THE GLORIOUS APPEARING where Jesus casts him out, and you see this shell of a man, the Antichrist who seems so powerful and could do so many things, left there, simply as a shell.
LaHaye: Yes, and you see that the culmination of that is that it's right at the vortex of the change where God let His Son lower Himself and become subject to death so that He could taste death for every man --- because God cannot die, so He took on this lower form. Then Satan, when he was in that form, thought he could test Him in the wilderness and give Him the kingdoms of the world if He were just to worship him, which Jesus rejected, of course. But, always there's this idea in Satan's head that he can best Christ. In THE GLORIOUS APPEARING, that issue is settled once and for all, for all eternity. That's what makes it THE most important event in the history of the world.
Fabry: As a matter of fact, as people read or before they read the book, they're gonna wonder what Jerry and Dr. LaHaye are going to have Jesus say, because there are some very specific things in Scripture that Jesus says, yet there are other things that He could say. Will He be able to speak to people? Will we hear a conversation or Jesus proclaiming something? That's a touchy subject. You really don't want to put words in Jesus' mouth, do you?
LaHaye: That's a perceptive analysis, Chris, because it is a tickly subject, but, you know, it's amazing how much the Bible has to say about that. What Jerry has done, in a masterful way, is go through and select portions of the Scripture and put words in Jesus' mouth that are legitimate because they already appear in the Bible. What he does is make it personal. One of the things that moved me so much was the fact that people came away and said, "He knows my name! He knows ME, and He's speaking directly to ME."
Fabry: As a matter of fact, people all over the world experience this as if Jesus is right there, rather than in Jerusalem. He's also seen in Illinois, where some of the people are, as well as other places.
LaHaye: You think He's even going to come to Illinois?
LaHaye:Yeah, that's a good point. And He's no respecter of persons. He loves all mankind and all those who put their faith in Him. Whatever language they speak, He understands their language.
Fabry: But, some of the imagery I wanted to ask you about. You know, some have said when it talks about horsemen or horses or weapons of warfare that they see these as maybe big helicopters or some kind of weapons that we don't even know what they are today. But, you really have horses in the desert between Petra and Jerusalem and out in that valley of Megiddo. There are real horses and people on horseback.
LaHaye: Yes, I think that when the Bible refers to a horse or a horseman, that's exactly what it means. Unless the immediate context indicates something greater than that which is referred to, we accept what is referred to.
Fabry: When Jesus speaks…this is one of the…you could have gotten really, really gruesome here, and I thought that you and Jerry walked a fine line of giving the truth and yet not making it too gross and grotesque. But when you have Jesus slaying all of these people, and the blood rising to… what is it, something like four or five feet in height?
LaHaye: Yes, up to the stirrups and the feet of the soldiers on horseback. That's been one of the dilemmas all through the years. Of course, I also added something that… there is an outpouring of ice, chunks of ice, probably a hundred pounds, maybe 75 pounds or something. When those two chemicals mix, they consequently look like… it will be a blood-like substance.
Fabry: All right. Let me just throw out some things here that I found really interesting as I went through the book. Again, we don't want to give away any of the insights and the people who have died or haven't died, but I found it really interesting when it talks about the lion or the wolf lying down with the lamb. When Jesus finally comes back and when He conquers the armies and sets up his millennial kingdom, there's going to be a change in this world that is almost back to the garden of Eden.
LaHaye: The unique thing about that is the curse will be lifted. The curse of Adam and Eve that fell upon the earth because of their sin will be lifted when Christ returns. So that means there'll be a total change in the animal kingdom, and it will introduce the most incredible period that man can imagine. In fact, as I've studied the millennium (and there's much in the Bible that talks about it), it is such a beautiful, prosperous, wonderful time. The only word that comes to mind to describe it to me is utopia. Can you imagine living in utopia for a thousand years?
This book doesn't get into the daily living of that; that will come later, but this book shows how it's introduced in the most dramatic fashion ever conceived by mankind. When Christ is no longer just tolerated or objected to or rebuked, He will be the recognized Lord of Lords, and King of Kings, and He will establish the Kingdom of Righteousness. We can hardly imagine what that will be like. You've got several children, and you know what it's like to protect your children constantly from ideological enemies. It will not be necessary. If television or a counterpart is available, it will all be governed by the King of Righteousness, and we will be there to rule and reign with Him and help to enforce those standards. It will be almost an unimaginably incredible period of time.
Fabry: And will light come from Him? In the book, that's where light emanates --- from Christ. You don't need the sun and the moon anymore. It's just Him.
LaHaye: Well, He is the light of the world, and He will culminate that, or He will make that very clear during that time that no light is necessary. The book of Revelation says that we no longer need the sun or the moon, for Christ is the light of the world.
Fabry: Now, what will people be like? I want to move away from Rayford and Buck and Chloe and all the rest, and let's just say there's a guy named Jim who sees the glorious appearing, and he goes into this millennial kingdom. Will he retain his earthly body? Will it be the same as, let's say, someone who was raptured before or someone who was martyred during the tribulation?
LaHaye: Well, there are three kinds of people in that period of time. There are the saints who were raptured at the beginning of the tribulation period --- those are the Christians. That's why we ceased using the term Christians for believers after the Rapture. In the book of Revelation, they're called saints. They're tribulation saints. They're brothers and sisters in Christ, and they fall into two categories. Those who are killed and martyred during the seven-year tribulation will go into the presence of the Lord and join with us. Then they come with us and with Christ when He comes in His power and great glory.
But the other group, and only God knows how many there will be from all over the world, will make it because the Bible says that those who endure to the end will be saved. So, some people will endure to the end, and it's those people who make up the population for the millennial kingdom. The sheep and goats judgment (Matthew 25) occurs right before the millennial kingdom is set up. The unsaved people will be cast into utter darkness forever. The only people that will go into the millennium are the Jews and the believers. But the Jews will also be believers, so you can say that all the saints, both gentiles and Jews, will go into the millennial kingdom and populate the earth.
Fabry: And as I understand it, you believe that then they will have children, or they will be able to have children, and people will have about a hundred years to decide whether or not to reject Christ.
LaHaye: Correct. The ladies listening will be thrilled to know that you can have an unlimited number of children during that thousand-year period because the curse will be removed and children will be born without labor pains. It'll just be an unimaginable, wonderful experience, and, during that time, the population will just explode. It will be beyond comprehension. I believe that the aggregate population of the world --- all the people who have ever lived, which could be as many as 13 billion or more --- will be duplicated in the millennial kingdom. Most of them will become believers in Christ so that Jesus actually will win, in the long run, the great war between Satan and Christ for the souls of man. More people will be in heaven than in hell, even though I know the Bible teaches that broad is the way that leads to destruction. I think that's referring to our time, but it does not include the millennial kingdom when an astronomical number of people will come to faith in Christ.
Fabry: Well, through that seven years of tribulation (and it's actually taken you longer than that to write these 12 books), you do see the grace of God again and again and again, even through all the horrific times of Him drawing people to Himself.
LaHaye: Well, that, Chris, is one of the clarion messages that I wrote in a book entitled THE MERCIFUL GOD OF PROPHECY because I wanted people to see that He does so many merciful things during that time of wrath. It's only seven years, and people think of it only in the light of judgment and trauma and difficulty. But just think of all of the extreme measures God goes to in bringing the gospel to people. For example, 144,000 witnesses are sealed, and they go out and preach the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit like the day of Pentecost, according to Joel 2. They reach multitudes, which no man can number. You have the two prophets who come and preach at the Wailing Wall, and then you have the three angels of mercy. One is called the angel with the everlasting gospel, and he goes to every tongue and tribe and nation. Then God sequesters the Jews in the middle of the tribulation into Petra, and we saw that beautifully portrayed in past books. It's just incredible how God calls people to Himself in that tribulation period. Then, just before it happens, in fact, in this book it describes the incredible number of Jews who look on Him whom they had pierced, and they call upon Him for salvation.
(c) Copyright, 2004. First Edition. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
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