Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye have brought the Tribulation to life for kids in their Left Behind series that follows the lives of four teens that were left on earth following the rapture.
The books tie into the original series by having the lives of the kids intertwine with those of the original Left Behind books. For example, Judd Thompson, a 16-year-old, ran away from home with a stolen credit card and ended up on the flight with Captain Raymond Steele. Another connection was that 12-year-old Ryan Daley’s friendship with Steele’s son Raymond. Raymond was among those taken during the rapture.
I enjoyed the character of Vicki Byrne, the 14-year-old rebel. She was annoyed when her parents and little sister became Christians. She thought she was too clever to buy into that stuff. She also thought their faith was too cult-like and that the whole family was “idiots” when she heard her brother has started attending church too. But she admitted that her parents’ faith changed them.
I won’t spoil the details on where the kids were when the rapture happened but all the kids lose their parents and some other family members. I will note that when Lionel Washington discovered his family gone he immediately knew what happened. The 13-year-old had regularly gone to church with his parents but never accepted Jesus. This says a lot about the theology behind the book. It showed that you could know about Jesus, who he was and what he taught but unless you do something about it – specifically give your life to him – you will be left behind. This fits with what Jesus said in Luke 13:25-30.
I also want to warn young readers that Ryan’s experience was tragic. His parents were not Christian but his best friend, Raymie was. So he was familiar with the rapture story. Unfortunately for Ryan, his dad died when one of the planes went down and his mother was involved in an car accident on the night of the rapture, so he was left completely alone.
The book ended, or the series begins, as the four kids find themselves at New Hope Village Church with a pastor who was also left behind. The pastor explained how to get right with God and there is a lot of theology here: We are sinners, we can’t earn our way to heaven, the rapture kicks off a tumultuous time but there will still be souls saved, and a little about the prayer to say to receive Jesus.
Given the fear of losing parents that younger kids naturally have I wouldn’t recommend this book for any child under 10 years. While one of the goals of the authors is no doubt to have children seriously consider the consequences of not getting right with God, I hesitate to scare younger children into believing before they are ready to understand what a life with Jesus entails.