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If We’re Still Here, It Didn’t Happen

On June 6, 2006, or 06-06-06, some booksellers laid out empty clothes on the floors of their shops. Some sold Left Behind series paperbacks for $6.66. At Tyndale House, plans had been in the works for years to launch a new hardcover in the apocalyptic fiction line and to make creative use of the number 666, famously linked to the Antichrist.

Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins’s 15th Left Behind book, and next-to-last in the series, "The Rapture: In the Twinkling of an Eye, Countdown to the Earth's Last Days," hit the bookshelves June 6. It ends a prequel trilogy and leads directly back into the original book, 1995’s "Left Behind: A Novel of the Earth's Last Days."

Cheryl Kerwin, Left Behind marketing manager at Tyndale, said a lot of people were asking, "'Why did you choose 666 [to release the book]? Do you know what that means?’ Yeah, we do." But, she said, the Bible states that no one knows the day or the hour of the rapture, when Christians are to be taken into heaven bodily before the second coming of Christ, “so we’re just having a little fun.”

The first book focused on the characters who had been “left behind,” but the new one follows characters that have been raptured, LaHaye said. “No one has ever portrayed the rapture from the inside out,” he said. “It’s a thrilling, thrilling story.” Most people do not realize the rapture could happen any day, LaHaye noted, while the “glorious appearing” of Christ cannot take place until seven years after that.

A remake of the movie "The Omen," about a child destined to be the Antichrist, also released Tuesday. The original film was one inspiration for Left Behind, but was “almost totally unscriptural,” LaHaye said. “It’s a typical attempt by Hollywood to dramatize the spiritual.”

LaHaye said he hopes for success in his lawsuit to recover the Left Behind film rights (Jenkins is not a party to the suit). LaHaye was disappointed in the quality of what he calls the “Mickey Mouse video” series, which stars Kirk Cameron. “Kurt Cameron’s a neat guy. He’s the best thing to happen to the movie,” LaHaye said. “I think the Christian community deserves a quality movie, commensurate with the quality of the books.”

The last Left Behind book is a series sequel, due out in Spring 2007 and covering 1,000 years of utopia on Earth after Christ’s return. LaHaye and Jenkins already have moved on to another Christian fiction series with Putnam Praise. The Chronicles of Jesus is a set of four novels about each of the authors of the four gospels. LaHaye said the first book, coming out in November, will be about John and is entitled "The Last Eyewitness."