If you’ve never read the Left Behind books, it seems to defy explanation how audiences can be sustained through 15 installments (12 for the main series). THE RAPTURE marks the third novel to explain what was going on right before the Christians were suddenly taken into heaven. Ten years ago, when I read LEFT BEHIND, I was skeptical but then fell in love with the characters. With each new volume my fascination only increased, and now with the 15th book, it’s like settling into a comfortable chair and picking up a conversation that was stopped months earlier (when THE REGIME released). Each novel weaves threads of several different stories going on at the same time, which always creates a page-turner for the reader.
THE RAPTURE reveals the distinctions between the Christians and the non-believers. Rayford Steele, a Pan-Continental Airlines captain, is deliberately spending his time on the golf course instead of going to church with his family. His wife Irene and young son Raymie increase their love of Christ yet regularly conflict with Rayford about spiritual issues. While Rayford never has an affair with Hattie Durham, the flight attendant, he certainly “arranges” to drive Hattie home and spend time with her away from his family.
Nicolae Carpathia continues to increase his connection to the spirit world, and he grows in his political power as a member of the lower house of Parliament in Bucharest, Romania, to become the President of his country.
Toward the end of THE RAPTURE, the Christians are called to heaven. Through the eyes of Raymie and Irene, readers experience the joy and excitement of watching the life work of key figures of the modern church such as Ken Taylor, translator of THE LIVING BIBLE; Dr. Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ; and William Franklin Graham, better known as Billy Graham. They also see key figures from the New Testament such as Mary, mother of Jesus, John and Paul.
Cameron “Buck” Williams, the senior writer for Global Weekly magazine, creates another thread of the plot, which is followed throughout the novel. A familiar character from previous Left Behind books, Buck is on the 747 traveling across the ocean to London where Rayford is the senior captain and Hattie is the senior flight attendant. The lives of these three characters intersect when the Christians are called to heaven during this flight. Their clothes remain in their seats but their bodies are gone, which causes chaos to erupt on the plane.
Abdullah “Smitty” Ababneh, a fighter pilot in the Royal Jordanian Air Force, is another key character carried from THE REGIME. Smitty’s nominal faith in Islam is in stark contrast to his ex-wife, Yasmine, who has become a Christian.
Like a fine tapestry, the final pages of THE RAPTURE draw the characters right to the moments of the opening of the first book in the Left Behind series written more than 10 years ago. Whether you are returning to this series and reading about familiar characters, or meeting them for the first time, THE RAPTURE is a well-done story that you will not want to miss.
Reviewed by W. Terry Whalin on June 1, 2006