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  • Alternate Character Interpretation:
    • Rayford Steele: Relatable everyman and stand-up guy? Or self-important Jerkass?
    • Buck Williams: Competent reporter with great writing charisma? Or lazy bum who barely reports?
    • Hattie Durham: Provocative woman who deserved her fate? Or sympathetic victim?
    • Irene Steele: Loving, caring Christian who only wants the best for her family? Or selfish, self-righteous fanatic who gets antsy when people don't believe in what she believes?
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    • The Other Light members: Deluded fools who want Satan to defeat God, helpless pawns of fate since they are prophesied to do that (and lose), or heroic freedom fighters?
  • Angst? What Angst?: You'd think that the complete eradication of all kids under the age of ten would at the very least be a bit depressing, but people seem to take it in stride. Given how much disruption this would have on the global population, this approaches Cosy Catastrophe levels.
  • Anti-Climax Boss: The epic, awe-inspiring final battle between the Legions of Hell and the armies of the Lord in Kingdom Come, the world-shaking clash that the series has spent sixteen books building up to, can be measured in seconds, with a quite literal case of Deus ex Machina: Jesus arrives and annihilates Satan and his forces in seconds. The Book of Revelation that LaHaye and Jenkins are modeling their story on explicitly notes a final rout in Heaven's favor, and the entire series spends a lot of time beating readers over the head with the fact that the actions of everyone, good and evil alike, are proceeding according to God's will.
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  • Critic-Proof: While the series has received mixed to mediocre reviews at best in the mainstream media, it is also extremely successful commercially, with some 80 million copies sold as of the author's death in 2016 and all of the books still in print.
  • Cry for the Devil: Lucifer-Satan can invoke this reaction from some readers, depending on how much of an Unreliable Expositor one reads him as. (It's he who tells his own story, after all, and he is famously the Father of Lies. But most of what he says here agrees with traditional Christian theology, so those bits at least are probably meant to be taken as true.) As it goes, his rebellion against God was a revolt against God's decree that the angels should be a Servant Race for humanity for all eternity. Lucifer thought the angels should be free, and that even God had no right to force servitude on them — and that made him question the legitimacy of God's entire order of things. While he gets plenty of Kick the Dog moments throughout the series (Tim LaHaye probably didn't want to risk repeating Milton's mistake of accidentally writing him as too sympathetic), his backstory and motives can tend to make him at least somewhat tragic.
    Lucifer-Satan: He said he had created humans in his own image and that we were to serve them. Had I been there first, I could have told him that I had created him, and that it was he who would serve me by ministering to my other creations. (...) He called himself the creator God, the originator of life. He took the favored position. He demanded that the whole universe worship and obey him. I had the audacity to ask why.
  • Designated Hero:
    • Buck and Rayford. Most of their behaviour goes beyond even the standards of a Sociopathic Hero. Even when they're not being violent, holier-than-thou jerks, they are utterly failing to accomplish anything heroic - even when they both have cushy jobs working for Carpathia, i.e. the ideal position to sabotage his whole operation. When the literal Antichrist both offers them jobs, they immediately take him up on his offer because, uh... it was God's will that they do so? Sure, they probably both assumed that Carpathia would promptly have them executed if they said no, but then again, this is obviously a sign of resisting temptation at incredible odds, and both of them know for a fact that God is real and they will at the very least go to Heaven for being His faithful servants. The only reason that the forces of good win in the end is because the resolution is preordained. Buck and Rayford ultimately contribute nothing to the Lord's Victory beyond mildly annoying Carpathia a few times when they're in a position to do serious damage to him. One could argue they're supposed to be newly-converted Antiheroes, but this doesn't hold up since they never do anything for anybody.

      Buck more specifically is supposed to be a fearless Intrepid Reporter. What's the first thing he does when he has factual evidence of a global conspiracy that killed his close friend? Run straight to the guy in charge and agree to squash his story in exchange for a bribe. You know your "hero" has problems when in any other book, his actions would be those of a low-level henchman who gets disposed of by the bad guy when he gets too big for his britches. The only reason Carpathia doesn't just kill him anyway and keep it silent in that manner seems to be that God (or more accurately, the authors) is keeping Buck safe.
    • The story treats the Tribulation Force like they're some kind of heroic resistance movement against Carpathia's regime. Their track record consists of one assassination attempt in seven years, and, rather than using their high-ranking positions to sabotage Carpathia's organization from on high, they spend most of the time pulling pranks on Carpathia and disrupting his television feed.
    • Jesus himself. After all, everything that is happening to the Earth during the Rapture and the Tribulation is directly caused by him opening up seals in Heaven, everything including the rise of the Antichrist.
  • Ending Fatigue: The last several books of the Left Behind series suffer from this problem. After the Antichrist comes back from the dead, kills people with fiery pillars from the sky, and desecrates the Temple in Jerusalem, there just isn't anything more evil for him to do. And that's Book Eight of a 13-book series (not counting the three prequels). It doesn't help that anyone who will read that particular series through Book Eight already knows the ending (spoiler: Satan loses) and is just slogging along to see exactly how they're going to get there.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: A unique case: Outside of the target audience, any character with a significant fanbase arguably stands out.
    • The sleepy drunk executive from chapter one is described with genuine fondness by the Slacktivist blog, mostly for actually having a sane reaction to the Event.
    • T. Mark Delanty from books 5/6/7 is also notable for two reasons. One, he called Rayford out on being a total jerkass and got the man to admit he was wrong. Two, he's one of the few people in the books who actually comes off as genuinely good.
    • Jonathan Stonagal, a supporting antagonist who doesn't survive the first book, is surprisingly widely regarded as having had a great deal of wasted potential. It doesn't hurt that in the film adaptation, his character is actually played up something fierce, to the point that he comes off as a serious contender for the "Antichrist" position.
    • Loretta, the only person at the church seen to get things done while Bruce the pastor builds a hole in the ground to hide in with only his "inner circle."
    • Cendrillon Jospin. For a Posthumous Character who only exists as an example of a good person who goes to Hell anyway due to not being a believer, she sure shows up a lot in fanfics.
  • Fan Nickname:
    • Some readers have made a running joke on Slacktivist of referring to Carpathia as "Nicky (insert mountain/mountain range name here)"; recently, a new nickname, Chairface Carpathia, seems to have caught on. Buck, the Greatest Investigative Reporter of All Time, is called the GIRAT. The authors (LaHaye and Jenkins) are often abbreviated to "Ellenjay".
    • "Meta-(character)" is frequently used by the same community used to describe any character who seems to be showing signs of behaving like an actual human being in the actual situation they are currently in. This title often confers a sort of temporary Ensemble Dark Horse status as well.
  • First Installment Wins: The first book is the best-selling and most famous, as well as the one the whole series ended up being named after.
  • Ho Yay: Given what branch of Christianity is responsible for this series, we are talking very, very unintentional. The proliferation of names like Steele, Buck, and Plank doesn't help.
  • Just Here for Godzilla: Epic demon armies and plagues wracking the Earth? Skip to those and ignore the unsympathetic characters.
  • Misaimed Fandom: One common complaint against the Left Behind series by secularists is that the bloody divine judgments against the evil atheists (which, to be fair, are taken straight from the Bible) can be read as a sort of revenge fantasy on the part of Christians for alleged or real oppression by the atheists in real life. In fact, according to the authors, some readers do seem to read it that way. However, they go on to say that this is a misunderstanding of what they are trying to present. To them, it's an immense tragedy when untold millions of people are smitten or condemned to Hell, and we are supposed to consider their fates with charity and empathy. In an interview, co-author Jerry Jenkins says it "should break our hearts" when people misread his and LaHaye's books that way.
  • Moral Event Horizon: Nicolae crosses this when he was still a child by conspiring with Viv Ivins to kill his mother. Although to the rest of the world, this crossing the horizon happens when Nicolae Carpathia desecrates the Jewish Temple and demands total worship of himself at all times.
  • Narm:
    • Quite a bit of it, but Carpathia's speech to the U.N. stands out, considering it's essentially a 4th grader's class report on what the U.N. is, followed by an alphabetical list of the nations that are members. One possible interpretation is that this is an Intended Audience Reaction, to emphasize his supernatural ability to win people over. He could read the entire contents of a telephone book to the assembled people of the U.N. and they would still be falling on their faces for him. Problem is, if that's the case then it still fails since you get the impression that the authors intended the speech to be good.
      • You know it's bad when one of the people in the comments section is able to write a more convincing version off the top of their head (written by one Calum Cameron).note .
    • People are raptured without their clothes — thus, the raptured leave behind piles of empty clothing. So the first sign of the end of the world was a field of underpants.
    • In the Book of Revelation, the Two Witnesses are said to destroy any who threaten them with fire from their mouths. When they show up in this series, people who threaten them... collapse dead from heart attacks. The antifans have taken to calling them "the Trip-and-Fall Guys".
    • The first book features a pretty genuinely scary moment where a pregnant woman having an ultrasound together with her husband see their baby disappear from her womb. The scene could have left it there and wound up with some decent Nightmare Fuel — but the wind completely goes out of it when the wife immediately afterwards proceeds to tell her husband she's divorcing him.
    • The handshake in the second film. There's a strange shrieking sound, coupled with CGI seeming to pinch at Carpathia's lower cheeks, and coloring his eyes straight black. All it amounts to is a jump scare with a red-tinted negative effect, and some sloppy editing that looks jarringly out of place.
    • In the final book ("Kingdom Come"), dinner in the Millennial Kingdom consists of "a steaming pile of produce". Most readers probably didn't expect "produce" to be the final word in that sentence.
  • Newer Than They Think: The doctrine of the Rapture as presented in the series really only came into being two centuries ago at most.
  • Nightmare Fuel:
    • The description of the final fate of Carpathia and Fortunato after 1,000 years in the Lake of Fire (writhing in torment in fire and brimstone and continuously crying "Jesus is Lord" over and over) with the understanding that they will spend eternity like that, not to mention all the unbelievers who are doomed to join them.
    • When Steele had a handshake with Carpathia. You don't want to see the latter's face.
  • Padding: For those with Bile Fascination looking for a cheesy book to enjoy, they're usually shocked at how much nothing goes on, especially some of the middle books.
  • Periphery Demographic: Many — if not most — of the books' readers were just mainstream agnostic Americans looking for a good supernatural thriller, like The Stand or The Langoliers. The first book even has a very similar setup to The Langoliers, where people on an airplane awakening to find many passengers missing. Furthermore, according to the research the publisher, Tyndale House, carried out to identify their target audience, the books were actually more popular with Jews, atheists and agnostics than mainline Protestants.
  • The Problem With Licensed Videogames: Left Behind: Eternal Forces is so bad that people who sincerely love the books think it's awful. Let that one sink in for a bit.
  • Rooting for the Empire: Many readers of the series see the heroes as complete jerkasses, God as a psychopath and Nicolae as, at worst, an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain.
  • The Scrappy: While it's arguable that many if not all the characters are this, the absolute hated character appears in the first book. He's a medical doctor who helps Buck mend his wounds since he's bored and has nothing to do. He says this while he's at an airport that's filled with burning wreckage and suffering victims.
  • So Bad, It's Good: Considered this by many people.
  • Spiritual Adaptation: Avengers: Endgame, of all things, comes across as a surprisingly close adaptation of the series, and it's certainly better than any of the actual movie adaptations, if nothing else because it actually explores what it would be like to live in a world where literally half the population disappeared overnight - the only difference being that in Endgame, it's the villain and not the hero who was responsible for the sudden population loss. The movie even has a similar ending to the last book: after bringing all the slain heroes back from the dead, a bearded, self-sacricifing hero character wipes out the enemy's entire army in a single move.
  • Strawman Has a Point:
    • This is a problem with the series of books, as noted in the Slacktivist blog deconstructing it. The main heroes are such jerks that many of the people with whom they argue come off looking much better by comparison. For example, in the first chapter, a drunk Texan wakes up and sees the carnage wrought by the Rapture (plane crashes, etc). He is mocked as a silly drunk by the narrators, but he is the only one to express any sort of horror at the proceedings. In the next book, we are clearly supposed to cheer for the alleged hero as he is insubordinate to his boss — whose main crime seems to be being a woman who does not fawn over him and expects him to do his job.
    • Verna Zee is constantly presented as a no-fun, uppity woman who thinks Buck is a pompous Jerkass. And she's right.
    • The "heroes" are supposed to be callous to the suffering at this point, as they have not been "saved" and are still unrepentant sinners. The problem is, even after they are saved and supposedly become model Christians, they still consider others' suffering to be a minor inconvenience. The only notes of genuine regret or contrition come from the supposedly un-saved.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: Done right, a story set during a Rapture-like event could have been quite potent character-driven Religious Horror, if the plot, the premise, and its implications were well-thought-out and the characters were sympathetic; see The Rapture for one example. Unfortunately, none of that is the case. Examples of Fix Fic, both intentional and not, include:
    • The blog "Right Behind" takes some of the lingering queries about the world of Left Behind and explores the implications of the setting to their logical conclusion.
    • The HBO series The Leftovers also begins with a sizable population of Earth spontaneously disappearing. The series won critical acclaim for realistically delving into the ways society would try to cope with the trauma such an event would cause.
    • A 4chan quest appropriately titled Left Beyond, which takes the last 100 years of the Millennial Kingdom and attempts to build a scenario in which The Other Light fight back through Awesomeness by Analysis - given the significant time span, what starts off as a semi-realistic scenario ends with a Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot or two.
    • As the Spiritual Adaptation entry shows, Avengers: Endgame not only fairly closely follows the plot, but does an infinitely better job of showing the consequences of a large percentage of the population vanishing (especially the emotional reactions of the people who don't vanish, which is particularly noteworthy considering it takes place in a superhero action movie).
  • Too Bleak, Stopped Caring:
    • Both "sides" in the series have exactly the same goals and use pretty much the same methods. On top of that, everything that happens is part of God's plan, and as such, the characters have no free will and nothing they do at any point in the series makes any difference whatsoever. Put this together and it's really rather difficult to root for them.
    • The fact that thanks to massive Values Dissonance, God and Satan Are Both Jerks, and like their minions have nearly the exact same goals: Nicolae wants to kill everyone who doesn't worship him, as does Jesus. Nicolae wants to take over the world and establish a one-world religion comprising people who worship him. Jesus also wants this (and gets this in the 13th book in the series, Kingdom Come). The only difference between the two is power-levels, and it is a massive difference. Jesus is really powerful, while Nicolae is an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain. Rather than choosing Jesus out of moral conviction, it seems quite likely that anybody who joins the "good" side after the Rapture is simply joining the side that cannot lose, which is hardly proof of virtue.
  • Unintentionally Sympathetic:
    • Verna Zee is intended as something of a Butt-Monkey, a shrieking harpy who dislikes Buck whom Buck in turn stands up to and puts her in her place. However, given Buck's opinion of himself and Verna's motivation seeming to simply get him to do his job, Buck's treatment of her can seem rather unjustified and awful.
    • Carpathia himself to a degree, despite being the Big Bad and the Antichrist. Early in the story he comes across as, at worst, a Well-Intentioned Extremist with emphasis on the "Well Intentioned". A lot of the main cast do a lot of judging of him internally, but given that the judgement has more to do with who he is than with the actions he takes, it can come across as unfair. Even when he's been established as possessing vast amounts of power and evil, we rarely see him succeed at anything at least not without cost. Add to the fact, that at least once in every book we get a scene where the heroes get to play petty pranks on him without repercussions; like when he's desecrating the temple and about to give his big speech to the world that he is god, they just hack his camera and turn off the audio to humiliate him. Or when New Babylon is plunged into darkness, Rayford amuses himself by staying out of sight and taunting Carpathia from the darkness. Newly resurrected and fully possessed by Satan, and David is allowed to vomit on him without being torn apart by Nicolae's followers. Even God gets in on the act, and causes all the GC planes to collapse in a horrific pile when they are giving an airshow in his honor.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic: Irene Steele. '"Can you imagine, Rafe," she exulted. "Jesus coming back to get us before we die?"' She says this knowing that Rayford isn't all that religious a person. It's supposed to show how good a Christian she is, but it just makes her seem like she's trying to show off her faith to feel better than people who don't believe. She seems like the kind of person who says grace in a really loud tone of voice whenever she's at a restaurant just so she can feel superior to the other people there, who either don't say grace at all or do it in a reasonable tone of voice (or even say it silently). When Chloe is planning to go off to college on a scholarship and Irene is adamant that she stay and go to church with her (to the point of threatening to have Ray force Chloe into the car to go,) this is supposed to be a demonstration of Irene's care for her daughter and Chloe's ungratefulness. It comes across as Irene having no respect for her daughter's intelligence and growing independence.
  • Values Dissonance: The books are written with a particular religious demographic in mind as their intended readership. It has a very particular set of values, which are not necessarily widely shared outside of it. Even within American evangelical Christianity it's far from mainstream.
    • The Antichrist being the child of two gay men would seem like accidental Unfortunate Implications, but is actually an aversion, since those supposedly unintentional Unfortunate Implications were in fact fully intended. However, other things, such as God smiting the unbelievers and torturing them in hell for eternity simply for being ignorant or wanting to support global peace, tends to imply that God Is Evil, which was not the author's intention.
    • The implication that God Is Evil also comes from his tendency to torture people for eternity on purely religious (and not moral) grounds. Furthermore, since everything in the book is supposedly predestined, none of the people condemned to Hell had any choice in the matter. Depending on how much slack you want to give on His Omniscient Morality License, the series's version of God could range from being an anti-hero to a full-out The Bad Guy Wins. Not that the authors believe that, of course, although 4chan apparently does.
    • And then there's everything dealing with Israel and the Jews. The bits that make sense are all kinds of horrible.
    • Our hero Buck blackmails a woman with the threat of outing her as a lesbian if she reveals certain information that she has, and that she legitimately feels the public has the right to know. His wife Chloe, who used to be a realistic, fairly nice woman before she was 'saved', laughs about the blackmail. The scene plays out exactly like the opening to a standard smear campaign to harass a woman out of her position: Buck brings up, out of nowhere, "Well, what if I go around telling everyone you're a lesbian? How will you like that?" It's not even clear initially that she is a lesbian, since her response is simply to panic at the idea he's going to start spreading the rumor (not that this stops him from taking this as "proof"). Later Buck takes over her office and, when she comes in to demand to know what he's doing, he attempts to kick the door into her face. These are all treated as great heroic actions in the books, and also totally hilarious, even more than blackmailing her.
    • The blackmail plotline itself reveals even more Values Dissonance between the writers and a large chunk of contemporary society, namely that blackmailing someone about being a lesbian would even work. Even in the mid-1990s, when the series started publishing, most professionals could live openly gay without fear of damaging their careers. A journalist in Boston (which is largely liberal) would almost certainly have nothing to fear. This is even more true in modern times. Today, trying to maliciously out one's superior would ruin your career.
    • Rayford seems to consider himself a hero for refusing to ride on a bus from his plane to O'Hare Terminal, even though this requires him to walk around plane wrecks and ignore the dead and wounded inside.
    • Buck discovers an International Conspiracy after it murders his close friend, and then runs right to the head of that conspiracy and trades silence for his life. In reality, brave journalists risk their own lives to expose much smaller crimes and conspiracies. Also in reality, the head of such conspiracies don't take kindly to people trying to play them, and would more likely shoot him AND get his silence just so that they don't have to worry about him asking for more. This one is actually somewhat acknowledged in the second book; Carpathia realized that Buck was such a corrupt pushover that all it would take to get the famous journalist working for him directly (and helping legitimize his lies) was to ask nicely.
  • The Woobie: Krystall, Nicolae's secretary. She comes across as a nice and kind young woman, who used to believe in Nicolae but became disillusioned with his regime when she saw up close how evil it was. So even though she isn't a Christian, and is suffering and scared in the Judgment of Darkness, she still risks her own life to help Rayford and the others, and in fact ends up killed by the regime because of this. However, since Krystall had already accepted the Mark of the Beast before, she is still damned to Hell nonetheless no matter what she does. She sounds rather pitiable when she talks about this with Rayford.
    Krystall: So the statute of limitations ran out on me when I made the big choice.
    Rayford: Well, then for sure. Maybe even before that. Who knows the mind of God?
    Krystall: I'm starting to, sir.
    Rayford: How's that?
    Krystall: This hurts. It hurts worse than the pain from the darkness. Just learned it too late, I guess, that you don't mess with God.

For the 2000-2005 Cloud Ten Pictures films:

For the 2014 film: