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"Write out of love, write out of instinct, write out of reason. But always for money."
Louis Untermeyer

The Mark: The Beast Rules the World

By Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins
Tyndale House Publishers, 381 pp, 2000

All right, Iíll freely admit it. I am hooked on the wildly popular Left Behind series. Theyíre good books, all page-turners. Lots of action, lots of preachiní, and interesting, though at times shallow and minor, characters all make for a fine series. The Mark, , though, seems to drag. Not much happens. Itís still an entertaining read, but with 381 pages, you would think LaHaye and Jenkins would get more accomplished. Instead, we receive some minor action, lots of preachiní, and yet another cliffhanger ending. It seems like they are trying to drag this series out, trying to squeeze every last dollar out of each book. Thereís nothing wrong with that, of course, but it can be a bit trying on the readerís patience. I mean, it seems like weíve been at the three-and-a-half years mark of the Tribulation the past three or four books. Letís pick up the pace.

The series has been quite controversial among Christians, particularly among those who believe LaHaye and Jenkins are all wrong in their interpretation of Revelation and the end times. The book of Revelation itself, as well as other prophetic books such as Daniel and Ezekiel, has been the subject of endless debate since it first appeared. The question comes down to two basic philosophies of reading the Bible. Should the Scriptures be read literally or symbolically? Does Genesis refer to six actual days, or do the days symbolize eons of time? Is Noahís Flood a real event or a morality myth? Does Revelation really mean what it says of wrath and judgment and marks of the beast and the antichrist, or does it symbolize the Churchís early persecution by the Romans? Well-meaning, sincere Christians differ on these and several other questions.

Myself, I tend toward the literal approach, unless the context makes clear that a passage is symbolic. After all, if certain parts of the Bible are merely symbolic and not really true, how does one discern between the real and the fake? Say the Flood didnít happen. What about Moses and the Exodus? Elijahís ascent into heaven? The virgin birth? Are these unlikely and miraculous events also symbolic? Why not?

I think the Bible should be taken literally, but that still leaves Revelation and the end times open to different theories and interpretations. In the end, though, the manner or order that the world ends, and in whatever way Christ returns, matters not so much but that Christians are prepared for it. Thatís most important. In the meantime, letís debate the Scripture and have fun doing it.

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