The introduction examines the extraordinary popularity and influence of the Left Behind series in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. It explores the place of Left Behind within evangelical culture generally, and, more specifically, its appropriation and development of dispensationalism, a theology of the end-times that emerged in the mid-nineteenth century, and which has combined with traditional evangelical tenets to produce the conflicted notion of personal agency that the book seeks to interrogate and understand. This chapter traces the lineage of rapture fiction as a genre, showing how Left Behind draws upon earlier examples of the form while also radically reshaping the genre in ways that will have significant consequences for the future of rapture fiction – and rapture theology. The introduction includes an overview of the current scholarship on Left Behind and ‘rapture culture’, and offers some critical remarks on the series’ reception among scholars and academics.
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