Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins have sold 42 million books by fictionalizing the Biblical End Times in the Left Behind series. But this fall their Christian publisher, Tyndale House, launched a rival series directly challenging the premise that born-again Christians will be "raptured" into heaven while those "left behind" face the anti-Christ during the Apocalypse. LaHaye was not amused when Tyndale asked him to debate his new competition, Christian-radio host Hank Hanegraaff, as a promotion. Hanegraaff's novel, The Last Disciple, argues that the Book of Revelation describes the persecution of 1st century Christians under Nero, not some future tribulation of nonbelievers. "A lot of Christians have been hoodwinked into this amillennial viewpoint," says LaHaye. "I'm not going to promote that flawed theory."
Hanegraaff, known as the Bible Answer Man, counters that the Left Behind books are part of a trend toward sensationalism and "script torture" of the Bible. "There is a lot of hysteria because of the Left Behind books," he says. Tyndale decided to offer the alternate viewpoint after talking to biblical scholars. "We think debate is healthy in the church and will help both series," says publisher Ron Beers. The Last Disciple, one of three books planned by Hanegraaff and his co-author, Sigmund Brouwer, has sold 50,000 copies in six weeks (vs. 85,000 for Left Behind in its first year). But LaHaye says he isn't worried. He plans to deliver the four books he owes Tyndale and let readers decide how this story ends.