SAN DIEGO (BP) — Tim LaHaye, author of the bestselling Left Behind novels who helped stir a national interest in end-times prophecy, died today (July 25) of a stroke. He was 90.
In addition to his end-times novels, LaHaye was a pastor, evangelical leader and author of more than 60 other books with 14 million copies in print on topics ranging from family life and sexuality to secular humanism and God’s will, according to an obituary from Tim LaHaye Ministries.
The 16-book Left Behind series, co-authored with Jerry Jenkins, was released beginning in 1995 and sold more than 80 million copies, popularizing a stripe of end-times theology known as dispensational premillennialism or dispensationalism.
Among other doctrines, dispensationalism teaches that Jesus’ second coming will be preceded by a “rapture” of the church and a period of “tribulation” on earth. Following the second coming, Christ will reign with His people on earth for a thousand years — the “millennium” — before establishing a new heaven and new earth, according to dispensationalism.
Other versions of end-times theology disagree on the timing of the rapture and the millennium relative to Christ’s second coming.
Paige Patterson, himself a dispensationalist and author of the volume on Revelation in B&H’s New American Commentary series, told Baptist Press LaHaye “enriched my life.”
“News of the transfer of Tim LaHaye to his heavenly home is the record of a faithful servant of Christ inheriting the promise of our Lord,” said Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. “A long, full life of faithfulness to Jesus in the pastorate, in schools and in the public square highlight the way all of us should live. His example together with [his wife] Bev focus on the importance of biblical marriage and inspires us all. I will miss his low key but steel commitment to all that is holy.”
The initial “Left Behind” book twice was made into a movie, once in 2000 starring Kirk Cameron and once in 2014 starring Nicholas Cage.
Barry Creamer, president of Criswell College in Dallas, noted LaHaye’s advocacy of dispensationalism, part of the college’s heritage, and expressed thankfulness for his founding of educational institutions like San Diego Christian College and two accredited Christian high schools.
“Recognizing our debt to great leaders from previous generations, we are grateful to Dr. LaHaye for the fact that his advocacy for dispensationalism stemmed from his commitment to biblical inerrancy and a conservative hermeneutic, commitments reflected in Criswell College’s own doctrinal statement and administrative practice,” Creamer said in written comments.
“While probably best known lately for his Left Behind series, Dr. LaHaye’s roles as a pastor, as an organizer and connector for ministries, and as a founder and supporter of institutions of secondary and higher Christian education also tie him closely to the purpose and values of Criswell College and its founder, W.A. Criswell,” Creamer said.
LaHaye pastored churches in South Carolina and Minnesota prior to a 25-year pastorate at Scott Memorial Baptist Church in San Diego, one campus of which became Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif.
David Jeremiah, a BP columnist and the church’s current pastor, called LaHaye “one of the most godly men I have ever known.”
“Tim’s ministry will continue for many years through the books he wrote, the organizations he founded and the people that he influenced,” Jeremiah told Christianity Today. “But I will miss him when I look out from my pulpit next Sunday.”
In the 1970s, LaHaye encouraged the late Jerry Falwell Sr. to establish the Moral Majority to advocate traditional family values in the public square, according to Tim LaHaye Ministries. Falwell called the Left Behind series’ impact “probably greater than any other book in modern times, outside the Bible,” according to TIME.
Beverly LaHaye, his wife of 69 years, founded Concerned Women for America in 1979, a conservative public policy advocacy organization for women. The LaHayes — co-hosts of a radio show and later a TV program called “The LaHayes on Family” and co-authors of the 1976 book “The Act of Marriage” — were dubbed “the Christian power couple” by TIME in 2005.
Some Southern Baptist leaders paid tribute to LaHaye on Twitter. Among them, GuideStone Financial Resources President O.S. Hawkins tweeted, “Dr. Tim LaHaye has entered heaven today. ‘How the mighty have fallen in the MIDST of the battle’ 2 Sam 1:25. We are still in the battle!” Former Southern Baptist Convention President Jerry Vines tweeted, “Just read where Tim LaHaye passed away. He was 90. Great man and special friend. Well done, good and faithful servant.”
In addition to his wife, LaHaye is survived by four children, nine grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren.