A long time ago I wrote about “The Weird and Wacky Rise of Fundagelical Preppers,” which was about how the doom-preparation community had been taken over by fundagelical zealots fearing Rapture and Armageddon. There are some new developments to that story–but first, here are some new Rapture scares to look at!
Rapture, Rapture, Who’s Got the Rapture?
I’ll never get tired of seeing these predictions. There’s something about the naked greed and misplaced belligerence in these end-of-the-world warnings. At their core, Rapture scares are threats, pure and simple. They are warnings to existing Christians to clean up their acts and get more fervent, but they are also a threat to non-Christians about what will happen to them if they continue to laugh at and defy fundagelicals’ constant overreach.
And toxic Christians cannot get enough of these scares.
Rapture scares constitute some of the most potent threats in a Christian’s arsenal. As I’ve mentioned, I myself converted during the “88 Reasons” Rapture scare (which lasted from 1987 to roughly 1989 before simmering down), along with a boatload of other teens from my school and others in the area. We were scared shitless about the lurid descriptions of what would happen to the world before, during, and after the Rapture.
More importantly, we didn’t realize that this was just one in a very long line of similar scares.
But we soon learned that truth when the scare’s predicted date came and went. Remember that line in Men in Black about how “there’s always an Arquillian Battle Cruiser, or a Corillian Death Ray, or an intergalactic plague that is about to wipe out all life on this miserable little planet?” That’s how it is with Rapture. When one date is over, another is right along behind it. To be fundagelical is to be always, always either abjectly ashamed, blitheringly furious, or gibberingly terrified.
(There’s a reason why you normally see young people getting the most excitable about these scares, while the older Christians are a bit more measured in their response. Generally, the oldest person showing that level of sell-everything-and-buy-billboards energy is the grifter selling the scare in the first place.)
An Overview of Rapture.
I don’t know if I’ve covered exactly what fundagelicals think will happen during the Rapture, so here’s the short-and-sweet version:
There are three parts to the scare: Tribulation, Rapture, and Armageddon/the utter destruction of Earth. The Tribulation is a period of intense persecution of TRUE CHRISTIANS™ that will involve their execution by the One World Government, which will be headed by the Antichrist. The Rapture is when Jesus will magic all the saints into the air into Heaven, leaving behind their clothes and jewelry and personal effects (and everyone left behind will be soooooooo sad and it’ll be too late for them, and they’ll totally be sorry then for laughing at Rapture-enthusing Christians! Totally!). And Armageddon is the final worldwide battle, which will probably start in the Middle East, at the end of which Jesus will show up with oodles of warrior angels, defeat the Antichrist and all his forces, and then destroy the whole world. Everybody who ever lived will endure Final Judgment and get sent to their eternities in Heaven or Hell. Then the universe gets made all new, and everyone who held true to TRUE CHRISTIANITY™ will be rewarded for their obedience and sacrifice. It’ll be a giant party forever and ever and ever and everyone will get a solid gold house and an eternal feast that never ends, hooray!
Now, the exact order of Tribulation and Rapture varies considerably from Christian to Christian. Some Christians are pre-Trib, meaning they think the Rapture will happen before that great persecution. Others are mid-Trib and think it’ll happen halfway through it. Others still are post-Trib and think that Christians will face the entire persecution before that last war breaks out. And there are other types of Rapture believers beyond even these. About the only consistent thing one can say is that the later in the process a Christian thinks the Rapture will occur, the more contempt that person has for other Christians who weenie out with an earlier Rapture prediction.
Obviously, this belief is pure magical thinking–and it’s actually a very new one at that. Though the general belief can be traced to about the sixteenth century, it became vogue among a certain breed of Protestants in the nineteenth. Generally the notion’s development is attributed to John Nelson Darby and a few others.
This doctrine is still rejected by quite a few mainstream denominations. But for those who believe in it, usually they think that it’ll happen within their lifetimes. A 2010 Pew survey discovered that almost half of the Christians in the United States were “definitely” or “probably” sure that it’d happen before 2050, with white evangelicals skewing much higher on that question than other Christians did.
It’s not hard to imagine why fundagelicals are hung up on the end of the world. None of the reasons I’ve considered are really flattering to them, but as I’ve possibly mentioned before, broken systems’ adherents rarely have flattering reasons for doing much of anything. If Heaven speaks to their terror of death and their existential fear of not-being, then Rapture speaks to their terror of life and their own lessening power. The more afraid of life and the angrier the Christian is about their lessening power in modern culture, the harder that Christian seems to buy into the idea of Rapture and the more developed their fantasies are around it.
Making Rapture predictions makes toxic Christians feel very important and special, like they have secret information that the whole world desperately needs. It helps them feel like everyone outside the tribe is just plain stupid for not seeing clearly all those signs that the Christian god is sending to warn humanity of its impending doom. For those who are devastated about those signs and heartbroken about the fate of their loved ones, a Rapture scare keeps them busy and gives them something to focus on besides the religion’s back-end operations. And for the people creating these predictions, of course, are in it for the power and money they get from all the gullible sheep who don’t realize what a scam Rapture predictions really are.
Totally Reliable Signs.
Obviously the biggest recent Rapture scare was Harold Camping’s 2012 prediction, which equally obviously didn’t pan out (nor his next prediction). After that, we had megachurch pastor John Hagee and his Blood Moon Rapture Scare, which was supposed to happen on one of four specific dates between April 2014 and September 2015 (and obviously didn’t happen on any of the four predicted dates).
But remember the rule! There is always a Rapture scare in operation in fundagelical Christianity, just as there is always a new culture-war in active combat mode. Christians like that can’t get through their days without both something big to fear and something big to hate.
Smart Rapture-selling leaders avoid saying any date at all, relying on a Bible verse about no man knowing the day or the hour. Instead, they coyly tell their flocks to simply be ready at any time for anything that might happen. They certainly still enjoy speculating about the events that they think are being described in that same Bible chapter as lead-ups to the Rapture, and insisting that those signs are totally true right now so the Rapture could be literally at any second.
The signs, if you’re wondering, are: “wars and rumors of wars,” earthquakes, famine and disease, and the rise of the Antichrist. These aren’t very specific descriptions, obviously, which means that at pretty much any time at all a Christian so inclined can assign almost any natural disaster and popular liberal politician’s election as the ZOMG SIGNS OF THE END OF THE WORLD.
Back in the 1980s and 1990s, those signs were interpreted as Bill Clinton’s election and the African famine, among other things I can’t even remember now (there was something about Israel in there, but I honestly don’t recall what about it was so important). A few years ago it was 9/11 and Barack Obama’s election. The exact matches vary every time a new Rapture prediction misses.
The New Scares.
Bruce Warner, a Christian rando you’ve never heard of, was totally convinced (back in 2013) that 2016 would be the year. In fact, he insists, it was the ONLY year that could possibly work with the various predictions he thinks the Bible makes. But since 2016 came and went sans Rapture, now he thinks that it’s absolutely got to be September 23, 2017.
Indeed, this date is an emerging Rapture scare with a bunch of believers convinced that it’s the Big Day. Some Christians think that it has something to do with “Planet X,” or “Niburu,” passing by the Earth. Others lean on something they think the Book of Micah in the Bible says. Another rando evangelist you’ve never heard of, Robert Breaker, explains and gives diagrams in this video explaining this new scare. (He does not explain why all the previous diagrams and dates were incorrect, if you’re wondering. Christians completely forget all about previous scares once those dates come and go. On September 24, you can be absolutely positive that this scare’s backers will all have completely forgotten about the 23rd’s predictions as they leap onto the next ice floe.)
DIAGRAMS! HOW CAN YOU POSSIBLY ARGUE WITH HIS DIAGRAMS?!?
John Shorey is hedging his bets: he thinks it’ll be anywhere between 2012-2020. He’s a solid mid-Tribulation guy, so he’s got no shortage of vivid threats to make regarding what he thinks the Apocalypse is going to entail. He’s only got 2-1/2 years left, though, so he’s gotta be sweating by now. The last big update on his personal site was from 2014, predicting a global economic meltdown and outlining how then-President Obama was totally the Antichrist and about to begin the Tribulation against TRUE CHRISTIANS™. Boy, he must be embarrassed now considering none of that’s happened yet. Back in 2015 he had Charisma Magazine eating out of his hand, but then again, they also bought the lies peddled by that other numnuts who claimed he’d totally resurrected a dead person, so I’m not sold on their powers of discernment.
GotQuestions.org is also hedging its bets but sounds very excited about the idea of the Rapture happening in October 2017. But they aren’t 100% sold on it because they don’t think the Antichrist has shown up yet, and they think the Antichrist has to rule for at least 3-1/2 years before the Rapture happens (they’re clearly mid-Trib). (Another mid-Trib site also predicts 2017, for many of the same reasons.)
Irvin Baxter runs something he calls Endtimes Ministries. Though he’s not willing to say exactly when he thinks the Rapture or Tribulation will occur, he sure has some very specific ideas about where it’ll start. Like most white fundagelical guys, he’s positive it’ll involve the Middle East–though he narrows it down to one of the countries along the Euphrates River. He’s a post-Tribulation guy, too, so he’s way into all that Mark of the Beast and Christian-persecution bullshit, and you can probably guess just how much he hates the Affordable Care Act because he thinks that will have something to do with the Antichrist. (He’s a Oneness Pentecostal too, maybe even currently in the denomination I deconverted from! OMG I want to see his diagrams. You know he has them. You know he has whole boxes of them.)
There’s always 2018, if 2017 fails, and that year already has some backers here and here.
And Todd Strandberg of Rapture Ready thinks that we are already in the middle of the Rapture’s last days, which means that literally any second all the world’s fundagelicals could totally disappear. (WE WISH!)
And they say Christians aren’t imaginative!
The Trouble with Tribbers.
Unfortunately, all of these TRUE CHRISTIANS™ can’t possibly all be correct. They could definitely all be wrong, but they can’t all be right. And should any one of them be wrong, then the Bible is very clear about what should happen to them as false prophets who have led the sheep astray. There is no room for negotiation nor for forgiveness in that pronouncement, either. Alas, aside from a few calls for “accountability” from a few Christian writers, there is absolutely none for the broken system’s masters.
People who make false predictions of any kind, just as people who lie about miracles, know that they will never face any penalties for their dishonesty–at least from their tribemates. However, the outside world watches these so-called ambassadors of their god, and we draw conclusions regardless of how those ambassadors feel about us doing so.
Every single failed prediction (like every debunked miracle claim) is yet another reason not to trust Christians’ sales attempts. If they can’t correctly interpret their own holy book about something as important as the end of the world, then I sure don’t trust them to correctly interpret it about anything else–or trust that their religion is any kind of overarching capital-t Truth about anything.
A pity that so many Christians’ greed and control-lust overwhelm their desire to salvage their religion’s fading credibility.