August 19, 2019

iMonk Classic: Wilkerson Warns/iMonk Rants

From iMonk in March, 2009. Replayed by Chaplain Mike.

David Wilkerson (Cross and the Switchblade, Times Square Church) is predicting a world changing disaster, and advises that you dust off those cans of Spam you still have from Y2k. It’s getting serious coverage by the unhinged conservative media.

I wrote about Evangelical anxiety about the end of the world in the “Evangelical Anxieties” series in February of 07. Not only have I not changed my mind, I’m more bothered by this than ever.

If eschatology were a multiple choice question, with answers like this:

a) be Christ centered
b) proclaim the Gospel
c) do missions and evangelism
d) look forward to the new heaven and the new earth
e) be idiots

…guess what a large chunk of Evangelicalism would choose?

Evangelicals really can’t get enough of this stuff. Wilkerson- and a thousand other end times prophets like Kim CLement- have predicted similar events before. The “end of the world” section of the bookstore is only the front end of the “end of the world warehouse” that stores all the books that have been predicting the end of the world as long as evangelical authors could find a pen.

In no other area of Christian belief are Evangelicals more irresponsible and bizarrely repetitive. If doing the same thing, over and over and over again with no result, qualifies as a form of mental illness, then we can fill up an entire chain of hospitals. We’re talking about people who will take their eschatology and turn it into a VIDEO GAME here.

The Bible is obviously too simple for Evangelicals at this point. The instincts of some Christians tell them that it never can just mean what it says. So when Jesus says “no one knows, not even the Son,” or “don’t believe people who say they know,” it actually means “Oh yeah, we can know ALL about future events. Just get the right teacher with a big chart and you’re in there.”

Maybe it’s the fact that weird eschatology is the closest thing Christianity has to the kind of material that shows up on the Sci-Fi channel late at night. Bad acting. Cheap special effects. Teenagers caught having sex. Maybe rapture anxiety just plays like a bad B-movie, so Evangelicals get it.

The history of Christian apocalyticism is a story in and of itself. I recommend Jason Boyett’s Pocket Guide To The Apocalypse. Seriously. Get it. Good book with lots of humor and even more information.

I am never more envious of Catholics/Orthodox than on the subjects of evolution and eschatology. Catholics simply don’t lose their minds over this sort of thing. The catechism is calm. If the pope has anything to say about the end of the world, it must be edited out. You’d never hear Benedict going on like Tim Lahaye. (Too bad Art Bell isn’t on Christian radio.)

I’m sure Catholics and Orthodox have their hysterical eschatology committees like every other religion, and I’m sure Fr. So and So is out there in the road with a placard proclaiming the end, but you just get the impression that Catholics are in the “it will all work out” camp, and they aren’t going to get in the bunker with Ned Flanders. Have a beer. Go to a Barbeque. Don’t start screaming. No one likes a religion with people screaming.

Evangelicals don’t seem to blink when they realize that the business of various apocalyptic scenarios is making millions of dollars for people convinced it’s all about to be over. They don’t mind that the people making these prophecies either abuse, don’t use, or no longer need to use a Bible. No, from Thief in the Night to 89 Reasons Christ Will Return in 1989, we just keep on keepin’ on.

My evangelical students read Left Behind with far more interest than they read scripture. If everyone who read Left Behind read ONE other decent Christian book, a Great Awakening would arrive. My students also assume that all Christians buy into this approach to the future. I haven’t met one yet, in 17 years, that has a pastor who even sent clue one that we might not be on the verge of the great tribulation because the stock market is zonked. Judgment house. Hell house. Rapture house. We really need an amusement park to get the whole show together.

Does it occur to most Evangelicals that their brothers and sisters around the world sort of LIVE in the Apocalypse? If we have a Columbine or a Katrina, John Hagee is on TV the next night with a chart so big you can see it behind him. Meanwhile, in Sudan, it’s all just another day at the office.

Americans are afraid of the end. They are afraid of losing their life here. They don’t want II Thessalonians 1 to happen. They want to keep running up their credit cards and driving the leased SUV.

Kingdom? New world? End of old world? Resurrection? Christ all in all?

Missional hope? Reach the nations? Gospel to every people group? Bible in every language?

Don’t be bothered by earthquakes, rumors of wars, bank collapses, elections, etc?

Nah. Put in the next Left Behind movie. The one where Kirk Cameron sings “I Wish We’d All Been Ready” to Carpathia.

[Comment ideas: 1) Catholics and Orthodox are allowed one comment to make fun of evangelicals. 2) What’s your best story about Evangelicals and Apocalypse fever?]

Comments

  1. As a Catholic, I can’t throw stones – just google “Marian apparitions”. 😉

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      When Protestants flake out, it’s usually some sort of End of the World obsession.

      When Catholics flake out, it’s usually some form of “Mary Channeling”.

      • Yes, but what makes Catholics truly superior (tongue firmly in cheek here!!) is that we manage to combine the two – the most popular Marian apparitions are ALSO tied to End of the Word prophecies! Check and mate, sir! 😉 😉 😉

        • Mary wields a sword like a mighty she-bear to defend her son, maybe? 0=)

          Actually, that sounds kinda fun…in a weird, freaky supernatural thriller kinda way.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          We talking the Three Days of Darkness here?

          Or just the usual Baysider marching orders direct from Mary?

    • Love this!

  2. Clay Knick says

    This was a great post.

  3. My own best story about apocalypse fever??
    I was in high school in 1977, and my high school buddies and I were crying because the preacher at summer camp had convinced us that it was all gonna go down within the next year – – rapture, new heavens, new earth, in which “there was no more sea” per Revelation 21:1.
    We had all just learned to surf that summer, and the boogie board had just been invented for use at blackballed (no-surfboard) beaches… so… we spent the waning days of September not soul-winning the lost, but rather surfing our brains out like it was our last chance for eternity.
    (So much for “endless summer”.)

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Then do NOT read Left Behind: Volume 13, set in that “new earth in which there was no more sea.” Or anything else except rolling prairies dotted with immortal American Fifties-era “Smallvilles/Pleasantvilles” where the Resurrected endlessly tell each other about Jesus for all eternity.

      To a guy like me who grew up on Star Trek‘s “Boldly Going Wher No Man Has Gone Before”, one of those concepts of Heaven that make Hell look like a good deal. (Come to think of it, didn’t IMonk do a three-parter on misconceptions of Heaven?)

  4. No way am I going to make fun of Evangelicals when we have our own choice little selection of “The Blessed Virgin is holding back the arm of God outstretched in wrath to smite the world!!!” aficionados 🙂

    I will, however, happily link to the Crescat’s blog and her choice selection of Bad Christian Art which just *has* to be Protestant (bad Catholic art is truly dreadful but in a recognisably Catholic way):

    http://thecrescat.blogspot.com/search/label/Bad%20Art

    • Martha, I loved the comments for the one showing Jesus with the bear. I agree that the “winner” was: “When you only saw one set of footprints in the sand, that’s when I let the bear eat you.”

      That one of Jesus leaning against the motorcycle is….I don’t know…strange!

      And Chaplain Mike…thanks for running this post again. I liked it both times around. Leave it to Michael Spencer to say it like it needs to be said!

      • That’s my favourite one as well, Joanie.

        There was one of Jesus showing off a tattoo on His bicep that said “Father” on a ribbon wreathed around a heart transfixed by a cross that transfixed me (though for different reasons than the creator – or do I meant perpetrator? – intended; I *so* could see a Catholic version of that, only with “Mother” and not the cross but the traditional Sacred Heart imagery) 🙂

    • If only that priest had sold tickets for a chance at the flamethrower…alas! (That image of Jesus and Vishnu…augh! Or the Theotokos of September 11…)

      • I actually didn’t mind the Jesus and Krishna one; it was obviously an attempt by an honest pagan to fit all the holy men of the great religions into the framework of Hinduism and was meant as a sincere, if wrong-headed, compliment.

        It’s worse when we Christians should know better still insist on treating either God the Father as Santa Claus or the Ogre in the Sky; God the Son as ‘Jesus is my boyfriend’ or ‘Jesus is so tough and macho’ and completely neglecting God the Holy Spirit.

        Catholic mawkishness gets diverted off to Our Lady; lacking that safeguard, Protestants have to unleash their deep inner wells of folk religion kitsch on Our Lord.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Never mind “Jesus is my Boyfriend”, Martha.

          For an example of 21st Century Bridal Mysticism straight on the rocks, just flush money down the crapper of a Christian Dating Service sometime and read all the Christian women’s profiles. “Boyfriend” nothing — we’re talking “JESUS IS MY EDWARD CULLEN! SPARKLE! SPARKLE! SPARKLE! SQUEEEEE!”

          (Just thinking; we Romish Papists have a career path for women who want to spend their lives in prayer and contemplation and devotion; we call them “cloistered nuns”. I’m thinking a lot of these are Evangelical girls who if they were Catholic would enter the cloister; instead, they search thru deceptive advertising for a mortal ATM to support their lives of Devotions.)

  5. Does anybody know if this did indeed come to pass? [Wilkerson’s ‘prophecy’]

    • Matthew, Wilkerson’s prophecy post was written on March 7, 2009. I don’t recall any EARTH-SHATTERING CALAMITY” happening then that he said was about to happen.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        My writing partner reminded me of an earlier book-length prophecy (from the Seventies or Eighties) by Wilkerson titled The Vision and said that of all the Prophecies (TM) in that book, only ONE ever came to pass, and that one only partially. And that Wilkerson had a worse hit rate than even random chance. And that as far as he was concerned (He’d also been messed up by End TIme Prophecy Conspiracy-a-Go-Go) Wilkerson’s credibility was zero.

    • Fires in New York City, Jersey, and Connecticut? No; just massive rainstorms and flooding, and I think God said He wasn’t going that route again. 😉

  6. No mockery here either; I spent my teen years in a Catholic community that had far more than its share of end-times and Y2K adherents. (Rural Midwest; where better to hide out from the disintegration of society?) It didn’t happen and the community eventually fell apart, but I still flinch at any whiff of that sort of thing. Garabandal; 3rd Secret of Fatima (now it’s the mysterious 4th Secret…); the Three Days of Darkness; the Warning, the MIracle, and the Chastisement…it’s just fun to pretend that you know something other people don’t. And more fun to have an exciting future to look forwards to, however much you pretend to shudder; not the same-old-same-old life you’ve been living. Where’s the thrill in ‘Be Not Afraid’?

    We’re on the blog of a man facing his own personal end-of-the-world. That’s the only one any Christian should be concerned with; it’s the only one we’re certain to face.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      For you Prots out there, “The Chastisement” is Papist for “The Great Tribulation”.

      And as for “personal end-of-the-world”, that’s exactly how it was taught to me in RCIA. A lot of Rapturitis is basically The Ultimate Escape Fantasy: “God will Come and Rapture ME so I’ll Never Die! Or have anything else bad happen to ME!” As has been dissected at length over at Slacktivist, it’s a denial of the reality of death by imagining a cheap-shot escape.

      For all we know, God has a longer story to tell in His entire Cosmos — why should He abort all that just for the convenience of one generation in one country on one world who want everything to end with them so they don’t get inconvenienced?

  7. Our church had a bad case of Y2K fever. One family in particular sort of headed up all the hysteria. We’re talking sell everything you own, buy gold and a bunch of trailers to put on your property so you can “minister” to those poor fools who didn’t prepare like you did. They even had cooking lessons so you could learn how to cook all those lovely dehydrated foods you purchased in your solar oven…funny and sad all at the same time.

    • I still like the idea of solar ovens. 😉 Don’t think I’ll be using packets of seed – or needles, or matches – for barter any time soon, though.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        I still like the idea of solar ovens.

        Especially when the Sun and Moon increase brightness sevenfold, as is Prophesied in Isaiah and Left Behind, Volume 13.

        • Ladies, gentlemen, and others, you need none of you have any worries.

          The sign that the world will end will be when Ireland sinks beneath the waves. Once we go, the rest of you only have seven years left 🙂

          This is because, in order to preserve the land he loved from the horrible destruction that would be wrought (as described in Revelation), St. Patrick got a boon from God that Ireland would sink into the sea to be spared the blighting and smiting and woe and desolation.

          Since we – though waterlogged by the many rains – have not yet all gurgled our ways to a watery grave, I think ye’re okay 😉

      • Margaret Catherine, after living like mushrooms for the majority of our lives, we abhor and dread that burning fiery ball that scorches our pale skins and dazzled eyes on the rare occasions that it doesn’t rain straight through from March to August 😉

  8. 2) What’s your best story about Evangelicals and Apocalypse fever?

    Back in the 90’s I had a friend working with me, and one of these end-of-the-world scares came and went. Next day the sun came up, we were still alive, and he said, “I’m awful glad the world didn’t come to an end yesterday. I haven’t finished putting seaweed on my garden yet.”

    • I think you are a fellow Mainer, aren’t you, Ted? That comment about seaweed on the garden sounds like something a Maine gardener would say too!

      • Little Cranberry Island. Seaweed is the best mulch around and it’s free.

        My friend Tim had a dry sense of humor. Another of his classics aboard the boat was when he was eating sardines out of the can with his fingers. That was after filling bait bags. I offered him a spoon but he said, “No, I always like to eat sardines when I’m lobstering because I don’t have to wash my hands first.”

  9. When I was about 7 years old, our church showed a movie – in big church to children – where at the end a little boy got his head cut off for refusing to take the mark of the beast. They didn’t show it, but his little red balloon floated up into the air and you heard the guillotine (I have no idea how to spell that).

    I feel pretty sure that counts as a scary evangelical eschatology moment?

    • I remember seeing that movie too as a kid. Had trucks and police with UN-type markings (representing the one world government).

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Probably Thief in the Night or one of its many-many sequels. Those flicks were shown as Special Christian Movies in a lot of churches back in the Seventies and caused a lot of freakouts. Never seen the flicks myself, but have two anecdotes about them anyway:

        1) My writing partner described a “Plague of Demon Locusts” scene in one of the sequels, which we still cite for lame humor. Goes like this:
        1.1) Characters holed up in a cabin somewhere in the wilderness. Knock at the door. One character answers the door.
        1.2) As door opens, a giant rubber scorpion stinger extends SLOWLY through the doorway and nails the character in the chest. Character goes down screaming.
        1.3) Giant Rubber Scorpion Stinger then retracts SLOWLY through the doorway, closing the door after itself.
        1.4) Cut to stock footage of galloping horses’ hooves while a voice-over solemnly intones the verses from Revelation about the Demon Locust Plague. (You know, the one Hal Lindsay interpreted as “helicopter gunships armed with chemical weapons and flown by long-haird bearded Hippies”?)

        Ever since then, we’ve used the term “Giant Rubber Scorpion Stinger Scene”.

        2) Some years ago, I was watching a special on PBS about Evangelical Subculture in America. It included three clips of Thief in the Night as examples of some aspect of Christian Bizarro World. Here was my reaction to those clips, word for word:
        2.1) First clip: “THAT’S Thief in the Night? What made all those Christian kids freak out? Looks more like Manos, Hands of Fate.”
        2.2) Second clip: “Where’s Joel and the Bots when you need them?”
        2.3) Third clip: “AAAAAAAAGH! WE HAVE MOVIE SIGN!”

    • You’re remembering the third film in the Thief in the Night Series. It’s called Image of the Beast, and you can see the little boy and balloon segment in this clip on YouTube, which has the entire movie online. Your scene is in Part 10:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLeUKi8uayk

    • The scene you’re thinking of is in IMAGE OF THE BEAST, the third movie in the Thief in the Night quadrilogy. Here’s the scene (the whole film is on YouTube – this scene is in part 10):

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLeUKi8uayk

  10. This issue seems to heat up every 10-20 years. Y2K was real big, now it’s growing with the movie 2012 and fed by the recent earthquakes. Whenever someone brings it up, it is sadly an indication that the person buying into this garbage: A) Has no real understanding of world history B) Has no real knowledge of Christian history -going back more than 20 years, let alone the last millennium, and C) Usually has a crumby life that they are more than willing to give up (with the concomitant world destruction).

    I am in health care, and the quickest way to get people to stop talking this way to me is to ask them, “So if its all going to end soon, I should stop coming to work and get my act together… I guess I won’t see you on this earth any more.” Then they seem to quiet down.

  11. I’m not too big on the world view of Alduous Huxley — but he may have been right when he predicted that Western civilization would eventually become so disgusted with itself that it would start longing for its own destruction.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      And a continuing theme in most of Robert E Howard’s pulp fiction is “The Civilized Man is doomed to fall before the axe of The Barbarian.”

      Can you say “The-God is Most-Great” in Arabic?

  12. I had a Sunday school teacher when I was a kid in 1977 who pointed out that 7/7/77 had four sevens in the date and that therefore the end might come then. Even as a kid, I was a little dubious of the logic but it certainly inspired a certain amount of fear.

    “My evangelical students read Left Behind with far more interest than they read scripture. If everyone who read Left Behind read ONE other decent Christian book, a Great Awakening would arrive.”

    Amen to this comment. Books, sermons, dvds on this stuff are devoured but who wants to read or hear about theology or practical Christian living.

  13. I think I’ll dust off my DVDs of the Thief in the Night quadrilogy (A Thief in the Night, A Distant Thunder, Image of the Beast, and The Prodigal Planet) and give them a back-to-back viewing this weekend so I’ll be prepared for The End: http://www.rdfilms.com/catalog.php

    (Major blooper in the first film, where we see the “mark” on persons’ foreheads or LEFT hands).

    Surprisingly, they’re not bad films for their budgets, and some of the acting is pretty decent.

    • The first Christian song I learned in my Jesus freak days back in the early 70’s was Larry Norman’s, “I Wish We’d All Been Ready.” Sang it for many audiences in those days.

      What I really wish I had been ready for was the onslaught of bad end-times theology I lived under for the next 10-15 years.

      • Oh, I remember having that in my repertoire, though with my generation is was half because our parents listened to it and half because DC Talk covered it!

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Remember, everyone:

        Larry Norman sang that song as a Tragic Lament.
        Not a Grinning Cry of Triumph like you see so often.

      • I remember that song as well. And like HUG it was more of a lament back thn.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      (Major blooper in the first film, where we see the “mark” on persons’ foreheads or LEFT hands).

      Sure they didn’t just accidentally flip the film in post-production?

  14. My apocalyptic fever goes back to the 70’s when I first got “saved” listening to Pat Robertson. In addition to his dire predictions, I read Hal Lindsay’s, “The Late, Great Planet Earth.” Then became friends with others on the fringe who were preparing for tough times. We all bought 50 lb. bags of rice and soybeans for storage, just in case.

  15. I had a phase from about 7th-9th grade or so where I was reading everything ‘end times’ I could get my hands on (yes, that included Revelation and all the OT prophets – not just fiction). Think I just liked apocalyptic stories for awhile. At any rate, one day it just shut off. I had read up to whichever Left Behind book precedes Glorious Appearing, and just got annoyed with the ending. Also read that Hal Linsdsay book, but I read it in 2002 and pretty much cracked up when I got to the chapter on Y2K. You’d think they’d have released a new edition without that chapter when NOTHING HAPPENED. (Forgive the caps; I don’t know if html works here.)

    Story for the telling: I remember a family who was freaked out enough about the Y2K thing that they were stocking up on food & water; and they sold their house and moved into a camper somewhere.

    At any rate, for the most part, I think that “Mary channeling” and “End Times fanaticism” are equally…sad and a bit ignorant. Sometimes, I really do think the Accuser uses those things to distract us–then mocks us for it. Then tricks us again. So, while on some level, it really is funny; for the most part it just grieves my spirit.

    I thank God that, somehow, by the depths of his mercy, I was spared a lot of the deceptions that apparently permeate churches–regardless of the flavor. Don’t misunderstand; I’ve got my own struggles, my own ignorance and deception, but somehow I seem to have bypassed a lot of the junk that leaves people in the ‘evangelical wilderness,’ so to speak.

    This may be too much about me. But I think while those of us I lovingly call “the church brats” know far too well how human Christians can be–and definitely know what to laugh at–I think, on the other hand, our own disillusionment can itself be a form of deception.

    I was reading this novel where this one character, in trying to explain what he’s going to do, says to another, “Think of it as me saving you from being beaten or seduced,” referring to what Satan will do if he doesn’t go through with this.

    And I guess that’s kinda what Satan does: Allure, deceive, manipulate, strong-arm. Steal. Kill. Destroy.

    Okay, I’m done rambling.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Also read that Hal Linsdsay book, but I read it in 2002 and pretty much cracked up when I got to the chapter on Y2K. You’d think they’d have released a new edition without that chapter when NOTHING HAPPENED.

      I always liked how the Second Russian Revolution completely derailed all the detailed Prophecies and End Time Choreography about Gog & Magog. Remember that? How It Was All Prophesied that the USSR and the Cold War would continue literally until the end of time?

      And Hal “Here Comes the Antichrist” Lindsay’s reaction was actually pretty Soviet — completely deny he ever said Gog & Magog could only be Russia and the Warsaw Pact. Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia, Comrades.

      • I do, to an extent. I was 18 in 2002, so bear with me. 0=) Um….Russian bears…

        Anyway. It’s been forever, and I don’t think I have the book anymore. Really, the frustrating part about end times doctrine is most of it sounds the same, ultimately. Personally, I think when it happens, it won’t look anything like the speculations. I doubt Satan’s stupid enough to make the mark of the beast something so totally obvious as what everyone is thinking of.

        Then, he was stupid enough to defy God, I suppose….

      • Actually, HUG, those prophecies on Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 38 and 39) can still be interpreted as being about Russia and a coalition of Muslim nations launching an attack on the Holy Land. The end of the Cold War changed nothing, except perhaps the motivation for such an attack. I agree, however, that Hal Lindsey’s speculation gets awfully silly and completely destroys his credibility.

        • Russia or China. Those are the two big ones I normally hear…

          • I think China is generally associated with the “Kings of the East” of Revelation 16:12, though with the plural kings it’s obviously one of multiple nations.

  16. And I guess that’s kinda what Satan does: Allure, deceive, manipulate, strong-arm. Steal. Kill. Destroy.

    Though those last three words are quite often used with reference to Satan as being “the thief” of John chapter 10 verse 10, in their context Jesus was referring to all the hireling-like bad shepherds who had come before Him (10:8).

    So perhaps the ones who in fact do the stealing, killing and destroying are the pastors who mislead their flock with bad and evil eschatological preaching and false prophetic warnings.

    • I won’t contest that. (Yes, I looked it up just now.) But since Scripture does make Satan out as the Adversary and Accuser, I suppose the description, in my mind, can run both ways. Please don’t mistake me, though – There’s a reason we’re warned about being too hasty to teach. Anyone who teaches the Word of God should do so with fear and trembling. (And I have to do something to keep my own vindictive streak in check. If that means turning wrath to sorrow, so be it.)

  17. Outside of the sheer hilarity of bad end-times films on TBN (pure comedy, people!), I gotta say my favorite little quip comes from my pastor. On her office door she has a bumper sticker that reads, “In case of rapture, can I have your car?”

  18. I won’t make fun of Evangelicals either. But, ironically, it was my instinctive rejection of that kind of eschatology and my personal inclination toward amillennialism that helped me into the Catholic Church.

    Another thing that helps keep me grounded is a recording of a “Mass for the End of Time” . It came out about 1000 AD

    • Thanks, Anna. Until I read your comment, I had not heard of that Mass. But I found the CD for sale, gave it a listen, and bought it.

  19. If I can ask a serious question, do “experts” have differing opinions as to whether an actual physical rapture is supposed to occur? Is this supposed to be symbolic, or are the laws of physics suddenly going to change and some of our actual material bodies fly upwards?

    I am struggling with the entire concept.

    • Sort of. Some say there is no rapture, that that isn’t what the passage is referring to. But I haven’t studied the subject in enough time that someone else will have to give you the specifics. I think it’s the same group (in general) who doesn’t believe in a literal thousand-year reign of Jesus before the world gets destroyed and remade, but I could be wrong. I don’t remember it being a huge number of people, but there’s enough frustration with eschatology that it could be gaining momentum.

      Course, some don’t think there’s an exact 7-year tribulation period, either.

      But regardless of the ‘rapture’ concept and all its manifestations, I do think there is a resurrection of the dead, which would include our physical bodies. (I’m trying to distinguish the ‘rapture’ from ‘the resurrection of the dead. I might not succeed.) How it happens, I have no idea and figure God Almighty can figure that one out.

      At any rate, that was a bunny-trail answer to your question: Yes, there are differing opinions on the rapture. Some are just…louder…than others.

    • Here’s a nice visual aid: http://www.solagroup.org/articles/endtimes/et_0019.html

      And a more detailed version, but not as visually pleasing: http://www.fivesolas.com/esc_chrt.htm

      Hope that helps.

      Honestly, I think the only important part is that Scripture does teach the resurrection of the dead at the end. The rest we just like to argue about. 0=)

    • Dan Allison says

      Read “Surprised by Hope” by NT Wright. That should help.

  20. As you may know, Revelation is the one book of Scripture us Orthodox never read from in the Church–i.e. it’s not in any lectionary and never read from during our liturgies. Perhaps this is why.

    But it’s no reason to cast stones at our brothers and sisters in Christ. We have some very crazy beliefs coming from our ascetic tradition such as aerial toll-houses:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aerial_toll_house

    We also argue about extremely important things such as “do we commemorate this saint you’ve never heard of today or this one you’ve also never heard of?” The “New Calendar” and toll-houses are examples of instant argument problems in our midst which give us no right to cast any stones.

    In any case, peace be with you!

  21. >e) be idiots

    Ouch…

    Sad, many churches do seem to be missing the mark. Learning from Christ and then obeying all that He taught is the only way to not miss the mark.

  22. What a rant. Brillant. Keep up the good work, just watch the amount of bile.
    I remember the Late Great Planet Earth stuff and I was living in Tasmania (a large island south of the Australian mainland) and I belonged to a Christian Brethren Church were this stuff was regarded as the epitome of orthodoxy. To question it, as I did, was tantamount to commiting heresy. That’s what happened to me. I became a persona non grata. I read Augustine’s City of God, esp the last 3 books of it, and developed unbeknown to me, the amilliannial view of things.

    I’ll trawl through some more of your blog. Don’t get a big head though. My blog is a little different, dealing with contemplative spirituality in the suburbs of Melbourne.

  23. Sometime after writing this post originally (’07) Michael found out that clips of Estus Pirkle’s film The Burning Hell were on YouTube. When I was a kid, I had a pastor that was actually involved in making this film. (Pirkle once dressed a manikin as the Grim Reaper and left it in his closet.) You can watch The Burning Hell in its entirety on YouTube, and other Estus Pirkle programs as well. The kind of churches I grew up in was all about this stuff.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      I think there’s a Bad Movie website somewhere that has a page dedicated specifically to Estus Pirkle films. Like he was the Ed Wood of Christpolitation flicks or something.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      P.S. Just go onto YouTube, do a search on “Estus Pirkle”, and keep a bucket of brain bleach handy.

      My writing partner is still out to get me for sending him the YouTube link to Pirkle’s “Believer’s Heaven”. It’s the first thing that comes up on the YouTube search.

  24. “Lord of the World” is probably the most enjoyable christian end-times story I’ve read. It’s freely available on the net (out of copyright). The future world, as envisioned from 1908, is quite fun.

    From Wikipedia:

    Lord of the World is a 1908 apocalyptic novel by Robert Hugh Benson. It is sometimes deemed one of the first modern dystopias. In purpose, however, it is somewhat more similar to the recent Left Behind series, though different in theology and radically superior in artistic quality. Michael D. O’Brien’s Catholic apocalyptic series, Children of the Last Days follows a very similar theme as well.

  25. I did not read very many posts but suffice to say, the joke is in being naïve to think we are invulnerable to all things, outside of Christ’s return. The planet Earth does not have infinite resources by any stretch of the imagination, e.g. oil, water, food, air. If to think otherwise is to be foolish and deserving of the consequences; we will know shortly, the ones who will be around in the next 20 – 40 years.

  26. You’re too late to suggest turning eschatology into a video. It’s been done. Several times. And a few years ago I was in a bookstore selling everything that Christianity is marketing nowadays, amazed to discover a “Left Behind” board game that appeared to play much like Monopoly, except here one could determine with a roll of the dice whether or not he would be raptured or “left behind”….

    • FollowerOfHim says

      Speechless.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Not surprised at all.
        More like “here we go again”.
        Another Christian (TM) knockoff, a day late and a dollar short.

        Anybody else wonder when we’ll ever be the ones to start the trend instead of knock it off?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Sounds like a Christian boardgame called “Revelations” that popped up and sank in Christian bookstores during the first flush of D&D (and was marketed to Christians as “a Wholesome alternative” to “games all about Dungeons and Demons and the Occult”). Actually tracked down a copy around 1980; only way I can describe it was “Milton Bradley does Jack Chick”.

      Just out of curiosity, Jim, what were the dice odds (on D6s, presumably) about “Raptured” or “Left Behind (TM)”?

  27. This is one issue that helped me toward Lutheranism.

  28. It’s a little funny that many of these issues stem from the perception that pastor’s/teacher’s, etc. are highly autonomous in their churches. The people have relegated power that is truly only supposed to be given to the work of the Spirit in the midst of the community of faith, which breaks down the divisions and categories of people which had previously been so powerful.
    If discipleship was a core ethic, many of these teacher’s would not sway toward developing an uber-eschatological reading of the text, based purely on a worldview which is disconnected from actual people. I always wonder how Wilkerson, who was compelled to go to NYC from rural Pennsylvania to minister to youth on the street, who had been rejected by the church and greater society, can be so focused on the destruction of the world?
    I can only think that the greater body of Times Square Church has allowed one person (Wilkerson) to read, interpret, and teach the Scriptures. As Hauerwas says, “The first thing that needs to be done is to get the Bible out of the hands of individual, North American Christians and get it back to being interpreted within the context of the community.”

  29. Unfortunately, I think more than ever Christians need to understand eschatology, but not in a ‘Left Behind’ or “Thief in the Night” sort of hysteria, but in a more academic, historical sense. Otherwise, fear is going to blind us so that we can be pwned by the powerful and manipulative. Christians in their hysteria may actually be used as a tool to empower anti-christian forces – not necessarily THE anti-christ. It is interesting that when the anti-christ appears, he will even entice the elect. In other words, there will be those who think they are fending off the an ti-christ and hastening the return of Christ by actually aligning themselves with the anti-christ. Absurd? Consider that Christians actually voted for Hitler, because he opposed the dreaded communists and supported “family values”.

    I am wondering why Obama quoted a radical like Joachim di Fiore several times during the presidential campaign. Joachim’s eschatology was opposed to Augustine’s, is quite similar to modern dispensationalism, and was very critical of church authority. Given the Obama administration’s frustration with the Catholic church’s criticism of its social policies, it seems natural that he would find an ally in anyone critical of the papacy. The administration could easily tap into dispensational end-times hysteria (i.e. the Catholic church is the whore of Babylon) to dupe them into joining in his opposition against the Pope’s criticism of his social agenda. He doesn’t have to say, But that’s how it works. You can think you are so wise because you have tapped into secret knowledge of hidden things, such as the end times, and savvy, unscrupulous, will-to-power folks will use that secret knowledge to turn you into a pawn to support their own schemes.

    • Speaking of Joachim, here’s an excerpt regarding the kinds of end-time prophecies which his enthusiasts were floating:

      http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08406c.htm

      “Another blow was given to the movement when the fatal year 1260 came, and nothing happened. “After Frederick II died who was Emperor,” writes Fra Salimbene of Parma, “and the year 1260 passed, I entirely laid aside this doctrine, and I am disposed henceforth to believe nothing save what I see.”

  30. Anyone remember the guy who wrote the 88 Reasons the Rapture Will Occur in 1988 pamphlet?

    While he was getting his 15 minutes of fame, everyone was wondering if the Rapture really would occur that fall…I remember walking down the street, waiting and looking for some combination of:

    1. An EXTREMELY LOUD trumpet announcing the Rapture

    2. The eastern sky to peel back like a scroll

    3. A 500-mile-high Jesus to appear in the east, above Jerusalem but because He’s Jesus and He’d have to be 500-miles tall, everyone in America would see Him, too

    4. Me to soil my pants when all that went down and I saw myself speeding towards heaven at a million miles an hour. Between that and the trumpet the Rapture didn’t quite fill me with a sense of peace and anticipation 🙂

    • FollowerOfHim says

      Ah. Finally someone mentions this one. Being of a mathematical turn of mind as a teen, I found this particular pamphlet interesting at the time. Its original contribution, as I recall, was that “no man knows the day nor hour” left open the possibility that one could at least narrow things down to, say, a 3-day span (September 11, 12, or 13? — I forget).

      My own slow journey away from this sort of nonsense began here, I think. I realized that if the Rapture were to actually occur on the 13th, then you’d know by the 12th, and hence would know the exact day after all. So it must be either the 12th or the 11th. Proceed by induction.

      Of course, further changes in my perspective were more theological than mathematical in nature. Then again, I do think that there was one other, non-theological dimension that always impresses itself on the teenaged mind:

      “Jesus is coming soon!” = “You’ll never get to have sex!”

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Anyone remember the guy who wrote the 88 Reasons the Rapture Will Occur in 1988 pamphlet?

      You mean the same guy that followed that up the next year with “89 Reasons the Rapture WILL Occur in 1989!”?

      That fiasco was what finally cured my writing partner (the burned-out country preacher) of what’s now called Left Behind Fever.

      And 1988 was also the year I stopped having End Time Prophecy flashbacks like a Nam vet. (Gospel According to Hal Lindsay and all that in the Seventies.) I still cannot look out of a kitchen window at the sky at a certain angle, but that’s about the only lasting damage.

      • You are too hilarious.

        Keep posting, at least until my glasses are thicker than coke bottle and I need a touch screen in braille.

        regards,
        #John

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          And there was another side effect of Whisenhaunt’s “88 Reasons” book.

          According to Cerulean Sanctum, most all the student body of a Christian Bible College near him rushed headlong into marriage in early 1988, trying to beat Whisenhaunt’s Rapture Date. He wondered how many of those marriages survived.

  31. In C.S. Lewis’ imaginary discourse with George Macdonald in heaven, found in “The Great Divorce”, the following analysis is given:

    “There have been men before now who got so interested in proving the existence of God that they came to care nothing for God Himself…as if the good Lord had nothhing to do but exist! There have been some who were so occupied in spreading Christianity that they never gave a thought to Christ.”

    I see the same thing in end-times hysteria; the focus on the return of Christ eventually has nothing to do with Christ Himself. Considering all the money LaHaye and Hagee are making off of the end times, Christ’s return would ruin their racket. They’re like modern-day grand inquisitors.

    The more I read C.S. Lewis, the more I understand the whole concept of “Mere Christianity”. In “Screwtape Letters”, he expounds on mere Christianity, that it is NOT Christianity AND politics, or Christianity AND moralism, or Christianity AND…(insert your favorite clarifier, cause or hang-up here). Whenever Christianity is followed by an “AND”, whatever follows it eventually becomes the focus. I think that is what has happened: Christianity AND end-times has become an obsession with end-times.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      “There have been men before now who got so interested in proving the existence of God that they came to care nothing for God Himself…as if the good Lord had nothhing to do but exist!”

      This is the sort of thing that backs and powers Flood Geology, Search for Noah’s Ark, etc. The idea of finding some Absolute Proof of God, some Absolute Proof of Biblical Truth that they can rub in everyone else’s face. “SEE? SEE? I WAS RIGHT ALL ALONG! I’M RIGHT! YOU’RE WRONG! SEE? SEE? SEE?”

      During the Thirty Years War, Fr von Spee pointed out a similar attitude when he blew the whistle on the Witch Hunts convulsing war-torn Central Europe at the time: “There MUST be Witches! If no Witches, then no Devil! If no Devil, then no God! So There MUST be Witches!”

  32. Greg (the other Greg this time) says

    Someone earlier mentioned Wilkerson’s book ‘The Vision’. I have that and immediately thought of it. He says that he has only had 2 visions (at that time), one in 1958 about gangs, and the other in 1973 (‘The Vision’ was published in 1974). He says in the second vision he saw things that were to happen very soon, with just a ‘few short good years’ to prepare (he says the vision is ‘a little hazy a decade out’ – I guess 37 years out must still be very soon). Some of the things he saw were a rush to the country, where any land within 100 miles of a major city would only be affordable to ‘syndicates’; mass famines, even in the US; hailstone of ‘unbelievable proportions’ will fall on the US (that will smash automobiles); widespread epidemics; the rise of a ‘superchurch’ (which, of course will be headed by the Pope), complete with nude dancing; widespreach persecution of true Christians (led, of course by that superchurch); a flood of filth and immorality (okay, so he got one right); and of course the usually end-time staples: one-world government, one-world monetary system, invisible numbers implanted on the hand and forehead to buy or sell, etc.

    I don’t mean to be dismissive, or doubt Wilkerson’s sincerity, but other than the usual end-time staples, and the pretty outlanding predictions (land within 100 miles of major cities unaffordable and hailstones smashing cars), most of the economic, social, and moral ‘predictions’ he makes were trends that were well underway in 1973! (And Francis Schaeffer’s ‘How Now Shall We Live?’, written shortly thereafter, is much more prophetic, accurate, and well-informed.) And given the sense of urgency in Wilkerson’s ‘vision’ (the cover says ‘A terrifying prophecy of DOOMSDAY that is happening now!’), one would think that all these things would have happened by now.

    I guess my point is: why do people continue to believe (and buy stuff) from discredited self-appointed ‘prophets’?

    • ” the rise of a ’superchurch’ (which, of course will be headed by the Pope), complete with nude dancing”

      Yet further proof that liturgical dance is of the Devil! I knew it! 😉

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Though nude dancing would be a LOT more lively than the attempts at Liturgical Dance (TM) I’ve seen. Probably pack ’em in more than twice a year…

        • I find that imagining the liturgical dancers as nude actually helps me survive the event and stay semi-conscious. Imagining the grandma as nude takes particular effort and almost always leaves me in a sweat.

          regards,
          #John

    • I guess my point is: why do people continue to believe (and buy stuff) from discredited self-appointed ‘prophets’?

      Because no one in the groups that think this way discredits such discredited self-appointed ‘prophets.’

      Look at how long, e.g., Mike Bickle and IHOP, etc., have been running their train. Sure, some passengers get off, but enough stay on and enough new ones come on-board to keep the thing going and going and going and going and going….

    • I guess my point is: why do people continue to believe (and buy stuff) from discredited self-appointed ‘prophets’?

      Or why do people continue to believe that a bunch of men in funny hats and clothes can turn bread and wine into God’s flesh and blood by saying some hocus-pocus words over it?

      There’s no end to what people will fall for or fall into or stay stuck in.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Some of the things he saw were a rush to the country, where any land within 100 miles of a major city would only be affordable to ’syndicates’; mass famines, even in the US; hailstone of ‘unbelievable proportions’ will fall on the US (that will smash automobiles); widespread epidemics; the rise of a ’superchurch’ (which, of course will be headed by the Pope), complete with nude dancing; widespreach persecution of true Christians (led, of course by that superchurch); a flood of filth and immorality (okay, so he got one right); and of course the usually end-time staples: one-world government, one-world monetary system, invisible numbers implanted on the hand and forehead to buy or sell, etc.

      Like I said, my writing partner read The Vision and gave Wilkerson a hit rate of near zero. Actually worse than the Celebrity Psychic Predictions for the New Year you read in the supermarket tabloids every January.

      Widespread Presecution of the True Church (i.e. Me) led by that false One World Superchurch (The Catholics), One World fill-in-the-blank, Invisible Mark on Forehead and Right Hand — where have we heard all this before?

      The “within 100 miles of a city” sounds like he was channelling John Todd as well as Hal Lindsay. Though nowadays (according to what I hear on Art Bell at 4 Ayem) it’s “within one tankful of gas from any city or Interstate”.

  33. Hi, I’m an evangelical who doesn’t go for that lame LaHaye style pseudo-eschatology. Just so you know, we do exist!
    By the way, did you also notice that the majority of rapture fiction also revolves around the idea that America will save the world? I’m Canadian, so I’ve always been amused by the USA-centric plot lines in these books and movies. (If you want a perfect example, watch Meggido: The Omega Code 2 (Link to wiki description here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Megiddo_%28film%29)
    Funny, but I never noticed the Bible saying anything about the great USA saving the world from the Antichrist… must have missed it somehow. 🙂

    But what am I doing posting here? All those religious comic strips from the 80’s proved that the Pope was in league with the Antichrist… 😉

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Correction on that link, Natasha: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Megiddo:_The_Omega_Code_2.

      There’s also the climactic scene (starting when the main character’s brother shapeshifts into Satan and the sun goes black and moon red) on YouTube, but I don’t know the URL. Go to YouTube and do a search on “Megiddo” or “Omega Code 2”; that should bring it up.

      Funny, but I never noticed the Bible saying anything about the great USA saving the world from the Antichrist… must have missed it somehow.

      Then don’t read Left Behind: Volume 13, where the New Heavens and the New Earth are just one long American Midwest of rolling prairies and Eternal Fifties “Pleasantvilles”. Fifties USA Without End, Amen. (And I’m snarking this as an aficionado of the Nifty Fifties. It was NOT the Godly Golden Age of American Evangelical myth.)

      But what am I doing posting here? All those religious comic strips from the 80’s proved that the Pope was in league with the Antichrist…

      That one’s been a regular since Luther nailed his piece up on the door in Wittenburg. Probably started as wartime propaganda in the Reformation Wars.

      The Treaty of Westphalia ended the Reformation Wars in 1648, and you’d be amazed how many STILL haven’t gotten the word.

      • Wittenberg. 🙂

        HUG:

        Did you really read 13 volumes of LEFT BEHIND? That alone should shorten your stay in purgatory by millennia. I read the first one just to please a family member, and a worse example of writing I have rarely come across. (Though a long time ago I read THIS PRESENT DARKNESS – at a friend’s urging – and recall having a similar low opinion.)

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Actually, no. A blogger called Slacktivist has been dissecting the series page-by-page (he’s on Volume 2 of 22 now), and the comment threads have included a LOT of spoilers.

          I agree about This Present Darkness; though Peretti DID invent an original genre combination (the Seen and Unseen worlds reacting, and how mortals are only conscious of the Seen), his first few novels are pretty bad. If TPD is the one I think it is, he builds up his Big Bad (the Demon Prince of Babylon) for the whole book only to trivially defeat him at the end with an “I rebuke thee in the Name of…”. You do NOT build up a major villain only to take him out like a red shirt.

          I later head that Peretti is the type of writer who needs a strong editor to keep him on focus, and he didn’t have one for the early part of his career.

        • “Did you really read 13 volumes of LEFT BEHIND? That alone should shorten your stay in purgatory by millennia.”

          I would have called that the “definition” of purgatory. 😉

  34. This thread brings back lots of memories. I remember seeing “The Late Great Planet Earth” in 7th grade and being ABSOLUTELY convinced that I would not make it to 8th grade. And I was bummed because I really wanted to grow up and get married (and have sex like someone mentioned) and have kids.

    God does not give us a spirit of fear, yet the way the “end times” are presented inspire fear in many Christians. There’s a healthy fear (read ‘respect’), and there’s an unhealthy fear. And where there is unhealthy fear, people try to alleviate their fear by controlling the uncontrollable, e.g., claiming they know exactly how things are going to play out. Like trying to predict exact dates or making movies like Left Behind.

  35. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    This thread brings back lots of memories. I remember seeing “The Late Great Planet Earth” in 7th grade and being ABSOLUTELY convinced that I would not make it to 8th grade.

    With me it was in high school. And I spent the next 15-20 years of my life in a holding pattern. Because when “The World Ends Tomorrow and It’s All Gonna Burn”, you’re not going to make plans for the future or dare great things. Add the lip-smacking Great Tribulation and Hellfire and Damnation into the mix and you’ve got one case of End Times PTSD — I didn’t stop having flashbacks like a Nam vet until 1988. It’s why these days I go so fangs-out against any End Time Prophecy know-it-alls.

    Who will restore those years the End Time Prophecy Locusts have eaten?