I feel his pain.
I was terrified of the Rapture as a kid. The Christianity of my youth was full of Rapture and Tribulation theology, with the Antichrist rising up to take over the world and desecrate the Temple, judgments pouring out and seas boiling and scorpions tormenting, all culminating on the triumphant return of Christ himself with a sword proceeding from his mouth to slaughter the wicked.
And me, the confused little preacher’s kid, who got “saved” at age 6 but soon realized that his faith was hollow and empty, but didn’t dare admit this to a soul—I believed the Rapture was coming, and that if it did I probably wouldn’t go. And I was terrified.
Our family attended a dramatization of the book of Revelation, and one scene consisted only of “sinners” cast into the Lake of Fire, coming on stage in gunny-sack robes and screaming in agony as they “burned” in stage-flames. I had a front-row seat. I was terrified.
When I was 13, my dad received this booklet in the mail. We all had a good laugh—after all, no one can know when the Rapture will come, so this guy was clearly a crackpot. But still, the rapture itself was real, and the Tribulation to follow it. I read the pamphlet cover to cover and soaked in every word about the Nuclear Winter that awaited the unbelievers left behind. The pamphlet assured me that if I didn’t get saved before the Rapture, then my reward for surviving these horrors would surely be the fires of hell. And I was terrified.
I had more than one Rapture scare growing up, where I found myself all alone and wondered if I’d been left behind. It sounds so silly now, but it was a real thing. I spent many years in quiet religious terror.
So when a new wave of Rapture crackpottery hits, be it the campy “A Thief in the Night” film series in the 70s, or Jenkins and LaHaye’s atrocious Left Behind novels, or the circus surrounding Camping’s new prediction for this weekend past, I have myself a good laugh…but I also remember that Rapture terror is a real thing, and that many, many children are trapped in it.
So Rapture-mongers don’t just get me laughing. They also get me angry. I am angry because of the ugly exceptionalism and perversion of God’s love inherent in the message of a chosen few saved from fiery wrath. I am angry because of the bondage of fear under which they place millions of people, especially children. I was that child. I resonate with anger and grief when when Yeshua says “but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”