The entire history of the Rapture
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First, some business:
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And now, the entire history of the Rapture.
13.7 billion years ago to 7,000 years ago
The concept of the Rapture did not exist yet because the universe did not exist yet, according to professional astrophysicists like Kirk Cameron, Ken Ham, and Abeka Books. It’s important to listen to academics.
6,000 years ago to 3,500 years ago
The concept of the Rapture did not exist yet because no one had ever written any of the Bible, unless you believe the biblical scholars who claim many parts of the Hebrew texts are similar to older works from Babylon and elsewhere, but since when do we listen to academics?
3,500 years ago to 2,000 years ago
The concept of the Rapture, the idea that the resurrected Jesus will spontaneously launch/evaporate/teleport a certain group of people away from Earth, did not exist yet because Jesus had not yet died, let alone resurrected.
1,990 years ago to 190 years ago
The concept of the Rapture did not exist, though the concept of the Second Coming certainly did. According to the records within the gospels, Jesus said he’ll return to Earth. Paul taught that Jesus will return to Earth. Revelation depicts Jesus returning to Earth to overthrow earthly empires and establish the Kingdom of God on an Earth made new. Throughout, the common hope was mass resurrection on a liberated Earth.
To be clear, the idea that the Good Ending of Christianity is to leave Earth and rematerialize in a celestial mega-cathedral playground full of golden ponies and winged guitarists and everlasting gobstoppers is not what Jesus taught. Since you don’t believe me, because I’m telling you a Sunday school teacher named either Dave or Tony was wrong, CTRL+F the Bible for “ask Jesus into your heart by saying the correct Evangelical words and/or start filling out the lengthy Catholic checklist so that you can fly away to Heaven, O glory, after your body dies.”
Thanks for checking. Since the point is not to selfishly evacuate Earth, but to remake it into a place where all orphans are safe, all captives are liberated, and all immigrants are housed, the Rapture would in fact be the Bad Ending of Christianity, the ultimate failure. (Unless getting rid of everyone who votes against welcoming immigrants ended up making space for immigrants. Ok, maybe the Rapture is biblical.) (Apologies for the Hell Is a World Without You spoilers.)
190 years ago to 50 years ago
Holy shit, it’s the concept of the Rapture. Around 1833, an English man invented it. Since when do we listen to English men?
To be fair, there were a few (and we’ve really gotta emphasize the fuck out of few) influential Christians before John Nelson Darby who taught similar concepts, but thanks to his time spent recovering from an 1827 horse-riding injury, he’s the one who set into motion the Rapture concept we know and love today, the belief that Good Christians will suddenly be levitated/transmogrified/yoinked elsewhere and then seven years of Antichrist Stuff will happen and then there’ll be Big Armageddon and then a thousand years of Pleasant Intermission and then Bigger Armageddon and then the Good Ending while all the Other People are kept alive forever just so they can burn in unfathomable pain hahaha awesome yayyy.
This is the version taught by Jimmy Swaggart, Robert Jeffress, J. Dwight Pentecost, Tim LaHaye, J. Vernon McGee, Perry Stone, Chuck Smith, Hal Lindsey, Jack Van Impe, Chuck Missler, Grant Jeffrey, Thomas Ice, David Jeremiah, John F. MacArthur, and John Hagee. (Goddamn, what a gruesome crew. It’s like reading the Monstars’ roster. List via Wikipedia.)
50 years ago to 28 years ago
One guy from that nightmare blunt rotation, Hal Lindsey, wrote a book since declared the best-selling “non-fiction” book of the 1970s: The Late Great Planet Earth. It spawned a film version voiced by a confused Orson Welles. (Readers of Hell Is a World Without You already know all this and more.)
Lindsey juuust about mainstreamed the concept of the Rapture while also helping to fuel the Jesus Movement, a nationwide hippie-coded trend that included the advent of Christian rock, the launch of several Charismatic groups, and the emergence of the Evangelical-Industrial Complex, an alternative pop-culture world of stuff created by Christians for Christians to share with non-Christians in hopes that non-Christians will become Christians who’ll buy stuff created by Christians for Christians.
That market, nearly completely invisible to the average normie and opaque to even many kinds of Christians, would generate heaps of well-contained money, but also accidentally propel supposed HERETIC APOSTATES like Amy Grant, Kirk Franklin, DC Talk, and Switchfoot onto the radars of normies. (Again, Hell Is a World Without You readers knew all this and then some.)
Within this market were also shitloads of Rapture-panic novels (yes, way before Left Behind — remind me to tell you about Larry Burkett), other books, movies, websites, seminars, televangelism specials, songs, and so on. If you don’t flinch at the sight of the following link, then you were not outside (at certain church camps):
Rapture-panic merch kept racking up money thanks to the incoming year 2000, a year with a round number, the kind of number that has always freaked people out because zeroes look like potholes in which you might sprain your ankle. These Rapture profiteers kept jumping each other in line, trying to predict earlier and earlier Raptures (1988 was very popular, for reasons having to do with botching made-up math derived from a wildly navel-gazey misreading of the Book of Daniel), but they had to be careful, because whiffing on too many Rapture predictions could risk selling fewer $59 audiotapes about how to avoid missing the Rapture. (The true pros could brick one and then bounce back like a QB after an INT. Pat Robertson missed Rapture bets in 1982 and 2007, but kept reaping money until he missed the Rapture by dying. 🐐)
Meanwhile, normies were aware of HERETIC APOSTATES like Jars of Clay, Sixpence None the Richer, and MxPx, but normies did not know about the bulging deluge of Rapture books bursting forth from America’s hall closets, minivans, and Zondervans. Most of you have never even seen the word “Zondervan” before and probably can’t guess what it means! How sheltered you’ve been! Until this very minute, you didn’t even know Sixpence was a Christian band! Buy my novel.
28 years ago to today
In 1995, the long-simmering (but not that long) concept of the Rapture finally burbled into normie consciousness, thanks to the release of the first Left Behind novel. The eventual 16-book series about Antichrist Stuff and Various Armageddons would sell 80 million copies, according to 2016 articles written about co-author Tim LaHaye, who’d just missed the Rapture by dying.
Oh, and the LBEU would include a 40-book YA series (podcasted about its hideousness), three Kirk Cameron movies, one Nicolas Cage movie, one Kevin Sorbo movie, a 2016 spinoff movie I’d forgotten about until right now, a graphic novel, and a PC game:
I wish you could see the look on your face right now. You thought there were maybe like five Left Behind books and maybe like two movies, and now you’ve learned there was even a PC game. Wait, did I say “a” PC game? There were four PC games. Look at your face! Buy my novel.
Around 2009, we hit the modern peak of Rapture panic. Why? Well, there are many factors to consider, but actually only one: America’s new president was a Black person.
For centuries, Christians have accused people of being “the Antichrist,” a figure composed of various biblical concepts written centuries apart, some of them about jerks who have been decomposing for millennia now. (You know the “mark of the beast,” 666, the vewy scawy number that the bad people will make us get tattooed on our foreheads or injected via vaccines, which will somehow turn us into Satan’s prisoners in God’s Hell despite Jesus never saying anything about any symbols gaining any magical properties by being displayed in any ways? The scawy number is from Revelation, a book about how much the literal Roman Empire sucked. The number likely refers to a literal Roman figure who was alive at the time, possibly the emperor Nero. Also, in one early manuscript, the number was 616, which can also refer to Nero. Eek! Two vewy scawy numbers!)
Lutherans, Catholics, the Ottoman Empire, Napoleon, Gorbachev, Reagan, the European Union, various Clintons, etc. etc. etc. have been accused of being Antichrists. To quote a pastor I know very well because I invented him: How’d that turn out? Are you scared of Ottomans? (Yes, to be fair, all of those groups have done numerous things antithetical to the gospel preached by Jesus. Yes, even Lutherans, who sometimes go a few hours without thanking God for Culver’s. But none of those groups rebuilt the Temple in Jerusalem and assembled all the nation’s armies for war and impregnated a hot flight attendant, some of the key Antichrist Stuff predicted by Rapture guys. Left Behind contributed the last one.)
But for whatever mysterious reason (racism), Barack Obama set off Antichrist alarms like nobody else had since World War II. He then failed to morph into an aquatic kaiju or make literal war against a literal Jesus literally riding a horse, instead handing the White House to his successor according to normal rules. (Obama’s successor has since attempted to seize eternal power while fitting supposed Antichrist predictions pretty closely, but Donald Trump can’t possibly be the Antichrist. After all, he waved around an inverted Bible that one time.)