THE BEGINNING OF THE END

June 14, 2009

It was 4:09 p.m. on Thursday, August 14, 2003.  It started with a blip.  Lights flickered and then went out, and in a few hours it was dark from New York to Cleveland to Detroit and into southern Canada.  The late-August front cover of Newsweek magazine labeled the event, BLACKOUT OF 2003.  Thankfully, the 55 million North Americans who were affected took it quite well.  Looting was minimal and no one died.

This new series of articles called is about another blackout!  It is a spiritual blackout which is now occurring within Christianity and concerns the true meaning of God's "sure word of prophecy" (II Peter 1:19).  Millions of prophecy-minded Christians sense we are nearing the return of Jesus Christ.  But when it comes to what a majority of people think is going to happen during Earth's last days, and what the Bible actually says will occur, the difference is seismic.

It's no secret that the following five teachings have become immensely popular:
 

1.   All true Christians will soon vanish in the rapture.
2.   Seven years of apocalyptic terror will overtake those left behind.
3.   One sinister man - the antichrist - will take over the world.
4    The antichrist will enter a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, claiming to be God.
5.   The nations of earth will attack Israel at Armageddon.

These five concepts are bring taught on radio, television, at prophecy conferences, in countless books and magazines, in end time movies, in seminaries and on the internet.  The five-point belief system is also tightly connected - with one event supposedly leading to the next - just like New York City's electrical power grid is intertwined.  On August 15, 2003 at 4:00 p.m., our nation's generators, electrical cables, transmission lines, and system operators were all working efficiently together.  Everything was fine.  Until 4:09.  Then a single, high-voltage current forced America into "the largest power outage in our history."

When it comes to popular prophetic theories, is it possible a large portion of Christianity is now in the midst of another outage - a truth outage?  The Bible clearly teaches, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers, and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables" (II Timothy 4:3-4).  Has that time come?  It sure looks that way!  I believe many good-hearted Christians have fallen prey to the above mentioned five-fold teaching of the end-times.  When did these so-called "teachers" arise who now scratch the itching ears of their hearers?  We can almost pinpoint it a year, a situation and a person.  We'll tell you more about that later.

I believe that the Rapture is a racket!  Whether prescribing a violent script for Israel or survivalism in the United States, this theology distorts God's vision for the world.  In place of healing, the Rapture proclaims escape.  In place of Jesus' blessing of peacemakers, the Rapture glorifies violence and war!  In place of the Book of Revelation's vision of the Lamb's vulnerable self-giving love, the Rapture celebrates the lion-like wrath of the Lamb.  This theology is not biblical

At the outset, let me hasten to say that Rapture theology is disastrous for the Middle East and it is more dangerous for planet Earth.  It's dangerous in that many of those who teach this doctrine influence our politicians and those in power in our government.  The results are such that we spend more of our foreign budget on the nation of Israel (mostly it's defense) than on all the other countries we help combined.  The United States is inseparably woven to the survival and welfare of Israel.  According to Public Enemy Number 1, Osama bin Laden, this is the primary reason for the terrorist attacks of 9/11.  If we backed off, even some of our support for the nation of Israel, our nation would not as easily be seen as "the Great Satan" by Islamic Fundamentalists. 

Proponents of Rapture theology love to use the image of a countdown, reminiscent of a missile launch.  Pastor John Hagee borrows his particular doomsday clock from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist, an effort on the part of nuclear scientists to alert the world to the danger of nuclear annihilation.  Hagee writes in the introduction to his book: Daniel to Doomsday: The Countdown Has Begun that "Doomsday - the stroke of midnight - is coming!"  The Rapture is the reason Hagee and so many others revel in the prospect of destruction for the earth; the Rapture will be their "great escape" from earth.

In the summer of 2003, Ted Turner and Public Broadcasting System sponsored an eight-hour special "Avoiding Armageddon," warning of nuclear and chemical weapons proliferation and urging the world's leaders to take steps to curb the danger.  The next week, in reviewing the week's news through her end-times lenses, a breathless Rexella Van Impe asked her husband on their fundamentalist Christian cable television show, "Jack, Ted Turner thinks Armageddon can be avoided.  Is he right?"  Her husband was enthusiastic in his response saying there was no way Armageddon can be avoided.  Van Impe is the author of The Great Escape: Preparing for the Rapture, the Next Event on God's Prophetic Clock and other books on the Rapture and the Middle East.

Rapture and Armageddon scenarios tap into American's love for disaster films and survivalist plot lines.  Readers of end-times novels readily envision themselves among a select few who will escape planetary disaster.  These readers have spent not millions, but hundreds of millions of dollars on books like Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins Left Behind (16 million copies sold); and the succeeding eleven volumes in the Left Behind series.  Volume 2 is called Tribulation Force and it has sold nearly 14 million; Desecration (Volume 3) has sold over 12 million and so on.  Best-selling end-times author Hal Lindsey has published eight works dealing with Rapture theology since 1970 and, together, they have had 100 million copies sold in the United States alone!

There is no doubt about it at all. Bible believers are pre-occupied with end-time scenarios, particularly the two second comings of Christ and the coming of the Antichrist in between!  You read that right - I said two second comings

In the next article I will address some of these "Rapture Delusions" and the origin of the concept of the rapture.  To water your appetite I'll talk about the year 1829, Margaret MacDonald, Edward Irving and John Nelson Darby, and the rise of cults and occults.

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