In response to my post about Free Presbyterians and fundamentalists some asked for a further insight into fundamentalists. As such I will supply something about one of what must be perceived to be one of our odder sets of beliefs. This is the end of the world, the rapture etc.The following is in absolute honesty a true story. Once as a teenager my parents left me “home alone” for a few days to look after the cats, dog and horses; taking my sister with them (I was not responsible enough to look after her). I had gone to see a few friends on my bicycle and was getting home after dark. I saw strange lights in the sky (with hindsight probably the moon through the clouds). I was, however, convinced that this was the Rapture and that I had been left behind. The fact that the BBC was still broadcasting was no comfort and I was terrified until next morning when I rang a friend’s house. I got his mother. The fact that she was still there was absolute proof that the rapture had not occurred.
There are a number of terms here: the apocalypse, the rapture, and Armageddon. The Apocalypse describes all the events around the end of the world including the rapture and the battle of Armageddon. both of which I will explain briefly below.
There are a number of competing positions regarding the end of the world. A google search will reveal a few of them. As a child growing up the most popular one was that the “Rapture” would occur and the saved of earth would be gathered to heaven. Some scholars now suggest that Christians will also go through the tribulation (of which more in a moment) but I would submit that the rapture is still the most popular view. I am not a scholar of all this but I will attempt a brief description.
In an instant of time those who have died having personally accepted Christ along with those still alive who have accepted Him will be caught up to be in heaven.
1 Thessalonians 4: 15-17
15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
The tribulation is the set of events to occur after the rapture and before Christ’s return. This is to be 3½ years (Daniel 7:25 “And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.”). During this time the antichrist will arise and a one world government will be set up. The antichrist will set up an idol of himself and make people worship it. He will also initially make peace with the Jews, many of whom will come to Christ under the witness of two witnesses (identified by some as Moses and Elijah). He will require all people to have a mark on their foreheads or hands. He will persecute and kill Christians and then turn on Israel and launch a huge war. This war will culminate in the Battle of Armageddon outside Jerusalem. Christ will appear splitting in two the Mount of Olives and destroy the armies of antichrist. Christ will then set up a 1,000 year reign on earth before the Devil is released again and then the new heaven and new earth will be revealed, the Devil cast into hell along with his angels and those unsaved.
There are multiple points of debate in this and the above is the most complex and dramatic set of suggestions. Many fundamentalists will have different interpretations of these events but the above is a reasonable summary. Debate rages about whether having been left behind by the rapture one can still be saved. One preacher (admittedly on the lunatic fringe) suggested that if one was left behind the best thing to do would be to join the Israeli army.
We were shown a series of videos called “Thief in the Night” (a reference to 1st Thessalonians 5:2 “For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.”) which were genuinely scary. Multiple preachers also confidently told us that it was certain that the rapture would occur before the year 2000. The fact that this was in direct contradiction to the quote from our Lord (Mark 13:32“But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.”) was always explained by saying it was unclear when before 2000 this was going to happen. Various events were put forward being signs of the end or “End time Days”. Usually after terrifying us all invitations were made for people to accept Christ.
So do I, a relatively well educated, early middle aged person still believe all this stuff?
The short answer is yes. I do not know when the world will end and try to live as if it could end yet plan for the future I also have a very dim view of using the rapture and such like to scare children and young people into making personal commitments to Christ.
For anyone interested in finding out more this web site is amongst the most popular though I do not spend much time studying it. If you want the biblical passages I would recommend: Revelation chapter 4 to the end, Daniel chapter 7 to the end, Matthew chapters 24 and 25.
Okay now all of you can decide that I am indeed mad and any fundamentalists reading can criticise the explanation.