I reposted an “American Vision classic” a couple days ago and was surprised at the overwhelming response. It was called “Life and Death and the Last Days, or, Why Eschatology Matters.” There were a couple negative comments, but overwhelmingly people responded with gratitude. It was this reception that drove the piece to be even more popular this time than it was when I first posted it over three years ago.
But the nature of the positive response was of special interest to me: it was not just of thanks, but of confirmation and affirmation. Souls were thankful because the article addressed a problem which they not only understood, but through which they had truly suffered. Their gratitude is an expression of their relief from oppression. And this got me to thinking about a resource I would like to highlight for you today—in just a moment.
One negative comment I received accused me of building a “straw man” by arguing that dispensational and premillennial teachings lead people to complacency, indifference, and even despair in this world. I responded that the argument was hardly a straw man because it was based on real-life examples. These examples were of average Americans who had been imbued with rapture-theology and had concluded that their daughters should not get married and may not even finish high school before it happened. This is not my imagination, this is real life. And, it is not an isolated example. It is far more widespread than anything you can imagine, or than some adherents are willing to own.
I received an email just this morning telling the exact same story. It was from a woman who lived through this crippling worldview, but was given the grace to escape it. You can still hear the remnants of her former oppression in the tone of her earnest letter. She wrote,
Thank you for your article on armageddon type “Christian” teaching. I was made to watch a series of films in high school youth group. The films were on this type of theology. They traumatized me. I lived for years with fear of rapture, because what if I hadn’t gotten my salvation exactly right. Whenever someone was late, I assumed the rapture had happened, and I had been left behind. The fear began even before the movies, because of the teaching of the church. . . .
I have heard this story dozens of times. Knowing how feedback works, we can safely assume that dozens of stories represent hundreds or even thousands who have not taken the effort to write in for whatever reason. They represent myriads more who did not even read my article. Worse yet, they represent countless more who do not even realize they are oppressed by rapture theology. I have even witnessed some who defend their rapture-repression like they would an abusive relationship in some kind of sick eschatological Stockholm Syndrome.
The general reaction of liberated gratitude reminded me of an endorsement I once promised that is now long overdue. It was for this very reason that I, a few years ago, asked Leah Smith to write a book about her similar experience. She obliged by producing Diapers, Dishes and Dominion: How Christian Housewives Can Change the World. What a great title, and what a great little book!
Leah’s testimony is just like the woman’s who emailed me this morning—only worse. Leah was so distraught by last days madness that she fell into depression and much more. She literally spoke of despair and of fear of having children. I’ll let her tell you herself. Here are a couple excerpts in her words:
How exactly are we supposed to get through the day happy and chipper, singing “This is the day that the Lord has made,” when all we know is that life on planet Earth is only going to get worse? Is the world really getting worse? If it’s true the world is going to hell in a hand basket, there’s really no point in trying very hard, is there?
Someone once coined the phrase, “You don’t polish brass on a sinking ship.” That implies two things: the world is nothing but a sinking ship, and there is no point in trying to make it any better. I heard that message all my life. If you’re like me, you may have asked yourself these questions: Why work hard? It will all be lost. Why start a business? Why build churches? People will only tear them down. Why build up wealth as an inheritance for my kids one day? Satan owns all the money anyway. Besides, after the Rapture, it won’t matter since we will be gone.
Oh, yeah—and why should we even bother to have children? We would only be bringing more victims of the Antichrist into the world. If there is some chance that the Rapture does not happen when they say it will, imagine—our children will have to endure the Great Tribulation! That used to be a big fear of mine. Eventually all these big questions led me to the mundane parts of my life: Why do dishes? Why make my bed? Why do anything? It is all for nothing in the end. Victory is nothing but a dream on this side of heaven. I might as well try to enjoy whatever I can while there is still time.
This was the mentality I had for years. I accepted defeat before I even got out of bed. I was spiritually depressed and oppressed with this type of thinking. . . .
During my pregnancy with our second child, some theological ghosts came back to haunt me. From the time I was a pre-teen, I had a fear of “End Times.” Initially, the book of Revelation fascinated me, but that fascination turned to fear and depression when I heard horror stories about a future “Antichrist” and a “Great Tribulation.”
The book series Left Behind by Tim LaHaye had come out and seemed to be everywhere. Even though it was popular, I heard somewhere that not everyone believed the Left Behind view of end times was biblical. I was very confused, but too afraid to study it.
Of course, it didn’t help when in youth group and Bible class we dreamed up imaginary torture scenarios of Christians persecuted for not receiving the “mark of the beast.” It didn’t help when we watched videos like Thief in the Night either. Bad theology and a wild imagination make a dangerous combination. I felt traumatized and afraid of what terrible things might happen in my lifetime. . . .
So much had this childhood fear affected me that, back in 2006, when we brought our first baby home from the hospital, I felt bad for this baby. I had an awful feeling of guilt for bringing an innocent baby into a world where he would have to endure the Antichrist. The thought actually crossed my mind that we had been selfish and irresponsible for having a baby!
I had to move on the best I could, so I would ignore my fear of the end times for as long as I could distract myself. Then I would hear something on the radio, or I would see something in a movie. If it happened to be related in any way, shape, or form to the future, perhaps something cataclysmic or apocalyptic, it would trigger my end-times-madness phobia. I would get a surge of adrenaline and literally want to hide under a blanket. Sometimes it made me mad that I was still having end-times nightmares as a grown adult. I would still wake in the night in tears and need prayer because I was so afraid of what was going to happen.
Life almost didn’t feel worth living. I was terrified of bar codes because someone told me those were the alleged “mark of the beast.” Everywhere I looked, there were bar codes. So of course I thought I was going insane. I felt so alone. It seemed as though no one experienced the fears I was experiencing. No one had any good answers either. The usual reply of “God is in control” did not console me at all. I had typed out every fear-related scripture in the Bible and posted them everywhere. I still couldn’t escape it.
I went to counseling and they tried to appease my fear by convincing me to believe in the Rapture. They gave me the best evidence they could muster up for it. I went home and began to dig a little. All through my second pregnancy, I was searching for truth. I had always been afraid to search this out, but was even more determined not to bring another baby into the world with the feeling of guilt, sadness, and defeat. I needed answers.
You get the picture. Leah was beyond traumatized; she was paralyzed. But thankfully, her story does not end there. She found truth, and with truth she found hope. She goes on to tell the rest of her story in the book, and I highly recommend that you not only read it, but give copies to your rapture-traumatized friends—even the ones who seemingly love their captor. I promise you that many readers will identify their plight I Leah’s example: they will recall the teaching, the fanaticism, the movies, the indoctrination, the fear, and with all this, the nightmares that followed and still haunt many, even beneath the façade of obedience to the Gospel. Leah’s story not only illustrates the reality of these serious issues, but it shows the path to liberation.
So to those people who think my argument was a straw man, think again. You do not understand just how destructive these teachings have been to many. Continue to deny it if you will, but you have not seen what I’ve seen—and worse, you have not experienced what many others have experienced with depression, anxiety, and despair. Continuing to deny such things is classic denial—the refusal to acknowledge clear and simple facts.
God’s word and Spirit were not given to us to cripple and debilitate us. They were given to be liberating, to lead us into truth and love, and a sound mind. Instead, rapture theology works on fear and torment. As John tells us, these things are the antithesis of the love God has shed upon us and into our hearts. If you are led into such fear by logical consequences of your doctrine, it may be time to look into the truth of your doctrine. Christ’s word is here to make us free indeed (John 8:31–32), and to give us power and love and a sound mind (2 Tim. 1:7). For those taught otherwise for so long, Leah’s story will help you see the truth.
Up next: a full American Vision reading list for eschatology. Stay tuned!