After we accepted the Lord in 1983, my wife and I attended an independent fundamental Baptist (IFB) church for eight years. We were firmly grounded in God’s Word at that church, but the pastor also took the congregation down some strange rabbit holes. I can laugh about it now.
In the early part of 1988, a small booklet was creating quite a stir at our church as well as at thousands of other evangelical and fundamentalist churches. Former NASA engineer, Edgar C. Whisenant, had written “88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988.” Based on information from the Bible and using his own mathematical calculations, Whisenant had determined the Rapture of the church would occur sometime between September 11th and September 13th of 1988. 4.5 million copies of the booklet ended up being distributed.
Like most IFB preachers, our pastor often taught the Rapture – the taking up of Christians bodily into Heaven prior to the seven-year Tribulation that will engulf the world prior to the second coming of Christ. Most eschatology “end-times” teaching is based on the prophesies from the Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation although relevant passages can also be found in many other books of the Bible. The teaching of the Rapture of the church is taught primarily from 1 Thessalonians 4:17.
The little booklet began making inroads into our church and someone even began leaving bulk copies on the information table (right next to complimentary copies of The Sword of the Lord and Our Daily Bread). People were being whipped into a frenzy. Was it true? Were we going to be raptured in September? We turned to Pastor Joe for guidance. In one of his sermons, the pastor said he had studied Whisenant’s information for days and days looking for a miscalculation. His judgement? Pastor Joe said that while he could not endorse the booklet’s predictions completely, he also could not find anything that would contradict Whisenant’s claims. The result? Many people at our church assumed the Rapture would take place during the three days specified by Whisenant. When the days came and went our pastor said, “Well of course, ‘But of that day and hour knoweth no man’ (Matthew 24:36).” Hmmm. Shouldn’t he have been saying that previous to all the frenzy? I don’t mean to justify myself but some of my disillusionment with the church, which led to me walking away from the Lord for 23 years, was because of this type of nonsense.
Many Christians study eschatology. If it wasn’t important it wouldn’t be in God’s Word. I generally don’t concentrate on it a lot myself, maybe in part because of the Whisenant fiasco, but I do appreciate other bloggers who keep me up to speed. Given all of the INCREDIBLY WEIRD things that are happening in the world recently, I think, yes, we may be approaching the end, but nobody knows for sure. If someone starts giving you dates, RUN, don’t walk, away. In the meantime, let’s be about our Father’s business.
For a PDF copy of “88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988,” see here. Oh, the painful memories!