IFB Memories #7: Apocalypse now…and I mean NOW!

After we accepted the Lord in 1983, my wife and I attended an independent fundamentalAAAAAA 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!

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15 thoughts on “IFB Memories #7: Apocalypse now…and I mean NOW!

    1. Thanks, Hope. Yes, although eschatology is not my personal cup of tea, I appreciate your posts to keep up with what’s going on. I had your posts in mind when I mentioned keeping up with “end times” activities via other bloggers in my message. I don’t want to have my head completely in the sand. Thanks and keep ’em coming!

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      1. There are always enough “kooks” out there to make us ashamed to admit that we follow Bible Prophecy. Notice how his influence is still going strong 30 after years? Sadly, it discredits the genuine because people only remember the nuts. We look for the generation that Jesus told us to look for, but we don’t set dates. By the way, that same man tried it the next year with “89 reasons”. No shame! …and he’s still making us look bad!

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      2. LOL! Poor Edgar. He kept recalculating. Wikipedia says he kept trying right up to 1997. He started out with 4.5 million copies and probably ended at 100. In Old Testament times they would have stoned him to death after the 1988 fiasco.

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      3. And I thought I would be the only one to remember this!!! Yes, although our pastor wouldn’t make an iron clad commitment, he definitely gave the impression that he approved of the booklet.

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  1. I was a baby believer at the time and that prediction got ahold of me also. I even told my Catholic parents it might be true. Don’t think they believed in the Rapture, and interestingly, William Lane Craig doesn’t neither. Says it’s a fairly recent interpretation of the pertinent passages. But I’ve never heard or read an interpretation of 2 Thessalonians 2:7 about the one who is restraining the “mystery of lawlessness” being taken out of the way other than that the “one” is the Holy Spirit and if he is taken out than we would have to be also.
    I also don’t get much into eschatology…it’s just too easy to get misled.

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  2. I happen to be a pre tribulational rapture kind of guy, but like you Tom I don’t lose a lot of sleep over it. I could easily be completely wrong.

    ” In the meantime, let’s be about our Father’s business.”

    That’s exactly the reason I don’t dwell on it excessively. We have business to conduct, namely the Father’s business. The whens don’t matter nearly as much as the simple fact that the “when” will occur. I think people getting wrapped up in dates and times is likely just another tool satan uses to divert us from what we really need to worry about.

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  3. Eschatology was the last area of theology that I really studied indepth in Seminary and afterwards. I was weary of the weirdos I’ve met and literatures I’ve found in the past. Thanks for the PDF of that historically infamous book….my, what an experience it must have been for you and the church!

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    1. Thanks, Jim. I had forgotten many of the details from this incident until I put together this post. Yes, it was a strange event to live through. I don’t think anyone at church quit their job and sat on a hilltop waiting to be raptured during those 3 days but there was a strong consensus that the rapture was going to happen.

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  4. Reblogged this on excatholic4christ and commented:

    For the past several, I’ve caught bits and pieces on religious talk radio of some strange prophecy about the end of the world happening this past Saturday, on September 23rd. Well, it’s September 25th and we’re all still here. Evidently, Catholic “researcher,” David Meade had posted a You Tube video predicting the end of the world on September 23rd, but he’s now pushed back the date to October 15th with all kinds of bogus excuses. It’s Edgar C. Whisenant all over again (see below). I agree that circumstances in the world are getting increasingly dicey, but no man knows the day of the Lord’s return.

    “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son,] but the Father only.” – Matthew 24:26

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