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

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on June 18, 2016 and has been revised.

capture30

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.

Edgar C. Whisenant

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!

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

  1. Painful memories indeed! There were, no doubt, so many other false rapture predictions that captured the minds of church-goers.
    Instead of heightening an awareness of Christ’s return, these false teachers suited Satan’s goal. Now few ministries boldly proclaim Christ’s return at all even though it is the focus of our Gospel.
    Good Throwback Tom.
    🍁🍂🍃🍂🍁

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I remember this well, very well, Tom! I remember seeing this in a bookstore in Las Cruces, N.M., and saying, “Oh, come on!” The woman who worked at the store said the booklet was selling fast. The bottom line is exactly what you wrote: “If someone starts giving you dates, RUN, don’t walk, away. In the meantime, let’s be about our Father’s business.” Amen to that!!

    But thanks for posting this … despite the craziness of this booklet, it still calls to mind a very good time of my life. (Of course, my blog yesterday urged believers not to reminisce!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, David! I can vividly recall how our church was caught up in that 9/88 rapture hysteria, although I don’t think anyone quit their job and sat on a hilltop.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting. I remember hearing about that, at the time.

    Sometime in the late 1950s or early 1960s, my dad had a dream that he said was more like a vision. In his dream/vision, he saw giant numbers — 1988 — appear in the sky. At the time, he told my mother that he thought perhaps God was telling him that the world would come to an end in that year.

    In a way, he was right. On January 16, 1988, my 53 year old father died of a heart attack. I was shattered, to put it mildly. Especially because my father had walked away from his Christian faith years earlier.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. In 1988 I was in first grade so I have zero recollection of this! You’re right your pastor should have clearly stated Matt 24 from the start. Eschatology is a needed study as you said; however, much of what is propagated today isn’t reasoned eschatology it is false teachers with false prophecies leading undiscerning people into hell at worst and confusion and pain at best. Thanks for reposting this!

    Feeling any better?!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Mandy! Yeah, we’ve seen many pastors and para-church ministry leaders go to extremes with eschatology. And of course the NAR people are consumed with it. Since writing this post five years ago, the number of bloggers I follow who post on eschatological topics dropped from maybe five or six to only one and that’s fine with me.

      Thanks! Yup the gastrointestinal difficulties appear to be pretty much gone today, but I still won’t be eating pizza anytime soon.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I take (what some would see) a very simplistic view of these things. Jesus said “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.” (Matt. 24v44) Generally if someone predicts a certain time… then it most likely won’t be that time! Anyway, we’re told not to predict… but it’s good idea to observe “the signs of the times” and reach out as the Lord leads for as long as it’s possible.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Elizabeth! That’s pretty much my approach to eschatology as well. Many people have allowed themselves to get “wrapped around the axle” debating end-times details.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I have only read about this book! And the chaos it caused! I heard some people lost a lot of money, giving it away, etc. So sad. So sad to read about how this book affected the believers in your local church! I was 5 years old and only heard about it when I was 21 or 22. A good throwback…Wow what a sensational effect this book caused!

    Liked by 1 person

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