Predicting when the world will end is something that humans have been doing at least since the Common Era (or AD). And these predictions had major consequences.
As far as we know, within the first millennium, it seemed that people mainly of Judaic or Christian backgrounds had these apocalyptic predictions. There were also mathematicians, astrologers, astronomers, and others who made end-time predictions.
Some of these predictions have caused riots, people fleeing their homes, people taking suicide pacts, and a mass pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
A few of these predictions were based off of current events, such as the Black Death in Europe during the 14th century and the bubonic plague which killed 100,000 Londoners in 1666. New England's Dark Day on May 19, 1790 was felt to be the end of the world because it was dark during the day. But that was caused by smog and cloud cover.
But the Rapture doctrine is not necessarily about death and destruction. It is unique because of its sudden nature, where millions of people vanish off the face of the Earth--but they don't die. They're taken up to Heaven.
This Christian doctrine sprung up in the mid-19th century and has become more widely believed by Americans. This event has been sung about, preached about, and has been portrayed in TV series, movies and books.
So let's see if you'll be caught up in this quiz about the Rapture or if you'll be left behind. Good luck!
The Second Coming of Christ is the event that triggers the Rapture. Mainly evangelical Christians believe in this doctrine.
John Nelson Darby was a British preacher who was a part of a movement called the Plymouth Brethren. He and the movement's ideas on the end-times influenced American Christianity.
In 1820, Margaret McDonald had a vision of a fiery end to the world, yet there was a select few who would be saved. Her visions were considered to be demonic, but still influenced European views on the Rapture when they were published in her memoirs and in other books.
It may seem like the Rapture just became popular within the past few decades. But this doctrine first came on the scene almost centuries ago.
John Darby began teaching in North America about the Rapture and he met James Brookes, a writer and preacher in Missouri. Cyrus Ingerson Scofield was also an American preacher, writer and theologian who was influenced by Darby's teachings via his mentor, Brookes.
In verse 17, it says that "we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air." In the context of other parts of the New Testament, "caught up" is interpreted to have a heavenly connotation to it.
Hippolytus of Rome was a theologian and local church leader. He was a follower of Irenaeus, a Greek cleric who also predicted Jesus' return for this date. Hippolytus wrote the book On Christ and the Antichrist.
Sextus Julius Africanus was a Christian historian and traveler from Jerusalem. He saw the world coming to an end after 6,000 years of existence. He then revised the prediction to 800 AD.
Theologian John Wesley thought Jesus would return between 1058–1836. He used Revelation 12:14 as the verse to calculate this period.
Baptist minister William Miller used the prophecy of Daniel 8 to calculate this date, which he called the Advent. Many of his followers, the Millerites, had given up all their possessions in preparation for this day, so many followers were disillusioned when nothing happened. Afterward, some Millerites founded the Seventh-Day Adventist Church and the Adventist Christian church.
Russell, whose teachings are foundational to the Jehovah's Witnesses denomination, had other predictions connected to Christ's return. These predictions included the resurrection of the saints (1875) and the "day of wrath," which would end the world in 1914.
Herbert Armstrong called himself an Apostle and founded the Worldwide Church of God. He predicted the Rapture would happen in 1936, 1943, 1972 and 1975. After those failed predictions, he lost followers and decided not to give exact dates anymore.
Whisenant was a former NASA engineer who sold more than 4 million copies of his book. Based on this book, Trinity Broadcasting Network showed special programming of how to deal with the Rapture. Whisenant continued to revise this date between 1989 through 1997, after which no other predictions came.
Christian radio broadcaster Camping's book stated that Jesus would return on September 6, 1994. He then predicted the Rapture would occur on May 21, 2011, with five months of plagues and fire and brimstone millions of people dying, and October 21, 2011, as the last day of the world. These predictions and their failures received global attention.
Newton wrote in his book, "Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel, and the Apocalypse of St. John" that the world would end in 2000. This book was published after his death. His religious views would have been considered as heretical because of his rejection of the Trinity (Father God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit).
Ed Dobson once lead the conservative political group, Moral Majority, which was dissolved in the late 1980s and was associated with Jerry Falwell. The book was published in 1997 and describes how Biblical prophecy applied to the current times.
Weinland, who went to prison for tax evasion, predicted Christ's return would happen on September 29, 2011, May 27, 2012 and May 18, 2013. He has published other books with apocalyptic predictions, and his latest predicted date is June 8, 2019, the eve of Pentecost.
Van Impe has given many dates and predictions about the return of Christ. His TV show, Jack Van Impe Presents, focuses on his interpretations of the end times.
Biltz is a pastor who focuses on Messianic prophecies, and he believed that beginning in 2014, four consecutive total lunar eclipses which coincided with Jewish holidays was the beginning of the end. This series of eclipses ended on September 27-28, 2015, which was when Jesus was to return to the Earth. Pastor John Hagee seized upon this idea and wrote "Four Blood Moons: Something Is About to Change," which became a best seller.
Eschatology, in Greek, means the study of end things (the Greek word eschatos means last). Christian eschatology studies other topics, including millennialism, Judgment Day and the New Heaven and New Earth. These ideas come from biblical prophecies but also from prophecies of other people.
This discourse has some vivid imagery about natural disasters and celestial events (e.g., the sun and moon losing their light), called the Day of the Lord. Jesus also talks about the "Son of Man" coming after those celestial events. It's not totally clear if Jesus is referring to himself or some other entity.
Premillennialism is the large umbrella doctrine that mainly evangelical Christians believe, which is under the larger umbrella of Millennialism, that there will be 1,000 years of peace before Judgment Day. Millennialism comes from Revelation 20, which talks about this golden age of peace. For premillennialists, the Rapture is something to prepare for, because premillennialists believe the Second Coming is imminent.
The millennium may or may not be a literal 1,000 years for a postmillennialist. At the heart of this doctrine is a social gospel perspective, where Christian values should be used to make the world a better place. So a postmillennial view of the Rapture is that this was something to work toward through good works, instead of something to prepare for like a premillennialist.
Also known as now-millennialism and realized millennialism, amillennialism asserts that this more symbolic millennium is currently happening. This perspective is more popular in Orthodox, Catholic and mainline Protestant churches.
Jesus spoke about the Great Tribulation at great length in his Olivet Discourse and it is also mentioned in the Book of Revelations. This period is supposed to last seven years.
The pre-tribulation perspective is a popular one, with prominent evangelical leaders, such as John Hagee, Jimmy Swaggart, and Jack Van Impe, preaching and teaching this position. In 1827, John Darby introduced this viewpoint. Pre-tribulation premillennialists believe the Second Coming of Christ comes after the tribulation period.
The prewrath viewpoint is tied to the timeline of the opening of the seven seals, part of the vision described in the Book of Revelation. Specifically, the Rapture will occur after the opening of the sixth seal (which has the events of the Day of the Lord and the outpouring of God's wrath). This also means the chosen ones would escape the subsequent seven bowls full of plagues.
Tim LaHaye created the concept of the best-selling "Left Behind" series which depicts life in a pretribulation, premillennialist world after the Rapture. His co-author, Jerry B. Jenkins, wrote the books from LaHaye's notes. The "Left Behind" series contains 16 novels and four movies.
Hal Lindsey and Carole Carlson's book sold 35 million copies by 1999, initially sold in Christian bookstores and then in secular bookstores. This book was adapted into a film in 1977, narrated by Orson Welles. Although it sold millions of copies, the book was highly criticized by scholars as being theologically incorrect.
Russell Doughten created this influential series of movies: "A Thief in the Night" (1972), "A Distant Thunder" (1978), "Image of the Beast" (1980), and "The Prodigal Planet" (1983). Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, authors of the "Left Behind" series, said Doughten's film series was the main influence for their book series. "The Battle of Armageddon" was planned to be the fifth film, but it was never made. Doughten died in 2013.
Larry Norman was a controversial but innovative figure because he fused Christian lyrics with rock music. 'I Wish We'd All Been Ready' was one of the first Christian rock hits.
"Years of the Beast" is an obscure film that seems to be about life living under the Antichrist, who is called the Prince of This World. The movie is based on a novel by the same name, written by Leon Chambers.
After the big boom of apocalyptic movies in the 1970s and 1980s, there was a bit of a lull until "The Rapture" was released. The movie has more of a non-religious point of view about religious beliefs.
This film was produced by Cloud Ten Pictures (a company which had produced the first "Left Behind" movie and the next two sequels). "Apocalypse IV: Judgment" is part of the 4-part Apocalypse series that explores the Rapture, a unified world with an Antichrist and the Mark of the Beast.
"The Leftovers" is another work that explores a world where 2 percent of the population vanishes. It's not clear why the people in this TV series vanished, although some viewers and fans speculate it was because the Rapture had happened.