Considering all the humiliation that Rapture predictions increasingly earn their makers, it’s still just so funny to me that so many evangelicals look for fame and influence through the making of these predictions. I guess if evangelicals could learn from their mistakes and valued the truth above all other considerations, they wouldn’t be evangelicals in the first place. Let’s check out yet another pair of Rapture hucksters today, the howlingly self-described ‘Prophecy Pros,’ and see how they build upon evangelicals’ existing folk-beliefs about the end of the world.
(This post originally appeared on Patreon on 11/15/2022. If you’d like early access, please consider becoming a patron!)
Everyone, meet the “Prophecy Pros,” yet another pair of Christian hucksters
The “Prophecy Pros” are Jeff Kinley and Todd Hampson. They’re pros at regurgitating Rapture fantasies. But also at covering their asses.
Kinley converted to evangelicalism at 16. His testimony includes all the usual tropes of a secular upbringing: drugs, off-limits sex stuff (described as “hedonism,” so it’s probably not actual sex), and sportsing. After conversion, he implies—but doesn’t say—that he quit all that. After getting a Masters of Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary (which isn’t a Southern Baptist seminary), he worked as a pastor for about 30 years. So I’m guessing he’s in his 50s at least. Nowadays, it seems like he focuses more on writing books and doing his podcast.
I’ve got no clue how Kinley and Hampson met, but Hampson also attended Dallas Theological Seminary. According to his bio, he converted young as well, at 13, after someone snowed him with so-called “fulfilled Bible prophecy.” Since then, he’s volunteered in various ways in various churches and gone on some several short-term mission trips. Aside from the podcast, he also draws comic strips, spews nonstop apologetics talking points, and publishes all kinds of books trying to support evangelicals’ weird Endtimes prophecies. He seems to be of an age with Kinley.
All in all, these guys are not trained or equipped to discuss the Endtimes. However, I’m not sure any Christian really is, because the Endtimes is a purely manufactured set of beliefs. Though all Christian beliefs fall into that category, the Endtimes is possibly the most obviously manufactured of them all—perhaps because it’s simply so new compared to other beliefs.
Interestingly, at no point during their podcast do these two dare to make specific predictions about the date of the Rapture. It’s just Real Soon Now and Any Day Now. The tribe is learning! At last!
What are the Endtimes?
The Endtimes is a set of beliefs common to evangelicals about the end of the world. The beliefs fit generally into the field of study called eschatology, which is the study of what the Bible says about the end of the world. But the Endtimes illustrate Low Christianity, being dearly-held folk beliefs, way more than High Christianity, which focuses more on scholarship and rigorous criticism.
In essence, the Endtimes is a nested bunch of conspiracy theories that seek to fit Bible verses into modern-day headlines. As world leaders get deposed or die, as regimes fade or come to life, as evangelicals’ tribal enemies morph into new forms and old ones get pushed aside, the “prophecies” that result change accordingly. Would-be prophets follow the news assiduously so they can better refine their prophecies.
More than anything else, they want to know when Armageddon and the Rapture will take place. The former term refers to the last big world war on Earth. The latter term refers to the belief that at some point during the world’s last seven years, Jesus will poof all the TRUE CHRISTIANS™ up to Heaven to be with him.
While the world inches closer and closer to Armageddon, TRUE CHRISTIANS™ can expect a vast persecution of them fer jus’ bein’ KRISchin. They call this persecution the Tribulation, and they imagine it will be worse than anything they have ever faced in their religion’s entire history.
Evangelicals are also very interested in figuring out who the Antichrist will be. They believe that this mythic figure, with lots of demonic help, will usher in the Endtimes.
How Rapture prophecies work
As a result, Endtimes prophecies always take the same form. They all follow the same bastardization of Daniel 9, commonly called “the 70 Weeks of Daniel“:
- ZOMG! This headline tells us that [world leader/country] is [allegorical figure mentioned in the Book of Revelation]!
- We’ve figured out who the capital-A Antichrist is! For real, this time! Really!
- This major headline event is totally a reference to [event discussed in Daniel 9]! The Tribulation is coming fast! Expect to see guillotines in the streets any day now!
- We’re getting closer to the Rapture, everyone! Everyone needs to look busy! The boss is coming soon to whoosh us up into Heaven!
Endtimes conspiracy theorists have plenty of diagrams to illustrate their belief. Behold the best damn diagram ever made:
It was drawn by Clarence Larkin, a popular and famous Baptist pastor who got way, way, wayyyy into the Endtimes. He died in 1924, but not before he drew all kinds of similar diagrams.
Larkin was a big believer in the idea of a pre-Tribulation Rapture, which became popular as an evangelical belief in the 1820s and 1830s thanks to John Nelson Darby. Those beliefs haven’t changed much, either. Larkin’s beliefs, explained by him in detail here, sound much like Darby’s, as well as much like those of Rapture-believing evangelicals today.
Some evangelicals quibble with the timing of the Rapture. They imagine it’ll happen midway through the Tribulation. Others think it’ll happen after the seven years of Tribulation. Both of these other groups think pre-Trib Christians are weenies who would buckle at the first sign of persecution.
Still, pre-Trib Rapture remains the dominant belief for Rapture fantasists.
All that really changes with any of these predictions are the specific headlines and names shoehorned into the Bible verses and allegorical figures. I found that out to hilarious effect when I checked into the various Rapture predictions of one “gevte” on YouTube. The Wayback Machine had preserved a bunch of earlier predictions he’d made.
(I had a friend years ago who described himself as “pan-Trib.” That meant that he didn’t care when the Rapture occurred within the timeline. If he was simply obedient to Jesus, then he knew it’d all “pan” out for him.)
How Rapture predictions shift with headline changes
When I was Pentecostal in the 1980s and 1990s, we all thought Donald Trump was the Antichrist predicted in the Book of Revelation. He had all the hallmarks listed, after all. But whoa nelly, that sure changed! I’ve seen all kinds of politicians identified like that since then, including Hillary Clinton. However, many Endtimes conspiracy theorists reject her as a valid Antichrist because she’s a woman, and Revelation’s writer only used male pronouns to describe that person.
Barack Obama, however, was almost universally embraced as the Antichrist upon his first election to the American presidency. He remains a popular choice, though one evangelical pastor, Robert Jeffress, only grants him the function of path-clearer for the real Antichrist. I can’t decide which accusation is more racist.
For a while before 2020, many evangelicals saw Trump as the opposite of the Antichrist: as King Cyrus, who evangelicals (likely erroneously) think liberated the Jews from Babylonian slavery, then helped them to rebuild their temple in Jerusalem. In the complicated world of Endtimes calculus, Trump becomes the one who protects TRUE CHRISTIANS™ from their enemies, helps them regain dominance over the United States, and even achieves important Endtimes prophecy fulfillment through actions like recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in 2018.
But Trump lost the 2020 election and has greatly angered evangelicals with his support for COVID vaccines, so that kind of talk has subsided considerably since then. The world now awaits, with bated breath, the identity of the next King Cyrus.
The “Prophecy Pros” join a long list of Endtimes hopefuls these days
Last month, Slate ran an article about the recent steep rise in the number of Endtimes books hitting the market. I can understand why, too. With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine this past February 2022, I suppose it was inevitable. Endtimes fantasists have long identified Russia as one of the key countries in the Armageddon war. Let’s all forget that Russia wasn’t much of a country at all when Revelation was written around 95CE.
For that matter, nobody even knew America existed at the time. But it has also traditionally figured big in Endtimes prophecies. (Other evangelicals criticize this belief. Nobody cares what they think.)
Evangelicals have enjoyed big recent victories at the Supreme Court level. However, evangelicals still feel very unhappy and scared about their loss of dominance over America.
Loss of dominance brings out Rapture fantasies better than anything else
As authoritarians, evangelicals fear losing power more than anything else. After all, they know exactly how they treat the powerless. They expect nothing different to happen to them as their enemies gain power. If they were able to strip away Americans’ civil liberties and human rights, they certainly would. How, then, could their enemies—who they imagine are much worse people than they themselves are—resist doing the same to them? In their opinion, losing power makes the Tribulation—and all the other Endtimes events—much more likely to happen.
For years now, evangelicals have also been reeling from constant mortal blows to their credibility and unearned privilege. Between their scandals, their control-lust, and their blatant hypocrisy, they’ve earned unending mockery, pushback, and criticism.
In 2012, Harold Camping issued a dramatically-failed Rapture prediction. This was followed swiftly by the equally hilariously-failed Blood Moon prediction from John Hagee. Other failed predictions have come and gone as well. Everyone mocked each new failure worse than the last. Holiday sites even set May 21st as “Rapture Party Day” to commemorate Camping’s failure.
Nobody likes feeling embarrassed, particularly not authoritarians. Rapture beliefs are a way for them to compensate and self-soothe from all of these losses. Sure, goes their message to their many enemies, We might be getting hard-done-by now. You might feel like you’ve won. But sooner or later, we’re going to be right. And by then, it’ll be too late for you.
I’m sure it didn’t take much for the guys behind “Prophecy Pros” to sense opportunity amid all these feelings, any more than it took much for any of their competing hucksters to do the same. The timing for this resurgence of Rapture fantasies isn’t accidental at all.
So which Rapture beliefs are the “Prophecy Pros” peddling?
When I said that the “Prophecy Pros” were just pushing the same old tired 70 Weeks of Daniel thing, I was not kidding. Any Pentecostal in the pews in the 1980s could have come out with anything these two teach now. Their 2021 book, The Prophecy Pros’ Illustrated Guide to Tough Questions About the End Times, even describes their overall schtick with the exact same “statue” conceptualization that all the other Endtimes fantasists use.
What’s really funny is that they call “the rebirth of Israel in 1948” a “super-sign.”
They [meaning other Endtimes fantasists] refer to it this way mainly for two reasons. First, all other end-times signs hinge on this one sign. No other sign of the end could occur until Israel became a nation again. Second, experts call it the super-sign because of the sheer magnitude of this sign coming to pass. It is statistically impossible to predict this sign with all of its details and necessary preconditions, and have it fulfilled as it has in our modern era.
Strangely, they completely left out how only one generation was supposed to live past that. In 1988, we were all feeling very panicky about that exact point. Forty years was the max length of time that we understood “one generation” to be.
I distinctly remember catching some news program on a friend’s television around then. It concerned some heating-up conflict in the Middle East. Oh, we evangelicals were absolutely convinced that Armageddon was about to happen. At the time, it only had a few months left to happen! We got this from failed Rapture prophet Edgar Whisenant, who discussed his reasoning at length (page 6 of the PDF).
Luckily, 1988 came and went without the Tribulation or Armageddon or Rapture. It passed even without Donald Trump somehow becoming the Emperor of the World. Nowadays, I bet most Rapture fantasists don’t even know 1988 was a screaming big deal at the time because of the Endtimes beliefs we held then. I doubt think these “Prophecy Pros” even know about the 40-year time limit!
Their book also lists all the so-called “prophecies” predicting Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. Somehow, they completely ignore the dealbreaking prophecies he did not fulfill. Jesus’ inability to fulfill those prophecies are why Jews rejected Christianity in the 1st century and still reject it today. Instead, the “Prophecy Pros” lean hard on the shoehorned fake pseudo-prophecies that Jews have explained many times don’t refer to their Messiah at all.
The “Prophecy Pros” are simply retelling the tribe’s standard-issue Rapture fantasy, just updating it to include current headlines—and to ignore the stuff that past Rapture predictions included all the time that have gone radioactive by now, like that 40-year time limit.
And now: “30 Seconds After the Rapture”
The “Prophecy Pros” titled of their most recent podcasts “30 Seconds After the Rapture.” The story, which appeared on Christian Post yesterday, is one of its most popular recent posts. You can hear the podcast at their site, if you like. If the story accompanying the podcast is anything to go by, it’s complete bullshit. As an example, check this out:
Hampson said he finds that it is “really interesting” to study and learn about some of the ways that unbelievers will try to make sense of the rapture when it happens. Perspectives outside of the biblical ones, he noted, are often riddled with “demonic deception.”
“In New Age teaching, for decades now, they have taught in various circles [and] in different forms … that there’s coming a time when all the people who are holding back progress will be taken from mother Earth or the universe will take them.”
There is no such teaching that I can recall anywhere in any New Age philosophies or religions. I’d be very interested in knowing just which “New Age teaching,” which “various circles, in different forms,” he’s seen this claim made. Usually, New Age people think there’ll be some cosmic event that lifts human consciousness and raises our awareness. Even alien abduction fantasists, who they mention, are not usually New Agers and don’t go there.
I’ve spent some time on this question, too. I can literally not think of a single Rapture-like event ever taught by any New Age wackaloon that I’ve ever encountered.
How heathens will react to the totally for real Rapture
Nonetheless, these two wackaloons predict how non-believers will perceive the Rapture:
Describing how non-Christians might react to the rapture, Kinley said, for him, five words come to mind: “shock, confusion, panic, terror and chaos.”
“You’re in a mall. You’re at a football stadium. You’re on an airplane. You’re driving in a car. You’re walking down the street, … school, wherever. And all of a sudden, scores of people just vanish from sight,” Kinley said, illustrating to listeners what that event might look like.
If it sounds uncomfortably like they touch themselves to this imagery, well, that’s just part of the appeal for evangelicals.
At least they do think that some, possibly many heathens will know what happened. Thanks to their relatives’ preaching beforehand, they’ll know it was the real-deal RAPTURE. By then, the poor things will have missed their chance to escape all the awful stuff happening on its heels.
The “Prophecy Pros” openly salivate over a world where the supernatural/paranormal happens all the time. They think that the post-Rapture world will be one where all their beliefs finally come true and can be observed in reality. One said at 16:40 in the podcast,
“By the sixth seal, there will be no more atheists.”
He goes on to describe the “Satanic storm surge” that results in “a sin explosion, a pandemic of sin. . . Like Mardi Gras on steroids.” Later, at 20 minutes, one of them goes on and on about how he thinks there’ll be a huuuuuge number of people converting to TRUE CHRISTIANITY™ after the Rapture, thanks to finally having evidence and despite people’s hearts being so hardened.
Don’t worry, though: Soon enough, we’ll all know it was the Rapture!
Meanwhile, all those evil “globalists” will leap upon the Rapture as an opportunity to grab more power:
‘And I think there are evil people, globalists and other people who will not hesitate for a second and realize this is the moment they’ve all been waiting for. This is the crisis that’s finally going to let them push everything over the edge.”
If you’re wondering, “globalist” is the plausible-deniability name that evangelical extremists use for Jews. They think Jews are behind everything bad about modern society. But they can’t say Jews, because then everyone rightly accuses them of antisemitism. They use “globalists” an uncomfortable number of times.
For that matter, the “Prophecy Pros” also erroneously believe that “taxpayers are gonna be gone” (23:20) in the Rapture, as well as all the “tens of millions of consumers with their buying power” who’ll be gone. It’s clear that they think that TRUE CHRISTIANS™ are the ones propping up America’s economy. (The truth looks way different.)
They also gleefully describe all the ickie rational people they think will seek to explain the Rapture in terms of “probably wormholes and physics type stuff.” It’s like they just have no clue how real scientists find explanations for real-world events, then test those explanations. Coming up with post-hoc, untestable pseudo-explanations is something evangelicals o all the time. So they imagine everyone does it.
But don’t worry! “The two witnesses” will soon show up to tell everyone what really happened. Those two witnesses will quickly begin to try to “redeem” people even through the devastation of the post-Rapture world.
PIDOOMA: Wait, how many Christians will be raptured?
In both the Christian Post article and in the podcast, the “Prophecy Pros” demonstrate that they tend to define “Christian” in a very idiosyncratic way. The article mentions them thinking that 100M Christians will be Raptured. In the podcast, they hesitate to say that even 10% of Americans qualify for the label.
In reality, most experts say that over 2Bn people wear the label. But evangelicals, and in particular Endtimes fantasists, tend to imagine that far, far fewer than that will earn an escape from the Tribulation.
I have no clue in the world where these mad lads are getting their 100M number, nor the 200M they float briefly in the podcast before settling on 100M as a “conservative” estimate. It sounds like a number they’ve pulled directly out of their own asses. They also suspect that about 30M Americans qualify.
At least Barna Group makes an effort to define what they mean by TRUE CHRISTIAN™. It’s goofy, but at least it results in a solid number:
- In 2007, 38% of Americans defined themselves as evangelicals. That translated to 84M adults.
- Using Barna’s definition, however, only 8% of American adults fit the label of evangelical. In 2007, that meant 18M adults.
- In 2015, Pew Research found that 25% of respondents claimed to be evangelical. It hadn’t changed a lot from their 2007 research, either. So I suspect Barna’s research is questionable in credibility.
See? That’s not hard. But it’s beyond obvious that the “Prophecy Pros” haven’t bothered to figure out just how many people will magically vanish into thin air. They’ve got this super-impressive number that amounts to pure wishful thinking. Beyond that, they just have this gee-whiz, gosh-whillikers “I don’t know!” to offer. I’m not using scare quotes. That is the exact tone they use consistently to say “I don’t know!”
It’s so grating, especially since even evangelical conspiracy theorists ought to be able to nail down a question that basic.
Correctly and lovingly using the Rapture as a terroristic threat
Finally, Christian Post alights on the question of how to use the Rapture to terrorize heathens. The “Prophecy Pros” spend the last five minutes of their podcast trying to terrify heathens to convert, so they can avoid all this hellish dystopianism.
But they don’t want to teach their followers to be too explicit in their threats.
In fact, the “Prophecy Pros” offered the same suggestions that I got in the 1980s:
For Christians, Hampson said, it’s important to evangelize and not to boast about the rapture to unbelievers. It is a Christian’s duty, he said, to inform unbelievers about the coming rapture, but in a loving way that would bring them to repentance and believe in the Lord.
“As we talk about this and the chaos that’s going to be in the world afterward, we don’t do that gleefully. … God [has] given the church 2,000 years already to realize this is the truth. … And that’s our whole mission as the Church is to evangelize to the world,” Hampson advised.
“So, it’s our job as believers now to keep telling people that because we don’t want anybody to experience it. Unfortunately, we know that most of the world will go through it.”
Strange, they both sound very gleeful to me. I listened to their podcast (so you don’t have to). They could have been time-teleported from the 1980s directly to 2022 and fit right in with today’s pre-Trib weenies. What’s hilarious is that they throw massive shade on the Left Behind series in the podcast, but their beliefs are exactly the same as far as I can tell. (One wonders, idly, how keenly they sense that series’ popularity as competition.)
The message is clear, though: Use the Rapture as a threat, but be sure to coat it in lots of lovey-dovey language.
It doesn’t matter how polite muggers are when they demand our wallets or else. They’re still using threats to get what they want. They won’t get what they want without threats, and they know it.
Why so many evangelicals get so cuckoo for Rapture puffs
Fear is the root of evangelicals’ adoration of Rapture fantasies. To be evangelical is to live in fear of so many things. Some of those things are purely imaginary, while others relate to their frustrated yearnings for power. By creating conspiracy theories around their fears, they try to take control of them.
That’s what powers this whole “30 Seconds After the Rapture” podcast. As the narrative progresses, the hosts talk about all the fear and shock they imagine normies will feel as all those people vanish into thin air. They really enjoy describing it, too.
One of them talks a lot about how he thinks normies will rush to social media (like Twitter) to figure out what’s happened. He speculates openly about what experts might offer by way of explanations, all while delighting in the knowledge he’d have in that scenario that no experts would ever know. He’s almost giddy here, like: Ha! Those dumb asshole normies! If they’d only listened to us! Now they’re really fucked! And I’d say “fucked six ways from Sunday,” except in the future the Antichrist will probably rename it Satansday to get the world further away from Jesus!
Except the guy accidentally reveals that he knows he’s just storytelling by using the tense he does: “What might be some of the ways that people could—or, or will—explain how this—what happened.”
(He has to bite back the word “speculation,” too, at 26:30 in the podcast. It’s right before he completely mispronounces demesne as “DEE-mah-see” and makes up a bunch of stuff about what Heaven will totally be like. Oh, evangelicals, what would we do without you shamelessly adding to the Bible.)
The Rapture is just an evangelical fantasy. In regurgitating it, the “Prophecy Pros” hope they will bind listeners both to their brand and to their flavor of Christianity.
Good news shines on a troubled spot on our timeline
Overall, you’ll likely find (as I did) that the Christian Post writeup did the podcast decent justice. Today we learned that evangelicals haven’t changed their Rapture fantasies much at all. And that’s great, because it will turn Gen Z off from evangelicalism even more.
Evangelicalism—like all of Christianity, really—is aging in place. Its flocks grow older every year. They’re having a real problem with attracting younger recruits to their ranks. Gen Z is already being hailed as “the least religious generation” in America. Nothing evangelicals are doing is moving the needle even a little on that score. When we see evangelicals masturbating over the Rapture, they tend to be middle-aged or older.
Rapture fantasies really belong to older evangelicals, the ones who reached adulthood before the advent of consumer internet. Back in the 1980s, when I faced my first Rapture scare, I didn’t have any idea that there’d been tons of other Rapture scares before this one—much less that they’d all failed. Things are very different now. I doubt the “Prophecy Pros” fool a lot of Gen Z people—for the same reason that Republican politicians don’t fool them.
I don’t think many Gen Z people, even Gen Z evangelicals, much like the idea of leaving the Earth in such a terrible state. They’re not as “fuck alla y’all—I’ve got mine” as older evangelicals are. Older evangelicals ultimately see the Rapture as the a flipped bird to a world that rejects their demands. It’s a soothing balm to their fears of the future. Gen Z fears for the future, but they want to make it better, not abandon it. I don’t think they’ll cotton to threats about the Rapture, either. They’re very sensitive to emotional manipulation.
So in a lot of very real ways, the “Prophecy Pros” are, like their many competitors, leaving nothing to chance.
And that’s good news for the rest of us.
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