A key for those unfamiliar with the “last days” movement:
The Rapture: the moment when Jesus appears in the sky and summons all believers around the globe to float upwards to meet Him and follow Him back to Heaven.
The (Great) Tribulation: a period of 7 years during which the Antichrist will begin his reign over the entire world. The first 3.5 years will include famine, wars, earthquakes, etc… 2/3 of the world’s population is expected to perish during this time. The Great Tribulation starts at the midway point and ushers in a time of persecution for Israel and Christians like never seen before in history. More reading.
The Antichrist: A man who becomes the first (and only) dictator of the entire world. It is thought that he will be viewed as a Messiah figure and will be worshiped as a god in the One world religion.
The Mark of the Beast: Usually thought to be a computer chip that will be implanted in the hand or the forehead. Without this chip, no one will be able to buy or sell anything.
Some of my earliest memories involve long discussions over the dinner table with my parents about the last days. I would hear tales about a one-world religion. The persecution of those who shared my faith. I was told about the coming rapture. I was told literal horror stories and taught that these would, very likely, be a part of my future.
This is my story of what it was like to grow up in the last days.
Children, like my younger self, were taught to always be on alert. Jesus could come back at any moment and call His saints home.
In my home, the rapture was taught as a merciful escape before the tribulation. However, there was much confusion and debate around the idea of whether the tribulation would begin before or after the rapture, so I heard many conflicting stories from various authority figures. Some believed the tribulation would start before the rapture and get progressively worse afterwards. Some believed the rapture occur halfway through, and some taught that it would not occur until the very end of the tribulation.
I used to fall asleep at night confessing every one of my sins that I could recall and asking for mercy for the ones I couldn’t. I feared that if Christ should come back in the middle of the night, and I had unconfessed sins staining my soul, I might be left behind.
Every time a major news story broke about war or natural disasters, I was taught to interpret it as a sign. The birth pangs were starting (Matthew 24:6-8), and the end was in sight. I was supposed to prepare my soul.
My mother once told me that the end of days would not begin until the very last person, whose name was written in the Book of Life, became saved. I used to pray that this event could be delayed so that the world would not end during my lifetime and I could escape all of the pain I’d been promised to live through. I remember feeling selfish for praying this prayer. However, I was a child. I wanted to live and enjoy my life.
My sibling and I used to have long conversations about what we would do if we were left behind when the rapture occurred. We would have discussions about camping deep in the woods so that we wouldn’t be found by the authorities whose one goal would be to track down faithful Christians like us to torture or kill.
We were children. Children who were seriously contemplating survival plans if we should be left behind when our parents were raptured without us.
I remember being told, at 17, that I shouldn’t consider ever having kids because we were in the last days and it would be cruel to subject a child to the possibility of living through the tribulation. I was taught that I needed to memorize my Bible. One day, Bibles would be illegal and the only Bible I would have access to would be the one I stored inside my own mind.
We were taught to prepare ourselves for the treacherous One World Government and a future filled with hunger and lacking.
Some people refused to own credit cards because they saw them as a precursor to “the mark”. Many created emergency rations so that they would still have some amount of food to eat if they were among those left behind. I heard theories about the mark being hidden in our vaccines. Others argued that the authorities wouldn’t have to rely on such devious conspiracies when we’d likely just be held at gunpoint and ordered to submit to implantation.
I used to hear predictions about who the key players in the last days would be.
Dave Hunt, a favourite author in my home, predicted that the Roman Catholic church would play a prominent role in the end days. Hunt discussed his thoughts in his book, “A Woman Rides The Beast”.
I remember hearing genuine fear and concern when Barack Obama was elected as president. He was considered by many in the movement to be the Antichrist.
The UN itself is even considered a pre-cursor to the One World Government by many. As recently as 2015, conspiracy theories were still floating around online about its role in creating the One World Government.
I remember being home alone every now and then and being stricken with panic about what I should do if the rapture happened while my family was out and I was alone. I remember the relief when my parents would come home, though I never admitted to them how anxious I was that I might have lost them forever.
Speaking to other survivors of this movement, I have discovered how common it was for people to wake up in the morning to an unexpectedly empty house, anxieties running high. When the cellphone became more popular and commonly used, it became a lifeline for many of the traumatized to feel safe in the knowledge that they were not left to face the Tribulation alone.
I know that there are adults my age (and older) who suffer from what is referred to by some as Religious Trauma Syndrome. They still routinely have nightmares about being left behind after the rapture, though they’ve thrown away these toxic beliefs long ago. The fears and anxieties remain
For those of us who grew up in this movement, the Left Behind books (written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B Jenkins) weren’t just some mildly entertaining (or ridiculously boring, depending on the individual) plotline. These were the stories that I and others like me had been raised to believe were actually going to happen. These stories, though fictional, were tools to help us better visualize what the end times would look like.
Everywhere I looked in my little corner of the world, I saw fear.
Fear of the Great tribulation.
Fear of being left behind.
Fear of being persecuted (and, strangely, much excitement about the idea of being persecuted).
Fear of the Mark of the Beast somehow being forced upon us.
Sometime in my late 20s, I came to a point where I realized that I was “agnostic” about the end times. I looked at the doctrine that I was being fed regarding the last days. I looked around at the people within this very fringe subculture of Evangelicalism. All I could see, everywhere that I looked, was fear and paranoia. And all I could think about was the passage in first John:
“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” – 1 John 4:16-18
I couldn’t reconcile this culture of fear with the perfect love of God. Jesus did not teach his disciples to fear the coming persecution He knew they were to face. He spoke of it, but He did not teach them to fear it.
Yet we were being taught to drown ourselves in fear. We were being handed truly bizarre conspiracy theories that sounded like they came from some bad horror movie from the 70s. And we were told that they were literally the gospel truth.
It became too much for me to buy into anymore.
I decided that whatever the future held, God was in control and I was not walking alone.
Fearing what *could* happen based on theories from people who did not and could not know what the future held, added nothing good or healthy to my life.
I shed the fear. I walked away from that world.
The Last Days movement became the first casualty in my deconstruction journey as I slowly began to weed out the false and damaging doctrines from my world.