Everything I Know About the Rapture I Learned from CCM

12Apr11

One thing the reader may not know about me is that I have been a huge fan of Contemporary Christian and Jesus Music since the early 70’s. I cut my musical listening teeth on Larry Norman, Randy Stonehill, Love Song and Darrell Mansfield. The 80’s were filled with Undercover, DeGarmo & Key, the 77’s and Steve Taylor. I have been a fan ever since and own a collection of vinyl, cassette tapes and CD’s numbering in the thousands.

One common thread that seemed to permeate the music of especially the 70’s and 80’s is the Rapture and primarily Dispensational, Left Behind Theology.

  • I Wish We’d All Been Ready – Larry Norman
  • Tomorrow’s News – Malcolm and Alwyn
  • Bethlehem – Night Rider
  • It Won’t Be Long – Andrae Crouch
  • Might Come Tonight – Mustard Seed Faith
  • Ready or Not – DeGarmo & Key
  • The Cossack Song – Love Song
  • Come for the Children – Oden Fong
  • Gonna Fly Away – Petra
  • Eve of Destruction – Barry McGuire
  • Fly Away – Servant
  • Are You Ready – DeGarmo & Key
  • Get Ready – Darrell Mansfield
  • Six, Sixty-Six – Larry Norman
  • The Skeptic’s Song – Daniel Amos
  • One of These Days – Undercover
  • People Get Ready – Crystal Lewis
  • Get Right or Get Left – Farrell & Farrell
  • Soon – Daniel Amos
  • Grave Robber – Petra

The list could go on and on. Those were just in my mp3 player at the moment!

This fascination with all things Rapture was echoed in the newer churches of the 70’s and was the life blood of the Jesus Movement and churches like Calvary Chapel in Southern California. This “any moment” pre-tribulation Rapture frenzy of the 70’s CCM coupled with Hal Lindsey’s, Late Great Planet Earth, made the 70’s the Decade of the rapture.

The 80’s, though, were not to be outdone with speculation to be found in the bookstore, record shop or pulpit! A catalog of the best selling Christian Books could be found in the prophecy section. Books by Hal Lindsey, Chuck Missler, Chuck Smith, Grant Jeffrey, Charles Ryrie, John Walvoord, Jack Van Impe, Harold Camping and a host of others all but guaranteed the soon coming rapture of the Church to be followed by seven years of unrecognizable horror.

Most notable among the books released with a pamphlet by Edgar Whisenant entitled, “88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988.” The author used complicated mathematical schemes to determine that the rapture had to take place in 1988. He was so sure that he claimed that if he was wrong it was not his fault, but rather that the Bible was in error! In 1989 the same authored followed up with “The Final Shout: Rapture report 1989.” Despite these two miserable failing he released two more books with dates setting the rapture before disappearing into obscurity.

Books and music were not alone as the most popular films ever produced by Christians were “end times” thrillers. The most famous, and well before the multi-billion dollar industry known as the Left behind Series even was dreamt up, was the movie, “A Thief in the Night.” A Thief in the Night would be shown in churches around North America on Friday Night movie nights for the whole family or as a “special screening” to replace the Sunday evening service.

The screenings would be followed immediately by an “altar call” and the altar would be full and the tissue books empty. In hindsight the movie was campy in a good way and was really down right scary.The scariest thing being the handlebar mustache of the antagonist!

The Rapture was a cultural phenomenon. Mainstream articles and news stories were not uncommon. Date setting was king and if you could find a way to set a date and give yourself an “out” then book sales would continue to rise.

This speculative date setting for the rapture also consumed the pulpit. Pastors, Sunday school teachers and televangelist made the study of revelation a top priority. New converts were directed to the end of the book with an intense fascination to find today’s headlines in a 2,000 year old document.

Prophecy experts began a circuit of speaking engagements, video releases and “end times” news programs on world wide Christian telecast. It seemed like every weekend one church or another in my community would be hosting a “prophecy seminar” with the latest news from Jerusalem and Russia.

Government officials were not “left behind” as many US officials believed what they were seeing in the Soviet Union, Israel and the rest of the Middle east was Biblical prophecy fulfilled before their eyes, and they were making international policy decisions with that in mind! For a while US President Jimmy Carter had to live down speculation he was the Antichrist because he was involved in the peace treaty between Israel and Arab nations!

This crept into mainstream media as well with movies like The Omen, the Seventh Seal and others using the popular Revelation accounts as basis for apocalyptic thrillers. The Antichrist was big money.

But nothing prepared the world for the juggernaut that is the Left Behind Series. Twelve books, a youth version of the series, movies, spin-offs, sequels and prequels, video games and a Study Bible only scratch the surface.

But amonsgt the glitter and glamour and speculation and residual checks, the important question to consider at this point, though, is whether or not this view of the rapture is Biblical?

That is where the next post will begin.

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