The apparent fulfillment of biblical
apocalyptic prophecy has led End Times believers to work
hard to fit more recent events into the scriptural
Books & Wares
There's an entire
universe of books and products related to the popular
series. Here's a sampling...
your letter to the editor
LAST JUDGEMENT: Detail of
the Sistine Chapel ceiling by
biggest book of the summer is about the end of the
world. It's also a sign of our troubled
Posted Sunday, June 23, 2002; 2:31 a.m.
What do you watch for, when you are watching the
news? Signs that interest rates might be climbing, maybe it's
time to refinance. Signs of global warming, maybe forget that
new SUV. Signs of new terrorist activity, maybe think twice
about that flight to Chicago.
Or signs that the world may be coming to an end, and the
last battle between good and evil is about to unfold?
For evangelical Christians with an interest in prophecy,
the headlines always come with asterisks pointing to
scriptural footnotes. That is how Todd Strandberg reads his
paper. By day, he is fixing planes at Offutt Air Force Base in
Bellevue, Neb. But in his off-hours, he's the webmaster at
raptureready.com and the inventor of the Rapture Index, which
he calls a "Dow Jones Industrial Average of End Time
activity." Instead of stocks, it tracks prophecies:
earthquakes, floods, plagues, crime, false prophets and
economic measurements like unemployment that add to
instability and civil unrest, thereby easing the way for the
Antichrist. In other words, how close are we to the end of the
world? The index hit an all-time high of 182 on Sept. 24, as
the bandwidth nearly melted under the weight of 8 million
visitors: any reading over 145, Strandberg says, means "Fasten
your seat belt."
It's not the end of the world, our mothers always told us.
This was helpful for putting spilled milk in perspective, but
it was also our introduction to a basic human reference point.
We seem to be born with an instinct that the end is out there
somewhere. We have a cultural impulse to imagine it—and keep
it at bay. Just as all cultures have their creation stories,
so too they have their visions of the end, from the Bible to
the Mayan millennial stories. Usually the fables dwell in the
back of the mind, or not at all, since we go about our lives
conditioned to think that however bad things get, it's not you
know what. But there are times in human history when instinct,
faith, myth and current events work together to create a
perfect storm of preoccupation. Visions of an end point lodge
in people's minds in many forms, ranging from entertainment to
superstitious fascination to earnest belief. Now seems to be
one of those times.
The experience of last fall—the terrorist attacks, the
anthrax deaths—not only deepened the interest among Christians
fluent in the language of Armageddon and Apocalypse. It
broadened it as well, to an audience that had never paid much
attention to the predictions of the doomsday prophet
Nostradamus, or been worried about an epic battle that marks
the end of time, or for that matter, read the Book of
Revelation. Since Sept. 11, people from cooler corners of
Christianity have begun asking questions about what the Bible
has to say about how the world ends, and preachers have
answered their questions with sermons they could not have
imagined giving a year ago. And even among more secular
Americans, there were some who were primed to see an omen in
the smoke of the flaming towers—though it had more to do with
their beach reading than with their Bible studies.
That is because among the best-selling fiction books of our
times—right up there with Tom Clancy and Stephen King—is a
series about the End Times, written by Tim F. LaHaye and Jerry
B. Jenkins, based on the Book of Revelation. That part of the
Bible has always held its mysteries, but for millions of
people the code was broken in 1995, when LaHaye and Jenkins
published Left Behind: A Novel of the Earth's Last
Days. People who haven't read the book and its sequels
often haven't even heard of them, yet their success provides
new evidence that interest in the End Times is no fringe
phenomenon. Only about half of Left Behind readers are
Evangelicals, which suggests there is a broader audience of
people who are having this conversation.
A TIME/CNN poll finds that more than one-third of Americans
say they are paying more attention now to how the news might
relate to the end of the world, and have talked about what the
Bible has to say on the subject. Fully 59% say they believe
the events in Revelation are going to come true, and nearly
one-quarter think the Bible predicted the Sept. 11 attack.
Some of that interest is fueled by faith, some by fear,
some by imagination, but all three are fed by the Left
Behind series. The books offer readers a vivid, violent
and utterly detailed description of just what happens to those
who are left behind on earth to fight the Antichrist after
Jesus raptures, or lifts, the faithful up to heaven. At the
start of Book 1, on a 747 bound for Heathrow from Chicago, the
flight attendants suddenly find about half the seats empty,
except for the clothes and wedding rings and dental fillings
of the believers who have suddenly been swept up to heaven.
Down on the ground, cars are crashing, husbands are waking up
to find only a nightgown in bed next to them, and all children
under 12 have disappeared as well. The next nine books
chronicle the tribulations suffered by those left behind and
their struggle to be saved.
Bin Laden: Dead Or Alive?
The trail of the
al-Qaeda leader has grown cold, but the White
House believes he has survived the war. Here's why
bin Laden is so hard to pin
Terror That Will Not Quit
No matter what
Israel tries, Palestinians keep blowing themselves
up. Inside Sharon's campaign to stop the
Photographers Alexandra Boulat, James
Nachtwey and John Stanmeyer look at what has
already changed and what challenges lie ahead
What makes Tom tick? A
behind-the-scenes look at the life of a