I have written before about suffering from salvation anxiety and demon anxiety. I was surprised how many others chimed in to say they had shared my experiences. There’s a third kind of anxiety to be discussed, though, and that is rapture anxiety.
Many Premillennialists believe that the rapture is imminent. As in, really imminent. When I was a child I asked my dad when he thought the rapture would take place. His answer? In the next five or ten years. This sort of thinking is not at all uncommon in these circles.
Fear 1: Being “Left Behind”
If you’ve ever read the Left Behind books, you’ll learn that being a Christian isn’t a guarantee of being raptured. Rather, you have to be a real Christian, and not be just faking. But it’s really hard to tell the difference sometimes. In the first Left Behind book, one of the main characters was an evangelical pastor who was left behind. It just so happened that he thought too much of his own importance and didn’t trust Jesus as his savior enough. Take a look at my salvation anxiety post linked above to see how complicated being saved can sometimes be for an evangelical Christian.
As a result, I was very afraid the rapture might occur and I might be left behind. One morning when I was ten or twelve I woke up and couldn’t find anyone in the house. Before I realized that my mom and siblings had simply gone outside to enjoy the beautiful morning, I completely freaked, convinced that the rapture had occurred and I had been left behind. That fear was real and palpable.
Sometimes one of my siblings would change in the morning or later in the day and just leave a pile of clothes on the floor rather than putting them in the hamper. Sometimes I would come upon just such a pile of clothes and take fright, fearing that maybe my sibling had been raptured and I had been left.
I’m not the only one who felt this way, either, as a commenter on the first post in my end times series revealed:
I was pre-trib, pre-millenial, and it terrified me cause of my transgenderism and bisexuality that God would see through the veneer of myself closeting myself and judge me cause I still suffered the sin of being attracted to males and wanting to be a woman.
Woke up many nights when it was silent, thinking my family got raptured, to have to sneak down the hall to peek in on my sister to see if she was still in her bed. It was nightmarish and scary, and I hated it.
I don’t remember all the names, but there were also movies we watched about the end times, movies that portrayed people being left behind and suddenly realizing how they’d been wrong and misunderstood the gospel, etc. These sorts of things only only served to feed my anxiety.
Fear 2: Never really getting the chance to live
The Bible says there will be no marrying in heaven, and no having children. Given that I was being raised to see being a wife and mother as my highest calling, and given that I was a bit of a little romantic, the idea that I might be raptured before marrying and having children, and thus never marry or have children, frightened me.
You know what’s weird? Because of the imminent nature of the rapture, I never pictured myself in old age. I didn’t think I would live that long. I only hoped to live long enough to marry and have a passel of children, and I felt that even that was pushing it.
I knew that the rapture was something we were to look forward to and embrace, as it would transport us directly to heavenly bliss, but this world we are in today is so much more tangible than the idea of heaven, especially for a child. I was just beginning to live life. I didn’t want to leave it so soon, even to be transported straight to heaven.
I have learned since, though, that I was in some sense lucky. While I worried primarily about the rapture and very little about the Tribulation itself, those who are raised to believe in a Postribulationist rapture grow up having very different concerns and anxieties relating to the end times. To illustrate, I’ll quote from some comments on the first post in my end times series:
We were posttribulationists. I had plans, where would I run with my siblings, as the oldest, I figured my parents would maybe be able to stall the authorities long enough for me to get the rest of us gone.
We’d hide until we were finally caught and tortured until we either died or recanted faith and went to hell.
I would regularly cause myself minor amounts of various kinds of pain in order to “prepare” myself for withstanding said torture…
I grew up Postribulationist as well and my parents (who loved the Terminator movies) took on a sort of Sarah Connor approach to training us for the end of days. Whenever we’d complain about having to walk to school in freezing rain it’d be “what are you gonna do when we’re hiding in the woods somewhere!”
As I described in part IV of this series, the Tribulation is to be a time of horror, plague, famine, death, and persecution. And kids growing up in families who believed in a Postribulation rapture had to deal with growing up believing that they would have to live through that time – and probably wouldn’t make it.
I wonder sometimes if parents realize what messages they send their children with these sorts of teachings. Do Premillennialist parents realize that their children may suffer from rapture anxiety or Tribulation anxiety? I’m really not sure. I know I never talked to my parents about my rapture anxiety, I just took it as a matter of course.
I also wonder about the short term thinking I had. Was I alone in not picturing myself growing old? Or do most kids not think very far ahead anyway? I do think that my belief that I had only ten or so years left to live seriously affected how I viewed the world and my future. I also know that this is the case for at least some adult Premillennialists. Why save for retirement, after all, if you’re not going to be around to retire anyway?
When I left my parents’ beliefs, my entire sense of time, history, and the future changed. As a result of my parents’ Young Earth Creationism and Premillennialism, I saw the entire history of the world as beginning in 4004 B.C.E. and ending, well, any year now. Six thousand concrete years, holding all of civilization and history within it. When I left these beliefs, though, this entire conception suddenly broadened, shooting out on both ends. Suddenly there was this whole history going back millions and even billions of years into the past, and this whole future stretching out thousands and thousands of years to come. My understanding of my place in space and time changed completely.
And yes, I’m saving for retirement. 😛
Also in this series: