Rapture prophets can’t celebrate 50th anniversaries

Rapture prophets can’t celebrate 50th anniversaries November 19, 2013

Here, via Christian Nightmares, is an ad for Howard C. Estep’s prophecy newsletter:

 

That’s from 1963 — 50 years ago. In 1963, Estep was preaching that the Rapture was imminent and could occur at any moment, if not sooner. He was preaching the same thing in 1973. And he was preaching the same thing in 1983.

Estep wasn’t preaching that in 1993, though, because he died in 1986. But the institution he founded lives on. “The King Is Coming” ministries carries on Estep’s work, preaching that the Rapture is imminent and could occur at any moment, if not sooner. It’s now run by Ed Hindson, dean of the “Institute of Biblical Studies” at Liberty University. Hindson took over for Estep because, as the Gospel of Matthew says, “Two men will be grinding out a prophecy newsletter together; one will be taken and one will be left.”

The King Is Coming has a long, storied history as an organization. But celebrating that history is a bit awkward, given the content of the group’s message. They can’t do something like, for example, World Vision’s proud account of its 60+ years of work, with a timeline charting the growth and accomplishments of the organization throughout its long history.

What would such a timeline look like for a Rapture-prophecy “ministry” like TKIC?

1963: Predicted the Rapture would happen very soon. We were wrong.
1964: Predicted the Rapture would happen very soon. We were wrong.
1965: Predicted the Rapture would happen very soon. We were wrong.
1966: Predicted the Rapture would happen very soon. We were wrong.
1967: Predicted the Rapture would happen very soon. We were wrong.
1968: Predicted the Rapture would happen very soon. We were wrong.
1969: Predicted the Rapture would happen very soon. We were wrong.
1970: Predicted the Rapture would happen very soon. We were wrong.
1971: Predicted the Rapture would happen very soon. We were wrong.
1972: Predicted the Rapture would happen very soon. We were wrong. …
1973: Predicted the Rapture would happen very soon. We were wrong.
1974: Predicted the Rapture would happen very soon. We were wrong. …

That’s probably not a winning fund-raising strategy. It’s probably wiser just to fudge the group’s long history of premature extrapolation and to do their best to appear as though they haven’t been at this for as many decades as they have (kind of like Hindson seems to be doing with his hair).

The Seventh Day Adventist denomination encountered this same awkward problem earlier this year, when it came time to celebrate the sect’s 150th anniversary, as Daniel Burke reported for Religion News Service:

Back in the 1860s, the founders of Seventh-day Adventism preached that Jesus would return – and soon. That’s why they called themselves “Adventists.” By Second-Coming standards, the church’s long life could be considered a dismal sign of failure.

“If you took a time machine and visited our founders in May 1863, they’d be disconcerted, to say the least, that we’re still here,” said David Trim, the church’s director of archives and research.

Current Adventists aren’t exactly excited about the anniversary, either.

“It’s almost an embarrassment to be celebrating 150 years,” said Lisa Beardsley-Hardy, the church’s director of education.

That’s true — except for the “almost” part. It’s always embarrassing for anyone to admit having spent many years insisting that the world would not exist for many more years. That’s true for the Adventists’ sesquicentennial, and for the 50th anniversary of The King Is Coming ministries, and for the 40th anniversary last year of the classic Rapture-mania movie A Thief in the Night.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Edgar C. Whisenant’s premillennial dispensationalist classic 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988. Silver anniversaries are usually cause for celebration, but this milestone is passing quietly. And there’s no big parties planned for next year, when we mark the 25th anniversary of Whisenant’s follow-up book, The Final Shout: Rapture Report 1989. (Whisenant continued “updating” and amending his predictions until 2001 when, in the twinkling of an eye, he left us behind.)

But let’s not jump to conclusions here. While it may be true that The King Is Coming ministries’ predictions of an imminent Rapture proved to be wrong in 1963, and in 1964, and in 1965, and in 1966, and in 1967, and in 1968, and in 1969, and in 1970, and in 1971, and in 1972, and in 1973, and in 1974, and in 1975, and in 1976, and in 1977, and in 1978, and in 1979, and in 1980, and in 1981, and in 1982, and in 1983, and in 1984, and in 1985, and in 1986, and in 1987, and in 1988, and in 1989, and in 1990, and in 1991, and in 1992, and in 1993, and in 1994, and in 1995, and in 1996, and in 1997, and in 1998, and in 1999, and in 2000, and in 2001, and in 2002, and in 2003, and in 2004, and in 2005, and in 2006, and in 2007, and in 2008, and in 2009, and in 2010, and in 2011, and in 2012, and in 2013 (so far), that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be wrong to predict an imminent Rapture in 2014.

What if, next time, they’re right?

Don’t worry, Dr. Hindson has us covered. Even though we’ve steadfastly refused to listen to his urgent message for the past half century, he’s still graciously provided a video for us to watch to prepare us after he’s whisked away in the Rapture. It’s called “What to Do If You’re Left Behind.”

I worry, though, that after everyone at TKIC has been snatched up into Heaven, no one will remain to pay the bills for hosting their website. So as a back-up plan for this back-up plan, I’m also posting this video here on Patheos (where our religious diversity pretty much guarantees someone around here will be left behind to keep the site running — at least until we’re killed by the four horsemen of the Apocalypse of the giant demon locusts).

You may want to bookmark this page for future reference — just in case.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6fuqyotmhk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XLd0D0gxo1I
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