The Rapture, It’s No Secret Anymore: So, Who’s Going to Buy the Antichrist’s Lure?
By Robert E. Cruickshank, Jr., and Daniel E. Harden
Eric Ogea (Editor)
Copyright © Robert E. Cruickshank, Jr. (November 3, 2023)
All Rights Reserved
In its original form, Dispensationalism taught a “secret rapture” of the Church. It was to be a stealth removal of believers before the Antichrist showed up to do a number, so to speak, on those left behind. The secret rapture would be a covert rescue operation, before seven years of tribulation. After that, Jesus returns, kills the Antichrist, and sets up His Millennial kingdom – or so the theory goes.
The phrase “secret rapture” is a fitting term in more ways than one, as the Church had never taught this before. Christian doctrine was pretty much standard across the board in this regard. Basically, the rapture, resurrection, and Second Coming all occur simultaneously and coincide with each other. In other words, there was no seven-year split in the action. But in the mid-1800s, a strange little British man discovered a strange little doctrine that had eluded God’s people for centuries. Or, maybe it was a Scottish girl in a trance a few decades earlier? That’s debatable. Either way, the secret about the “secret rapture” wasn’t a secret anymore. And that’s precisely the problem for Dispensationalism: the secret is out.
With several feature films, numerous books, and even graphic novels touting the Dispensational narrative, the jig is up. If it all plays out, everyone already knows every act in the play. In a nutshell, millions of people vanish off the face of the earth, and then men in black trench coats show up and say, “Hello, we’re with the Antichrist and we’re here to help.” But who is going to buy it at this point? Anyone who has their wits about them will simply say, “No thanks, I’ve seen the movie!”
As much as people today love their tattoos, “666” is one stamp that nobody will be getting. The modern infatuation with tattoos is matched only by an equal disdain for the government being able to track our every move. In short, the mark of the beast is going to be a tough sell at this point. It seems the Dispensationalists forgot to preface their previews with spoiler alerts. This will ruin everything once the real movie starts playing.
Sign Here on the Dotted Line
According to the Dispensational screenplay, the “first important piece of the puzzle” after the rapture is the Antichrist showing up to make a seven-year “peace treaty with Israel.” The problem here is that everyone already knows about the fine print in that treaty. Are the Israelis going to forget what happened in the previews? Will Benjamin Netanyahu be the only person on the planet who doesn’t realize this is the Antichrist? Didn’t he see the movie trailer? Hopefully, he has at least seen Star Wars: The Phantom Meance. Queen Amidala knew better than to sign a peace treaty with a creepy bad guy in a dark cloak. At the very least, one of Netanyahu’s advisors should have enough sense to Google it and discover that this sinister leader is going to renege on the deal in 3 ½ years. At the end of the day, it’s not much of a puzzle anymore if the whole world has seen the picture on the box.
What about the menacing Man of Lawlessness taking his stand in the newly rebuilt temple of God and claiming to be God? Isn’t this going to ring a bell in the minds of…well…everyone? Again, they can Google it, they can read a book, they can watch a movie. Actually, a great scene for a movie would be a couple sitting in their living room watching the evening news. A crowd of reporters surrounds the Lawless One as he makes his big announcement. The husband turns to his wife and says, “Seriously? Is anybody buying this guy as God? Morgan Freeman and George Burns made a way better God than this dude!” The wife turns to the husband and says, “Nah, nobody’s going to buy it. They’ve all watched the movie.”
What movie, you ask? Take your pick. Here’s the short list of the most recent ones:
The Moment After
The Dark: Great Deceiver
New World Order
Revelation Road Movie Series
The Mark Movie Series
In the Blink of an Eye
The End Times: How Close Are We?
These are merely the ones that are available now on Pure Flix. A simple search online will turn up a plethora of others, including the 1970s classic, “A Thief in the Night.” Hitting the big screen while Hal Lindsey’s Late Great Planet Earth was simultaneously hitting the bookshelves, this was the premier film in the rapture-trope genre. The modern reboots have nothing over on the original’s 60-Minutes-style, ticking clock intro. On the other hand, the Antichrist’s upgrade in the newer movies is an improvement. A “Sith Lord” type of figure makes a much better end-times bad guy than a used car salesman wearing a Ben Matlock suit. Nonetheless, the Matlock-suited Antichrist still left his mark (pardon the pun) on impressionable young minds back in the day. One person comments:
“I was only 16 when I saw this movie and it had robbed me of many joys in life. I gave up friends, a girlfriend, sports, and much much more. What I replaced it with was massive Bible studies, church almost every day, and depression. Only recently have I realized how much this movie has affected me and is the root of many of my problems.”
Sadly, this story is all too common for young people growing up under the fear of Dispensationalism’s false scenario. Rapture Anxiety Disorder (RAD), is now an officially recognized mental condition similar to post-traumatic stress. According to one CNN report, “… ‘rapture anxiety’ can take a lifetime to heal.” Theologically, it’s a rather quick fix since it’s fairly easy to point out the errors of the Dispensational approach and demonstrate what the Scriptures really say. Emotionally? That’s another story.
There are countless tales of people who realized that they missed out on their childhood and teenage years while waiting to get beamed up. Some had even wasted a good part of their adult lives as well before they finally woke from their “rapture dream.” Jesus never showed up on the clouds to take them to the sweet by and by and, before they knew it, a good part of their lives had passed them by. The truth is, they might as well have been waiting for Scotty in the Star Ship Enterprise. The Dispensational narrative is no closer to the Biblical narrative than an episode of Star Trek.
The bottom line? Bad theology is damaging. Dispensationalism not only damages the Church on the collective level, but it has personally damaged many on the individual level – emotionally and mentally.
Yet, modern-day believers keep falling for this cartoonish version of Bible prophecy which has become a caricature of itself. This makes the cartoon makers very wealthy, and even unbelievers are cashing in on the action. For example, there is the parodic book, How to Profit from the Coming Rapture: Getting Ahead When You’re Left Behind. The book blurb reads: “The investment guide the Antichrist doesn’t want you to read.” There is also the incredibly vulgar 2013 movie, “Rapture-Palooza.” These mockeries of the Dispensational scenario only serve to underscore the fact that everyone is going to be ready for what’s coming after the rapture because everyone already knows the plotline.
By the time millions of people suddenly disappear from the planet and the dastardly villain shows up announcing that he is God, his cover is already blown. This will turn out to be a really short movie. It’s more like an episode of Scooby Doo, only we don’t have to wait until the end for Fred to pull the mask off the bad guy. Right after the opening scene (i.e., the rapture), everyone will say in unison: “It’s the Antichrist!”
Filling the Plot Hole
Now to their credit, the writers of the upcoming blockbuster have discovered the plot hole here, and efforts are underway to rewrite the script. Borrowing a page from The Matrix, the idea of a virtual reality will apparently play heavily into the new version of the story. Supposedly, this is what Paul alludes to when he speaks of the “mystery of lawlessness” (2 Thes. 2:7). According to Charles Bing, “Paul was looking to a future event that we now know was at least 19-hundred years from the time of Paul’s writing.” This “future event” is the “acceptance” of “the Metaverse.” The Metaverse is “a world where people” spend “most of their time living in an imaginary world,” an “Augmented [sic] reality” where “people can experience…living inside a computerized world.”
“If billions of people live inside a lie (imaginary world),” asks Bing, “how hard would it be for a powerful person (the lawless one) to tell them a lie they would believe?” According to Bing, “The lie the ‘lawless one’ will tell…is how millions of people living on earth disappeared in the ‘twinkling of an eye.’ If billions of people live in or are influenced by a virtual, augmented ‘Metaverse,’ an imaginary computerized world, believing the lie of how those people disappeared would seem easier than we might imagine.”
To his creative credit, Bing’s Scenario is definitely more exciting than the “Thief in the Night” storyline. However, we have to cut the writers of the original version some slack here. After all, they didn’t have this kind of technology back then. The problem is: they didn’t have this kind of technology 1900 years ago in Thessalonica either. Yet, Paul told the Thessalonians that “the mystery of lawlessness” was “already at work” in their own day (2 Thes. 2:7). Needless to say, the Thessalonians didn’t exactly have access to the internet. So, it seems there is another plot hole that needs to be worked out.
Pitching a New Storyline
A far better explanation for the rapture not giving away the Antichrist’s identity would be mass memory loss. He could simply erase everyone’s memories of those who were taken. This would be in keeping with dispensationalism’s prime directive – the Hollywood hermeneutic. After all, the collective memory wipe is a common trope in every sci-fi series from Star Trek to Star Gate.
This, however, becomes another catch-22 in the story arc. With the memories of the vanished people vanished from the minds of those who are left behind, how is the Antichrist going to explain all the driverless cars wrecked along the roadside? Additionally, what will he do about the incredible volume of material that will be left behind for people to see or hear if by chance they missed the first showing– the books, the articles, the movies, etc.? Perhaps Star Trek’s Scotty will come in handy after all? He could simply beam the debris away. The people are gone, their vehicles are gone, all the evidence is gone, and those who missed the rapture are none the wiser. A perfect setting for history’s ultimate bad guy to go forward with his evil plan of world domination. This could work. We’ll have to see how things materialize or, rather, dematerialize.
Not Knowing the Plan in Advance
Aside from human beings knowing the storyline in advance, Satan has had almost 2000 years to figure it out. Is he not going to improvise at this point? Surely, he must know by now that things are not going to go well for him. In fact, this is precisely why God hid His plans the first time around – when He sent His Son into this world.
Regarding Christ’s first coming, Paul tells us that the plan was a “mystery,” “hidden” in “ages past” (1 Cor. 2:6-7). In other words, the messianic profile was intentionally kept veiled and cryptic in the Old Testament. Why? Paul tells us exactly why. Speaking of the rulers of that age, he says, “if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory” (1 Cor. 2:8). Simply put: if they had known the outcome, they wouldn’t have played along.
While many examples of the Old Testament concealing the plan could be cited, Matthew’s use of Hosea 11:1 is the classic case in point. The storyline in Matthew is familiar enough. A jealous King Herod learns of the Messiah’s birth. In reaction, he starts killing all the male children in Bethlehem, who are two years old and under (Matt. 2:16). But his efforts are in vain since Mary and Joseph had already taken their child to Egypt (Matt. 2:15a). According to Matthew, this was to fulfill the words of the prophet: “Out of Egypt did I call my son” (Matt. 2:15b). In its original context, however, Hosea 11:1 isn’t a forward-looking prophecy about the coming Messiah but a historical look back at the Exodus.
From the progressive revelation of the New Testament, we can now look back as well and understand that the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt typified the embodiment of Israel, i.e., Jesus the Messiah. After His resurrection, Jesus opened the disciples’ minds to understand these things (Lk. 24:45). In hindsight, we benefit from their enlightenment. But Hosea’s original audience would have never gotten that out of his original words. And, more importantly, neither would Herod. If Herod could have figured it out, he would have known exactly where to look, find the baby, and kill Him.
As Michael Heiser wrote, “By God’s design, the Scripture presents the Messiah in terms of a mosaic profile that can only be discerned after the pieces are assembled.” These pieces are scattered throughout the Old Testament like bread crumbs in seemingly unrelated contexts. The contour of the mosaic is embedded in types and shadows. God did not lay His cards on the table, in plain sight, showing His hand. If this was the case with Christ’s first coming, how much more so would it be with His Second Coming?
Giving Satan Advanced Notice?
With this in mind, the New Testament is rather straightforward with respect to all of its prophecies. This is quite the contrast to the ambiguity of the Old Testament. The Man of Lawlessness will take his stand in the temple, and the Lord will slay him with the breath of his mouth (2 Thes. 2:8). The beast will persecute the Saints for 3 ½ years, only to get tossed into the lake of fire (Rev. 19:20). Satan will attempt one final rebellion that will turn out to be his final undoing (Rev. 20:7-10). If knowing the outcome in advance would have dissuaded God’s enemies from going along with the script the first time, why would they follow it the second time?
More to the point, why would Satan, having listened to the loud proclamations of the Dispensationalists for 200 years now, follow the script that they have supposedly uncovered? One thing that all Dispensationalists agree on is that Satan is clever. Remember, the serpent was more “crafty than any beast of the field” (Gen. 3:1). The Hebrew word for “crafty” is arum and it means: “subtle, shrewd, sly, sensible, prudent.” He might be evil, but he’s not stupid.
With that said, 2000 years is more than enough time for God’s enemies to figure out His endgame if the New Testament prophecies are in fact about the end of the world. On the other hand, there wouldn’t have been enough time or available information for counterintelligence if these prophecies were about the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.
Lack of Time and Information
The earliest New Testament letters were composed in the fifties and the book of Revelation was complete in the mid to late sixties. These were letters sent exclusively to the first-century churches. There was no published New Testament out there yet, much less a plethora of scholars and theologians dissecting and analyzing it for 2000 years. There were no commentaries. There were no books about the end times based on the Apostle’s writings, and there certainly wasn’t a movie. In short, the New Testament writings were not public knowledge, and there wasn’t enough time for God’s enemies to decipher how it was all going to go down.
In hindsight, the script is now fairly easy to follow. The harlot (first-century Jerusalem) rode the back of the sea beast (first-century Rome). Early on in the New Testament narrative, Rome was acting as a kind of shield, protecting Jesus’ original followers from their Jewish persecutors to a certain extent. For example, Paul could bet on appealing to Caesar for help (Acts 25:9-12; cf. 22:24-29). Once the Neronic persecution broke out, that bet was off. Nero hunted the Christians down, tortured them, and brutally murdered them. This lasted “42 months, from the middle of November 64 to the beginning of June 68.”, coinciding with Revelation 13:5. The early Christians now faced persecution on both fronts – Apostate Israel and Rome.
In the midst of this, there was a Zealot uprising in Jerusalem in AD 66 which drove the Roman-Jewish War. By the time Nero died, Rome would turn its full attention to the Jews. By AD 70, the Romans would destroy Jerusalem. The sea beast (Rome) would turn on the Harlot (Jerusalem) and “make her desolate and naked” (Rev. 17:16).
The Zealot uprising that precipitated this sudden turn of events was telegraphed by Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2. Once the restrainer (the legitimate priesthood) was taken out of the way, the lawless Zealots would be revealed and the rebellion against Rome would begin. Amid all the action, many Jewish converts to Christianity would revert back to Judaism and renounce their belief in Jesus as the Messiah. These are the Antichrists of whom John spoke (1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3; and 2 John 1:7). Early on, Simeon had told Mary that her Son was “appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel” (Lk. 2:34), and many fell away. The book of Hebrews, most likely written between AD 60 and AD 65, is devoted to curtailing this apostasy.
Time for a New Movie
While many believe we are living in the last days, the last days are far behind us. Their last days are our past days. The New Testament writers produced the movie trailers and previews, predicting the events of those days with incredible accuracy. When the time came, all the actors fulfilled their roles flawlessly. Then, Josephus recorded it all and produced the documentary. The ending credits for that movie scrolled across the screen a long time ago.
Today, we still have a script to follow and a role to play in this world. We are starring in the sequel, and the script is found in Revelation 21-22. We should be the light leading the nations into the holy city (Rev. 21:24), and the kings of the earth should be bringing the glory and honor of the nations into that city (Rev. 21:26). If the condition of the world is any indication, our performance has been less than stellar. We’d be getting very poor reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, and God Himself is most likely not happy with our showing.
Ironically, cultural withdrawal was exactly what Dispensationalism’s founder was shooting for when he wrote his script. At first, his movie was not well received. For example, Charles Spurgeon gave the feature film two thumbs down. In reaction to Darby’s unique take on the Bible, Spurgeon said, “We never know what we shall hear next, and perhaps it is a mercy that these absurdities are revealed one at a time, in order that we may be able to endure their stupidity without dying of amazement.”
Not unlike “It’s a Wonderful Life” and all other sleeper films, the Dispensational film eventually became a huge hit later on. Today, it’s still playing in Christian theaters everywhere, and its damaging effects have hit everywhere. Before we completely lose our country and our culture, let’s put a new movie in.
 See: David Chilton, Paradise Restored: A Biblical Theology of Dominion (Tyler, TX: Dominion Press, 1987), p. 143.
 See: MacPherson, Dave. The Unbelievable Pre-Trib Origin: The Recent Discovery
of a Well-Known Theory’s Beginning-and Its Incredible Cover-up! Kansas City, Mo.: Heart of America Bible Society, 1973.
 This is a somewhat bizarre claim to be making since many of the people left behind don’t even believe in God to begin with. That’s one of the reasons they’ll be left behind. Usually, when a person shows up announcing that he’s God, the general consensus is that the person is due for a psychiatric evaluation.
 Heiser, Michael S. The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible (p. 241). Lexham Press. Kindle Edition.
 See: Bernier, Jonathan. Rethinking the Dates of the New Testament: The Evidence for Early Composition. Baker Academic, 2022.
 David Chilton, Days of Vengeance: An Exposition of the Book of Revelation (Tyler, Tx: Dominion Press, 1987), p. 333.
 See: Streett, Daniel R. They went out from us: The identity of the opponents in First John. Vol. 177. Walter de Gruyter, 2011.
 See Barnes’ Notes on the Bible: https://biblehub.com/commentaries/barnes/hebrews/1.htm – Section 4 – The Time When Written, which places the date of the epistle between AD 61 and AD 63 per numerous theologians. Another example of the early dating of the book of Hebrews is https://insight.org/resources/bible/the-general-epistles/hebrews