Armaged-debt-on

Thursday's 512-point plunge in the DJIA has fueled stock market fears of a double-dip recession. But many Rapture-seekers believe that the American debt ceiling problem, in addition to European economic woes, is another "sign of the times" that could start with a devastating stock market crash rivaling that of the Great Crash of 1929.

So in the wake of this coming Armaged-debt-on, Rapture business is booming. Says Todd Strandberg of RaptureReady.com, "If the economy goes, that’ll be fertile soil for the antichrist to take power. Hitler came out of the Depression. A lot of us believe the antichrist will use the same stepping stone." According to Peter Savodnik in BusinessWeek.com's "The Rapture Profiteers," Harold Camping's May 21 prediction is put to shame by the new Debt Ceiling Doomsayers' "unprecedented array of doomsday-themed literature, podcasts, survival kits, and other goods and services for navigating the end of times." Eternal Earth-Bound Pets, an insurance company owned by an atheist, is even offering—for just $135—to place dogs, cats, bunnies, and other pets with a loving family of unbelievers who will never be raptured.

Now these Rapture entrepreneurs have a big problem: how to spend lots of profits before the end of the world. Savodnik believes that "the dirty little secret about the Rapture" hucksters is that the longer the Rapture waits and the more false prophecies, the better. When October 22 comes—the day after Camping's next failed end-of-the-world prediction—the next doomsday will be on December 21, 2012, the Mayan calendar's "last day," and the party continues ad infinitum.

Ever since Margaret MacDonald, a 15-year-old Scottish country girl, had "visions of Rapture" about 1830, the world has been captive—"suggestible," according to a Yale professor—to this two-phased view of the end of the world: a secret Rapture and the actual Second (actually, Third) Coming seven years later.

What most Rapture-seekers today are not aware of is that this eschatological scheme called dispensational premillennialism was never taught in the first 1,800 years of church history. Contrary to dispensationalism's elaborate timetable, the debt ceiling crisis, natural disasters, wars, famines, and other "signs" (Matthew 24:3-8) are not only for the "last days" before the end, but they are present in the world between Christ's two comings, the whole period known to New Testament writers as "these last days" (Hebrews 1:2; cf Acts 2:17; 1 Corinthians 10:11; 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 3:1; Hebrews 9:26; 1 Peter 1:20-21; Jude 18).

As well, the return of Christ is not presaged by events in present-day Israel and the Middle East, because God's salvation is not solely for Jews, but for the whole church—Jews and Gentiles—who together as "one body" and "one new man" is "the Israel of God" (Eph 2:14-16; Gal 6:16). In fact, all believers who belong to Christ "are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:29).

The apostle Paul clearly affirms that "that day will not come," unless a couple of telltale signs first appear on the scene: (1) "the rebellion," which means a great apostasy or falling away from the true faith; and (2) "the man of lawlessness," also known as the "abomination of desolation" (Matthew 24:15), or the beast of Revelation 13, or the Antichrist.

Therefore, we must not fear the great debt crisis, or the European economies' meltdown, or the great Japanese tsunami, or that the rapture is coming this year, next year, or in a thousand years, because Christ will not return until these two signs appear. But this does not mean that we can live whatever life pleases us since Christ is not coming at any moment. Who can say if the worldwide proliferation of false teachers and false prophets today is not the coming great apostasy? And who can say if today’s false prophets do not constitute the “man of lawlessness” who sits in God’s temple, the church, and who proclaims a false gospel and a counterfeit God (2 Thessalonians 2:4)?

No, we have to live daily as if the end of the world will come at any moment because no one knows. And not only that, for every person in this world, the end of the world is one heartbeat away: no one knows when death will come. Death is the end of the world for all who will not be alive when Christ returns. And after death, there is no second chance, but only Judgment Day.