When I was in 1st grade, a series of Christian movies were made about “the Rapture”. According to some churches, Jesus will return to Earth to collect all of his followers right before all Hell breaks loose, Apocalypse-style. Other churches teach that the believers will be “Raptured” some time during this horrible time of tribulation. (Scholars have debated about the timing of the Last Days for centuries.) It could go either way. But this movie was made to scare lukewarm believers who would be “left behind”.
The first movie in the series was called, A Thief in the Night. And it scared the Jesus into me! I was only in first grade, and we were not a family that watched horror movies, so this whole genre seemed very real to me. To make matters worse, the movie was filmed in my hometown of Des Moines, Iowa and some of the actors were people that we knew in real life! The worst of it was that our PASTOR played the role of the BAD GUY! It totally freaked me out!
I remember going to “Family Movie Night” in our local Christian school cafa-gym-atorium (as Ray Romano calls it). I remember sitting on folding chairs with the smell of popcorn wafting through the air. I was excited! I had no idea that after this night, I would have nightmares for years to come!
So fast forward about 20 years to our days as youth pastors. One time we told our teenagers about these movies and they literally begged us to find them and show them at youth group. So we did. We searched high and low and finally found some used copies for sale on-line. Fortunately they were in VHS form, because no one had the old reel-to-reel projectors anymore. So we arranged a movie night in youth group.
I have to say that for the first 20 minutes, there was a lot of laughing and joking about the 70’s style hair-dos and bell bottoms. And I agreed. I wondered if it would have the same impact after all these years. The acting was corny and the fashions were frightening enough, but after an hour and 20 minutes, the room was silent and tense. Some kids covered their eyes with horror. Some kids shed a few tears. It was a good altar call at the end.
So it WAS a scary movie after all. I wasn’t sure if today’s jaded teenager would be as terrified as I was as an innocent 1st grader back in the late 70s. The theme proved a popular one when a few years later the entire “Left Behind” book series became available. Our teenagers gobbled those books up! The fear of being left behind is one that has haunted generations of Christian kids, and I was glad (in a twisted sort of way) to pass along that fear to a new generation of teenagers. Misery loves company, you know.
But the point of my telling this story is that none of us knows how much time we have left here on this Earth. If it were to all end suddenly, would you be ready?
Here’s the frighteningly corny theme song from those old movies. Careful, it will get stuck in your head!