First, let's get something straight. Many conservative evangelicals in America are not longing for the "world's end" or "judgment day" or a "millennium" or an "antichrist" or even the "second coming."
Although these phrases are in their theology books, the same books emphasize what they are waiting (and would almost die) for: the "any-moment pretribulation rapture" which is expected several years ahead of the second coming and most assuredly BEFORE a future "great tribulation"!
Hal Lindsey, the big rapture guru of the late 20th century, ended his bestselling book "The Late Great Planet Earth" with the word "MARANATHA" which pretribulation rapturists know is a code word for their rapture. And the same literal removal from earth at any moment lurks in Lindsey's other writings.
Tim LaHaye, the current rapture tycoon whose "Left Behind" bonanza has left even Lindsey behind, knows how to milk the rapturized masses. After his 1992 pro-rapture book "No Fear of the Storm" was published, it was revealed that he had sloppily omitted 48 words when airing a brief 19th century document - hardly good publicity! After sales slowed down, it was re-issued as "Rapture Under Attack" (with the same 48 missing words) and appeared to the public to be a new book. But not even the title change seemed to help things, and merchandiser LaHaye knew it was time to come up with some other titles that could further his rapture obsession.
And Jerry Falwell never seems to miss an opportunity, when preaching, to remind his audience that he most certainly believes in the "pretribulational rapture" view.
I can almost believe that the middle name of many Christian Right leaders is "Rapture"!
When checking pre-19th century prophetic development, one finds that "dispensational" thinking as well as Christian Zionistic roots had been in existence long before the emergence of pretribulation rapturism. Even the prophetic word "rapture" had been in print well before the 19th century - but always in reference to only an after-the-tribulation coming and never to a pretribulation coming.
Many are still unaware that the pretrib rapture idea was first publicly aired in the fall of 1830 in "The Morning Watch" (hereafter: TMW), a little-known quarterly journal published by the Irvingites (followers of famed London preacher Edward Irving) from 1829 to 1832 in Britain. Not only was this innovative publication years ahead of John Darby and his Plymouth Brethren colleagues, rapturally speaking, but in it we find shocking militancy that can be observed today in Christian Zionist preachers like John Hagee and Jerry Falwell.
As early as the September 1830 issue of TMW (pp. 510-514) a writer declared that only worthy Christians (which he labeled "Philadelphia") would be raptured before "the great tribulation" and less worthy ones (labeled "Laodicea") would be left on earth.
The September 1832 issue of the same journal (pp. 6-7) saw "Jews" as well as the less worthy Christians left behind.
But the March 1833 issue (p. 147) said that only "the Jews" would be excluded from the rapture.
So within a short period of time the Irvingites, while following the same Scriptures, revealed their innate anti-Jewishness by switching from a "church/church" dichotomy to a "church/Israel" dichotomy after convincing themselves that only "the Jews" would deserve a future tribulation!
After their adoption of an escapist view that no organized church had ever taught before 1830, the same early pretrib rapturists, feeling superior, began exhibiting some vices that often come to powerless persons who suddenly obtain power - vices like pride, hatred and persecution of others, playing God, and so on.
Sounding like Hagee and other warlike warmongers, TMW expressed even more delusional, rapture-inspired fantasies:
The September 1830 issue (p. 514), looking ahead to the hoped for "great escape," declared that the raptured believers would then collectively become "the victorious ministerer of the great tribulation" upon those left behind!
In March of 1832 the same Irvingite journal (p. 3) taught that the "vials" of wrath in the book of Revelation "shall be poured out by the risen [raptured] saints"!
And TMW in September 1832 (p. 27) went even further and announced that the collective group of raptured ones will "wield the thunders of its power against the dragon [Satan] and his angels, and cast them down from heaven"!
Note that these fanatics were more than willing to be the "chosen ones" to pour out tribulation and wrath on those not worthy to be "chosen": the Jews.
(I'm glad to report that Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina is now the only North American institution that contains a complete set of every issue of "The Morning Watch." I recently gave SEBTS my 35-year collection of rare material including those issues and Robert Norton's valuable 1861 book.)
We've just had a glimpse of vengeful and power-crazy fanaticism within the very earliest pretrib rapture group. But where in the Bible did those deluded Britishers find support for such "rapture rage"? And where are the followers of Christ commanded to pick up a sword and conquer or convert non-believers with it - or even support such sword-bearers? Why have so many Christian Zionists, who seemingly give more attention to governments than to their Gospel, turned the Great Commission into the Great Commotion?
Many of the above historical details are in my 300-page book "The Rapture Plot," the most complete and documented history of the 176-year-old pretribulation rapture merchandised today by Hagee, LaHaye, Falwell, Lindsey, Swaggart, Van Impe etc. for their pet agendas - an escapist view never taught by any church for 1800 years! If you don't have time for my book, I invite you to read my internet items including "Pretrib Rapture Diehards," "Deceiving and Being Deceived," "Famous Rapture Watchers," "Thomas Ice (Bloopers)," "Appendix F: Thou Shalt Not Steal," "The Rapture Index (Mad Theology)," and "Pretrib Hypocrisy." All of my royalties, by the way, have always gone to a nonprofit corporation and not to me or anyone else. Interested in obtaining my unique "Plot" book? Just call 800.643.4645 or visit online bookstores. (Type in "Scholars Weigh My Research" on Google etc. to read endorsements of it by leading scholars.)
Do Hagee and his fellow preachers really love Jewish persons as much as they say they do? Then why do they pervert Scripture to try to get themselves raptured off earth before their future and final "tribulation" instead of wanting to remain on earth during that period to minister love to ALL of earth's citizens?
Hagee stated on July 19, 2006 that "The United States must join Israel in a pre-emptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God's plan for both Israel and the West...." Which Bible verse inspired him to utter this - the one that says "Love ye your enemies" or the one saying "Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord"?
It would appear that Hagee, Falwell and other pretrib rapture merchandisers and Christian Zionists are trying to identify with the predicted group whose love will "wax cold" (a la Matthew 24:12) during what Hagee etc. see in the future as earth's darkest days!