A new catch phrase is trending among those who deny the rapture. “Rapture anxiety” describes the feeling of fear or panic over the possibility of missing the rapture. However, a clear understanding of the rapture should bring peace as we look forward to the “blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).
In one of the key rapture passages in Scripture, we are encouraged to “comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18). If the rapture produces anxiety, it is due to misunderstanding both the word of God and the God of the word.
The American Psychological Association in their Encyclopedia of Psychology defines anxiety as, “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.”
Couple that with a misunderstanding of the rapture, and a new phrase is created: “rapture anxiety.” It appears the buzz around “rapture anxiety” started when CNN published an article titled “For some Christians ‘Rapture Anxiety’ can take a lifetime to heal.” The article shares the stories of three “exvangelicals,” former evangelical Christians, who grew up afraid of the rapture.
Millennials and younger generations apparently would rather fear being, as Tim LaHaye wrote, left behind than making a commitment to follow Jesus. This, of course, is likely the result of two things: They are already filled with fear and anxiety and need constant reassurance, and they are determined to live their own lives as they wish. Young (and older) people are assured that they can pick their gender, pick their sexual lifestyle and create their own religion.
Did God tell them this? No. Mainstream media – like CNN – and politicians seeking to control this confused generation have told them that they should be able to be and do anything they choose. It’s “all good.” “You do you.”
It’s no wonder young people, such as April Ajoy, quoted in the CNN article, are confused, frightened and easily intimidated by anything definitive, anything that resembles judgment or being held responsible for their choices and actions on Earth.
Ajoy recounts the anxiety that filled her when she found herself alone at home and unable to find her parents or siblings. Her mind began to race, wondering what kind of sin she had committed to cause her to miss the rapture, the CNN article said. How would she survive the tribulation alone as a 13-year-old girl? What should she do? Where should she go? Should she get the mark of the beast or face the punishment for refusing?
Ajoy is not alone in her views. Since the CNN article published, several others have shared their “rapture anxiety” stories on social media and in blogs. For example, Carl Olson shares his similar childhood “rapture anxiety” in an October blog on the National Catholic Register website.
Among these troubled tales are common threads.
What’s Behind the Fear?
One of the leading causes of “rapture anxiety” is fear. Those living with this inner turmoil commonly express their fear of numerous things – being left behind, facing the horrors of the tribulation and eternal damnation for their sins. In his blog, Olson relates the panic he felt as a 9-year-old boy when he couldn’t find his parents upon returning home.
Doubt emerges as another common cause of fearfulness. The exvangelicals told CNN that they often doubted that they were truly saved. Had they said the sinner’s prayer with the right words? Had they said it with the right attitude, or were they the least bit insincere? Had they said it with all their heart, or did they say it because they wanted to please their parents?
Underlying these doubts is another cause of “rapture anxiety:” a works-based religious system in which the individual must do the right things to ensure they check all the right religious boxes. For example, to check the “church boxes,” they must show up for every church service, be involved in as many of the ministries of the church as possible and serve the church leadership in any capacity asked of them.
Failure to check these boxes lands you squarely on God’s bad side, and in the case of “rapture anxiety,” could cause you to be left behind. Compound this with the guilt of sins committed, and you have a recipe for anxiety.
In a works-based religious system, the focus shifts from God to the individual. While claiming to be God-centered, the individual spends their energy appeasing their guilt. There is an inescapable religious to-do list. Living under this constant pressure to perform religious activities eventually produces burnout, stress, and you guessed it, anxiety. Coupling that with the weight of feeling unforgiven is enough to collapse anyone in despair. How much joy, peace, grace, and abundant life do you think would be in a person who lives this way?
At its core, there is a deep misunderstanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in “rapture anxiety.” The good news of freedom in Christ is turned into a works-based system of bondage. To a person living under this yoke of bondage, it matters little what Jesus has done for them when they compare that to all they must do for Him.
It would be discouraging and depressing to live under such a burdening system. No wonder people are running away from this kind of life. But the exit door from this works-based religious system is not the one some have chosen by abandoning the Christian faith altogether. Nor is it found in switching end-times views to a system that denies the rapture. The right exit door from a works-based religious system is the one that properly understands the gospel of Jesus, which leads to a proper understanding of the rapture.
Cures for “Rapture Anxiety”
For every cause of “rapture anxiety,” there is a Bible cure. In the CNN article, Ajoy comes close to understanding this cure, “‘To people who are going through this, who are questioning, I want to say that there is no fear in love,’ she says. ‘You shouldn’t have to be afraid of the answer.’ ” She quotes part of a beautiful Bible verse, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).
The essence of the answer we seek is found in God’s love. A me-centered, performance-driven, guilt-ridden, religious system is motivated by fear instead of love. And “fear hath torment.” This is not the good news of Jesus.
God has blessed me with a wonderful wife, and we have been happily married for 13 years. We have a love-based relationship. But imagine what it would look like to have a marriage built on the causes of “rapture anxiety.” Each morning, I would rush around, motivated by fear that I would not have enough hours in the day to do all I must to please my wife. Is the coffee made correctly? Check. Is breakfast to her liking? Check. Did I start the laundry? Check. Are the cars clean inside and out? Check. Do we have enough money in the bank accounts? Check. Does she have everything she wants today? Check. The day is still young and I’m already exhausted.
If I lived like this day after day, month after month, year after year, I would experience guilt for not checking all the boxes all the time. I would doubt if she loved me, especially when I was tired or sick and unable to do all the checklist. I would be filled with constant fear, stress, and anxiety. How long do you think a marriage could last in that kind of scenario?
The Gospel of Jesus is a love-based relationship, not a performance-driven religious system. The focus of the gospel is on what Jesus has done for us, not on what we do for Him, on who we are in Jesus, not on what we do for Jesus. The Bible is clear. A lifetime of good works is not enough to earn God’s love, favor, grace, mercy, and forgiveness, yet He chooses to give it freely to all who would receive (Ephesians 2:1-10; Romans 5:6-11, 10:13).
The anxiety over saying the sinner’s prayer the right way with the right words disappears when we focus on Jesus. It’s not about magic words. It’s about simply receiving what He has done for us. When you receive a gift, do you have to say magic words before you can open it and enjoy it? No! There is no room for doubt when you base your faith on God’s loving promises to you, such as the ones found in John 5:24 and 10:25-29. Receive and enjoy His gift to you today!
Jesus sets us free from checking the religious boxes. When you begin with the right relationship, the right works will begin to flow automatically. I don’t do good works motivated by fear to earn my wife’s love. When starting with love, it is a joy to serve her. It is a “want to,” not a “have to.”
Included in one of the great Bible rapture passages is this instruction: “Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18).
Correctly understanding the Gospel and the rapture brings tremendous comfort, not fearful anxiety. First John 4:17 tells us, “we may have boldness in the day of judgement.” Jesus spoke comforting words to give hope to His fearful followers, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). Fear enters only when we misunderstand God’s love as something we must earn. As we grasp God’s unconditional love for us, “rapture anxiety” turns into “rapture anticipation.”
This article initially appeared in the November 2022 issue of Prophecy in the News Magazine. Subscribe today for more articles like this one