When I was working as a youth pastor, I was more concerned with creating new exciting games like “spam ball,” which was banned by church edict shortly after its creation, than the theological implications of modern-day eschatology. Eschatology is just a fancy word for the study of “last things.” It generally refers to all the end time craziness that has been floating around the fringes of Christianity, often with a few side trips into the mainstream, since the first century.
It was during my time as a youth pastor that I encountered a rapture cult. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I would become more aware of it as the years passed. My first contact with it was in 1990 when I encountered a Korean man on the sidewalk in Garden Grove, CA. I was in the Korean shopping district, getting ready to have some Korean BBQ. The man approached me. He was dressed oddly; he had on a pith helmet, wearing a sandwich board proclaiming that that Rapture was near. He also had an American flag and a South Korean flag strapped to his back, and they fluttered in the breeze about three feet above his head. He offered me a pamphlet, in English, and I took it. I can’t resist stuff like that. I read the pamphlet and found out that the Rapture would occur on October 28, 1992, less than two years in the future. I didn’t think much about it. However, over the next two years I saw the man all over Garden Grove, Stanton, Midway City, and Huntington Beach passing out pamphlets. This man was a true believer spreading the word. One day he simply wasn’t there.
I wondered what happened to him. I had the good fortune to meet a South Korean born pastor who led a Presbyterian church, and I asked him if he knew about the man. He informed me that the man was part of the South Korean Hyoo-go (Hyu-geo) movement. Hyoo-go being the Korean word for Rapture. He said it was a very sad false teaching that had deceived many people in his country but didn’t go into specifics. I didn’t give the man much thought until this week. I was walking to my car in the College parking lot when two women approached me and offered me a flyer. It simply said the rapture is near, come and learn more. There was an address, email, and telephone number.
It reminded me of the Korean man back in 1990. I wondered what happened with the Hyoo-go movement. I checked a few of my apocalyptic history books and did a little googling. There I found a few historical lessons we can learn.
In 1988, the Dami Mission was founded in South Korea by Lee Jang Rim. Through books like Getting Close to the End and pamphlets like Rapture! (It’s the exclamation point that sells it) they began to spread the word; the Rapture would happen October 28, 1992. (Adelaide time)
According to Richard Albanes, in his book End-Time Visions, the cult used evidence like Jack Van Impe’s calculation of generational years and the visions of a 12-year-old boy “prophet” named Bang-Ik Ha.
So, let’s stop right here. What can we learn to help us avoid rapture cults? How about don’t trust date calculations from serial date setters? Jack Van Impe has predicted 1976, 1980, 1982, 1984, 1988, 1992, 2012 etc. I don’t care how they calculate the numbers in a generation, how they calculate solar years compared to lunar years, or how they figure out year-day calculations; once they miss a date, they are false prophets.
“When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.” Deuteronomy 18:22 KJV
That’s it one prediction, and you are done. So we call rule out, Jack Van Impe, Hal Lindsey, Pat Robertson, Chuck Smith, Jim Bakker, Harold Camping, Ronald Weingard, and a whole host of other serial date setters. If your “evidence” is based on one of their calculations, you’re not Biblical.
What else can we learn? How about this, don’t trust “prophets.” In the Gospels, in what is known as the “Little Apocalypse,” Jesus says in Matthew 24:11, “And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.” Just because someone says they are a prophet doesn’t mean you should believe them. Bang-Ik Ha was twelve when he started having visions, they were confirmed by his mother, who had a dream that told her that Bang-Ik was a prophet. Sounds sketchy to me. Mark Taylor claims he predicted Trumps Presidential win. It is his claim to fame. Mark Taylor didn’t make any public statements about Trump until Trump was already ascending in polls late in the 2016 campaign. It was late in 2016 that he claimed a prophecy was given to him in 2011. Anyone can claim God gave them a prophecy. We need to be discerning and not only fact check but use spiritual discernment. Remember, even a broken clock is right twice a day. I can make any vague prophecy and be right once in a while.
The Hyoo-go (Hyu-geo) movement spread throughout South Korean, other countries, and even to Los Angeles CA. As the Rapture teaching developed with new prophecies, followers were told that only some of the “true believers” would be raptured and the rest would be left behind to suffer the tribulation. Those left behind would have to be martyred to make it to heaven; otherwise, they were going to hell. (Interesting side note, Jack Van Impe believes black holes in space fit the description of hell, just saying.)
Here’s another learning moment. If someone tells you that there are different classes of Christians watch out. Beware of people who tell you there are “real Christians” and “name only Christians.” I’ll bet whoever tells you that will need you to prove you are really committed to the cause with your checkbook and volunteer service.
It was reported in Abanes’ book, that at the Los Angeles Maranatha Mission Church, members would show their worthiness to be raptured by praying out loud all night until they ruptured their vocal cords and started spitting blood. Spitting blood was seen as a sign of true commitment. Children who couldn’t produce that same effect were sent to martyr class and forced to pray all night in a kneeling position. If they fell asleep they were hit in the calves.
The sad part of the whole terrible affair is that people sold their homes, emptied bank accounts, one woman had an abortion to be light enough to float to heaven, and one man died of malnutrition after fasting for forty days. According to EP New Service, On October 28, 1992, fifteen minutes after midnight, Rev. Chang Man-Ho pastor of Mission for the coming days, told the people gathered, “Nothing has happened. Sorry. Let’s go home.” Outrage naturally followed.
In South Korea, following the debacle, Lee Jang Rim was arrested for fraud. He had collected $4.4 million dollars from his followers and invested them in bonds that would mature on May 1993. There’s the last lesson people: follow the money! Before you fall for some rapture prediction, ask yourself who is profiting off of this? Are they selling books and DVDs? Are they collecting funds to spread the word? Is the person leading the whole movement as committed as the followers? If they have a bank account after their prediction date, you’ve been had! Have you noticed Hal Lindsey kept selling more books and had a bank account after his failed 1988 prediction? He still had a bank account because he didn’t believe in his own prediction. Harold Camping still owned his radio station after his multiple failed predictions. Van Impe is still on the air, collecting money and living a good life after his multiple predictions. Rapture predictions are big business. If you feel like giving all your money to some huckster to spread the word of the impending rapture, walk over to the nearest homeless person and give it to them instead. It will do more good. If you really need to buy into this whole end of the world thing, ask the homeless person for a prediction. It will be just as accurate.
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