Meanwhile, Tyndale House is reporting a bump in sales of its other titles. Take the works of just one end times-focused author. “The Twelfth Imam, Joel Rosenberg’s latest prophecy-related novel, is gaining momentum again after its initial release last year,” Endody said. “We were pleasantly surprised to find out that Joel’s Epicenter Conference in Jerusalem is totally sold out, over two months in advance of the event.”
It’s been a while since American pastors have shown this level of apocalyptic fervor. Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, some suggested that event was a precursor for the return of Jesus to earth, and their belief that this would result in the end of the world. Just before the end of the last millennium, what with the inevitable heavy-duty calendar turn and the predictions of high-tech Y2K mayhem, interested believers were deluged by books, videos and conference invitations.
This latest wave of turmoil is prompting some pastors, like John Hagee of San Antonio, Texas, to use their websites to promote their ideas, along with links to materials for purchase.
Hagee is a popular televangelist and senior pastor of the 19,000 member Cornerstone Church. His website offers a DVD called “Financial Armageddon” for $12 and is signing up registrations for a prophesy seminar in Sacramento in April for $10.
Here’s a highlight from his most recent online newsletter, in which he analyses the uprising in Egypt. “Get ready! Planet earth is about to become the playground for the Anti-Christ and his New World Order. The church will be raptured before the Anti-Christ appears; and I believe he could be introduced in Europe at any time. Pray up! Pack up! ”
Some Christians guess about the return of Jesus based on Bible verses from Isaiah, Daniel, and particularly Revelation — all of which offer what could be clues about the end times.
(Only a small segment of Christians, of course, engage in these kinds of activities. Most point out that Jesus himself warned against trying to guess about when the end of the world will happen.)
Daniel Wojcik is an English professor at the University of Oregon and the author of “The End of the World As We Know It: Faith, Fatalism, and Apocalypse in America.” The current interest in the apocalypse follows a pattern, Wojcik said.
“Any time there is increased ‘activity,’ conflict, or upheaval in the Middle East, prophecy interpreters inevitably jump on current events as fulfillment of God's divine plan at the end of time,” he said.
But there are elements of this version that are different from past episodes, he said. Start with the 24-hour news cycle.
“As never before, one can find stories and images of apocalyptic crises, death, and destruction, as well as non-stop doomsday programming on television, all of which reinforce and stimulate end-time ideas,” he said.
And then there’s the Web.
“The increasing omnipotence of the Internet has contributed. With its limitless info and easy access to once-marginalized beliefs, apocalyptic ideas are everywhere,” Wojcik said. “Prophecy beliefs flourish online, and enclaves of doomsday weirdness thrive and fertilize the popular imagination.”
His favorite current doomsayer is a fellow named Harold Camping, who has predicted for several years that on May 21, 2011, righteous Christians will be lifted to Heaven — and then the world will be destroyed on October 21, 2011.
But Camping isn’t making a buck on his predictions. All the materials on his website can be downloaded for free.
RaptureReady.com, meanwhile, is racking up website page views. Its customized “Rapture Index” incorporates 45 factors — from the presence of “false Christs” to the incidence of floods — to produce a numerical index that supposedly indicates how close we are to the End Times.
The latest index is 180, not far from the all-time high of 182 on Sept. 24, 2001.
As founder Todd Strandberg wrote in his latest online analysis: “I’ve never seen a time when so many headlines are being ripped right from Bible prophecy.”
His interpretation of the Bible ties business instability closely to prophecies about the Last Days. “We think that the global economy will be saved by the Antichrist,” he said.
Strandberg started the site 24 years ago, in the days of green computer screens and 1,200 baud dialup modems. Traffic has gradually built over the years, but the past couple of months have been a bonanza, he said. In the last three months, RaptureReady’s traffic has risen 20 percent, according to Alexa.com.
His site offers books for sale and conferences to register for, but Strandberg says he doesn’t necessarily view increased interest in the end of the world as a business opportunity to be jumped on. “I never do anything different. I only pick up the fruit that falls my way,” he said. “I’ve always operated under the belief that the world will eventually come to this site.”