How to


* * * * *

With the Rapture and Armageddon soon coming,

you haven’t much time to prepare.

Here’s a survival guide for those whose skepticism

and critical thinking may cost them most dearly!

By: Stephen T. Asma

A ccording to the Book of Revelations, the Lord will eventually return to earth to carry back his devoted flock. This is the start of the end of the world as we know it. Most of humanity will be left behind . In fact, “Left Behind “ is the name of an astoundingly popular book series by evangelical writer Tim LaHaye.

More than sixty-three million copies of LaHaye’s books have sold, filling the iminations of the faithful with images of blood, judgmemental vengeance, and generally triumphant ass-kicking. After rapture, when God will suck up the true devotees, he will return to earth---—wearing a blood-soaked white robe—to fight the repenerates at Armageddon.

Armageddon” literally refers to the hill in Israel where the cataclysmic battle between the armies of good and evil is supposed to go down.

In many evangelical circles, this end-time scenario has been given a very specific political/cultural interpretation. For example, most fundamentalists today believe that “the Beast” or Antichrist will emerge as a charismatic Catholic leader (probably a pope), Islam will get its clock cleaned by a rebuilt Judaism, and many other such detailed predictions (see for the crème de la crème).

 These specific predictions should be seen as extremely helpful for those of us who will be trying to survive the Great Tribulation.

When the sky opens up and the Lord “descends from heaven with a shout” (Thess. 4:16 ) to separate the wheat from the chaff, you’re probably going to do some real serious backpedaling. You might try to justify your life, apologize for it, or perhaps even disown it. But, to be theologically precise, the time for repentance will already be over at that point; the window of opportunity will have closed, and groveling probably won’t save you. Its time to think pragmatically, and you’ll need some good survival strategies for negotiating the big hurt.


You’re not on the A-team——in fact,---- you’re not even in the game.

Your skepticism and critical thinking have cost you dearly.

Chances are that you’ll want to wallow in some self-pity at this juncture, but there’s no time for that now. Remember, you’re in good company. Many very, very smart people will be damned, too---—in fact there turns out to be some direct correlation there.

Start working with some of these intellectuals now, before you hav e to run. Many intelligent people can be found near libraries and liquor stores. Forge new friendships of utility. This is a good time to strategize, study blueprints and subway maps, and discuss dehydrated food options.


Before you become an all-out fugitive, you have two or three chances to circumvent the whole renegade thing . First, pretend to be someone else--—preferably someone righteous. Do some real good research before the day of reckoning in order to identify some virtuous neighbor. Get the person’s movements down and try real hard to replicate her or his clothing style and some of her or his behavioral quirks.

If you can hide the person when the chaos begins (maybe tie her or him up), that will also be helpful. When the angel of death swoops down to mete out justice, just adopt the other’s identity and stick to your story with Oscar-winning devotion.

Now, it’s true that God is omniscient and can sort out such a rigged case of real mistaken identity, but the divine henchmen and middle management that you’ll be dealing with won’t have such cognitive powers. You’re buying time here. By the time word gets upstairs to the All-Knowing One, you’ll be deep into the Wisconsin hinterlands around Black River Falls.. (Of course, if God is everywhere, then this strategy has other problems.)

Another possible way to skirt the unpleasantries of roughing it on the road is to “kill a friend for Jesus.” Try to kill some of your “heathen” friends. In fact, the closer the friend (e.g., a “best” friend), the better. Perhaps you can try to arrange this with the victim ahead of time (though he or she may find it difficult to see any personal benefit in it). Do this killing in plain view of some regular churchgoers, who can then vouch for your impressive zeal. While it’s true that Jesus and the angels will be doing most of the systematic smiting, it can’t hurt to demonstrate your piety with some unequivocal gestures.


During the Great Tribulation, God will unleash a lot of very large and apparently very motivated monsters upon us. First, be careful near big bodies of water. Enoch, otherwise known as Behemoth, and his companion Leviathan will be up from the bottom and looking to feed near the shorelines (Esdras 6:49).

These guys are going to be sluggish at first because they’ve been asleep since the creation (Gen. 1:21) , and that’s good news for you and me. You’ve got the real advantage as long as you stay out of really deep waters. However massive they are, these creatures are built for aquatic movement, and their big flippers, tentacles, and fins are going to be laughable out on dry land, so don’t sweat them too much. But take serious precautions with the following: according to Revelations 12:3, the sky will suddenly fill with a giant red dragon “having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his head.” If you’re on your toes, you’ll know when this red monster is on its way. A series of loud trumpet blasts will signal its coming. You need to be on the move by the time the seventh trumpet blasts because that’s real dragon time.

Truthfully, you should be looking for an abandoned car or bicycle or something by the time you hear trumpet number five, for that’s when the human-headed locusts will hit the scene (Rev. 9:7). And you might be thinking “Hey, I can handle human-headed locusts,” but you’d be wrong. These grasshoppers will have “tails like unto scorpions” (Rev. 9:10). It will be important to loot pharmacies and carry analgesics.    In general, locusts and giant dragons can best be evaded by going underground, at least temporarily . But don’t be tempted by sewers and subway tunnels . God’s not stupid, and he knows people will be heading there en masse. A simple wave of his hand could effortlessly double or triple the size of the rats, roaches, and stray alligators already in the city’s underground systems. Don’t make it easy for him.

In fact, this raises an important general point. Avoid crowds and work alone as much as possible. You’re a more difficult target when you’re moving alone, so don’t give in to the temptation to rescue fellow sufferers (no matter how attractive they are). You’ve got your own problems, and they’ll just slow you down in the end.

Other creatures to watch out for include the “whore of Babylon” and her “scarlet colored beast” (Rev. 17:3) and “Gog and Magog” (Rev. 20:8).


Did you know abou t the Human Wine Press?

According to Revelations, as Jesus gathers up the unsaved, he places them in a giant wine press and squashes them into a sanguineous vino. Consequently, there’s going to be a “river of blood.” This presents some great opportunities for the prepared mind. How many escape-from-prison films have you seen where the cons evade detection by submerging in the river and breathing through a hollow reed? ‘Nough said.

Alternatively, depending on how deep and wide it will be, a fast-moving river of any fluid can be good transport when roads have become choked with charnel remains. And don’t forget that bloated dead bodies can be strung together as a makeshift raft.

In addition to such factory mechanics as the wine press, God will be looking for some deeply personal ways to afflict you. We all know what he did to Job. Severing your own ties to family and friends will help deny God the classic torture technique of “targeting the loved one.” If Job had been smart enough to not love anybody, he would have been unfazed by the blights visited on him.

Also, keep clear of disagreeable, torturous predicaments like spirit possession and burning sulfur.


Avoid entering into a discussion with the horsemen about various interpretations of the White Album . They’re looking to do some smiting, and your clever queries

about Helter Skelter will just put you high on their to-do list. The first horseman arrives when Jesus, who has morphed into a lamb at this point, breaks the first seal on a giant end-of-the-world book (Rev. 6:1—8).

It’s not clear how he actually breaks the seal, since ungulates don’t have hands. One suspects that the lamb will have to either chew it off or nudge it off with its nose, and that means extra time for your getaway. The awkward scene of a real lamb-Jesus chewing off a book seal might draw you in, but don’t tarry---— the horsemen are quick to follow.

The first horse and rider are white, and most exegetes agree that this symbolizes war. The second is red and symbolizes revolution. The third is a black horse and rider, symbolizing famine. And finally, after seal four, we have a pale horse and rider, symbolizing pestilence. These will certainly slow you down, but take some courage. Most of these characters cannot keep up with a good motorcycle.

Many of today’s evangelicals (conservatively thought to be fifty million strong in the United States) have become Christian Zionists. They believe (based on Ezekiel) that Israel must fight and win a war in order to trigger the final apocalypse, so they side with Israel politically—even though it’s for metaphysical reasons. According to these prognosticators, Russia, Germany, and the Muslim world will all attack Israel and spark World War III.

With God’s help, Israel will prevail and attain peace and security. But that’s exactly when the serious decline will begin. The “Beast” will begin to rule the world at this point (Rev. 13).

And while most scholars agree that the original meaning of the Beast during the first century C.E. (when Revelations was written) was certainly the pagan Roman Empire, today’s evangelical cognoscenti are convinced that the Beast will come as the Catholic pope. Satan himself will possess the pontiff, giving him unparalleled powers.

How should you handle all this political drama? It may seem confusing at first, but anyone with even a streak of expediency will feel which direction the political wind is blowing ~nd then simply turncoat accordingly. A word to the wise for the near future: stay out of any German-Russian-Muslim coalitions, alliances, or clubs until this whole thing blows over.


The pope is transformed into the Beast when Satan possesses him and begins to require all humans to be marked on the forehead with the sign of the Beast.

The text is unclear here. In some translations it appears to be an automatic, non-optional branding of on your forehead, whereas other passages suggest that you “opt” for the branding because “no man might buy or sell, save he that has the mark” (Rev. 13:16).

There’s going to be an interval now in which the Beast rules over the earth. I recommend getting “the mark,” even if it’s only optional. After all, you’re going to need to do some bartering, selling, and buying in order to stockpile supplies for a variety of tribulations. A good snowsuit, for example, could do wonders against the human-headed locusts. When you’re on the run, it’s good to know that your currency will be accepted.


According to evangelical wisdom, the pope-Beast will retreat to Jerusalem and dig-in with his evil army to meet the approaching “wrath of the Lamb” (Rev. 6:16). Jesus and Satan will do the final battle here at the hill of Megiddo.

Even though you’re really a free agent, so to speak, chances are (unless your “impostor strategy” actually worked . ----(see above).

The heat of battle can be used as a distraction while you slip out of your Satan uniform and into some pilfered God fatigues. When Jesus hurls the Beast into “the lake of fire burning with brimstone,” you’ll have to crawl under a few dead bodies and lay motionless. This is because all the Beast’s armies will now be chopped up, and their bodies will become food for the many circling birds of prey (Rev. 19:2 1)

Get deep under some bodies, or you’re going to get some nasty pecking injuries.

When the feeding frenzy clears, make your way to wherever the Final Judgment is taking place. It should be easy to spot—Jesus will be sitting on a great, white throne. Try to blend in with the righteous.

The Book of Life

After the Armageddon victory, Jesus will sit in judgment to decide if a person goes on to heaven or burns in hell with the Beast. Apparently, there’s a big “Book of Life” in which the names of the pious are written down . Don’t get excited. ... ... you’re not in it.

But do not panic, there’s room to work here--—just get in the queue. First of all, it’s going to be sort of embarrassing to get to the front of the line and realize you’ve got a big 666 on your forehead . But bangs are always fashionable and won’t trig-ger suspicion to boot, so comb down the locks and chin up.

When Jesus looks you up in the Book of Life, act totally outraged and indignant at the discovery of your omission. When he replies that there’s no mistake and that he omnisciently sees your unsaved status, ask him why on earth an all-knowing deity would need a Book of Life to remind him of who is and who isn’t heaven bound. Loudly imply that he can’t remember.

This should raise the dander of the others awaiting judgment and cause a general tension in the room. Now throw an all-out hissy fit. Your goal here is to become so difficult and disruptive that an exasperated God, in an attempt to restore some peace and decorum, will just pass you through the pearly gates. This is a tricky strategy of course, and it could go the other way. If it goes badly, don’t fret —I’m working on a manual for surviving in hell.

                                                   Stephen Acma is Distinguished Scholar

                                                   of Humanitie s at Columbia College in

                                                   Chicago. He is the author of several books

including Stuffed Animals and Pickled Heads:

                                                   The Culture and Evolution of Natural History

                                                   Museums (Oxford, 2003) and The Gods

                                                   Drink Whiskey: Stumbling toward Enlighten-

                                                   ment in the Land of the Tattered Buddha

                                                   (HarperCollins 2006) . H e is currently now

                                                   burning in hell. Visit him at his Web site:




September/October 2007. (Pgs. 50-53)

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