They were gone. All of them. It happened almost in an instant. At first, people thought there had been some kind of trick played on them. Then they turned on the TV. It had happened everywhere.
God had taken the Christians away. Everyone left behind knew immediately what would follow. Seven years of hell-on-earth, near enough. The world was really in for it now. They hadn’t repented; they hadn’t prayed the prayer; they hadn’t gone to church; they hadn’t believed. And now they were going to suffer the consequences.
Initially there was chaos. Driver-less cars ground to a halt, millions of doctors and nurses and other public servants vanished, world leaders dissapeared creating a myriad of complex power vacuums, churches were looted, and criminal activity spilled out on to the streets as people realised what was happening.
Cars flew off highways. Planes crashed and burned, dropping like flies from the sky. Hospitals couldn’t cope with the shortage of doctors and nurses amongst the carnage. World leaders had vanished in an instant creating a myriad of power vacuums.
Watching from some far away place, all of the world’s Christians had gathered together with God and the angels. They watched from afar as the world burned. One of the angels looked at the screen in front of them, looked over at God and saw him smiling. A wry, knowing smile.
“What’s so funny?”, Gabriel said, concerned and confused by God’s seeming about-turn to destruction and devastation. “I thought we had gone past all of this, now? And the Christians aren’t even there to help”.
“Exactly”, said God, as he watched.
In that moment, one of the looters picked up a Bible from amongst the wreckage of a ransacked church. For fear of what might happen next, and out of sheer morbid curiosity, he began to read.
The man became instantly animated by what he had read. Soon the man was shouting and screaming at others nearby to do the same, and within minutes twenty or thirty people were stood, intently reading scriptures.
One of the renowned televangelists of the time piped up. “That’ll show ’em”, he said, arms folded. “Now they’ll know exactly what’s a-comin’ to ’em.”
Gabriel glanced nervously at God. And then the worst thing of all happened.
In the months that followed the fighting began to die down. People all over the world were counting the cost of the chaos. But something had changed.
“I thought they were due another six and a half years of this, at least” murmured the televangelist.
Fleetingly, God broke his stern silence. “There are many things you don’t know”.
The crowd of Christians watched as society began to repair itself. But it didn’t just repair itself. Society was transformed. Financial institutions and systems were ripped down and replaced, military spending ended, conflicts were resolved. People went out of their way to bring peace. Nobody was left alone – not one person was left without community, without love, without companionship. Old enemies forgave one another. The world had been transformed.
People began to gather together in groups, sharing meals, stories and… reading the scriptures together. As they sat around and read the gospels, a sweetness descended upon the heavens. God couldn’t wipe the smile off his face as thousands upon thousands of people began to recognise his presence on earth.
“I… I don’t understand” said the televangelist. “This could have been so much quicker if you had just answered our prayers and helped us!”
“Oh, it’s quite simple,” said God. “The problem was, they weren’t really ever told about the Way. Just the Way Out. I always knew that the people would hear the good news. I just had to get you all out of the way, first.”