Individuals around world are placing bets on whether or not the Rapture is about to take place. This is an event that many religious leaders believe was foretold in the Biblical passage 1 Thess 4:17. It is believed that this event will separate the faithful from the non-believers. It is the beginning of the End Times, a series of events that will ultimately culminate in the end of the world.
A literal interpretation of the passage states that the dead will first rise to Heaven. After that, the faithful will vanish from the earth and will journey up to heaven. The remainder of the people will be left behind in a chaotic world where they will essentially suffer until the world is destroyed. The radio evangelist Harold Camping has predicted that the Rapture would take place on two different occasions. His first prediction was that it would take place on September 6th, 1994. He has since revised the date and has said that on May 21st, 2011 the world will take place. He has further stated that the world will actually end several months later on October 21st.
While Camping’s predictions are certainly the most recent and up to date, he was certainly not the first person to have preached about this event. One of the earliest and best known proponents of the Rapture was actually Cotton Mather. Mather lived from 1663 CE to 1728 CE. He was a New England Puritan minister who was known as an author and pamphleteer as well.
It was not his writing that made him famous, however. The majority of people who recognize the name Cotton Mather connect it to the Salem Witch Trials instead of his views on politics, medicine and the Rapture. There were several judges who heard charges of witchcraft in many towns and villages in New England. It was Mather, however, that was willing to admit spectral evidence as a way of proving that some individuals were in fact guilty of witchcraft. This form of evidence includes information that was given out in dreams or visions rather than physical proof of guilt.
Mather was known for his zealous approach to hunting witches. He wrote several books and essays including Illustrious Providences (1684) and Wonders of the Invisible World (1693) as a way of encouraging and even reviving the trials when they began to decrease in popularity. Many people view Mather as a rabid witch hunter who was willing to go to extreme lengths in order to prove an individual’s guilt and obtain their conviction.
Mather wrote many different books on a variety of topics during his life. Some works were several volumes in length. The vast majority of his works were religious in nature. A number of his works were on the topic of the Salem witch trials, spectral evidence and the witch trials that took place in Europe at approximately the same time.
As a result of mass hysteria and the witch trials, twenty-nine people either died in prison or were executed after being convicted of the crime of witchcraft. One of the most famous, Giles Corey, was pressed to death under heavy stones when he refused to confess.