A Thief in the Night (film)
|A Thief in the Night|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Donald W. Thompson|
|Produced by||Donald W. Thompson|
|Written by||Russell S. Doughten Jr.
Donald W. Thompson
Russell S. Doughten Jr.
|Cinematography||John P. Leiendecker Jr.|
|Edited by||Wes Phillippi|
A Thief in the Night is a 1972 Christian end times film produced by Russell S. Doughten. It is the first and best known film in Doughten's four-part series on the Rapture and Second Coming of Christ. The films together are often referred to collectively as the "Thief" or "Rapture" series.
According to Christianity Today, "the film brings to life the dispensational view of Matthew 24:36-44," part of the Olivet discourse in which Jesus describes people being taken suddenly out of the world while others watch and remain behind. Another relevant passage is 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, which describes Christians being "caught up" (Greek: harpagēsometha = Latin rapiemur, leading to the term "Rapture") to meet Christ in the sky. The film's premillennial dispensationalist interpretation of the Bible's end times prophecies is popular among U.S. evangelicals, but is a minority view among Christians globally.[note 1]
In the film, everyone must receive the mark of the beast, consisting of three rows of the digits "0110" written on their forehead or hand, or they will not be allowed to use money in any way, even to buy food or water. The number "0110" in binary is six, hence having it repeated three times suggests the biblical number attributed to the end times (though concatenating the "mark" into the single number 011001100110 does not yield six hundred sixty-six in binary, but 1,638). The use of the number 666 as a mandatory marking of service to the Antichrist is a common interpretation of Revelation 13:16-18.
This film is the first in a sequence of four. The first two films out of the four in the series, concern Patty and her two female friends. The chief conflict is whether or not Patty will take the Mark of the Beast or not, in the face of the threat of execution by the forces of the Beast.
Patty Jo Myers is a young woman who considers herself a Christian because she occasionally reads her Bible and goes to church regularly, where the pastor is really an unbeliever. She refuses to believe the warnings of her friends and family that she will go through the Great Tribulation if she does not accept Jesus. One morning, she awakens to find that her family and millions of others have suddenly disappeared. Gradually, Patty realizes that the Rapture, an event some interpret from the Bible, has happened and she and everyone else left behind are entering into the Great Tribulation, the last days of Earth, dominated by the Antichrist. A government system called UNITE (United Nations Imperium of Total Emergency) is set up and those who do not receive the mark identifying them with UNITE will be arrested. Patty desperately tries to avoid the law and the mark but is captured by UNITE. Patty escapes but is cornered by UNITE on a bridge, and falls from the bridge to her death(in the dream state).
Patty then awakens, this time for real, and realizes that all she had experienced was only a dream. Her relief is short-lived when the radio announces that millions of people have disappeared. Horrified, Patty frantically searches for her family only to find them missing too. Traumatized and distraught, Patty realizes that the Rapture has indeed occurred and she's been left behind. In the ensuing plot the questions are 1) will she be caught (as in her dream she was caught), and 2) will she take the mark to escape execution.
The plot is somewhat hard to understand in the second film because the story of Patty is told in flashbacks within flashbacks. But it ends dramatically with Patty tied in the guillotine, while an eschatological earthquake starts. The audience is on tenterhooks waiting to see if she escapes or not.
The 3rd and 4th films are spliced on to the ending of the second film, but begin a rather new story, that of Dave, Leslie, and Connie. Leslie is with Patty at the guillotine (waiting her turn), when she escapes due to the eschatological earthquake. She runs, goes down into an underground room and meets Dave there. It is love at first sight. Dave and Leslie have a romance. While the plot is a bit difficult to understand, Dave's purpose seems to be 1) to develop a fake mark so that a person can buy and sell without using the actual Beast's mark and 2) to destroy the master computer of the Beast by injecting into it a destructive code, which in fact is the song, "Onward Christian Soldiers." The story is presented with action scenes and interspersed long conversations. Connie is an agent of the Beast who pretends to cooperate with Dave. 
A Thief in the Night has been seen by an estimated 300 million people worldwide. It was a pioneer in the genre of Christian film, bringing rock music and elements of horror films to a genre then dominated by family-friendly evangelism. A quarter century later, the authors of the broadly successful Left Behind series of books and films have acknowledged their debt to Thief. Indeed, even the title "Left Behind" echoes the refrain of Norman's theme music for A Thief in the Night.
- Dean A. Anderson, The original "Left Behind", Christianity Today, Published 7 March 2012, Retrieved 13 March 2012.
- Thomas Ice, Pre-TribResearchCenter, http://www.pre-trib.org/articles/view/a-thief-in-the-night
- Charles Ryrie: Dispensationalism Today
- Dwight Pentecost: Things to Come
- Michael D. Guinan, "Raptured or Not? A Catholic Understanding", Catholic Update, October 2005, http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/CU/ac1005.asp . Cf. "Catechism of the Catholic Church - The Profession of Faith". Vatican.va. Retrieved 2011-10-21.
- Anthony M. Coniaris, "The Rapture: Why the Orthodox don't preach it," Light & Life Publishing, Life Line, September 12, 2005, Volume 2, Issue 3, available at https://web.archive.org/web/20121109035607/http://www.light-n-life.com/newsletters/09-12-2005.htm ("As already stated, most Christians, Orthodox, Roman Catholics and Protestants do not believe in the Rapture.") (Orthodox commentary), last accessed January 27, 2012.
- Brian M. Schwertley, "Is the Pretribulation Rapture Biblical?", Reformed Online, http://web.archive.org/web/20130311041013/http://reformedonline.com/view/reformedonline/rapture.htm, last accessed January 27, 2012.
- These paragraphs are supported by the primary sources, the four movies, readily available to all.