A Thief in the Night (film)

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A Thief in the Night
A Thief in the Night poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDonald W. Thompson
Produced byDonald W. Thompson
Written byRussell S. Doughten, Jr.
Jim Grant
Donald W. Thompson
StarringPatty Dunning
Mike Niday
Colleen Niday
Maryann Rachford
Thom Rachford
Duane Coller
Russell S. Doughten, Jr.
Clarence Balmer
CinematographyJohn P. Leiendecker, Jr.
Edited byWes Phillippi
Release date
1972 (1972)
Running time
69 min.
CountryUnited States

A Thief in the Night is a 1972 evangelical Christian film written by Russell S. Doughten, Jr., directed and produced by Donald W. Thompson, and starring Patty Dunning as Patty Myers, the main character and protagonist, along with Thom Rachford, Colleen Niday and Mike Niday in supporting roles. It is the first installment in the Thief in the Night series about the Rapture, Tribulation, and Second Coming of Christ. The film is set during the near future, focusing on Patty, a young woman who was not raptured and who struggles to decide what to do in the face of the Tribulation.


In medias res, a young woman named Patty Myers awakens one morning to a radio broadcast announcing the disappearance of millions around the world indicating that the rapture has occurred. She finds that her husband has disappeared and she has been left behind. The United Nations sets up an emergency government system called the United Nations Imperium of Total Emergency (UNITE) and declares those who do not receive The Mark of the Beast identifying them with UNITE will be arrested.

Several flashbacks occur to times in Patty's life before the rapture. The flashbacks also show her two friends and their different approaches to Christianity; one who considers Jesus Christ her Only Lord and Only Savior and the other, Diane, who does not take it seriously. Patty 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 Christ as her Only Lord and Only Savior. One morning, she wakes to find that her husband and millions of others have suddenly disappeared.

Patty is conflicted and refuses to trust Jesus Christ as her Only Lord and Only Savior yet also refuses to take The Mark. She desperately tries to avoid the law and The Mark but is captured by UNITE. Patty escapes, but after a chase, is cornered by UNITE on a bridge and falls from the bridge to her death.

Patty awakens and the entire film's plot is revealed to have been a dream. She is tremendously relieved; however, her relief is short-lived when the radio announces that millions of people have in fact disappeared. Horrified, Patty frantically searches for her husband only to find he is missing too. Traumatized and distraught, Patty realizes that The Rapture has indeed occurred, and she has been left behind. In the ensuing plot the questions are whether or not she will be caught, as she was in her dream, and whether or not she will choose to take The Mark to escape execution.


  • Patty Dunning as Patty Myers
  • Mike Niday as Jim Wright
  • Colleen Niday as Jenny
  • Maryann Rachford as Diane Bradford
  • Thom Rachford as Jerry Bradford
  • Duane Coller as Duane
  • Russell Doughten as Rev. Matthew Turner
  • Clarence Balmer as Pastor Balmer
  • Gareld L Jackson as UNITE Leader
  • Herb Brown as UNITE Officer
  • Herb Brown, Jr as UNITE Officer
  • Betty D Jackson as Wedding Guest

Biblical references[edit]

The film's title is taken from 1 Thessalonians 5:2, in which Paul warns his readers that "the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night". In so doing, the film asserts that Day of the Lord means the rapture, though this is much denied by those who hold the pre-tribulation rapture viewpoint espoused by these films.[1]

According to Dean Anderson of Christianity Today, "the film brings to life the dispensational view of Matthew 24:36-44,"[2] part of the Olivet discourse in which Jesus describes people being taken suddenly out of the world while others watch and remain behind. However, Matthew 24 makes no such assertion.[3] A more relevant passage is 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, which describes Christians being "caught up" (Greek: harpagēsometha = Latin rapiemur = "we shall be raptured" = "we shall be caught up," leading to the term "rapture") to meet Christ in the sky.[4][5][6] The film's premillennial dispensationalist[2] interpretation of the Bible's end times prophecies is popular among U.S. evangelicals, but is a minority view among professed 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. 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 includes singer/musician Larry Norman's composition "I Wish We'd All Been Ready", one of the earliest Christian rock hits and one of Norman's best-known releases.


A Thief in the Night is thought to have been seen by an estimated 300 million people worldwide.[2][according to whom?] It was a pioneer in the genre of Christian film, bringing rock music and elements of horror film to a genre then-dominated by family-friendly evangelicalism.[10] [2] A quarter century later, the authors of the broadly successful Left Behind series of books and films have acknowledged their debt to Thief.[2] Indeed, even the title Left Behind echoes the refrain of Norman's theme song for A Thief in the Night, "I Wish We'd All Been Ready," in which he sings, "There's no time to change your mind, the Son has come and you've been left behind."




  1. ^ Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come.
  2. ^ a b c d e Dean A. Anderson, The original "Left Behind", Christianity Today, Published 7 March 2012, Retrieved 13 March 2012.
  3. ^ Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come.
  4. ^ Thomas Ice, Pre-TribResearchCenter, http://www.pre-trib.org/articles/view/a-thief-in-the-night
  5. ^ Charles Ryrie: Dispensationalism Today
  6. ^ Dwight Pentecost: Things to Come
  7. ^ Michael D. Guinan, "Raptured or Not? A Catholic Understanding", Catholic Update, October 2005, http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/CU/ac1005.asp[permanent dead link] . Cf. "Catechism of the Catholic Church - The Profession of Faith". Vatican.va. Retrieved 2011-10-21.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ Brian M. Schwertley, "Is the Pretribulation Rapture Biblical?", Reformed Online, https://web.archive.org/web/20130311041013/http://reformedonline.com/view/reformedonline/rapture.htm, last accessed January 27, 2012.
  10. ^ [1]

External links[edit]