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 by Donald W. Thompson
Produced by Donald W. Thompson
Written by Russell S. Doughten Jr.
Jim Grant
Donald W. Thompson
Starring Patty Dunning
Mike Niday
Colleen Niday
Maryann Rachford
Thom Rachford
Duane Coller
Russell S. Doughten Jr.
Clarence Balmer
Cinematography John P. Leiendecker Jr.
Edited by Wes Phillippi
Release dates
1972 (1972)
Running time
69 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $60,000

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.

Biblical references[edit]

The film's title is taken from First Thessalonians 5:2, in which Paul warns his readers that "the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night".

According to Christianity Today, "the film brings to life the dispensational view of Matthew 24:36-44,"[1] part of the Olivet discourse in which Jesus describes people being taken suddenly out of the world while others watch and remain behind. The film's premillennial dispensationalist[1] 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. This number 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.


Patty Jo Myers is a young woman who considers herself a Christian because she occasionally reads her Bible and goes to church regularly. 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.

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.


This film includes 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 has been seen by an estimated 300 million people worldwide.[1] 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.[1] A quarter century later, the authors of the broadly successful Left Behind series of books and films have acknowledged their debt to Thief.[1] Indeed, even the title "Left Behind" echoes the refrain of Norman's theme music for A Thief in the Night.




  1. ^ a b c d e Dean A. Anderson, The original "Left Behind", Christianity Today, Published 7 March 2012, Retrieved 13 March 2012.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ 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.

External links[edit]