Making Money from the “Biblical End Times”

Photo by Steve Rhodes

Business Week:

Todd Strandberg, the proprietor of — the most popular Rapture-preparedness website in the world—is part of a new generation of entrepreneurs trying to take advantage of Camping’s absence. Unlike Camping, the new apocalypse establishment is offering an unprecedented array of doomsday-themed literature, podcasts, survival kits, and other goods and services for navigating the end of times.

Jack Van Impe, a televangelist from Troy, Mich., has developed an e-commerce business hawking educational literature such as the Prophetic Guide to the End of Times ($14.95) in addition to DVDs like 11:59: The Countdown (two-discs, $34.95). Van Impe, who co-runs his ministry and budding apocalypse empire with his wife and fellow prophet, Rexella, is competing for market share with the Costa Rica-based writer Tim McHyde; Alex Dodson, whose Watchman Radio Hour enjoys a nationwide audience; and evangelical minister and author Tim LaHaye, who has co-written 16 Judgment Day-inspired novels. According to Cheryl Kerwin, senior marketing manager at Tyndale House Publishers, LaHaye’s Left Behind series has sold 63 million copies worldwide.

More details on the financials:

All are facing a common problem of the Rapture business: They’re making more money than they can spend before the world ends. Keith Preston, owner of Rapture Ready Consulting in Kenton, Ohio—which is completely unrelated to, he says—estimates his company grossed $380,000 in 2009 by selling products like screen savers featuring the Red Sea and a smartphone app for $4.99 that tells you if you’re in a flood zone. Although sales plummeted to $200,000 in 2010—the short-lived economic uptick, Rapture-sellers say, cast a pall over the sector—Rapture Ready rebounded this year. Preston is currently at work on an app for everyone who is not Raptured. “Let’s say 2 million people disappear,” Preston says. “You’ve got doctors and police officers, you have IT guys, writers, and politicians. So the problem is, who’s going to do whatever they were doing? You need an app for that.” How he plans to sell it from Heaven remains unclear.

As a Christian, this kind of stuff makes me sick.

Photo by Steve Rhodes.

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