The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation [NOOK Book]


The idea of “The Rapture”—the return of Christ to rescue and deliver Christians off the earth—is an extremely popular interpretation of the Bible’s Book of Revelation and a jumping-off point for the best-selling “Left Behind” series of books. This interpretation, based on a psychology of fear and destruction, guides the daily acts of thousands if not millions of people worldwide. In The Rapture Exposed, Barbara Rossing argues that this script for the world’s future is nothing more than a disingenuous distortion ...
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The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation

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The idea of “The Rapture”—the return of Christ to rescue and deliver Christians off the earth—is an extremely popular interpretation of the Bible’s Book of Revelation and a jumping-off point for the best-selling “Left Behind” series of books. This interpretation, based on a psychology of fear and destruction, guides the daily acts of thousands if not millions of people worldwide. In The Rapture Exposed, Barbara Rossing argues that this script for the world’s future is nothing more than a disingenuous distortion of the Bible. The truth, Rossing argues, is that Revelation offers a vision of God’s healing love for the world. The Rapture Exposed reclaims Christianity from fundamentalists’ destructive reading of the biblical story and back into God’s beloved community.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Ordained minister Rossing is ready to do battle with evangelicals both within and outside of her Lutheran Church camp. Rossing, who teaches New Testament at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago, begins her sparring by taking on the widely popular Left Behind series and all it presumes to communicate about the future of the world. Claiming that the Left Behind authors' interpretation of prophetic biblical verses is "fiction," Rossing firmly asserts that the Book of Revelation has a completely different purpose than to predict upcoming world uprisings and the eventual end of the earth. Instead, Rossing believes that this biblical vision is meant to inspire humanity to seek out "repentance and justice." Rossing also maintains, somewhat unfairly, that rapture enthusiasts extol a careless, abusive attitude toward God's created world, since rapture theology declares that the followers of Christ are soon to be removed from it. More significant is Rossing's belief that Revelation does not offer a prophetic look at Jerusalem as the inevitable battleground between good and evil, but rather extends the promise of a New Jerusalem that will open its arms to all nations in peace. While Rossing's scholarly work is well organized and obviously carefully thought out, evangelicals may take issue with the blanket statement that "most Christian churches and biblical scholars condemn Rapture theology as a distortion of Christian faith with little biblical basis." This book will likely upset Christian conservatives while appealing to many in mainline denominations. (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465004966
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 3/30/2007
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 401,908
  • File size: 412 KB

Meet the Author

Barbara R. Rossing teaches New Testament at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. She holds a doctorate from Harvard University Divinity School and a Masters of Divinity degree from Yale University Divinity School. An ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, she lives in Chicago.
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Read an Excerpt


The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation

Westview Press

Copyright © 2004 Westview Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-8133-9156-3

Chapter One

The Destructive Racket of Rapture

If I knew the world were going to end tomorrow I would plant a tree. MARTIN LUTHER I need a new car. Something tells me it's going to be our only chance to survive. "BUCK" WILLIAMS (TIM LAHAYE AND JERRY JENKINS, NICOLAE, 12) We need a shelter ... I'm talking about getting an earthmover in here and digging out a place we can escape to. REV. BRUCE BARNES (LAHAYE AND JENKINS, TRIBULATION FORCE, 32)

The rapture is a racket. Whether prescribing a violent script for Israel or survivalism in the United States, this theology distorts God's vision for the world. In place of healing, the Rapture proclaims escape. In place of Jesus' blessing of peacemakers, the Rapture voyeuristically glorifies violence and war. In place of Revelation's vision of the Lamb's vulnerable self-giving love, the Rapture celebrates the lion-like wrath of the Lamb. This theology is not biblical. We are not Raptured off the earth, nor is God. No, God has come to live in the world through Jesus. God created the world, God loves the world, and God will never leave the world behind!

Rapture theology is disastrous for the Middle East and it is even more dangerous for planet earth. Proponents love to use the image of a countdown, reminiscent of a missile launch or space travel. God has a clock that is counting down, its hands drawing ever closer to midnight. Never mind that clocks and stopwatches were not invented until long after the Bible was written, it is their favorite image. God's prophetic stopwatch is ticking down to the end of the world.

John Hagee, pastor of the 15,000-member Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, borrows his particular doomsday clock from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, an effort on the part of nuclear scientists to alert the world to the danger of nuclear annihilation. In 1947, these scientists initially set the hands of the clock at seven minutes to midnight. They periodically moved the hands closer or further from midnight depending on their evaluation of the global nuclear arms risk.

"God has a similar clock, my friend, and its hands never move backward," writes Hagee in the introduction to his book Daniel to Doomsday: The Countdown Has Begun. "Doomsday-the stroke of midnight-is coming." But note the crucial difference between Hagee's prophetic doomsday clock and that of the scientists. The nuclear scientists developed their clock to alert the world to our perilous situation so that the hands will never reach midnight. The scientists are trying to keep us from destroying the world.

Not Hagee. For him and other Rapture proponents the stroke of midnight on the doomsday clock is inevitable and even welcome. God plans to destroy the earth and there is nothing we can do to stop it. The countdown to the end is already under way. Each chapter of Hagee's book advances the clock one minute closer to midnight, culminating in the final chapter, entitled "Midnight: Doomsday at the Great White Throne," when the world comes to an end.

The Rapture is the reason Hagee and so many others revel in the prospect of destruction for the earth; the Rapture will be their "great escape" from earth. As Hagee boasts about the Rapture, "Believers in Christ will escape doomsday! Mark it down, take it to heart, and comfort one another with these words. Doomsday is coming for the earth, for nations, and for individuals, but those who have trusted in Jesus will not be present on earth to witness the dire time of tribulation."

Similarly, Hal Lindsey writes, "Although I grieve over the lost world that is headed toward catastrophe, the hope of the Rapture keeps me from despair in the midst of ever-worsening world conditions." He and other proponents of the Rapture are confident that Jesus will come to snatch or "Rapture" them up to heaven before unleashing a seven-year period of global tribulation and terrible destruction on the earth. Lindsey interprets Revelation's reference to "those who dwell in heaven" in chapter 12 of Revelation as proof that he and other Christians will not be found on earth during the woes and tribulation but rather will be part of "another special group called 'those who dwell in heaven.'" Only non-Christians will suffer the fate of being "left behind" on earth.

In the summer of 2003 Ted Turner and Public Broadcasting System sponsored an eight-hour special "Avoiding Armageddon," warning of nuclear and chemical weapons proliferation and urging the world's leaders to take steps to curb the danger. The next week, in reviewing the week's news through her end-times lenses, a breathless Rexella Van Impe asked her husband on their fundamentalist Christian cable television show, "Jack, Ted Turner thinks Armageddon can be avoided. Is he right?" No, Armageddon cannot be avoided, was Jack Van Impe's enthusiastic reply to viewers. Van Impe is the author of The Great Escape: Preparing for the Rapture, the Next Event on God's Prophetic Clock and other books on the Rapture and the Middle East. Like Hagee and Lindsey, he is confident that God will destroy the earth and also that he and Rexella will be raptured up to heaven before it all happens.

Rapture and Armageddon scenarios tap into Americans' love for disaster films and survivalist plot lines. Readers of end-times novels readily envision themselves among the select few who will escape planetary disaster. Like the remnant who survive an attack on the planet by alien creatures in the 1996 film Independence Day, or the couple who survey the devastation of New York City after the tidal wave caused by the impact from a comet in the movie Deep Impact, or survivors in the 1998 thriller Armageddon, readers of these scripts place themselves in the role of the elite individual heroes who will survive Armageddon or other disasters while the rest of the planet perishes. Even once-jailed televangelist Jim Bakker has now disavowed his previous pre-Tribulation Rapture theology as escapist, calling it a racket that preached a false gospel of prosperity-combined with the promise of escape from any consequences.

Christ will return, on that the Rapture proponents and I agree. I pray for it each time I pray "Thy kingdom come" in the Lord's Prayer-a prayer that is never once prayed in the twelve Left Behind novels. Jesus taught an urgency about his kingdom in this prayer that is still very much alive for Christians today.

But we completely disagree on what that urgency means for the world and for our life today. We differ, first of all, on our views of God-whether our God is a God whose will is to destroy the world. Second, we differ on whether Christians are to embrace an escapist ethics, as Rapture proponents argue, or are to urgently love and care for the world in anticipation of Christ's return, as I advocate. These differences in ethics will be crucial for our future.


Jesus is coming back at a moment we cannot know. But that does not mean that God is getting ready to destroy the earth and take Christians away to another planet. A Presbyterian pastor taught me a Rapture song he learned as a child: "Somewhere in outer space God has prepared a place for all those who trust him and obey ... The countdown's getting closer every day." This song reflects a key point on which the Rapture teaching is false and dangerous. There is no place in outer space to which God will take us to escape the earth. This is not the biblical message. We cannot trash this planet and assume there is another.

Space imagery is frequent in Hal Lindsey's Late Great Planet Earth. Published in 1970, just one year after astronaut Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, Lindsey's book appealed to people's desire for the adventure of space travel in describing the Rapture as the "ultimate" space trip.

Astounding as man's trip to the moon is, there is another trip which many men, women, and children will take someday which will leave the rest of the world gasping ... Without benefit of science, space suits, or interplanetary rockets, there will be those who will be transported into a glorious place more beautiful, more awesome, than we can possibly comprehend ... It will be the living end. The ultimate trip. (Hal Lindsey, The Late Great Planet Earth [Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1970], 135-137)

Left Behind author Tim LaHaye also engages in planetary speculation regarding earth's destruction and the creation of the "new earth" of Revelation 21. He explains how God's future timetable "does away with this planet as we know it" in two events of destruction. Earth's first destruction will be by fire while the second destruction will be more severe, and will include even the atmosphere. Here LaHaye fabricates a distinction between three different heavens in the Bible-the atmospheric heaven around the earth, which he says is the "abode of Satan"; a second, stellar heaven that contains the stars; and the third heaven, the heaven of the throne of God in the visions of Revelation 4 and 5, which will not be destroyed. The atmospheric heaven is what God plans to destroy in Revelation 21:1, according to LaHaye. "God will destroy this earth that is so marred and cursed by Satan's evil. He will include the atmospheric heaven to guarantee that all semblance of evil has been cleared away."

Only after those two destructions will God create a new heaven and a new earth, says LaHaye. He fantasizes that the new earth may not be "limited to the twenty-five thousand miles in circumference and eight thousand miles in diameter of the present earth. It may be much larger; the Bible does not say." In addition to a larger-size earth, LaHaye speculates about how the new planet won't waste any space with oceans or mountains or deserts, since such landscapes are uninhabitable for humans and are therefore "worthless."

This kind of speculation would be amusing if it were not so dangerous. God created the earth's mountains and deserts and called them "good"-they are not worthless to their Creator. Earth's atmosphere, too, was created by God, and God laments over it when we destroy it. The atmosphere is under assault today from ozone depletion, increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide that cause global warming, and other wounds-but these are wounds caused by humans. The atmosphere is not the abode of Satan. The view that total planetary and atmospheric destruction must take place on earth before God's renewing vision of "New Jerusalem" can come into the world is not biblical. It leads to appalling ethics.

To be sure, Revelation proclaims a "new heaven and a new earth," but that does not mean that God gives us a replacement for this current earth when we damage it beyond recovery. A new earth is not something we go out and get as born-again hero Buck Williams gets a new car in the Left Behind novels. Rather the earth becomes "new" in the sense of resurrection or renewal-just as our bodies will be resurrected, brought to new life, but they are still our bodies. The whole creation is longing for redemption, the apostle Paul writes-this is the sense in which there will be a new creation. It, too, will be redeemed, made new. The Greek word used for the "new" earth in Revelation 21:1 can mean either "renewed" or "new"-but it certainly does not mean a "different" earth. There is no justification for using up the earth on the grounds that we get to trade this one in for a new and bigger one in seven years.

Reagan-era Secretary of the Interior James Watt told U. S. senators that we are living at the brink of the end-times and implied that this justifies clearcutting the nation's forests and other unsustainable environmental policies. When he was asked about preserving the environment for future generations, Watt told his Senate confirmation hearing, "I do not know how many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns." Watt's "use it or lose it" view of the world's resources is a perspective shared by many Rapture proponents, whose chief preoccupation is counting down to earth's violent end.

Even more extreme is a recent remark by right-wing pundit Anne Coulter: "God gave us the earth. We have dominion over the plants, the animals, the trees. God said, 'Earth is yours. Take it. Rape it. It's yours.'"

Raping the earth and justifying such behavior on the grounds that this earth is ours and it will be finished in seven years is like saying we might as well use drugs and abuse our bodies because we know we will soon be resurrected with new bodies. Our bodies are God's temple, the apostle Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans. They are not to be abused but rather reverenced. God dwells in these earthen vessels. Similarly with the body of the earth: It, too, is a body God created and still calls good. It is a temple in which God dwells. We do not leave this earth behind. God does not leave it behind and neither can we.

The British author C. S. Lewis's Chronicles Of Narnia, a popular series of Christian novels from the mid-twentieth century, depicts salvation in a much more earth-affirming way than the Left Behind story. When Lucy and her companions finally come into the "New Narnia" at the end of their journey in Lewis's The Last Battle, it is not an escape from their homeland but rather a going through a door more deeply into God's picture, into the world. The travelers slowly come to realize that the place is the very same place as the world they left behind: the same hills as those in their hometown, the same house, but everything is more radiant. The color blue is bluer. It is "more like the real thing." New Narnia is different from old Narnia in being a "deeper country: every rock and flower and blade of grass looked as if it meant more."

New Narnia is "world within world," Lucy realizes. The Faun Tumnus explains the within-ness of God's vision for our world: "You are now looking at the England within England, the real England." Most importantly, in Lewis's vision-contrary to the destructive Rapture script-"no good thing is destroyed." This is the wondrous land Lucy and her companions have been looking for all of their lives. A donkey named Puzzle, a Mouse, an Owl, the Good Badger, and "all the dear creatures" go with them into the new landscape.

The Narnia story's ending gives a much truer reading of the final vision of the book of Revelation than the Left Behind story.


Excerpted from THE RAPTURE EXPOSED by BARBARA R. ROSSING Copyright © 2004 by Westview Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

1 The destructive racket of rapture 1
2 The invention of the rapture 19
3 The rapture script for the Middle East 47
4 Prophecy and apocalypse 81
5 The journey begins : Rome's worship of victory 103
6 Lamb power 109
7 Nonviolence : conquering in Revelation 115
8 The exodus story in Revelation 123
9 Hijacking the lamb : addiction to wrath and war 135
10 Rapture in reverse : God's vision for renewing the world 141
11 The journey outward : homecoming to the world 159
Epilogue : debunking the rapture by verse 173
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Customer Reviews

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( 19 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 19 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2006

    Educate yourselves, brothers and sisters!

    Many sincere Christians are so poorly educated about Church history that they are simply unable to discern truth from Satan's propaganda. LaHaye and his kind are wolves in sheep's clothing. He is profiteering from the Gospel and making alot of money! Rapture 'theology' started in the 1800s, not 2000 years ago on Patmos Island. Like other false teachings of that century, it found fertile ground in the minds of many Americans. Let us never be too proud or stubborn to admit that we may be mistaken about something or anything in this life! Let us be humble, so that we may read and educate ourselves. Keep an open mind, let The Holy Spirit and your own good sense be your Guide. In the Name of The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit, Amen!

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 24, 2004

    Twisting Scripture to Promote an Ideology

    This book fails on many levels, because the author misinterprets or selectively quotes scripture to promote her personal ideology. The greatest failure of this book is that it misses the ultimate message of Revelation: people need to respond in faith to the redemptive work of Christ now to avoid the inevitable judgment that is coming. See Revelation 3:20 and 22:17. Other major flaws abound. For example, she uses symbolic interpretations to twist the plain meaning of scripture. Rossing believes that God has no intention of bringing wrath against the evils on Earth, regardless of statements in Revelation to the contrary. She thinks only in terms symbolic threats. The evils, she notes, are not really those stated in Revelation anyway, but those generated by current Israeli government policies, the opponents of environmentalism, the political right, etc. Her symbolism has a clear socio-political agenda in mind, not a Biblical agenda. Significantly, she never addresses any of the key passages, which show Christ as a judge, such as Revelation 6:9, 19:21, 20:11-15, apparently because they oppose her ideology. Worse yet, she contradicts scripture stating, ¿Prophecy does not mean prediction of the future,¿ even though the Bible contains numerous instances of predictive prophecy. See Genesis Chapters 12:2, 2 Samuel 7:12, Daniel 5:28, Isaiah 53:5, and Acts 9:15. Another obvious flaw is that Rossing avoids discussion of the Greek word signifying the Rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, ¿harpazo¿ or ¿caught-up,¿ apparently to avoid undercutting her own views. The book cannot stand up to even a cursory examination against the Bible.

    6 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2007

    a must for dispensationalists

    Ms. Rossing's book is a must read for every Christian, even in disagreement. It is sad that so many folks give up before hearing all sides of an issue due to the inertia of entrenched belief. People should spot more of a red flag from reading books by the La Hayes of the world, who make so much 'mammon' from book sales of cheesy Christian pornography like the 'Left Behind' series. This is a thoughtful book that, unfortunately, will not make a dent in the hard heads of the rapture freaks of the world.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2004

    A RED flag for Christians

    I must say I didn't get past but a few pages in this book when I got a bad feeling, I felt I was not reading the truth. For those of you who are not well grounded in the Bible, be careful what you read. I read the Bible and or about the Bible every day, I bought this book to finish my study of rapture perspectives, too many red flags poped up. My suggestion is to read the inspired Word of God until you have the full armour of God protecting you.

    5 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 5, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A Life Boat

    Having endured almost a lifetime of pummeling by dispensationalists, I found this focused expose to the history (short history) of "rapture politics" a blessing. It belongs in church and personal libraries. If you go to many Sunday school classes or take part in small church group discussions, you will find this a great resource.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2005

    The end of the 'raptured' world?

    I have a booklet that was sent to most of the pastors in the US entitled '88 Reasons the World Could End in 1988'. That was the year Hal Lindsey and others were predicting the world would end in the 1970's. It is about time someone spoke the real gospel and the word of hope that the book of Revelation gives as this book does. The Rapture Exposed takes to task the 120 year old myths that have hijacked much of the church. So many have used their own imaginations to give meaning to the apocryphal writing of the bible (esp. Revelation and Daniel), bringing about meanings that have no basis in scripture. She analyzes the texts (including 1 Thess. 4:13-18!) in a scholarly but approachable manner. Rossing brings out the meaning as it was understood at the time the book was written. The center of this understanding is that the the Lamb (Jesus) has already defeated the Lion (The Roman Empire). They just have to hang on until it comes about - which it obviously did. To the people of that time, under persecution by Rome, it was the affirmation of the good news of the eventual overcoming of evil that has been accomplished by Jesus Christ. The book also exposes the dangerous understandings that have come from these false beliefs authors like Lindsey and LaHaye espouse, and how understanding things as they were written fits with the rest of what Jesus came to tell us - believe, love each other, and care for all we have been given. If you have read the 'Left Behind' series, or any of Hal Lindsey's or others of his ilk you need to hear a different voice - one of hope for *this* world. This book can help you to hear it.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2012

    Very confused writer

    My eleven year old niece could write a better book. Her arguments are juvenile. Her knowledge of scripture is piteful. Not a good book.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 23, 2009

    Not Recommended

    The author takes the Scriptures and twists them around to suit her own misinterpretations. She is very confused about this subject. I tried to read it to get the opposite opinion but she is impossible to make any sense. Very confused and misinformed author. Don't buy this book. Her theories are totally false. She apparently is an atheist and is trying to discredit Christianity.

    3 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2013

    Good could have been great

    In short, I think the author did a great job on explining the rapture myth in an interesting way and plain language that made the book both practicle and enjoyabe for the layman. What could have made this a great book would be if the author would have left out her personal political meanderings.
    Get past that and this is an enjoyable and informative read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2013

    The book was interesting to say the least - but a total work of

    The book was interesting to say the least - but a total work of fiction. I compared her words to 2 different bibles and I have no idea where she is getting her information from, but it definitely NOT the Bible. That probably explains why I got her book off the "Drastically Reduced Rack" for a buck - and it wasnt even worth that.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2013

    No rapture

    If you believe there is no second chance you believe there is not going to be seven year tribulation. Once God comes back to get his people that's it you dont go through a tribulation that is like giving you another chance to get it right. In the bible it says he come like a thief in the night. So you dont know when he's coming back and when comes as a thief in the night that is it. No more second chances.
    I also believ that women should wear skirts. And no i'm not one of those religons where they skirts . Actually i'm non denomonation. It says in Deutoronomy 22:5 it says women shallnot wearthat which pertaineth unto a man niether shall a man put on a woman's garmet:for all that do so are a abomintion unto the Lord thy God. Know you may be saying that that doesn't mean women can't wear pants . And you're right that doesn't mean you can't wear pants it just means that the bible teaches you shouldn't wear pants. I mean if any of you ever watch little house on the prairie (my favorite show) you see that the womrn on there wear dresses and skirts. If you look at the signs on the bathroom doors you see that the women sign have girls with dresses and the men have pants. If the women had pants too you wouldn't be able to tell the difference. Also know that you won't go to hell if don't stop wearing pants . I think you might also want to know that I am 11 years old.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted May 29, 2011

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