A new Web site is offering a first-of-its-kind service: sending e-mails to nonbelieving friends and family who are "left behind" after you are whisked away by God in the rapture.
The site Youvebeenleftbehind.com offers users the ability to store e-mails and documents that will be sent to up to 63 e-mail addresses six days after the rapture has occurred. Users get up to 250 megabytes of storage space, 150 megabytes of it encrypted for sensitive information such as bank account numbers or eTrade passwords that can be accessed by those who remain on earth.
In evangelical Christian theology, the rapture is marked by a sudden visit from God, in which Christians will be whisked away to heaven while remaining nonbelievers will live on earth for seven years under the rule of the anti-Christ, until God returns with his followers to rule heaven and earth.
Billed as the last chance to "snatch them from the flames," Youvebeenleftbehind.com is the month-old brainchild of Mark Heard, a 49-year-old supermarket shelf-stocker who lives in Cape Cod, Mass.
"You've Been Left Behind gives you one last opportunity to reach your lost family and friends For Christ," the site reads. "Imagine being in the presence of the Lord and hearing all of heaven rejoice over the salvation of your loved ones. It is our prayer that this site makes it happen."
Heard says it's also a way to pass on financial information to loved ones who remain on earth before God's return.
"The idea started for me in 1999 when I was… trading equities online and trying to think, 'How I can send my password to my wife if the Rapture happened at this moment?'" he said.
Jeff Vaccaro, a 34-year-old computer programmer in San Diego who runs the Web site Godsurfer.com, which allows users to post and rank Christian-based Web content, signed up for the service when he saw it covered on another news site last week.
Although Vaccaro hasn't uploaded any messages just yet, he says that he plans to construct e-mails that give the non-believers in his life a nudge along with Bible passages.
"I like the idea behind it," said Vaccaro, "It would be one final, 'Hey guys, maybe you need to check this out further … I haven't figured out what I want to say yet."
Despite the promise of encryption, Vaccaro said he wasn't planning to save personal financial information on the site.
"I'm not going to put any of my financial documents up, but sending out an e-mail who to those who don't believe … when this does happen, I thought, 'Why not?'" he said.
Security experts generally recommend only using data storage services that are well-known with a proven track record and that detail the type of security used on their sites.
Perhaps the trickiest detail for Heard was devising a way for the digital service to determine the spiritual fates of its clients. How will the Web site know when the rapture has come?
Heard, who wouldn't reveal how many people have signed up for the service, has set up his e-mail server with what he calls a "fail-safe" clause: if three of his five employees fail to log on to their work accounts after six days, the service will be triggered and the e-mails be sent out.
"We don't want these things to go out early," he said.
Not all of this is being done out of the kindness of Heard's faithful heart; he does charge $40 a year for membership, a fee he hopes to lower as more people join.