The Rapture is a prophesied event in Christian eschatology, in which Christians will be gathered together at the return of Christ; even Christians who have died are to be resurrected to participate in the coming of Christ.
The primary passage for the Rapture is 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, in which Paul cites "the word of the Lord" about the return of Jesus to gather his saints. Although all Christian denominations believe in this event there are two primary views regarding the relationship of this event with end time prophecy:
Proponents of a preliminary rapture insist that the doctrine of amillennialism originated with Alexandrian scholars such as Clement and Origen and was later brought wholly into Roman Catholic dogma by Augustine. Thus, the church up until then held to premillennial views, which see an impending apocalypse from which the church will be rescued after being raptured by the Lord. This is even extrapolated by some to mean that the early church espoused pretribulationism.
Some Pre-Tribulation proponents maintain that the earliest known extra-Biblical reference to the "Pre-Tribulation" rapture is from a sermon falsely attributed to the fourth-century Church Father Ephraem the Syrian, which says, "For all the saints and Elect of God are gathered, prior to the tribulation that is to come, and are taken to the Lord lest they see the confusion that is to overwhelm the world because of our sins. However, the interpretation of this writing, as supporting Pre-Tribulation rapture, is debated.
There exists at least one 18th century and two 19th century Pre-Tribulation references, in a book published in 1788, in the writings of a Catholic priest Emmanuel Lacunza in 1812, and by John Nelson Darby himself in 1827. However, both the book published in 1788 and the writings of Lacunza have opposing views regarding their interpretations, as well.
The rise in belief in the "Pre-Tribulation" rapture is sometimes attributed to a 15-year old Scottish-Irish girl named Margaret McDonald (a follower of Edward Irving), who in 1830 had a vision that was later published in 1861.
The popularization of the term is associated with teaching of John Nelson Darby, prominent among the Plymouth Brethren, and the rise of premillennialism and dispensationalism in English-speaking churches at the end of the 19th century. In 1908, the doctrine of the rapture was further popularized by an evangelist named William Eugene Blackstone, whose book, Jesus Is Coming, sold more than one million copies. The first known appearance of the theological use of the word "rapture" in print occurs with the Scofield Reference Bible of 1909.
In 1957, John Walvoord, a theologian at Dallas Theological Seminary, authored a book, "The Rapture Question," that gave theological support to the Pre-Tribulation rapture; this book eventually sold over 65,000 copies. In 1958, J. Dwight Pentecost authored another book supporting the Pre-Tribulation rapture, Things to Come: A Study in Biblical Eschatology, that sold 215,000 copies.
During the 1970s, the rapture became popular in wider circles, in part due to the books of Hal Lindsey, including The Late Great Planet Earth, which has reportedly sold between 15 million and 35 million copies and by the movie "A Thief in the Night" which based its title on the scriptural reference 1 Thessalonians 5:2. Lindsey proclaimed that the rapture was imminent, an idea that he based on world conditions at the time. The Cold War and the European Economic Community figured prominently in his predictions of impending Armageddon. Other aspects of 1970s global politics were seen as having been predicted in the Bible. Lindsey suggested, for example, that the seven-headed beast with ten horns, cited in the Book of Revelation, was the European Economic Community, a forebear of the European Union, which at the time aspired to ten nations; it now has 27 member states.
The doctrine of the rapture continues to be an important component in fundamentalist Christian eschatology today. Many Christians continue to feel that world conditions point to the rapture, Tribulation, and return of Christ occurring soon. And yet virtually all the Christians of the Reformation, including Baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Calvinists, and so on believed Revelation was living Church history, with some of it already having occurred and some of it to occur. All those denominations plus many more believed that the pope was the man of sin mentioned in the bible, and put such in their statements on doctrine. Many believe the Reformation itself was a God ordained event.
Some who believe in a Pre-Tribulation rapture warn that the rapture is imminent, saying that all of the prophecies concerning the latter days have been fulfilled to the extent that the rapture could take place at any moment. Others suggest that certain requirements must first be met before a rapture can occur, such as these:
The prewrath rapture view is that the tribulation of the church begins toward the latter part of the seven-year period, being Daniel's 70th week, when the Antichrist is revealed in the temple. The great Tribulation, according to this view, is of the Antichrist against the church at this time. The duration of this tribulation is unknown, except that it begins and ends during the second half of Daniel's 70th week. References from Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 are used as evidence that this tribulation will be cut short by the coming of Christ to deliver the righteous by means of rapture, which will occur after the sixth seal is opened and the Sun is darkened and the moon is turned to blood. However, by this point many Christians will have been slaughtered as martyrs by the Antichrist. After the rapture comes God's seventh-seal wrath of trumpets and bowls (a.k.a. "the Day of the Lord"). The Day of the Lord's wrath against the ungodly will follow for the remainder of the seven years.
Post-Tribulation advocates find no scriptural support for the so-called "Yo-Yo Theory", which they describe as the first-Second Coming of Christ in the clouds for the rapture and then coming back again for a second-Second Coming (sometimes called the Second Coming in two parts or the Second and Third Coming). However, the pre-trib believers would say that they do not support two comings of Christ. The first is for the Church (and not a return)- then Christ will return to the Earth to set up the millennial kingdom. The Rapture is not considered to be the coming of Christ but a specific snatching away of the Church.
The Post-Tribulation view brings Christ's "appearing" and his "coming" together in one all-encompassing, grand event. Matthew 24:29–31; "Immediately after the tribulation of those days…they shall gather together his elect…", is cited as a foundational scripture for this view. Pat Robertson describes the end times this way in his 1995 novel The End of the Age. Another supporting scripture is John 17:15-16, where Jesus prays that the Father not take his (Jesus') disciples from the earth, but that he (the Father) would nevertheless "keep them from the evil one." This is taken to preclude a Pre-Trib or a Mid-Trib rapture to heaven at any time. Prominent authors supporting this view are Walter Ralston Martin, John Piper, George Eldon Ladd, Robert H. Gundry, and Douglas Moo.
|Matthew 24:29-31 ASV||1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 ASV|
|Matthew 24:29 But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: 30 and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he shall send forth his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.||1 Thessalonians 4:15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we that are alive, that are left unto the coming of the Lord, shall in no wise precede them that are fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first; 17 then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.|
Any individual or religious group that has dogmatically predicted the day of the rapture, referred to as "date setting", has been thoroughly embarrassed and discredited, as the predicted date of fulfillment came and went without event. Some of these individuals and groups have offered excuses and "corrected" target dates, while others have simply released a reinterpretation of the meaning of the scripture to fit their current predicament, and then explained that although the prediction appeared to have not come true, in reality it had been completely accurate and fulfilled, albeit in a different way than many had expected. Conversely, many of those who believe that the precise date of the rapture cannot be known, do affirm that the specific time frame that immediately precedes the rapture event can be known. This time frame is often referred to as "the season". The primary section of scripture cited for this position is Matthew 24:32-35; where Jesus is quoted teaching the parable of the fig tree, which is proposed as the key that unlocks the understanding of the general timing of the rapture, as well as the surrounding prophecies listed in the sections of scripture that precede and follow this parable.
Some notable rapture predictions include the following:
The first full-fledged rapture movie was A Thief in the Night. That film was followed by three sequels and a novel, and set up the genre of the rapture film. With only a few exceptions the genre died out by the end of the 1970s only to resurface again in the 1990s with such films as Apocalypse, Revelation, The Rapture, Left Behind: The Movie, and The Omega Code. Cloud Ten Pictures specializes in making end-time films.
In 2002, Dirk Been and Joel Klug (former "Survivor" cast members) starred in the movie Gone, which is about three lawyers who are left behind in the Philippines. The film was nominated for 'Best Christian Movie of the Year' by Christian Beats magazine and was seen on the Dove Awards on national TV. "Gone" went on to be seen by an estimated 1.2 million people. It was written and directed by Tim Chey.
Robert Heinlein's 1984 book, Job: A Comedy of Justice described the troubles of a Christian man called Alex, who is moved from parallel world to parallel world, accompanied by his lover Margrethe. Halfway through the book, the Rapture occurs and Alex is taken up, but Margrethe is left behind because she is a pagan. The rest of the book describes Alex's attempts to bypass the rules and save his true love. The book is a prolonged dig at evangelical Christian beliefs and has some detailed theology in it, but ultimately sends it up.
In 1995, Left Behind was published. The rapture is a major component of the premise of the book and its various spin-offs. These books greatly revived public interest in this concept. The plot of the book was used as a basis for a 2000 movie and a 2006 video game.
In Mark E. Rogers' book The Dead, published in 2001, those chosen for salvation disappear in a blinding flash of light. It is possible for people who have been left behind to redeem themselves in the eyes of God; those who do are immediately raptured. Sacrificing oneself to help others is one way of being redeemed. Some characters are actually under attack by reanimated corpses, or by Legion himself, at the time of their rapture. The blinding flash of light totally disorients the corpses who witness it, rendering them incapable of any action at all for a short time. The humans are literally "caught up" "in an instant" by God.
Daniel J. Gansle's book, "Rapture Redux: Living With Hope and Purpose in the Last Days" (Infinity Publishing, 2007) tackles the contentious question of whether dominionist evangelicals have gone too far in supporting war in the middle east (Iraq in particular) in order to hasten the Rapture and the return of Christ. The book also delves into how UFOs tie in with ancient biblical prophecies, the spiritual condition of the church just before the Rapture, Rapture timing theories, a fictional look into the post-Rapture world, and how the transforming belief in the Rapture doctrine is available to Christians today.
In the Drawn Together episode "Lost in Parking Space, Part One", Princess Clara, a devout Christian, warns her unconcerned housemates that the rapture is coming, even going so far as to contact a rapture hotline run by Kirk Cameron (star of Left Behind: The Movie). When her housemates later run off to the mall without her, she fears they have been taken off to heaven and she has been left behind.
"Rapture" is the twelfth episode of the third season from the science fiction television series, Battlestar Galactica. In this episode Athena commits suicide in order to be reborn (raptured) on a Cylon ship.
In the Aqua Teen Hunger Force episode "Kidney Car", Master Shake is seen wearing a racing helmet upon returning from a demolition derby in which he wrecked Carl's car. When questioned about the purpose of the helmet by a suspicious Carl, Shake claims it is "For the Rapture".
In the second episode of the fourth season of HBO's "Six Feet Under" titled "In Case of Rapture", a 49 year old Christian woman called Dorothy Sheedy abandons her vehicle which displays a bumper sticker "I BRAKE FOR THE RAPTURE!" having witnessed the accidental liberation of numerous helium filled 'sex dolls' from the back of a truck. As they float off into the atmosphere she mistakes this event for the Rapture falsely perceiving them in heavenly white gowns and rushes into the middle of a busy road that she may join them in their ascent to Heaven, whereupon she is hit by a vehicle and instantly killed. Her husband is never aware of the reason for her running into the traffic but benignly accepts her death as God's will without question or curiosity.
One organization, the Rapture Fund, is offering a "Rapture Will" that provides terms by which a Christian can transfer his or her estate to the Rapture Fund in the event of the Rapture. The organization's website indicates that funds are to be used for publication of the Gospel during the Tribulation.
In Final Fantasy VIII, the special spell Rapture is available to Selphie Tilmitt when she reaches her limit break. This spell destroys all enemies by giving them wings and sending them directly to heaven.