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Rapture

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The Rapture is a term most commonly used to describe an event in certain systems of Christian eschatology (study of the end of the world) whereby all true Christians are taken from Earth by God into Heaven before other events associated with the end of the world take place. The main proponent of this concept and interpretation was John Nelson Darby.

The word "rapture" comes from the Latin verb "rapiemur" which means "carried off". It was used in the Latin Vulgate (about 405 A.D.) translation of 1 Thessalonians 4:17.

Supporters of this doctrine are most commonly found among fundamentalist and conservative Protestants, especially in the United States. Belief in the rapture is particularly associated with the school of Biblical interpretation called dispensationalism.

The term "rapture" is also used by some groups to describe the concept of religious ecstacy, or a religious out of body experience. This article discusses the use of rapture as an eschatological concept.

Contents

The theory

According to this theory, believers will, in the near future, suddenly disappear from Earth in the "twinkling of an eye."

In Christian circles this is known as a pre-trib doctrine, because the rapture rescues the faithful from Earth before the tribulation, rather than after (post-trib), as some other Christians believe. The resurrection of the dead will occur at the same time.

Almost all Christians believe that believers will be taken up to heaven, but the essence of the term "rapture" is that in some way non-believers will be left behind for at least some period of time before the world finally ends. This teaching revolves around the scripture passage in Matthew 24:40-41 which explains that "two shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left" (compare Luke 17:34-36), and also 1 Thessalonians 4:17 which teaches that believers will "be caught up together...in the clouds to meet the Lord Jesus Christ in the air").

Little attention was paid to these verses before the Protestant Reformation, and consequently most Christian denominations who have beliefs concerning a rapture are those that appeared after the Reformation.

Scriptural basis

Supporters for this belief generally cite four primary sources in the New Testament:

  • In 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, the Apostle Paul writes: "Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed."
  • In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Paul writes: "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: Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord."
  • In Philippians 3:20-21, Paul writes: "For our conversation is in heaven; from where also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself."


Generally, an elaborate set of predictions about the end times are constructed from these sets of verses, together with various interpretations of the Book of Revelation and the predictions of Christ's return in Matthew 24:30-36. In general, believers in the rapture consider the present to be the end times, and offer interpretations of the various symbolisms in the book of Revelations in terms of contemporary world events.

Different views

Criticism

Criticism of the rapture is usually based on the principle that the necessity of believing in Christ would be proven, by the events of the rapture, to anyone left behind. Thus anyone left behind who had knowledge of the rapture theory but previously did not believe in Christ would essentially be forced, by the proof of their own experiences, to believe. This would prevent any type of Antichrist from having any credibility.

Also, the concept of the rapture is criticized as alarmism. As Christian believers learn that they may be left behind during the rapture, if unprepared, it becomes easier to sell them lucrative books and videos on how to avoid this terrible fate.

Rebuttal

  • However, this may not be so, as God allows Satan to send them a deluding influence, backed up by many signs and false wonders (2 Thessalonians 2:11).
  • Furthermore, the Old Testament book of Exodus records that God appeared to the Israelites in a Theophany, as a visible pillar of fire or smoke, and bestowed daily miracles, yet many of the people rebelled against God.
  • Additionally, in Luke 16:31 Jesus states of unbelievers, "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead." (NIV)

Belief

Belief in the rapture became popular in some Christian circles during the 1970s, in part thanks to the books of Hal Lindsey, including The Late Great Planet Earth. Many of Lindsey's predictions in that book, which assumed that the rapture was imminent, were based on world conditions at the time.

The Cold War figured prominently in their predictions of Armageddon, and other aspects of 1970s global politics were seen as having been predicted in the Bible. Lindsay believed, for example, that the 10-headed beast cited in Revelation was the European Economic Community, which at the time consisted of ten nations.

Many Christians continue to believe in the rapture, with their interpretations of biblical eschatology having been updated to reflect changes in world conditions.

The Rapture in media

  • In the 1970's, Billy Graham's evangelistic association made a four-part movie series starting with 'A Thief in the Night', which chronicled events before and after the rapture, in an intentionally frightening way.
  • There was a 1991 film starring Mimi Rogers called The Rapture which was about one woman's experience of the rapture.
  • Rapture is a major component of the premise of the Left Behind books and their various spin-offs. Again these books greatly revived public interest in this concept.
  • Episode 19 in season 16, titled "Thank God, it's Doomsday" of The Simpsons features Homer predicting the Rapture. After seeing a movie titled "Left Below" (a parody of "Left Behind"), he becomes paranoid and predicts that the Rapture will occur at 3:15 PM on May 18.

See also

External links

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