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When I say, “Second Coming,” what pictures emerge in your head? Sun blotted out and moon turning to blood? Four horsemen wreaking havoc? There’s one particular word I bet comes up for a lot of us: Rapture.
If you grew up in the Evangelical church, this idea was inescapable. In the 80s, churches held screenings of the movie The Thief in the Night. I was in high school when the Left Behind books came out. My youth group went to a youth conference where two years in a row they talked about the End Times. And central to all that was the Rapture, the idea that, before Jesus returns, he’s going to sort of pop down out of heaven and take just the Christians to heaven while the rest of the world turns into a hellscape. Rapture books and movies are filled with images of clothing left behind in piles while now-driverless cars and pilotless planes crash. Kids my age would come home to an empty house and have panic attacks because we were sure the Rapture had happened and we’d been LEFT BEHIND!
There’s even a super famous (in Christian circles) song about it – no less than DC Talk covered it (again, in the 90s). It goes like this:
Two men walking up a hill: one disappeared, and one’s left standing still. I wish we’d all been ready…
Sound familiar? If it does, I have some truly bizarre news for you: the Rapture is not in the Bible.
Let me say that again: the Rapture is not an idea you can find anywhere in the Bible. In fact, the whole idea of the Rapture – that God would take all of God’s people away and abandon the world to the forces of evil – that idea runs counter to the long story of the Bible.