One of the more unique and theologically absurd myths of American Evangelical and Fundamentalist Christianity is that of the Rapture. With the popular Left Behind series of novels being newly adapted by the tragically incompetent Hollywood spinmeisters desperate to cash in on the recent spate of religiously themed big-budget monstrosities (don’t even get me started on the ahistorical, atheological mess that is Noah, or what I believe should be more properly titled Noah the Barbarian or Noah the Conqueror, considering the fact that it is more akin to a swords-and-sorcery type story rather than a sincere representation of the Biblical story—I nearly keeled over in laughter after seeing the ridiculously stupid poster featuring Russell Crowe holding an axe and looking like he’s out for blood. I mean, what is this, an ancient Rambo?), it’s a good time to revisit this pernicious and dangerous myth.
For the sake of transparency, my bias is that of being a Traditionalist Christian, formerly Anglican, and for many years now non-denominational. I believe in the supremacy of Scripture over the authority of any contemporary denomination or Church, yet at the same time I accept the primacy of the genuine Tradition of the Celtic Rite and my Bible of choice is that of the Douay–Rheims.
That said, let us address the matter at hand, first with the quote at the heart of it all:
Then we who are alive, who are left, shall be taken up together with them in the clouds to meet Christ, into the air, and so shall we be always with the Lord.
This verse, which serves as the basis of the erroneous American belief in the Rapture (as exemplified in the sacrilegious fictions of Left Behind), not only does not demonstrate a scriptural basis for such an apocalyptic event, the verse itself and the notion of what is meant by “Apocalypse” has been completely, and quite disingenuously, taken out of context by the various mythmakers of Millenarian American Christianity to advance their own corrupt sociopolitical agenda. This particular meme, once restricted to the lunatic fringes of American Fundamentalism (the modern revisionist corruption of Puritanism), has since spread out throughout the spectrum of Christianity in not only America, but also throughout the rest of the Christian world.
What the verse is referring to—and what the chapter as a whole demonstrably proves leaving no room for further interpretation—is what will happen to those on earth who are still alive at the time of the Resurrection during the Second Coming. Whether taken literally or subjectively, given the text of the verse and interpreting the translation against the original texts, there is no possible way to interpret the verse as suggesting some sort of extended period of Tribulation that those whose faith in Christ is weak and others who have no faith in Christ at all (infidels) will be subjected to, hence the phrase “left behind.”
Let us study this further in context by looking at the immediately preceding verse:
For the Lord himself shall come down from heaven with commandment, and with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God: and the dead who are in Christ, shall rise first.
This unequivocally makes clear that those believers in Christ who are physically dead at the time of the Second Coming, will be resurrected first—they will be brought back to life. Immediately following the Resurrection (1 Corinthians 15), the remaining believers who are physically alive during this period “shall be taken up together with them in the clouds to meet Christ, into the air, and so shall we be always with the Lord,” as the next verse states. This makes clear that all believers—both the newly resurrected and those who are currently alive at the time of the event—will be taken up together at the same time to meet Christ.
Nothing in these two verses, nor in the chapter or epistle in general, suggests anything other than what is being clearly and concisely described. Nothing is stated or clarified about the fate of the non-believers, whether it is a single event or conversely, multiple events spread across a period of time, or even where the final destination happens to be—after being taken up into the air to meet Christ, will they then be taken to Heaven or will they return to Earth, or taken somewhere else entirely? This is not stated at all. Fundamentalists can interpret these verses however which way they want, but anything beyond what is clearly stated in the text itself is absolute speculation on the part of the interpreter and stands as personal belief, as opposed to scriptural belief.
In the next chapter, Paul refers to this event as the “Day of the Lord“:
For yourselves know perfectly, that the day of the Lord shall so come, as a thief in the night.
He mentions nothing about the event, other than to warn the Thessalonians not to be afraid or shocked when the end time comes like everyone else, who are ignorant of this Knowledge:
But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. For all you are the children of light, and children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep, as others do; but let us watch, and be sober. For they that sleep, sleep in the night; and they that are drunk, are drunk in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, having on the breastplate of faith and charity, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.
So, exactly how do the ends times unfold? This is explained clearly, and again leaving little room for fringe and revisionist interpretations, in Matthew 24. There is nothing mentioned about the Rapture or any such morbid event remotely similar to what is promoted by Fundamentalists and Evangelicals.
It is thus appropriate that Hollywood produce an adaptation of a misanthropic absurdity like Left Behind. After all, American Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism have become nothing more than a Hollywood version of Christianity, and Hollywood has always, at its core, glorified inhumanity and enshrined misanthropy as its guiding principle.
True Christianity cannot and never will be found in the hearts and words of those like Pat Robertson, John Hagee, Benny Hinn, and all the other charlatans and televangelical con artists masquerading as Christians.
It can only be found in Scripture, the Word of God.