There is a persistent and dangerous idea within the Christian Evangelical church that there will be a Rapture of believers at the end of the world. The Rapture is an event in which faithful Christians will instantly be taken up into heaven before the End Times. This idea, on its face, is ridiculous. Yet, it continues to dominate certain religious circles. The Bible does not speak of a Rapture. It is a fabrication created by fringe thinkers and capitalized by intrepid salespeople. Despite that, it continues to linger as a potential pitfall for Christians, new and old.
So, where did the idea of the Rapture come from? Why is it so prevalent? What does the Bible actually say?
The Rapture is a relatively recent idea. It emerged in the early 19th century out of the American revival movement. This was a time of loose orthodoxy and new ideas that gave way to denominations such as Mormonism and Seventh Day Adventists. It was out of this culture of newness and reinterpretation that the Rapture came to be. John Nelson Darby is credited with being the first person to postulate a Rapture in which Christians would be taken before a final Tribulation Period. Before Darby, there was no official idea of a Rapture. Indeed, most major Christian sects have no position on a Rapture. Large denominations such as the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, and Lutheran Church all do not believe in the Rapture.
Darby spread his ideas in the growing evangelical revivalist movement. The spread of the idea of a Rapture was further crystalized with the creation and distribution of the Scofield Reference Bible in the early 20th century. This Bible focused on the idea that all of human history was broken into various distinct ages (dispensations) that God uses to judge and shape His people. A Rapture would precede the final age. That is what the notes in the Bible claimed. This Bible was surprisingly popular, and it was heavily used by evangelical churches in the 20th century, which allowed the idea of a Rapture to seep into the public consciousness.