The Mainstream Rapture?

I read an interesting article about the followers of failed doomsday prophet Harold Camping a year after their predicted apocalypse failed to manifest.

It is actually a very thoughtful and respectful article that looks at the real world impact when their whole worldview is destroyed. I found it very interesting and recommend it as an interesting read.

However, there is one paragraph that bugs me. Perhaps in an effort to mitigate against dismissing the followers of Camping as deluded, the author Tom Bartlett at Religion Dispatches says the following:
In the beginning, I was curious how believers would react, as if they were mice in a maze. But as time went on I grew to like and sympathize with many of them. This failed prophecy caused real harm, financially and emotionally. What was a curiosity for the rest of us was, for them, traumatic. And it’s important to remember that mainstream Christians also believe that God’s son will play a return engagement, beam up his bona fide followers, and leave the wretched remainder to suffer unspeakable torment. They’re just not sure when.
That assertion is just factually incorrect, but I see it repeated all the time in religion reporting.

Let us breakdown some numbers.

Of the 2+ billion Christians in the world, the great majority of denominations do not teach about any kind of rapture.

Of course, the Catholic Church, with its 1.2 billion members, does not and never has taught about any version of a rapture in which God will "beam up his bona fide followers, and leave the wretched remainder to suffer unspeakable torment." So that is over 50% right there gone.

Now we have approximately 230 million Orthodox who have no such teaching either. So now we are up to 1.4+ billion who do not teach or believe this.

Ditto the 85 million Anglicans. So far we are up to almost 70% of the total number of Christians who do not believe this.

So this leaves us the rest of the Protestant denominations. So which one teach the rapture? Lutherans? Nope. Methodists? Nope. And so on.

While there may be individuals within all these denominations who have been taken in by rapture theory, most Christian Churches or ecclesial communities, the large majority have no such teaching.

Belief in the rapture is a subset of a subset of a subset of Christians and good reporting should reflect this fact.


  1. The rapture crowd is fairly vocal, though. Living in the South, it certainly feels like a majority.

    I've had to explain to more than one Catholic that the weird hodge podge myth - which is drawn from a couple lines in Revelation, a couple lines in Isaiah, and some odds and ends - is neither explicit in the Bible nor a tenet of Catholic belief.

    Still, it's clear by Bartlett's "beam them up" language that subtle shades of belief probably aren't his forte, at least in that article...

  2. Actually the belief in the "catching away" (the literal translation of the Greek) is found in Thessalonians chapter 4:15-18

    15 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

    15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are 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 which 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.

    18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

    God said it and I believe it. And to be fair, every Bible-believer knew that Harold Camping was a nut because Scripture doesn't contradict itself - Jesus is very clear that no man knows the hour and His coming will be as a thief in the night.

  3. Not that I'm trying to get into any sort of debate here, because, truth be told, I don't have any sort of argument to make, but the quoted verses above don't speak of a rapture period at all (with the wretched being left to suffer until another coming). It simply says that all who are living and who have died with Christ will rise with him upon his second coming. It doesn't mention two separate "second comings".

    Again, perhaps you have heard it explained differently, but it is a stretch to build a whole case for the Rapture based on these verses.

  4. I would say the operative word in his statement is "mainstream" which you, Patrick, have proven is not the truth. But you know, Patrick, that you are addressing a mostly agreeable readership. The charitable thing to do would be to plead your case to Tom Bartlett.

  5. Facts? We don't need no stinking facts.

    Lies repeated sufficiently become accepted as truths.

  6. I was raised in pre-tribulation dispensational rapture theory, and only slowly came to understand what was unsound about the whole system of teaching YEARS after I was received into the Catholic Church in 1997.

    Republican mother is correct that the Greek word from which we get the word "rapture" is to be found in the I Thessalonians passage, but certainly, as Wayne said, the whole rapture theory is not to be found in that passage.

    One of the best resources I've ever seen to address the problem is David Currie's book "Rapture: the endtimes theory that leaves the Bible behind", published in 2002. Currie was raised in the same background I was, complete with New Scofield Reference Bible. He understands the doctrine from the inside. I cannot recommend it highly enough, if you want to know why dispensational Evangelicals believe this, and how to talk to them about it.

    That does not address the problem, of course, of religion reporters thinking that pre-trib rapture dispensationalism is believed by "most Christians".

  7. [Amen, Patrick. Spied this goodie on the web.]


    How can the “rapture” be “imminent”? Acts 3:21 says that Jesus “must” stay in heaven (He's now there with the Father) “until the times of restitution of all things” which includes, says Scofield, “the restoration of the theocracy under David’s Son” which obviously can’t begin before or during Antichrist’s reign. ("The Rapture Question," by the long time No. 1 pretrib authority John Walvoord, didn't dare to even list, in its scripture index, the too-hot-to-handle Acts 3:21!) Since Jesus can’t even leave heaven before the tribulation ends (Acts 2:34,35 echo this), the rapture therefore can't take place before the end of the trib! (The same Acts verses were also too hot for John Darby - the so-called "father of dispensationalism" - to list in the scripture index in his "Letters"!)
    Paul explains the “times and the seasons” (I Thess. 5:1) of the catching up (I Thess. 4:17) as the “day of the Lord” (5:2) which FOLLOWS the posttrib sun/moon darkening (Matt. 24:29; Acts 2:20) WHEN “sudden destruction” (5:3) of the wicked occurs! The "rest" for "all them that believe" is tied to such destruction in II Thess. 1:6-10! (If the wicked are destroyed before or during the trib, who'd be left alive to serve the Antichrist?) Paul also ties the change-into-immortality “rapture” (I Cor. 15:52) to the posttrib end of “death” (15:54). (Will death be ended before or during the trib? Of course not! And vs. 54 is also tied to Isa. 25:8 which is Israel's posttrib resurrection!)
    Many are unaware that before 1830 all Christians had always viewed I Thess. 4’s “catching up” as an integral part of the final second coming to earth. In 1830 this "rapture" was stretched forward and turned into a separate coming of Christ. To further strengthen their novel view, which the mass of evangelical scholars rejected throughout the 1800s, pretrib teachers in the early 1900s began to stretch forward the “day of the Lord” (what Darby and Scofield never dared to do) and hook it up with their already-stretched-forward “rapture.” Many leading evangelical scholars still weren’t convinced of pretrib, so pretrib teachers then began teaching that the “falling away” of II Thess. 2:3 is really a pretrib rapture (the same as saying that the “rapture” in 2:3 must happen before the “rapture” ["gathering"] in 2:1 can happen – the height of desperation!).
    Other Google articles on the 182-year-old pretrib rapture view include "Pretrib Rapture Politics," "Pretrib Rapture Scholar Wannabes," “Famous Rapture Watchers,” "Pretrib Rapture Diehards," “X-Raying Margaret,” "Edward Irving is Unnerving," “Thomas Ice (Bloopers),” "Walvoord Melts Ice," “Wily Jeffrey,” “The Rapture Index (Mad Theology),” “America’s Pretrib Rapture Traffickers,” “Roots of (Warlike) Christian Zionism,” “Scholars Weigh My Research,” “Pretrib Hypocrisy,” "Appendix F: Thou Shalt Not Steal," "Thieves' Marketing," "Pretrib Rapture Secrecy," “Deceiving and Being Deceived,” "Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty," and "Christ's return is NOT imminent!" – all by the author of the bestselling book “The Rapture Plot” (see Armageddon Books).


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