Rapture Theory, as it ought to be called, is not some ancient Biblical prophecy about to come to pass. It isn’t even as respectable as an interpretation of a four hundred year old work of Nostradamus.
Like so much of what credulous followers of certain Christian sects believe, it’s another conspiratorial thing, approaching its second century anniversary, and like all conspiracies the roots were planted in decidedly odd soil.
The origin of Rapture Theory seems to be one Manuel Lacunza. A Jesuit priest from Chile, he was expelled from the country along with all the others of his order by the King of Spain in 1767. This exile finally settled with other Jesuits in Italy and based on the description he was a few communion wafers short of a full plate in later years, failing to care for himself and obsessing over interpreting prophecy. Scarred by the conflict that made him an exile, much like Ayn Rand, he concocted a peculiar world view that has taken root in a fashion all out of proportion with its merit.
Lacunza’s masterwork, The Coming of the Messiah in Glory and Majesty, was finally published in 1811, twenty years after his death. The Spanish Inquisition was still active at this time, the book was denounced as heresy, and much subterfuge was required for the first few printings.
The father of Dispensationalism, a man named John Nelson Darby, concocted his theories while convalescing after being thrown from a horse in 1827. A two volume translation of Lacunza’s work was published in England this same year, and it appears to have heavily influenced Darby’s thinking.
So a traumatized refugee with some psychological problems dreamed it all up, and then an idle, injured Darby picked up the translation and made a lasting impression on our world.
As there was no Christian teaching of a “rapture” before Darby began preaching about it in the 1830s, he is sometimes credited with originating the "secret rapture" theory wherein Christ will suddenly remove His bride, the Church, from this world before the judgments of the tribulation.
This idea, this heresy, to be completely proper, has taken over enough of our society that it endangers us all. We are simply unable to face a clear cut danger like climate change, instead being forced to work around a media that enables apocalyptic world views and provides numerologists and corporate carnival barkers with equal time to oppose scientists.
The Rapture isn’t coming May 21st of 2011. It’s not coming December of 2012. Much like the last millennium, where apocalyptic views held sway right before and right after the change, we have to wade through a decade of irrational behavior on either side of the magical turning of the millennial odometer. We’ve got another twenty months of this superstition to deal with, then it ought to start declining.