From the beginning of the Christian era until the Protestant Reformation, only one person, Ephraem of Nisibis, in 373 AD preached in one known sermon that,
"For all the saints and Elect of God are gathered, prior to the tribulation that is to come, and are taken to the Lord lest they see the confusion that is to overwhelm the world because of our sins."
The doctrine of the Rapture was not heard of again until the Protestant Reformation and the rise of Dispensationalism. In fact, some people believe that the Rapture doctrine was developed to help alleviate some the the problems associated with Dispensationalism, specifically the belief that God deals with Israel and Christians in different ways.
Then 1400 years after Ephraem, there appeared an allusion to the Rapture in a book written in 1788 by a Catholic priest named Emmanuel Lacunza and published in Spain in 1812. John Darby, a Brethren preacher, taught the Rapture doctrine in 1827. The evangelist, William Blackstone popularized Rapture doctrine in his best seller, "Jesus is Coming." The Rapture doctrine entered mainstream Christianity with its inclusion in the Scofield Reference Bible. There is no real history to the Rapture doctrine until the 1800's. Is it a newly discovered truth or new error?
How do the most popular Rapture proof texts stand to reason?
37 But as the days of Noe [were], so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark,
39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
40 Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
41 Two [women shall be] grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
42 Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.
This verse emphasizes the unreadiness of the people and the unexpectedness of the Lord's return. It does not say the the Coming will be quiet, but unexpected. Comparing this verse to the parable of the ten virgins, the five who were unready had the door closed upon them. There was no second chance.
One psychological issue is the deep and understandable desire that all loved ones will be united in heaven. The Rapture doctrine promises a second chance at salvation for those who are left behind. The New Testament, taken as whole, teaches we have only one chance to be saved. Is it possible that "being taken" is the undesirable option, that at the Second Coming, the wicked will be taken and cast into that place where there will be "weeping and gnashing of teeth?" Some may argue that Matthew 13:30, 49 implies the wicked are taken first and righteous are left behind.
I Thessalonians 4:13-18
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.
This famous Rapture scripture does not speak of a silent rapture, but a very noisy one. The point of the Thief in the Night parable is that the Lord's coming is unexpected, not that it would be silent. What does Scripture exactly say about the "thief in the night" analogy?
2 Peter 3:9-12
9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.
11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives
12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.
The day of the Lord will come like a thief, not quietly but unexpectedly, at which time everything will be destroyed. If everything is gone, how can there be seven more years of life on Earth?
Some Christians believe that Christians need to "speed its coming." One of the problems with the Fundamentalist interpretation of verses such as this, especially references to the destruction of the earth, is that some believe Jesus will come back when as a certain former Secretary of Agriculture famously said, "The last tree is destroyed." There are Christians who believe the earth was given to humans for humans to use as they please and even destroy. Such a philosophy totally contradicts the charge of stewardship God gave and changes the connotation of the word "dominion" from "responsible" to "rapacious."
1 Corinthians 15:52
"In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed."
"(Christ) shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself."
In some sermons these are Rapture verses, and in other sermons, even by the same preacher, they are Second Coming verses. It is not possible for verses to interchangeably support different doctrines depending on the purposes of the preacher. It is also not necessary for there to be a Rapture to fulfill these verses. It is quite possible that we will be changed at one Second Coming independent of a Rapture.
27 For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
28 For wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together.
29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
How does this verse describe the Rapture? It is impossible to reconcile this description with the notion of a silent coming to gather the elect. In fact, the Rapture doctrine has so many contradictions that it is necessary to imagine two Second Comings in an effort to reconcile the obvious problems. In almost 2000 years of diligent Bible study nearly no one has detected the Rapture doctrine and no one read into Scripture two Second Comings. Because the Rapture theory requires belief that Christ will visit the Earth not once more -- but twice -- it's important to note that the New Testament speaks of Christ's return in the singular only. Those scriptures offered in support of the Rapture do not require a rapture for their fulfillment.
The Rapture doctrine is popular in the United States, but is not nearly so emphasized in other parts of the world. Why would this be so? Do other churches lack teaching? Or perhaps in the prosperous United States, Americans crave the comfort of the Rapture doctrine. It may be significant to note that the 19th century was America's "gilded age" when Americans believed the US was on the verge of creating a scientific and technological paradise on earth.
David B. Currie, in his book, Rapture: The End-Times Error That Leaves the Bible Behind summarizes the psychological danger of rapture theology.
"the belief system of rapturists allows them to take a certain comfort in the face of evil. For when things really deteriorate into chaos, they expect to be
safely tucked away in Heaven. There is a problem with this approach to life, however. It may comfort the person witnessing suffering, but it does absolutely nothing positive for the person experiencing the suffering. This theology is appealing only as long as the pain is someone else's."
He summarizes this criticism with the strong, but warranted, assertion: "Quite simply, the rapturist system contains no Cross."
He also points out that rapturists largely (if not completely) ignore the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., an event so significant that to ignore it is to guarantee incorrect interpretations of vital Scripture passages. "These rapturists refuse to even consider the events of 70 A.D. as a key to understanding any prophecies of the Bible because the events themselves are not enumerated in Scripture,"
Currie points out. "It is almost as though these events did not even occur. Therefore, they are left grasping for a still-future fulfillment."
Another observer notes, "The Rapture relieves humans of thinking about more than themselves. If one does some particular thing (a good work, something opposed to Martin Luther's thinking) like believing a particular thing, that person will be swept harmlessly away from all difficulty. Clearly this isn't Luther's theology of the cross. "
The Rapture doctrine is likely not correct. Proponents of the Rapture doctrine, in the face of criticism, often fall back on circular reasoning such as, "I believe in the Rapture because it is what I want to believe." So we must consider the next question; Is the Rapture doctrine dangerous? Some say No, because as long as we conduct our lives with trust in and obedience to the Lord, even if the Rapture doctrine is wrong, we will be on the right side at the end. Others say the Rapture doctrine is quite dangerous as it encourages some to hasten the Day of the Lord by promoting certain policies such as:
1. We don't need to take care of the earth since it won't be around much longer anyway.
2. Going to war in the Middle East is a good thing if it helps bring on Armageddon sooner.
3. We don't really need to educate our children since they won't be around to benefit from that education.
4. We don't have to take care of the poor since the end is near anyway.
People who thought this way were once dismissed as being part of the lunatic fringe. But today, these people can be found among NeoCons influencing public policy.
Why are so many people who believe in the Rapture so unwilling to consider that such a belief might be false? Why the psychological investment in a belief that has nothing to do with the doctrine of salvation?