This post is immediately relevant for me in two ways. My book on Revelation has now appeared (I kept *saying* it was “coming soon”!) AND I will be doing a lecture soon, April 15, on the idea of the “rapture,” the belief that Jesus is soon to return to take his followers out of the world before the Antichrist arises and all hell breaks out on earth. You don’t wanna be here for that. You don’t want to be “Left Behind”! The lecture is not connected with the blog per se; you can find out more about it on my website, http://www.bartehrman.com/courses
Here, to titillate your interest on both fronts, is a bit of what I say about the rapture in ch. 1 of my book (I say much more about it in a later section):
Almost everyone today thinks that Revelation provides a blueprint of what is to happen in the near future—at least those who think about it at all. There are, of course, some holdouts, even among conservative Christians, who maintain the book needs to be read another way. But the popular perception is that, whether absolutely right or terribly wrong, the book of Revelation tries to describe what is going to happen to us here in the twenty-first century.
Why does this seem to be the natural, commonsensical reading? Because the fundamentalists have won. It is not that fundamentalists have won over the great bulk of society to the entire panoply of their religious views. The vast majority of the human race decidedly does not think the Bible is completely inerrant in everything it says, that the world was created in six days some six thousand years or so ago, that there really was an Adam and Eve, and that . . . well, make your list. But fundamentalists have succeeded in convincing everyone (or at least those who are remotely interested) that Revelation describes what will happen in our own future, and probably soon. Possibly starting next year, or, well, next Thursday.
But here is a little-known factoid: The word “rapture” never appears in the Bible. Here’s another: Even apart from the actual word, the book of Revelation never says anything about the followers of Jesus being taken out of the world before it all goes up in flames. The idea of the rapture has not been taken from the Bible; it has been read into the Bible.
Here is an even more interesting factoid: No one had even thought of