In my new book Armageddon, which saw the light of published day just a few days ago, I talk about where the “rapture” came from, the evangelical belief that Jesus was soon to return to snatch his followers out of this world before a horrible time of Tribulation hits the earth.
That too will be the subject of a lecture, with Q&A, that I will be giving (unrelated to the blog) on April 15. For information about THAT, go to my website http://bartehrman.com/courses
I left off yesterday with a bit of a tease, indicating that the following passage, one of the main prooftexts for a rapture, is in fact not about the rapture at all. Here’s the passage, and then my explanation:
For we tell you this by a word of the Lord: we who are living, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not go before those who sleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God—and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are living, who remain, will be taken up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:15–18)
How can this not be referring to the rapture?
To begin with, it is important to read the passage, and all passages of the Bible, in context—a point I will be beating like a drum throughout this book. Paul certainly did believe Jesus would be returning from heaven and it would be soon. The key, though, is to understand Paul’s explanation of what will actually occur at that second coming.
Throughout his writings Paul insists that Christ will