Caught Up in the Rapture
When I feel the magic of youCaught up in the rapture of You
The feeling's always new
—Anita Baker, "Caught Up In The Rapture"
A standard feature of some Christian eschatology (a fancy word meaning "study of the end of the world") dictates that, before (or possibly after) God allows Satan to screw the world over, He will rapture his church, by grabbing everyone who is a Christian, or possibly everyone who might also be able to figure out what's going on and do something about it. So basically, a whole lot of people just suddenly vanish without warning, potentially leading to all sorts of interesting effects. Or, maybe not so many.
In reality, while this idea has worked its way into popular consciousness regarding the End of the World, it's actually a fairly recent idea, dating back to a Protestant group called the Plymouth Brethren in the 19th century. A former Anglican minister by the name of John Nelson Darby took a single verse from 1 Thessalonians describing how the church will be "caught up together" in the air to join with Jesus spiritually. Combining this with Premillenialist theology stating that there will be a period of a great tribulation and hardship on earth before Jesus comes back to defeat evil for good and reign for 1000 years, Darby is largely responsible for creating the major trappings of the Rapture that people most commonly associate with Christianity today. It's also worth noting that many Christians do not believe in the Rapture—the Catholic Church, for example, disavows it entirely. Since its inception, it's remained a religious phenomenon that gained and kept its strongest popularity in America.
Curiously, the theology of the Rapture has extended itself out of Christianity entirely. Many New Age gurus who have left Christianity maintain some of the teachings surrounding the rapture, and many of these pseudo-Christian ideas exist in, for instance, Terrance McKenna's Timewave Zero and the various expositions of the end of the age in the Mayan Calendar in December, 2012.
- A common bumper sticker referring to this idea, was one that read "In the event of Rapture, this vehicle will be Unmanned", but doesn't say what happens if the driver was a woman...
- A particularly loathed X-Men storyline featured a conspiracy to cause a fake Rapture.
- What's really ridiculous? The plot was to install Nightcrawler (who looks like a Blue Devil) as The Pope (somehow tricking the entire conclave into choosing someone who is waaay too young to even be considered for the role) and then having his pocket hologram generator fail, exposing him as the "Antichrist" as explosive Communion wafers disintegrate anyone who eats them and making everyone think the Rapture has come in a bid to take over the world/Catholic church. The kicker to this whole plot? As stated above, Catholics don't believe in the Rapture.
- While not religious in nature, the "Infinity Gauntlet" storyline has Thanos of Titan causing half the universe's population to disappear.
- Jack Chick uses the Rapture quite a bit, both in his tracts and his Alberto series of comic books.
- Therefore Repent! and its sequel, Sword Of My Mouth are a sort of anarchist Take That againt Left Behind with the Splitters who side with the angels who randomly butcher people against our heroes who have rediscovered magic in the wake of the rapture and are La Résistance.
- The Rapture seems to be a big Take That to the concept, as a faithful woman is driven by fanaticism and depression into effectively damning herself.
- The Nicolas Cage movie Knowing is a thinly veiled allegory to the rapture, with aliens taking the place of God.
- Along with Hal Lindsey's books, the 1972 film A Thief in the Night helped to popularize this trope back in The Seventies.
- The Apocalypse film series kicks off with this, with the Antichrist Franco Maccalusso explaining that those who disappeared were removed by him because they were obstacles to the goal of achieving world peace.
- The Moment After starts off with this also.
- The "800-pound gorilla" in this scenario is the Left Behind series of Christian thrillers. The opening of the first book has the main character, Rayford, a pilot, contemplating cheating on his wife with a stewardess, before said stewardess comes into the cockpit to inform Rayford that half of the passengers have disappeared.
- The parody novel Right Behind had a fake Rapture and a climax of the protagonist fighting the Anti Christ in a Christian bookstore by chucking Precious Moments figurines.
- In the Christ Clone Trilogy by James Beauseigneur, the Rapture is somewhat subverted, in that when what becomes known to the world as "The Disaster" strikes, the raptured Christians don't disappear, but actually die. Their souls still go to God, though.
- In Good Omens, a televangelist is gushing about the Rapture to his TV audience, when he's accidentally possessed by Aziraphale, an actual angel, who lets it slip that no, they're going to be far too busy with Judgement Day to bother with protecting the locals. Let God sort it out.
- Before Left Behind, there was Hal Lindsey. Although he didn't create the idea of the Rapture, he helped codify it with his 1970 book The Late, Great Planet Earth, which purported that the Rapture would take place in The Eighties, coinciding with the 40th anniversary of the foundation of Israel. His predictions are pretty funny now, but back then, a lot of people took him very seriously, and it helped to fuel the popularity of dispensationalism in American Christianity.
- Remember our friend John Nelson Darby that we mentioned at the top of the page? Lindsey graduated from the theological university that was started by one of Darby's staunchest supporters. Reportedly, his former colleagues were a little mad that he made millions off of essentially publishing lecture notes.
- The Evangelical Rapture is cited and explicitly occurs during the plot of Robert A. Heinlein's Job: A Comedy of Justice. It's subverted, however, when it's revealed that God (who is a Jerkass) deliberately invoked it as part of a petty scheme to screw with the protagonist's faith and, moreover, God and Satan themselves are merely minor deities in a Celestial Bureaucracy. The whole scheme ends with a massive Reset Button, except that the hero gets his girl and lives Happily Ever After as a reward for his faith.
- A short story from the Eighties titled "If The Driver Vanishes..." (from a Rapture-related bumper sticker, "If the driver vanishes, grab the wheel") had billions of people vanishing as something - "a great star" - appears in the sky. This taken to be the Rapture (a pretty convincing case, you might say), but the "star" appears to be an alien ship, broadcasting images from TV and films of increasing population pressure and war culminating in space battles. After the disappearances end, the montage changes to a happier future. The protagonist decides it wasn't divine. It was alien pest control.
- Anita Baker's song "Caught Up in the Rapture" is not actually an example of this trope, it's just using it as a metaphor for love.
- This is actually inverted in the belief system of the Jehovah's Witnesses. They believe that God will remove the unworthy from Earth (no Heaven or Hell, just oblivion), lift the remaining 144,000 to Heaven (it should be noted that all 144,000 aren't necessarily all alive now), and leave the rest to rebuild the world as it was meant to be and live there eternally.
- A radio preacher named Harold Camping once predicted that the Rapture would occur on May 21, 2011 at 6:00 PM, and whipped up a lot of publicity for it through a barrage of print and billboard advertisements. Some radio stations "celebrated" by playing songs like Britney Spears' "Till the World Ends" and REM's "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)", while a number of atheist/secularist groups held "Rapture parties" on the date. Eventually 6 PM passed through every time zone with no true signs of an apocalypse. He later changed it to October of the same year, where it still didn't happen.
- He also predicted it would happen in 1994. He was wrong then, too.
- This is the central idea of the "Earth Inherited" scenario for the d20Modern roleplaying game, with a unique wrinkle: the truly good and the truly evil - regardless of their beliefs - are spirited away to Heaven and Hell respectively, leaving the uncommitted to make sense of what's left while angels and demons battle for their souls. And the angels and demons themselves are shut out of the afterlife, leading many of them to question their purpose.
- The New World of Darkness book "Mirrors" presents the Rapture as one of many causes for post-apocalyptic scenarios.
- The New World of Darkness fan game Genius: The Transgression lists The Rapture as one of the future events that may be encountered by foolish time-travelling Geniuses, although things seem to be pretty under control.
- The name of the city of Rapture in Bioshock is an obvious reference to this concept, and its setup bears some marked similarities to it. The main difference is that, rather than devout Christians being whisked away in a flash, it's the "productive class" leaving society voluntarily, Atlas Shrugged style -- business owners who feel that their workers shouldn't control them, artists who feel that they are being censored by a society too stupid to see their "brilliance", scientists who feel that "petty" morality and ethics hinder proper research, etc.
- An episode of The Simpsons opens with the titular family seeing a movie called Left Below (an obvious spoof of Left Behind), causing Homer to become exceedingly anxious about the end times. He starts researching exactly when and how the end of the world will come about, and how to avoid being "left below".
- The "Simpsons Bible Stories" episode featured the Flanders family Raptured while everyone else in Springfield is left to go to Hell. Lisa was about to be Raptured too, but gets pulled down by Homer. Of course, apparently the worst thing about Hell is pineapple pieces in the cottage cheese.
- There's also the scene in "Sideshow Bob Roberts" where the construction crew arrives to tear down the house while Homer's sleeping. Homer wakes suddenly and yells, "Ahhh! It's the Rapture! Quick! Get Bart out of the house before God comes!" Clearly this was during one of Homer's more devout phases.
- In the American Dad episode "Rapture's Delight", when the Rapture happens Stan and Francine get left behind, probably because they just had sex in the church's closet.
- Later Stan seeks out Jesus and nearly gets raptured.
- Their eschatology basically amounts to "The world is going to end. We don't really know how or when but just take our word for it, OK?"