If you ask a Christian what “the Rapture” is, you’re probably going to get a pretty similar picture to a post-apocalyptic Hollywood movie. There will be a second coming of Christ and all of the truly faithful will be gathered up into his arms, and those left behind will have to contend with trials and tribulations. Generally speaking this means all sorts of horrible things like war, famine, pestilence and other horsemen of the Apocalypse. There’s just one problem with this idea… it has no bearing anywhere in biblical scripture.
Now let’s not get confused. The second coming of Christ IS foretold in the Bible. It is said that no one will know when it will come, and that all on Earth will suffer the times of trials and tribulations (7 years or so, according to the book). There is no VIP pass for true believers that get to skip ahead past the horrible stuff to go straight into heaven. There’s no angels swooping down to save the good and leave the damned to their fate… everyone’s got to go through the bad stuff to get to the time of judging, where you either go up or down depending on your rap sheet.
So where does the idea of a heavenly golden parachute come from if not from the Bible? Well the idea of a pre-tribulation rapture actually comes from Scotland about 180 years ago, or thereabouts. In 1830 a woman named Margaret MacDonald had a vision of this pre-tribulation rapture where Christ came back and took a select number of the faithful Christians with him, leaving the rest behind. This vision was later heard by a man named John Darby took this vision and modified it slightly to include ALL Christians in the saving rapture (no record is made why he changed it, but he did). This view was then taken on the road and spoken about in a variety of places as a new prophecy, and it caught on majorly with the Apostolic and Evangelical sects over many years. Nowadays of course the idea of a rapture is so commonly known among modern Christians that the idea it isn’t in the Bible is sometimes astonishing.
As with anything it’s important that you know where the “facts” you’re talking about come from before you start spreading them around to other people. This is how ideas that aren’t part of a core philosophy or religion can, over time, become so synonymous with the original, core inspiration that they are assimilated by proximity. But if you dig back long or hard enough, the facts usually come to light.
“Is the Pre-Tribulation Rapture Biblical?” by Brian M. Schwertley at Reformed Online
“Feeling ‘Left Behind’?” by Anonymous at Synaxis