What is the "rapture," and what scriptural references do proponents of this idea use as supporting evidence? I fail to get a clear understanding from the often quoted 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11. Also, what is to become of the unsaved "left behind" after this supposed event? -- Heidi Theunissen (Columbus, Ohio)

The popular rapture doctrine comes from 1 Thessalonians 4 and the book of Revelation, awkwardly forced together so that the righteous are snatched up to heaven while the wicked remain behind on earth, suffering God's outpoured wrath. No, this doctrine just will not do! In John 5 Jesus says that, on his return, everybody will be resurrected, good and wicked alike, to face judgment. Revelation, in context, though it provides timeless lessons on God's faithfulness and stern treatment of the church's persecutors, describes punishment to fall on the Roman Empire, not some supposed 21st century cataclysm. The Left Behind series is, I am sure, bringing in a fortune to its writers. Too bad it isn't based on sound doctrine.

The Bible teaches that when Christ returns, those who are still alive will rise to meet Christ in the air, or be "raptured." But 1 Thessalonians nowhere says that anyone else will be "left behind" to face punishment. Quite simply, the end-time punishments are not of this world.

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