The word “Rapture” can be found neither in the Bible nor for that matter in the original languages of the bible, as far as I can tell. A few biblical allusions reflect something vaguely similar (mostly in 1 Thessalonians 4: check out Paul’s typical murkiness)—but nothing lucid enough to justify praiseworthy prophecy. It has never formed a part of serious biblical scholarship, yet has been overblown by a few fanatics into misleading fantasy and vicious wish fulfillment to confuse the faithful.
Jesus said He did not know the hour of His Return, only His Father did. He warned us of false prophets who would dare proclaim it (Mark 13). No-one will know of His arrival until it happens, at which point everyone will.
Stage a train wreck and call it Good News. Stuff as many innocents aboard as you can, to their doom. Whether you prefer this dirty trick or not, you shifty fundamentalists, I choose another path.
Matthew 23 in King James Bible
36 But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.
37 But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark,
39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
40 Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
41 Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
42 Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.
43 But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.
44 Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.
45 Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?
46 Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.
47 Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods.
48 But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming;
49 And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken;
50 The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of,
51 And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Much of the Rapture unfolded in about two weeks. Afterwards, it purred along here and there, now and then, as people Disappeared by ones and twos….
At first, it was only earsplitting preachers, televised evangelists and radio sermonizers who Disappeared. The New Year began on a Sunday. Most of the airwaves lapsed to dead air as radio sermons and media preachers fell silent in mid-pomposity. TV test patterns quietly replaced nonstop pulpit rants for more cash, bigotry and exclusion in the holy name of Jesus Christ.
Many churches emptied when their preacher Disappeared. Congregations fled in panic. Only later did they realize what they had fled. Then they came back and prayed with that much more fervor despite their dwindling numbers. Many stayed and stayed, prayed and prayed. That was in vain. Only a few were Chosen to Disappear.
You see, one had to have special talents to be Chosen. First, one had to preen and crow one’s own salvation. Second, dream of casting the rest of humanity into the deepest, darkest pit of Perdition without a second's hesitation or remorse. Thirdly, foretell Christ’s nearing Return, which prophesy Christ said was not possible even for Him, much less for some wolf in sheep’s clothing, some mortal blasphemer brandishing a Bible.
Only God knows the time of His Son’s Return and only God can pronounce it. Christ spoke this truth categorically—no mere human may deny it.
Jesus said that God will forgive every sin except blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, the Comforter He’d left us pending His Return. What else do you think that could be, except this denial? Only sociopaths (the socially sick, in Greek) could do such a thing. Fear their words and shun them.
As for the Exile of the Jews and their Return to the Promised Land: well, that had already come about at least twice in history and could do so again during the next few thousand years, God willing; else never again. In either case, no dependable sign of His Return.
False prophets! On your knees before your congregants and beg them forgiveness for your evident lie carefully forbidden in the Bible! The rest of you, the lambs of God, pay no heed to their blasphemy! Be ready for His Return at any time (as of a thief in the night), but never again deceived by the empty clamor of His imminence.
It was difficult for most people to reconcile Jesus' injunctions to love your enemy, your neighbor as yourself and to die for your friends, with the idea that most eternal souls were expendable refuse. That kind of discrimination took grandiose vision, fanatical leadership skills, immense heartlessness and a giant ego: extraordinary talents only a few possessed.
At first, churches were packed standing-room-only; long lines snaked around outside. Eventually, they fell vacant. Those who remained eventually gave up and took their family home, as despondent as kids turned away from a pickup ball game.
People just Disappeared. They’d be there one moment, spouting vicious nonsense; the next, they’d be Gone. They would scowl as if suffering from a heart attack; some would gasp as if to scream… then they’d be Gone. Witnesses reported hearing a vague popping noise as atmospheric pressure filled the void left by their being Swept Away. Then they sniffed something vaguely sulfuric, like a cap pistol going off …
They reported that when the Chosen disappeared at high altitude, they seemed to be more at ease. People caught up in aircraft smiled and Disappeared―or so surviving passengers reported. Some planes crashed when everyone aboard was Swept Away. Runaway Lear Jets became commonplace. Most civilian flights landed safely, landed by shaken copilots and emergency volunteers.
People in tall buildings Disappeared more easily, so did mountaineers―or so it was reported. Denver, Lima, lhasa and Quito became favored Departure spots. By now, fervent evangelicals were gathering up a few belongings and heading for the hills. Many of them never returned. All the best ones did, crestfallen at having been Left Behind.
Some of those who climbed down ladders from a rooftop, left a foot, ankle and half shin a bone and fibula behind, neatly severed along with the corresponding sock and pants leg. Evangelicals got wise and started camping on a rooftop. No one could get them down and few tried. Eventually, some were Gone. The rest, the best, were left behind.
In a few days, the Right Wing was amputated from Congressional and State Legislatures. The Republican Party was reduced to a shambles; the Democratic, not much better. Forty-five remaining Congresspeople held an emergency session to nominate temporary replacements. Half the Supreme Court was Gone, as were most Federal Judges: all of them were certifiable reactionaries. The Oval Office went vacant and so did the plush offices of political appointees and lobbyists.
Under emergency regulations, an Assistant Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services took the oath of Presidency, pending crash elections. That doctor was an outspoken agnostic by the name of Dean, about to be fired by the prior incumbent. She had made too many waves about family planning, universal health care and corporate-sponsored malnutrition and pollution. Nobody was left, senior to her, and no-one complained. She was elected President shortly thereafter. She turned out to be quite good at her new job, much better than the last dozen or so.
The military snapped to DefCon 1, but could find no one to nuke. Many missile command bunkers and offices in the Pentagon went vacant. A few cadets rattled around the military academies; the Coast Guard, NOAA and Merchant Marine schools were only slightly more crowded. Most private military schools turned into ghost towns; the few cadets Left Behind had never been comfortable there in any case and went home. Warships sailed to their homeport with skeleton crews, and fighter-bombers fell from the sky like sparrows over an active volcano. The American military, what was left of it, was recalled from overseas. That operation took two months and concluded without a single loss to combat. Trigger-happy thugs were gone from both sides.
Fox News abandoned the airwaves, as did other news affiliates. AM radio commentary was Gone. Media executives and talk-show hosts Disappeared (guess which ones). Newspapers went temporarily out of print; they had to find new sponsors and senior staff. No-one was left to invoke “journalistic balance and objectivity” and thus pay due reverence to evil.
Basically, if you had spouted lies and ranted loud enough in favor of hate crime and greed, you were Gone. If you had been scared enough of the Other to advocate his murder, you were Gone. If you had killed, starved and tormented people other than by accident, you were Gone. Persist in doing so by accident … you get my drift.
In their fantasy world, many of those Swept Away had already sacrificed everyone else to Armageddon on Earth and then to eternal damnation. High quality mass education? Ecological sanity? Peace and justice for helpless foreigners? Why bother! Wasn’t the Earth God's ashtray? Couldn’t He purify, in His own good time, the filth and horror of overcrowded humanity that Christians had induced on purpose to hasten His Return? As far as they were concerned, those excluded from the Rapture were worth nothing more than rotting garbage.
Even though they were absolutely right about being Swept Away, it turned out that everyone Left Behind and the Earth itself drew sumptuous benefits from their Departure. Sure, there would be disasters, potent signs in the heavens, and wars and rumors of war―just as there had been for thousands of years; nothing prophetic in any of that. But with surprising ease, the situation improved significantly for the remainder of humanity.
What became of those Caught Up in the Rapture? Who cares? Good riddance!
What was most funny? It wasn’t just fanatical Christians who Disappeared, but Muslims, too. Those who Disappeared had complained quite loudly that there wasn’t any genuine Islam any longer, that they were the last True Believers in Allah. All their neighbors were just filth-loving, pro-Western heretics fit for execution by jihad. Those who Disappeared tended to cling to Wahhabi, Salafiya and other devout tyrannies that preached mass murder for the greater glory of Islam.
Whether Texan or Saudi, all those big talkers and all their big talk Went Away. Papers drifted unattended across dusty Taliban madrassas and fundamentalist Christian campuses whose students wandered home when the Bigotry 101 coaches Disappeared.
The same went for Hindus and Buddhists. Rabid nationalists, mosque wreckers, library torchers, lynch mob leaders, all Disappeared. No one was left to blame a local minority for every social problem and solve that problem with ethnic cleaning.
No one was left, in all of India and Pakistan, who cared passionately whether Kashmir became independent. On a gorgeous afternoon typical of that beautiful land, the Kashmiri raised their new state flag in front of the government complex in Srinagar. No-one fired a shot, not even in celebration. The same thing happened in Sri Lanka. All the pistol-wavers Disappeared and peace broke out in their absence. From one end of the Indian sub-continent to the other, there was peace. People agreed to disagree; they even agreed to agree with one another once in awhile.
Jewish settlements on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem became ghost towns. Palestinian bomb factories, video production facilities and infiltration classrooms emptied. Unmanned attack helicopters crashed before they could launch another Hellfire missile into civilian crowds. Armored bulldozers stalled, no driver at the controls in their bulletproof cabin. On Friday evenings, few worshippers returned from the Wailing Wall or the Temple Mosque. Busses made their quiet rounds and street life resumed its normal Israeli whirl of cooler, festive evenings. The Wall was quietly reduced to highway paving mix and all the ugly checkpoints were torn down. The Palestinian State became a sovereign reality. Everyone went home and learned to forgive past wrongs. Life went on, regardless.
Besides, no one was left to fantasize about turning Jerusalem, Beirut, Alexandria, Cairo, Amman, Damascus, Baghdad, Tehran, Aleppo and other cradles of human civilization into boiling cauldrons of radioactive glass. No longer did right-wing Jews, Christians and Muslims pray that nuclear hell would crash down on everyone else; no longer any paranoid-schizoid, Book of Revelation fanatics. No more U.S. Administrations crazed enough to twist those hate-filled nightmares into reality.
There was no more hatred between Sunni, Shiite and so-called “heretical” Muslims. Live and let live. Obey the Qu’ran. Full stop.
Many Orthodox and Conservative Rabbis Went Away, as did most of the neo-Zionists. Remaining Jews had to settle for Reformed Rabbis, so few of the others remained. Fattah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad? Ancient history. The Vatican residency was empty, as was the greater part of the College of Bishops. The Catholic priesthood was Cut in half, the leadership of the Southern Baptist Conference Vanished, and rural evangelical churches became things of the past. Christian Orthodox hierarchies? Buddhist ones? Protestants? None were spared.
Atheists got off no more lightly. The Chinese Central Committee became the Chinese Central Nothing. Peking and other Chinese cities were Swept clean of political police and paid informants. Tiananmen Square became a vast Agora where any passer-by could speak, standing tall on a soapbox as if in London’s Piccadilly Square. It turned out the Chinese were superb democrats, once left to their own devices. It turned out every human Left Behind was hard-wired for Democracy, once the thugs had been Pulled off their backs.
The entire politico-military leadership of North Korea Disappeared. Its people finally got sufficient food shipped in as fast as cargo ships could offload. They blew up munitions, wrecked weapons and nukes and filled in their fortifications, smiling all the while. South Korea disarmed in the time it took to destroy every landmine along the border and install superhighways and rail lines across it. Single-minded grandmothers guarded the border by shaming soldiers on both sides into going home. That job wasn’t hard.
Every Khmer Rouge Disappeared without exception. Vietnam liberated itself from its liberators. Colombia discovered how pleasant peace could be, for a change. Africans and South and Central Americans let out a deep sigh of relief and got to work building. Gunfire was no longer heard in Congo jungles, around the Great Lakes, or in deserts that ceased to spread. Government buildings emptied in Khartoum, as did the international bureaus of their petroleum-fascist financiers. A Sudanese woman could walk home in perfect safety after seeking water and fuel for her fire. There wasn’t a “technician” left in Mogadishu and far fewer firefights there or elsewhere.
The same thing happened all over the ex-communist world, everywhere thuggish tyrants had thrived like maggots. Violent fanatics, drug lords and kleptocrats, all of them Disappeared from Party headquarters, torture chambers and prison blocks. They Vanished, regardless of stripe and creed, whether they were political insiders, mafia muscle, police on the take, snarling Nazi skinheads or guerilla hooligans. To be a confessed Nazi was to be Gone.
Within a few months, the Earth turned into a Very Different Place.
In the United States, gay marriage, abortion on demand and robust equal opportunity initiatives were quietly legislated and then forgotten. No one contested them. You could burn the flag or fly it proudly; nobody cared enough to violate your civil rights. Campaign finance reform was swift and draconic; it passed in both Houses of Congress without debate.
Family planning was subsidized across the planet, unlike the current practice by geniuses at idiocy. Can you believe that no world organization responsible for the installation of family planning clinics was permitted, only charity-driven talk shops like ZPG, Zero Population Growth, as luxuriously spendy as they were insignificant?
Military subsidies were slashed by 99%, as was every public expenditure of corporate welfare. Somehow, we were never more affluent and secure.
Praying in school was something one did quietly in one's head in a civilized way. Jesus had explicitly forbidden prayer in public and in church. His words from Matthew 6 were fully obeyed now that wayward theocrats had Left, who’d given Christ a bad name and strayed almost everyone from the Way, now obvious for all to see.
America rebuilt itself into a 21st Century powerhouse: a brilliant showpiece of environmental, Learning and infrastructure development, after generations of inexcusable neglect.
living in the
Third Millennium after Christ – if I’m not mistaken? – and not stuck in some neo-Dark Age under the control vicious know-nothings?
Not surprisingly, much the same thing happened elsewhere. The poorest regions on Earth boasted a more comfortable standard of living than the richest ones had before the Rapture. A Golden Age of Learning… Public schools welcomed everyone, everyone, and got more than enough funding to fulfill their mandate.
People wondered what the problem had been, since solutions were so obvious and simple …
Prisons emptied. Either you had deserved to serve time in one—at which point, you were Gone; or (the case for many prisoners) your victimless “crime” had never called for a prison term, really—at which point, the human monsters who had set you up were Gone and you could go straight home. Remaining prison communes grew smoking herbs tended by a few petty larcenists and the best of their guards.
All those Gathered Up by the Rapture added up to a few million at most: less than one in a thousand human beings. Normal people with normal strengths and weaknesses and a normal range of sins had nothing more to do with it. Only exceptional crackpots got Caught Up. Nonetheless, the world’s population dropped dramatically within the next few decades, by universal consent. Every newborn child became rare and welcome without exception—not as commonplace, cut-rate and neglected as dirt.
Most people turned into Judeo-Buddho-Hindu-Christo-Muslims: a cooperative and eclectic amalgam of each creed's best elements, the obvious path for those who wished to practice religion but hated its organized strife.
After all, God is Allah, is Krishna, is every God and None of Them and Nothing and Everything Else anybody could ever fantasize—all at the same time, with hands tied behind the back. God is big, you see; not small and musty and cramped like your average fundamentalist's version. Nobody Left Behind could argue with that and no-one wanted to.
Fundamentalists would have fought to (someone else's) death so that nothing of the sort would happen; but they were out of the picture now. No-one was left to exploit faith and divert charity for personal profit, preach bodily mutilation for the salvation of the soul and thus give religion a bad name.
Atheists, too, had a hard time generating any enthusiasm, since something must have caused the Rapture. Eventually, everyone discovered their part of the love of Jesus Christ—in a manner the fundamentalists could neither have foreseen nor shared honestly. (See Matthew 6-5).
Most of the large corporations collapsed; their MBAs, CEOs and CFOs had Disappeared. People bought only what they needed and sold only what they needed—no more and no less. Quality was no longer a race to the bottom line of shoddy, cheap mediocrity, but a point of honor of artisan mastery. Most advertising vanished along with its revenues.
All of a sudden, television became interesting. Imagine that, intelligent TV programming nonstop on every channel! The planetary IQ doubled overnight. You could turn on the radio and listen to fine music for hours on end, or thoughtful dialog or educational lectures on every topic―not useless patter about nothing of importance, interrupted by the occasional trash-pop ditty and endless commercial blather. Even MTV got rid of its myriad market babblers and began playing quality music again.
Slowly but surely, people began to replant Eden. They discovered that you could plant groves of Scotch Pine (Pinus sylvestris) in the bare, laetrile soil where rain forests used to grow in the tropics. Those new groves attracted birds and beasts and their seed-filled dung, then the jungle grew back spontaneously. Millions of such groves sprang up, the brainchild of the Gaviotas community.
In every region primitive humanity had first called home, sacred oak groves were replanted, whose acorn paste had been the staff of life from the beginning of the Stone Age through the end of the Bronze. The ancient Greeks and later, primitive monotheists, had burned down the sacred oak groves of foreigners. Everyone did so; that environmental desecration pretty much defined Iron Age total war at temperate latitudes.
Industrial applications of terra preta replaced chemical fertilizers in agriculture and began the soil , facilitated by the optimization of microbiological colonies in agriculture and forestry.
Around the world, the poor discovered they could build dependable, cool-in-summer, warm-in-winter, earthquake-resistant housing from sun baked, earth-brick Domes of Rumi, on their own and literally dirt cheap. No-one had to go homeless now that all the house wreckers were Gone and Nader Khalili had shown us the proper way.
Anywhere on Earth, a weary traveler could knock on a door and expect welcome, a good meal and clean water. Everywhere on Earth, a farmer could raise his organic crops with sweet water no longer tainted by human brutality direct or indirect.
What Man had never managed to accomplish, God alone made happen. During this ultimate Revolution, the tyrants were Sent Packing and the meek inherited the Earth―bloodlessly and on time, as promised. Everyone rejoiced in newfound grace, prosperity and freedom. No one missed the dearly departed fanatics, except perhaps their mothers and children, those few who remained.
Even now, I fear I have not differed enough from those Chosen to be spared their Fate. I, too, condemn fellow human beings I despise and fear. I, too, count on God to grant me salvation while I deny it to them.
Please, most merciful Lord, do not condemn me to spend all eternity with them! This world under their loathsome dominion is only a momentary torment; that other existence would be true Hell. God's justice must surely…
[Notes found on an abandoned rooftop].