According to the editors of the "World Christian Encyclopedia": A comparative survey of churches and religions - AD 30 to 2200," there are 19 major world religions which are subdivided into a total of 270 large religious groups, and many smaller ones.
For eighteen of the world's major religions and its 270 sub-divisions, the concept of the sudden and instantaneous translation of millions of adherents from one form of existence into the next is completely unheard of.
It is even a controversial doctrine within Christianity. There are entire huge subdivisions, or denominations within Christianity that totally dismiss the concept of the Rapture.
I found a column at the appropriately-named AgainstDispensationalism.com that argues belief in the Rapture is little more than "The Arrogance of the West." I chose that column to highlight because it is a shining example of why the Rapture is so controversial.
To Jerry Johnson, the president of something called the Nicene Council, the Rapture is "paperback" theology and a recent theological concoction never taught by the 'historic church'.
(For context, the 'historic church' would be the one that embraces replacement theology. And my Bible is paperback).
Notes Johnson: "One is hard pressed to think that all of the great minds from St. Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin and Charles Haddon Spurgeon, that though they had read I Thessalonians 4 failed to understand the important teaching of a pre-millennial, pre-tribulation rapture."
Then he lashes out with his best, Sunday punch.
"Pre-tribulation rapture theology is at its foundation conceited!"
This is the main objection to the doctrine of the Rapture - the misconception that the Rapture is a Great Escape. Why should Christians escape the Great Tribulation while others do not?
"It's unfair and God isn't unfair."
One wonders if they find it equally unfair that some go to heaven and others go to hell. My bet is that some do, but others don't. (But all would agree that Hitler shouldn't go to heaven.)
That's why God is God and theologians are not.
As noted, no other religion has anything resembling a Rapture doctrine, including whatever 'historic church' Jerry Johnson was referring to. So where did it come from and why is it there?
The first thing anybody does when trying to answer that question is to hopelessly complicate the issue so that whatever answer they come up with, it is practically impossible to decipher.
If you take enough verses from different places throughout the Bible, you can make a case for a Rapture, against a Rapture, for pre-trib, mid-trib, post-trib, amillennial, premillenial, or post millennial, with or without a 1000 year Kingdom.
I know that to be true because there are scholars that adhere to each and every one of those positions (which is why they have names for them) and I refuse to believe that they hold those positions without some kind of Scripture to hang them on.
If one sees the purpose of the Rapture as a "Great Escape" then it is easy to take verses from all over the Bible to refute it. Not because the Rapture is a false doctrine.
But because that isn't the purpose of the Rapture. Knowing why provides valuable clues as to when and how.
Two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ promised His disciples that when He ascended into Heaven, the Holy Spirit would come upon them and indwell them and empower them. That indwelling Power would come upon and indwell all who believed.
Jesus called Him the Comforter. Jesus promised that He would abide with me forever.
Let's examine the simplest questions first.
What does it mean when Jesus Christ makes a promise to the Church? Is it reliable? What does "forever" mean? Is there a time constraint on forever? When would forever run out? Does abide forever mean "abide forever for every generation but one?"
Houston, we have a problem. According to my paperback theology, the Comforter is:
"Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you." (John 14:7)
So, the Comforter is the Spirit of Truth and He indwells me. That's what my paperback theology teaches me. Then comes Part Two of the paperback Promise.
"I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you." (John 14:18)
So how to resolve this obvious "contradiction" in Scripture? There is only one way. The Holy Spirit continues in indwell me throughout the Tribulation Period. Therefore, by the authority of the Word of God, specifically, 1st John 4:4, "Greater is He (the indwelling Holy Spirit) than he that is in the world."
Since the indwelling Holy Spirit is greater and since He will not leave or forsake me during the Tribulation, it is not possible for the antichrist to overcome my indwelling Spirit and pledge allegiance to him.
But that contradicts Revelation 13:7 which says that he can. And it's not a little contradiction, either.
For the antichrist to overcome an indwelt child of the Living God, he must defeat the Indweller. Unless the Holy Spirit no longer indwells me. And if He doesn't, did He ever?
And if He did, where did He go? And how did He do that without breaking Jesus promise not to leave me Comfortless? The Tribulation is, after all, the time of greatest spiritual trial in all of human history.
And although every generation, from those thrown to the lions to those being massacred today in Iraq, have the benefit of the indwelling Holy Spirit, during the Tribulation I will be Comfortless?
How does that work? If the Rapture is a Great Escape from Tribulation for Christians, then wouldn't the opposite be when Christians suddenly have the Comforter ripped from them just when He is most needed?
And if I am still indwelt, then what is the purpose in sealing the Jews of Revelation 7 with the Holy Spirit so they can share the Gospel? What's wrong with using me? Isn't that my job since the Great Commission?
Here's the Rapture narrative in summary. The Age of Grace began at Pentecost with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Age of Grace concludes at the Rapture with the withdrawal of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
The Promise to the Church is kept precisely as it was given by the Lord Himself.
Now, if one really works at it, one can find creative ways to portray the Rapture as the Great Escape and from there, all kinds of creative ways to dismiss it as paperback theology.
But the simplest answer is still the only one that makes sense.