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Conservative Protestant belief in the rapture

What will happen during the rapture?
About the "secret rapture."

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What is supposed to happen?

According to many conservative Protestant theologians and believers: Most Evangelical Christians believe that the Rapture, as described in the three biblical verses listed elsewhere in this section, will happen precisely as described, sometime in the near future. All previously saved Christians, totaling perhaps 5 to 10% of the world's population, will suddenly have their bodies converted into a different form that they will wear for all eternity in Heaven. They will rise vertically into the air. Many believe that they will pass right through ceilings, roofs of cars, etc. to meet Jesus Christ in the sky. The vast majority of humans will be left behind. There will be extensive devastation on planes, trains and automobiles as their pilots, engineers and drivers suddenly disappear and the vehicles crash. The bodies of Christian believers who have died during the previous two millennia will be reconstituted into their original bodies which will then also be converted to spirit bodies. They will rise out of their graves and ascend to meet Jesus. Apparently the spirit bodies do not require oxygen to sustain themselves, because there is little air above 30,000 feet.

According to many liberal theologians: Many regard the Tribulation belief to be a fascinating myth or vision. The elements of the story:

bullet Jesus descending in the sky.
bullet Believers rising to meet him.
bullet Parts of dead bodies, some individual organic molecules, somehow reconstituting themselves into their previous form.
bullet Bodies being changed instantly from their physical form to some type of spiritual form.

are simply a beautiful fantasy without any grounding in reality.

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About the "secret rapture:"

There is a common theme found in many conservative Christian novels about the end times. The Rapture is predicted to cause mass confusion among those left behind. The unsaved who remain are aware of the disappearance of tens or hundreds of millions of people, but most will not seem to know the cause. Mass panic will result. According to W. Fred Rice, promoters of the secret rapture theory teach that most people left behind on Earth would believe that the missing Christians were captured by aliens or that some unexplained scientific phenomenon had occurred to make them vanish. 1

Some believe that during or after the secret rapture, non-saved people who are left behind would be given the option of becoming saved by repenting of their sins and trusting Jesus as Lord and Savior. 1

It can be argued that if a rapture were to happen, it could not be secret. There is simply too much knowledge about the rapture circulating:

bullet Tens of millions of non-born again Christians are aware of conservative Protestant teachings on the rapture and tribulation and have rejected them.

bullet Over 65 million copies of the Left Behind series of books by Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye have been sold. Seven of the books in the series have reached the top of the best seller lists for The New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly. 2

bullet A massive number of bumper stickers stating: "In case of rapture, this car will be unmanned" have been displayed.


In the event that a rapture happened, CNN and all other news outlets would have it fully covered. 3

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Are airlines taking precautions in the event of the rapture?, a web site that tracks down rumors and urban legends, quotes two postings about the rapture that they lifted from the Internet, one in 2003 and the other in 2004:

  • "I just heard for the third time in as many years that some airlines will not put a whole flight crew of "Christian believers" in the same plane, just in case the "rapture theory" is true. I guess the thought is that the plane would be left unmanned and crash into whatever and kill thousands (like 9/11) if the rapture theory turns out to be correct Bible doctrine."

  • "I was raised a Southern Baptist and twice now a preacher has made reference to airlines pairing their pilots with one Christian (or saved) and one non-Christian (or un-saved). This is done on the pre-text that if and when the 2nd coming of Christ happens and the one Christian pilot is taken into the clouds with Christ, leaving the non-Christian pilot to supposedly land the plane safely alone. One preacher specifically mentioned American Airlines as having this policy."

To a believer in the rapture, such a precaution by airline companies would make a great deal of sense. According to the teachings of many fundamentalist and other evangelical Christian denominations, when Jesus appears, believers who have died will have their bodies reconstituted, will emerge from their graves, and will rise in the air to meet Jesus in the sky. When that is finished, believers who are still living will also rise. A common belief is that the latter group will levitate, passing through ceilings, roofs of cars, cockpit ceilings, etc  without injury to themselves or to the material that they pass through. All sorts of vehicles will be abandoned by their drivers: busses, subway trains, airplanes, ships, etc and could cause crashes with enormous loss of life. The only exception might be diesel locomotives. They typically have "deadman" controls that automatically apply the brakes if the engineer stops moving.

Thus, it might appear logical to some that airline companies might schedule their flight crew so that there was at least one non-believer on board who could take over control of the plane.

Some rumors state that there are Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations in place to prohibit a saved pilot from serving with a saved co-pilot. checked with the FAA and American Airlines, and confirmed that neither has regulations of this type in place. They rate the story as "false."

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The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. W. Fred Rice, "The not so secret rapture," Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics, at:
  2. "Left Behind Series," at:
  3. Todd Strandberg, "What secret rapture?," Rapture Ready, at:

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Site navigation: Home page > Christianity > History... > Beliefs > Rapture > here

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Copyright 1998 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2011-OCT-09
Author: B.A. Robinson

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