The rapture is an eschatological term used by certain Christians, particularly within branches of North American evangelicalism, referring to an end time event when all Christian believers – living and dead – will rise into Heaven and join Christ.[1][2] Some adherents believe this event is predicted and described in Paul's First Epistle to the Thessalonians in the Bible,[3] where he uses the Greek harpazo (ἁρπάζω), meaning to snatch away or seize. Though it has been used differently in the past, the term is now often used by certain believers to distinguish this particular event from the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to Earth mentioned in Second Thessalonians, Gospel of Matthew, First Corinthians, and Revelation, usually viewing it as preceding the Second Coming and followed by a thousand year millennial kingdom.[4] Adherents of this perspective are sometimes referred to as premillenialist dispensationalists, but amongst them there are differing viewpoints about the exact timing of the event.

The term "rapture" is especially useful in discussing or disputing the exact timing or the scope of the event, particularly when asserting the "pre-tribulation" view that the rapture will occur before, not during, the Second Coming, with or without an extended Tribulation period.[5] The term is most frequently used among Christian theologians and fundamentalist Christians in the United States.[6] Other, older uses of "rapture" were simply as a term for any mystical union with God or for eternal life in Heaven with God.[7]

There are differing views among Christians regarding the timing of Christ's return, such as whether it will occur in one event or two, and the meaning of the aerial gathering described in 1 Thessalonians 4. Many Christians do not subscribe to rapture-oriented theological views. Though the term "rapture" is derived from the text of the Latin Vulgate of 1 Thess. 4:17—"we will be caught up", (Latin: rapiemur), Catholics, as well as Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans and most Reformed Christians, do not generally use "rapture" as a specific theological term, nor do any of these bodies subscribe to the premillennialist dispensationalist theological views associated with its use, but do believe in the phenomenon—primarily in the sense of the elect gathering with Christ in Heaven after his Second Coming.[8][9][10] These denominations do not believe that a group of people is left behind on earth for an extended Tribulation period after the events of 1 Thessalonians 4:17.[11]

Pre-tribulation rapture theology originated in the eighteenth century, with the Puritan preachers Increase and Cotton Mather, and was popularized extensively in the 1830s by John Nelson Darby[12][13] and the Plymouth Brethren,[14] and further in the United States by the wide circulation of the Scofield Reference Bible in the early 20th century.[15] Some, including Grant Jeffrey, maintain that an earlier document called Ephraem or Pseudo-Ephraem already supported a pre-tribulation rapture.[16]