A standard feature of some Christian eschatology (a fancy word meaning "study of the end of the world") dictates that, before (or possibly after) God allows Satan to screw the world over, He will rapture His church, by grabbing everyone who is a Christian, or possibly grab everyone including non-Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, agnostics and other non-believers who might also be able to figure out what's going on and do something about it. So basically, a whole lot of people just suddenly vanish without warning, potentially leading to all sorts of interesting effects. Or, maybe not so many.
In reality, while this idea has worked its way into popular consciousness regarding the End of the World, it's actually a fairly recent idea, dating back to a Protestant group called the Plymouth Brethren in the 19th century. A former Anglican minister by the name of John Nelson Darby took a single verse from 1 Thessalonians describing how the church will be "caught up together" in the air to join with Jesus spiritually. Combining this with Premillenialist theology stating that there will be a period of a great tribulation and hardship on earth before Jesus comes back to defeat evil for good and reign for 1000 years, Darby is largely responsible for creating the major trappings of the Rapture that people most commonly associate with Christianity today. It's also worth noting that many Christians do not believe in the Rapture — the Catholic Church, for example, disavows it entirely.note The doctrine was popularized by the 1909 Scofield Reference Bible, it's remained a religious phenomenon that gained and kept its strongest popularity in America.
Curiously, the theology of the Rapture has extended itself out of Christianity entirely. Many New Age gurus who have left Christianity maintain some of the teachings surrounding the rapture, and many of these pseudo-Christian ideas exist in, for instance, Terrance McKenna's Timewave Zero and the various expositions of the end of the age in the Mayan Calendar in December, 2012. (P.S: the last one didn't happen, either.) (Of course, the world could have ended on December 21st, we've just been caught up in our own affairs so much that we didn't notice, the way some cartoon characters can keep running off the cliff and out into the chasm, as long as they don't notice the ground has disappeared.)
The Trope Namer, the song "Caught Up in the Rapture" by Anita Baker, is not about this trope but rather about being deeply in love.
- A common bumper sticker referring to this idea, was one that read "In the event of Rapture, this vehicle will be Unmanned".
- There's also joke bumper stickers along the lines of "In case of Rapture, can I have your car?" and "In case of Rapture, I call your stuff."
- A fairly contrived X-Men storyline featured a conspiracy by the Church for Humanity to cause a fake Rapture in the Catholic Church, using explosive wafers to 'rapture' Catholics and tricking the world into thinking Nightcrawler (whose mutation makes him resemble a stereotypical devil) is the Antichrist. Notably, the Catholic church does not officially believe in the Rapture, and it ignores all the other denominations who do believe in it and would be rather confused.
- Perhaps unintentionally done in The Infinity Gauntlet. Thanos, upon becoming God through acquiring the Infinity Gems, causes half of all life in the universe to disappear, causing mass panics as people see their loved ones disappear right in front of them, wars and the typical conflicts associated with the end of days. The people who have disappeared aren't taken into Heaven, but rather become a part of Death herself.
- Jack Chick uses the Rapture quite a bit, both in his tracts and his Alberto series of comic books.
- Therefore, Repent! and its sequel, Sword Of My Mouth are a sort of anarchist Take That! against Left Behind with the Splitters who side with the angels who randomly butcher people against our heroes who have rediscovered magic in the wake of the rapture and are La Résistance.
- Dr. Fate in DC Comics' Legends catches up various superheroes for the purpose of confronting G. Gordon Godfrey at the end of the series to put an end to his stirring up the hatred of superheroes for their destruction, as per Darkseid's overall plan. In the same issue that this takes place in, the cover of that issue has Captain Marvel standing among piles of empty superhero clothing, completing the image of the Rapture, although that part doesn't happen in the story itself.
- Averted in Preacher, where the planned-for Rapture by the Grail involves launching every country's nukes at midnight at the end of the millennium, where they will... fail to explode, with the Grail emerging to rule the world. As Herr Starr puts it: "You just want to inherit the Earth".
- The Seraphim's endgame in Angel Of The Bat is an inversion. He essentially views every sect of Christianity but his own as being just as corrupt as everyone else, and chooses to attack them specifically on Christmas Eve by destroying every church in Gotham and any attendants of midnight services with them. Since only the members of his own church will survive, he is of the belief everyone will come to see they have earned Gods favor while all others earned his scorn, leading to mass conversions. Essentially, instead of the saved being taken peacefully, the damned are all violently slaughtered.
- The Rapture: The evangelical church Sharon and Randy join believes this will happen. At the end of the film, they're proven right.
- The Nicolas Cage movie Knowing is a thinly veiled allegory to the rapture, with aliens taking the place of God.
- Along with Hal Lindsey's books, the 1972 film A Thief in the Night helped to popularize this trope back in The '70s.
- The Apocalypse film series kicks off with this, with the Antichrist Franco Maccalusso explaining that those who disappeared were removed by him because they were obstacles to the goal of achieving world peace.
- The Moment After starts off with this also, except without an Antichrist figure.
- Kicks off the main plot of This Is the End. The fact that everybody at James Franco's party completely misses the Rapture is used to indicate just how depraved they all are — nobody at that party was good enough to get into heaven. The characters left behind can also get Raptured later on upon making a HeelFace Turn, as happens to Craig Robinson, Jay Baruchel, Seth Rogen, and (almost) James Franco, at least before he botches it.
- Happens towards the beginning of Rapture Palooza.
- The 2000 and 2014 versions of the Left Behind film essentially have this as part of the plot.
- A plot point in Jerusalem Countdown, where Biblical prophecies are related to the terrorist plot at hand. It happens in the end, too.
- The "800-pound gorilla" in this scenario is the Left Behind series of Christian thrillers. The opening of the first book has the main character, Rayford, a pilot, contemplating cheating on his wife with a stewardess, before said stewardess comes into the cockpit to inform Rayford that half of the passengers have disappeared.
- The parody novel Right Behind had a fake Rapture and a climax of the protagonist fighting the Anti Christ in a Christian bookstore by chucking Precious Moments figurines.
- A lesser known series of Christian Rapture novels were the Prodigal Project series by Ken Abraham, with arguably better character development and more realistic dialogue than Left Behind. At one point, a man is confronted with his insane female neighbor who just witnessed her children's disappearance, and then killed her husband because he refused to have sex with her to replace their missing children and now wants the man to impregnate her.
- In the Christ Clone Trilogy by James Beauseigneur, the Rapture is somewhat subverted, in that when what becomes known to the world as "The Disaster" strikes, the raptured Christians don't disappear, but actually die. Their souls still go to God, though. The tribulation judgements, unlike the cartoonish ones in the Left Behind novels, are pure horror.
- In Good Omens, a televangelist is gushing about the Rapture to his TV audience, when he's accidentally possessed by Aziraphale, an actual angel, who lets it slip that no, they're going to be far too busy with Judgement Day to bother with protecting the locals. Let God sort it out.
- Before Left Behind, there was Hal Lindsey. Although he didn't create the idea of the Rapture, he helped codify it with his 1970 book The Late, Great Planet Earth, which purported that the Rapture would take place in The '80s, coinciding with the 40th anniversary of the foundation of Israel. His predictions are pretty funny now, but back then, a lot of people took him very seriously, and it helped to fuel the popularity of dispensationalism in American Christianity.
- Remember our friend John Nelson Darby that we mentioned at the top of the page? Lindsey graduated from the theological university that was started by one of Darby's staunchest supporters. Reportedly, his former colleagues were a little mad that he made millions off of essentially publishing lecture notes.
- The Evangelical Rapture is cited and explicitly occurs during the plot of Robert A. Heinlein's Job: A Comedy of Justice. It's subverted, however, when it's revealed that God (who is a Jerk Ass) deliberately invoked it as part of a petty scheme to screw with the protagonist's faith and, moreover, God and Satan themselves are merely minor deities in a Celestial Bureaucracy. The whole scheme ends with a massive Reset Button, except that the hero gets his girl and lives Happily Ever After as a reward for his faith.
- A short story from the Eighties titled "If The Driver Vanishes..." (from a Rapture-related bumper sticker, "If the driver vanishes, grab the wheel") had billions of people vanishing as something - "a great star" - appears in the sky. This was taken to be the Rapture (a pretty convincing case, you might say), but the "star" appears to be an alien ship, broadcasting images from TV and films of increasing population pressure and war culminating in space battles. After the disappearances end, the montage changes to a happier future. The protagonist decides it wasn't divine. It was alien pest control.
- The Apocalypse Codex features a charismatic evangelical preacher who hopes to bring about the Rapture. Unfortunately for nearly everyone, he's got the wrong Christ...
- The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta deals with the aftermath of a Rapture-style mass vanishing. Given the selection of people taken, however, many of those left behind are wondering just what God was looking for...
- Paul Bortolazzo's Last Days Trilogy is an Author Tract for the pre-wrath Rapture instead of the pre-Tribulation Rapture as in Left Behind, as the main characters on the side of God continue drilling this in-story fact into people's heads using the Bible as proof. However, unlike Left Behind, being raptured to heaven does not mean that the person is free from the judgment that could send that person to hell.
- Played for horror in the Arcia Chronicles, where the Wanderer is a powerful interdimensional being who can enter worlds on the brink of apocalypse and offer people he deems worthy (at least, the ones who are willing to abandon everything, including their "unworthy" friends and families, for his salvation) an escape. Where exactly they go is unclear, but multiple cults on different worlds come to worship him as their savior (in fact, the Wanderer is based on the Savior from Nick Perumov's multiverse, who actually consumed the souls of those who left with him to gain power). At one point, Neo and Norgerel visit a dead world and witness its last moments, where the Wanderer appears in the middle of a Final Battle, and offers escape to just two "worthy" people: the wife and the daughter of one of the army commanders. The former pleads to take her husband with them, then chooses to stay with him, while the latter runs back to her parents just as the world ends.
- This is much the plot of Dean Koontz's The Taking - it also riffs off the idea that magic and sufficiently advanced technology are hard to distinguish. In this instance, only children and caring parents remain and there is some ambiguity as to what actually took place.
- Community - On a Halloween episode where scary stories are being exchanged, Shirley tells one where the rest of her study group is having a debauched party when the radio announces "We interrupt your death metal to bring you some heavy news: all the good Christians got raptured up to Heaven so if you're hearing this, the good news is you're the coolest people in the world. [all: "Yes!"] The bad news is, the world is over. This is NPR." As they wail in agony, Shirley appears as a pure being of light not to save them, just to say she forgives them for ostensibly picking on her, then leaves them to their doom.
- Averted in The Leftovers, the only thing anyone on a panel of religious experts agrees on is that whatever caused the disappearance of 2% of earth's population was not the Rapture ("If there is a God, He sat out on this one"), as the missing was a completely random mix of people ("The Pope I get, but Gary Busey?") and aside from pets who witnessed the disappearance of their owners apparently going berserk there hasn't been any other supernatural phenomena in three years.
- The gospel hymn "I'll See You In the Rapture" is about this topic.
- Also "I Wish We'd All Been Ready", sung from the P.O.V. of those who have been left behind during the event.
- Anita Baker's song "Caught Up in the Rapture" is not actually an example of this trope, it's just using it as a metaphor for love.
- The song "21st of May" by Nickel Creek gently pokes fun at this trope, particularly concerning evangelists who keep revising their predictions of when it will happen.
- "Left Behind", the theme song of Left Behind (2000), by Bryan Duncan featuring ShineMK.
- The gospel song "Midnight Cry", which chorus mashes together what 1st Thessalonians 4:16-17 and 1st Corinthians 15:52 says.
- This is actually inverted in the belief system of the Jehovah's Witnesses. They believe that God will remove the unworthy from Earth (no Heaven or Hell, just oblivion), lift the 144,000 most righteous to Heaven (it should be noted that all 144,000 aren't necessarily all alive now), and leave the rest to rebuild the world as it was meant to be and live there eternally.
- A radio preacher named Harold Camping once predicted that the Rapture would occur on May 21, 2011 at 6:00 PM, and whipped up a lot of publicity for it through a barrage of print and billboard advertisements. Some radio stations "celebrated" by playing songs like Britney Spears' "Till the World Ends" and R.E.M.'s "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)", while a number of atheist/secularist groups held "Rapture parties" on the date. Eventually 6 PM passed through every time zone with no true signs of an apocalypse. He later changed it to October of the same year, where it still didn't happen.
- He also predicted it would happen in 1994. He was wrong then, too.
- The description in the page header is an oversimplification; of those that do believe in the Rapture generally, there's a considerable difference of opinion on when it will happen (not so much specific dates as whether it will occur before, during, or after the time when God turns to Satan and says "That's your cue, have fun"). Optimists like the "before" option because it means they don't have to go through the predicted Crapsack World era, those who are slightly more cynical look at certain passages in Revelation and interpret them as meaning "Okay, this is a reference to the Rapture occurring", and the real pessimists assume the Rapture is for those people who manage to remain Christian until Christ's return (or die trying to do so). Amusingly, the passage in Thessalonians, assuming that's what it means at all, seems to best support the pessimistic view.
- Parody: the Church of the SubGenius tells not of the Rapture but of the "Rupture." This is the day when just before Earth is destroyed the aliens from Planet X arrive to take those who have accepted J.R. "Bob" Dobbs into their minds to their final financial rewards. The original date for the "Rupture" was July 5, 1998, but apparently the parchment on which it was recorded was misread. The date is actually July 5, 19998.
- This is the central idea of the "Earth Inherited" scenario for the d20Modern roleplaying game, with a unique wrinkle: the truly good and the truly evil - regardless of their beliefs - are spirited away to Heaven and Hell respectively, leaving the uncommitted to make sense of what's left while angels and demons battle for their souls. And the angels and demons themselves are shut out of the afterlife, leading many of them to question their purpose.
- The New World of Darkness book "Mirrors" presents the Rapture as one of many causes for post-apocalyptic scenarios.
- The New World of Darkness fan game Genius: The Transgression lists The Rapture as one of the future events that may be encountered by foolish time-travelling Geniuses, although things seem to be pretty under control.
- The name of the city of Rapture in BioShock is an obvious reference to this concept, and its setup bears some marked similarities to it. The main difference is that, rather than devout Christians being whisked away in a flash, it's the "productive class" leaving society voluntarily, Atlas Shrugged style — business owners who feel that their workers shouldn't control them, artists who feel that they are being censored by a society too stupid to see their "brilliance", scientists who feel that "petty" morality and ethics hinder proper research, etc.
- Everybody's Gone to the Rapture has different interpretations, but at least one is essentially spoiled by the title.
- Rapture Rejects, a Cyanide & Happiness-based video game, uses the Rapture as the basis of its game: God's had it with the Earth, so he grabs all the good people in the world and leaves everyone to die when he blows up the Earth. The leftover people don't like that, so God gives them one (1) ticket to join in and whoever survives the longest gets the ticket, leading everyone to duke it out Battle Royale-style.
- In Dragon Ball Z Abridged, when Piccolo heads to Ginger Town in Episode 42, where Imperfect Cell was consuming people to increase his power, he finds a bunch of piles of clothing. Nail and Kami discuss this as a possible cause. This was immediately after Piccolo had fused with Kami, temporarily depriving Earth of its God.
Nail: Well this is classic. The moment God disappears, the rapture happens!
Kami: Yes, the irony is not lost on me.
- The Simpsons:
- An episode opens with the titular family seeing a movie called Left Below (an obvious spoof of Left Behind), causing Homer to become exceedingly anxious about the end times. He starts researching exactly when and how the end of the world will come about, and how to avoid being "left below". He predicts it would be mere days from then, and is ridiculed when he turns out to be wrong...and consequently still disbelieved when he realises the actual date was only slightly later. This time he is right, but he manages to talk God into a Cosmic Retcon and call the whole thing off.
- The "Simpsons Bible Stories" episode featured the Flanders family raptured while everyone else in Springfield is left to go to Hell. Lisa was about to be Raptured too, but gets pulled down by Homer. Of course, apparently the worst thing about Hell is pineapple pieces in the cottage cheese.
- There's also the scene in "Sideshow Bob Roberts" where the construction crew arrives to tear down the house while Homer's sleeping. Homer wakes suddenly and yells, "Ahhh! It's the Rapture! Quick! Get Bart out of the house before God comes!" Clearly this was during one of Homer's more devout phases.
- In the American Dad! episode "Rapture's Delight", when the Rapture happens Stan and Francine get left behind, probably because they just had sex in the church's closet.
"You're not really Jesus, are you?"
- Later Stan seeks out Jesus and nearly gets raptured.