The rapture is not a Biblical concept. Yet it has become deeply imbedded in the American Christian’s understanding of the end times. And as such it presents an unhelpful and somewhat destructive understanding of God’s final judgement and redemption.
Sayeth N.T. Wright:
“The American obsession with the second coming of Jesus — especially with distorted interpretations of it — continues unabated. Seen from my side of the Atlantic (England), the phenomenal success of the Left Behind books appears puzzling, even bizarre. Few in the U.K. hold the belief on which the popular series of novels is based: that there will be a literal ‘rapture’ in which believers will be snatched up to heaven, leaving empty cars crashing on freeways and kids coming home from school only to find that their parents have been taken to be with Jesus while they have been ‘left behind.’ This pseudo-theological version of Home Alone has reportedly frightened many children into some kind of (distorted) faith.”
The Biblical message is not one of cosmological, Platonic terror. While the sentiments behind these views are honest, and there are many sincere people who hold to them, I want to propose that we’ve been misled into a very distorted way of understanding, not just the rapture, but also heaven and God’s plan for redemption as seen in the person of Christ.
I’d say more now, but I’m boiling an egg for lunch and it’s just finished. Besides, folks with much greater wisdom and tact than myself have it covered. Read more about this in NT Wright’s brief article Farewell to the Rapture.