Garry Wills takes a look at the biblical sources of the Rapture. Remember the Left Behind series, the batch of novels that dramatizes the Fundamentalists’ End Times? The Rapture stuff was ginned up by a man named John Nelson Darby in the 19th century (although the Darbyites greatest influence took the form of a “reference Bible” authored by Cyrus Scofield – “the book is dry, pedantic, and certain – a kind of printed papacy, where an infallible meaning is given for any verse in the Bible” – a book which sold in the millions). Darby’s (& Scofield’s) reading of the Bible updated prophecy – those biblical authors weren’t writing about their own ages but ours.
The phrase “left behind” (wherein the nonChristians are left behind by the saved who rapture up to Heaven) has its source, says Wills, in “Matthew 24.40-41: ‘Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.’” Yet the context of the passage reveals another meaning. “Describing all the people who refused to hear Noah and join him on the ark, [Matthew] says, ‘And [they] knew not until the flood came and and took them all away.’ The section speaks of destruction, not deliverance. To be taken away is to be destroyed. Being left behind, like Noah and his family, is the desirable thing.”
source: Head and Heart: American Christianities by Garry Wills