How Fast is the Rapture?

Popular culture (“Christmas card theology”) creates widely accepted ideas about Biblical events. The rapture might be the most misunderstood of those — images of people flying up in the air might be popular, but they’re not true.

It turns out Paul explained exactly how fast the rapture occurs, if you’re willing to dig a little.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. We’ll need a small diversion in Physics first.

What is Time?

People misunderstand time, using the terms analog and digital without understanding what they mean.

Analog creates images of an old LP record or cassette tape.

Analog recordings are created as some device records sound waves on a physical medium (tape, vinyl), and another device takes those patterns and recreates them as sound.

Digital, on the other hand, encodes in binary form — 0 or 1 (1 + 1 = 10, at least in base 2).

Those files can be encoded by a computer, and the resulting files can be passed around wirelessly, like iTunes, for example.

Analog versus digital can be viewed as two kinds of watches. One has a second hand continually sweeping out in constant motion. You watch it move from 1 second, to 1.5 seconds, and then to 2 seconds.

Digital uses a second hand which “clicks” from one second to the other. It moves, then stops, then moves. It’s either a second, or it’s not. It looks like an old stop-motion movie.

It might surprise you to learn no such thing as analog exists — the world is entirely digital. To understand that we must discover the Planck time.

Planck Time

Along with Einstein’s Relativity we discovered quantum Physics — the world is not analog as we think, it’s digital.

Simply put, we live in a giant stop-motion production. Time is not continuous, but digital, moving in small, but discrete, amounts.

What is that amount? 10–43 seconds. If we return to the watch picture, the second hand moves 1043 times per second.

Yes, that’s impossible to see, and to observers it appears as if time moves continuously in an analog manner.

But it doesn’t.

The important discovery to grasp is nothing exists in between those steps — units of time smaller than 10–43 seconds simply don’t exist.

That’s hard to understand, so let’s move to something which might be a bit easier conceptually. It turns out a similar situation exists with length as well.

The Planck length measures roughly 10–35 meters. For reference, a proton (one of this thingys inside an atom) measures roughly 10–15 meters.

So we’re talking really small length here.

So what? Suppose you took a sheet of paper, and cut it in half. Then in half again. In theory, we’d imagine we could do this forever, making smaller and smaller pieces.

That’s not true.

When you get to the Planck length (10–35 meters), it’s impossible to divide it again; units of smaller length don’t exist.

The Rapture

What does all this Planck stuff have to do with the rapture? In one passage, Paul states we’ll all be changed.

Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:51–52)

The word Paul uses for moment is atomos.

Ah ha! Oh wait, I still don’t get it — you might not see the significance unless you know how atom was defined.

The Greeks believed atoms were the smallest thing which could exist (we know that’s not true, inside atoms are protons, neutrons, electrons, quarks, and a host of other stuff), in other words atoms are indivisible.

See it now? Paul says the rapture occurs in an indivisible length of time. Today we know what that is, it’s the Planck time, or 10–43 seconds.

That’s fast.

Practical implications

That may all be academic so far, so consider some practical implications.

It’s a year from the rapture, and the people left behind are trying to figure out what happened. They have advanced equipment, but nobody can figure out where millions of people went, leaving only a pile of clothes behind.

Suppose they used a super high speed camera. Normal motion pictures are 16–32 frames per second — movies are nothing more than individual pictures rapidly shown, which appear to display motion.

If you’ve ever created a flip-book or stop-motion movies (like Gumby), you see how this works. In the old days with film, you could unroll and actually see the images.

So future-world tries to figure out what happened. But they can’t.

Why not? Similar to a stop-motion film, they have no information on what occurred between the frames — it is unknowable to them.

If they had equipment with the fastest possible speed, they still could not see anything, because in one frame you’re there, the next you’re gone — in an atom of time, as Paul says.

No matter how hard they try, it won’t be possible for future-world to determine what happened, until, that is, they discover an old dusty book, and some guy named Paul.

Oh yeah, my crazy old man used to talk about him, and a strange book detailing future events. Maybe I should take a look at that…

So What?

Admittedly, this doesn’t have much practical use (unless you’re one of those left behind), other than being in awe at how Paul could have understood quantum Physics, thousands of years before Einstein was born.

Paul 1, skeptics 0.

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