Why Will God Destroy the Earth?
Lately, I have become a little frustrated with the traditional "any minute rapture message" that in my mind is propagated by fear. I perceive that you are somewhat well versed in this theology and I do have a few more questions. I have always wondered why God would create the earth for us to live and dwell in just to in the end destroy it. Also, I have wondered why I would have to be "raptured" out just to be brought back as the meek shall inherit the earth. Where does it expressly say that the Church will be raptured? How do we know that it will be the Church that is removed? There is plenty of scripture that references the removal of the wicked and that the righteous will see it. Do you know when the rapture message began to be preached?
First let me say that I completely share in your frustration with the "any-moment" teaching as well as it's basis in fear. The coming of the Lord should be something we are "eagerly awaiting" with excitement, instead of being afraid that God will catch us with our "pants down," so to speak.
God created the Earth for man to live in, yet he destroyed it with the flood in Noah's day. God made the garden of Eden for man to dwell in, yet he drove man out of the garden. God led Israel into the promised land, but then had them taken away into captivity. This is the result of sin. Because of man's present sinfulness, the wrath of God is building up, to be released upon the Earth at the Day of the Lord. Just like he destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, he will one day destroy this present Earth and then create a new one (Isa. 65:17; 66:22; 2 Peter 3:13; Rev. 21:1).
The reason we are "caught up" to as the Lord returns is to welcome him back. For a discussion of this, see ch. 5. Key Greek Words and Terms, and click on "To Meet, apantesis."
The only place that expressly states that we will be "caught up" in the air is 1 Thess. 4:13-18. Paul is writing to the church and he is discussing what will take place at the parousia (coming, v. 15) of the Lord. So, the teaching that the church will be "caught up" when Christ returns is at least as old as Paul. However, if you mean the "rapture" as commonly taught, where we are said to escape the Great Tribulation that Jesus warned us about, then this started about 1830 with Edward Irving's group in Scotland and was propogated by John Nelson Darby, then Scoffield, Chaffer, Walvoord, Pentecost, Dallas Seminary and now popular writers like Tim LaHaye and Hal Lindsey. For an excellent book on the origin of Pre-Trib, see: The Rapture Plot, by Dave MacPherson, (Simpsonville, SC: Millennium III Publishers) or see this article, which is a summary of his book: http://www.geocities.com/~lasttrumpet/timeline/index.html.