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I remember reading about this short story where a group of astronauts are travelling close to the speed of light to a nearby star.

When they return to Earth several years later after completing their mission they find that Jesus returned, gave everyone a few days to set their affairs in order, and then spirited them away to be judged/go to heaven. As the astronauts weren't on Earth when it happened they got left behind and now have to live on an abandoned Earth.

Does anyone know of this story? Thanks a million in advance!

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I'm almost certain you are looking for Judgement Passed by Jerry Oltion

Published first in Wastelands Stories of the Apocalypse, Edited by John Joseph Adams.

“Judgment Passed,” which is original to this volume, tells of the Biblical day of judgment from a rationalist viewpoint; a starship crew returns to Earth to find that the rapture has occurred without them. Oltion has strong views on religion–namely that it’s a scourge on humanity–that led him to write this story, which speculates on whether or not being “left behind” would be such a bad thing.

There is an excerpt posted on the same page I got the above blurb from:

http://www.johnjosephadams.com/wastelands/contents/judgment-passed-by-jerry-oltion/

I first heard this story on the Drabblecast Podcast, episode 257

http://www.drabblecast.org/2012/09/23/drabblecast-257-judgement-passed/

  • Thank you, that IS the exact story I had stuck in my head. I read that extract years ago. I think I'll also have a read of the Offworld book some others mentioned. – Eoghan May 16 '15 at 8:35
  • You're welcome. Glad I could help! – mantis May 18 '15 at 18:40
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Could this be "Offworld" by Robin Parrish? Certainly the main premise (astronauts return to Earth to find the rapture has happened without them) seems to match your description reasonably closely although it's not a short story and although they were in space, they weren't traveling at lightspeed:

The return of NASA's first manned mission to Mars was supposed to be a momentous day. But when the crew loses touch with ground control before entry, things look bleak. Safe after a treacherous landing, the crew emerges to discover the unthinkable--every man, woman, child, and animal has vanished without a trace. Alone now on their home planet, the crew sets out to discover where everyone has gone--and how to get them back--only to discover they may not be as alone as they thought.

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