Catholics and the Rapture

I believe the Scripture contains hints that a Rapture will occur as part of the Sixth Seal events and that these events, plus all of Revelation Chapter Seven, will mark the end of the Ages of the Christian Church on Earth.

I further believe the texts of Seal Seven and Letter Seven (Laodicea) predict a six month period of calm following the Rapture, when the Left Behind “who have ears to hear” will have time to respond to Jesus’ knocking on the doors to their hearts. This may involve them first breaking into the houses of the “religious fanatics” who suddenly disappeared in order to get hold of all the Bibles, books and DVDs we collected but that’s another story!

In the interests of not giving scandal, I thought that before I came right out and said in public, “I think the Bible predicts a Rapture event,” I had better check what the Roman Catholic Church does and does not teach about this stuff. I located two articles by Catholic theologians that each had serious enough bona fides that I felt I could print them out and give them a good deal of my attention.

1. Catholic Answers Tract: The Rapture @ http://www.catholic.com/tracts/the-rapture

This article carries the important NIHIL OBSTAT and IMPRIMATUR stamps of approval.

2. Raptured or Not? A Catholic Understanding @ http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/CU/ac1005.asp

This article was authored by a Franciscan professor of Old Testament, Semitic languages and biblical spirituality.

N.b., If you see stuff purporting to present Catholic teaching, please Please PLEASE check the bona fides before accepting it as definitive. I’ve seen some out-and-out lies presented in this “straw man” way. 

The pertinent section in the Catholic Catechism for our purposes is:

RCC Catechism 676

Millenarian doctrines have been kicking around for centuries. They come in different varieties, but are all based in Revelation 20:1-10. Today’s Christians are familiar with two forms:

  • Christian Millennialists who interpret these verses to mean that Jesus will return at end of the Great Tribulation, then rule here on Earth for a long time (usually 1000 years, hence the term millennialism), after which the dead will be raised, all souls will be judged, and God will inaugurate the new Heaven and the new Earth.
  • Social Justice Christians who interpret these verses to mean that human society can and should be perfected not through God’s grace, but through natural, usually political, means – e.g., Communism, Socialism. There are bucket loads of these folks in my church. They pay about as much attention to the Scriptures and the Catechism as they and their comrades on the Left pay to the Constitution. (Big names include Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Kathleen Sebelius and, of course, their now-deceased “Lion of the Senate” Ted Kennedy.)

For Catholics, teachings about the Rapture tend to get thrown out with the bathwater, because they are included in many religious millennial interpretations. But the two things are actually quite separate and the Catholic Church only condemns the “Jesus will rule on Earth for a long time between the Second Coming and the Final Judgment” part. The Catholic Answers article says,

With respect to the rapture, Catholics certainly believe that the event of our gathering together to be with Christ will take place, though they do not generally use the word “rapture” to refer to this event (somewhat ironically, since the term “rapture” is derived from the text of the Latin Vulgate of 1 Thess. 4:17—”we will be caught up,” [Latin: rapiemur]).

Granted, this ingathering is usually understood to refer only to the one described at the Second Coming / Final Judgment, but there’s nothing inherent to the idea of an earlier ingathering that is condemned. What is problematic for Catholics is any interpretation that says:

  • Jesus will come back here more than once and/or that
  • His Second Coming will not be followed soon after by the Final Judgment.

The Rapture event I am seeing in the Sixth Seal and Chapter Seven avoids both of these problems. More on all this in my next installment.

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