KLamb85661 wrote:

Dear John,

  • Could you please explain to me what the Protestant view of the Rapture is and how it squares with the Catholic view?

Thanks,

KLamb85661

  { What are the Catholic and Protestant views of the Rapture? }

John replied:

Hi, KLamb85661 —

Thanks for your question.

There are several Protestant positions on the Rapture.

First let me give you the Catholic Teaching.

Christ has died, Christ has Risen, Christ will come again. The Church teaches that at the end of time:

  • Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead.
  • Purgatory will cease to exist.
  • Those still in Purgatory will be released, along with the just that are alive, and they shall live with God forever.
  • At this time, everyone who is dead, will have a bodily resurrection and those who are alive, will have their bodies transformed for eternity.

Again, the just will live with God, the unjust will live eternally without God.

This will be a one stage event. It will all happen on the last day.

Now the Protestant rapture theories can be divided into three major camps:

  1. Pre-Tribulation rapture

First, the Church (the true believers) along with those who died in Christ (who get resurrected) will get raptured, or snatched away to be with Jesus. Then, there will be a 7-year tribulation which will feature the reign of the anti-Christ.

The anti-Christ will fool the world (those remaining) into thinking he is God.

He will start out as a great political leader who will bring about peace, etc. Three and a half years into his reign, he turns sour and begins to wage war on Israel.

This will lead to the Battle of Armageddon which takes place at the end of the
7 years.

During this battle, Jesus and the Church return to:

  • save the Jews who have now converted and
  • to wipe out the anti-Christ.

Then Jesus will reign on earth for 1,000 years with the Church. At the end of the 1,000 years, Satan will be released again with his minions to tempt those who have been born in this millennium. This will lead to the battle of Gog and Magog after which Satan, along with all those from the millennium that have fallen, and the unjust who have not been resurrected, will get thrown into the lake of fire forever.

  1. Mid Tribulation Rapture

All of the above with the exception that these folks believe that the rapture happens in the middle of the tribulation, just before the Anti-Christ goes sour.

  1. Post Tribulation Rapture (or the amillennial view)

Again, the same as the first two, but the Church goes through the entire Tribulation.

The first two positions are pure science fiction. There is no support in Scripture for these.

The last position is closest to the Catholic position. The big difference is that most of these folks believe in the "millennium": the earthly reign of Christ and in two resurrections:

  • The resurrection of the Just before the 1,000 years, and
  • the resurrection of the unjust at the battle of Gog and Magog.

These are the most prevalent positions on the Rapture.

Now the Church, as far as I know, has largely condemned the idea of a 1,000 year earthly reign.
It has certainly condemned the notion of two resurrections from the dead.

Some of the early Church fathers believed in a millennium, but again, this had not been defined by the Church as of today.

In a sense, we do believe in a Rapture. Those who are still alive in Christ at His return will be transformed "in the twinkling of an eye and caught up in the clouds with the Lord", but that is the Last Day.

The most ridiculous notion of the pre-tribulation rapture is that the Church (that is, Christians) will avoid the persecution of the Anti-Christ. This is nonsense. Jesus promised us persecution. The Church grows the most and shines the brightest during times of persecution. Beyond that,
it is simply unbiblical.

In fairness, there are Protestants that believe in a post Tribulation rapture and are "amillennial", meaning: no millennium.

That is, they believe exactly what we believe!

The Scriptures explicitly teach that Enoch and Elijah were taken up to heaven body and soul.
(Genesis 5:24, 2 Kings 2:11) The Scriptures also imply that Moses also was taken up body and soul (Jude 1:9) and they further imply Mary's Assumption in Revelation 12.

These examples all prefigure the future Glory that await all those who will some day be present body and soul in Heaven.

Enoch represents all those who came before God's covenant with Israel. This would also include those who are made righteous by grace but may have never been a part of either the Old or New Covenant, but rather followed the Covenant made with Adam to the best of their knowledge.

Moses and Elijah, are figures of the Law and the Prophets, in other words, the righteous sons of Israel.

Finally, Mary is the Icon of the New Covenant, the Church. She was the first human person to be bodily assumed into Heaven under the New Covenant. Just like Mary, those who are righteous
(by grace) and are alive at the Second Coming, will be assumed into Heaven. (1 Thessalonians 4)

I hope it answers your question.

Under His Mercy,

John C. DiMascio

Kirk Moore commented:

Dear John,

The leader of our Catholic Study Bible Group has us investigating the Catholic Study Bible support of the 7 year tribulation, among other end of time events. In the above reply to KLamb85661, you called the 7-year tribulation "pure science fiction".

The group has concluded in the Catholic Study Bible that Daniel 9:27 and Revelation 13:5 give support to this 7-year time line.

  • Please clarify what is stated in the Bible and what you call "science fiction".

I am having a hard time understanding what is stated in the Bible concerning:

  • the Rapture
  • the Tribulation
  • the Millennium, and
  • what is science fiction.

Kirk

John replied:

Hi, Kirk —

We really can't do the Book of Daniel or Revelation justice unless we spend several weeks on both but, unlike Evangelical Christians, the Church and the Jews (with respect to Daniel) understand Apocalyptic literature differently than straight prophecy. Apocalypse means "to reveal something that our senses cannot normally see". It doesn't necessarily mean it's a future prediction. Much of the Book of Revelation is a liturgical book, and not a book of Prophesy.

However, even if we want to look at those time periods alluded to in Revelation and in Daniel, the seven year period is not the problem. The idea that the Church is going to be raptured out before the tribulation or in the middle of it, is what I was calling "pure science fiction". It's nonsense.
1 Thessalonians 4 places this rapture into the clouds at the same time as the Resurrection of the Dead. The dead in Christ shall rise first and then we shall be caught up with them in the clouds.
In the Gospels, when Jesus goes to raise Lazarus, his sister says to Jesus,

"Yes, I know that you shall raise him up on the last day."

John 11:24

Hello!! The last day:

  • not seven years before the last day
  • not three and a half years before the last day.

So from the most fundamentalist way of looking at Scripture, we can know, the idea of a rapture happening prior to the last day is nonsense. It was invented by a guy named John Darby around 1850. He invented a system of looking at the Bible called Dispensationalism. It essentially tries to divide the Bible into time periods. God deals with man differently according to his time period. Darby preached that in the last seven years of human history, God would only be dealing with the Jews and trying to win the Jews to Christ so the Church would be taken out. In order to do this, Darby took a bunch of texts out of contexts to put together his little theory.

The problem is that the seven year time line has already happened twice!

  1. Once during the Maccabean period, and
  2. Once between 63 A.D. and 70 A.D. during the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.

Much of the "prophetic" in Revelation has been fulfilled. For 1850 years, most scholars believed that Revelation was written prior to 70 A.D., so naturally, no one considered that there would ever be another Israel or a Temple to be destroyed again. That's not saying because there is an Israel, it will happen again. Everyone figured it was written fairly early, probably around 50 A.D., so it was fulfilled in 70 A.D. If you read the Roman historian, Tacitus, he writes of all kinds freaky things happening in sky as Jerusalem was under siege between 67 A.D. and 70 A.D. so the Church really never gave a future fulfillment of these texts much thought. Now in the 1800's, a bunch of "modern scholars" came around and started dating Revelation much later, around 90 A.D.
Of course, they wanted to deny that prophesy was possible, so they had to place the writing after the destruction of Jerusalem.

Eventually, the Fundamentalist Christians and, in particular, the Dispensationalists, in response, started believing in this future fulfillment, but as I previously stated, the book of Revelation is the Key to understanding the Mass and the Liturgy, not the future.

We know Christ is coming. We know it's getting closer, because time is advancing. It could be another million years; it could happen by time you finish reading this e-mail. What we do know is that He is only coming back once.

There is no rapture prior to His Second Coming. There may be another seven-year period of tribulation, but the Church will be here and suffering through it.

John

Eric replied:

Hi, Kirk —

I can say that making any attempts to draw firm conclusions from Scripture about the End Times is very dicey. Many have tried and failed. Precisely because Scripture is so inscrutable on the subject, the Catholic Church does not officially approve any end times interpretations, leaving all such interpretations up to individuals to speculate about. She does, in rare instances, rule out certain interpretations, such as Millennialism (Chiliasm). However, there are certain interpretative traditions.

Let me ask a question:

  • Whom did your Bible Study group consult in coming to your conclusions about Daniel and Revelation?
  • Did you consult the Fathers and Doctors of the Catholic Church, or did you consult Protestant Fundamentalist pastors or Evangelicals?

The only thing I will comment on is the Rapture. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 — the verse used to support the Rapture — makes it crystal clear that this event will occur at the Resurrection of the Dead ("the dead in Christ will rise first"). By definition, this is the Second Coming, the return of Christ, and the end of the world. It even says so in verse 16 ("the Lord himself will come down from heaven."). Jesus is only coming twice, so the next time he comes will be at the end of the world.

There are serious pitfalls in trying to pin down the details of the end times. I repeat:

  • Many have fallen.
  • Do not try this at home.
  • Do not try it in a Bible Study either.
  • Do not get caught up in end times crazes.

Live each day as if it is your last; love and obey the Lord.

Eric
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