Do Catholics believe in the rapture?
TIM DRAKE: Catholics believe in the rapture, but in a very different way than Protestants . . .
With Left Behind (Nicolas Cage) opening in theaters this month, it’s time to revisit the question, “Do Catholics believe in the rapture?”
The short answer is “yes,” with conditions. The long answer is that we don’t believe in the rapture in the sense that many evangelicals, fundamentalists, and the popular culture imagine it — where the redeemed are carried into Heaven in the blink of an eye at some point prior to Christ’s second coming.
The word “rapture” comes from the Latin word rapiemur, “to be raised up.” Paul writes, “For the Lord himself … will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess 4:16-17).
However, rapture as envisioned by the authors of the Left Behind books, is part of an apocalyptic belief system known as dispensational premillennialism. Carl Olson, author of Will Catholics Be Left Behind?, writes that this erroneous belief “teaches that the rapture and the second coming of Christ are two distinct events separated by a time of tribulation and a 1,000-year reign of Christ.”
Believers in this false teaching expect that Christians (not including Catholics) will vanish to meet Christ before his second coming. Unbelievers will be left behind to suffer during a time of tribulation, and then Christ will return a third time to conquer the Antichrist. Catholicism rejects such an interpretation of scripture.
This theory traces its roots to the 1830s and John Nelson Darby, an Anglican leader of the Plymouth Brethren. It gained popularity through the works of Hal Lindsey in the 1970s, and Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins’ series of fictional Left Behind novels.
Catholics believe that Christians living during Christ’s second coming will be gathered along with those who have died in Christ to be with him forever. However, Catholics do not believe that a rapture will take place prior to that time. This belief is a form of millennialism, which the Church strongly condemns.
The Catholic Church is “amillennial,” meaning that it believes that Christ’s second coming and the last judgment will happen at the same time. According to Colin Donovan, theologian at EWTN, the Church “teaches that Christ already reigns in eternity (1 Cor 15:24-27) and that in this world his reign … is found already in the Church.”
Therefore, we believe “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.” Our belief is that the rapture will take place at the end of the world, and not until then.
TIM DRAKE is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.
Before Christ’s second coming, the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the “mystery of iniquity” in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh.
The Antichrist’s deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgment. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism, especially the “intrinsically perverse” political form of a secular messianism.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, #675, 676