Sunday, September 21, 2014
Eschatology is the study of end time events, which seems to be a popular topic today. It appears that the Catholic Church does not have an official dogmatic teaching specifically on the topic of “the Rapture,” but this topic does come up often in Catholic / Protestant discussions. What is the Rapture? It is the Christian belief that Jesus Christ will return from Heaven in the clouds to take His church back to Heaven with Him (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:51-53). Those taken will include all true Christians who are living at that particular time, as well as the bodies of those who have already died in Christ. It is also known as the Resurrection.
Problems with the Catholic View
Some Catholics believe that there is no Rapture at all, but many who do acknowledge it will consider it to be the same exact event as the Second Coming of Christ. Closely related to all this is the Millennium, or the one-thousand year period in which Jesus Christ reigns in peace and righteousness. It will be a time in which Satan is bound / chained and unable to deceive the nations (Revelation 20:3). But although the Bible mentions a thousand year period, i.e., the Millennium (Revelation 20:1-7), Catholics generally hold to the Amillennial (“no Millennium”) view. This view (CCC #676) teaches that there is no literal 1000-year reign of Jesus Christ on earth. They believe in a more allegorical, or symbolic, view which says that we are living in the Millennium now, and Christ is sitting on the throne in Heaven, where He “reigns through the Church” (CCC #668). The church is the “kingdom” of His reign and the devil is bound during this time. As far as the meaning of the phrase “1000 years” mentioned in Revelation, they’ll say it is just a term that is symbolic for “a long time.”
Ok, first of all, if one wants to claim that the Millennium is happening now, then he would also have to believe that Satan is now chained and is NOT deceiving the nations today (Revelation 20:3). But can any honest person really believe this? There is more deception today than ever (2 Timothy 3), even in many churches! 2 Corinthians 11:14 says that the devil disguises himself as an angel of light, and is therefore a deceiver by nature. Scripture is full of passages demonstrating that he is still at work today, deceiving mankind. If he really were isolated and locked up (as described in Revelation 20), the great majority of people on earth today would be saved, and the world would be a far better place than it is. The idea that Satan is not deceiving the nations today is itself a great deception.
Furthermore, if the Millennium is happening today, then one is forced to ask, where is the worldwide peace and righteousness promised during this period (Jeremiah 23:5-6; Isaiah 9:6-7)? Where today can you find the wolf that dwells together with the lamb (Isaiah 11:6)? Or the bear and the cow happily feeding together (Isaiah 11:7)? Or has anyone casually allowed their children to play near the hole of the poisonous snake lately (Isaiah 11:8)? Do we see everyone in the Middle East beating their swords into plowshares (Isaiah 2:4)? No, the world we live in today is full of deception, danger, injustice and wars. Just watch the evening news on any given day, and anyone can see that we are certainly not living in the Millennium that the Bible speaks about.
Secondly, why should anyone believe that the Bible’s prophecies of the First Coming of Jesus Christ (a past event) were literal, yet interpret so many of His Second Coming prophecies (future) as symbolic or allegorical? This is an inconsistent hermeneutic (principle of interpretation) which causes much confusion. A literal fulfillment of these prophecies (such as the Millennium) would actually bring to pass God’s desire to restore His creation (e.g., Romans 8:18-23; Acts 3:21).
Third, for God to keep His promises to Israel, there must be a literal kingdom on earth for the Jews, according to these - Jeremiah 23:5-8; Ezekiel 47 and 48; Amos 9:11-15 - and many other passages. The promises God gave to Israel were not taken away from them and given to the church. Each has their own set of promises that must be fulfilled. Notice that we are NOT saying that each has a different way of salvation, because there is only one way that anyone will ever get saved… by grace through faith. But what we are saying is that there is no “replacement theology,” where the church replaces Israel. Both have their specific time and role; and after the church is raptured, God will surely again focus on Israel (Romans 9, 10, 11).
These are just a few of the issues we have with this Catholic view. See this article refuting the Amillennial view in more detail:
Who Goes and Who Stays?
Concerning the Rapture, we would also like to address some verses about Noah and Lot (Matthew 24:36-42; Luke 17:26-29). There seems to be some confusion with some Catholics over who is “taken” and who is “left behind” in these passages. We’ve often seen Catholics say that it was actually Noah and Lot who were “left behind,” meaning that they survived God’s judgment; and those who perished in the flood and those who perished in Sodom were “taken” (in death). But lest anyone attempt to play word games here, we would stress that the “taking” and the “leaving” was done by God BEFORE the wrath or judgment was poured out. The point is that in both cases one group (the believers) is removed from the “danger zone,” and the other (the unrepentant) stays in the “danger zone.” One group is safely relocated, and the other stays behind and suffers God’s wrath. Also, interestingly, in Lot’s case the angel said that he couldn’t do anything (i.e., bring down the judgment of God) until Lot and his family were safely removed (Genesis 19:22). Since Jesus gave us this as an example of His return, this surely points to a Pre-Tribulation Rapture. See more details on this in our new blog here: