Are Catholics into the Rapture?
We think a time of great persecution is near, probably the Apocalyse. The timing of the Rapture is not a salvation matter, although some pre-tribbers say that if you don't believe in a pre-trib then you might miss it. Luckily, that's a fringe opinion and not part of mainstream teaching about pre-trib theology found in Evangelical circles.
Some Evangelicals are not preparing for persecution, because they think they will be removed from the world before the Tribulation. Who wouldn't hope for a pre-trib Rapture? However, we think Scripture and history indicate that its a good idea to prepare for the Tribulation.
The remnant believers in Jesus, from ALL backgrounds, will need to cooperate during the Great Tribulation. Our enemies will not distinguish us.
Pre-Trib Rapture theory is only 150 years old
The pre-trib theory was recently popularized by the Left Behind series. It was developed around 1830 by Thomas Darby, in his Dispensational framework. Prior to that, no theologian or denomination had suggested a "pre-trib" Rapture; not Martin Luther, not Calvin, not Wycliffe, not the Early Church Fathers.
For 1820 years, Christendom believed "we will be caught up in the air" (1 Thess 4:17) at the last Trumpet, the Second (final) Coming of Jesus at the end of history. The term "rapture" (Latin: rapiemur) is from the Catholic Latin Vulgate Bible (390 A.D.).
Its interesting that Evangelicals often criticize the Catholic Church for the development of doctrine, yet are comfortable with the development of the pre-trib Rapture and DIspensational doctrine.
We are fine with the development of doctrine, if it is founded upon a seed planted in Scripture or the early Church and it doesn't conflict with those sources and has been revealed by the Holy Spirit. An example is the Trinity which is not in the BIble explicitly.
The four foundations of the pre-trib Rapture
Before looking at the Scriptures used to advance a pre-trib Rapture, there are 4 foundational principles of Dispensationalism that facilitate and require a pre-trib Rapture. Pre-trib advocate and professor Thomas D. Ice, of the Pre-Trib institute, lays out the following:
- Literal interpretation of Scripture
- Distinction between Israel and the Church
1) Literal interpretation of Scripture
Catholics agree that we should assume what is written in the Bible is what is intended. We suggest there are several places in scripture where a pre-trib theory doesn't do that.
16 For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord for ever. (1 Thes 4:16-17)
Pre-trib holds that the Rapture will be secret and silent, only seen by Christians. But in this passage God's Trumpet will sound. This is the same "loud trumpet call" from Mat 24:36 befitting a King who is heralded before a large crowd with trumpets. The plain reading of this is a loud fanfare entrance of the King rather than a silent and secret pre-trib Rapture. They still blow trumpets as an entrance to the King in England. This is more consistent with his final (2nd) coming at the end of time.
"I will keep (Greek: τηρέω or téreó) you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world"? (Rev 3:10)
This doesn't say "remove you from the world". Jesus uses the same word to say the opposite from a pre-trib narrative, written by the same author, the Apostle John.
"I do not ask thee to take them out of the world, but to keep (Greek: τηρέω or téreó) them from the evil one" (John 17:15)
In Matthew 24, there is a description of the end times (nation shall rise against nation etc.. ) followed by:
Whoever endures to the end shall be saved (Mt 24:13)
The "end" here doesn't appear to speak of a time before the tribulation but rather "the end" of the persecution. More discussion of Bible verses used for a pre-trib below.
Premillennialism teaches that the Second Coming (2nd Advent) will occur before Christ’s thousand-year reign upon earth from Jerusalem (Revelation 19:11, 20:6). The Scriptures only discuss two comings of Christ. The pre-trib view has 3 comings:
- First: As a baby in Bethlehem
- Second: Jesus comes back to Rapture
- Third: After the tribulation before his reign on earth for 1000 literal years reign on earth. (Note: Catholics don't hold that Jesus will rule in the flesh during that time)
Futurists believe that virtually all prophetic events will not occur in the current Church Age, but will happen in the future Tribulation, Second Coming, or Millennium. We have no problem with a Futurist view, as long as we acknowledge that the Bible can be Futuristic and Preteristic simultaneously. The Book of Revelation was speaking about future events but also events that were happening at the time, hence the letters to the 7 Churches of that time.
4) Distinction between Israel and the Church?
Pre-trib and mid-trib theories stem from the Dispensational view that the Jewish people can only convert after Christians are taken from the earthly stage (Raptured).
The main reasons Dispensationalsts provide are that Old Testament prophesies of the are for Israel alone, not for the Church which didn't exist when the prophesy was given and some prophesies were not fulfilled and therefore apply to the future nation of Israel because God is faithful to his promises.
Catholics agree that the Lord is faithful to his promises through his prophets and that Israel will realize receive these promises. However, there are several Biblical reasons why the prophesies of the Old Testament cannot apply only to the modern day state of Israel created in 1948.
Modern Israel only contains two tribes of Israel.
The 10 lost tribes are assimilated into the general population, lost forever as an identifyable people.(2 Kings 17:22-23, Hosea 1:6-7) However, its likely that the Church has representatives from all 12 Tribes since it has its memebership includes people from all countries, backgrounds and nationalities.
While we agree the Jewish people will convert on mass before the Cecond coming, we see no biblical evidence that the promises of God to the Jewish people are dependent on the Christian people being raptured before the Jews accept Jesus as their Saviour.
Jesus said he did what he came to do (Jn 17:4, 19:30). The Church was not a backup plan for an unrealized attempt to convert the Jewish people.
We agree that the Jews rejection of the Jesus caused the Apostles to turn to the Gentiles. However, that is after the Church is born at the Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). The upper room was full of Jewish people when the Holy Spirit came upon them. The first documented Gentile Christian is in Acts 10 with Cornelius.
Jesus came to be a ransom, and to be the Pascal Lamb. He couldn't be that without the rejection of the Jews. There are plenty of prohesies in both the OT and NT giving that as the BIblical narrative (Is 50:6, 53:3-5, Psm 22:16, Zech 12:10, Psm 69:21, Mat 16:21, Mk 10:32-34, Lk 18:31-33, Jn 12:32-33, Mat 26:26-28, Mk 14:22-24, Lk 22:19-20)
just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Matthew 20:28.
Israel includes both the older brother Israel and the younger brother, the Church
Unlike Replacement Theology on one end of the continuem and Replacement Theology on the other end, Catholic theology holds that Israel includes both Christianity (New Israel), and it's older brother in the faith of Abraham (Jewish people yet to accept Christ).
This is not "Replacement Theology" as is found in "historic Dispensationalism". Catholics recognize the role in salvation history of the Jewish people who have yet to accept Jesus. We have a separate article on the Church's relationship with Israel.
"A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code." (Rm 2:28-29)
The Apostle Paul, in Romans, emphasizes the spiritual nature of being a true Jew, suggesting that true Israel is not defined by physical descent but by faith and spiritual transformation. See also Eph 2:11-22 and 1 Pt 2:9-10, Rm 11:17-24 for more Biblical evidence as the Church being grafted into Israel.
Other Bible passages cited for a Pre-trib Rapture
Here are verses used to advance a pre-trib theory. If you know of any other biblical justifications for a pre-trib Rapture, feel free to let us know.
Doesn't "in the twinkling of an eye" speak of a pre-trib rapture?
A scripture that is used to justify the silent and secret rapture is:
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 1 Cor 15:52
Twinkling in this passage is referring to the speed with which it will come. We have another trumpet reference. A plain reading of this Bible passage would be a loud and public fanfare that will be witnessed by all, not a secret and silent event.
Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” Rev 11:15
For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. (Mat 24:27)
Do not let your hearts be troubled ... And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. (Jn 14:1-3)
Here, Jesus was speaking to Peter and the apostles, almost all who were brutally martyred. So this actually speaks against the idea that faithful Christians will be preserved from persecution (or the Tribulation). Later in the passage Jesus says:
"If they persecuted me, they will persecute you;" (Jn 15:20)
In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world (John 16:33)
These all point to Christians being subjected to the Tribulation. Catholics feel that there is a place for suffering. There is much Biblical evidence that persecution and suffering have a solid place in the Kingdom and that it can be a witness to the unfaithful. Persecuted Christians converted pagans to the early Church.
1 Thes 5:3
For when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober (1 Thessalonians 5:3)
This certainly speaks of the Lord's return but it doesn't speak of a pre-trib return. It follows the discussion of the Trumpet blowing for the Lord's second coming in Chapter 4 above.
1 Thes 5:9
For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thes 5:9)
A careful reading of the entire chapter shows that this passage is speaking about the wrath of eternal damnation, not the wrath of the tribulation. This passage is only half of a sentence which finishes with "...who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him."
Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me.  In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
Jesus was speaking on many levels in this passage. He was reassuring the apostles after telling them "I will be with you only a little longer." (Jn 13:33). The passage is also a reassurance to all Christians of any period of time. It is a frequently read passage at funerals in ALL denominations. It is certainly not limited to those who will be taken out of this world when He returns, and has no mention of the timing of that.
Are the 24 elders in Heaven (Rev 4:1-5) Raptured Christians?
There are many interpretations of the the elders. To say that they are raptured Christians is a stretch, because the number 24 would have little significance. The mainstream interpretation across denominations is that they are the representative of all of God's people, from the Old and New Testament, the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 apostles. Saint John Paul II spoke of this in his General Audience of Jan. 12, 2005.
Didn't God ALWAYS deliver his people when wrath was poured out?
A popular Evangelical Church had this on their Rapture page
In any instance where God’s wrath was poured out, He delivered His people...Noah and his family were rescued from world judgment while Lot and his family were rescued from the destruction of a city.
Both Noah and Lot were not taken out of the world, but they were preserved in the world, so these passages are better defenses for a post-trib Rapture where God will preserve a Remnant through the Tribulation (although many of us will be martyred).
The Jewish people were delivered from the wrath of Pharaoh but had a rough time in the desert. The early Christians were thrown to the lions. There were more martyrs in the 20th century than all the other centuries combined.
The history of the Christianity is riddled with wrath and persecutions, and although He has preserved us as a people, a lot of Christians and Jewish people have suffered.
Another scripture often cited is:
“And he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:28).
This speaks of his 2nd coming. There is no evidence in the Bible of a 3 coming of Christ.
The tribulation means harvest-time!
Catholics think Scripture is clear that Jesus will only come one more time. Catholics do not see any Biblical evidence as to why Christians should be "spared" the tribulation of the evil one. The Catholic Church feels that all Biblical evidence points to the contrary - that Christians will undergo great persecutions and tribulation. Catholics believe that history bears witness that the Church thrives under persecution.
Perhaps we will win many converts to Christianity during the tribulation. Most humans (including me) are more disposed to a conversion of heart when things are bad. Nothing creates an open mind and opens someone to a personal relationship with Christ more than suffering. During the tribulation people will be looking for answers. They will be "ripe" for conversion. This is the only value of the tribulation. The Bible says:
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" (Rm 10:14-15)
If all the "good Christians" are taken out of the world during the tribulation, who will be left on earth to convert the poor souls who are looking for answers during that time? Would Jesus leave humans on earth for the devil to ravage but remove all the Christians who can convert them? This would prevent the spreading of the Gospel during that time. If he did that he would be condemning these non-Christians before the judgment day. (Mat 11:22)
Catholics believe there will be only one more return of Christ and on that day the faithful Christians will be caught up in the air. To our Evangelical friends, we pray that you will start prepping for a rough persecution and its associated hardships. We hope to be close to our Evangelical brothers and sisters during that time.