In Revelation 20:1-3, 7-8, we read about the millennium. “Millennium” is a popular term used today that refers to the period of a thousand years when Christ will reign. Some Fundamentalists and Evangelicals point to this as the coming of the end of the world. These scripture verses in Revelation 20 are interpreted in three ways by some conservative Protestants: postmillennialism, amillennialism and premillennialism.
Today I want to focus on premillennialism. The premillennialists often give much attention to the doctrine of the rapture. This word was derived from the Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible. In Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, the Latin word rapiemur is used, which is where the term Rapture comes from. The Latin word means “to be raised up or caught up.” The verses of scripture are as follows, “The dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord. (1 Thess. 4:16–17).” The doctrine of the rapture states that when Christ returns, all of the elect who have died will be raised and transformed into a glorious state, along with the living elect, and then be caught up to be with Christ.
For a Catholic, we believe that those Christians who are still living when Jesus returns (the Second Coming of Christ) will be gathered up with those who have already died in Christ to be with Him forever. The term Rapture is not generally used with respect to this event by Catholics. Also, Catholics do not believe in a Rapture that will take place some time before the Second Coming, as do many Evangelicals.
It wasn’t until the 19th century that some Christians began to claim that the rapture would occur before the tribulation. The tribulation is a period of time in which there would be great trouble and persecution of God’s people (2 Thess 2:1-4) before the Second Coming. Up until the 1800’s, all Christians agreed that the rapture (though it wasn’t called that at the time) would happen immediately before the Second Coming of Christ. But, this new position known as the “pre-tribulational” view, has become known as Dispensationalism. The encyclopedia of Wikipedia says, “Dispensationalists are premillenialists who affirm a future, literal 1,000-year reign of Jesus Christ which merges with and continues on to the eternal state in the “new heavens and the new earth”, and they hold that the millennial kingdom will be theocratic in nature and not mainly soteriological…The vast majority of dispensationalists hold to the pretribulation rapture, with small minorities holding to either a mid-tribulation or post-tribulation rapture.”
As a Catholic, we profess each week at mass in the Nicene Creed, of Jesus: “He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and His kingdom will have no end…I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
“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…On Judgment Day at the end of the world, Christ will come in glory to achieve the definitive triumph of good over evil which, like the wheat and the tares, have grown up together in the course of history…When he comes at the end of time to judge the living and the dead, the glorious Christ will reveal the secret disposition of hearts and will render to each man according to his works, and according to his acceptance or refusal of grace (CCC #675, 681, 682).”
With respect to the rapture, Catholics certainly believe that there will be an event that will take place where Christians will be gathered together to be with Christ, even though they do not use the word rapture to refer to this event. But, instead of spending a lot of time worrying about the tribulation and the end times, we should take a more balanced approach as St. Peter does with this perspective, “But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. . . . Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be kindled and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire! But according to his promise we wait for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you wait for these, be zealous to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace (2 Pet. 3:8–14).”
Until next time, God bless.