Monday, May 25, 2009

Do Catholics Believe in the Rapture

Q: Protestants say that Matthew 24:40 proves the rapture, but I know Catholics don't believe in the rapture. How do we Catholics interpret that Bible verse?

A: Because I'm not being very creative today, I'm going to give you a piece of context from this really great apologetics book I have ...

A Faulty Interpretation of Matthew 24:38-41
Dispensationalists teach that, in these verses, those taken away are snatched up in the secret rapture. But notice: nothing in this passage speaks of a secret rapture or coming. The context is very clear: Jesus is using these examples to emphasize the suddenness and unexpectedness of His return. These Dispensationalists are reading a secret rapture into the text; it certainly does not flow immediately from the text.

If we look at the parallel passage in Luke 17:22-37, Jesus again uses the example of the flood to emphasize the suddenness of His return. He adds another example, the destruction of Sodom. Both events illustrate the same point: the suddenness of judgment.

There is no teaching of a secret rapture here. Our Lord begins this passage by saying the day of the Son of man will be obvious: 'as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other'(verse 24). There's nothing secret about lightning. Jesus explicitly says that just as judgment in the time of Noah and Lot occurred without warning, 'so will it be on the day when the Son of man is revealed'(verse 30). Revealed is the opposite of hidden. This day refers to Christ's public coming and sudden judgment at the end of time. Our Lord's return will be obvious: as obvious as the flood, as obvious as the destruction of Sodom, as obvious as lightning.

Some rapture proponents try to use the events of Noah's flood and the destruction of Lot's Sodom to support their theory that the righteous are raptured while the wicked are left behind on earth. In both cases, however, the ones who were snatched away (raptured) were the wicked(Luke 17:37 adds an important detail. After Jesus declares that one man will be taken, the other left, and one woman will be taken, the other left, the disciples ask the obvious question: "Where, Lord?" Where will these people be taken? Jesus responds: "Where the body is, there the eagles [or vultures] will be gathered together." They are snatched away to a place of death, a place where carrion birds gather around carcasses. Christians definitely don't want to be snatched away in judgment). The ones who remained on earth were the righteous! This is the very opposite of rapture theory.

--Beginning Apologetics #8 "The End Times: What Catholics Believe about the Second Coming, the Rapture, Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, and Indulgences by Father Frank Chacon and Jim Burnham

Well, there you have it. I think that explains simply enough, hope it helped. I'll end with our two main scripture passages ...

"For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. The women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left." --Matthew 24:38-41

"The he said to the disciples, 'The days are coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. They will say to you, "Look there!" or "Look here!" Do not go, do not set off in pursuit. For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. But first he must endure much suffering and be rejected by this generation. Just as it was in the days of Noah, so too it will be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking, and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed all of them. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot: they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day that Lot left Sodom, it rained fire and sulfur from heaven and destroyed all of them - it will be like that on the day that the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, anyone on the housetop who has belongings in the house must not come down to take them away; and likewise anyone in the field must not turn back. Remember Lot's wife. Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it. I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding meal together; one will be taken and the other left.' Then they asked him, 'Where, Lord?' He said to them, 'Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather." --Luke 17:22-37