The Rapture


1. Is 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 about the Rapture?

No, if you mean the Rapture as modern-day Baptists and evangelicals believe in it. Yes, if you just mean people getting snatched up to heaven during the End-times. There will be a "rapture," a taking up of Christians into heaven at the end of the world, but the other parts of Baptist and evangelical theology on the End-times are not true and are not Biblical.

2. Is 1 Corinthians 15:51-53 about the Rapture?

The answer here is similar to what it was above. 1 Cor. 15:51-53 is about the end of time, and it teaches that we as Christians will be transformed as we enter into God's glory. If that's all you mean by the word "rapture," then yes, it's about a Rapture. But "Rapture preachers" usually mean more than that. They mean that when the Rapture happens, the rest of the world will be left behind (instead of gathered up for judgment), and then (in this theory) God will pour out His fury on the rest of the world for seven years, Jesus will return at the end of those seven years to set up a 1000 year kingdom of saints, Satan will set up a last assault at the end of those 1000 years, but will fail and be defeated, and then Heaven finally happens. And all of that is not the time-line of events proposed by the Bible or taught by this verse.

3. What do pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation, and post-tribulation mean?

They are different ideas about when the Rapture will occur. Pre-tribulation means before the tribulation, mid-tribulation means during it, and post-tribulation means after it. And I guess that that isn't very helpful if you don't know what the tribulation is. The Great Tribulation is a doctrine that says that when the end of time is almost here, awful things will begin to happen all over the world on a supernatural scale, including especially the persecution and execution of Christians, and the end of it will come when Jesus comes back and inaugurates Judgment Day. And the Great Tribulation actually is talked about in the Bible. (Matthew 24:21-22, Revelation 7:14) A pre-tribulation rapture would mean Christians would be taken out of the world before it happens, leaving behind the Tribulation before it starts. A mid-tribulation rapture would mean that sometime during the Tribulation, Christians will be taken up into heaven, and a post-tribulation rapture would mean that the Rapture happens at the same time that Jesus comes back, and He approaches the world with all His Saints.

4. What is the Catholic teaching on that?

On the question of the rapture, if you compare the three theories of a pre-tribulation rapture, a mid-tribulation rapture, and a post-tribulation rapture, the post-tribulation doctrine comes closest to Catholic teaching. We believe that at the end of the world, things will be really bad on earth, and Jesus will descend from the sky to right all wrongs, and when He does, He will send out His angels to gather all His people to Him, and the good will be separated from the bad in part by that act -- and judged accordingly. That's basically compatible with the doctrine of the post-tribulational rapture. See Matthew 24:29-31.

5. Revelation 3:10 says the Church will be kept from the Tribulation. That implies a pre-tribulation Rapture.

Not if you read the whole passage. Verse 10 by itself reads differently than it does if you include verses 7 through 10 together. Verse 10 says, "Because you have kept my word of patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial which is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell upon the earth." Verses 7 through 10 together show that this was a letter promising deliverance to the Christians in a single city in ancient Asia Minor, and *not* from the Great Tribulation, but from the persecution that rocked Asia Minor in that age. Verse 10 of chapter 2 says to a different church, "For a time you will have tribulation," which shows us that this was not a deliverance of all Christians and was not a pre-tribulation rapture.

6. 2 Thess. 2:7-8 says Antichrist appears AFTER the restrainer is removed. That's the Church being raptured.

How you can get that idea from that text is beyond me, but the passage certainly does not say the Church will be raptured before the Antichrist appears. In fact, it says the opposite. In verses 1-3 it says, "Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling to meet him, we beg you, brethren, not to be quickly shaken in mind or excited, either by spirit or by word, or by letter purporting to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition." And that "assembling to meet Him" is the so-called rapture. So do not be deceived: it won't happen before the Antichrist appears. It won't happen before the Tribulation. We will go to Him afterwards, just as Catholics teach.

7. What do pre-millenial, amillenial, and post-millenial mean?

They are more ideas about when the Rapture will occur, based on an idea about a millenium where Jesus is known and worshiped around the world as our true king. A pre-millenial rapture would occur before this millenium, and in the post-millenial idea, Christianity would expand before the rapture, and Christianity will be a dominant religion for a thousand years before Christ comes back for Judgment Day and the Rapture. The amillenial idea says that Christ is even today known and worshiped around the world as our true king, and to limit this to only a millenium is a bad idea.

In Scripture, the Book of Revelation chapter 20:4-5 says that the souls of Christians will reign with Christ for a thousand years. That's where the idea of the millenium comes from. Amillenialists and some post-millenialists see that passage as being fulfilled in the fact that Christianity is currently the world's largest religion. Pre-millenialists argue that if that's the case, the thousand years would be up by now, and the amillenialists and post-millenialists respond that it says they will reign with Christ not "only for a thousand years," but simply, "they will reign with Christ a thousand years," and they say that's compatible with a longer duration. Pre-millenialists argue that a straightforward reading of Revelation 19-20 has an obvious pre-millenial bent, with Judgment Day happening in Revelation 19 right before the millenium in chapter 20. Amillenialists and post-millenialists respond with a three-part response: first, that the Judgment Day is not just a coming event but is also part of traditional apocalyptic imagery, and second, that because of that, it can be used as an image to portray important events in history or prophesy without meaning that it will actually happen at that time, and third, that the evidence in the Book of Revelation suggests that the Judgment Day imagery is being used in Revelation 19 to symbolize the defeat of the pagan Roman empire through divine power, leaving plenty of room for a thousand and more years where Christianity has been dominant.

8. What is the Catholic teaching on that?

Catholic teaching on some of these points has not yet been defined. There was a version of the pre-millenial rapture that was supported by many of the Church Fathers in the fourth century and before, but basically no Catholic literature on the End-times has supported it since the fifth century. St. Augustine argued heavily for amillenialism, and most Catholic theologians ever since him have agreed. Some versions of post-millenialism have been condemned, but there are other versions that aren't that different from amillenialism. Catholic doctrine doesn't officially come down on any side in this debate, but it has certainly become popular since St. Augustine not to believe in a pre-millenial rapture, and that's what this author does as well. 

9. What are some Bible verses that teach against the pre-tribulation Rapture?

First is Matthew 24:21-31. This passage says explicitly "After that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven...and he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." The angels gathering up all people is the so-called Rapture, and the Bible specifically says it happens "After that tribulation." This passage is directly opposed to a pre-tribulation rapture because pre-tribulation means "before the tribulation," and "after the tribulation" equals "post tribulation."

Another passage is Matthew 13:24-30. This passage clearly indicates that the good and the bad are not supposed to be transported away before the very end of time: "The servants said to him, 'Do you want us to go and gather them?' But he said, 'No... Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.' " Therefore when the very end of time has come, the bad will be gathered up on one side of Jesus, and the good will be gathered up on the other side, and Judgment will be delivered. Just as the Catholic Church teaches.

A third passage that teaches against the pre-tribulation Rapture is 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4. This passage says not to be deceived: we will not be "assembled to meet Him" (the so-called Rapture) before the Antichrist and the Great Apostasy happens -- and both of those are part of the Great Tribulation. So we just have to accept that: the Rapture will not happen before the Tribulation does, and pre-tribulation preachers are wrong to say it will.

10. Can you give me just a simple Catholic picture or time-line of the End-Times, with Bible-references?

Sure. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has three sections about the End-times. Paragraphs 668-682 talk about the Second Coming, paragraphs 731-747 talk about the Church in the Last Days, and paragraphs 1038-1065 talk about Judgment Day. Here is what the Catholic Church definitely teaches, presented as closely as possible to a sequential countdown of End-time events:

  • There will be a Great Tribulation as we approach Judgment Day. (CCC 675-676, Matthew 24:21-22, Revelation 7:14)
  • During the Great Tribulation, many believers will deny the Faith rather than endure persecution, (CCC 675, Matthew 24:24, Luke 18:8) and many remaining believers will be martyred. (CCC 677, John 16:2)
  • The Great Tribulation will include a full-fledged Antichrist movement (CCC 675, 2 Thess. 2:3-8).
  • The Second Coming of Jesus will deliver Christians from the Evil One (CCC 2853, Matthew 24:29-31, 2 Thess. 2:8) and announce the end of the Great Tribulation, (CCC 673, Matthew 24:29-31) the coming of the New Jerusalem, (CCC 677, Revelation 21) the completion of the enduring, messianic Kingdom of God, (CCC 671, Matthew 13:41-43) the gathering of all believers to Christ, (CCC 2853-2854, Matthew 24:31, 1 Thess. 4:16-17, 1 Cor. 15:51-53) including the resurrection of the dead followed by Judgment Day. (CCC 1038 with CCC 677, 1 Thess. 4:16-17, 1 Cor. 15:51-53)

Judgment Day will also be the last day of this world's current existence. (CCC 678, Rev. 20:11--21:27)

That is what the Catholic Church definitely teaches about the End-times. It basically mirrors post-tribulationalism, which is the teaching that Christianity will have to undergo the Great Tribulation and won't be raptured out of the world until the Second Coming.