What the Catholic Church Teaches about the Rapture

RaptureAs you can see, it is three days past the end of the world Rapture deadline and we are still here. 🙂 However, all the talk about last judgement and the Rapture got me curious: What does the Catholic Church teach about the Rapture? I knew the Church doesn’t believe in the rapture, but I never bothered to look it up and find out why. This past weekend I took some time to read up on it and pray about it, and found out some interesting facts.

What exactly is “The Rapture”?

Have you ever seen the movie (or read the books) “Left Behind“? The book and movie give a good synopsis of the rapture; which is basically, without warning “the saints” will secretly be taken up (“raptured”) into the heavens by Jesus. The sinners on the other hand will be left on earth to suffer the tribulation that is to precede the end of the world.

How the rapture doctrine was developed.

This was an eye-opener for me. I discovered an article on americancatholic.org by Michael D. Guinan, O.F.M., Ph.D that the rapture was promulgated by a religious figure named John Nelson Darby (1800-1882). He was ordained in the Church of Ireland, but in time he left the church for a group called the Plymouth Brethren. He became a leader of that church and in the 1830s he started teaching about the “rapture of the saints” which he believed was revealed to him by God. This belief was denounced by the Plymouth Brethren as not being biblically based, so he separated himself from his community. He started traveling extensively and became very prominent in many areas of Europe, US and Canada where his ideas caught fire and spread. Ironically, some scholars believe that they got his ideas on the rapture from a little girl who claimed to have visions of a two-part second coming of Christ – not from the bible.

Another interesting fact is that until the last 20 years or so the rapture doctrine was refuted by mainstream protestants, until it was popularized by televangelists and other popular evangelists.

What Scripture says about the rapture.

The two scripture verses most quoted in defense of the rapture is 1 Thessalonians 4: 17 and Luke 17: 34-35. 1 Thessalonians 4:17 says: “Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up to the lord in the air. Thus, we shall always be with the Lord.”

Luke 17: 34-35 says: “I tell you, on that night there will be two people in one bed; one will be taken , the other left. And there will be two women grinding meal together; one will be taken, the other left.”

The other scriptures sometimes cited are John 14:3, 1 Corinthians 15:53, Matthew 24: 40-41, and Revelation 3:10. I will let you look those up yourselves.

If you read the scripture verses around those quotes, you will be able to see the context surrounding these verses. According Catholic Church Teaching, 1 Thess. 4: 17 refer to all those still living at the second coming of Christ will not die, but will be taken up in the air to meet Christ with those who already died. And Luke 17: 34-35, is a reminder to always be prepared for Jesus’ coming. I encourage you to read the article on americancatholic.org, as it does a great job explaining these scriptures.

What the catechism says about the rapture

Article 7, entitled “From Thence He Will Come Again To Judge The Living And The Dead“, explains the complete doctrine of the second coming, and I hope you will read it here. In talking specifically about rapture, there is not an “official statement” by the church in regards to the rapture, which according to the author of the article I linked to earlier, is because the rapture doctrine is a “late, and rather suspect on the scene.”

However, the Catechism states, relative to the second coming, the following in numbers 675 and 676:

“Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. 574 The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth 575 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. 576

The Antichrist’s deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgment. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism, 577 especially the “intrinsically perverse” political form of a secular messianism. 578″

The official Catholic Position

Although there is no specific statement from the church, from what we have read and learned from the above scriptures and catechism, there will not be two second comings. There will not be a “secret coming” where Jesus will come, take some believers, go back to heaven, and then come back to get the “rest” who have survived the tribulation.

Instead, Catholics take the view that was put forth by St. Augustine which is similar to the ‘ “Amillennialists” (whom you can read about here.) who believe in the coexistence of good and evil on earth until the end. The tension that exists on earth between the righteous and the wicked will be resolved only by Christ’s return at the end of time. The golden age of the millennium is instead the heavenly reign of Christ with the saints, in which the Church on earth participates to some degree, though not in the glorious way it will at the Second Coming.’

In other words: we are all in together until the end when Christ comes again. 🙂


I encourage you read the following articles to enhance your understanding of the rapture:

A Lesson in Sacred Scripture…Part II




Catechism of the Catholic Church



I hope you have found this article helpful. It is important for us to understand what the Church teaches about these things. Do take the time to read the articles linked above. So many of us Catholics do not understand what the Church really teaches about the various issues we face in society today and that is very unfortunate.