A Catholic Belief?
Many Christian denominations today believe in something called the "Rapture". The basic belief behind the Rapture is that Christ will come to judge the living and those that are "saved" will be raptured from earth and taken up into the sky with Christ to heaven. There will then be a period of tribulation for those left behind before the second coming of Christ. Then there will be a one thousand year rein (millennium) of Christ's Kingdom on earth before this world ends. Many rapture believers believe that the rapture is very near and will occur within their life.
The majority of Catholics and even many non-catholic denominations do not believe in a "Rapture". The Catholic Church does not have an official teaching on the "Rapture" and Catholics are free to believe in a "Rapture" as long as their view doesn't contradict Church teachings. Regarding the end times, the Catholic Churches simply teaches that Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead and that this day is unknown (see the Creeds).
The idea of a Rapture was first popularized by the teachings of John Nelson Darby (Plymouth Church in England) around the year of 1830. In the early 1970’s Rapture theology came back full swing because of a book called the “Late Great Planet Earth” by Hal Lindsey and Carole C. Carlson. More recently in the 1990’s the “Left Behind” book series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins popularized the idea of the Rapture among Christians. These rapture books and their authors are very Anti-Catholic. Some Rapture theorists have even claimed to have predicted the day the end of the world will occur. Obviously they were wrong! Some Rapture theorists and other religious sects (Jehovah Witnesses) also believe that there will be very few people (144,000) who are actually saved at the end of the world.
When one examines the "Rapture" one will find many different theories on the exact nature of it. It seems that hardly anyone agrees on how or when the Rapture will occur. There are 3 theories on when the Rapture will occur, but there are many other theories all claiming to be Biblically based. The three major views of the Rapture are:
1. *Post-tribulational view – this view holds that the rapture will occur right after the tribulation and immediately before the Second Coming of Christ. This view can be consistent with Scripture and Catholic teaching to the extent it holds that the Rapture and Christ’s Second Coming occur together, after the tribulation and the Church Militant on earth. It should be noted that even though this view can be interpreted as being consistent with the Bible it is not an official teaching of the Catholic Church. Many Catholics do not believe in a "Rapture".
2. *Pre-tribulational view – this view holds that the rapture will occur before the tribulation. The problem with this view is that it requires three comings of Christ – first, when He was born in Bethlehem; second, when He returns for the rapture before the tribulation; third, when He returns at the end of the tribulation and establishes the millennium. Scripture rejects three comings of Christ. In Heb. 9:28, it is clear that Christ will appear a second and final time, when he comes in glory to save us. This view also is inconsistent with Matt. 24:24-31; Mark 13:24-27; and 2 Thess. 2:1-12 where the rapture and the Second Coming occur together.
3. *Mid-tribulational view – this view holds that the rapture will occur during the middle of the tribulation. The problem with this view is that it also requires three comings of Christ – first, when He was born in Bethlehem; second, when He returns for the rapture during the middle of the tribulation; third, when He returns at the end of the tribulation and establishes the millennium. As seen in Heb. 9:28, Scripture rejects three comings of Christ. The view is also inconsistent with Matt. 24:24-31; Mark. 13:24-27; and 2 Thess. 2:1-12.
What is the Millennium?
The Millennium is viewed by most Rapture believers as the 1000 year rein of Christ's Kingdom on earth. This "1000" year rein is generally taken from the Book of Revelation: "And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years were ended. After that he must be loosed for a little while." (Rev 20:2-3). The problem with the Millennium views is that Rapture theorist are taking the number 1000 literally and out of Biblical context. The number 1000 is used throughout scripture as a symbolic number meaning many. Again, Rapture believers have many different views (Post-millennialism, Pre-millenialism, Amillennialism, and etc.) on when this "1000" year rein will occur.
Here are some Scripture Verses that contradict most Rapture theories:
"So there were provided, out of the thousands of Israel, a thousand from each tribe, twelve thousand armed for war." (Num 31: 5) Here we have in the OT the symbolic number 1000 as well as the number 12,000. Hum.......... Interesting!!
"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." (2 Peter 3:8)
“As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of man. Then two men will be in the field; one is taken and one is left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one is taken and one is left. Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the householder had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have watched and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Matt 24:36-44) During the flood the righteous were left behind and the evil ones were taken by the flood which contradicts most rapture theories. Rapture believers fail to see this comparison in scripture. Maybe we want to be left behind!
"When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. “ Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. Then the King will say to those at his right hand, `Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink. Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me. And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matt 25:31-46) Most rapture believers will ignore verses 35-46 since judgment here seems to be based on what we did (works) which contradicts Sola Fide.
"But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only." (Matt. 24:36)
"Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour." (Matt. 25:13)
“ Watch therefore -- for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning -- lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Watch." (Mark 13:35-37)
“the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will punish him, and put him with the unfaithful.” (Luke 12:46)
“So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority. (Acts 1:6-7)
“For you yourselves know well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night." (1 Thess. 5:2)
“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up. “ (2 Peter 3:10)
“Remember then what you received and heard; keep that, and repent. If you will not awake, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come upon you. “ (Rev. 3:3)
“Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it until it receives the early and the late rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” (James 5:7-8)
“He who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20)
144,000 Only to be Saved?
"And I heard the number of the sealed, a hundred and forty-four thousand sealed, out of every tribe of the sons of Israel, twelve thousand sealed out of the tribe of Judah, twelve thousand of the tribe of Reuben, twelve thousand of the tribe of Gad, twelve thousand of the tribe of Asher, twelve thousand of the tribe of Naphtali, twelve thousand of the tribe of Manasseh, twelve thousand of the tribe of Simeon, twelve thousand of the tribe of Levi, twelve thousand of the tribe of Issachar, twelve thousand of the tribe of Zebulun, twelve thousand of the tribe of Joseph, twelve thousand sealed out of the tribe of Benjamin. After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!" (Rev 7:4-8)
Let’s do some Math!.........
12,000 X 12 = 144,000
12,000 (symbolic number for each tribe) X 12 (12 tribes of Israel) = 144,000
12 X 1000 = 12,000 thus each Tribe symbolically contains 12,000 members.
1000 is a symbolic number meaning very numerous. We find this symbolism being used in many places in both testaments. It’s used 7 times just in the Book of Revelation. Also, if we are to take this passage literally then we must also believe that the 144,000 will only come from the 12 tribes of Israel, thus excluding us as Gentiles.
Lastly, as you can see Rapture theories can be very confusing and they probably do more harm by distracting Christians from the Gospel. As Christians we should focus on following Christ's example instead of focusing on the end.
* These three paragraphs were taken from the following Website: http://www.scripturecatholic.com/second_coming.html