Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Do Catholics Believe in the Rapture?

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Do Catholics Believe in the Rapture?

Article excerpt

The question of what happens to us upon Christ's return is one that has puzzled Christians since the beginning of Christianity. If you want to see how popular it is today, just do a search for "Rapture" in the catalog of any major bookseller. There are thousands of sources available on the topic of saved Christians who will suddenly be yanked into eternity while leaving the rest of the world baffled and confused. From a Catholic viewpoint, the doctrine is often misunderstood. To clarify the puzzle we must ask this question: On the day of the Rapture, will Christians be coming or going? The popular answer among many evangelicals is that we'll be leaving on the day of the Rapture. But that's not what St. Paul thought.

Like many Jews of the first century, Paul used the expression "falling asleep" to describe death. Sheol, the underworld abode of the dead, was believed to be a place without physical or mental activity, an extreme form of suspended animation where even deceased kings were consigned motionless to their thrones (Isa. 14). In this state Christians who died were understood to await Christ's return in victory and their own resurrection in glory.

According to Paul, at the appointed time and as quickly as "a blink of an eye" (1 Cor. 15:52), the dead would rise. Then the living would be snatched up or carried off immediately afterward in order to meet Christ in the clouds (1 Thess. 4:16-17). In the Vulgate, the early Latin Bible, the word used for God's plucking us up into the sky was rapiemur, from which we derive the word "rapture. …

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