The End Times and Last Things

AnswerA friend of mine has been reading the “Left Behind” series with all this stuff about the ‘Rapture’ in them…is there really going to be a ‘Rapture’ like these books talk about?

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No, there’s not. The “Rapture” refers to a passage in First Thessalonians, chapter 4, which talks about Christians being “caught up” in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Many Christians believe, and the “Left Behind” books promote, that this being “caught up” to meet the Lord will occur before the Great Tribulation which is headed our way in the near future. Christians will simply vanish, meet Jesus somewhere in the air, and then return with Him to Heaven to await the end of time.

But notice, in verse 17, Paul says that “…we who are alive, who are left,” shall be caught up. Remember that…those who are “left” get caught up to meet the Lord.

The “Left Behind” books get their name from a passage in Luke 17 and a similar passage in Matthew 24 which talk about the coming of the Lord being like the days of Noah and the days of Lot. Matthew 24 puts it this way: “As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of man…they ate, they drank, they married 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 grinding at the mill, one is taken one is left.”

“See,” Rapture enthusiasts say, “One is taken, one is left…the Rapture! Jesus takes the Christians and leaves behind non-Christians!” Two problems with that interpretation: First, Jesus’ coming is being compared to the days of Noah and the days of Lot. After the flood, who was left? Noah and his family…the good guys…the bad guys were taken! After Sodom and Gomorrah went up in smoke, who was left? Lot and his daughters…the good guys…the bad guys were taken! Second, remember 1 Thessalonians? It says that those who are “left” get to meet Jesus in the air. The good guys are left behind to meet Jesus.

In other words, you want to be left behind so that you can get caught up in the clouds to meet Jesus in the air and accompany Him back to earth at His 2nd and final coming. There will be no Rapture like the one the Left Behind books talk about…that view is not scriptural.

What do Catholics believe happens after death?Answer

The Church believes that a person faces the particular judgment at death. God judges our souls and finds us either able to enter heaven immediately, needing to go through further purification in purgatory or capable of hell because of our refusal to detach ourselves from sin and our unwillingness to repent.

At the end of time, there will be a general judgment, at which time our bodies will be resurrected to join our souls in our eternal life, whether that be in heaven or hell.

What happens to us after death is an indication of our own personal, free choice to choose God and the path to holiness or to turn against Him. What happens after death also indicates who our God is—a God of both justice and mercy.

As Christians, we should not fear death, but rather ready ourselves for it, by growing in holiness and striving for eternal life.

Why does the Catholic Church believe in Purgatory?Answer

The Catholic Church’s belief in the existence of purgatory is indeed scriptural!

First of all, it is important to understand what the Church believes purgatory is. The Catechism describes purgatory like this: “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven” (CCC 1030).

Note that the Church believes that purgatory is not an eternal state, but rather a state of purification before entering eternal life with God in heaven.

Scripture teaches us that nothing unclean can enter heaven (Revelation 21:27). Scripture also describes a place where a man goes and suffers loss, yet is still saved, but only through fire (1 Corinthians 3:13-15). Purgatory is this place that cleanses us of whatever impurity we have when we die, allowing us to enter into God’s presence without the stain of sin.

Catechism of the Catholic Church
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