In Catholicism, eschatology is one of the most prominent topics of doctrinal study simply because it deals with the most important historical event that is to ever occur, namely, the 2nd Coming of Christ.
Sacred Scripture teaches that Christ instructed his disciples (and consequently us as well) to be watchful.
“Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name,
claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. (Matt. 24:4-5)
The term "endtimes" applies both to the era of Christ's first coming (Heb 1:2, 1 Cor 10:11, Heb 9:26) and to the events immediately before his return and the end of the ages (Mt 24:13, 2 Tim 2:1, 2 Peter 3:3).
This does not mean that Christ wants us to worry about the future.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things
will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about
tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough
trouble of its own. (Matt. 6:33-34)
It is a teaching of the Church that Christ instructs us to be watchful, not with worrisome anxiety, but with holiness. We are to constantly keep in the forefront of our consciences the end of the world, as well as the end of our lives. We are to stay in a state of Grace at all times, as if death is only one heartbeat away. Contemplation of the eschatological realities awaiting us is crucial for having a healthy spiritual life.
What are we to watch for?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is pretty clear about what we should expect to happen when Christ's return is about to take place.
675 Before Christ's second coming the Church must pass through a final
trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution
that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth 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.
676The 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, especially the
"intrinsically perverse" political form of a secular messianism.
677The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this
final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and
Resurrection. The kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic
triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by
God's victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause his
Bride to come down from heaven. God's triumph over the revolt of evil
will take the form of the Last Judgment after the final cosmic
upheaval of this passing world.
The Catechism provides us with a general order of events at the End [CCC 673-677]. Chronologically they are,
the full number of the Gentiles come into the Church
the "full inclusion of the Jews in the Messiah's salvation, in the wake of the full number of the Gentiles" (#2 will follow quickly on, in the wake of, #1)
a final trial of the Church "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 deception is that of the Antichrist.
Christ's victory over this final unleashing of evil through a cosmic upheaval of this passing world and the Last Judgment.
As Benedict XVI recently pointed out (in the context of the message of Fátima), we are not at the end of the world. In fact, the Second Coming (understood as the physical return of Christ) cannot occur until the full number of the Gentiles are converted, followed by "all Israel."
It is also extremely important to be stay clear of "end times prophecy" traps and predictions.
One dangerous end times theological system is dispensationalism. As a system, dispensationalism is expounded in the writings of John Nelson Darby (1800–82) and the Plymouth Brethrenmovement, and propagated through works such as Cyrus Scofield's Scofield Reference Bible. As there was no Christian teaching of a "rapture" before Darby began preaching about it in the 1830s, he is sometimes credited with originating the "secret rapture" theory wherein Christ will suddenly remove his bride, the Church, from this world before the judgments of the tribulation.
The theology of dispensationalism consists of a distinctive eschatological end times perspective, as all dispensationalists hold to premillennialism and most hold to apretribulation rapture. Dispensationalists arepremillenialists who affirm a future, literal 1,000-year reign of Jesus Christ which merges with and continues on to the eternal state in the "new heavens and the new earth” and they hold that the millennial kingdom will betheocratic in nature and not mainly soteriological, as it is viewed by George Eldon Laddand others who hold to a non-dispensational form of premillennialism. Dispensationalism is known for its views respecting the nation of Israel during this millennial kingdom reign, in which Israel as a nation plays a major role and regains a king, a land, and an everlasting kingdom.
The vast majority of dispensationalists hold to the pretribulation rapture, with small minorities holding to either a mid-tribulation or post-tribulation rapture.
The Great Disappointment was a major event in the history of the Millerite movement, a 19th-century American Christian sect that formed out of the Second Great Awakening. Based on his interpretations of the prophecies in the book of Daniel (Chapters 8 and 9, especially Dan. 8:14 "Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed"), William Miller, a Baptist preacher, proposed that Jesus Christ would return to the earth during the year 1844. The more specific date of October 22, 1844, was preached by Samuel S. Snow. Thousands of followers, some of whom had given away all of their possessions, waited expectantly. When Jesus did not appear, October 22, 1844, became known as the Great Disappointment.
The Great Disappointment is viewed by some scholars as an example of the psychological phenomenon of cognitive dissonance. The theory was proposed by Leon Festinger to describe the formation of new beliefs and increased proselytizing in order to reduce the tension, or dissonance, that results from failed prophecies. According to the theory, believers experienced tension following the failure of Jesus' reappearance in 1844, which led to a variety of new explanations. The various solutions form a part of the teachings of the different groups that outlived the disappointment.
There are many cases like these in which hundreds of people are led to believe in a false prophetic prediction of Christ's return.
See FALSE PREDICTIONS
The Catholic Church teaches that it is much more important for Christians to be more concerned about their own death rather than the end of the world. The chances of a person dying within the next 5 minutes is extremely more probable than the world coming to an end in their lifetime.
Christ tells us to be watchful and prepared for time giving way to eternity, whether that is death or Christ’s return.