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What is the Roman Catholic view of the rapture? Does the Catholic church accept the idea that people will be caught up in the air to meet Christ? If not, how do they interpret 1 Thessalonians 4:17?

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Heh, my mom gave me The Rapture Trap after I read almost all the Left Behind series, I never read it. We've got a better-than-rapture rapture planned, and yes, the Blessed Virgin Mary will be there! –  Peter Turner Nov 30 '11 at 18:59

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Catholicism is incompatible with the Rapture because the Church has taught for many centuries before people started envisioning folks disappearing mid-sentence that there would be a Final Judgement where everyone would see their sins and their effects.

I don't think 1 Thessalonians 4:17 speaks to the Final Judgement on account of the fact that St. Paul says "We who are still alive". If he's dead as his bones attest to then he ought to have said, "those who are still alive".

Now, Catholics don't have any problem with folks being carried off into heaven body and soul, so long as they're free from original sin (Mary and Jesus) or been given a special grace (Enoch and Elijah). The rapture, as it is envisioned in recent popular literature, would be prior to final judgement even if it came at the same hour and doesn't make a lot of sense in the light of Catholic teaching even though it fits the puzzle pieces left in the New Testament pretty well.

If there was a rapture, and the good were taken up, they would have been judged as good and the rest would be... waiting to see if they're good or not? Well a 7 year span of tribulation doesn't jibe with the Final Judgement as a Last Thing. The final judgement is Sheeps on this side, Goats on that side and everybody out of the pool. The dead will have a particular judgement, but at the end of time, as far as I understand the teaching. The final judgement is for the living and the dead.

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I don't see how the doctrines of the Rapture and the Final Judgement are incompatible. Could you expound upon that point? –  user23 Nov 30 '11 at 19:22
+1 for "everybody out of the pool" –  warren Nov 30 '11 at 19:47
Why would the judgement have to be the final judgement? Why can't it be similar to the particular judgement? –  user23 Dec 1 '11 at 5:12
@JustinY because Particular Judgement happens at the time of death and death doesn't jibe with 'not a hair on your head being touched' or the Rapture. I see what you're saying though, and I can't prove one way or another. It's just what I think the Church is saying about the matter. –  Peter Turner Dec 1 '11 at 14:13
"...we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord..." 1 Thess 4:15 (Amplified) - obviously Paul is talking about the end of times, and by "we" he means those in Christ. I doubt he meant that he would still be alive at "the coming of the Lord" –  Nick Rolando Jan 5 '12 at 17:35

The rapture, properly understood, is fully compatible with Roman Catholicism. The English word rapture comes from the Latin word raptus ("a carrying off"). This Latin word (or a similar one, rapio) is employed in the writings of Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, and it appears in the Bible, which indicates that the word rapture is perfectly legitimate in itself: we must simply be careful in how we understand its meaning.

What is the rapture, according to Roman Catholicism, then? It is simply the raising of believers, both alive and dead, into the clouds to meet Christ, as part of Christ's second coming. As Thomas Aquinas writes regarding Paul's teaching in 1 Thessalonians 4:

[The Apostle] is not speaking about the resurrection in terms of the order in which they shall rise, but of the order in which they will be taken up [raptum] to meet Christ. For when the Lord does come, first those who are found alive will die and then, immediately together with those who had died before, they will rise up and be taken up [rapientur] into the clouds to meet Christ, as Paul clearly says. (Commentary on 1 Thessalonians, 4.2)

On this Aquinas is following Augustine, who says that living Christians will "both die and rise again at once while caught up into the air" as part of the resurrection:

And why should it seem to us incredible that that multitude of bodies should be, as it were, sown in the air, and should in the air forthwith revive immortal and incorruptible, when we believe, on the testimony of the same apostle, that the resurrection shall take place in the twinkling of an eye, and that the dust of bodies long dead shall return with incomprehensible facility and swiftness to those members that are now to live endlessly? [...] For that there shall be a bodily resurrection of the dead when Christ comes to judge quick and dead, we must believe if we would be Christians. (City of God, 20.20)

Other church fathers viewed this passage similarly. George Leo Haydock, a more recent Catholic theologian, writes in relation to 1 Thessalonians 4:15,

God's command will in a moment raise and bring all to judgment. (Commentary)


These quotations should make it absolutely clear that Roman Catholicism does not accept any concept of a rapture that is separate from the final resurrection and the final judgment. The idea of dispensational Protestants that there will be a "secret" disappearance of believers several years prior to these events is thus utterly rejected.

However, the Bible, the church fathers, and more recent Catholic theologians agree that believers will be "taken up"—raptured—when Christ returns. Roman Catholics shouldn't stop using this perfectly legitimate word simply because dispensational Protestants have given it a different meaning.

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OK, well that's a good and well researched answer, but the term rapture definitely is not understood in this sense by anyone who read Left Behind. –  Peter Turner yesterday
@PeterTurner I completely agree. To me that means Roman Catholics and other amillennialists have work to do =). –  Nathaniel yesterday

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