Roman Catholicism and the Rapture

By Sally Plemons

The Roman Catholic Church does not teach or believe in what the majority of Bible-believing, evangelical, fundamentalists call the Rapture. The word "Rapture" was taken from the Latin word, rapturo, meaning "caught up." It basically comes from one particular verse in the Bible: "Then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Roman Catholics declare this belief to be "fictional." As evidence, they pick apart the end times book series Left Behind, particularly the confusion of those left behind who wonder at what happened, which contradicts Revelation 1:7: "Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, everyone who pierced him; and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen."

Misinterpretations of the Rapture

Catholics have used the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13:24) as a blueprint for the end times, going so far as to say that God will remove sinners from the earth and leave His followers. In the story, a farmer planted good seed (true believers) and then his enemy planted "weeds" (unbelievers). After the crops matured, the weeds (tares) look exactly like the wheat (good seed) — no one can tell the difference, so God has to charge His angels to do the separating work. This parable does not give the order of the Rapture; rather it exposes the corruptive influence within the church, that of Satan's seed vs. God's seed. Sadly, both the lost and the saved within the church look, sound, and act just alike to the fleshly eye; however, the difference is in their heart condition, which only God can judge. At the end of time, He will separate the saved from the lost, and cast the lost into the fire — the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15) to put an end to sin for all time (Daniel 9:24).

In order to support their denial of the Rapture, Roman Catholics further state:
In the days of Noah, the saved were left behind on earth, Noah and his family. The unsaved were taken from this earth, and presumably didn't make it to heaven. Therefore, if the end of the world is similar to those days, as the bible says, being left behind may mean that you will still be here on earth to be Raptured later on. The ones taken may be like the flood victims in Noah's time, and die.
Biblically speaking, it is true that the "saved" (Noah and his family) were left on earth, but protected through the deluge by the supernatural hand of God, and the "unsaved" of Noah's day died in the waters of the flood; however, their dead bodies were left on the earth, not "taken from this earth," where they decayed and returned to dust. While living, they were wicked, sinful, and unrepentant, therefore their spirits went into hell (Genesis 6:12-13; 1 Peter 3:18-20). The similarity between the Rapture and the flood isn't that the wicked will be taken and the good remain, but that people would be living life as usual right up until the moment that it occurs.

Replacement Theology

The Roman Catholic view of the end times is informed by two different false teachings. The first is "replacement theology" — that the church has replaced Israel in God's plan.

The Catholic thinking that the "good" will be left on the earth, and the "bad" will be taken off of it is not biblical. Noah presents a picture of Israel — the Jews. As Noah and his family were left on earth to go through the judgment, they were supernaturally protected from it by God, and thus will Israel be protected through the judgment of the Tribulation, as explained in Revelation 12:6: "Then the woman fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God, so that there she would be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days." Revelation 12 is all about Israel, as is easily proven by allowing Scripture to interpret itself; however, the Catholic Church misinterprets this chapter to reflect their replacement theology viewpoint, and support their denial of Israel's position in God's plan and purpose:
Revelation 12:1-2: These verses speak of Israel as the woman. She is pregnant with a "child"; that 'child' is the Messiah, Jesus, who was born of an Israelite virgin named Mary, but Israel did not become "the new Israel" — the church. The Catholic Bible interprets this passage very differently:
The woman adorned with the sun, the moon, and the stars (images taken from Genesis 37:9-10) symbolizes God's people in the Old and the New Testament. The Israel of old gave birth to the Messiah (Rev 12:5) and then became the new Israel, the church, which suffers persecution by the dragon (Rev 12:6, 13-17); cf Isaiah 50:1; 66:7; Jeremiah 50:12. This corresponds to a widespread myth throughout the ancient world that a goddess pregnant with a savior was pursued by a horrible monster; by miraculous intervention, she bore a son who then killed the monster. [1.]
The church (the bride of Christ) is pictured by Lot and his family, who were removed from the judgment by God, and whose deliverance could be compared to that of being "caught away" at the Rapture (Luke 17:28-29). Both Noah and Lot were saved through the judgment but in different ways, just as Israel and the church will be saved through the Tribulation judgment, but also in differing ways.

God is not through with Israel, and neither has Israel been replaced by the church in God's order. God's covenant with Israel — the physical offspring of Abraham — is forever, as declared throughout the Bible. God's covenants are sealed in blood, and though He has temporarily set Israel aside because of their idolatry and rejection of His Son, Jesus, as their Messiah, He will once again restore them to Himself (Romans 11:25-29).

If God were through with Israel (the Jews); then why would He state, in Romans 2:28-29: "For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God"? A Jew (Israelite) who is born again (saved), and a Gentile (Greek) who is born again (saved) are the same in Christ (Colossians 3:11-13).


The second false theology Catholics use in their interpretation of end times prophecy is preterism, which states most if not all of the judgments, events, and people in the Book of Revelation have already happened. There are a multitude of other footnotes explaining away the prophecies dealing with the end times, the Tribulation, the Millennial Reign, and of course, the Rapture of the church (the bride of Christ). The misinformation, misinterpretation, and deception employed for the purpose of suppressing the truth of God's holy and inerrant word will eventually bring God's wrath upon those who do so, according to Romans 1:18: "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness."
Revelation 13:5-6: Evangelicals believe that these verses speak of the future antichrist while the footnotes for these verses in the Catholic Bible claim they refer to the long deceased Roman Emperor Domitian:
Footnote 5-6: "Domitian, like Antiochus IV Epiphanes (Daniel 7:8, 11, 25), demanded that he be called by divine titles such as 'our lord and god' and 'Jupiter.'"
Revelation 13:18: The subject of this verse is the future "mark of the beast," but Catholics say it refers to the long deceased Roman Emperor Nero (Latin: Caesar Nero):
"Each of the letters of the alphabet in Hebrew as well as in Greek has a numerical value. Many possible combinations of letters will add up to 666, and many candidates have been nominated for this infamous number. The most likely is the emperor Caesar Nero (see the note on Rev 13:3), the Greek form of whose name in Hebrew letters gives the required sum. (The Latin form of this name equals 616, which is the reading of a few manuscripts.) Nero personifies the emperors who viciously persecuted the church. It has also been observed that '6' represents imperfection, falling short of the perfect number '7,' and is represented here in a triple or superlative form."
The Rapture in the Bible

The "catching away" of the bride of Christ (the church — the true church, made up of born again believers and followers of Jesus Christ) is alluded to throughout the Bible, but the order of the Rapture is very simple, and it is stated clearly in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18. Those who have died before the Rapture occurs will be raised first (v.16); then those who are alive at that moment will be "caught up" together with them to "meet the Lord in the air" (v.17).

When a human being dies a physical death, his/her body (their flesh) goes into the grave, to decay and turn to dust, but their spirit (their inner man — 2 Corinthians 4:16), which is eternal, goes to its final destination — either heaven, or hell. For those who did not believe and trust in Jesus for their salvation (eternal life), their spirits go into hell, but for those who were born again (saved) before their death, the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write, in 2 Corinthians 5:6-8: "Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord — for we walk by faith, not by sight — we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord."

Since the spirits of those who have died "in Christ" (the saved) are already in heaven, when Jesus comes to take His bride (the church) home at the Rapture, 1 Thessalonians 4:14 explains that He will bring their spirits with Him to be reunited with their bodies. This means that the fleshly bodies of the apostles, the early disciples, the martyrs, and all of those who died a physical death since Christ came and gave Himself as a sacrifice on Calvary, will be reassembled, changed (glorified), and raised to be reunited with their spirits, a feat only God could accomplish (see Psalm 139:15-16; Matthew 10:30-31). Since flesh cannot live in the spirit realm, it must be changed, in order that the whole person, created in God's image — body, soul, and spirit — can dwell in His presence forever (1 Corinthians 15:49-50. Therefore, those who are alive in the flesh will be changed — given glorified bodies (1 Corinthians 15:52-55).

Published 8-29-16