Are you ready for the Rapture?

Published on 21. May, 2011 by in Sunday Homilies

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Are you ready for the Rapture?

Well, we’re still here…[Sunday masses…]

Harold Camping became famous for predicting that the rapture would come today.[yesterday]  We have until 6pm our time zone) before it is slated to happen here.  It is not the first time he has predicted this event.  Nor, I think, will it be the last time we hear about “the Rapture.”  It is an idea that has been around since about 1830.  It seems to have been invented by a British religious figure named John Nelson Darby, who claims God revealed it to him.  The Rapture is a scenario of events that are supposed to happen at the end of the world.  It goes like this:

At the end of the world, Jesus will come on the clouds of heaven and the righteous (the saints) will be raptured (caught up) into the air to be with Christ.  They will be separated from sinners who will remain on the earth to endure a period of great tribulation.  After this, Jesus will rule for 1000 years, and then the Parousia will come where Jesus comes at the end in judgment and will inaugurate the new heavens and a new earth…

Scripturally, people who believe in the Rapture will quote Thessalonians 4: 13-18 – which is really addressing a controversy in the early church.  Did those who died before Jesus returned have an advantage or disadvantage over those who did not?  Paul writes this in response:  For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up (raptured) in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever.  Therefore, encourage one another with these words.

There are a few things to say about this text from our Catholic perspective.  First, Paul is borrowing a pagan metaphor for death.  The pagans would speak of people being snatched away by death. That word snatched away is translated in our text as ‘caught up’.  Paul wants to tell us that we will indeed be snatched away, but not by death, but by our Lord Jesus, to join him and to welcome him in his return.

Secondly, in the ancient world, the ‘air’ was a scary place filled with unseen, hostile beings.  Being together with Christ in the air, meant that there was nothing to fear.  It was meant to be a comforting message.

Finally, the passage says nothing about being separated from others – (ie – sinners from the saints). The whole thrust is exactly the opposite.  It is about being together with the dead, all of us caught up in the power of Christ’s coming.

SO – the conclusion is clear: There is no support in this passage for a doctrine of the Rapture.  It would be a distortion of the biblical text. Nor is there a catholic doctrine on the existence of the rapture.

Is there something to be said for Harold Camping and his followers?  Actually, yes.  What he has captured and engendered in his followers is what we heard in John’s gospel today.  He has a real longing for going home to be with the Lord.   And a real belief that there are many mansions in the Father’s house – and that Jesus’ desire is that we come one day to be with him there.  I don’t know if I am nearly so eager for the end of time nor that mansion in heaven as he is.  I kind of like it here.  I like to quote my uncle Wally, whose chalice I use at each mass – “The good Lord knows that I want to meet him.  Just not yet.”   Mr. Camping’s call to be prepared for that day when the Lord calls us home is not necessarily a bad thing.  However, we need to heed the first words we heard in John’s gospel.  “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”  The day will come.  There is a place prepared for us.  Don’t worry about that.

Just be ready.  So if it does happen tonight at 6p – we’ll be ready.  Or tomorrow night at 6.  Or next week at 6.  Or whenever.  We follow the one who IS the way and truth and life.  And as long as our lives mirror his way and truth and life, then it doesn’t matter IF there is a rapture, or WHAT it might be or WHEN it comes.  We’ll be ready…

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