The Rapture Virus
Infectious - But Not for the Informed Catholic
Critique of Main Arguments - Part Two of Three Parts:
"...they 'forgot' that the Jewish religion became an enemy of Christ, crucified Him, and persecuted His followers throughout History. They also 'forgot' that the official books themselves of the Jewish religion assail outright Our Lord, the Catholic Church, and most of Catholic dogma. Further, they 'forgot' that present day Israel is the fruit of the Zionist movement that aimed to create a State that would already be a kind of messiah or place where the Jewish messiah could appear in triumph. In other words, it is a clear negation of the Messianic mission of Jesus Christ."
The Protestant illusion of the Rapture, hatched in heresy in recent times, has ruptured many souls, infecting their perception of Eschatology, and consequently their Faith. If one truly knows their Catholic Faith, the Rapture will not capture their attention which should be focused on the Four Last Things: DEATH, JUDGMENT, HEAVEN AND HELL!
In order to be clear, I will divide my argument into different items.
1. The Reign of 1000 years
The rapture theory rests on a fundamental presupposition: the reign of Christ on earth for 1000 years, which would precede the end times and the final judgment.
The defenders of an actual reign of 1000 years are called Millenarianists, or Chiliasts (Greek for the same). A full description of its history is presented by the Dictionary of Dogmatic Theology, which I have at hand, by Pietro Parente, Antonio Piolanti and Salvatore Garofalo, very sound pre-Vatican II authors in doctrinal matters.
Under the entry Millenarianism is this definition: "Concept of Jewish origin that developed around a nucleus of messianic traditions. The Prophets had predicted the reign of the future Messiah as a golden age, rich in glory and happiness …. The Apostle St. John (Apocalypse, Chap. 20) used the same images …. Literally the text of St. John describes a defeat of satan, who is locked in the abyss, and a consequent triumphal reign in which the souls of the [resurrected] Martyrs and Saints will reign with Christ for a thousand years. This glorification is called first resurrection. After that period satan will be liberated for a short time and will again try to seduce men. Finally he will be defeated along with his vicar, the antichrist. With this will come the end times with the universal resurrection and judgment.
"Some early Fathers interpreted the text of St. John as admitting two resurrections, with a thousand year reign of Christ on earth between them. Other writers perverted the notion of that reign, reducing it to a frenetic sensual orgy. That bad interpretation produced a series of reactions that reached their apex with St. Augustine.
4. St. Augustine accepted the doctrine of only one universal resurrection and a final judgment immediately following. He firmly establishes this in his work The City of God, XX, 7-9.
He interpreted the Apocalypse in a symbolic and allegoric way. Doing this, he forever banished Millenarianism from the orthodox camp.
"The thousand-year-reign must not be understood as a Christian period in which satan is relatively defeated under the sanctified power of the Redeemer and his Catholic Church. Rather, at the end of time, after a brief fight, satan will be definitively defeated. The first resurrection is, then, the glorification of the souls of the Saints who reign with Christ in Heaven and, in a certain way, also on earth by their example. The Catholic Church in effect followed this line drawn by St. Augustine when she adopted this same doctrine. And she has never looked with favor on contrary doctrines. In 1944 the Holy Office declared that the Millenarianism can not be taught even in its mitigated form.
5. Barcelona: Editorial Litúrgica Espańola, 1955.
[Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Decree of July 19, 1944]"
If I recall my Catechism classes well, there is still another doctrinal reason to categorically reject Millenarianism. That reign of one thousand years would be an era where people would live without the consequences of original sin - no error in the intellect, no weakness of will, no bad tendencies in the passions, no death of the body - a kind of heaven outside of heaven. It is impossible to admit this "paradise on earth" without denying the doctrine of original sin. The Protestants can do this quite easily - it is one of the reasons why they are heretics - but Catholics cannot.
Therefore, the conclusion: Catholics cannot accept the Millenarianist thesis included in the rapture theory.
2. A fundamental misunderstanding of the Scriptures
Another crucial erroneous interpretation underlying this Protestant theory is that the prophecies of the Old Testament that speak about the chosen people should be applied to the present day Jewish religion. This conflicts frontally with Catholic teaching and tradition.
In the Old Testament, God chose a special people, Israel, and prepared it for the coming of a Redeemer. Israel was the chosen people because of the covenant God made with it. With the New Testament God offered a new covenant to all the peoples and founded a new visible institution to fulfil this alliance: the Catholic Church. The Catholic Magisterium has always taught this. Recently this has been accurately called the doctrine of the substitution: the Catholic Church took the place of Israel in the New Covenant.
Now then, in the Left Behind series and movie, the authors took the texts about Israel in the Scriptures and applied them straightforwardly to present day Israel. They took no consideration of the doctrine of substitution. This is to say they committed an inadmissible error.
Doing this, they "forgot" that the Jewish religion became an enemy of Christ, crucified Him, and persecuted His followers throughout History. They also "forgot" that the official books themselves of the Jewish religion assail outright Our Lord, the Catholic Church, and most of Catholic dogma. Further, they "forgot" that present day Israel is the fruit of the Zionist movement that aimed to create a State that would already be a kind of messiah or place where the Jewish messiah could appear in triumph. In other words, it is a clear negation of the Messianic mission of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, the conclusion: the Left Behind authors made a fundamental mistake in attributing to Israel the role of the chosen people of the Old Testament. Since the entire rapture thesis rests on this, it is clear to Catholics the theory has nothing to stand on.
This conclusion has a practical consequence. The Left Behind movement obviously favors present day Israel and the Jewish religion. Because Evangelicals believe that the Jews have to be in control of Israel before Jesus Christ can return, many Evangelical Christians leaders have declared support for Israel as a top item on the agenda and are spending millions to back Israel as well as lobbying feverishly for the U.S. "to stand united with its ally in the war on terror."
6. "Is It Good for the Jews" Time, July 1, 2002, p. 48.
"I think it would be fair to say that Evangelical support for Israel and its legitimate security interests has been paramount to Israel's support in Congress and in many administrations, second only to the Jewish Committee itself," said Republican political consultant Ralph Reed. "The Jewish community has played a strong role in keeping the Democratic Party strongly pro-Israel, and the Evangelicals have played a similar role among Republicans."
7. Dreher, "Evangelicals and Jews together: An unlikely alliance," National Review Online, April 5, 2002.
Is this support of Israel a mere coincidence? Or it is a primary goal of the series and movie on the rapture? Let the reader decide for himself.
Marian Therese Horvat, Ph.D.
NEXT THURSDAY: Part Three of Three Parts.
For the first of this three part essay, see Part One
For past columns by Dr. Horvat in archives, see www.DailyCatholic.org/2002tru.htm
SPECIAL THANKSGIVING WEEK ISSUE
November 26-30, 2002
volume 13, no. 144
TRUE ECHOES OF CATHOLICISM