Updated: Jun 5
By Luke Lancaster
Have you ever been told that the rapture was coming? I have. What does that mean, though? Many of us have probably heard of the second coming of Christ, where Jesus will return to earth one more time to separate the sheep (the righteous) from the goats (the evil-doers). But non-Catholics speak of the "rapture" in a different way. They claim that Jesus will return secretly to pull Protestants out of the world before a tribulation hits earth. After that tribulation of great suffering, Jesus returns again.
For Catholics, Christ is coming only one more time, and that is at the end of the world. The Nicene Creed that Catholics recite every week at Mass says, “He ascended into Heaven and is seated at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty, from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.” He came to earth once, then went to Heaven, and will come back to earth one more time.
However, certain Protestant sects now will say that Jesus actually makes three appearances. He came to earth once, and went back to Heaven, then will return to earth again in a secretive “rapture” of Protestant Christians, will leave, and then will come back once more to judge the living and the dead. This second coming of Christ sandwiched between His appearance two thousand years ago in Israel and the end of the world is a relatively new teaching by Protestants. It only became popular in Christian circles a few hundred years ago. So, there is no pedigree to the doctrine.
The “rapture” means to be “caught up,” which is a reference to Christians being “caught up” to Christ and meeting Him in the air. Rapture enthusiasts claim that this "rapture" is before the tribulation. This tribulation or chastisement is where God will send many punishments upon the earth for sin. This is spoken of in passages like Matthew 24. Catholics understand the tribulation to be before Christ comes. To understand the tribulation and Matthew 24, check out this post.