No-one knows the day or the hour…

A couple of decades after the death and resurrection of Jesus, St Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonia to pull them up on a matter of false doctrine. They were certain that Jesus was due back at any moment – some were sitting around in white robes waiting for the end, and some of them were concerned about the salvation of those who had died while waiting for the second coming.

St Paul dealt with the first issue by reminding them that no-one knew when the second coming would be – that Jesus would return unexectedly, as had been promised: (Mt 24:42,44; Mark 13:21-23, 32-33; Luke 12:39-40; 17:20-24; 21:34-35; Acts 1:6-7; Thessalonians, 2 Peter 3:9-10;Rv 3:3; 16:15).

He dealt with the second by describing, in poetic language, how the dead would be raised to be caught up into the air with the living and to greet the triumphant Lord and His angels, like a crowd rushing out of the city to accompany the victorious king on the final part of his journey home.

This passage is about Jesus’ second coming; His triumphant return at the end of the world. The Bible does not talk about a first, secret, second coming.

Millenial expectations

The Thessalonians were the first of many to try to nail the time of the second coming, and down through the ages the Church has frequently warned people against being sucked in:

…the Church has explicitly rejected both this kind of speculation and this way of interpreting the Scriptures. The Council of Ephesus (431) denounced it as “a deviation and a fable.” It was denounced again in 1516 at the Fifth Lateran Council. In 1824, the work of Manuel Lacunza (noted above) was placed on the Index of Forbidden Books. In 1941 and 1944, responding to questions from the Archbishop of Santiago, Chile, the Congregation of the Holy Office (now the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) again rejected this kind of millennial speculation with explicit reference to the work of Lacunza. As recently as April 22, 1998, with the turn of the millennium approaching, Pope John Paul II warned again against this way of thinking. [Michael D. Guinan, O.F.M., Ph.D.]

May 21 this year is only the latest in a series of dates proposed by fringe-Christian preachers for either the end of the world or the beginning of the end of the world. The interactive Bible site has a list of 242 predictions and counting.

The rapture trap

Since early in the 19th century, there have been a few people – a tiny number of Christian believers, who thought that the reunion with Jesus would take place before the end of the world. They cobbled together from different verses in the New Testament a story that has Christians ‘saved’ so that they don’t need to be on earth for the tribulation that precedes the last judgement:

While differences exist among various groups, the more common view goes like this: At the end, Jesus will come on the clouds of heaven and the righteous (“the saints”) will be raptured, that is, 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 suffering (the Tribulation).

After this, Jesus will rule on earth for 1000 years (the Millennium); finally, then, Jesus comes at the end in judgment (the parousia) and will inaugurate the new heavens and the new earth. The Rapture is significant, then, as the first of the events that mark this “end of the world.” This scenario appears as such nowhere in the New Testament; it is put together through a particular interpretation of various and scattered texts. [ibid]

This view can’t be supported by scripture.

We’re all going to die

We don’t know when Christ is coming again, but we do know that He is coming. We also know that, the end of the world for each of us individually is no further away than the date of our death.

Instead of worrying about when the rapture will occur, Christians should follow St Peter’s instruction to repent of their sins, live lives of holiness and godliness, be zealous and at peace, and wait for the Lord’s coming with forbearance and joy! [John Salza]

Meanwhile, if you know someone who believed they’d be caught up into Heaven on 21 May, leaving the rest of us behind, be kind to them. They need our concern and our sympathy.

About joyfulpapist

JoyfulPapist is an adult convert to Catholicism, with a passion for her God, her faith, and her church.
This entry was posted in Bible Exegesis, Church Teachings, Living Catholic lives, Satan and hell and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to No-one knows the day or the hour…

  1. bwr47 says:

    Thank you, JP, for a clear and topical post.

    Those who are hostile to religion will (naturally enough) seek to tar all believers with the same brush. As a fellow convert to the RC church, I see this as one of the many reasons why Protestantism is such a tragedy: individuals can form their own interpretation of scripture and speak out with a false authority, thus creating a Babel of religious voices to confuse anyone looking in at Christianity from outside. The media love to focus on such stories, of course.


  2. toadspittle says:

    Piliersdelaterre has clearly been ‘raptured,’ overnight, which is jolly nice for him/her, but is it inconceiveable that he/she can no longer provide us poor benighted mortals, still moaning and weeping here in this Vale of Tears, with information re the CONVERSION OF CAMUS?

    This is important. To Toad, at least.


  3. Anne Mansfield says:

    When I paid attention to Camus many years ago it seemed that he was coming round to religion. And then his sudden death. Like Toad, I, too, would be grateful for more information about this.

    Glad to see this blog has passed the 300k mark. Thanks to all the contributors.


  4. toadspittle says:

    Toad has lost interest in the supposed Conversion of Camus, re which he was sceptical, at best.

    You can come out now, Piliersdelaterre


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