Kathy Schiffer is a Catholic blogger. In addition to her blog Seasons of Grace, her articles have appeared in the National Catholic Register, Aleteia, Zenit, the Michigan Catholic, Legatus Magazine, and other Catholic publications. She’s worked for Catholic and other Christian ministries since 1988, as radio producer, director of special events and media relations coordinator. Kathy and her husband, Deacon Jerry Schiffer, have three adult children.
Could we be living in the Last Days? Some groups—citing evidence gleaned from the Hebrew calendar, a lunar eclipse, prophecy, and even the stock market—predict that events leading to the end of the world will commence on September 28.
On that night, a lunar eclipse will darken the moon to a deep red, what is sometimes called a “blood moon.” This particular eclipse is believed by some to mark the beginning of the end. Those who anticipate the apocalypse point to a prophecy which says that leading up to the end of the world and the Second Coming of Christ, there will be a series of four lunar eclipses (called a “tetrad”), coinciding with Jewish holy days. Tetrads, a series of four lunar eclipses within just two years, are uncommon but not rare.
Mormon Author Promotes Last-Days Belief
One soothsayer whose writings have influenced doomsday predictions is Julie Rowe, a well-known Mormon author. Rowe had a near-death experience in 2004, during which she caught a glimpse of the afterlife. Catholic Online reports:
During that experience, she said she saw the afterlife as well as the past and future. She also speaks at public events and religious gatherings, and on the radio, calling for people to be prepared to "unify in righteousness and continue to build a righteous army," because the end is at hand. She has not offered a specific date for the end.
Despite her ambiguity, her books and her message have became so popular, they prompted the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to warn Mormons that her works were not accepted by the church and could even be misleading.
Now some Mormons and other fundamentalist Christians have concluded, based in part on Rowe's 2014 books “A Greater Tomorrow” and “The Time Is Now,” that the end of the world is approaching. The fear of impending catastrophe is so prevalent in Utah, some stores have been swamped by shoppers in search of emergency supplies. Fox 13, the Fox News affiliate in Salt Lake City, reports that shelves are empty and there has been a rush to build underground bunkers—often at a cost of $100,000 to $300,000.
But before you go out to buy only one week's worth of groceries, you should know that there have been other apocalyptic predictions which have failed. Plenty of them!
Harold Camping's Predictions of the “Rapture”
Just three years ago, talk radio mogul and self-published author Harold Camping warned that the Rapture would occur at 6:00 p.m. May 21, 2011. Then five months later—on October 11, 2011—the world would end with a cataclysmic earthquake.
Camping, who died in December 2013, was president of Family Radio, a California-based religious broadcasting network that broadcasts on more than 150 outlets in the United States. He was also founder of the millennialist website www.familyradio.com. A civil engineer by trade, Camping employed complex mathematical formulae to interpret the Bible.
By Camping’s calculations, as published in his 1970 “Biblical Calendar of History,” the Creation of the world occurred in 11,013 BC and the Flood followed in 4900 BC. He achieved these findings by redefining biblical words such as “called his name” and “begat”—which did not, in Camping’s view, refer to a direct father-son relationship.
Camping avoided established religion since the churches, in his view, “add to” the Bible with their own unique doctrines and hermeneutics. Camping believed that the secret to the Rapture and the Apocalypse lay hidden in scripture verses such as Daniel 12:9:
He said, "Go your way, Daniel, for these words are concealed and sealed up until the end time. Many will be purged, purified and refined, but the wicked will act wickedly; and none of the wicked will understand, but those who have insight will understand. From the time that the regular sacrifice is abolished and the abomination of desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days. How blessed is he who keeps waiting and attains to the 1,335 days!” (Daniel 12:9-12, NASB)
and Revelation 22:20
He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming quickly." Amen Come, Lord Jesus. (Revelation 22:20, NASB)
Camping found support for the theory of predestination in Ephesians 1:4-5.
“...just as he chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,” (Eph. 1:4-5, NASB)
His critics call him a “date-setter” and add that he uses his own unique calculations to arrive at his timetable. Many expressed surprise that he still attracted so many followers since he earlier published a book titled “1994?,” which alleged that the world would end in September 1994.
Camping lived long enough to see his predictions fail. In March 2012, he issued a formal apology on the website of Family Radio, saying,“We have learned the very painful lesson that all of creation is in God’s hands and he will end time in his time, not ours!”
He admitted that he was wrong, and that his earlier prediction that the world would end May 21, 2011—and his revised prediction, changing the date of Armageddon to October 21—were “incorrect and sinful.”
Another Time, Another Disgraced Prophet
Back in the 1980s, another engineer enjoyed a moment in the limelight back—until his particular end-times prophecy proved wrong. Edgar Whisenant penned a best-selling pamphlet, “88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988.” In it, he asserted that the Rapture would coincide with Rosh Hashana that year, sometime between September 11 and September 13.
Some followers of Whisenant's theology sold all their possessions and gave everything they owned to the poor, expecting that they would not need a house or car after being “caught up with Him in the air.” Others packed up and drove to a common meeting point to watch Jesus as He arrived in glory. Those unfortunate adherents were left, after 1988, with no homes, no possessions, and no employment. After the date came and passed, Whisenant faded into obscurity.
The Rapture: Are You Pre-, Mid- or Post-?
If you’re a Catholic, you’re probably scratching your head at that question. The words are shorthand for pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation, and post-tribulation, and all refer to when the Rapture is supposed to occur. The Tribulation, according to many evangelical churches, is described in Revelation 20:1-3, 7-8, where we read:
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years were ended. After that he must be loosed for a little while. . . . And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be loosed from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations which are at the four corners of the earth.
The “thousand years” is an extended reign of Christ here on this earth. It’s interpreted one of three ways by Protestants:
- Pre-millennialists believe that the thousand years will be an earthly golden age when the earth will be Christianized. Hal Lindsey (“The Late Great Planet Earth”) took this view. One problem, from the viewpoint of Catholicism, is that this implies not one but TWO comings of Christ—a “Second Coming” (at the start of the thousand years), and a “Third Coming” at the end of time.
- Post-millennialists believe that the world is now being Christianized, and that Christ will return at the end of the thousand years.
- The amillennial view interprets Revelation 20 symbolically and sees the millennium not as an earthly golden age in which the world will be totally Christianized, but as the present period of Christ’s rule in heaven and on the earth through his Church. This was the view of the Protestant Reformers and is still the most common view among traditional Protestants, though not among most of the newer Evangelical and Fundamentalist groups.
So What Does the Catholic Church Teach About the Rapture?
Well, for starters, Catholics don’t talk about it. In fact, most Protestants (including the Reformers) through history have not adhered to millennialist theology, and so have been “amillennial.” The Catholic Church officially rejected the pre-millennial position in the 1940s, when the Holy Office ruled that it “cannot safely be taught.” Before that time, St. Augustine was “amillennial” in that he taught, following the consistent understanding of the Church, that Jesus would return not twice, but only once at the end of time.
Although Catholics do not use the term “Rapture,” they do believe that we will be gathered together to be with Christ. This will happen at the “Last Judgment.”
To read more about the Rapture, and about Pre-, Mid- and Post-Millennial theology, go to: http://www.catholic.com/library/Rapture.asp