Apocalypse on April 23? What the Church Says About the Rapture

Belief in a secret rapture is a recent manmade tradition and has no basis in Scripture

(photo: Pixabay/CC0)
Here we go again: David Meade, a Doomsday predictor with a strikingly unsuccessful history of unfulfilled astral speculations, has prophesied that the Rapture will occur on April 23. Or will it?

Until this week Meade, a self-styled “Christian numerologist” who has authored 14 books about the impending end of the world, has been warning that April 23, 2018, would bring a cataclysmic event marking the beginning of the end of all things. On April 18, however, Meade seemed to walk back his prediction, calling the April 23 date “fake news.” 

With Monday's deadline looming, Meade now claims that although Nibiru is here, the return of Christ will occur sometime between May and the end of the year. Christ, according to Meade, will descend from the heavens during the Rapture, after which will come the Tribulation – seven years of intense horror and suffering plaguing the surface of the planet. Then, Meade explains, the Kingdom of Christ will establish a 1,000-year-long reign of “peace and prosperity.” “So,” he says, “the world isn't ending anytime soon – in our lifetimes, anyway.”

In developing his most recent theory, Meade looked to the Book of Revelation, as well as the paranormal study of numerology and a discredited conspiracy theory involving a mythical planet Nibiru (also called “Planet X”) which would destroy the Earth, its gravitational pull causing massive geological changes which Meade termed “trials and tribulations.” Meade reportedly told the U.K.'s Daily Express that on that day the sun, moon and Jupiter, which represents the Messiah, will be in Virgo. 


Doomsday Predictions Are Nothing New

Facing the Apocalypse head-on, FoxNews has looked back at recent end-of-world warnings and produced a list of destruction dates predicted by David Meade and others. On their list are: 

  • Oct. 15, 2017– David Meade predicted the start of the Apocalypse. Just weeks before that, on Sept. 23, Meade expected to see a “magnificent sign in the skies.”
  • Oct. 7, 2015– Chris McCann, leader of the eBible Christian Fellowship, predicted that on this date, the earth would be destroyed by fire.
  • Dec. 21, 2012– The world would end in a massive solar storm titled the “Mayan Apocalypse” according to conspiracy theorists and numerologists. 
  • May 21, 2011– Former evangelist Harold Camping predicted the end of the world. Many of his followers quit their jobs and sold their homes and worldly possessions, donating the money to Camping's Family Radio Network or other charities. When the world didn't end as expected, Camping's followers were left with no financial resources to face their future. Camping revised his prediction, publishing a new date of Oct. 21, 2011; but that didn't pan out, either.
  • April 29, 2007– This is one of many dates predicted by television evangelist Pat Robertson in his 1990 book “The New Millennium.”
  • Jan. 1, 2000 – You may remember this one, when several Christian leaders warned that computers which were designed in the 20th century could not handle the transition to the 21st century. Jerry Falwell, Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins were among pastors who worried that the Y2K transition would precipitate the world's end.

And the April 23 date has been circulated before. LiveScience.com reports that another Doomsday prophet, William Miller, had predicted the Apocalypse on April 23, 1843. Miller, a Baptist preacher whose followers would eventually form the Seventh-day Adventist Church, predicted multiple doomsday dates in the mid-1800s. Tens of thousands of Americans waited expectantly. When the event did not occur in 1843, Miller's failed prophecy came to be called “The Great Disappointment.”


What Does the Catholic Church Teach About the Rapture?

“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. —Matthew 24:36

“Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.”– Matthew 24:42

Well, can we know the future, or can't we? Jesus certainly says that we cannot.

Paul Thigpen, in his 2001 classic The Rapture Trap: A Catholic Response to "End Times" Fever, debunks rapture theory and explains just what we do know about Christ's return. Thigpen draws from Scripture, Tradition, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Church history, and contemporary experience to reveal the shortcomings of the rapture doctrine and the larger tangle of twisted religious teachings to which it is tied. He enumerates the faith tenets which Catholics do believe concerning the end times, and shows how Christ's first advent (his coming into the world at Christmas), his ministry in the Church through the present age, and his second advent all fit together. 

Thigpen examines Scripture to see what it plainly tells us about Christ's return to earth, which says nothing of a secret rapture and promises no escape from the persecution of the Antichrist. And he shows how the unbiblical origins of  “secret rapture” teaching can lead Catholics away from their faith, and reiterates the importance of trust in the Sacred Magisterium of the Church. 

Adherents to rapture theory end up departing from the words of the Bible, believing instead in a kind of “third coming” of Christ which has no basis in Scripture. Interpreters must, Thigpen explains, twist the Scriptures to try to read this peculiar scenario into the text. 

But the most serious charge Thigpen makes is that many rapture promoters are both subtly and not-so-subtly attacking the Catholic Church. “These people,” he writes,

...continue to repeat age-old falsehoods about the Catholic Church, the Church that Jesus Christ Himself founded through His Apostles. And they want to persuade you to leave that Church, They want you to trade all its rich spiritual feast for a pot of half-baked, spoiled leftovers they call the “true” faith. 

Don't fall into their trap. Instead, take the time to learn more about what the Church teaches so you can avoid that sort of trouble.

Karl Keating, former president of Catholic Answers and author of 18 books of Catholic apologetics including What Catholics Really Believe, is among the most effective apologists for the Catholic faith. Keating has praised Paul Thigpen for his charity, clarity and precision in presenting the truths of Catholicism. “I have no doubt,” he said of this book, “that The Rapture Trap will bring a healthy dose of common sense and clear thinking to religion in America.”