Does anyone remember the Left Behind series?
Growing up, my mom was a fan. She let me ready the kid’s version of the book.
Those books scared me a lot.
I remember vividly the descriptions of people disappearing. One minute they were there and the next minute their clothes would be in a pile in front of you. I thought that would happen to me. Jesus would leave me all alone.
As someone with a disability, this is equally terrifying. I found myself wondering what would happen to me if Jesus took my parents or caregivers when I was on the toilet.
Thus I stopped thinking about the final judgment.
Theology behind Left Behind
“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.” Revelation 20:1-3, 7-8
Protestants, who believe in the events in the Left Behind series, take the above passage literally. They believe in a thousand-year reign of Christ called the Millennium. Christ will establish this reign when he comes again in glory just before he judges all souls at the last judgment.
What About the Rapture?
The rapture is the name for the event where people disappear. There is a debate in Protestant circles. Some people believe that God would not torture his people. Thus, He raptures them before the time of persecution (pre-tribulation). Others believe that the rapturing of the elect occurs after the time of persecution(post-tribulation). For those who believe in pre-tribulation, Jesus comes three times: He comes as an infant; He comes to rescue his elect; he comes to instill his reign and final judgment. Yet the three visitation view is not biblical.
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
Jesus never describes more than one coming. In the above passage, he implies that the final judgment takes place immediately after his second coming. Thus Protestants, who believe in a millennium, fail to reconcile the words of Jesus in Matthew with Revelation.
Catholics don’t read Left behind series
I remember I was talking to a catholic once and somehow we got on the topic of end times. I think a new Left Behind movie was coming out. My questions about Rapture and end times confused him. As a Catholic myself, I now know that Catholics don’t say much about end times. Yet every Mass we recite “he (Jesus) will come again to judge the living and the dead.” So clearly we at least believe he is coming back.
Like Protestants, Catholics believe in a tribulation. This tribulation will shake the faith of the believers and they will worship the antiChrist, which is anything that causes humanity to worship itself. After this period of trial, Christ will come and judge everyone both living and dead. At this point, the dead will reunite with their bodies. Lastly, God will transform the material world. (See Catechism 675 -677)
But What About The Millennium?
For Catholics, the thousand-year period is presently here. Jesus reigns from his throne in heaven. The angel binds the devil so that he cannot hinder the preaching of the gospel. When the devil gets loose, that will start the tribulation. Catholics take seriously the command to stay awake and be vigilant for we do not know the hour that the Lord is coming.
End Times: What’s The Point
When properly understood, the end times offer immediate value to one’s spiritual life. For starters, it causes us to be alert and gives us a purpose. We can respect God and his sense of justice. Lastly, we can have hope of life after death. The latter of which can be comforting to those grieving the loss of a loved one. I know that I can have peace in the fact that God will take everyone at once. I hope in and rely on God’s mercy that I may be a sheep and enjoy even with Christ.
For more information, check out this post from Catholic Answers