I'm going to start off being frank. Catholics don't believe in the rapture. But that doesn't mean one shouldn't understand why others do in order to argue why one doesn't. So that's what this post is about.
First off let me say, that I'm biased. I have a big problem with people's obsession over the end of times. David Koresh and his Branch Davidian followers were obsessed with the Apocalypse to the point of stock piling weapons. And there are many groups, like the one recently, who have over the years tried to predict the end of the world. It bothers me because people get swindled into giving up their homes and livelihoods to follow these so called predictions.
Most of these apocalypse predictors base their predictions on taking the scripture literally. They use some of the more esoteric texts and those numbers to guess at the end of times while overlooking key scriptural passages that state that nobody knows when the end is coming. Catholics don't believe in literally interpretation of these allegorical texts. In fact Catholic scholars have hypothesized that the book of Daniel is a prediction of the coming of Christ and that the book of Revelations is esoteric and prophetic sounding because it's really a metaphor for the emperor who was persecuting Christians during that time frame. What better way to talk about massacre discretely under the guise of prophesy. So honestly, I don't put much stock into using these books as predictors of the coming of the world. And most sane Christians, whatever their take on the apocalypse, don't accept these predictions either.
So now that I've cleared the air. I would like to discuss the rapture. The word itself isn't in the Bible. It's ironic that the very people who believe in the rapture and use that term criticize Catholics for using terminology to describe Biblical texts when that's what they are doing also. But I digress. The word rapture, like the word Mass, is the English corruption of the Latin word "rapio" which means to "catch up" or "take away." This word is featured in the 1 Thessalonians 4: 15-17 when describing the end of times. (Yes, nay sayers, Catholics read and understand the Bible. It's how I base all my arguments if you haven't figured out yet. I think the vomiting has made me behave in an irritated and un-charitable manner today. Okay maybe lately would best describe it.)
1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 (I include the previous verses about death to give context)
We do not want you to be unaware, brothers, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, and so too will God, through Jesus will bring those with him who have fallen asleep. Indeed we tell you this, on the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord will not proceed those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself, with the word of command, and with the voice of an archangel and the trumpet of God will come down from heaven and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord.
This passage, in the view of rapture believers, shows the apocalypse as being two separate events. Thessalonians describes the first event and Matthew 24 describes the other event. I won't quote Matthew because the passage is really long so I've linked it so you can read it yourself. They look at the end of times as being thus: a private event ie rapture and a public evet ie Jesus's return and final battle. This is similar to what Catholic believe about judgment upon a person's death. We believe that when a person dies they are judged immediately (private judgment) and then at the end of times all persons dead and living will receive judgment (public judgment). But we are talking about the end of time events, not judgment of the individual.
The basic view point of a rapture believer is that what will happen is that at some point the dead will be taken to heaven and those alive who are believers will be taken up as well. Then later on those who remain will endure tribulation ie "false prophets" and the darkening of the sun. There is speculation on time line and event order, but that the basics of it.
Catholics believe in one event that is described first in Matthew and then later by Paul in Thessalonians. Let me explain why:
And he will send out his angels with a trumpet blast, and he will gather his elect from the four winds from one end of the heavens to the other. Matthew 24:31
sounds just like
For the Lord himself, with the word of command, and with the voice of an archangel and the trumpet of God will come down from heaven and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. 1 Thessalonians 15-16
No where in Thessalonians is the tribulation discussed. In Matthew tribulation comes first, then the elect are gathered. But in Thessalonians it is the dead and then the elect who are gathered first (notice I bolded that part). This causes problems amongst rapturists because there are numerous arguments about whether tribulation is first then rapture or rapture then tribulation or if there are actually three events like rapture, tribulation, and gathering of the elect. So if you talk to a person who believes in rapture, they will have their own take on the number and order of events.
Catholics, however, don't fret over this because this is the same event. Think of it this way: there is a shooting at mall. The police go around taking eye witness statements. The woman who was going into the mall says that she saw a man pointing the gun at another man. The man inside the mall says he saw two men arguing over something, but then went into a store. A third witness says he saw the man with the gun threatening to shoot the other man because the first man had robbed him. If you only look at the first two perspectives, you wouldn't get the whole story. You would get part of the story and could build a story from it, but you wouldn't get the whole story. In fact you could say that those first two witnesses saw two different events instead of the same event: A man with a gun on another man or two men arguing. And to make matters worse, if you didn't have the third person's testimony you wouldn't realize that there wasn't an actual shooting, but a store owner detaining a robber.
This logic applies to Thessalonians and Matthew. Thessalonians is the retelling of the story found in Matthew in a truncated fashion focusing on the resurrection of the dead. Paul says from the start to the congregation not to worry about the after-life, not to grieve irrevocably because of the end of times. He doesn't focus his letter on every detail of the event because he's trying to console the Thessalonians not teach them.
On the other hand, Matthew is the telling of the end of times to teach the early Christians to behave or else. The whole story gives a lot of detail so that the early Christians understand that tribulations are normal, prosecution will happen, but in the end the final judgment will happen and all who believe will go to heaven. The story focuses on those who are still alive unlike Thessalonians which focuses on those who have already passed on.
They are two different perspectives and two different teachings on the same subject. And that why most main stream Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox Christians don't believe in the rapture. And mostly it has to do with not looking at the Bible so literally because a single event can be seen from many perspectives and taught in many different ways to suit those who need to hear it's message.