I don’t really know where to put this, so I’ll just put it here. What is the Catholic position of the end times? I know the widespread protestant view is pre-tribulation rapture, and I’ve believed this my entire life due to ignorance of other beliefs. What does the RCC say about it?
The Catholic position would be like this: we are now living in the “millenium” which is the Church age, the beginning and promise of the fulfilled Kingdom of God (millenium means “thousand” a highly symbolic number in Scripture which means a long, but indefinite, time). When the fullness of time comes, there will be:
- A period of tribulation before the end.
- Christ’s Second Coming at which time those Christians still alive will be taken to heaven (the equivalent of the rapture)
- The General Judgment at which time all mankind will be judged and be sent to their eternal reward-either heaven or hell.
The Catechism says this:
**The Church’s ultimate trial **
675 Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the “mystery of iniquity” in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh.
676 The Antichrist’s deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgment. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism, especially the “intrinsically perverse” political form of a secular messianism.
677 The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection. The kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by God’s victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause his Bride to come down from heaven. God’s triumph over the revolt of evil will take the form of the Last Judgment after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world.
When each of us dies, our souls are immediately taken to the presence of God and judged. This is called the Particular Judgment. At this point we begin our eternal destiny. If we are are going to hell, our souls go directly there. If we are deemed worthy of heaven, our souls will go directly to heaven, or if we are going to heaven but are in need of purification, we may go to Purgatory first (everyone in Purgatory will eventually go to heaven). Whatever our fate, our souls will stay there until the end of time.
At the Second Coming at the end of time, those Christians still alive will be taken to heaven (what some Protestants call the Rapture). Then will occur the General Judgment. At that time the living and the dead will be reunited with their bodies and brought together in God’s presence and judged before all. Those who have already been judged in the Particular Judgment will be brought from wherever their souls were -heaven, hell or Purgatory-- and have their judgment confirmed before all.
After this, time and Purgatory will be no more and all will enter with their souls and bodies into their eternal destiny, either hell or heaven.
This is an extremely bare-bones sketch, so if you want to get the details, see the four articles linked below: