Today, we continue with our series responding to “Meeting the Protestant Challenge: How to Answer 50 Biblical Objections to Catholic Beliefs” (2019), written by Karlo Broussard. With this next installment, the Catholic apologist continues his section on “The Last Things” as he attempts to counter the assertion by some Protestants that, prior to the Great Tribulation mentioned in Matthew 24 and Revelation 6-11, believers will be “Caught Up with the Lord in the Air.”
Roman Catholicism teaches that the “church” will go through the Great Tribulation period prior to the second coming of Jesus Christ.
“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.” – CCC 675
This view is commonly referred to as the post-tribulational “rapture” (Latin, rapio, “caught up”).
Many evangelical Christians believe in the pre-tribulational rapture, which posits that believers will be taken up into Heaven before the end-times tribulation begins. 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 is cited as the basis for the pre-trib view:
15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 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, and so we will always be with the Lord.
Broussard attempts to rebut the pre-trib view with two arguments.
(1) Broussard suggests that the reference in 1 Thess. 4:17 to believers being “caught up…to meet the Lord in the air” refers to “how Christians will meet the Lord…to escort him in a way that is analogous to the ancient custom of citizens ushering in important visitors” (p. 225).
(2) Broussard then cites three Bible passages that he contends support the post-trib view:
- 1 Cor. 15:22-24 – Broussard argues this passage teaches that “the end (of time) happens in tandem with the resurrection of the dead” (p. 226), not that the resurrection of the dead occurs at a pre-trib rapture.
- 2 Thessalonians 2:1-8 – Broussard claims this passage indicates that the Antichrist and his reign of evil precedes the “coming of the Lord.” He argues that (A) since 2 Thess. 2:1-8 and 1 Thess. 4:15-17 both refer to the “coming of the Lord,” and because (B) 2 Thess. 2:1-8 clearly indicates that the “coming of the Lord” will follow the tribulation, then (C) 1 Thess. 4:15-17 must also be referring to a post-trib rapture.
- 1 Corinthians 15:51-53 – Broussard posits that this passage links the divine trumpet blast with the resurrection of the dead at the end of time. He argues that (A) since 1 Cor. 15:51-53 links the trumpet blast with the resurrection of the dead at the end of time, and since (B) 1 Thess. 4:15-17 also refers to the trumpet blast and the resurrection of the dead, then (C) 1 Thess. 4:15-17 refers to the end of time.
Let’s now respond to Broussard.
(1) Broussard’s interpretation of 1 Thess. 4:17 as Christians merely greeting the Lord as He descends from Heaven at the time of His Second Coming is merely his interpretation.
(2) Responding to his three proof texts:
- 1 Corinthians 15:22-24 – This passage doesn’t necessarily imply a chronological immediacy between the resurrection of “those who belong to Christ” and “the end” (of time).
- 2 Thessalonians 2:1-8 – The “that day” in v. 3 doesn’t refer to the “being gathered together” in v. 1, but to “the day of the Lord” in v. 2. Throughout Scripture, “the day of the Lord” refers to the final end times. Broussard’s attempt to link the gathering of the saints in v. 1 immediately with the final end times is without merit.
- 1 Corinthians 15:51-53 – While Broussard claims that this passage connects the divine trumpet blast “with the resurrection of the dead at the end of time” (p. 228), there is no explicit or implicit reference to the end time in the passage. Pre-trib Christians frequently cite this passage along with 1 Thess. 4:15-17 as validation of their view.
Not all evangelical Christians adhere to the pre-trib rapture view (see the article, “When is the Rapture going to occur in relation to the Tribulation?” below). Some subscribe to the mid-trib view while others hold the post-trib view. After trusting in Christ and becoming born-again back in the early-1980s, my wife and I attended an independent fundamental Baptist church that taught the pre-trib rapture and that is what I believe. I’m not a fervent eschatologist, as some are, so I’m content to leave it at that.
I also agree with the Reformers who believed that the Roman Catholic church is going to play a prominent role as the primary apostate false church during the end times. In this chapter, Broussard quibbles over eschatological details, but let’s not lose sight of the forest for the trees. The most significant issue on the table is that the Roman Catholic church teaches a false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit.
When is the Rapture going to occur in relation to the Tribulation?
What is the day of the Lord?
Next up: “A Thousand-Year Reign”