Daniel, Revelation and the Rapture Myth

Daniel, Revelation and the Rapture Myth

The books of Daniel and Revelation are of the apocalyptic genre, a unique literary form peculiar to the age in which they were written. Often described as crisis literature, they clearly were spawned during times of great stress in history when the only solution seemed to call for God’s intervention in the affairs of humankind.

The First Apocalyptic Prophet

The fall of the monarchy, the capture of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple (586 BCE) led Ezekiel into the apocalyptic because of despair of salvation within history. His anticipation of a new Israel (38-39), the use of four living creatures, eating scrolls (1-3), the harlot (16), dry bones (37), measuring the temple (40-43) and other strange imagery became a precedent for later apocalyptic writings.

After the exile to Babylon and their return home the Israelites were relatively free to practice their Judaism under the rule of the Persian and Ptolmaic empires, but under the Seleucid ruler, Antiochus IV, Epiphanes (a program to Hellenize them) was instituted. Their religion was banned resulting in a violent persecution that is recorded in I and II Maccabees (not found in the Protestant bibles).

At this time Daniel was written (167 BCE). The four beasts (chapter 7) stand for the pagan empires of Babylon, the Medes, the Persian, and the Greeks which also was represented in the four metals of the statue in chapter 2. The tenth horn (7:8) stood for Antiochus IV, their oppressor. There are cryptic numerals used which later apocalyptic speculators worked into their scheme of the end time.

First Century Apocalypticism

The Church emerged in the midst of an apocalyptic boom with the hope for a Messiah. In the first century there were many Jewish non-canonical books written in that genre read by both Christians and Jews. The Dead Sea scrolls contained their end of the world scenario. The Gospels and letters clearly reveal a Messianic expectation (Parousia). Mark 13 (parallels Matthew 24 and Luke 21) has been called the little apocalypse and the sayings are attributed to Jesus. Many scholars believe that it was circulated as a separate tract and the evangelist added it to his Gospel reworking it into its present form, then attributing it to Jesus. Paul reveals his anticipation of the parousia (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

Revelation was written shortly after the brutal Neronian persecution (90s). It presents in cryptic words a partial history of those terrible times. Nero was the Antichrist, 666 (13:18). It promised the parousia was at hand! It did not occur. From then on the Church was content to accept Jesus’ spiritual presence (realized eschatology).

Reformers and the Bible!

During the Reformation open season was declared on the Bible. All restrictions and guidelines of the Catholic Church were removed. The book they claimed to revere was torn to bits to legitimize their individual theologies. They eliminated seven Old Testament books, and additions to Esther and Daniel (cf. Why Are Catholic Bibles Different?). Over the years there were many false prophets with their scenarios of the end-time.

In the United States a Baptist layman, William Miller, using Daniel and Revelation,  set the date for March 31, 1843. He was wrong! He then placed all bets on October 22, 1844. You know the answer! The Seventh Day Adventists grew from this.  Joseph Smith said that the Latter Day Saints (Mormons) would reign with Christ a thousand years on earth. The Russellites (Jehovah’s Witnesses) expected the end in 1918 and again in 1975. The Assemblies of God, in their Pentecostal Evangel (November 28, 1925), expected the rapture in 1934 and again in the 80s. The Southern Baptists and some Evangelical Churches teach this false doctrine today.

The Invention of the Rapture!

A Spanish Jesuit, Lacunas (1816), wrote a book, The Coming of the Messiah, in which he held that those who frequently received communion would be taken up to heaven in a secret event before all others at the end of the world and would escape all the horrors portrayed in Revelation. The Church promptly condemned this teaching as heresy.

However, in England a Protestant sect, the Plymouth Brethren, salvaged it calling it a secret rapture that would happen to all “born again” Christians. John Darby, an ex-Anglican cleric, on several trips to the United States from England in the 1850s, transplanted this heresy in this country. 

He argued that there would be a secret lifting up of the believers to heaven based on  Matthew 24:40-42; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, thus escaping the calamities of the end.  These misquoted passages refer to the second coming which is in the Bible. The Left Behind books are based on this false doctrine which is rejected by the Church and most mainline Protestant churches. The Lutherans, Presbyterians, and others have condemned these books as teaching contrary to the Bible.

The Living Light, a publication of the U.S. Bishop’s Department of Education, warns that the “popular Left Behind series of books denies a number of Catholic teachings and is both subtly and overtly anti-Catholic. A seven year tribulation between the ‘rapture’ and the return of Christ is not biblical.”

Hal Lindsey in the Late Great Planet Earth predicted the end for the 1980s. Billy Graham said in 1950, “We may have a year or two to work for Christ, and then it will be over.” Jerry Falwell’s Liberty College and the Dallas Theological Seminary spread the rapture myth. Pat Robertson said in June 1982 when Israel invaded Lebanon, that Russia would attack Israel and the world would be in flames. “It’s all in the Bible!” The year 2000 produced the Y2K scare and other doom sayers.

There has also been the lunatic fringe such as David Koresh and the Waco fiasco, Jim Jones and the cyanide cocktail, Heaven’s Gate sect, and other misguided victims.

The antichrist has a leading role and appears only four times in the entire bible and only in the Johanine letters which were written in the midst of a schism (1 John 2:22; 4:3; 2 John 7; 1 John 2:18). This refers to the heretical teachings of his time (past history).

The Roman catechism says these teachings “are the Antichrist’s deception: and rejects all forms of millenarianism (paragraph 676).

"Daniel, Revelation and the Rapture Myth" is one of the pamphlets on the biblical foundations of the Catholic Church written May 2008 to Nov 2010 by Deacon Paul Carlson of Minneapolis, Minnesota's St Lawrence Catholic Church / Newman Center, a Paulist Foundation. (St Lawrence is the Catholic Church of Southeast Minneapolis and is right in the heart of "Dinkytown USA".)

This blog post is a memorial serialization of those pamphlets written by Deacon Paul Carlson at the request of than Pastor/Director Fr John J. Behnke, who asked Deacon Paul to write brief answers to questions University students often encountered as Catholics.

At couple of weeks before Deacon Paul's death, he said: "If there are any financial gains made from the blog serialization of my pamphlets, please have the money given to St. Lawrence Parish and Newman Center or Paulist Fathers, because what they do is so important." If you can, send memorials to St. Lawrence Parish and Newman Center or Paulist Fathers at 1203 Fifth Street, S.E., Minneapolis, MN 55414. 

Remember Deacon Paul Carlson in your prayers, as well as all the other souls of the faithful departed, who have died in the grace of Jesus Christ.

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