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Bad Scripture Interpretations (3)

Have you ever heard of the "rapture"? If you have any Protestant friends (or if you once were Protestant) then you are probably aware of it. This is a teaching that says that all of the faithful will, before the final attack of Satan on this world, be secretly "snatched up" into Heaven in an instant. Most Protestants believe some form of this teaching, but there are so many variations of it (I lost count when I was a Protestant, and gave up counting when I became Catholic) I will only refer to the general concept here.

Where do they get this idea from? One word, in one passage of the Bible. Yes, really! Here it is:

Then we who are alive, who are left, shall be taken up together with them in the clouds to meet Christ, into the air: and so shall we be always with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:16).

Yup, that's it. Which word are the fixating on? That one Greek word is translated by two words in English: "taken up". St. Paul did not say how the "taking up" was going to occur; he does not give any specifics about it. He merely mentions it in passing as though it was something that his readers already knew about. Because they did. He is simply speaking about the resurrection of the faithful at the end of history; which he and others had spoken about many times before in other places. This is because truth always fits with previously known truth.

Now, totally apart from the concept of developing a whole new theological idea that runs contrary to the understanding of the Church for the previous 1700 years, we have the fact that the massive amounts of theology based on one little verb is staggering. Furthermore, they put so much emphasis on this one idea that many Protestants will say a person cannot go to Heaven unless he agrees with their teaching on the "rapture" (I am not joking!).

The doctrine that they are claiming is found in this one word is that to be "taken up" means "snatched suddenly" and thus it is so sudden that it occurs secretly. Then from there, those who follow this train of thought have developed a theology around everything that is attached to it.

How do they develop this theology? They take an idea from one passage of a different book of the Bible, then a verse from another book, and a few concepts from an entirely different book of Scripture and then combine them together to fit with their preconceived notion. Do you see what is being done? Essentially, they have created an event based on a narrow interpretation of one Greek word, and then looked for it in the Bible. If you wish to find something in the Bible and read it with that predetermined bias, then you will always find what you are looking for (even if it is heretical). This is not the way that Scripture is supposed to be interpreted.

When St. Paul says that the faithful will be "taken up" he is speaking in accord with everything else the Scriptures say about the final General Resurrection of all for the Day of Judgment. He is not developing a whole new theology out of one word. Again, going back to what has been said before: all the testimony of Scripture must be listened to when we encounter something that appears different. We know that God does not contradict Himself, so when we encounter His truth it will always fit with truth we already know.

If Protestants could understand this point, they would never be able to invent ideas like the rapture. They would keep their minds submissive to the faith as it was delivered to the Saints of the past. The sad thing is that few (if any) Protestants know and admit that this theological idea has such a shaky support, nor do they understand just how twisted it's support is.

Catholics rarely fall into this kind of error (we tend to be quicker to submit to the Church's interpretation of Scripture), but that does not mean we are unable to fixate on one idea to the exclusion of clear truth. Any one of us could slip in this way. The point is not so much the Protestant teaching about "rapture" but rather the manner is which they arrived at that conclusion. We call that bad Scripture interpretation.


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