Special Report: Will Catholics Who Don’t Believe in the Rapture Go To Heaven?
Vol: 39 Issue: 22 Wednesday, December 22, 2004
Special Report: Will Catholics Who Don’t Believe in the Rapture Go To Heaven?
Yesterday, I received an email from a reader that asked, “Will Catholics who don’t know about or believe in the Rapture go to Heaven?”
The email continued; “I have many relatives who are Catholic and they either don’t know about the Rapture because their church never taught them about it OR they don’t believe in the Rapture because their church teaches against it or just totally ignores the Scripture. Will they be excluded in the Rapture? I desperately need your opinion. “
Although I answered my correspondent personally, the question kept troubling my spirit and reverberating in my mind all night.
I took that as a leading from the Spirit to deal with it more fully here. When it comes to a leading from the Spirit, I don’t decide, I just report. This is one of those times.
My correspondent continued; “I have talked to them till I am blue in the face and it does no good. Then, I remember the verse about not casting “your pearls before swine.” Should I just give up? ALSO, they think that since they were baptized at birth, that is good enough. Leads to the same argument.”
Let me lay out some personal background first. I was raised Catholic. I went to Mass, attended Catholic school, studied Catholic catechism, and even, at one point, considered becoming a priest.
I left the Church and abandoned my priestly aspirations in my teens. Later, I got saved and my calling became more clear, (but that takes us in a different direction, so I’ll leave it there for now.)
I have no intention of bashing Catholics. Neither is this a deliberate diatribe against Catholic teachings. There was a question asked. It deserves an answer.
First, the premise of the question. “. . .they either don’t know about the Rapture because their church never taught them about it OR they don’t believe in the Rapture because their church teaches against it or just totally ignores the Scripture. Will they be excluded in the Rapture?”
Salvation is not dependent on a belief in the Rapture, but only those who are truly saved when the trumpet sounds will hear it.
There are many sincere believing Christians who don’t believe in either the Rapture or the Tribulation. They don’t believe in Bible prophecy. They believe that the events described by the Revelation were fulfilled with the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.
Among sincere, believing Christians that do believe in the Rapture, there are deep divisions regarding the question of when it will take place. We believe the Rapture takes place before the Tribulation begins. Other sincere, believing Christians think it will happen at the Tribulation’s mid-point; others believe it takes place at the end.
But if they trust Jesus for their salvation, then they will be included in the Rapture’s call, whether they believe in the Rapture or agree on its timing or not.
The conditions for being included in the Rapture are outlined by the Apostle Paul in his first letter to the Thessalonians;
“For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.” (1 Thessalonians 4:14)
Baptism is not a condition of salvation. In fact, it is the other way around. Salvation is a condition of baptism.
Paul says that we must ‘believe’ that Jesus died and rose again — infants being baptized in the Catholic rite of baptism only believe the water is cold. (It makes them cry.)
When Phillip met the Ethiopian eunuch on the road to Gaza, the eunuch was reading the ‘Suffering Messiah’ passages in Isaiah 53.
He asked Phillip, “I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.” (Acts 8:34-35)
The Bible lists the mechanism of salvation in the Church Age; the ‘formula’, so to speak, from God’s perspective. We are drawn by the Father (John 6:44) to the Son (John 14:6) and born of the Spirit. (John 3:6)
The Ethiopian eunuch was drawn by Scripture, Phillip preached to him Jesus, and upon accepting Christ as Savior, the eunuch was born again and indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
“And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?”
Note Phillip’s answer — and the eunuch’s reply — carefully.
“And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” (Acts 8:36-37)
An infant cannot, as Phillip asked, ‘believe with all its heart’ and an infant cannot, as the Ethiopian did, confess Jesus as the Son of God.
But it wasn’t until both those conditions were satisfied that Phillip “commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.” (Acts 8:38)
While salvation isn’t dependant on belief in the Rapture, it is a precondition for being included in it. One does not get saved by attending Mass, neither does one lose one’s salvation by missing Mass. The Bible knows no such ritual as ‘Mass’ and there is no record of any such ritual in the early church.
The Catholic ritual of the Mass is the Transubstantiation of Christ — that is, Christ is re-sacrificed at each Mass, with the bread and wine becoming the literal ‘Body and Blood of Christ’ through the Catholic miracle of ‘Transubstantiation’.
But Hebrews 10:11 says, “And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can NEVER TAKE AWAY SINS.”
One becomes saved when one trusts the shed Blood of Christ as an all-sufficient sacrifice to cover their sins and make them acceptable to God.
“But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins FOR EVER, sat down on the right Hand of God.” (Hebrews 10:12)
Salvation is not granted by a Church, neither can it be rescinded or withheld by a Church.
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
“So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.” (Romans 9:16)
“And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” (Romans 11:6)
If salvation is by grace, and grace is granted by God alone, then doing the works mandated by a Church as a condition of salvation is precluded.
Salvation is unconditional, and is between the sinner and God. No third party need be involved. A person’s salvation is SUSTAINED by Jesus, not by church membership or an individual’s good works or bad works.
“Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath BEGUN a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” (Phillipians 1:6)
It is Jesus Who BEGINS a ‘good work in you’ at salvation, and it is He that ‘performs it’. Of that, Paul says we can be ‘confident’.
There can be only one source for truth. God doesn’t need to be defined by a Church or by a religion.
Religion is man’s way of making HIMSELF acceptable to God. Christianity is God’s way of making us acceptable to Him. There is a vast difference, and things that are different cannot be the same.
In Scripture we find the Words of Jesus Christ. Of itself, the Scriptures say, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” (2nd Timothy 3:16)
If religious leaders know something that isn’t in the Bible, or something that contradicts the Bible, where did they learn it from?
If it contradicts Scripture, then it cannot be Divine Revelation, because that means the Scriptures lied. And if the Bible isn’t true, then we are all operating on guesswork anyway.
According the Catholic tradition, people don’t go directly to heaven when they die unless they have received a plenary indulgence from the Church. If they haven’t, then they have to go to a place called ‘Purgatory’ — a place of suffering where saved people pay for their sins before being admitted into Heaven.
It is a kind of temporary hell — and, as noted, all Catholics (that don’t get the get-out-of-Purgatory-free indulgence) have to go there first.
(I don’t mean to sound flippant, but that is what a ‘plenary indulgence’ is. Permission from the Church to skip Purgatory.)
The Bible makes no mention of Purgatory, and the Catholic Church has no teaching on the Rapture.
According to ‘Catholic Answers” — an officially sanctioned website of the Catholic Church — the Vatican “has rejected the premillennial position, sometimes called “millenarianism” (see the Catechism of the Catholic Church 676). In the 1940s the Holy Office judged that premillennialism “cannot safely be taught”.
The reason that premillennialism and the Rapture cannot ‘safely be taught’ is directly contradicts the Catholic teaching about Purgatory. The length of time one is sentenced to spend there is dependent on good works or bad works.
The Catholic Council of Trent says in Canon 11; “If anyone says that men are justified either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ or by the sole remission of sins, excluding grace and charity which is poured into their hearts by the Holy Spirit and inheres in them, or also that the grace which justifies us is only the favour of God, let him be anathema.”
Canon 12 says; “If anyone says that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in divine mercy, which remits sins for Christ’s sake, or that it is this confidence alone that justifies us, let him be anathema.”
Canon 30 says; “If anyone says that after the reception of the grace of justification the guilt is so remitted and the debt of eternal punishment so blotted out to every repentant sinner, that no debt of temporal punishment remains to be discharged either in this world or in purgatory before the gates of heaven can be opened, let him be anathema.”
The dictionary defines ‘anathema’ as, “a formal ecclesiastical ban, curse, or excommunication.”
But the Bible says; “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;” (Titus 3:5)
“I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” (Galatians 2:21)
“Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” (Romans 3:28)
Now we return to the question at hand: “Will Catholics Who Don’t Believe in the Rapture Go To Heaven?”
It depends on whether they are ‘good’ Catholics or whether they are ‘anathema’.
If we are to go by the Catholic Canons, the only way for a Catholic to get into heaven is if they qualify for excommunication by trusting Jesus alone for their salvation instead of Jesus plus the Church.
Sometimes, there are no easy answers.