Jun 10 2011
A cornerstone of Protestant salvation teaching is based on the visions of St. John in the Book of Revelations. While this is a great source for horror writers, it is more potent fodder still for Protestant apologetics who use its vague and surrealistic symbolism to justify just about any point of view they care to opine.
During my journey to becoming a Catholic, this topic was merely touched upon and only to the point that 666 was the number for Nero. Interesting enough – but what about everything else? The seven seals, the pit, the battle between Satan and God? All steeped and surrounded by mysticism and obfuscating language that doesn’t quite rise to prose or poetry. One would think that a Revelation from God in such an inspired writing and on such an important topic would be more direct and clear.
In this, I’m seeking the answers to two specific questions:
- Does the Rapture exist in Catholic teaching
- Is the soul consumed in the fires of Hell
The first question is whether all the Protestant talk of the Rapture can be ignored. So far as I know, the Rapture does not happen in the Catholic understanding of Revelation, and so it would be just another tool that Protestants use to discredit the Church and frighten non-believers to come-on-down and accept Jesus as your “personal” Lord and Savior, and not be “Left Behind.”
The second question is a search for truth in the nature of God. That is, if the wicked really are burned forever in the fires of Hell, then what would be the point? The purpose of Hell is punishment, and the purpose of punishment is improvement. What is gained by God or the Damned if there is no hope for either eventual salvation or non-existence? Specifically, if the wages of Sin is Death, wouldn’t Death be the opposite of Eternal Life, or non-existence? While it might serve our Schadenfreude to believe that the wicked are eternally tortured and therefore eternally regretful for their sins, it doesn’t philosophically jibe with the idea of a purely Benevolent God that manifests Infinite Mercy. While it is not for men to judge God or stoop to the hubris to believe they can know the Mind of God, what would be gained to listen to the cries of the Damned for all eternity? Justice would be served by only one of two outcomes:
- The Damned are eventually reconciled with God after the Apocalypse, or
- The Damned are eventually consumed by the Hellfire and cease to exist
It is a function of the Church to answer such questions. So I obtained a copy of Apocalypse : A Catholic Perspective on the Book of Revelation on the subject that has the imprimatur of Church, which should provide some insight. I’ll posts updates here on what I learn.