Christians love talking about the end times. They write books, produce movies and preach sermons on the end of the world. The Catholic Church is no exception. Catholics have views about the end times that often differ greatly from the views of other Christians. Catholics emphasize specific future events and hold a unique view of end times prophecy. Catholic views revolve around understanding the Bible's book of Revelation, the Second Coming, the Kingdom of God and the eternal disposition of the soul.
The Book of Revelation
The Book of Revelation is at the core of any Christian belief system about the end times. The Catholic Church looks at Revelation as it does other biblical books and passages. They believe there is a literal meaning to the Bible as well as an allegorical meaning. The Catholic Church emphasizes the allegorical or symbolical meaning of Revelation. They see Revelation primarily as a description of Christ’s victory over evil throughout human history. Catholics also believe in a literal interpretation, although they see many of the events in Revelation as past events. One of the best examples of this is the destruction of Jerusalem as described in Revelation. Catholics believe this prophecy was fulfilled when the Roman emperor Nero began persecuting Jews in 66 A.D, culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. under Titus.
The Second Coming
Catholics believe Jesus will come again. They teach that Jesus could come again at any time. His return is immanent. Catholics teach that when Jesus returns, he will judge both the living and the dead. At that time, the world will come to an end. Catholics reject the belief in a coming “tribulation period” or a “rapture of the church” common among some other Christian denominations. They believe Jesus will simply return, judge all of humanity and bring an end to time.
The Kingdom of God
Catholics see the Kingdom of God as something present and visible in the Catholic Church, as well as something yet to come in heaven. They reject a literal 1,000-year millennial kingdom, a belief common in some other Christian denominations. Saint Augustine first articulated this view in his "City of God." Catholics expect the Church and the gospel to spread to the entire world before the end comes, encompassing the entire earth in the Kingdom of God.
Heaven, Hell and Purgatory
According to Catholic belief, heaven and hell are the final resting places of each individual. Those who are baptized Catholics will, eventually, spend eternity in heaven. Those who are not will spend eternity in hell. Baptized Catholics who commit sins will spend a certain amount of time in purgatory, a state between heaven and hell where they will be purified from their sins. Catholics believe that Christ’s judgment is, therefore, both individual at the time of a person’s death and all-encompassing, occurring when Christ returns.
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