- Jumping ahead, the official Catholic Church will teach that souls that are basically okay but have some stain of sin on them need to be cleaned up before they are ready for God’s presence. This cleansing or purgation is called purgatory . It can be unpleasant if one has many sins to wash or burn away, but it is not as unpleasant as hell, and it is not permanent. Protestants reject this idea as not stated in scripture.
- When Jesus does return in glory, all souls will return to their bodies and resurrect. The combined body + soul will be judged again. The outcome is the same, but the pleasure of union with God is more complete if it is experienced in body as well as soul. Similarly, hell with a body is even worse than hell without a body.
3.5.4. The Rapture
Some Christians believe that the end of the world will be a long scenario, beginning with the sudden rapture of all true believers. They will disappear to be with God, while everyone else is caught up in horrible catastrophes as God and Satan battle, destroying the earth in the process. This viewpoint has spread in Evangelical Christianity and American popular culture, particularly the “Left Behind” books and movies. This message has appeal because it promises immunity from suffering. The word rapture does not appear in the Bible. The Catholic tradition does not teach this belief. Although we can respect the beliefs of our fellow Christians, Catholic theologians would emphasize the following points.
- The New Testament does not promise that Christians will be immune from suffering. Rather, Christians can expect extra suffering if they remain true to the challenge of Christ. The New Testament promises meaning in suffering and a greater good in the long run.
- We should not assume that Jesus wants no more of this earth and its ecosystem than its destruction.
- If Jesus wants to battle the forces of evil Jesus can do so. Jesus does not expect us to start any nuclear wars to bring about the end of the world.
- Christians should not target the Jewish people for death or forced conversion as a means to bring about the end of the world.
- Jesus calls us to live our lives such that we can be ready to give an accounting at any moment. We should also be prepared for the future if that moment does not come. We have not wasted our time if that moment does not come in our lifetimes.
The early Jesus movement (the term Christianity too much implies an organized religion, which came later) can rightly be considered a Jewish sect
That is, they were a minority group within Judaism that rejected the legitimacy of the mainstream of Judaism, and its leaders in particular. We know about other Jewish sects from around the time of the early Jesus movement. Some of them are strikingly similar to the Jesus movement. The Jewish historian Josephus , writing for a Roman audience at the end of the first century CE, tells us about a Jewish group called the Essenes. The Essenes lived their daily lives in ways similar to what we know about the early Jesus movement from the letters of Paul and the sequel to the Gospel of Luke, the Acts of the Apostles. Josephus tells us the Essenes keep communal property, treat all members equally, do not own slaves, do not marry (with exceptions), reject bodily pleasures and passions, and embrace e basic movement that lived at Qumran and kept the library of the Dead Sea Scrolls . The early Jesus movement seems to resemble what we know of the Essenes and Qumran sectarians in all ways except the last point discussed here. Contrary to other Jewish sects, Paul argued that followers of Jesus are not necessarily required to keep the Law of Moses (the first five books of the Jewish Bible, or Torah, which other Jews interpret for laws of daily life).