Saturday, March 09, 2013

Eschatology and Catholicism

I am writing this article for one of my sons who has been attending some non-Catholic Bible studies and he has questions regarding the Catholic position on Eschatology, and wondering why Catholics don't seem to be so big on the idea, while it seems of utmost importance to many Protestants.  So, where do I begin?  Let's start with explaining exactly what "Eschatology" is - since many Catholics a likely unfamiliar with the term.

Echatology:  "That branch of systematic theology which deals with the doctrines of the last things (ta eschata)." (Catholic Encyclopedia). 

The "End Times" movement didn't really gain much of a following until the late 1960's and 1970's, and especially got a boost from Hal Lindsey's book: The Late Great Planet Earth, first published in 1970.  Now that doesn't mean it did not exist prior to that, in fact the CE article I quoted from above was written in 1909.  Catholic understanding of eschatology is not something which sprang from the mid to late 20th century.  Even most Protestant denominations did not put much emphasis upon the "End Times" prophecies which are allegedly the thrust of the Book of Revelation - until the late 20th century.  Yes, there have been, throughout history (even before there was a "Protestant") those who taught millenarianism - but each and every time it was condemned by the Church.

What does the Church today teach in this regard?  Let us look to the Catechism of 1993:
675 Before Christ's second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers.  The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the "mystery of iniquity" in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh. 
676 The Antichrist's deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgment. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism especially the "intrinsically perverse" political form of a secular messianism. 
677 The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection. The kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by God's victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause his Bride to come down from heaven. God's triumph over the revolt of evil will take the form of the Last Judgment after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world.
The title of the Book of Revelation, or The Apocalypse, is merely taken from Jewish tradition of naming the book after the first word or words of the book.  The first words of this book are "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to make known to his servants the things which must shortly come to pass: and signified, sending by his angel to his servant John" (Rev. 1:1, DRB).  In Greek, "revelation" is "apocalypse."  So it is not an indication of "end times" but rather of "things which must shortly come to pass."  So while being "prophetic" - it is not necessarily an "end times" prophecy.  The Book of Revelation is that which Jesus Christ was "revealing" to St. John. 

Bear in mind that in EVERY generation there is the spirit of antichrist.  There IS this great Beast which seeks to destroy your soul and the souls of as many as he can.  This is not something reserved for the Last Days, but has been happening in every age throughout history. 

What IS Important to Catholics Then?

The important factor for Catholics is the scriptural stance of ALWAYS being ready to stand before Christ.  We are not to be caught unprepared, as the five foolish virgins were in the parable told by Jesus in Matthew 25:1-13.  Note, all of the virgins are believers, but five of them do not come prepared and five of them do.  When the Bridegroom is delayed, the five foolish virgins realize they haven't enough oil.  When they are gone to get more oil (note, they are not unbelieving, they are just going to get more oil), the Bridegroom comes - and they are forbidden entry into the Wedding Feast.  So we, as Catholics, must ensure that we are always sacramentally prepared to face that End Time - when the Bridegroom comes.  If you are in need of confession - DON'T DELAY!  If you have not been to Mass recently, GET THERE!  Don't be all caught up in what some non-Catholics perceive as necessary belief when it comes to the End Times, just BE PREPARED at ALL TIMES and you will be OK.  I reiterate, it is not enough to just be a believer - the five foolish virgins were believers too, but were unprepared (the comparison could be that they ran off to go to Confession).  When Protestants teach that you don't have to DO anything - well, they are deceived and are attempting to bring you into that deception - as is the plan of "The Beast" to get control of as many souls as he can before people die, and/or prior to that "Last Day."  Jesus didn't provide us with the Sacraments so that we could just ignore them or get to them when convenient for us - but rather they are the means of grace by which we maintain our readiness for coming to Him either on OUR "last day" or THE "Last Day."   Which day will be YOUR "last day?"  Do you know?  Of course not!  What if tomorrow you were to be in an accident and lose your life in an instant, are you prepared to face the Bridegroom?

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