Since the popularity of the Left Behind books and movies, many Catholics ask why they were never taught about the word “rapture.”
Truth be told, the word is not in the Bible. It is interesting that those Christians who staunchly maintain that the Scripture alone (sola scriptura) is the only authority would use a term and idea that comes from outside the Bible.
“Rapture” actually comes from the Latin translation of the Bible completed by Saint Jerome in 400 AD at the direction of Pope Damasus I. This was the first one volume, one-language edition of the Bible. Both Old and New Testaments were translated from their original Hebrew and Greek into the common (vulgar) tongue of that time and place (which, thanks to the Roman Empire, was Latin).
The Greek word harpagésometha is used in Saint Paul’s epistle, 1 Thessalonians 4:17, which Saint Jerome translated into Latin as rapiemur in the text of the Vulgate Latin Bible. Both words mean “we will be seized” or “we will be caught up” or “we will be snatched up.”
The King James Version of this passage reads: “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
No English Bible uses the word “rapture,” and it was not taught as Christian doctrine by the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or even Protestant Reformed churches. The notion comes from the nineteenth-century Evangelicals, so even the reformers like Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Hus, and Cramner (three hundred years beforehand) never used the word or taught the doctrine of the rapture.
Most Christians had merely believed that when the end of the world occurred, there would obviously be some living human beings still around; those who were good would be “taken up” while the evil ones would be left behind, yet there was no specific doctrine of “rapture.” The “taking up” was considered incidental, like the other phenomena predicted in the book of Revelation (Apocalypse) such as the four horsemen and the seven seals. Only in recent times have Christians of various denominations put emphasis on particular apocalyptic events, like the “rapture.”
Medieval and Reformation era Christians did not focus as much attention on these peripheral details since none of them directly affect a person’s ultimate destiny of heaven or hell.