RAPTURE TEACHING HISTORY
I ANSWER THE PROOF OF HISTORY ARGUMENT - Keith Hunt
CRITICS OF THE PRETRIBULATIONAL rapture view often refer to its
lack of historical support. For several years, opponents of the
pretribulational rapture position have argued that it was
invented by John Darby in the mid-1800s and was never mentioned
before that. These arguments generally reason that because this
teaching is less than 200 years old, it cannot be biblical, or
Christians would have held to this view many years earlier.
Ultimately, biblical truth must be determined by the clear
teaching of Scripture, not how that teaching has been perceived
throughout history. However, a substantial amount of evidence
reveals a belief in a pretribulational rapture long before John
As Solomon said there is nothing new under the sun, it is to
be excepted SOME down through time held the "rapture" of the
church from earth to heaven to escape the tribulation of the man
EARLY CHURCH FATHERS
The earliest documents of the ancient church (including the New
Testament canon) reflect a clear premillennialism. However, minor
controversy surrounds the relation of the rapture to the
Tribulation. Pretribulationists point to the early church's clear
belief in immanency as evidence that pretribulationism was held
by at least a few from the earliest times.
Yes of course some in the later end of the first century, would
no doubt hold a view that Jesus could come any second, without
any signs needing to be fulfilled as He and Paul gave. But some
have always had it WRONG on many things throughout all ages. Why
some even taught the earth was flat, and if you went far enough
you'd fall off the edge.
As was typical of every area of the early church's theology,
initial views of prophecy were undeveloped and sometimes
contradictory, containing a seedbed out of which would develop
various and diverse theological viewpoints. Finding clear
pretribulationism spelled out in the early church fathers is
difficult, but some pretribulational elements are clear. When
systematized with their other prophetic views, these elements
contradict posttribulationism and support pretribulationism. For
example, the apostolic fathers clearly taught the
pretribulational feature of imminence.
And who were the apostolic fathers? Why they were the ones who
founded the Roman Catholic church, they were the founding
fathers, that became the Church of Rome, that has some truth but
also MUCH error of teachings and customs and practices.
A cursory examination of the early church fathers reveals that
they were predominantly premillennialists or chiliasts. Clear
examples exist in the writings of Barnabas (ca. 100-105), Papias
(ca. 60-130), Justin Martyr (110-165), Irenaeus (120-202),
Tertullian (145-220), Hippolytus (ca. 185-236), Cyprian
(200-250), and Lactantius (260-330). The early church fathers
largely expected the church to be suffering and persecuted when
the Lord returns. However, they also believed in the imminent
return of Christ, which is a central feature of pretribulational
thought. This lack of precision has led to debate among scholars
as to how to interpret the early church fathers' writings.
Expressions of imminence abound in the apostolic fathers. Clement
of Rome (90-100), Ignatius of Antioch (98-117), The Didache
100-160), The Epistle of Barnabas (117-138), and The Shepherd of
Hernias (96-150) all speak of immanency. Their statements abound
with exhortations to "watch," "wait," and "be ready" for the
Lord's soon coming. Furthermore, The Shepherd of Hernias (1.4.2)
speaks of escaping the Tribulation:
You have escaped from great tribulation on account of your
faith, and because you did not doubt in the presence of such
a beast. Go, therefore, and tell the elect of the Lord His
mighty deeds, and say to them that this beast is a type of
the great tribulation that is coming. If then ye prepare
yourselves, and repent with all your heart, and turn to the
Lord, it will be possible for you to escape it, if your
heart be pure and spotless, and ye spend the rest of the
days of your life in serving the Lord blamelessly.
You will note none of the above men are from the apostles of the
New Testament. You will notice the apostle John is not named and
he lived to near the end of the first century A.D. What these
named people wrote or preached is basically useless IF it does
not square with the Bible. God's Word is truth, not the ideas of
men (John 17:17). The quote above talks about "escape" but it
does not say escaping via some "secret rapture" invisible to the
world, and being taken off to heaven. The "imminence" of Christ
may have meant a different thing back then. We know what the
present fundamentalists say it is, they say it means Jesus can
come any second, without any of the signs given by Christ and
Paul needing to be fulfilled. This idea is nowhere taught in the
NT. If you have not done so, you need to study my study called
"The IMMINENT" return of Christ" on this Website.
In the end, no one can produce a clear statement of patristic
eschatology regarding the rapture. But we can conclude the
* They expected a literal coming of Christ followed by a literal
They had that correct!
* They believed in the imminent coming of Christ with occasional
They got that one wrong!
* They were being persecuted by the Roman government but did not
equate this with the future Tribulational wrath.
Wow, they got that one correct also!
Larry Crutchfield (p.7) rightly concludes:
This view of the fathers on immanency, and, in some,
references to escaping the time of the Tribulation,
constitute what may be termed, to quote Erickson, "seeds
from which the doctrine of the pretribulational rapture
could be developed...." Had it not been for the drought in
sound exegesis, brought on by Alexandrian allegorism and
later by Augustine, one wonders what kind of crop those
seeds might have yielded long before J.N.Darby and the
Well if the rain from the reformation is meant by ending the
drought of sound exegesis, we would have had false doctrines
being taught much earlier than they finally arrived.
THE MEDIEVAL CHURCH
The period between Augustine and the Renaissance was largely
dominated by "Augustine's understanding of the church, and his
spiritualization of the Millennium as the reign of Christ in the
saints." There were only "sporadic discussions here and there of
a literal, future Millennium" (Hannah, pp.315-16), making
examples of pretribulationalism very rare. However, careful
historical research has brought many long-neglected
pretribulational statements to light.
WOOPEE - they've found some who were already going off the track.
I guess so when you consider some of the verses in the NT about
there already being many anti-christs in the world, and Jude
having to exhort his readers to earnestly contend for the faith
once delivered to the saints.
Ephraem of Nisibis (306-373)
Ephraem was an extremely important and prolific writer. Also
known as Pseudo-Ephraem, he was a major theologian of the early
Eastern (Byzantine) church. His important sermon "On the Last
Times, the Antichrist and the End of the World" (ca. 373)
declares, "All the saints and elect of God are gathered together
before the tribulation, which is to come, and are taken to the
Lord, in order that they may not see at any time the confusion
which overwhelms the world because of our sins."
Words are cheap, anyone can say anything, and get thousands to
believe them. But truth is established by the word of the Lord,
not the ideas of men.
In this sermon, Pseudo-Ephraem develops an elaborate biblical
eschatology, including a distinction between the rapture and the
second coming of Christ. It describes the imminent rapture,
followed by a three-and-one-half-year-long Great Tribulation
under the rule of Antichrist, followed by the coming of Christ,
the defeat of Antichrist, and the eternal state. His view
includes a parenthesis between the fulfilment of Daniel's
sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks (Daniel 9:24-27). Pseudo-Ephraem
describes the rapture as preceding the Tribulation and "imminent
Well truly Satan was putting the strange idea of a two-phased
coming of Christ in some minds of some. Solomon said, there is
nothing new under the sun.
Codex Amiatinus (ca. 690-716)
This significant Latin manuscript from England was commissioned
by Abbot Ceolfrid of the monasteries of Jarrow and Wearmouth in
Northumberland. In the title to Psalm 22 (Psalm 23 in the
Vulgate), the following appears: "Psalm of David, the voice of
the Church after being raptured." The Latin phrase "post
raptismum" contains a verb from the root "rapio," meaning "to
snatch, or hurry away." This title is not carried over from
Jerome's Vulgate and thus is likely the product of the Jarrow
monastery. Though not conclusive and still in need of further
study, it appears that Codex Amiatinus presents another example
of pretribulational thought in the Middle Ages.
Even if it does, it is the writings of men, and proves nothing as
to the truth of the matter from God's word.
Brother Dolcino (d. 1307)
A recent study of the fourteenth-century text "The History of
Brother Dolcino," composed in 1316 by an anonymous source,
reveals another important pretribulational passage. As leader of
the Apostolic Brethren in northern Italy, Brother Dolcino led his
people through times of tremendous papal persecution. One of the
group wrote the following astonishing words:
The Antichrist was coming into this world within the bounds
of the said three and a half years; and after he had come,
then he [Dolcino) and his followers would be transferred
into Paradise, in which are Enoch and Elijah. And in this
way they will be preserved unharmed from the persecution of
Thus, the writer of this History believed that Dolcino and
his followers would be transferred to paradise, expressing this
belief with the Latin word "transferrentur," or "translation," a
synonym for rapture. Dolcino and his followers retreated into the
mountains of northern Italy to await their removal at the
appearance of Antichrist.
They like many other groups down through the centuries, have
either set dates for the Tribulation, or for the "rapture" or for
the day of the coming of Christ in the clouds. All of them, did
not understand the prophetic events of the Bible. All were very
badly mistaken, just as many were in 1844 under the fundamental
prophet William Miller, and just as the 1980 fundamental
prophets, who were busy predicting Jesus would come by 1988.
It is believed that sects like the Albigenses, Lombards, and the
Waldenses were attracted to premillennialism, but little is known
of the details of their beliefs since the Catholics destroyed
their works when they were found.
So leave it alone, do not go where there is no road-map of
Francis Gumerlock is the individual who advocates the Brother
Dolcino rapture find. Gumerlock (p.80) wrote, "The Dolicinites
held to a pre-tribulation rapture theory similar to that in
modern dispensationalism." The significance of these early
statements is The Antichrist was coming into this world within
the bounds of the said three and a half years; and after he had
come, then he [Dolcino) and his followers would be transferred
into Paradise, in which are Enoch and Elijah. And in this way
they will be preserved unharmed from the persecution of
Well well, some guy and his followers held some "secret rapture"
teaching, which is just as wrong as believing Enoch and Elijah
are up in heaven, and oh, with Moses. Better see my study called
"Enoch, Moses and Elijah - in Heaven?" Nope they ain't there and
neither will those who look to the secret rapture to take them
That they clearly contradict those who have attempted to say that
rapture statements did not exist before 1830. Gumerlock (p.361)
believes that this is a pretribulational rapture statement, and
This paragraph from "The History of Brother Dolcino" indicates
that in northern Italy in the early fourteenth century a teaching
very similar to modern pretribulationalism was being preached.
Responding to distressing political and ecclesiastical
conditions, Dolcino engaged in detailed speculations about
eschatology and believed that the coming of the Antichrist was
imminent. He also believed that the means by which God would
protect His people from the persecution of the Antichrist would
be through a translation of the saints to paradise.
He got it drastically wrong about the coming of THE anti-christ
as Paul said would come before Christ returned, to be destroyed
by the brightness of the coming of Christ - (2 Thes.2). The guy
did not understand the signs of his times. He obviously could not
see or understand the prophecies leading up to THE final anti-
christ or many other parts of the prophetic books of the Bible.
But he has not been alone, many other would come who were also
just as blind to correctly seeing the signs Jesus gave before the
last 42 months of this age would come.
THE REFORMATION ERA
After over 1000 years of suppression, premillennialism began to
be revived as a result of at least four factors. First, the
Reformers went back to the Bible and apostolic fathers. This
exposed them to an orthodox premillennialism. Especially
significant was the reappearance of the full text of Irenaeus'
"Against Heresies," including the last five chapters, which
espouse a consistent futurism and cast the seventieth week of
Daniel into the future.
THEY WENT BACK TO WHO? THE WORD OF GOD? NO, TO SOME FOUNDER OF
THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH AND HIS SILLY MIND-SET OVER THE 70TH
WEEK OF DANIEL 9 YET BEING AT THE END OF THIS AGE.
Truly there is nothing new under the sun.
Second, they repudiated much of the allegorization that dominated
medieval hermeneutics by adopting a more literal approach,
especially in the area of the grammatical and historical
Okay to be literal in understanding that much, most of prophecy
is literal, just the prophecies on Christ's first coming were
literally fulfilled. But putting verse with verse is the major
key to correct understanding of Bible prophecy, and the
fundamental guys just have one serious heck of a time doing that.
Third, many of the Protestants came into contact with Jews and
learned Hebrew. This led them to ask whether passages that speak
of national Israel were to be taken historically or allegorized
in the tradition of the Middle Ages.
And what did the Jews say? Really makes no difference what they
said. Truth is not interpreted by the Jews. I have a study on
that question somewhere on this Website. I believe it is called
"Do we Look to the Jews for Interpretation?"
Fourth, beginning in the late fifteenth century, the translation
of the Bible into the native tongues of the people for the first
time since the days of the early church produced an explosion of
Bible reading by the general public. This resulted in a general
knowledge of the Bible, especially the Old Testament, for the
first time in church history. Since the Old Testament speaks
primarily of Israel, it took just a few decades for people to
start thinking about Israel and its future. This also contributed
to a revival of premillennialism.
Joseph Mede (1586-1638) is considered the father of English
premillennialism, having written "Clavis Apocalyptica" (Key of
the Revelation) in 1627 in which "He attempted to construct an
outline of the Apocalypse based solely upon internal
considerations. In this interpretation he advocated
premillennialism in such a scholarly way that this work continued
to influence eschatological interpretation for centuries"
Increase Mather (1639-1723), president of Harvard College (1685),
was a significant American Puritan. Concerning the future coming
of Christ, he wrote that the saints would "be caught up into the
air" beforehand, thereby escaping the final conflagration.
Christ coming and then the Kingdom of God on earth was known and
taught by all the true saints of God from the first apostles. It
is clear to see that in the Bible. The Bible was not lost except
under the nations of the Holy Roman Empire.
What Mather considered "the final conflagration" is not given to
us here. So hence what he taught I cannot comment on. But if he
did teach the popular "secret rapture" doctrine, he was in error.
Others began to speak of the rapture. Paul Benware (pp.197-98)
French Reformer Peter Jurieu in his book "Approaching
Deliverance of the Church" (1687) taught that Christ would
come in the air to rapture the saints and return to heaven
before the battle of Armageddon. He spoke of a secret
rapture prior to His coming in glory and judgment at
Armageddon. Philip Doddridge's commentary on the New
Testament (1738) and John Gill's commentary on the New
Testament (1748) both use the term rapture and speak of it
as imminent. It is clear that these men believed that this
coming will precede Christ's descent to the earth and the
time of judgment. The purpose was to preserve believers from
the time of judgment. James Macknight (1763) and Thomas
Scott (1792) taught that the righteous will be carried to
heaven, where they will be secure until the time of judgment
It does not matter how many fellows you can find from history who
taught this "secret rapture" stuff, it still does not make it
correct. The word of God is truth not the ideas of men. And
besides, I could probably come up with more guys from history who
did not teach such an idea.
The clearest pre-Darby reference to a pretribulational rapture,
if not the most developed, comes from Morgan Edwards (1722-1795),
who saw a distinct rapture three and a half years before the
start of the millennium. Edwards was a Baptist preacher,
evangelist, historian, and educator who founded Rhode Island
College (Brown University). During his student days at Bristol
Baptist Seminary in England (1742-1744), he wrote an essay on
Bible prophecy. The essay was published in Philadelphia in 1788
as "Two Academical Exercises on Subjects Bearing the Following
Titles; Millennium, Last-Novelties." Edwards wrote, "The distance
between the first and second resurrection will be somewhat more
than a thousand years... because the dead saints will be raised,
and the living changed at Christ's 'appearing in the air' (1
We are not given the full writing of this man Edwards. We are
only given what this author states as to what he wrote and
believed. I will refrain from passing judgment on Edwards.
* He believes that more than 1000 years will transpire between
* He associates the first resurrection with the rapture of 1
* He associates the meeting of believers with Christ in the air
with John 14:2.
* He sees believers disappearing into heaven during the time of
I see no problem with the first three points we are told that
Edwards taught. All the first three points are quite correct,
that is what the Bible teaches. there is a 1000 years between the
first and second resurrections. The first resurrection is 1
Thes.4:13-18. We do meet Christ in the and we are with Him as
John 14:2 and 1 Thes.4:13-18 tells us. What those verses do not
tell us is where Christ goes with us from the clouds. It is
Zechariah 14 that tells us that in the same day His feet touch
the Mount of Olives.
The last point we are told that Edwards believed (I have no proof
he did for we are not given his writing) that believers disappear
into heaven during the time of the Tribulation. If Edwards did in
fact believe this, then he was totally wrong.
There is no doubt Morgan Edwards was a pretribulationalist nearly
100 years before Darby.
So what! What Edwards and others before Darby taught makes no
difference as to actual truth of the Bible. Many have been wrong
on many subjects about the Bible. Many have been wrong yesterday,
many are wrong today, and many will be wrong tomorrow.
THE MODERN CHURCH
As futurism began to replace historicism within premillennial
circles in the 1820S, the modern proponents of dispensational
pretribulationism arrived on the scene. As early as 1818, William
Witherby produced a work that had virtually all of the features
of modern futurism. John Nelson Darby (1800-1882) claims to have
first understood his view of the rapture as the result of
personal Bible study during a convalescence stay at his sister's
house from December 1826 until January 1827. He is the
popularizer of the modern version of the doctrine of a
And Tara Chapman (whom I mention on the first page of this
Website) tells me that she came to see the FALSEHOOD of the
"secret rapture" all by herself from just reading the Bible.
The doctrine of the rapture spread around the world through the
Brethren movement, with which Darby was associated. It appears
that either through their writings or personal visits to North
America, this version of pretribulationism spread throughout
American evangelicals. Two early proponents of the view include
Presbyterian James H. Brookes (1830-1897) and Baptist J.R. Graves
So what! Many false doctrines have been spread around the world
from all ages of the past 2,000 years. We have a veritable
Babylon of confusion of so-called "Christian teachings" - some by
this group, some by that group, some by another group. Who taught
what and when makes no difference in finding the truth of the
matter from the Word of God. The true teachings of the Lord are
in His WORD and not from the pen of mortals. You need to search
the Scriptures to see who teaches the truth of God.
The pretribulational position spread through influence of the
Niagara Bible Conference era (New York, 1878-1909) and received
wide exposure in the popular prophetic publications The Truth,
Our Hope, The Watchword, and Maranatha. It was also carried
forward in William Backstone's book "Jesus is Coming" (1909),
C.I. Scofield's popular Scofield Reference Bible (1909), and
So what! It makes no difference how many people write about this
or that, in whatever publications, endorsed by how-many-men, with
how-many-followers. Truth is ONLY in the Word of God. Everything
that men say or write you still need to search the Scriptures.
Isaiah 8:20 still applies today as it did always.
Prominent pretribulational Bible teachers articulated the
position on the Bible conference circuit in the nineteenth and
twentieth centuries, including Arno C. Gaebelein (1861-1945),
A.J. Gordon (1836-1895), James M. Gray (1851-1935), R.A. Torrey
(1856-1928), Harry Ironside (1876-1951), John E Strombeck
(1881-1959), Lewis Sperry Chafer (1871-1952), Alva J. McClain
(1888-1968), Charles Lee Feinberg (1909-1995), J. Dwight
Pentecost, John E Walvoord (1910-2002), Charles Ryrie, and Tim
So what! You can name 1,000 guys or gals claiming to come in the
name of Christ, and claiming this or that is truth, BUT you have
to search the Scriptures as the Bereans did (Acts 17) when Paul
and Silas came teaching and preaching. Do it with me, do it with
everyone. Only the Word of God is truth (John 17:17).
During the past 120 years, numerous schools, colleges, and
seminaries were established expounding dispensational
pretribulationalism. These include Moody Bible Institute, Biola
University, Philadelphia Biblical University, Dallas Theological
Seminary, Grace Theological Seminary, Liberty University, Bob
Jones University, the Master's College and Seminary, and others.
Pretribulationalism is also a major doctrinal position in many
Baptist, Brethren, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, and independent
Do you see what the authors are doing here? It is "You scratch my
back and I'll scratch yours" hype. It is "We have all kinds of
popular theology teachers and theology Schools" that have all
kinds of followers, so this "secret rapture" teaching must be
correct. They do not mention all the other teachers and "theology
schools" in other parts of everything that goes under the name of
"Christian" who do not agree with the "secret rapture" idea. They
are doing the "Look to popular men" ideology.
What you need to look to is the WORD of the Lord. What you need
to do is SEARCH the Scriptures, to prove all things, then you can
hold fast to that which is good and correct.
On the popular front, nothing has done more to
promote the pretribulational rapture position than Hal Lindsay's
Late Great Planet Earth (1970) and Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins'
12-volume Left Behind series (1995-2004).
THOMAS ICE AND JAMES STITZINGER
Many of the popular "fundamental" teachers in the early 1980s
were proclaiming and teaching Jesus was going to return before
the end of that decade. you've had fundamental teachers writing
books on "oil" and "finances" of the world and telling you it was
the lead up to Armageddon. Which is simply just not so. they
write their books, tens of thousands buy them; they make their
money; ten years or so later the books are forgotten. Then a new
generation of fundamental prophets come along, preaching to a new
generation of listeners, and around it goes again. The guys
writing the books are the ones laughing all the way to the bank.
It matters not HOW many books are written on this idea of a
"secret rapture" or "two-phased" coming of Christ. It matters not
if it is one book or a 100-volume set, I tell you VERY BLUNTLY,
VERY IN YOUR FACE, IN THEIR FACE, THE WHOLE TEACHING IS A HERESY
AND FALSE DOCTRINE.
TIME WILL TELL THAT I AM CORRECT, AND THEY ARE WRONG!!
IT WILL EVENTUALLY BE RECORDED IN HISTORY THAT THEIR HISTORY, AND
ALL WHO TAUGHT THIS SECRET COMING OF CHRIST, WILL HAVE BEEN VERY
BUT YOU DON'T HAVE TO WAIT TILL CHRIST COMES TO LEARN THIS TRUTH,
YOU CAN SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES AND FIND THE TRUTH NOW. DESIRE THE
TRUTH, LIKE YOU WOULD DESIRE WATER AFTER BEING IN THE DRY DESERT
FOR THREE DAYS WITHOUT WATER. JESUS HAS PROMISED IF YOU HUNGER
AND THIRST AFTER RIGHTEOUSNESS AND TRUTH, YOU WILL BE FILLED, YOU
WILL FIND IT.