Pre-Tribulation Rapture Apologetics

Pre-Tribulation Rapture Apologetics

Rapture Of The Church
“The Great Snatch”
Chuck Missler

      We continue to receive many questions concerning the “Rapture of the Church” and its apparent contrast with the “Second Coming” of Jesus Christ. Where does this view come from? Is the term “rapture” even in the Bible?

The mysterious event known as the Rapture is most clearly represented in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, which encourages the grieving Christians that, at the “great snatch,” they will be reunited with those who have died in Christ before them.

In verse 17, the English phrase “caught up” translates the Greek word harpazo, which means “to seize upon with force” or “to snatch up.” The Latin translators of the Bible used the word “rapturo,” the root of the English term “Rapture.” At the Rapture, living believers will be “caught up” in the air, translated into the clouds, in a moment in time to join the Lord in the air.

There are many that still hold to the view that emerged in the Medieval church (Catholic and Protestant) that the “Second Coming” of Christ and the “Rapture” are somehow the same. Yet there seems to be a number of indications that these are distinct and separate.

There is also predicted an unparalleled “time of trouble” that Jesus called the “Great Tribulation.”1 Many hold to the view that the Rapture of the church will occur after that specific period of time, thus, closely associating it with the Second Coming. This is known as the “post-tribulation” view.

Post-Tribulation Views

There are at least four distinct types of post-tribulational views:

  • Classic post-tribulationism (J. Barton Payne, et al);
  • Semi-classic post-tribulation ism (Alexander Reese);
  • Futuristic post-tribulationism (George E. Ladd);
  • Dispensational post-tribulationism (Robert H. Gundry).

These differing views are based upon different approaches, presuppositions, and argumentation. In fact, they substantially contradict each other. As one insists on literalness, each of these views must embrace in creasing difficulties. Those of us who cling to a very literal view of the Scriptures believe that the church will be removed prior to the tribulation period (the “pre-tribulation” view). Why? What is the basis for this view?

The Pre-Tribulation View

The Rapture is characterized in the New Testament as a “translation coming” (1 Corinthians 15:51- 52; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17) in which the Lord comes for His church, taking her to His Father’s House (John 14:3). However, at Christ’s Second Coming with His saints, He descends from heaven to set up His Messianic Kingdom on earth (Zechariah 14:4-5; Matthew 24:27-31). The differences between the two events are harmonized naturally by the “pre-trib” position, while other views are not able to ac count comfortably for such differences.

A New Testament Mystery

Paul speaks of the Rapture as a “mystery” (1 Corinthians 15:51-54), that is, a truth not revealed until its disclosure by the apostles (Colossians 1:26). The Second Coming, on the other hand, was predicted in the Old Testament (Daniel 12:1-3; Zechariah 12:10; 14:4). In fact, the oldest prophecy uttered by a prophet was given before the flood of Noah and was of the Second Coming! It was given by Enoch, quoted in Jude 14-15.

The movement of the believer at the Rapture is from earth to heaven; at the Second Coming it is from heaven to earth. At the Rapture, the Lord comes for His saints (1 Thessalonians 4:16), while at the Second Coming the Lord comes with His saints (1 Thessalonians 3:13).

Post-tribulation Problems

One of the strengths of the pre-trib view is that it is better able to harmonize the many events of end-time prophecy because of the above distinctions. There are some awkward difficulties with the post-tribulational view:

1) The post-tribulation view requires that the church be present during the 70th week of Daniel (Daniel 9:24-27), even though it was absent from the first 69. This is in spite of the fact that Dan 9:24 indicates that all 70 weeks are for Israel. We believe the church must depart prior to the 70th week, before the final seven-year period (see our briefing package, Daniel’s 70 Weeks, for further study).

2) The post-tribulation view denies the New Testament teaching of imminency–that Christ could come at any moment–since there are intervening events required in that view. We believe there are no signs that must precede the Rapture.

3) The post-tribulation view has difficulties with who will populate the Millennium4 if the Rapture and the Second Coming occur at essentially the same time. Since all believers will be translated at the Rapture and all unbelievers are judged, because no unrighteous shall be allowed to enter Christ’s Kingdom, then no one would be left in mortal bodies to start the population base for the Millennium.

4) Similarly, post-tribulationism is not able to explain the sheep and goats judgment after the Second Coming in Matthew 25:3- 46. Where would the believers in mortal bodies come from if they are raptured at the Second Coming? Who would be able to enter into Christ’s Kingdom?

5) The Bride of Christ, the church, is made ready to accompany Christ to earth (Revelation 19:7-8, 14) before the Second Coming, but how could this reasonably happen if part of the church is still on the earth awaiting the Second Coming? If the Rapture of the church takes place at the Second Coming, then how does the Bride (the church) also come with Christ at His Return?

While many diligent scholars disagree, most of their views derive from their presuppositions about the Scripture. The more literal a view, the more there is an adoption of a pre-millennial pre-tribulation position. We encourage you to review the various passages yourself and develop your own conclusions. This is our “Blessed Hope,” and you will not find a more exciting and rewarding discovery. This is just a brief overview of a complex subject, so apply 2 Timothy 2:15:

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

A more comprehensive treatment of some of these topics is included in our Expositional Commentaries on the book of Daniel and the Thessalonian epistles. And if you don’t happen to hold our views, don’t worry about it. We’ll explain it to you on the way up! Incidentally, Enoch is a model. He was pre-flood, not mid-flood or post-flood!

For more information about these views, we encourage you to contact the Pre-Trib Research Center, 370 L’Enfant Promenade SW, Suite 801, Washington DC, 20024.

Is the Pre-Trib Rapture a Satanic Deception?
by Dr. Thomas Ice

Recently, pre-wrath advocate Marvin Rosenthal wrote that the pre-trib rapture was of Satanic origin and unheard of before 1830. “To thwart the Lord’s warning to His children, in 1830,” proclaims Rosenthal, “Satan, the ‘father of lies,’ gave to a fifteen-year-old girl named Margaret McDonald a lengthy vision.”1 Rosenthal gives no documentation, he merely asserts that this is true. However, he is wrong. He is undoubtedly relying upon the questionable work of Dave MacPherson.

Another thing amazing about Rosenthal’s declaration is that a few paragraphs later in the article he characterizes his opposition as those who “did not deal with the issues, misrepresented the facts, or attempted character assassination.”2 This description is exactly what he has done in his characterization of pre-trib rapture origins. Why would Rosenthal make such outlandish and unsubstantiated charges about the pre-trib rapture?

The Big Lie

One of the things that facilitated the Nazi rise to power in Germany earlier this century was their propaganda approach called “The Big Lie.” If you told a big enough lie often enough then the people would come to believe it. This the Nazis did well. This is what anti-pretribulationists like John Bray3 and Dave MacPherson4 have done over the last 25 years. Apparently the big lie about the origins of the pre-trib rapture has penetrated the thinking of Robert Van Kampen 5 and Marvin Rosenthal to the extent that they have adopted such a falsehood as true. This is amazing in light of the fact that their own pre-wrath viewpoint is not much more than fifteen years old itself. Rosenthal must have changed his mind about pre-trib origins between the time he wrote his book The Pre-wrath Rapture of the Church (1990) and the recent article (Dec. 1994) since, in the former, he says that the pre-trib rapture “can be traced back to John Darby and the Plymouth Brethren in the year 1830.”6 Rosenthal goes on to say, “Some scholars, seeking to prove error by association, have attempted (perhaps unfairly) to trace its origin back two years earlier to a charismatic, visionary woman named Margaret MacDonald.”7 Even this statement is in error, since the Margaret Macdonald claim has always been related to 1830, not 1828. However, Rosenthal is correct in his original assessment that these charges are “unfair” and probably spring out of a motive to “prove error by association,” known as the ad hominem argument.

Pretribulationists have sought to defend against “The Big Lie” through direct interaction against the charges.8 In a rebuttal to these charges I made in 1990, I gave two major reasons why “The Big Lie” is not true. First, it is doubtful that Margaret Macdonald’s “prophecy” contains any elements related to the pre-trib rapture.9 Second, no one has ever demonstrated from actual facts of history that Darby was influenced by Macdonald’s “prophecy” even if it had (which it did not) contained pre-trib elements.10 John Walvoord has said,

The whole controversy as aroused by Dave MacPherson’s claims has so little supporting evidence, despite his careful research, that one wonders how he can write his book with a straight face. Pretribulationalists should be indebted to Dave MacPherson for exposing the facts, namely, that there is no proof that MacDonald or Irving originated the pretribulation rapture teaching.11

There is a third reason why MacPherson’s theory is wrong, Darby clearly held to an early form of the pre-trib rapture by January 1827. This is a full three years before MacPherson’s claim of 1830.

Darby and the Pre-Trib Rapture

Brethren writer, Roy A. Huebner claims and documents his belief that J.N. Darby first began to believe in the pre-trib rapture and develop his dispensational thinking while convalescing from a riding accident during December 1826 and January 1827.12 If this is true, then all of the origin-of-the-rapture-conspiracy-theories fall to the ground in a heap of speculative rubble. Darby would have at least a three-year jump on any who would have supposedly influenced his thought, making it impossible for all the “influence” theories to have any credibility.

Huebner provides clarification and evidence that Darby was not influenced by a fifteen-yea-old girl (Margaret Macdonald), Lacunza, Edward Irving, or the Irvingites. These are all said by the detractors of Darby and the pre-trib rapture to be bridges which led to Darby’s thought. Instead, he demonstrates that Darby’s understanding of the pre-trib rapture was the product of the development of his personal interactive thought with the text of Scripture as he, his friends, and dispensationalists have long contended.

Darby’s pre-trib and dispensational thoughts, says Huebner, were developed from the following factors: 1) “he saw from Isaiah 32 that there was a different dispensation coming . . . that Israel and the Church were distinct.”13 2) “During his convalescence JND learned that he ought daily to expect his Lord’s return.”14 3) “In 1827 JND understood the fall of the church. . . ‘the ruin of the Church.'”15 4) Darby also was beginning to see a gap of time between the rapture and the second coming by 1827.16 5) Darby, himself, said in 1857 that he first started understanding things relating to the pre-trib Rapture “thirty years ago.” “With that fixed point of reference, Jan. 31, 1827,” declares Huebner, we can see that Darby “had already understood those truths upon which the pre-tribulation rapture hinges.”17

German author Max S. Weremchuk has produced a major new biography on Darby entitled John Nelson Darby: A Biography.18 He agrees with Huebner’s conclusions concerning the matter. “Having read MacPherson’s book . . .” says Weremchuk, “I find it impossible to make a just comparison between what Miss MacDonald ‘prophesied’ and what Darby taught. It appears that the wish was the father of the idea.”19

When reading Darby’s earliest published essay on biblical prophecy (1829), it is clear that while it still has elements of historicism, it also reflects the fact that for Darby, the rapture was to be the church’s focus and hope.20 Even in this earliest of essays, Darby expounds upon the rapture as the church’s hope.21

Scholars Do Not Accept The Big Lie

The various “rapture origin” theories espoused by opponents of pre-tribulationsm are not accepted as historically valid by scholars who have examined the evidence. The only ones who appear to have accepted these theories are those who already are opposed to the pre-trib rapture. A look at various scholars and historians reveals that they think, in varying degrees, that MacPherson has not proven his point. Most, if not all who are quoted below do not hold to the pre-trib rapture teaching. Ernest R. Sandeen declares,

This seems to be a groundless and pernicious charge. Neither Irving nor any member of the Albury group advocated any doctrine resembling the secret rapture. . . . Since the clear intention of this charge is to discredit the doctrine by attributing its origin to fanaticism rather than Scripture, there seems little ground for giving it any credence.22

Historian Timothy P. Weber’s evaluation is a follows:

The pretribulation rapture was a neat solution to a thorny problem and historians are still trying to determine how or where Darby got it. . . .

A newer though still not totally convincing view contends that the doctrine initially appeared in a prophetic vision of Margaret Macdonald, . . .

Possibly, we may have to settle for Darby’s own explanation. He claimed that the doctrine virtually jumped out of the pages of Scripture once he accepted and consistently maintained the distinction between Israel and the church.23

American historian Richard R. Reiter informs us that,

[Robert] Cameron probably traced this important but apparently erroneous view back to S. P. Tregelles, . . . Recently more detailed study on this view as the origin of pretribulationism appeared in works by Dave McPherson, . . . historian Ian S. Rennie . . . regarded McPherson’s case as interesting but not conclusive.24

Posttribulationist William E. Bell asserts that,

It seems only fair, however, in the absence of eyewitnesses to settle the argument conclusively, that the benefit of the doubt should be given to Darby, and that the charge made by Tregelles be regarded as a possibility but with insufficient support to merit its acceptance. . . . On the whole, however, it seems that Darby is perhaps the most likely choice–with help from Tweedy. This conclusion is greatly strengthened by Darby’s own claim to have arrived at the doctrine through his study of II Thessalonians 2:1-2.25

Pre-trib rapture opponent John Bray does not accept the MacPherson thesis either.

He [Darby] rejected those practices, and he already had his new view of the Lord coming FOR THE SAINTS (as contrasted to the later coming to the earth) which he had believed since 1827, . . . It was the coupling of this “70th week of Daniel” prophecy and its futuristic interpretation, with the teaching of the “secret rapture,” that gave to us the completed “Pre-tribulation Secret Rapture” teaching as it has now been taught for many years. . . . makes it impossible for me to believe that Darby got his Pre-Tribulation Rapture teaching from Margaret MacDonald’s vision in 1830. He was already a believer in it since 1827, as he plainly said.26

Huebner considers MacPherson’s charges as “using slander that J. N. Darby took the (truth of the) pretribulation rapture from those very opposing, demon-inspired utterances.”27 He goes on to conclude that MacPherson did not profit by reading the utterances allegedly by Miss M. M. Instead of apprehending the plain import of her statements, as given by R. Norton, which has some affinity to the post-tribulation scheme and no real resemblance to the pretribulation rapture and dispensational truth, he has read into it what he appears so anxious to find.28

Conclusion

F. F. Bruce, who was part of the Brethren movement his entire life, but one who did not agree with the pre-trib rapture said the following when commenting on the validity of MacPherson’s thesis:

Where did he [Darby] get it? The reviewer’s answer would be that it was in the air in the 1820s and 1830s among eager students of unfulfilled prophecy, . . . direct dependence by Darby on Margaret Macdonald is unlikely.29

John Walvoord’s assessment is likely close to the truth:

any careful student of Darby soon discovers that he did not get his eschatological views from men, but rather from his doctrine of the church as the body of Christ, a concept no one claims was revealed supernaturally to Irving or Macdonald. Darby’s views undoubtedly were gradually formed, but they were theologically and biblically based rather than derived from Irving’s pre-Pentecostal group.30

I challenge opponents of the pre-trib rapture to stick to a discussion of this matter based upon the Scriptures. While some have done this, many have not been so honest. To call the pre-trib position Satanic, as Rosenthal has done, does not help anyone in this discussion. Such rhetoric will only serve to cause greater polarization of the two views. However, when pre-trib opponents make false charges about the history of the pre-trib view we must respond. And respond we will in our next issue where we will present a clear pre-trib rapture statement from the fourth or fifth century. This pre-trib rapture statement ante-dates

830 by almost 1,500 years and will certainly lead to at least a revision of those propagating The Big Lie.[1]

 The Pre-Tribulation Rapture: A new idea?

by Michael G. Mickey

If you listen to the skeptics, the doctrine of the Pre-Tribulational Rapture of the Church is practically a brand new idea. According to many, the doctrine wasn’t even hinted at prior to 1830. Is that accurate?

As you can imagine, I do a lot of reading, especially in regard to the alleged origins of the Pre-Tribulational Rapture doctrine, primarily because I’ve always found it astounding anyone could allege something as clear in Scripture as the Pre-Tribulational Rapture is wasn’t spoken of prior to 1830.

I was pleasantly surprised recently to learn one of the early Church fathers, Clement, may have written quite extensively on the principles of the topic in an epistle to the Corinthians he drafted in either 68 or 97 AD – less than 70 years after Christ’s death on the cross – a considerable period of time before 1830.

All of the excerpts I’m about to include of Clement’s writings can be found at a website documenting the writings of the Early Church Fathers. In Clement’s First Epistle to the Corinthians he wrote, as can be found on this page of the website, the following:

Chapter IX – Examples of the Saints.

Wherefore, let us yield obedience to His excellent and glorious will; and imploring His mercy and loving-kindness, while we forsake all fruitless labours, and strife, and envy, which leads to death, let us turn and have recourse to His compassions. Let us stedfastly contemplate those who have perfectly ministered to His excellent glory. Let us take (for instance) Enoch, who, being found righteous in obedience, was translated, and death was never known to happen to him. Noah, being found faithful, preached regeneration to the world through his ministry; and the Lord saved by him the animals which, with one accord, entered into the ark.

Clement refers to Enoch who was raptured without seeing death, as seen in Genesis 5:24: And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.

Secondly, Clement mentions Noah – a man Clement calls faithful who Scripture teaches us was spared God’s judgment during the Great Flood because he walked with God and was righteous in God’s eyes, as seen in Genesis 6:8-9: But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.

Continuing with Clement’s writings: Chapter XI – Continuation. Lot.

On account of his hospitality and godliness, Lot was saved out of Sodore when all the country round was punished by means of fire and brimstone, the Lord thus making it manifest that He does not forsake those that hope in Him, but gives up such as depart from Him to punishment and torture. For Lot’s wife, who went forth with him, being of a different mind from himself and not continuing in agreement with him [as to the command which had been given them], was made an example of, so as to be a pillar of salt unto this day. This was done that all might know that those who are of a double mind, and who distrust the power of God, bring down judgment on themselves and become a sign to all succeeding generations.

Much as Clement referred to Enoch and Noah, Clement writes next about Lot, another man who was saved from God’s judgment as a direct result of his godliness, particularly mentioning the fact that God does not forsake those that hope in Him!

Interestingly enough, Clement also addresses Lot’s wife, particularly noting she was of a different mindset than Lot, the end result of which left her standing in the desert as a pillar of salt. Clement tells us God made Lot’s wife an example, demonstrating how those of a double mind bring God’s judgment down on themselves by distrusting the power of God!

In spite of Scripture indicating the Church isn’t appointed to wrath, there are many Christians today who, in a fashion similar to Lot’s wife, fearfully look over their shoulders while stating we may need to begin preparing ourselves mentally and spiritually to enter the Tribulation Period – a time the Apostle John refers to as the great day of His [the Lord’s] wrath in Revelation 6:17.

If the Church isn’t appointed to wrath, and it isn’t as seen in 1st Thessalonians 5:9, why do some Christians keep trying to place the Church inside the Tribulation Period? On one hand, these Christians profess having faith in Christ yet, on the other hand, indicate we shouldn’t depend on Him delivering the Church from having to suffer in the Tribulation Period via a Pre-Tribulational Rapture of the Church that is clearly in Scripture – a classic example of a double mind where placing trust in the power of God is concerned!

As you can imagine, I couldn’t help but smile upon reading Clement’s comments because they’re precisely in keeping with what I say all the time concerning the many naysayers in the world today who mock those who trust in the power of God and what they believe is an overwhelming amount of Scriptural evidence that the Lord Jesus Christ is going to protect His Church by rapturing it before the onset of the Tribulation Period!

Those who mock the faithful need to consider Clement’s words and the story of Lot’s wife very carefully. They likewise need to read the eleventh chapter of Hebrews in its entirety, especially the portion which deals with Enoch’s translation mentioned earlier. Why? Because it’s demonstrative of why those who are going to be raptured at the Pre-Tribulational Rapture of the Church will be kept from the hour of temptation – because of their FAITH in Jesus Christ!

Hebrews 11:5: By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.

By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death, Christians! By FAITH!!!

Continuing with Clement’s writings: Chapter XIX – Imitating These Examples, Let Us Seek After Peace.

Thus the humility and godly submission of so great and illustrious men have rendered not only us, but also all the generations before us, better; even as many as have received His oracles in fear and truth. Wherefore, having so many great and glorious examples set before us, let us turn again to the practice of that peace which from the beginning was the mark set before us; and let us look stedfastly to the Father and Creator of the universe, and cleave to His mighty and surpassingly great gifts and benefactions, of peace. Let us contemplate Him with our understanding, and look with the eyes of our soul to His long-suffering will. Let us reflect how free from wrath He is towards all His creation.

Are we to believe Christ, who Clement writes is free from wrath toward all His creation, is going to appoint His beloved Church to suffer at His own hand during the great day of His wrath? Scripture answers that question.

1st Thessalonians 5:9: For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,

Continuing with Clement’s writings: Chapter XXII – These Exhortations are Confirmed by the Christian Faith, Which Proclaims the Misery of Sinful Conduct.

Now the faith which is in Christ confirms all these admonitions. For He Himself by the Holy Ghost thus addresses us: “Come, ye children, hearken unto Me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. What man is he that desireth life, and loveth to see good days? Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile. Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and His ears are [open] unto their prayers. The face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. The righteous cried, and the Lord heard him, and delivered him out of all his troubles. Many are the stripes [appointed for] the wicked; but mercy shall compass those about who hope in the Lord.”

The Lord looks upon His own, hears them when they cry out to Him, and delivers them out of their troubles! Wrath, the many stripes Clement refers to in the passage, is appointed to the wicked, not the righteous! Mercy encompasses those who hope in the Lord!

Continuing with Clement’s writings: Chapter XXIII – Be Humble, and Believe that Christ Will Come Again.

The all-merciful and beneficent Father has bowels [of compassion] towards those that fear Him, and kindly and lovingly bestows His favours upon those who come to Him with a simple mind. Wherefore let us not be double-minded; neither let our soul be lifted up on account of His exceedingly great and glorious gifts. Far from us be that which is written, “Wretched are they who are of a double mind, and of a doubting heart; who say, These things we have heard even in the times of our fathers; but, behold, we have grown old, and none of them has happened unto us. Ye foolish ones! compare yourselves to a tree: take [for instance] the vine. First of all, it sheds its leaves, then it buds, next it puts forth leaves, and then it flowers; after that comes the sour grape, and then follows the ripened fruit. Ye perceive how in a little time the fruit of a tree comes to maturity. Of a truth, soon and suddenly shall His will be accomplished, as the Scripture also bears witness, saying, “Speedily will He come, and will not tarry; ” and, “The Lord shall suddenly come to His temple, even the Holy One, for whom ye look.”

The Father is compassionate toward His own. Does this even have to be said? As Clement said, far be it from us that we be wretched like those who are of a double mind and a doubting heart where the mercies of the Lord are concerned! Let us come before the Lord with the simple mind of a child, filled with abundant faith and hope in His power to deliver us from darkness into light!

Continuing with Clement’s writings: Chapter XXVIII – God Sees All Things: Therefore Let Us Avoid Transgression.

Since then all things are seen and heard [by God], let us fear Him, and forsake those wicked works which proceed from evil desires; so that, through His mercy, we may be protected from the judgments to come. For whither can any of us flee from His mighty hand? Or what world will receive any of those who run away from Him? For the Scripture saith in a certain place, “Whither shall I go, and where shall I be hid from Thy presence? If I ascend into heaven, Thou art there; if I go away even to the uttermost parts of the earth, there is Thy right hand; if I make my bed in the abyss, there is Thy Spirit.”Whither, then, shall any one go, or where shall he escape from Him who comprehends all things?

Clement certainly didn’t seem to see the Church squaring off with the Antichrist in the Tribulation Period. Long before John Edward Darby supposedly cooked up the Pre-Tribulational Rapture of the Church, Clement was seeing a way for the Church to be protected from the judgments to come through a fearful respect of God and righteous living. How could Clement have thought that so long before 1830? Guess, naysayers!

The following section of Clement’s writings is taken out of order as I want to close with it: Chapter XLV – It is the Part of the Wicked to Vex the Righteous.

Ye are fond of contention, brethren, and full of zeal about things which do not pertain to salvation. Look carefully into the Scriptures, which are the true utterances of the Holy Spirit. Observe that nothing of an unjust or counterfeit character is written in them. There you will not find that the righteous were cast off by men who themselves were holy. The righteous were indeed persecuted, but only by the wicked. They were cast into prison, but only by the unholy; they were stoned, but only by transgressors; they were slain, but only by the accursed, and such as had conceived an unrighteous envy against them. Exposed to such sufferings, they endured them gloriously. For what shall we say, brethren? Was Daniel cast into the den of lions by such as feared God? Were Ananias, and Azarias, and Mishael shut up in a furnace of fire by those who observed the great and glorious worship of the Most High? Far from us be such a thought! Who, then, were they that did such things? The hateful, and those full of all wickedness, were roused to such a pitch of fury, that they inflicted torture on those who served God with a holy and blameless purpose [of heart], not knowing that the Most High is the Defender and Protector of all such as with a pure conscience venerate His all-excellent name; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. But they who with confidence endured these things are now heirs of glory and honour, and have been exalted and made illustrious by God in their memorial for ever and ever. Amen.

There are many who want to argue and fight about every manner of doctrine. As Clement put it aptly, we should look carefully into the Scriptures in order to confirm and preserve our faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord as it’s through Scripture, not through the wisdom of men, that we find the true utterances of the Holy Spirit!

Those who choose to believe the Church is going to join the unrepentant world in suffering in the Tribulation Period need to reflect, as Clement did, on how the Church has suffered tribulation to this point.

There are two totally different types of tribulation we need to understand as Christians. The first type of tribulation comes to the Church by way of man’s wickedness. The second kind of Tribulation is the kind those dwelling inside the Tribulation Period will have to endure. They are not one and the same!

Many today whose doctrines tell us the Church is going to be thrown into the Tribulation Period with the wicked tend to point to tribulations the Church has suffered at the hands of wicked mankind in the past as an example of Christ’s willingness to let His Bride suffer at His own hand in the Tribulation Period that will come to test the whole earth. Ridiculous! It’s like comparing a peach to a bowling ball!

As Clement put it, the Church has been persecuted, but only by the wicked. Members of the Church have been (and still are being) cast into prison, but only by the unholy! Members of the Church have been stoned, but only by transgressors! Members of the Church have been slain, but only by the accursed! Daniel wasn’t cast into the lion’s den by the Lord or anyone who feared the Lord. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego weren’t placed in the fiery furnace by God, but by the wicked.

Clement credited the hateful and those full of wickedness for inflicting torture on those who served God with a holy and blameless purpose of heart in his day. He further indicated the wicked who did so failed to understand something about God Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego understood about Him – that He was the Defender and Protector of all those who trust in Him with a pure conscience.

Would the Lord have delivered Daniel from the lion’s den if he’d had no faith in Him? Would the flames and smoke of the fiery furnace have stood back in the presence of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego if they’d had no faith in the Lord’s ability to deliver them from it? I doubt it, which is precisely why those who are placing their trust in Jesus Christ to gather them to His side in a Pre-Tribulational Rapture of the Church are far more in touch with the God of the Bible than those who preach the Church is going to have to suffer alongside the wicked in the Tribulation Period.

It’s interesting to me Clement spoke of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the manner he did as a Post-Tribulational Rapture believer would point to those incidents as proof the Church is going to go through the Tribulation Period, but be protected.

If the faithful Church was going to have to endure the horrors of the Tribulation Period, there couldn’t have been any finer examples than Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, whose stories of boldly overcoming tribulation are recorded in Daniel, chapters 6 and 3 respectively, right?

If the Church is going to have to suffer in the Tribulation Period as those holding a Mid-Trib, Pre-Wrath, or Post-Tribulational Rapture doctrine would suggest, why did Christ Himself point to two men I spoke of earlier in the commentary, Noah and Lot, who were completely delivered from God’s judgment, when speaking of the end times, as recorded in Luke 17:26-30?

I believe Clement understood there was going to be a Pre-Tribulational Rapture of the Church well ahead of John Darby allegedly dreaming the idea up in 1830. If so, it’s not such a new idea after all, is it?

The Rapture is Imminent!

The coming of the Lord Jesus for His Church is presented in the New Testament as an imminent hope and expectancy. That the coming of Christ is “imminent” simply means that our Lord may come at any time. Nothing needs to happen before He comes. No prophecy needs to be fulfilled before He comes. It may be today! Such an expectation is well supported by an abundance of Scriptural testimony:

1. (John 14:3) And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

2. (Rom. 13:11) And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.

3. (1 Cor. 1:7) So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

4. (1 Cor. 11:26) For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till He come.

5. (1 Cor. 15:51-52) Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, (52) In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

6. (1 Cor. 16:22) If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema [.] Maranatha [“Our Lord cometh!”].

7. (Phil. 3:20) For our conversation [citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.

8. (Phil. 4:5) Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.

9. (Col. 3:4) When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory.

10. (1 Thess. 1:10) And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.

11. (1 Thess. 4:17) Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.

12. (Titus 2:13) Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.

13. (Heb. 9:28) So Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.

14. (Heb. 10:25) Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

15. (James 5:8) Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.

16. (1 John 2:28; 3:3) And now, little children, abide in Him; that, when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming….And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure.

17. (Jude 21) Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

18. (Rev. 22:20) He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. (cf. Rev. 3:11; 22:7,12).

As the above passages indicate, believers are to be constantly waiting for and looking for and expecting His coming and His appearing. We are to look for and eagerly await the glorious appearing of our Great God, even our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (Tit. 2:14). It is interesting that we are not told to be looking for the man of sin (the Antichrist) to be revealed. We are not told to be looking for the 144,000 Jews who will be sealed by God during the time of Daniel’s 70th week. We are not told to be looking for “the abomination of desolation” to be set up in Jerusalem. We are told to be looking for Christ Himself.

None of the Tribulation events will take place prior to the removal of the Church; otherwise the Rapture would not be imminent. If the Rapture were not to take place until sometime during the last 3½ years (as the Pre-Wrath Rapture view teaches), then this would destroy the doctrine of the imminent return of Christ. We would know that before the Rapture could take place, the treaty (covenant) would need to be made with Israel at the beginning of Daniel’s 70th week (Dan. 9:27) and “the abomination of desolation” would need to be set up at the middle of Daniel’s 70th week (Matt. 24:15). We would look for these events to happen before we could even begin to expect Christ to come for His Church.

Was Paul looking for the imminent return of Christ? Paul expected that Christ would come for him because he considered himself part of the group that would be alive on earth at the time of the Rapture. Notice that Paul includes himself by using the personal pronoun WE–“WE which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent [precede] them which are asleep….Then WE which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air…” (1 Thess. 4:15,17). Of course we now know that Paul was not part of that group of believers living at the time of the Rapture. Instead he was part of the “dead in Christ” group mentioned in verse 16 (also described as “them who are asleep”–verse 15). But because of his belief in the imminent return of Christ, Paul believed he might be found among the believers living on earth at the time of the Lord’s coming for His Church.

Notice also Paul’s use of the pronoun “we” in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, “Behold, I show you a mystery; WE shall not all sleep, but WE shall all be changed, (52) In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and WE shall be changed.” Notice that Church Age believers are divided into two groups: (1) the dead that shall be raised and (2) those alive at Christ’s coming who will not sleep (who will not die physically) but who will be changed. Paul believed he might be part of this second group, although we now know that Paul was actually part of the first group. Paul, living in the first century, expected that he might be among the generation of believers who would not see physical death. How much more ought we to have this blessed expectation!

Looking for the Kingdom?

John’s closing words in the book of Revelation were these: “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20). Why did John close the book of Revelation with these words? John had been privileged to catch a vision of the glorious Millennial Kingdom of Christ (Rev. 20). Even during the Lord’s earthly ministry John was one of the select few who saw the Son of man coming in His Kingdom by means of the preview afforded by the transfiguration (Matt. 16:28-17:1-6; 2 Peter 1:16-18). Since John knew so much of the glories of the Kingdom, why did he not close his book with this prayer: “THY KINGDOM COME! LET THY KINGDOM COME!” (compare Matt. 6:10)?

When the Lord gave the model prayer of Matthew 6:10, the Kingdom was indeed imminent (cf. Matt. 3:2; 4:17;10:7); and indeed, the prayer of the Tribulation saints will certainly include this petition: “THY KINGDOM COME!” But the aged Apostle John hoped that lie might be alive and remaining unto the coming of the Lord according to the Lord’s promise in John 21:23-24: “What if he (John) tarry till I come?” John was looking for Christ, not the Kingdom. Rather than look for the Kingdom, he was looking for the KING. Even so, be coming, Lord Jesus!

Salvation, Not Wrath

In 1 Thessalonians 5:9, Church Age believers are told that “God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.” Thus as we look to the future we should expect SALVATION and not WRATH.

What did Paul mean when he spoke of WRATH and what did he mean when he spoke of SALVATION?

(1) WRATH. Believers are not appointed unto wrath. We have been delivered from the wrath that is coining (see 1 Thess. 1:10). Although it is true that believers are delivered from the wrath of God which the ungodly will forever face in the lake of fire, Paul’s focus in 1 Thessalonians 5 is upon the “day of the Lord” (verse 2-3), a very specific time when God’s wrath will be poured out upon earth dwellers. This period of wrath is also described in Revelation chapters 6-19. It is also known as the greatest time of trouble or tribulation the world has ever known (Matt. 24:21). God has not appointed us to face this time of wrath. Instead we have an appointment to meet the Lord in the air prior to the unleashing of God’s fury upon the earth.

(2) SALVATION. People obtain salvation the moment they believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31), but the SALVATION spoken of by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:9 refers to the believer’s final salvation when Christ comes for us to complete the great salvation which He began! Thus, instead of facing God’s wrath being poured out on the earth, we will enjoy the consummation of our so-great salvation. What a comforting hope (verse 11 and compare 1 Thess. 4:18)!

The Removal of the Restrainer

In 2 Thessalonians 2:1-8 we learn that the man of sin will not be revealed until the Restrainer is taken out of the way (out of the midst). Who is this Restrainer?

In verse 6 He is described in neuter terms: “And now ye know what withholdeth [lit., that which restrains] that he might be revealed in his time.” In verse 7 He is described in masculine terms: “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth [restrains] will let [restrain], until He be taken out of the way.”

How can the Restrainer be both neuter and masculine? This only makes good sense if the Restrainer be God the Holy Spirit. He is masculine because He is the blessed third Person of the Triune Godhead. He is neuter because the Greek word for “Spirit” (pneuma) is always neuter in gender. Thus the Bible sometimes describes the Holy Spirit in masculine terms (see John 16:13-14 and notice how many times the pronoun “He” is used) and sometimes describes the Holy Spirit in neuter terms (see Rom. 8:16, KJV, “The Spirit itself…”).

That which is restraining evil today is the Blessed Person of the Holy Spirit who is now dwelling in a unique and special way in the Church which is Christ’s Body (Eph. 2:22; 1 Cor. 3:16; John 14:17). When the Church is removed by means of the Rapture, the Spirit of God will be taken out of the way. That is, He will no longer be on the earth in the sense of indwelling a body of believers. Just as He came on the day of Pentecost in a special way, so He will “leave” at the time of the Rapture (though obviously He will still be working in the hearts of men during the Tribulation just as He was working in the hearts of men prior to Pentecost). The Church must be removed before the man of sin is revealed. The man of sin will be revealed when he makes a treaty with Israel (Dan. 9:27), and this will mark the beginning of Daniel’s 70th week. Thus the Church must be removed prior to the beginning of Daniel’s 70th week (prior to the 7 year Tribulation).[2]

Prewrath Rapture Refuted

Disingenuous Anti-Rapturists are loathe to admit the apostles and early church fathers taught the pretribulational “rapture” for 300 years only to lose it to a brilliant Romanist allegorist named Augustine. Thankfully- in fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy of an explosion of knowledge (Dan. 12:4)-  the blessed hope was gloriously republished in the early 1800’s by Plymouth Brethren such as JN Darby, William Kelly, FW Grant, CH Macintosh, and ultimately through the dispensational study notes of a lawyer turned Bible scholar named CI Scofield.[3] Still, AntiRapturists are morbidly incensed at the PreTrib teaching and have attacked it more viciously than they have Satan or his son, Antichrist. One group viciously opposed comes from a group teaching Covenant Theology which sees the Church as a replacement of Old Testament Israel and thus subject to the covenants and the wrath of the Tribulation. We believe Replacement Theology is not only wrong doctrinally, it is- according to the Lord Jesus- satanic (Rev. 2:9; 3:9).

However, the tide is shifting somewhat. During the last decade a movement has developed among some who would consider themselves fundamentalists that attacks the pre-trib “Rapture” and in its stead, strongly promotes a “pre-wrath” Rapture. This teaching appears to be gaining adherents from one-time pre-tribulationists be-cause of persuasive arguments that fearlessly reinterprets every verse used by pre-tribulationists to promote an imminent Rapture. We do not doubt the sincerity of these believers, but we believe they are very wrong. But because of the ramifications for the Church, we believe it is necessary to publicly refute these new teachings. Obviously, we can-not go into the detail of every argument in one Assembly Messenger: therefore, we suggest a book entitled, “The Pre-Wrath Rapture Answered” by Lee Brainard, Gospel Folio Press, to those who want detail. We do not agree with all the book and warn that on page 209, he advocates the serious error of a second chance for those professors who find themselves not raptured, contrary to 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12. But he does an outstanding job when dealing with the subject material of this tract.

The Pre-Wrath Position

We are going to assume you know something of the pretribulational view of the Rapture of the Church. What then is the pre-wrath position? Simply put, they believe the Rapture takes place several weeks or months before the battle of Armageddon, so the Church has to experience the “wrath of Satan” including the mark of the beast, but not the “wrath of God” which, they argue, only begins when the Church is raptured and the Tribulation is about to end. They argue that this is the uniform teaching of the Lord in Matthew 24; of Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4-5; of Peter in 2 Peter 3; and of John in Revelation. So, for them, there is no imminent hope of the Church to be caught up to heaven before the Tribulation begins. Rather, the Church needs to prepare for the terrible time ahead. This is entirely an issue of “rightly dividing the Word of Truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). Let’s begin with Matthew chapter 24.

Matthew 24

The Lord’s disciples asked the Lord, “When will these things [that the Lord had just spoken of] be? And what will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?” (24:3). The time of this conversation was not as yet in the Christian dispensation, the Church Age. The disciples knew very little about Christianity or the Church. The Lord had mentioned a few things, but with very little under-standing on the part of the disciples. Now, here they are shortly before the crucifixion, and they ask these questions, not realizing the Church, like a great 2000+ year parenthesis in God’s dealings with Israel, was about to intervene. The pre-wrath advocates argue that the Lord told the disciples of future things as representatives of the future Church, so the events foretold are for the Church. The view (dismissed by the pre-wrathites) of the pre-tribulationists is that these disciples represented at that moment the future Jewish remnant, saved during the Tribulation, that will pass through the horrors of the Tribulation.

The language of verses 4-15 does not define who the “you” refers to, but since the Lord was speaking to Jewish disciples, it is more than logical that He is referring to future Jewish disciples when the prophesied events take place. But things become clearly Jewish in the next verses. Mid-way through the “Tribulation” (and beginning the Great Tribulation – v.21) the “abomination of desolation” (Dan.12:11) is set up in the newly-constructed Jewish temple (2 Thes.2:3-4). Satan has just been cast from heaven (Rev.12:7-12) and as the pre-wrathists correctly say, he has great wrath because he knows his time is short. Woe to those believers on earth at that time.

Matthew 24:16-20 then tells those in Judea to flee and to pray it isn’t on a Sabbath. Would those instructions mean anything to the Church at large which for the most part has nothing to do with Judea and doesn’t keep the Sabbath? No, it is manifestly believing Jews of a future non-Church dispensation who are referred to, not the Church! This terrible time will be shortened for “the elect’s sake” (v.22) – shortened in the sense that the Lord will come on the appointed day exactly when the seven years of the Tribulation have run their course, and put an end to the attacks on God’s people. The pre-wrathites insist the elect are the Church; also in verse 31 that His elect will be gathered from the four corners of the earth when He comes to “rapture” them. Two questions need answering: Who are these “elect” and why does the Lord come at that time?

The Elect

The prophecy of Isaiah 65:9-10, 22 plainly show there is to be a future Jewish elect. There are the present elect of the Church, but God always has a testimony for Himself. Revelation 7 shows that shortly after the Rapture, God saves 144,000 Jews who become His evangelists of the Tribulation and preach the gospel of the Kingdom, resulting in a great number being saved from every nation, who come through the Great Tribulation and stand before the Lord Jesus on His millennial throne (vv.9, 14-17; Isa.9:7;

Jer.3:17; Ezek.43:7; Mt.19:28; 25:31). The pre-wrathists wrongly make this a heavenly throne. But these future, non-Church elect will not be people who have heard and rejected the gospel as preached today (2 Thes.2:10-12).

Why Does the Lord Come at that Time?

Matthew 24:29-31 speaks of immediately after the Great Tribulation the “Son of Man (generally a Jewish term) will appear in heaven … coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” Revelation 1:7 adds, “Every eye shall see Him.” Zechariah 14:14:2-9 tells us in that day “His feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives … and the Lord will be King over all the earth.” This is the exact location of the Lord’s return promised the Jewish disciples in Acts 1:9-12. Matthew 25:31 tells us He will then sit on the throne of His glory, obviously on earth. Does anyone be-side angels (Mt.25:31; 2 Thes.1:7) come with Him? Zechariah 14:5, Jude 14-15, 1 Thessalonians 3:13, Colossians 3:4 and Revelation 19:8,14 all show that when the Lord comes to reign, the saints (obviously raptured earlier) come with Him to reign with Him for 1000 years (Rev.20:4). It is a clear misuse of rightly dividing God’s Word to confuse any of these verses with the Rapture some 7 years previously.

Proof-Text of What the Tribulation is About

We wouldn’t know much about the timing of the so-called “Tribulation” if it were not for Daniel 9:24-27. This prophecy unlocks the “timing” of God’s dealings with Israel. A time period of 70 “sevens” were determined on Daniel’s people, the Jews. 490 years are meant, at which time God’s dealings with Israel’s transgression would be finished and “everlasting righteousness” (the Millennium) would begin. After the end of 69 “weeks” (483 years) Messiah would be cut off. History has proven that Christ was crucified about a literal week after the 483 years were complete, when He presented Himself in Jerusalem as their King. Jerusalem then would shortly be destroyed. This happened in AD 70 when the Roman Empire army destroyed Jerusalem.

The people (ie, Roman Empire people) of that now long-dead Roman prince who destroyed Jerusalem would con-firm a covenant with Israel for one week (7 years). He would cause sacrifices (clearly Jewish) to cease in the middle of the week – the Great Tribulation thus beginning for Israel in particular. God’s wrath would be upon them till the exact number of those days were finished.

What was unknown to any Old Testament prophet was that some 2000 years would intervene between the time God stopped His prophetic clock at the close of 69 weeks and when He again restarts it. It will remain stopped until the above-mentioned covenant is made between Israel and a revived Roman Empire (Western Europe). The Old Testament prophets did not know that He would bring in a brand new thing, the Church, called-out from Jew and Gentile to be one body, to be the bride of Christ, which would fill that time-gap. They did not know, whereas Israel’s blessings were earthly, that this new Church had a heavenly future and would meet the Lord in the air, not on earth. Only when this Church is removed can God’s prophetic clock of His dealings with Israel again be turned on. It seems our pre-wrath friends also do not know this. So, although the whole world is affected, the Tribulation is mainly God’s wrath on Israel, God using man’s and Satan’s wrath to fulfill His purposes with Israel (Ps.76:10).

The Teachings of Paul – 1 Thessalonians 4-5

The pre-wrath advocates claim that 1 Thessalonians gives the same story they advocated for Matthew 24. Indeed, it does! We wouldn’t expect the Lord and His apostle to disagree. The difference is that Paul is writing to the Church, not simply to Jewish disciples.

The last verse of Chapter 3 is a prayer of Paul that the Thessalonians would so conduct themselves that the Lord would establish their hearts blameless in holiness before God at the “coming of the Lord Jesus with all His saints.” That is the time of rewards for our present faithfulness to Christ. But what about those saints who had died? What was their fate? And how could the Lord “bring with Him” those who were already on earth? Paul takes up those questions in chapter 4:13-14 and then gives a totally new revelation, never known before. This is not written to Jews but to a Gentile local assembly, but Paul, a Jew, includes him-self with the “we” of verses 15-18. We – the Church, the Christian company, comprised of Jews and Gentiles – will be “caught up … to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”

Paul had told the Corinthians some further details about the change that will take place “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,” not slowly so every eye can see it (1 Cor.15:51-53). It was a “mystery” – something not known in Old Testament times. The “appearing” of the Lord with ten thou-sands of His saints had even been prophesied by Enoch (Jude 14) and thus was known early in man’s history. Paul also told the Philippians (3:20-21) that God would change their “bodies of humiliation” to be just like the Lord’s “body of glory” (JND). The Lord had hinted this to His disciples just before the cross in John 14:1-3, that He would receive them to Himself, to be (not on earth, but) in the Father’s house. But the details of what would actually happen awaited the revelation to the Thessalonians.

Just as the Lord had taught His disciples in Matthew 24, the Thessalonians already knew about the Day of the Lord – a day of about 1000 years in which the Lord directly intervenes in the affairs of men, first for judgment, then for blessing (1 Thes.5:1-2). The pre-wrathites make much of this day, as they should. It is the day when Christ will be “glorified in His saints” (2 Thes.1:10). It begins when Christ “appears” at the Mount of Olives in power and great glory. The pre-wrathites seem to feel this “discovery” somehow destroys the pre-tribulation rapture. It certainly does not!

Paul explains that mankind in general will be surprised by the Day of the Lord; in fact, man will think he has the world’s solution as the revived Roman empire (western Europe) becomes a great military and political power, with “the man” in charge who will bring warring factions together. Then Satan is cast from heaven, the abomination is set up in the Jerusalem temple, and the Great Tribulation begins (v.3). Mankind then realizes that “peace and safety” is an elusive prize.

The pre-wrathites. argue that 1 Thessalonians 5:4-8 proves that the Church (as pictured by the Thessalonian assembly) will have to experience the Day of the Lord at which time the elect are gathered together and raptured so the Lord can unleash His wrath on unsaved mankind. Thus, they think, it is good to learn this so the Church will have hope that they will eventually be rescued when the Day of the Lord be-gins. But is that what these verses say? Not at all! It is a wonderful thing to be sons of light, to be able to understand God’s prophetic plan, to know that when “Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Col.3:4) so He can be glorified in us and we can reign with Him. How great it is to know these things!

The pre-wrathites add to Scripture by making verse 9 to read, “God did not appoint us to the wrath of God, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” They also seem to quote chapter 1:10 as, “… even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath of God to come.” Then they go on to argue that we will have to endure the wrath of Satan, but not the wrath of God when His feet touch the Mount of Olives. But do you see their misquotes? Take away the words “of God” in the above two verses and they are quoted correctly! What future wrath, then, are we delivered from? Every wrath, be it the wrath of man, of Satan or of God! So, now we’ve seen that neither the Lord’s statements nor Paul’s statements support the pre-wrath view, but rather the pre-tribulation view.

The Greek Word Parousia

This is the appropriate place to look at the Greek word parousia (#3852 Strong’s) which is a compound word from para=with and ousia=being. Vine speaks of it as used for an arrival and consequent presence. The pre-wrathites make much of the fact that this word is used in verses the pre-tribulationists use for their view of both the Rapture and the Appearing, so, indeed (they argue), the Rapture and Appearing must be speaking of the same event or at least be intimately linked in time. But the word simply means “being with.” It is used of the coming of Paul (Phil.1:26; 2:12). His bodily presence was weak (2 Cor.10:10). And of the coming of other brethren too (1 Cor.16:17; 2 Cor.6-7). It is used for the coming (and continuing presence) of the Lawless one (2 Thes.2:9). It is used for the coming eternal Day of God (2 Pet.3:12). Since we will be “ever with the Lord” at the Rapture, it is not surprising it is used for that first phase of His second coming (1 Thes.2:19; 4:15; 2 Thes.2:1). And since His appearing will have Him on earth among men and reigning with us, it is not surprising it is also used for this second phase of His second coming (Mt.24:37-39; 1 Thes.3:13; 2 Thes.2:8). So, again the pre-wrathites are in error to make parousia favor either the Rapture or the Appearing.

The Teachings of Peter (2 Peter 3)

Again we need to rightly divide or handle accurately the Word of Truth. “The heavens and the earth which are now preserved, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men” (ch.3:7). The fire is future. “But the Day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise and the elements will melt with fervent heat: both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up …. Looking for and hastening the coming of the Day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved …” (vv.10-12).

The pre-wrathites see the terrible melting with fervent heat all as a part of the wrath of God right after their timing of the Rapture – part of that short time of God’s wrath on the “antichrist” and his supporters. They don’t explain how there can be a battle of Armageddon when the earth has been burned up. They simply don’t rightly divide the Word of Truth! Rather, these verses in Peter tell us that at some time during the Day of the Lord – at the end of the Millennium – the earth as we know it will be destroyed in preparation for a new heavens and a new earth (2 Pet.3:13) where righteousness dwells. We are not told where the saved of the Millennium are placed during the time of the earth’s renewal, but in changed bodies fit for eternal conditions – the day of God – anywhere would be fine. So there is nothing in Peter to support the pre-wrath position!

On to the Teachings of John in Revelation

Revelation 1:19 defines the three sections of Revelation – the things John saw, the things which are, and the things which will take place after this [or, after these things].” Chapter 1 defines the things John saw. Chapters 2-3 are things that pertain to the Church and they should be prophetic in a book of prophecy. Although more than prophetic, they indeed are prophetic of the history of the professing Church throughout the Church age which still is progressing. Thus we are still living in chapters 2-3, in “the things that are.” Where do we find the break to the things that are “after these things”? Look at Chapter 4:1, “After these things I looked and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice I heard was like a trumpet … saying, Come up here and I will show you things which must take place after this.”

The pre-wrathites deny that this could possibly refer to the Rapture, but isn’t it then quite a series of inspired coincidences that chapter 4 begins with the exact wording that defines future events, that there is no more prophetic history of the Church, that the only other incidence of heaven opened is in connection with the coming of Christ (and His saints) to reign (Rev.19:11), that a trumpet is connected with the Rapture (1 Cor.15:52; 1 Thes.4:16), and that John is ushered into heaven to see future events both in heaven and on the earth? Who is seen in heaven? 24 elders clothed in white robes. These aren’t angels. Elders are spoken of in connection with Israel and the Church. Since Revelation is written in picture language (ch.1:1), these elders represent saved people in heaven. The only ones they could picture are those Old and New Testament saints just raptured!

It is a mistake to take Revelation 4-21 as a continuous story. The chapters constantly go back to pick up a new thread of the prophetic picture of God’s dealings with Israel and those nations involved with Israel in particular. Only chapters 17-21:8 form a continuous story from near the end of the Great Tribulation to the eternity of the future. Chapter 21:9-22:5 then take us back to the beginning of the Millennium to define in more picture-detail the Church pictured as a city which reigns over the earth. The rest of chapter 22 gives warnings and encouragement to God’s people and presents a final gospel message. We leave many of their arguments from Revelation to the suggested book, but we will study Revelation 3:10 next.

The Greek Argument in Revelation 3:10

To promote their view, the pre-wrathites must refute several portions of Scripture which give strong support to the pretribulational Rapture. We will only take up Revelation 3:10. I am indebted to the referenced book for help with the Greek wording. For answers to other prewath “Greek” arguments, I refer you to Brainard’s book.

“Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from (out of, JND) the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world to test those who dwell on the earth.” No verse needs more reinterpreting than this one if the pre-wrathites are going to win their argument. And reinterpret it they do! They argue that the Greek actually means that the Lord will protect the Church while it is within the sphere of danger of the Tribulation wrath.

Brainard goes to great lengths to show that the above reinterpretation is wrong. “The [Greek] phrase tereoek bears not the least notion of either protection while in a sphere of danger, or motion from inside to outside, but simply means to keep away from or keep outside of” (pg.110). None of my three Greek-English interlinears or the many excellent translations I have allow for the reinterpretation.

The pre-wrathites evidently don’t understand the prophetic aspect of the letters to the seven assemblies – that “Philadelphia” speaks of the Church in the 1800’s when long-lost truths, including the Rapture and the heavenly calling of the Church, were rediscovered. As the truth and practice of the Church were proclaimed world-wide, so was the promise of the soon removal of the Church before God again turned His attention to His earthly people, Israel.

The pre-wrathites assume that the perseverance mentioned in verse 10 must be the perseverance needed by the Tribulation-saints. Rather, it refers to the perseverance needed in the 1800’s and still today for one to “Keep My Word and not deny My name” (Rev.3:8) in a world that wants nothing to do with Christ. They also try to limit the “hour of trial” to certain judgments and they try to limit the “over-comers” to a certain elite. Brainard takes up these arguments in detail and proves their misuse of Scripture.

The last phrase in our subject verse is an interesting one. One might assume it simply means those living on the earth at that future time. I don’t think so. It is used 5 more times in Revelation (6:10; 11:10; 13:8; 13:14; 17:8) and translates the Greek word katoikeo which means to settle down permanently in the evil world-system among evil mankind. It seems to refer to a class of people who want to settle on the earth as opposed to desiring to be with Christ. God’s hour of trial, the wrath of the Tribulation, is on them. [4]

 

Prewrath Rapture Debunked
Dave Hunt – The Berean Call

Christ promised to . . . take His own to His Father’s house of “many mansions,” where “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Cor 5:10). Then will come that heavenly marriage and honeymoon. We could be caught up at any moment to meet Him in the air. That “blessed hope” causes this earth to lose its attraction, purifies our lives and motivates us to win the lost because we believe the time is short.

Our removal from earth to heaven in the Rapture will allow the Antichrist to be revealed to rule over the revived Roman Empire. It has been exciting to see the worldwide dimensions of that “last days” kingdom begin to take shape. We have noted that the collapse of communism opened the door for the fulfillment of a dream first voiced by Gorbachev and the Pope: a United Europe extending “from the Atlantic to the Urals.” From that base of power a “new world order” will emerge—a concept long ridiculed as Utopian nonsense but now accepted and even taken for granted. Talk of a new world order now falls naturally from the lips of President Bush and other world leaders, who seem unaware that their brave new world will be ruled by the Antichrist.

Plans call for earth’s division into ten regions (the “ten toes” of Nebuchadnezzar’s image signifying the revived Roman Empire), each with its own security council and a strategic strike force for maintaining peace and preventing a recurrence of events similar to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. Thus, the stage is being set for the fulfillment of an amazing prophecy: “And in the days of these kings [represented by the ten toes] shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed…it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms” (Dan 2:44).

Christ’s birth in Bethlehem came at the precise time God had planned (Gal 4:4) and, like His death, was initially related to the Roman Empire. Likewise the revelation of the Antichrist will be at a pre-ordained time (2 Thes 2:6) and will require the presence of the revived Roman Empire. (See TBC July 90 for details of the fascinating link between Christ, Antichrist and the Roman Empire in relation to the timing of His second coming.) It is only fitting that the evil Empire which crucified Christ should be revived so that He can destroy it at His second coming.

We have previously given numerous reasons why the church must be raptured at the beginning of the seven-year tribulation period. Once the dominant belief among evangelicals, the pretrib Rapture is falling increasingly into disfavor. The latest attack upon this belief is found in Marvin Rosenthal’s book The Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church: A New Understanding of the Rapture, the Tribulation and the Second Coming. This book’s novel ideas cannot be supported by Scripture, and Rosenthal’s attempts to do so create numerous contradictions. Nevertheless, we have received so many letters asking about the book from people who were swayed by it that a brief critique seems necessary.

Rosenthal, long a confirmed pretribulationalist, has abandoned that position and “now believes that the Church will have to endure the persecution of the Antichrist.” His basic thesis is that the church will “not escape all of the oppression of the ‘Tribulation’ period,” but “will escape the wrath of God, which will be poured out…during the second half of the ‘Tribulation’ period.”

Numerous problems immediately arise. Since the Antichrist, according to Rosenthal, must appear first, the church is no longer watching and waiting for Christ but for Antichrist. Moreover, even after the Antichrist takes control of the earth the church cannot look for Christ until she has suffered considerably under that “Wicked” one. Yet the early church was definitely watching for her Lord, not for Antichrist: “From whence [heaven] also we look for the Saviour” (Philippians 3:20); and to wait for his Son from heaven” (1 Thes 1:10); “and unto them that look for him shall he appear” (Heb 9:28), etc. If Rosenthal is correct, then one can no longer expect Christ at any moment. Imminency has been lost, and with it the “blessed hope” that sustained believers for centuries.

If the church must remain on earth to face Antichrist, then Christians would refuse to take his mark or worship his image. As a result, they would all be put to death. We are told,

And it was given unto him [Antichrist] to make war with the saints, and to overcome them…and he [the false prophet] had power to…cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed…And that no man might buy or sell, save [except] he that had the mark…of the beast…(Rev 13:7;15-18).

Clearly the church, Christ’s bride, must have been removed, for the Antichrist could not make war with and overcome her against whom our Lord said “the gates of hell shall not prevail” (Mt 16:18). Then who are these “saints”? They can only be those who have not come under the strong delusion (2 Thes 2:10-12) because they previously never heard and rejected the gospel. Millions will believe in Christ during the Great Tribulation and they will pay for their newfound faith with their lives. John tells us,

After this I beheld…[in heaven] a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues…before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes….

These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Rev 7:9,14).

A “prewrath rapture” would hardly be a “blessed hope.” In fact, it would be a non-event, for there would be few if any Christians left alive to rapture at that time. Could any Christian take Antichrist’s mark and thus survive to be raptured? Indeed not! Revelation 14:9-10 makes it clear that those who “worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark” will be consigned to hell.

In building his unbiblical thesis, Rosenthal falls into a number of other errors. He insists that 2 Peter 3:10-11 “is not talking of total annihilation of the earth” because Peter earlier said that the world of Noah’s day perished, yet it was not totally annihilated. The analogy fails, for Peter includes in the future judgment the heavens, which he specifically says “shall pass away with a great noise” while the very elements of which all is composed “shall melt with fervent heat.” It certainly sounds like the destruction of the entire universe, during which “the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” In its place, God will create a “new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness” (v 13). It is gross error to interpret specific language calling for the complete consumption by fire of the entire universe as merely a surface cleansing of the earth because that was what happened at the flood. He also suggests that this “cleansing of the earth” will take place before the Millennium, whereas Revelation 21 clearly places it at the end of the Millennium.

Rosenthal goes to the noncanonical Book of Maccabees to try to prove that the “falling away” that Paul refers to in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 is a Jewish apostasy and has nothing to do with the church. Yet Paul is writing to Christians, not to Jews. He has already given warning many times about the coming “falling away,” as have Peter and Jude. They repeatedly refer to apostasy among professing Christians. The writer to the Hebrews deals with the same theme in Chapter 6. To suggest that because the Book of Maccabees refers to a Jewish apostasy, this is then what Paul is talking about, is insupportable. Most of those whom Paul was addressing at Thessalonica were converted Greeks who would have no reason to associate “apostasy” with an incident in Jewish history involving Antiochus Epiphanes, a story they probably didn’t even know. Moreover, Israel was already in apostasy when Paul was writing: she had rejected and crucified her Messiah and was persecuting Christians. So to suggest that Paul is declaring that some future apostasy is coming to an already apostate and unbelieving Israel is illogical.

One error leads to another. The author asserts that signing the pact with the Antichrist “will be Israel’s great apostasy” (pp 205-207). That an already spiritually apostate Israel would be going into apostasy by signing a political/military pact with the world ruler again makes no sense. Moreover, Paul says that the apostasy precedes the revelation of the Antichrist (2 Thes 2:3). To avoid the obvious contradiction of having Israel sign a pact with Antichrist before he’s been revealed, Rosenthal proposes a new meaning for “revealed.” He says that it doesn’t mean when Antichrist steps from obscurity into power, but when he puts his image in the temple and Israel recognizes that he is the Antichrist. Yet Paul says that the Antichrist will be revealed not through the placing of his image in the temple, but when “He who now letteth [hinders) [i.e., the Holy Spirit in Christians]…be taken out of the way…” (2 Thes 2:7-8).

Rosenthal’s further explanation only increases the confusion: “Speaking of that future day when the Antichrist will seek to get the Jews to bow to his image and many will refuse, the Lord said, ‘Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you; and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake’ (Mat 24:9).” How could apostate Jews who have rejected Christ be hated of all nations for Christ’s name’s sake?! It is one thing to recognize that the Antichrist is evil, and something else entirely to believe that Jesus is the Christ. That will only happen to Israel when He appears to rescue her at Armageddon (Zech 12:10).

Rosenthal suggests that “the Antichrist is a man who lived before….He will literally be raised from the dead” (p 208). In fact, he suggests that this man ruled an ancient kingdom that impacted Israel, so he has been dead for at least 2,500 years. Marvin tries to prove this “resurrection” from the scripture which says, “I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death” (Rev 13:3). Now, to recover from what seemed to John “as though it were” a mortal wound is a far cry from bringing back to life a totally decomposed 2,500-year-old corpse! He then uses the same scripture to say that this man will suffer a mortal head wound in the middle of the seven-year pact with Israel and be raised from the dead. By what rule of exegesis does one prove two contradictory theories from the same scripture? Lack of space prevents dealing with the many other errors in The Pre-Wrath Rapture.

Christ’s repeated warnings that He would come at a time when one would least expect Him (Mat 24:44; Lk 12:40; 21:34-36) cannot be reconciled with Rosenthal’s thesis. Surely as Antichrist’s persecution and slaughter of the church proceeded, the dwindling number of surviving Christians would long for and expect the Rapture. Yet Christ depicted conditions upon earth during the last moments before the catching away of His bride as a time of such ease and boredom that “While the bridegroom tarried, they all [even the five “wise” virgins] slumbered and slept” (Mat 25:5). Either Christ was mistaken or Rosenthal is.

Even though God’s wrath had not yet been poured out, a church that was enduring Antichrist’s wrath, involving the most vicious persecution and slaughter of Christians in history, would not be sleeping any more than a church that found itself in the midst of Armageddon! Rosenthal’s prewrath theory thus suffers from the same contradictions as a “post-trib” Rapture.

 

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[1] Those requiring the lengthy list of endnotes space didn’t allow for here, may write and request the tract: Is The Pre-Trib Rapture A Satanic Deception? By Dr. Tomas Ice

[3] We have these Old Scofield Study Bibles in bonded leather, KJV, available for a gift to PMI of $30 to help us minister to you and others. Please remember, when you order from us, you help support us. Stamps are welcome.

[4] This section was adapted from a source unknown.

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One Response to Pre-Tribulation Rapture Apologetics

  1. Title: Pre-Tribulation Rapture Apologetics

    Irv, Thank you for the comment which was deleted, but copied from my email to post here. I wish you would have read my articles more carefully since many of these straw man objections have been dealt with by me and others many times. Notwithstanding- and in respect for you- I will address what ROCKWELL WROTE with MY ANSWER:

    Pretrib Rapture Pride
    by Bruce Rockwell

    ROCKWELL WROTE:
    Pretrib rapture promoters like Thomas Ice give the impression they know more than the early Church Fathers, the Reformers, the greatest Greek New Testament scholars including those who produced the KJV Bible, the founders of their favorite Bible schools, and even their own mentors! Ice’s mentor, Dallas Sem. president John Walvoord, couldn’t find anyone holding to pretrib before 1830 – and Walvoord called John Darby and his Brethren followers “the early pretribulationists” (RQ, pp. 160-62). Ice belittles Walvoord and claims that several pre-1830 persons, including “Pseudo-Ephraem” and a “Rev. Morgan Edwards,” taught a pretrib rapture. Even though the first one viewed Antichrist’s arrival as the only “imminent” event, Ice (and Grant Jeffrey) audaciously claim he expected an “imminent” pretrib rapture! And Ice (and John Bray) have covered up Edwards’ historicism which made a pretrib rapture impossible! Google historian Dave MacPherson’s “Deceiving and Being Deceived” for documentation on these and similar historical distortions.

    MY ANSWER:
    If you are honest wit the fact, most Bible scholars of any reputation are PreTrib. Who are the post-tribbers? Mostly unknown antagonists who read something allegedly refuting the PreTrib rapture and have spent the rest of their lives looking for fights. Search the Bible: Aside from misusing the words “saints” and “elect” which apply to Israel as well as the church, there isn’t a verse anywhere in Scripture that clearly places the church here during the tribulation (aka day of the Lord; time of Jacob’s or Israel’s trouble). Study Revelation 6-19 which is the tribulation period; they don’t exist. Notwithstanding in the face of insurmountable evidence Bruce Rockwell has firmly established himself with many others as a PreTrib rapture antagonist who is armed by some kind of manufactured anger and is thus on a quest to steal people’s joy in the rapture (2 Tim 4:8), which is the blessed hope (Titus 2:13). To accomplish this, he seems far more interested in winning an argument against straw man arguments than with getting to the truth- which he has done here. In the heat of their non-substantive diatribes, Anti-PreTrib advocates present facts about the origin of the PreTrib rapture and those who teach it that simply don’t exist. This they do by cross pollinating information from other Anti-PreTrib websites to prove their feckless hypotheses that none of them ever has. This is circular nonsense. One such maneuver is their assertion that the early church fathers didn’t teach it. Reading Rockwell’s “arguments” here exemplify this since they are passed around from antagonist to antagonist hoping the reader is gullible enough to believe it without checking its credibility- which apparently is still working.

    For instance, imminency teaches that the Lord Jesus could return for His church at any moment irrespective of any signs, tribulation, or other prerequisites. In the spirit of good Anti-PreTrib rapture attacks, Rockwell claims- without a shred of proof aside from other rapture antagonists he quotes who are equally confused- that the PreTrib rapture and doctrine of imminence is a recent development when in fact it was promised by the Lord Jesus Christ, it was taught by Paul who received it from Christ, and it appears in teachings and writings of early Biblical literalists until Augustine’s allegorical heresies replaced it with Amillennialism where it lingered unnoticed for centuries.

    The Lord Jesus Taught Imminency
    Imminency rests upon many Scriptures including Christ’s promise to keep His church from (ek) the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth (Rev. 3:10). It is most noteworthy that Paul used the same Greek word in Second Thessalonians: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out (ek) of the way (2:7). Anti-PreTrib rapturists that refuse to allow the Word to say what it is saying aren’t simply fighting against human opponents, but with the original inspired writing. According to Thayer and Zodhiates Complete Word Study, the primary meaning of the Greek ek translated from in Rev. 3:10) and out (in 2 Thess. 2:7) literally means “out of” not “through” or “in” as they want the unlearned to believe. Dave Hunt adds this insight: “Christ exhorts us: Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their Lord…blessed are those servants whom the Lord when he cometh shall find watching….Be ye therefore ready…for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not (Lk 12:35-40). Such language doesn’t fit a post-anything Rapture, for it would be foolish to watch and wait for One who will not come until after Antichrist appears or the Great Tribulation or Millennium have come and gone.”

    Paul Taught Imminency
    So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:7). Paul’s writings reflect his belief in imminency. They are filled with teachings about Christ’s rapture for the church and later a separate revelation with the church (see 1-2 Thessalonians where every chapter refers to either the rapture or the revelation). It is no small matter that he encourages us to look for the Lord Jesus, without a word spoken to watch out for the antichrist, resist the mark, stockpile food, weaponry, or anything of the like. In all candor, Anti-PreTrib rapturists prove to be most dishonorable when they deflect, deny, and distort these clear teachings- including Paul’s silence- simply to force their skewed Pre-wrath, mid-trib, and/or post-trib conclusions onto clear PreTrib meanings.

    The Early Church Taught Imminency
    The early church taught that Christ could return at any mo-ment, corroborated by much more information available today than there was a few decades ago when Anti-PreTrib rapturists first entered the apex of their frenzy. Historical preservationists using modern technology now make it possible to access and study ancient documents 24/7 that easily refute the false allegations made by the self aggrandizing enemies of the rapture. Dr. Hutchings disclosed that Edward Gibbons on page 187 of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire describes the clear imminent expectation of Christ held by the early church. Along with that, Clement, Polycarp, Barnabas, the Didache, Shepherd of Hermes, Dialogue with Trypho, Ephraem the Syrian, and many more all attest to a belief in the imminent, PreTrib rapture of the church. Dr. Walvoord quotes the Didache- a compilation of the Apostle’s teachings- dated about 100-120 A.D., containing the exhortation: “Watch for your life’s sake. Let not your lamps be quenched, nor your loins unloosed; but be ye ready, for ye know not the hour in which our Lord cometh.”
    In his book Maranatha Our Lord, Come Dr. Renald Showers writes: “The early church holding this premillennial view looked for the imminent return of Christ as witnessed by the writings of Papias, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Methodus, Commodianus, and Lactantius.”

    Adolph Harnack, although a member of the liberal theological school, out of sheer honesty as an historian, has written:”In the history of Christianity three main forces are found to have acted as auxiliaries to the gospel. They have elicited the ardent enthusiasm of men whom the bare preaching of the gospel would never have made decided converts. These [include] a belief in the speedy return of Christ and in His glorious reign on earth …. First in point of time came the faith in the nearness of Christ’s second advent and the establishing of His reign of glory on the earth. Indeed it appears so early that it might be questioned whether it ought not to be regarded as an essential part of the Christian religion.”

    Jesse Forest Silver, in his excellent book The Lord’s Return has written of the Apostolic Fathers: “They expected the return of the Lord in their day …. They believed the time was imminent because their Lord had taught them to live in a watchful attitude.” And concerning the Ante- Nicene Fathers, he says: “By tradition they knew the faith of the Apostles. They taught the doctrine of the imminent and premillenial return of the Lord”.
    Imminency and the Struggle for Truth

    As with all precious truth, the PreTrib doctrine wasn’t held without a struggle, so when Christ didn’t return when many ex-pected, the focus over time shifted. In those formative years, heresies emerged within the church requiring refutation; most of them directly related to issues impugning the Godhead, deity of Christ, the trinity, and more. Later a group of divergents began twisting other truths, like the Montanists (modern day Charismatic-Pentecostals) who were pushing ecstatic gibberish [modern day tongues] and extra-biblical prophetic revelation, claiming equal inspiration and authority with those who penned the Scriptures. The early church quickly recognized this as heresy [even though promoted under Charismatic-Pentecostalism today], and finally at the Council of Laodicea in 397 AD the canon [the Books of Scripture the church had accepted already] was considered closed.

    Augustinian Catholicism: History and Heresy
    As Rome consolidated political power under the banner of the cross, the blood bought church went into hiding taking with it precious truths like a blessed hope for an imminent rapture. Dave Hunt writes: “Their imminent Rapture to heaven was the great hope of the early Christians. To this fact the New Testament bears undeniable witness. That hope, however, was largely lost during the Dark Ages of Roman Catholic domination, and only a fraction of the church has recovered it and kept it alive since the Reformation. Sadly, that “blessed hope” (Ti 2:13) is being lost again in the flood of ecumenism and false teaching that is inundating the church today.”

    Noah Hutchings elaborates further: “After Constantine and the establishment of the Roman Catholic Church, the church was going to bring in the Kingdom; therefore, the pre-millennial return of Jesus Christ was no longer needed nor taught. This doctrine was replaced with reformed or covenant eschatology, which stressed that the Church had inherited all the promises to Israel.”

    Enter Augustine, a Platonic Roman Catholic influenced much by Persian Manichaeism (a raging influence before and after conver-sion). His writings were later systematized and popularized through John Calvin’s Institutes which brought Predestination (aka Predetermination: the abolition of free will, teaching that humans have no choice regarding Heaven or Hell) and the refor-mation- a most unlikely contra Catholic opponent. Many today- especially “evangelicals” and other Romanist sympathizers- con-sider Augustine’s accomplishments absolutely unassailable. However, please understand this man did no favors for orthodox Christianity or the imminent PreTrib rapture position by needlessly spiritualizing Scripture. Augustine’s summations only served to advance many of the heresies still extant in the Roman and Reformed churches: Baptismal Regeneration (baptism provides salvation), Purgatory (between heaven and hell where sins are finally atoned for by the sinner); and Amillennialism, the spiritualization of the Book of Revelation- including Israel’s promised 1000 year millennial kingdom. Dr. Walvoord explains the progression of Augustine’s strange doctrinal proclivities as they unleashed Amillennialism to an unsuspecting world:
    The importance of Augustine to the history of amillennialism is derived from two reasons. First, there are no acceptable exponents of amillennialism before Augustine, as has been previously discussed. Prior to Augustine, amillennialism was associated with the heresies produced by the allegorizing and spiritualizing school of theology at Alexandria which not only opposed premillennialism but subverted any literal exegesis of Scripture whatever. Few modern theologians even of liberal schools of thought would care to build upon the theology of such men as Clement of Alexandria, Origen or Dionysius. Augustine is, then, the first theologian of solid influence who adopted amillennialism. The second reason for the importance of Augustinian amillennialism is that his viewpoint became the prevailing doctrine of the Roman Church, and it was adopted with variations by most of the Protestant Reformers along with many other teachings of Augustine. The writings of Augustine, in fact, occasioned the shelving of premillennialism by most of the organized church. The study of Augustine on the millennial question is a necessary introduction to the doctrine as a whole.

    Under Romanist oppression fueled by Augustinian theology, Premillennialism largely disappeared after the Catholic Council of Ephesus in 431 AD condemned it as heresy. It wasn’t until the reform movement of the early seventeenth century that we saw a rebound in the number of statements that reflected the pretribulational view we hold dear to today.

    ROCKWELL WROTE:
    The same pretrib defenders, when combing ancient books, deviously read “pretrib” into phrases like “before Armageddon,” “before the final conflagration,” and “escape all these things”!

    MY ANSWER:
    “Deviously?” Could this not be said of all anti-PreTrib advocates who assail the blessed hope with contrived theories they trade amongst themselves?

    ROCKWELL WROTE:
    BTW, the KJV translators’ other writings found in London’s famed British Library (where MacPherson has researched) don’t have even a hint of pretrib rapturism. Is it possible that Ice etc. have found pretrib “proof” in the KJV that its translators never found? Pretrib merchandisers like Ice claim that nothing is better pretrib proof than Rev. 3:10. They also cover up “Famous Rapture Watchers” (on Google) which shows how the greatest Greek NT scholars of all time interpreted it.

    MY ANSWER:
    Pretrib merchandisers? Millions of dollars have been made on both sides, not the least of which is newspaperman- not theologian- Dave MacPherson. Here is self acclaimed “authority” that has proven an embarrassment to Anti-PreTrib advocates many times over the years. More about him in a moment.

    ROCKWELL WROTE:
    Pretrib didn’t flourish in America much before the 1909 Scofield Bible which has pretribby “explanatory notes” in its margins. Not seen in the margins was jailed forger Scofield’s criminal record throughout his life that David Lutzweiler has documented in his recent book “The Praise of Folly” which is available online.

    Biola University’s doctrinal statement says Christ’s return is “premillennial” and “before the Tribulation.” Although universities stand for “academic freedom,” Biola has added these narrow, restrictive phrases – non-essentials the founders purposely didn’t include in their original doctrinal statement when Biola was just a small Bible institute! And other Christian schools have also belittled their founders.

    MY ANSWER:
    To impugn the fact that the PreTrib rapture is flourishing in light of the signs indicating Christ’s soon return to set up His kingdom in Jerusalem, Israel (2 Sam 7:16; Zech 12-14; Matt 24), is a sad commentary on unwise Anti-PreTrib antagonists that seem to have little knowledge of- or regard for- prophetic truth predicting a knowledge explosion in the last days: Daniel 12:8-10 And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things? (9) And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. (10) Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.

    ROCKWELL WROTE:
    Ice, BTW, has a “Ph.D” issued by a tiny Texas school that wasn’t authorized to issue degrees! Ice now says that he’s working on another “Ph.D” via the University of Wales in Britain. For light on the degrees of Ice’s scholarliness, Google “Bogus degree scandal prompts calls to wind up University of Wales,” “Thomas Ice (Bloopers),” “be careful in polemics – Peripatetic Learning,” and “Walvoord Melts Ice.” Also Google “Thomas Ice (Hired Gun)” – featured by media luminary Joe Ortiz on his Jan. 30, 2013 “End Times Passover” blog.

    MY ANSWER:
    These are contrived slanderous lies! What is it that prompts anti-PreTrib advocates to make such vile accusations about a man of God they don’t agree with? Since it is such a common practice among anti-PreTrib advocates, I’m led to believe that in lieu of the fact that they have no substantive arguments these men have been reduced by sheer desperation to Ad-Hominems- which most of them use and the masses never check. A little research reveals that Dr. Thomas Ice is on staff at Liberty University has his post graduate degree from Louisiana Baptist University- http://www.lbu.edu/outstanding_alumni.htm .

    ROCKWELL WROTE:
    Other fascinating Google articles include “The Unoriginal John Darby,” “X-raying Margaret,” “Edward Irving in Unnerving,” “Pretrib Rapture Politics,” “Pretrib Rapture Secrets,” “Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty,” “Pretrib Hypocrisy,” “Pretrib Rapture Secrecy,” and “Roots of Warlike Christian Zionism” – most from the author of “The Rapture Plot,” the most accurate documentation on pretrib rapture history.
    Can anyone guess who the last proud pretrib rapture holdout will be?
    [Spotted the above on the web. Any reaction?]

    MY ANSWER: (http://www.raptureready.com/who/Dave_MacPherson.html

    (Dave MacPherson – INVENTOR OF FALSE PRE-TRIB RAPTURE HISTORY

    Dave MacPherson is an individual who loves to hate pretribulationism. In fact, he has thought up new ways to express his distain for pretribulationism by fabricating a false history of the pre-trib rapture. For the last thirty-plus years, MacPherson has dedicated his life to full time rapture hating in an attempt to participate in anything that he believes will obstruct its spread.

    A GREAT CONSPIRACY THEORY?

    MacPherson believes that the key elements of the doctrine of the pretribulational rapture originated with a young Scottish girl named Margaret Macdonald in Spring of 1830. This is the thesis put forth in a number of books and publications for over thirty years by MacPherson, a newsman turned rapture researcher. MacPherson’s major book The Rapture Plot (Millennium III Publishers, 1994), is only one of the latest in a series of revisions of his original discourse The Unbelievable Pre-Trib Origin (Heart of America Bible Society, 1973). His books include the following: The Three Rs: Rapture, Revisionism, Robbery (P.O.S.T., 1998), The Great Rapture Hoax (New Puritan Library, 1983), Rapture? (New Puritan Library, 1987), The Incredible Cover-Up (Omega Publications, 1975), The Late Great Pre-Trib Rapture (Heart of America Bible Society, 1974).

    Dave MacPherson is convinced that the popular Pre-Trib Rapture teaching of today was really instigated by a teenager in Scotland who lived in the early 1800’s. (Hoax, p. 7.) If Christians had known all along, bemoans MacPherson concerning the historical beginnings of the pretrib rapture, the state of Christianity could have been vastly different today. (Hoax, p. 180). He does not think that this research has been mere historical oversight, but rather a well-orchestrated “cover-up” which has been carefully managed by clever pretrib leaders each step of the way, even alleging that Dallas Seminary was grooming and commissioning Hal Lindsey for the purpose of popularizing the pretrib rapture for the Jesus Movement in the early 70’s. (Incredible Cover-Up, pp, 131-32). Jim McKeever, in the forward of the book, compares this pretrib cover-up to the Watergate cover-up. Before we get into the background of the pretrib rapture lets run a background check on MacPherson.

    MACPHERSON’S BACKGROUND

    MacPherson has dedicated his life to the cause of disrupting belief in the pretrib rapture, since, according to his interpretation, it has been the cause for great disruption in his own life. Back in 1953 I had a jolting encounter with the Rapture, is the opening sentence in MacPherson’s Rapture Hoax (p. 3). This is a reference to his expulsion from a Christian College in California (BIOLA) for propagating views that conflicted with pretribulationism. He suggests that this experience was so devastating that it accounts for a setback in his Christian life. Because of his discouragement, MacPherson and a friend went out and got drunk in Mexico and passed out. MacPherson says this was a brush with death because of the many dangers that could befall someone in such a condition in Mexico. Later, he was involved in a wreck with a car while riding his motorcycle and almost lost his left arm. But these were not the beginning of his nor his familys troubles because of the pretrib rapture.

    Robert L. Sumner has noted that MacPherson has a bad habit of attributing all kinds of personal tragedies to the pre-trib teaching: his mother’s death, his sister’s inability to have more children, his own failure to follow through on his calling as an evangelist, and other matters. (Looking For The Blessed Horrible Holocaust! A book review of The Late Great Pre-Trib Rapture in The Biblical Evangelist (May, 1975), p. 8.) Sumner cites another illustration of how paranoid he has become concerns his conclusion that his lovable dog, Wolf apparently became demon possessed just about the time MacPherson was about to write his first anti-pretribulation book, savagely biting his writing hand several times. (Hope? Or Hoax? The Biblical Evangelist (Feb., 1984), p. 7.)

    Trials and tribulation due to the pretrib rapture seems to run in the MacPherson family. Dave’s father, Norman, had planted a church in Long Beach, California and was doing quite well until a group of new people in the church caused a commotion over the timing of the rapture. Norman MacPherson was forced out of this prospering church because he had shifted from the pretrib to the posttrib view of the rapture. Norman S. MacPherson had authored posttrib books, Tell It Like It Will Be (privately printed, 1970), and Triumph Through Tribulation (by the author, 1944). He then started another, less successful church in Long Beach. Dave MacPherson displays a habit of blaming many of the personal tragedies in his life on the pretrib rapture teaching.

    In 1983 MacPherson declared, Fifteen years ago I knew nothing about Pre-Trib beginnings. (Hoax, p. 47) He began his quest by writing to his father and received back an answer which indicated a lack of consensus among scholars, so I decided to do some research on my own. (Hoax, p. 47) MacPherson’s investigation gathered steam when he found a rare book in 1971 by Robert Norton, The Restoration of Apostles and Prophets; In the Catholic Apostolic Church (1861). The important part in Norton’s book, claimed MacPherson, is a personal revelation that Margaret Macdonald had in the spring of 1830. (Hoax, p. 47) MacPherson uses this finding to project the notion that the source of the pretrib rapture is of demonic origin through a 15-year-old Scottish lassie.

    For MacPherson, his calling in life is a crusade to develop and sharpen his theory and to propagate it around the world. Operating as would any covert agent in hostile, enemy territory, MacPherson has made many trips onto the enemy turf of pretrib colleges and seminaries in order to dispense his material. His campaigns have led him to travel around the country with his message of the hidden story of the genesis of the pretrib rapture, which he believes if people knew, the doctrine would virtually become extinct. This mission has taken him to such places as Dallas Seminary, the great stronghold of the pretribs, where he speaks of distributing literature informing naive pretribers concerning their heritage. (I have retrieved two of his clandestine flyers from library books at the seminary.) As another typical example, he once blitzed a bus of students from Jerry Falwell’s college. John Walvoord has noted:

    MacPherson made these charges against pretribulationism and then afterward went to great lengths to find historic verification. . . . Readers will be impressed that as a newsman MacPherson builds a strong case for his position, but will be less impressed when they begin to analyze what he has actually proved. (John F. Walvoord, The Blessed Hope and the Tribulation (Zondervan, 1979), pp. 42-43.)

    MacPherson’s Claims

    Irvingite Robert Norton included a handwritten account of Margaret Macdonald’s prophecy, which is said by MacPherson to be the fountainhead for J. N. Darby’s development into the pretrib rapture doctrine. MacPherson does not say that Macdonald’s utterance included a clear statement of the pretrib rapture, but that she separated the Rapture from the Second Coming before anyone else did. . (Hoax, p. 121) According to MacPherson, Darby pilfered this two-stage teaching from Macdonald, according to MacPherson, and then developed it systematically, skillfully passing it off as the fruit of his personal Bible study.

    Macdonald’s so-called revelation that MacPherson cites to make his case revolves around two key phrases. Margaret dramatically separated the sign of the Son of man from the coming of the Son of man, (Hoax, p. 125) declares MacPherson based upon the phrase now look out for the sign of the Son of man. (Hoax, p. 128) MacPherson argues that she equated the sign with the Rapturea Rapture that would occur before the revealing of Antichrist. (Hoax, p. 129) He bases this on her statement, I saw it was just the Lord himself descending from Heaven with a shout, just the glorified man, even Jesus. (Hoax, p. 126)

    MacPherson’s Errors

    MacPherson makes at least three major errors in his attempt to argue that Margaret Macdonald originated the basis for the pretrib rapture. First, it is highly doubtful that the Macdonald “prophecy” contains the two-stage coming of Christ, as MacPherson advocates. Therefore, it would be impossible for this source to be the basis for a new idea if it did not contain those elements. MacPherson has misinterpreted Macdonald’s words by equating her use of “sign” with a rapture. Rather, she is saying that only those who are spiritual will see the secret sign of the Son of Man which will precede the single, posttrib second coming of Christ. In other words only those who have the light of the Holy Spirit within them will know when the second coming will take place because this spiritual enlightenment will enable them to have the spiritual perception to see the secret sign (not secret rapture). These are her own words:

    . . . all must, as Stephen was, be filled with the Holy Ghost, that they might look up, and see the brightness of the Father’s glory. I saw the error to be, that men think that it will be something seen by the natural eye; but tis spiritual discernment that is needed, the eye of God in his people. . . . Only those who have the light of God within them will see the sign of his appearance. No need to follow them who say, see here, or see there, for his day shall be as the lightning to those in whom the living Christ is. Tis Christ in us that will lift us up–he is the light–tis only those that are alive in him that will be caught up to meet him in the air. I saw that we must be in the Spirit, that we might see spiritual things. John was in the Spirit, when he saw a throne set in Heaven. . . . it is not knowledge about God that it contains, but it is an entering into God . . . I felt that those who were filled with the Spirit could see spiritual things, and feel walking in the midst of them, those who had not the Spirit could see nothing. . . (Hoax, pp. 126-27)

    Macdonald is clearly concerned with spiritual insights for the following reasons: 1) Stephen saw into heaven; he was not raptured or taken to heaven. 2) She clearly says that the sign will be seen only by the spiritually enlightened and that it would not be a natural or physical sign, but one perceived by spiritual discernment. 3) She is talking about the sign of his appearance, not an actual appearance. 4) Once a person has been so enlightened, they will have no need for direction from others, they will be guided directly by the living Christ. 5) The whole emphasis is upon seeing: John was in the Spirit, when he saw, those who were filled with the Spirit could see. Posttrib advocate D. H. Kromminga observes that Macdonald’s prophecies made it plain that the return of the Lord depended upon the proper spiritual preparation of His Church. (D. H. Kromminga, The Millennium in the Church: Studies in the History of Christian Chiliasm, (Eerdmans, 1945), p. 250.)

    Anti-pretrib rapture advocate, John Bray, agrees that she was only teaching a single coming and not a two-staged event. The only thing new in her revelation itself seems to be that of just Spirit-filled Christian being caught up at the second coming of Christ following heavy trials and tribulation by the Antichrist, notes Bray. (John L. Bray, The Origin of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture Teaching (John L. Bray Ministry, n.d.), pp. 21-22) In other words Macdonald appears to be teaching a posttrib, partial rapture. Bray further explains:

    It seems to me that Margaret MacDonald was saying that Christians WILL face the temptation of the false Christ (antichrist) and be in “an awfully dangerous situation”, and that only the Spirit IN US will enable us to be kept from being deceived; and that as the Spirit works, so will the antichrist; but the pouring out of the Spirit will “fit us to enter into the marriage supper of the Lamb”, and those filled with the Spirit would be taken while the others would be left. . . . Margaret MacDonald did teach a partial rapture, of course, but this did not necessarily mean that the teaching included a tribulation period FOLLOWING THAT for the other Christians. . . . It would not be right to take for granted that Margaret MacDonald believed in a tribulation period following the appearing of Christ unless she had definitely said so. Rather, it would be more logical to think that her view would have been the same as prevalent among the futurists at that time, that is, tribulation then the second coming. (Bray, Origin, pp. 20-21).

    Another point MacPherson makes to support his opinion is that Margaret Macdonald was the first person to teach a coming of Christ that would precede the days of Antichrist. (Cover-Up, pp. 155-56.) This would mean, according to MacPherson, that Macdonald had to be teaching a two-stage coming. However, it is highly questionable, as noted above, that Macdonald was referring to the rapture as MacPherson insists. Also Macdonald was still a historicist; she believed the Church was already in the tribulation and had been for hundreds of years. Therefore, the Antichrist was to be soon revealed, but before the second coming. She said believers needed the spiritual sight, so that they would not be deceived. Otherwise, why would believers, including herself, need to be filled with the Spirit in order to escape the deception which will accompany the fiery trial which is to try us associated with the Antichrist’s arrival? Further, she certainly includes herself as one who needs this special ministry of the Holy Spirit as can be seen from this passage from her “revelation.”

    . . . now shall the awful sight of a false Christ be seen on this earth, and nothing but the living Christ in us can detect this awful attempt of the enemy to deceive . . . The Spirit must and will be purged out on the church, that she may be purified and filled with God . . . There will be outward trial too, but ’tis principally temptation. It is brought on by the outpouring of the Spirit, and will just increase in proportion as the Spirit is poured out. The trial of the Church is from the Antichrist. It is by being filled with the Spirit that we shall be kept. I frequently said, Oh be filled with the Spirit–have the light of God in you, that you may detect satan–be full of eyes within–be clay in the hands of the potter–submit to be filled, filled with God. . . . This is what we are at present made to pray much for, that speedily we may all be made ready to meet our Lord in the air–and it will be. Jesus wants his bride. His desire is toward us. (Hoax, pp. 127-28)

    Ryrie also notes a further misunderstanding of Macdonald’s “prophecy”: She saw the church (us) being purged by Antichrist. MacPherson reads this as meaning the church will be raptured before Antichrist, ignoring the “us” (pp. 154-55). In reality, she saw the church enduring Antichrist’s persecution of the Tribulation days. (Charles Ryrie, What You Should Know About the Rapture (Moody, 1981), p. 71.)

    Further, there is no historical evidence that Macdonald, Edward Irving, or the Irvingites ever held to pretribulationism. So how could non-pretribulationists be the source of pretribulationism? Recently, one of the most extensive critical analysis ever produced on Irvingite doctrine declared that they were still historicist, while Darby and the Brethren had become futurist. Columba G. Flegg notes that the Brethren teaching on the rapture and the present invisible and spiritual nature of the church,

    were in sharp contrast to Catholic Apostolic teaching, . . . There were thus very significant differences between the two eschatologies, and attempts to see any direct influence of one upon the other seem unlikely to succeedthey had a number of common roots, but are much more notable for their points of disagreement. Several writers [referring specifically to MacPherson] have attempted to trace Darbys secret rapture theory to a prophetic statement associated with Irving, but their arguments do not stand up to serious criticism. (Columba Graham Flegg, Gathered Under Apostles A Study of the Catholic Apostolic Church (Clarendon Press, 1992), p. 436.)

    Second, in spite of MacPherson’s great amount of research and writing he has yet to produce any hard evidence that Darby was influenced by Macdonald’s utterance, regardless of what they meant. MacPherson only assumes the connection. If MacPherson’s suppositional approach were applied to the study of history, then we can make all kinds of connections between people and events. It would mean that you could prove that since Hubert Humphrey had a slick lawyer’s mind, was in Washington D.C. during the early 70’s, and was well-informed, he must have known about the Watergate break-in before it became public. Walvoord observes that,

    Readers of MacPherson’s Incredible Cover-Up will undoubtedly be impressed by the many long quotations, most of which are only window dressing for what he is trying to prove. When it gets down to the point of proving that either MacDonald or Irving was pretribulationist, the evidence gets very muddy. The quotations MacPherson cites do not support his conclusion. (Walvoord, The Blessed Hope and the Tribulation, p. 44.)

    Throughout MacPherson’s writings, he keeps dumping information about issues, developments, and beliefs from Great Briton during the early 1800’s apparently thinking that he is adding proof for his thesis, that the popular Pre-Trib Rapture teaching of today was really instigated by a teenager in Scotland who lived in the early 1800’s. (Hoax, p. 7.) Much of the information is helpful and interesting, but does not prove his thesis. If his research were represented as a river, it would be a mile wide (amount of information) but only an inch deep (actual proof). Even if Darby developed the pretrib rapture after Macdonald’s utterance, specific proof would be needed to make a link between Macdonald and Darby. Instead MacPherson only offers speculative guesses about how Darby used his training for the law profession to manipulate Christians by hiding the supposed true origins of the pretrib rapture. Perhaps MacPherson is using his investigative, journalism training and experience to publicly smear Darby. This leads to my final point.

    Third, Brethren writer, Roy A. Huebner claims and documents his belief that J. N. Darby first began to believe in the pre-trib rapture and develop his dispensational thinking while convalescing from a riding accident during December 1826 and January 1827. (R. A. Huebner, Precious Truths Revived and Defended Through J. N. Darby, Vol. 1 [Present Truth Publishers, 1991].) If this is true, and there is every reason to believe that it is, then all of the origin-of-the-rapture-conspiracy-theories fall to the ground in a heap of speculative rubble. Darby would have at least a three-year jump on any who would have supposedly influenced his thought, making it impossible for all the influence theories to have any credibility.

    Huebner provides clarification and evidence that Darby was not influenced by Margaret Macdonald, Lacunza, Edward Irving, or any of the Irvingites. These are all said by the detractors of Darby and the pre-trib rapture to be bridges that led to Darbys thought. Instead, Huebner demonstrates that Darbys understanding of the pre-trib rapture was the product of the development of his personal interactive thought with the text of Scripture as he, his friends, and dispensationalists have long contended.

    Darbys pre-trib and dispensational thoughts, says Huebner, were developed from the following factors: 1) he saw from Isaiah 32 that there was a different dispensation coming . . . that Israel and the Church were distinct (Precious Truths, p. 17). 2) During his convalescence JND learned that he ought daily to expect his Lords return. (Precious Truths, p. 19). 3) In 1827 JND understood the fall of the church. . . the ruin of the Church (Precious Truths, p. 18). 4) Darby also was beginning to see a gap of time between the rapture and the second coming by 1827 (Precious Truths, p. 23). 5) Darby, himself, said in 1857 that he first started understanding things relating to the pre-trib Rapture thirty years ago. With that fixed point of reference, Jan. 31, 1827, declares Huebner, we can see that Darby had already understood those truths upon which the pre-tribulation rapture hinges (Precious Truths, p. 24).

    German author Max S. Weremchuk has produced a major new biography on Darby entitled John Nelson Darby: A Biography (Loizeaux Brothers, 1992). He agrees with Huebners conclusions concerning the matter. Having read MacPhersons book . . . says Weremchuk, I find it impossible to make a just comparison between what Miss MacDonald prophesied and what Darby taught. It appears that the wish was the father of the idea (Weremchuk, Darby, p. 242).

    When reading Darbys earliest published essay on biblical prophecy (1829), it is clear that while it still has elements of historicism, it also reflects the fact that for Darby, the rapture was to be the churchs focus and hope. Even in this earliest of essays, Darby expounds upon the rapture as the churchs hope.

    PRE-DARBY RAPTURES

    In addition to the above points, there have been at least three pre-Darby rapture discoveries in the last decade. Evidence of pretribulationism surfaces during the early medieval period in a sermon some attribute to Ephraem the Syrian entitled Sermon on The Last Times, The Antichrist, and The End of the World. The sermon was written some time between the fourth and sixth century. The rapture statement reads as follows:

    Why therefore do we not reject every care of earthly actions and prepare ourselves for the meeting of the Lord Christ, so that he may draw us from the confusion, which overwhelms all the world? . . . For all the saints and elect of God are gathered, prior to the tribulation that is to come, and are taken to the Lord lest they see the confusion that is to overwhelm the world because of our sins.

    This statement evidences a clear belief that all Christians will escape the tribulation through a gathering to the Lord. How else can this be understood other than as pretribulational? The later second coming of Christ to the earth with the saints is mentioned at the end of the sermon.

    Francis Gumerlock, an anti-pretribulationist, claims that someone named Brother Dolcino taught a form of the pre-trib rapture in 1304. The reason that Gumerlock believes that Brother Dolcino and the Apostolic Brethren taught pretribulationism is found the following statement:

    Again, [Dolcino believed and preached and taught] that within those three years Dolcino himself and his followers will preach the coming of the Antichrist. And that 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 Antichrist. And that then Enoch and Elijah themselves would descend on the earth for the purpose of preaching [against] Antichrist. Then they would be killed by him or by his servants, and thus Antichrist would reign for a long time. But when the Antichrist is dead, Dolcino himself, who then would be the holy pope, and his perserved followers, will descend on the earth, and will preach the right faith of Christ to all, and will convert those who will be living then to the true faith of Jesus Christ. (Gumerlocks translation of the Latin text in Francis Gumerlock, A Rapture Citation in the Fourteenth Century, Bibliotheca Sacra (July-Sept. 2002), pp. 354-55.)
    Gumerlock clearly believes that this is a pretrib rapture statement as he concludes:

    Two things are fairly certain from The History of Brother Dolcino. First, Dolcino and the Apostolic Brethren believed that the purpose of the rapture was related to the escape of the saints from the end-time tribulation and persecution of the Antichrist. Second, Dolcino and the Apostolic Brethren believed that there would be a significant gap of time between the rapture of the saints to paradise and their subsequent descent to earth. Because of this The History of Brother Dolcino stands as yet another literary witness for the existence of pretribulationism before the nineteenth century. As such, it challenges evangelicals to reevaluate their thinking about the history of the pretribulational rapture, especially those views that place the origin of the teaching or its initial recovery within the last two hundred years. For this fourteenth-century text demonstrates that there were some in the Middle Ages who held a theology of the rapture that includes basic elements in pretribulationalism. (A Rapture Citation, p. 362)
    Frank Marotta believes that Thomas Collier in 1674 makes reference to a pretribulational rapture, but rejects the view, (Frank Marotta, Morgan Edwards: An Eighteenth Century Pretribulationist (Present Truth Publishers, 1995), pp. 10-12.) thus showing his awareness that such a view was being taught. One could not have objected to something that did not exist.

    Perhaps the clearest reference to a pretrib rapture before Darby comes from Baptist Morgan Edwards (founder of Brown University) in 1742-44 who saw a distinct rapture three and a half years before the start of the millennium. During his student days at Bristol Baptist Seminary in England (1742-44), Morgan Edwards wrote an essay for eschatology class on his views of Bible prophecy. This essay was later published in Philadelphia (1788) under the following title: Two Academical Exercises on Subjects Bearing the following Titles; Millennium, Last-Novelties. The term in the title “Last-Novelties” refers to what we would call today the eternal state; “novelties” refers to the new conditions of the future new heavens and new earth, not that he had a novel view of the Bible. Upon reading the 56-page work, it is evident that Edwards published it with only minor changes from his student days. Thus, it represents a view that he had developed by the early 1740s. Thus, we can date Edwards pretribulationism as originating in the early 1740s. The pretribulationism of Morgan Edwards can be see in the following statement from his book:

    II. The distance between the first and second resurrection will be somewhat more than a thousand years.

    I say, somewhat more, because the dead saints will be raised, and the living changed at Christ’s “appearing in the air” (I Thes. iv. 17); and this will be about three years and a half before the millennium, as we shall see hereafter: but will he and they abide in the air all that time? No: they will ascend to paradise, or to some one of those many “mansions in the father’s house” (John xiv. 2), and so disappear during the foresaid period of time. The design of this retreat and disappearing will be to judge the risen and changed saints; for “now the time is come that judgment must begin,” and that will be “at the house of God” (I Pet. iv. 17) . . . (p. 7; emphasis added; the spelling of all Edwards quotes have been modernized)

    What has Edwards said? Note the following:

    He believes that at least 1,003.5 years will transpire between resurrections.

    He associates the first resurrection with the rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, occurring at least 3.5 years before the start of the millennium (i.e., at least 3.5 years before the second coming of Christ at the start of the millennium).

    He associates the meeting of believers with Christ in the air and returning to the Father’s house with John 14:2, as do modern pretribulationists.

    He sees believers disappearing during the time of the tribulation, which he goes on to describe in the rest of the section from which the rapture statement is taken.

    He, like modern pretribulationists, links the time in heaven, during the tribulation, with the “bema judgment of believers.

    It is clear that Edwards believed in a two-staged return of Christ at least 85 years before Darby. Edwards pre-Darby statement is something that MacPherson cannot answer. I am not claiming that Darby was influenced by Morgan Edwards.

    Conclusion

    F.F. Bruce’s conclusion as to where Darby got the doctrine of the pretrib rapture appears to be correct. It was in the air in the 1820s and 1830s among eager students of unfulfilled prophecy, . . . direct dependence by Darby on Margaret Macdonald is unlikely. (F. F. Bruce, Review of The Unbelievable Pre-Trib Origin in The Evangelical Quarterly, (Jan-Mar, 1975), p. 58.) Dave MacPherson has failed to demonstrate that Macdonald’s prophecy contains latent rapture ideas, nor has he linked Darby to her influence with clear, historical evidence. This is why the doctrine of the pretribulational rapture did not begin with Margaret Macdonald. Perhaps Darby’s training at Dublin accounts for many of his views, especially his views of the nature of the church.

    Walvoord concludes, any careful student of Darby soon discovers that he did not get his eschatological views from men, but rather from his doctrine of the church as the body of Christ, a concept no one claims was revealed supernaturally to Irving or Macdonald. Darby’s views undoubtedly were gradually formed, but they were theologically and biblically based rather than derived from Irving’s pre-Pentecostal group. (Walvoord, The Blessed Hope and the Tribulation, p. 47.)

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