The Rapture is Not a New Doctrine

by David J. Stewart | January 2011

"But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren ... we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.  Wherefore comfort one another with these words." 1st Thessalonians 4:13, 17-18

       NO, the Rapture is not a new teaching. I have heard numerous people, from pastors to talk show hosts, claim that the Rapture is a new teaching that didn't exist until just a couple hundred years ago. Many websites teach this heresy as well.

May I say, confidently, that the Bible teaches a Rapture of the saints. I believe that the Words of the King James Bible are 100% preserved and inspired by God. Every last Word. Word-for-Word inspired. We clearly read in 1st Thessalonians 4:17 that all believers shall be “caught up” together in the clouds to meet Jesus in the air. This is the Rapture of the Church, which may take place at any “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” (1st Corinthians 15:52).

So you see, the Bible does teach the doctrine of the Rapture. It is NOT a new teaching as some pseudo-scholars claim. Before the Bible was completed in A.D.96, the teaching of the Pretribulation Rapture was already contained in the Bible, in 1st Thessalonians 4:17. The Biblical doctrine of the Rapture has been with us for the past 2,000 years.

The body of every born-again believer will suddenly change, and be “caught up” into the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Carefully notice that the Bible says we will “meet the Lord.” Amen!

What a day that will be, when my Jesus I shall see
When I look upon His face, the One Who saved me by His grace
When He takes me by the hand, and leads me through the Promised Land
What a day, glorious day, that will be!

I humbly look forward to meeting my precious Savior face-to-face, the One Who understands and loves us unconditionally for Who He is. John 16:22, “And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.” Amen and amen.

One can only conclude a Pretribulation Rapture if you take the Bible literally at face value. “Pretribulation” means that the Rapture happens BEFORE the 7-year Tribulation Period. This is Biblical.

One of the strongest proofs of a Pretribulation Rapture is the event of the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION spoken of by Daniel the prophet in Daniel 9:27 and then again by the Jesus Himself in Matthew 25:15. This is the event when the Antichrist will claim to be god from the temple in Jerusalem, and demand that the world worship him or be killed. From this blasphemous event, it will be exactly 3 1/2 years until the Lord's SECOND COMING (2nd Thessalonians 2:4).

Since the Bible plainly states that no man knows WHEN the Rapture will occur (Matthew 25:13), we must conclude that it will be a Pretribulation Rapture, because we DO KNOW it will be exactly 3 1/2 years between the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION and the SECOND COMING.

I believe that the Bible is God's inerrant, preserved and inspired Words. I believe that the Words of the King James Bible are inspired Word for Word. God's Word is inspired into whatever language it is translated into. God doesn't inspire a language, He inspires His Words. We have God's preserved and inspired Words today in the King James Bible.

The Bible teaches a Rapture of the saints, and it could occur at any moment. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Two Pretribulational Teachings in the Medieval Church

1. Ephraem of Nisibis (306-373)

Ephraem wrote an important sermon "On the Last Times, the Antichrist and the End of the World." As a prominent theologian and prolific writer of the Eastern Byzantine church, he advocated for a pretribulational rapture position for the church. Dr. Grant Jeffrey has noted that he had a profound love for the Scriptures. Below is a selected quote that concerns the escape of God's people from the horrible tribulation. He stated:

“We ought to understand thoroughly therefore, my brothers, what is imminent or overhanging. Already there have been hunger and plagues, violent movements of nations and signs, which have been predicted by the Lord, they have already been fulfilled, and there is not other which remains, except the advent of the wicked one in the completion of the Roman kingdom. Why therefore are we occupied with worldly business, and why is our mind held fixed on the lusts of the world or the anxieties of the ages? 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 the world? Believe you me, dearest brothers, because the coming of the Lord is nigh, believe you me, because the end of the world is at hand, believe me, because it it the very last time. Or do you not believe unless you see it with your eyes? See to it that this sentence be not fulfilled among you of the prophet who declares: “Woe to those who desire to see the Day of the Lord!” Because all saints and the Elect of the Lord are gathered together before the tribulation which is to about to come and are taken to the Lord, in order that they may not see at any time the confusion which overwhelms the world because of our sins. And so brothers, most dear to me, it is the eleventh hour, and the end of this world comes to the harvest, and angels, armed and prepared, hold sickles in their earth exists with blind infidelity, arriving at its downfall early. Commotions are brought forth, wars of diverse peoples and battles and invasions of the barbarians threaten, and our regions shall be desolated, and we neither become very much afraid of the report nor of the appearance, in order that we may at least do penance; because they hurl fear at us, and we do not wish to be changed although we at least stand in need of penance for our actions!”

Notice that there is a clear teaching on the rapture of the saints before the terrible tribulation period. This theologian admonishes the people not to desire to see the Day of the Lord? Why? Because in his mind to see the day of the Lord means a person is not a believer. The believers will be snatched away and taken to the Lord before this time period begins. Look closely at what he says again:

“See to it that this sentence be not fulfilled among you of the prophet who declares: "Woe to those who desire to see the Day of the Lord!" Because all saints and the Elect of the Lord are gathered together before the tribulation which is to about to come and are taken to the Lord, in order that they may not see at any time the confusion which overwhelms the world because of our sins.”

Scholars Dr. Ice and James Stitzinger provide some other insights as to what this theologian taught concerning the end times. In many respects this theologian taught many truths that are common among the Dispensational system of interpretation today. They note that Ephraem

“develops an elaborate biblical eschatology, including a distinction between the rapture and the second coming of Christ. It describes the imminent rapture, followed by a three-and-half-year-long Great Tribulation under the rule of Antichrist, followed by the coming of Christ, the defeat of the Antichrist, and the eternal state. His view includes a parenthesis between the fulfillment of Daniel's sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks (Daniel 9:24-27).”

Keep in mind that this reference is 1500 years before the time that many critics of the pre-trib view claim this doctrine developed. Many falsely advocate that the idea of a PreTrib rapture view developed in 1800s through J.N. Darby or through some sects and mystics. Such a view does not hold water, though it is popular in many circles.

For example, I once visited a Reformed Baptist Church in Greenville. It was a question and answer time session hosted by two pastors connected to the fellowship. Students from North Greenville College, Furman University, and other colleges, universities, and churches were present. A sincere man raised his hand and asked this question: “Why will no one teach on the book of Revelation and prophecy anymore? Can you give me a biblical answer to the issue of Bible prophecy.” I thought it was a great question and I was interested to hear a biblically based answer from Scripture by the two pastors. Sadly, what was given in reply caused several of us in the room to have a serious concern for the pastors answering questions. Instead of providing an answer to the student's question the two pastors took the next ten minutes to simply attack the idea of a PreTrib rapture view. These two men did not take the time to provide for a Biblical defense of their view. All they did was attack the PreTrib view as a modern invention that developed in the 1800s. After they attacked such a view, with little to no defense of their own view, I called the men on the carpet for a failure to study history and to defend their own view biblically. I asked them about several men who held this view before the 1800s, such as with Ephraem and others I'll discuss below. They had no reply to the information I gave to them.

2. Brother Dolcino (d. 1307)

One scholar has found a quote that relates to the teachings and disciples of Dolcino. Dolcino and his followers held to some form of rapture view whereby people were translated to heaven before the time of judgment on the Antichrist. The teaching is as follows:

“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 preserved 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”

Teachers and Theologians after the Protestant Reformation Who Believed in a PreTrib Rapture

At the time of the Protestant Reformation a major shift in how one interpreted the Bible caused the church to adjust in her views on the end times. Predominately under the Roman Catholic Church the Bible was interpreted allegorically. Scripture dealing with end times, prophetic texts, for the most part suffered from the hands of those who would not take the text literally. However, as the Reformation grew and as people began to return to a literal interpretation of the Bible the more people shifted to see that Christ was going to come back to earth to rule and reign. Many of the Puritans and Pilgrims, the 2nd generation of the Reformation movement, adopted the idea that not only was Christ going to reign on the earth but he would also translate his church saints before the awful time of his outpouring of wrath. Several of these scholars in some form or another held to a pretribulational rapture position.

1. Joseph Mede (1627): Clavis Apocalyptica

Some believe that he in this work made a distinction between the rapture of the saints in contrast to the second of Christ to earth.

2. Increase Mather (1639-1723)

Increase Mather was a pastor, scholar, and was the first President of Harvard College. Paul Boyer has noted that this Puritan scholar proved "that the saints would be caught up into the air beforehand, thereby escaping the final conflagration." This teaching from Mather was an early formulation of the rapture doctrine it seems.

3. Peter Jurieu (1687)

Peter Jurie in his book “Approaching Deliverance of the Church” (1687) taught that Christ would come in the air to rapture the saints and return to heaven before the battle of Armageddon. He spoke of a secret Rapture prior to His coming in glory and judgment at Armageddon.

4. John Gill (1748)

Dr. John Gill was one of the most brilliant scholars of his day. This Calvinist Baptist theologian wrote a full commentary set on the Bible in 1748. In this commentary he made a statement in his notes on 1 Thessalonians 4 that supported a time difference between the rapture of the saints and the coming of Christ to earth. He said: Christ will stop and will be visible to all, and as easily discerned by all, good and bad, as the body of the sun at noon-day; as yet He will not descend on earth, because it is not fit to receive Him; but when that and its works are burnt up, and it is purged and purified by fire, and become a new earth, He'll descend upon it, and dwell with his saints in it: and this suggests another reason why He'll stay in the air, and His saints shall meet Him there, and whom He'll take up with Him into the third heaven, till the general conflagration and burning of the world is over, and to preserve them from it....

5. Morgan Edwards (1742-1744) the Founder of Brown University

Edwards was a prominent Baptist Leader in his day. When he came to America he was recommended to a pastoral role by the famous John Gill. He founded the first Baptist College in the colonies. This college later became known as Brown University, a well known Ivy League University of our times. Edwards taught that Christ would return for his church saints 3.5 years before he returned to establish the Kingdom of Christ on earth, the 1000 year reign of Christ. He specifically said:

“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' (1 Thessalonians 4:17); 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 14:2).”

Summary: Orthodox Believers of History Have Believed in a Pretribulational View

As stated earlier in this link, the timing of the rapture debate should not be classed as an "A" level truth. The fact of Christ's coming is a larger issue. Then next in the scale would be if Christ will rule on the earth as King over all the earth. Those two issues are higher on the scale than the exact time of his rapture of the church age saints. To divide a fellowship or to break fellowship with a body over this one doctrine shows a sign of immaturity.

However, Christians must recognize that those who paint PreTribulationists as fanatics, fringe movement Christians, or as heretics who have embraced some strange and novel idea never heard of until the 1800's have done a disfavor to the entire body of Christ. Whatever position one holds to in this area, everyone should at the least admit good, sound, and orthodox believers have taught this view before the 1800's time period. And many today continue to see this as a valid position to hold from the Scriptures when properly interpreted in a plain, consistent, and normal manner with the words given their ordinary usage in historical context. END

SOURCE: The History of the PreTrib Rapture

One of the biggest critics of the Pretribulation Rapture doctrine is Alex Jones from the website. I found this video by a Christian gentleman who does a good job exposing Alex Jones' really bad theology. At the beginning of the video you'll hear Alex mocking the doctrine of the Rapture, comparing it to the popular science fiction television and Hollywood movie series, Star Trek... “Beam me up Scotty!” (a popular line in the series). May I say, whether you believe in the timing of a PreTrib, PreWrath or PostTrib Rapture, the saints will still be “CAUGHT UP” as plainly taught in the Holy Bible. 1st Thessalonians 4:17-18, “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.  Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”

Alex Jones is mocking the Rapture, period. It is awful and wrongful when anyone expresses disdain for the Rapture doctrine, because it is Biblical. I firmly believe in a PreTrib Rapture, but even if you think the timing will happen at a later time, you should still believe that the saints will be “caught up” out of the physical world to meet the Lord in the air. So be careful about joining the mockers of our generation who compare the coming Rapture to a Star Trek science fiction movie. It appears that Alex Jones doesn't believe in any type of Rapture at all. If he does, then he shouldn't mock its happening as being “beamed up.” Here is an article that I recently wrote titled, Logic Proves A PreTribulation Rapture.

The Rapture Of The Saints

Only 8 people survived the flood. Noah preached the righteousness of Jesus Christ for 120-years prior to the flood, but not one person repented. NOT ONE!!! Jesus foretold in Matthew 24:37-39 that the Last Days would be as it was in the days of Noah before the flood, when wicked people only live to eat, drink, and move from one failed marriage to another. We live in perilous times! People are NOT listening to God. They do not fear and obey Him. Instead of loving God, people love themselves (2nd Timothy 3:1-5). Time is running short. The end of the world is upon us. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Perilous Times (by Pastor Danny Castle | Download sermon)

Biblical Proof of a Pretribulation Rapture

(a video sermon by Pastor Danny Castle)

Some Golden Daybreak (by Pastor Lee Roberson)

“In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God,
and that obey not THE GOSPEL of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
—2nd Thessalonians 1:8

Ye Must Be Born Again! | How to Be Saved

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