By Nathan Jones
Q) Is the whole idea of a Rapture, separate and apart from the Second Coming, too new an idea to be true?
To answer this tough Bible question, Dr. David Reagan and I on a Christ in Prophecy television episode interviewed Dr. Ron Rhodes. Dr. Rhodes is the founder and director of Reasoning From the Scriptures Ministries. With nearly 50 books penned and decades of public teaching, he is an expert on the Bible. As a former "Bible Answer Man," he specializes in easy to understand answers to the really tough questions about the Bible and the defense of the Scriptures.
That's a common complaint. There are people out there who even argue that the idea of a Rapture is so recent in Church History that it came from Margaret MacDonald, a teenager. And, you know what's interesting? If you actually look at her writings, she comes out to be a cross between Post-Trib and Partial-Trib in viewpoints. A lot of Post-Tribs are going around talking about this as if it's a gospel truth.
One of the things that you also have to keep in mind is that especially during the early centuries of Christianity, Roman Catholicism was predominate. If a person didn't agree with what they taught their life was basically in danger.
If we want to get back to the earliest writings, I certainly believe that the apostles Paul and John and some of the others taught a Pre-Tribulation Rapture, if you look at their writings.
If we're going to let Scripture speak for itself and words actually mean something, then the Pre-Trib position is correct. You've got to do a lot of spiritualizing in my opinion to get to the other timing positions.
Some will argue that the Pre-Tribulation Rapture view is just "too new" to be considered viable. Critics will point to the origin of the modern Pre-Tribulation view and credit John Nelson Darby (1800-1882) with its founding. But, is that assessment historically accurate? Indeed, it is not.
The Early Church fathers' such as Barnabas (ca.100-105), Papias (ca. 60-130), Justin Martyr (110-195), Irenaeus (120-202), Tertullian (145-220), Hippolytus (ca. 185-236), Cyprian (200-250), and Lactantius (260-330) wrote on the imminent return of Jesus Christ, the central argument for the Pre-Tribulation Rapture view.
Biblical truth is determined by Scripture, and not how that teaching has been perceived at different times during history. When Augustine began spiritualizing the Bible, his view of a non-literal interpretation took hold of the church until the Renaissance, obliterating the Premillennial and Pre-Tribulation Rapture views in favor of Amillennialism. But, some Medieval writers such as Ephraem of Nisibis (306-373), Abbot Ceolfrid's Latin Codex Amiatinus (ca. 690-716), and Brother Dolcino wrote statements that distinguish the Rapture from the Second Coming.
When the chains of allegorical interpretation began to fall off beginning with the Reformation in the 1400 and 1500s, writers such as Joseph Mede (1586-1638), Increase Mather (1639-1723), Peter Jurieu (1687), Philip Doddridge (1738), John Gill (1748), James Macknight (1763), Thomas Scott (1792) and Morgan Edwards (1722-1795) all wrote concerning the Rapture occurring separate from the Second Coming. Even in the more modern church, those like William Witherby (1818) were precursors to John Darby in support of the view.
The Pre-Tribulation Rapture view is indeed then not only biblical, but supported throughout Church history.