Puritan Gems

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Does the Bible teach a Pre-trib Rapture?

“For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)

There can be little doubt that the “Pre-trib” rapture is the cornerstone of the modern “Left Behind” Theology. After all, without the Pre-trib Rapture, no one gets left behind. The event has sparked all kinds of success in books and movies, such as “A Thief in the Night” and the Left Behind Series. It is the event that most modern Christians believe to be just on the next horizon. But is this taught in the Bible?

1 Thessalonians 4: Rapture or Resurrection?

The above Scripture from First Thessalonians is the main scripture used to defend the idea of a “pre-trib” rapture. In reality, it does no such thing. There is no mention of a tribulation period in 1 Thessalonians. No mention of a third Jewish temple or an antichrist. There is no reason whatsoever to place the events in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 before the tribulation.

However, the above is merely an argument from silence. The biggest problem for the pre-trib defender is what the verse does contain, namely a resurrection. 1 Thessalonians. 4:16 clearly tells us that “the dead in Christ will rise first.” This is before the “rapture” event of verse 17. What does the Bible teach about the resurrection?

1.) The resurrection of the righteous and unrighteous takes place at the same time. (John 5:28-29).

2.) The resurrection takes place “on the last day”, not before some tribulation period. (Daniel 12:13; John 6:39-44; John 11:24).

Therefore, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 is a scripture about the Second Advent of Christ1, complete with the last day’s resurrection and the consummation of His Kingdom. It does not speak of a “pre-trib rapture”. The same goes for 1 Corinthians 15:51-52. While it is often espoused as a defense of the pre-trib rapture, the entire chapter is devoted to the Doctrine of the resurrection.

All of this brings to mind the “first resurrection” of Rev. 20.

“Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:4-6)

While the pre-trib rapture proponent will use this scripture to defend the idea of two resurrections, this passage is a huge obstacle to the rapture doctrine. Remember that 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 clearly teaches that the resurrection of the “dead in Christ” takes place before the “rapture”. Yet in Rev. 20, the “first resurrection” includes the tribulation saints, “the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands.” How could the first resurrection include the tribulation saints if, according to 1 Thessalonians 4, the first resurrection takes place before the tribulation? Now adopting a “post-trib” view will solve that problem, but still leaves us with at least two resurrections over 1,000 years apart, a view which flies contrary to Jesus’ statement concerning the resurrection of both in John 5:28-29. (I didn’t bother to ask if the millennium saints have a resurrection). The post-trib view also defeats the purpose of the rapture to begin with. Why would Christ come and rapture His church into the air only to turn right around and bring them back to earth to set up His millennial reign?

We’ll deal more with the “first resurrection” in later posts, but for now, we can see that it presents a huge problem for the “rapture” doctrine.

Other Alleged Rapture Verses

Two other arguments often used to defend the rapture must be addressed. The first is Matthew 24:37-42. As I established in the last post, Matthew 24 is not about the end of the world, but about the end of the Old Covenant, completed with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. I’ll post a verse by verse commentary on Matthew 24 later in this series, but for now, it should be noted that Matthew 24 says absolutely nothing about a rapture. In the Days of Noah, it was the wicked who were swept away by the flood (Matthew 24:39), not the righteous who were raptured away. So it was in 70 AD. Some were taken (captured), and some were left (killed).

The last argument that we’ll address here is that idea that the church gets “raptured” in Revelation 4:1 when the voice in heaven says “Come up here”. The argument here is that since the word “church” doesn’t appear in the Bible after this, the phrase “Come up here” must refer to the rapture. Obviously, this argument is ridiculous, but since it is so popular, it must be addressed.

First, John was the only one “raptured” in this passage, and this was only in His vision. In reality, he never left the island of Patmos and died a normal death here on earth. Second, it must be noted that the word “church” never appears during the passages concerning heaven either. One could just as easily make the argument that Revelation teaches that the church will be annihilated. I would also note that the word “antichrist” doesn’t appear in Revelation at all, yet the rapturist is convinced that antichrist is the main character of the Book.

The History of the Rapture Doctrine

Most Christians today are surprised to discover that the Rapture Doctrine was not taught in the Church before the 1830’s. J. Preston Eby writes, “It wasn't until the early or mid 1800's that there was any significant group of believers around the world that looked for a "rapture" of the Church prior to a seven-year tribulation period. It may come as a shock to some who read these lines, but it is a fact, nonetheless, that the "rapture" teaching was not taught by the early Church, it was not taught by Church of the first centuries, it was not taught by the Reformers, it was not taught by anyone (except a couple of Roman Catholic theologians) until about the year 1830.” Historian Dave MacPherson has traced the doctrine back to a Scottish physic named Margaret McDonald. “A young Scottish lass named Margaret MacDonald had a revelation of the coming of the Lord before the great tribulation. Several noted Bible teachers of that day picked up on this thought, but it was Edward Irving and John Darby who were responsible for it being popularized in Scotland and England. It is said of Darby that he borrowed from Margaret MacDonald's revelation, modified her views, and then taught them under his own name without giving her credit. He visited the U.S. at least five times, and his dispensationalism became part of the Scofield Reference Bible (1909). It was the notes in Scofield's Bible that caused this new teaching to find favor in this country.”

In modern times, desperate attempts to give the rapture doctrine historical significance have resulted in institutes such as Thomas Ice’s “Pre-Trib Research Center”. However, the more historical “evidence” that Ice uncovers for the doctrine2, the more obvious it becomes that the rapture doctrine has no history before the early 1800’s. In addition, it cannot be supported with Scripture. The “Rapture” doctrine is a false doctrine that has harmed many individuals and rendered the modern church impotent. The message of the Bible, from beginning to end, is one of victory, not escape from some future tribulation period.

For More Information, I would suggest:

The Rapture Plot by Dave MacPherson
The Three R’s: Rapture, Robbery, Revisionism by Dave MacPherson


1 The Bible teaches a Second Advent, not a third.

2 We'll address some of Ice's rapture "evidence" in the next post.


Anonymous said...

What a coincidence. Not long before I ran into your scriptural and excellent blog, I ran across a couple web articles by MacPherson on either Google or Yahoo which back up what you say. They are "Deceiving and Being Deceived" "Thomas Ice (Bloopers)" and "Pretrib Rapture Diehards." They knock down the desperate claims for Morgan Edwards and Pseudo-Ephraem, show how unscholarly Ice is, and outline the facts about the pretrib rapture's origination in the early 1800s. Thanks and may the Lord bless your efforts. In Him, Bruce

Puritan Lad said...

Thanks Bruce. Welcome to the blog.

I plan to use some of MacPherson's work in my next blog, outlining some of the so-called "evidence" from Ice's "Pre-trib Research Center". It amazes me that someone can look that hard for evidence to support that doctrine, find a few (very) questionable sources in church history, and still hold that the doctrine has any historical merit. One would think that a doctrine as orthodox as they claim it is should be all over the works of the Church Fathers.

However, the main argument for the pre-trib rapture is still 1 Thess. 4:17, and the proponents must still explain why the First Resurrection in Rev. 20 includes the tribulation saints, while the resurrection in 1 Thess. 4:16 allegedly takes place before the tribulation.

God bless and visit often.

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Despite my Dispensational convictions, I think a Post-Trbulational rapture is taught in Scripture.

Can you name an historian of the Brethren who considers Dave MacPherson's theories as to the origin of the Pre-Trib rapture doctrine to be correct?

Puritan Lad said...

Hello DP,

Thanks for visiting my humble blog. What do you make of Christ's statement concerning the resurrection of both the righteous and wicked at the same time in John 5:28-29?

Unfortunately, most Church Historians that I research are dated before MacPherson and even Darby. (Most of my library material was written no less than 200 years ago.) I hold MacPherson's theories to be valid, as they are backed up with solid research (unliks that of Thomas Ice). The easiest way to refute MacPherson is to find the "rapture" as currently defined before the 1800's. Ice has exhaustively tried but to no avail.

I'm interested in your take on my Tribulation post. I'll deal with the Millennium, Anthichrist, and other issues in later post.

FYI: I was a former Dispensationalist myself, until the Word turned me into a Reformed Covenantalist. Hopefully, we can arrive at some sort of truth through this dialogue.

God Bless,


Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

As a PhD student researching J.N. Darby, I can say that most recent scholarship on the history of the Brethren does not take MacPherson very seriously.

John 5:28-29

Oh wow! I never read that before. I guess Premillennialism must be wrong.

Sorry. The key issue there is whether Jesus meant a chronological statement when He referred to 'the hour'. I think that is pretty doubtful.

Not being a Bible scholar, I cannot comment much on the use of that phrase in Greek, but in Ebnglish at least, th hour can be meant in a less than strictly chronological sense.

Every Blessing in Christ


Puritan Lad said...

Hello Matthew,

I wouldn't expect Brethren Scholars to take MacPherson seriously, though most Reformed Scholars do.

The issue, however, isn't whether or not schoars take him seriously. As I stated before, the easiest way to disprove MacPherson is to show his errors. He puts hsi resources out for all to see. If one can show where a pre-trib rapture is taught before the 1800's then MacPherson would be proven wrong. Otherwise...

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

My point is not that the Pre-Trib rapture was taught before the 1800s, my point is that MacPherson's claims about its origin is incorrect.

Anyone who is familiar with Brethren historiography should see the weakness of MacPherson's conclusion.

Reformed scholars may appreciate the bad reputation MacPherson's theory gives to Pre-Tribism, but this is worthless unless it is actually correct about Margaret MacDonald. If they want to endorese MacPherson, let them go back to the sources and prove the link between MacDonald and Darby.

If I believed the Bible taught the Pre-Trib rapture, I would not care at all whether or not anyobody prior to the 1800s believed it or if Margaret MacDonald had some part in influencing Darby.

As it happens, there is some more recent evidence that Jansenists in France writing prior to the 1800s may have had some influence on Darby.

With regard to Morgan Edwards, his position was very similar to that of Edward Irving, who MacPherson himself, claims influenced Darby. Irving taught that the great tribulation had begun, but a rapture would occur in the middle of it, as did Morgan Edwards. Thus, wicked old Edward Irving, is as much an Historic Premillennialist as Morgan Edwards.

In any case, the evidence that Irving influenced Darby on the rapture is weak.

Every Blessing in Christ


Puritan Lad said...

Gotcha. So you agree that the Pre-Trib Doctrine saw it's beginnings in the church with Darby.

In all honesty, it's been a while sense I read MacPherson's book, so I'll have to dig it up to see if the Darby-MacDonald connection is valid.

I'll blog my findings here. (Hopefully, some of MacPherson's resources are still available for print.)

God Bless,


Anonymous said...

Who are the Brethren scholars Dyspraxic says oppose MacPherson's conclusions? Can Timothy Stunt (and his colleague), who claims something about the Jansenists but can't quote anything substantial in them, prove that he isn't heavily slanted in favor of Darbyist Brethren? (Typing in "Scholars Weigh My Research" on Google brings up quotes from several leading Brethren scholars in Britain, including F. F. Bruce, who have endorsed MacPherson's findings - quotes that Thomas Ice and other pretrib hold-outs studiously avoid or twist altogether!) It is obvious that Dyspraxic needs to go over the documentation MacPherson drowns us with in his book "The Rapture Plot" (and his later work "The Three R's" which shares letters Bruce wrote to MacPherson during Bruce's final years - more items Ice ignores!). Everything Dyspraxic brings up is thoroughly discussed in "Plot." Will Dys's research include facts about Darby that have purposely been swept under the rug by everyone from Ryrie (in the U.S.) to Rowdon (in the U.K.)? MacPherson discovered that Darby's initial basis for pretrib (beginning in 1839 and lasting for three decades) was the symbolic "man child" who's caught up in Rev. 12 before a "tribulation" only 1260 days long. Ryrie, a Brethrenite dedicated to exalting Darby no matter what, dared to claim in 1981 in his "rapture" book published by Moody that as early as 1833 Darby had a fully developed, seven-year-long tribulation (and not the 3 and 1/2 year long trib that he really had); if Ryrie had done some fair and balanced research, he couldn't have written that book. (BTW, Darby in 1839 was merely copying Irving, who in 1831 in "The Morning Watch" had based his futuristic pretrib view on the same "man child" symbol - eight years ahead of Darby!) MacPherson proves that Darby wasn't first on any aspect of dispensationalism including the pretrib rapture. Between 1830 and roughly 1890 all church historians, whether Irvingite or Plymouth Brethren, credited someone in Irving's orbit with the pretrib view; none credited Darby or his group. Which is why, after Darby's death, his disciple Wm. Kelly pulled off the "mother of all revisionisms." In a two-year series on Irvingism (1889-1890) in his "Bible Treasury" Kelly deliberately and subtly made many changes in early Irvingite documents to make it appear that the Irvingites never taught a pretrib rapture so that he could falsely credit Darby with pretrib! (This is the main focus of "The Rapture Plot," without which book anyone discussing pretrib rapture origins is horribly handicapped!) A word to the wise....

Puritan Lad said...

Thanks, Bruce. I'm looking through MacPherson's book as we speak. Most Dispensationalists hold MacPherson in the same light as we hold Scofield. In the end, however, truth isn't open for a popular vote. On this, I'll agree with Dyspraxic:

"If I believed the Bible taught the Pre-Trib rapture, I would not care at all whether or not anyobody prior to the 1800s believed it or if Margaret MacDonald had some part in influencing Darby."

Whether or not it's Orthodox historically isn't nearly as important as whether or not it's biblical. The problem that I'll pose to the pre-tribber is that the pre-trib rapture is neither.

Anonymous said...

My thoughts: MacPherson has written a new article titled "Edward Irving is Unnerving." After quoting Huebner, Sandeen, and Ice who boldly claim that Irving and his group never taught pretrib, Mac quotes the Irvingite journal itself to show that this trio (and earlier Darby defenders such as Scofield and Ironside) has historical egg on their faces! If pretrib defenders can be so wrong about history, why should anyone quickly accept their scriptural interpretations? The above offering by MacPherson, BTW, was observed on the Nov. 12 installment of "Our Daily Bread" owned by a Joe Ortiz. Instead of focusing on blasting his opponents or dismissing them with a wave of his hand, Mac constantly backs up what he says with sources, dates, pages, etc. - which seems to be a constant source of irritation to those who instantly respond (while Mac's ink is still wet) with rapture ripostes! Karl Meyer-Haus

Anonymous said...

When Anonymous asks "Can Timothy Stunt ... prove that he isn't heavily slanted in favor of Darbyist Brethren?" he should be dealing with my evidence rather than my beliefs. For the record, I have no eschatological convictions whatsoever. As a historian I am interested in putting Darby and the early Brethren (and many other religious teachers) in their context, but I am not an advocate of their beliefs. Biographical studies of mine dealing with Irvingites and more outrageous characters like John Wroe and Henry James Prince have also been published. Does Anonymous think that I am 'heavily slanted in favor of' the Irvingites, the Wroeites and the Agapemonites? At least none of my writings have been anonymous and I am signing my name here too, Timothy Stunt

wakawakwaka said...

Hey Puritan lad,You said you used to be a pre-tribber no-did you used to think like people on this forum,one of them even said that every year that passed their intensity grows...

Puritan Lad said...

Not to that extent. Many people today still assume that the Book of Revelation, as well as the Olivet Discourse, contain details about modern events. But there is nothing whatsoever within the text itself that leads to such a conclusion,

Mike said...

There is a difference between tribulation and great tribulation- one is mans wrath on man, the other is Gods wrath on man- we as Christians were never promised an escape of mans wrath on us- 2 Thess. Chapter 2 is the key- we will leave here 12-18 months after the " middle of the week. " unless those days be shortened"
Pre- Wrath is the best answer biblically I've studied over past ten years including Larkin- who prophesied the Jews return in 1947 in his books of 1915-1920- he as a slight pre tribber- had a " probably" everywhere the church leaves!!! Check that out

Puritan Lad said...

Thanks Mike. A few questions.

1.) Can you expound a little on 2 Thessalonians Chapter 2? Where does it say that "we will leave here 12-18 months after the middle of the week?

2.) Can you give the exact quote from Larkin concerning the Jews return in 1947, or at least a link? I would love to chech that out?

3.) Why did Jesus clearly teach that the Great Tribulation would be a first century event (Matthew 24:21, 34)?

The best biblical answer would be a "post-resurrection rapture" (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). Nothing about a future tribulation or earthly "wrath".

Anonymous said...

Why are the "tribulation saints" assigned to wrath and somehow miss the promise of God, that we are not appointed to wrath?
Why does Paul tell the Bride how to get ready on Earth for when Christ returns with His saints that have risen first... 1 Thess. 3:11-13?
Why do you assume that the wrath of God is temporal when Scripture defines it as Hell... Rev. 11:18, Rev. 14:9-12?
If the wrath of God is Hell, then that destroys any speculation that the rapture is prior to the tribulation. Where is the Scripture that states that it is prior?
If Paul tells us that the rapture is at the last trumpet in 1 Cor. 15:51,52, then why is Rev. 10:7 ignored?
Why is the fact that time is no more at the 7th trumpet? Rev. 10:6
Why is the fact that Jesus rules and reigns forevermore ignored at the 7th trumpet...Rev. 11:15-18?
Why is the fact ignored that Jesus rewards the righteous at the 7th trumpet...Rev. 11:18, and that He comes quickly and that His reward is with Him...Rev. 22:12?
Why is it ignored that John will prophesy again after time is no more...Rev. 10?
Why is history ignored concerning the 7 year Roman-Jewish War, or Jewish Revolt as it is sometimes called between 66 AD and 73 AD, where Jerusalem is decimated and the temple destroyed ending the daily sacrifices in the middle of this week (7 year period) in 70 AD?
Why is this war ignored concerning the obvious fulfillment of Daniel's 70th week...Daniel 9:27?
How do you explain the obvious address of Jesus to the church in Rev. 16:15, which parallels the address to the church of Sardis in Rev. 3:1-4?
How can Jesus come "like a thief..." at the last bowl...Rev. 16:15 if a rapture announced and declare such an event 7 years later?
Wouldn't that make Jesus into a liar...His claim of coming with an element of surprise... "like a thief..."?
Why is the disciples question ignored in Matt. 24:3 where they ask, "When shall these things be..." speaking of the destruction of the temple in 70 AD.
Why can't the pretribbers answer my questions?

Anonymous said...


Rev. 21:9 is about The New Jerusalem, the Bride, the Wife (Married already) of the Lamb (this is after the end of the Millennium, and start of the New Heaven and New Earth)

9 ONE OF THE SEVEN ANGEL who had the SEVEN BOWLS full of the SEVEN LAST PLAGUES came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the BRIDE, the WIFE of the LAMB.”

(I hope we don’t have another bride in mind, like what pretribbers did to Matthew 24:29,30, making it the second rapture/resurrection, which they say is still an integral part of the first resurrection of Rev. 20. Jesus will get His Bride one time only, not several times)

Why does it have to be ONE OF THE SEVEN ANGELS WHO HAD THE SEVEN BOWLS, after he had done his tasked a thousand years ago, be the one appointed by Jesus to show to John the Bride? Why not one of the seven angels who had the trumpets, or Michael, or Gabriel, or any other Angels? Have you wondered why is this angel worth mentioning in introducing the Bride to John?

Checkout Rev. 16:12-15
12 THE SIXTH ANGEL POUR OUT HIS BOWL on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East. 13 Then I saw three impure spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. 14 They are demonic spirits that perform signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty.

15 Behold I come like a THIEF (to snatch or steal away)! BLESSED is the ONE who stays awake (WISE VIRGINS?) and remains clothed (OIL/HOLY SPIRIT/ROBE), so as not to go naked and be shamefully exposed.” Matthew 22

Why this sudden insertion in the execution of the Sixth Bowl Judgement and just prior to the punishment of the Great Whore (opposite of the Bride) and prior to Armageddon? What is the relevance of this passage in the coming chaotic and troublesome scenario?

Answer: So Obvious. Unless Jesus just wanted to mention it for no reason at all.

To make the above more logically valid, here is another scripture to back it up:

Rev. 16:17-19
17 The SEVENTH ANGEL poured out his BOWL into the air, and out of the temple came a loud voice from the throne, saying, “It is done!” 18 Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since mankind has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake. 19 The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed. God remembered BABYLON THE GREAT and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath.

Rev. 17:1
17 ONE of the SEVEN ANGELS who had the SEVEN BOWLS came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the punishment of the GREAT PROSTITUTE, who sits by many waters.

Here is the Logic:

The Sixth Angel who holds the Sixth Bowl Judgement introduced the Bride because he is the one who witnessed the resurrection of the dead in Christ and rapture of the alive in Christ.

The Seventh Angel who holds the Seventh Bowl Judgement introduced the Great Whore because he is the one who witnessed the punishment of the Great Whore/Babylon the Great/Mystery Babylon/Mother of Harlots.

After Jesus snatched his Bride, he then turned and deal with the Great Whore. Just rightly so isn’t it?

Boooom!!! There you have it, no amount of twisting or allegory can refute this scriptures.

God help us in this trying and deceptive end times.


Gary Jones said...

A completely distorted view of scripture. Although I am a Baptist, I attended a Presbyterian PCA Church for many years and many of their elders and deacons believed in pre-millennialsm, because that is clearly what the New Testament reveals.

Yosua said...

"Does the Bible teach a Pre-trib Rapture?"

Perhaps we should first ask the reversed question:

"Does the Bible teach a [Post-rapture] tribulation?"

We can search the entire Bible, there is not even one verse that speaks of an end-times 7 years period called "great tribulation". That 7 years great tribulation only comes from a supposedly unfulfilled 70th week of Daniel 70 weeks prophecy, where a supposed gap of undefined amount of time is forcedly inserted between the 69th and 70th weeks (of years). This amount of time now amounts for more than 1900 years, and is still expanding... because the supposed pre-tribulation rapture did not yet happen! But can we cut a prophecy into two parts, insert a 1900+ years gap, and still call that a "70 weeks prophecy"?

The fact is that the great tribulation already began immediately after the stoning of Stephen, in Acts 8:1, at the end of what we may consider a continous 70 weeks of Daniel:

"..And at that time there was a GREAT PERSECUTION against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles" (Acts 8:1)

History tells us that great persecutions never ended. Christians were crucified, thrown to lions, burned, tortured, etc., and intense persecutions are still happening today in some places, but only for the true believers that live godly in Christ:

"Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." (2 Tim 3:12)

The lukewarm Christians that go to these dens of thieves "churches" to enjoy the evil entertainment offered there (demonic rock music / sensual pop music) and to listen to fables, don't have to suffer persecutions, for they are not a threat to Satan.