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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

Footnotes:

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

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

16 comments:

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,

PL

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

Matthew

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

Matthew

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,

PL

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....
Bruce

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...
http://www.raptureforums.com/forum/prophecy-end-times-chat/64904-could-year.html

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".