Do The Church Fathers Teach A Pre-Tribulation Rapture?

It is written:

“I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.” (Revelation 1:9)

Many in our religious world teach that before the Second Coming of Christ, there will be a quiet “Rapture” in which God will take Christians from the world for seven years. When this happens, there will be a Great Tribulation for those “left behind” on the Earth.

Of course, the Apostle John does away with such by reminding us that he was living in “the tribulation” during his lifetime in the first century A.D. (Revelation 1:9). Christians through the entire church age are reminded that we must be willing to suffer and die for the Lord (2 Timothy 3:12; 1 Peter 4:16).

Nevertheless, some of our religious friends claim that the church fathers (the post-Apostolic Christian who lived and wrote in the late first through the third century A.D.) teach the idea of a pre-tribulation Rapture. One example of proof they allege comes from the writings of Irenaeus:

““Those nations however, who did not of themselves raise up their eyes unto heaven, nor returned thanks to their Maker, nor wished to behold the light of truth, but who were like blind mice concealed in the depths of ignorance, the word justly reckons “as waste water from a sink, and as the turning-weight of a balance —in fact, as nothing;” so far useful and serviceable to the just, as stubble conduces towards the growth of the wheat, and its straw, by means of combustion, serves for working gold. And therefore, when in the end the Church shall be suddenly caught up from this, it is said, “There shall be tribulation such as has not been since the beginning, neither shall be.” For this is the last contest of the righteous, in which, when they overcome they are crowned with in-corruption.” (Irenaues, Against Heresies 5.29)

Does Irenaues here teach a pre-tribulation Rapture?

Not at all.

As is common with our friends who allege the church fathers teach such, the writing of Irenaeus has been taken out of context.

One author points out:

“But just have a look at that quote. What, exactly, is the church suddenly caught up from? It is not from persecution, but rather from the rebellion against God that the nations indulge in, refusing to acknowledge God. Ireneaus actually goes on to suggest that such useless wickedness will be used to be of service to the righteous, saying that stubble helps wheat to grow and that straw can be burned to purify and work gold. Ireneaus seems to imply that the church will have been somehow initiallycaught up in this rebellion against God, but will after a time suddenly be caught up from it….It is correct that Ireneaus is quoting Matthew 24.21, but he is applying it to the church. He is not teaching that the church escapes from the Tribulation, but that it is purified by the Tribulation. Thus, we can discount the absurd claim that he is teaching a rapture before the Tribulation by which the church escapes, and that the ‘last contest of the righteous’ is speaking of some separate group of ‘Tribulation saints’. Ireneaus makes no such distinction. Instead, just like all the other church fathers, he is teaching that it is the church that goes through the Tribulation, in the final and greatest test of loyalty, after which those who are faithful and, as Jesus says, ‘endure to the end’ will be saved and given immortality. The language of ‘overcoming’ and ‘contest’ is completely alien to the escapism of the Pre-Tribulation rapture teaching.” (Nathanael Lewis, Falsifying The Fathers: How Pre-Tribulationists Pervert The Apostolic End-Times Teaching, 40 (Kindle Edition); Bowburn, Co. Durham; McKnight & Bishop Inspire)

In fact, after examining several passages from the church fathers which are often alleged to teach a pre-Tribulation Rapture, Lewis concludes his studies of the church fathers with these words:

“Each and every single one for about 1200 years after Jesus and the New Testament spoke with one voice, loud, clear, utterly unanimous: THE CHURCH WILL GO THROUGH THE TRIBULATION UNDER THE ANTICHRIST.” (Nathanael Lewis, Falsifying The Fathers: How Pre-Tribulationists Pervert The Apostolic End-Times Teaching, 196 (Kindle Edition); Bowburn, Co. Durham; McKnight & Bishop Inspire)

In truth, no one ever heard of a secret Rapture of the church until the 1800’s. Will you not today be ready for the Lord’s Return?

Are you ready to take up your cross daily and follow Jesus (Luke 9:23)?

Jesus left the glories of Heaven to save the world of sinners (John 3:16; 2 Corinthians 8:9). Why not today as a believer repent of your sins and be baptized into Him (Acts 2:37-47)? Be faithful unto death and receive the crown of life (Revelation 2:10).

When Christians fall short and sin (as they do-1 John 1:8), repent and confess your sins to the Lord in prayer for forgiveness (1 John 1:9-2:2). Confess your sins to other Christians and ask them for their prayers as well (James 5:16).

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