Tracing The Historical Development Of The Rapture Doctrine

It is written:

For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. (Matthew 24:27)

Since the Lord Jesus ascended into Heaven, His followers have known that one Day He will return. His Word promises that His Return will be as evident as His Ascension (Acts 1:9-11). When Jesus Christ returns, every eye will see Him-even those who pierced Him (Revelation 1:7). The dead will be resurrected (John 5:28-29), the enemies of God will be punished as the Day of Judgment commences (1 Corinthians 15:23-28), and the Earth and the elements of the universe will melt with fervent heat (2 Peter 3:10-12). As Christians, we look forward to God’s promise of a new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:13).

Nevertheless, in the last two hundred years, a new teaching has arisen which claims that the Second Coming of Christ will be in two stages-with the first stage being a “secret” return of the Lord. Despite the fact that Christ’s Return in Scripture is said to be “with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God” (1 Thessalonians 4:16), this recent teaching claims that Christ will return in a quiet “rapture.”

We can search the Scriptures, the early church fathers, and the writings of Christians for eighteen hundred years, and never read of this notion of a two-stage Second Coming of Christ and quiet Rapture.

So where did this doctrine come from?

“Before Darby, all premillennialists, futurists included, believed that the rapture would occur at the end of the tribulation, at Christ’s second advent. But Darby understood the rapture and the second coming as two separate events. At the rapture, Christ will come for his saints, and at the second coming, he will come with his saints. Between these two events the great tribulation would occur. With the church removed, God could resume dealing with Israel, and Daniel’s seventieth week could take place as predicted.” This pretribulation rapture made Darby’s version of futurist premillennialism lennialism unique. No one knows for sure where this doctrine came from, but there are a number of theories. Samuel P. Tregelles, a respectable biblical scholar in Darby’s day and one of the Plymouth Brethren, denied that a pretribulation rapture was taught in the Bible and argued that the idea originated in 1832 during an ecstatic utterance in the London congregation of Edward Irving, where the charismatic gifts of the Spirit were alleged to have been poured out.” Since the Plymouth Brethren, and most other English evangelicals for that matter, were scandalized by the goings-on at Irving’s church and rejected them out of hand, such a charge was clearly intended to discredit Darby’s theory among people who might be otherwise inclined to accept it. A more recent historical explanation contends that the doctrine originated with Margaret Macdonald, a teenager from Glasgow, Scotland, who began having charismatic experiences in the early part of 1830. According to some recently discovered (but highly confusing) manuscripts, Macdonald claimed to have special insights into the second coming of Christ and may have even advocated a pretribulation rapture of the church. Along with her various visions, Margaret became famous for speaking in tongues. She and other members of the Macdonald family became the main attractions in a charismatic-type revival in western Scotland. Rattled by the reports of a new Pentecost in the north, the Plymouth Brethren commissioned Darby to go to Scotland and investigate. He arrived in the middle of 1830 and, according to his own testimony twenty-three three years later, actually met Macdonald and heard her prophesy. According to the recent theory, Darby returned home totally against the so-called outpouring of the Spirit but convinced that Margaret Macdonald’s view of the rapture was true. He subsequently fit it into his system but never acknowledged his debt to her, for obvious reasons.’” (Timothy P. Weber, On the Road to Armageddon: How Evangelicals Became Israel’s Best Friend, 233-243 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Academic)

Other researchers have confirmed these findings as well.

For example:

“Yet none of the views circulating before the nineteenth century—original, historic premillennialism, amillennialism or postmillennialism—envisaged Christians being raptured before a special period of tribulation. Hundreds of Christian thinkers read and commented on prophecies in the Bible, yet the idea of a Rapture before the Tribulation does not seem to have occurred to anyone before about 1830. If it was clear in the biblical text, why did nobody notice it before it became part of a new doctrinal system? (Our opinion, of course, is that it is not clear in the biblical text.)…“Around 1830 John Nelson Darby formulated traditional dispensationalism, and with it the idea of a pre-Tribulational Rapture. Some post-Tribulationalists, especially Dave MacPherson mentioned earlier, have argued that Darby’s view was influenced by Edward Irving and that Irving was influenced in turn by a vision seen by Margaret MacDonald. Others question whether even MacDonald’s vision separated the Rapture from the Second Coming.” (Michael L. Brown & Craig S. Keener, Not Afraid of the Antichrist: Why We Don’t Believe in a Pre-Tribulation Rapture, 60 (Kindle Edition); Bloomington, Minnesota; Chosen Books)

The Bible is clear that God’s people shall be in this world until the very end of time.

Matthew 13:36-43-36 Then Jesus sent the multitude away and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.” 37 He answered and said to them: “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. 39 The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. 40 Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. 41 The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, 42 and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!

God’s people may expect to suffer persecution in this world (2 Timothy 3:12). Our hope is not in a quiet return of Christ Jesus, but in His visible and evident Second Coming.

If you are not ready to meet the Lord, then as a believer in Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-8) repent of your sins and be baptized into Christ today, having your sins washed away (Acts 2:38).

Or if you are a child of God who has-having been baptized into Christ-turned away from Christ: return to Him today in repentance and prayer (Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:9).

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.

Leave a Reply

Powered by

Up ↑