David K. Hebert, Master of Arts in Theological and Historical Studies
The Rapture of the Church: A Doctrine of the Early Church or a Recent Development of
the Dispensational Movement?
Larry Hart, Ph.D.
This thesis investigated whether the doctrine of the premillennial, pretribulation
Rapture of the Church, as a separate event from Jesus’ second coming, originated in the
early Church or with the Dispensational Movement around 1830. Although the term
“rapture” does not itself appear in Scripture, it comes from the Latin words, rapere and
rapiemur and from the Greek word harpazo (which does appear in the New Testament).
The New Testament text supports the concept of a Rapture of the Church, as well as
being confirmed by the raptures of Enoch, Elijah and Jesus. There are related terms in the
New Testament that have been addressed, the foremost being parousia. There are also
related non-scriptural, theological terms that were defined, the foremost being
eschatology, premillennialism, pretribulationalism and imminence. The writings of the
Ante-Nicene Fathers were examined to see if they address any of these terms. Subsequent
historical church writings were also reviewed to uncover any mention of the Rapture.
Many modern day theologians posit that the beginning of the teaching of the
Rapture, as a belief within the traditional orthodox Church, did not occur until around the
year 1830 Even most of them admit that the Church Fathers were
premillennialists (believing in a literal interpretation of the Book of Revelation,6 with its
view of a Tribulation, an Antichrist, and Jesus establishing an earthly kingdom for a
thousand years, Millennium, from the Latin words milus, meaning thousand and annum,
meaning years, after His Second Coming).
The Greek word episunagoge is mentioned as the eschatological gathering of the
faithful to Christ by: Dionysius Alexandrinus (d. 264) in Eusebius’ historia
ecclessiasticae.7.24.5, Eusebius (d. 399), himself, in his demonstratio evangelica.2.3, and
Cyrillus Alexandrinus (d. 444) in his commentarius in John.3.4.
20 Metatithemi (to
translate persons) is used to address rapture by: Clement of Rome (1st cent.), to describe
Enoch’s rapture in his First Epistle to the Corinthians.9.3; Irenaeus (d. 202), who says,
“Enoch was translated, thus pointing out by anticipation the translation of the just and
that those who were translated into Paradise, as a prelude to immortality will remain there
until the completion of the age,” in his Against Heresies.5.5.1; Methodius (d. 311) in his
de resurrectione mortuorum.3.5, and Hippolytus Thebanus (8th cent.) in his
fragmenta.8c5 (both said that a Christian’s immortality was to begin when their body was
translated like Enoch’s); and finally, Eusebius spoke of God figuratively translating
Christians at the end of the age in his preparatio evangelica.7.8
The word ekpheugo is used to mean escape, especially avoidance of eternal
punishment, by Ignatius of Antioch (d. 110) in his Epistle of Trallianeos.2.1 and Justin
Martyr in his Dialogue with Trypho.138.3 and First Apology.68.2.
24 Apostasia is used as
meaning departure by the apocryphal apocalyptic book of Domitio Mariae. Apostasis is
used to mean departure by Clement of Alexandria in his stromateis.4.22.
25 The Greek
words relating to rapture not used at all by the Fathers are: epairo, poreuomai, allasso,
As can be seen from the above citations, the Fathers had an understanding of the
concept of rapture, referred to the Old Testament raptures of Enoch and Elijah and the
New Testament raptures of Paul, John, and Jesus, and even made eight specific
references to the rapture of Christians
The first direct reference to the Rapture (as the Church escaping the Great
Tribulation) is found in the early second century apocalyptic writing of the Shepherd of
Hermas. In the fourth vision, chapter 1, he says, [emphasis added] “I saw another vision,
brethren-a representation of the tribulation that is to come.” Then in chapter 2, he says,
“lo! a virgin meets me, adorned as if she were proceeding from the bridal chamber” and
“I knew from my former visions that this was the Church,” and then, “You have escaped
from great tribulation on account of your faith, and because you did not doubt in the
presence of such a beast. Go, therefore, and tell the elect of the Lord His mighty deeds,
and say to them that this beast is a type of the great tribulation that is coming. If then ye
prepare yourselves, and repent with all your heart, and turn to the Lord, it will be possible
for you to escape it, if your heart be pure and spotless, and ye spend the rest of the days
of your life in the serving the Lord blamelessly.”31 Notice also, the statement that to
escape the tribulation the Church must keep a “pure and spotless” heart. This is the same
language used in 2 Peter 3:14, speaking of the Rapture of the Church.
The next reference is found in The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (The
Didache), written in the mid-second century, and with the help of the footnotes paints a
clear picture of the chronology of events of the End Times (Rapture, Antichrist,
Tribulation, Second Coming). In chapter 16, verses 3-8, it says [emphasis added],
For in the last days false prophets and corrupters shall be multiplied, and the
sheep shall be turned into wolves, and love shall be turned into hate; for when
lawlessness increaseth, they shall hate and persecute and betray one another, and
then shall appear the world-deceiver as Son of God, and shall do signs and wonders, and the earth shall be delivered into his hands, and he shall do
iniquitous things which have never yet come to pass since the beginning. Then
shall the creation of men come into the fire of trial, and many shall be made to
stumble and shall perish; but they that endure in their faith shall be saved from
under the curse itself. And then shall appear the signs of the truth; first the sign of
an outspreading of heaven; then the sign of the sound of the trumpet; and the
third, the resurrection of the dead; yet not of all, but as it is said: The Lord shall
come and all his saints with Him. Then shall the world see the Lord coming upon
the clouds of heaven.
Notice, the context is the Last Days and the quote starts out with the signs of the times,
coinciding with Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. Next, the appearance of the
antichrist and the Tribulation are addressed. Then, there comes the exclusionary “but,”
they that endure in their faith shall be saved from under the curse itself. The footnote in
the text after this statement says, “from under the curse itself; namely, that which has just
been described.”33 This is a direct reference to the Church being saved from the
Clement of Rome (30-100) spoke about the Rapture in his First Epistle to the
Corinthians. Following the logical flow of his teaching from chapter to chapter yields the
result of a Pretribulation Rapture of the Church. As Irenaeus did, Clement first gives
Enoch as an example and then mentions the Lord delivering Noah (chap. 9). He also
mentions the Lord saving Lot (chap. 11) and Rahab (chap. 12). Then, he speaks
specifically to the Church in chapter 23, [emphasis added] “Compare yourselves to a tree:
take [for instance] the vine. First of all, it sheds its leaves, then it buds, next if puts forth
leaves, and then it flowers; after that comes the sour grape, and then follows the ripened
fruit. . . . Of a truth, soon and suddenly shall His will be accomplished, as the Scripture
also bears witness, saying, ‘Speedily will He come, and will not tarry;’ and, ‘The Lord
shall suddenly come to His temple, even the Holy One, for whom ye look.”44 And
following directly after this in chapter 24
Ephraem of Nisibis (306-373 a.d.), which clearly teaches that believers will be raptured and taken to Heaven before The Tribulation.2
Ephraem of Nisibis was the most important and prolific of the Syrian church fathers and a witness to early Christianity on the fringes of the Roman Empire in the late fourth century.
He was well-known for his poetry, exegetical and theological writings, and many of the hymns of the early Byzantine church. So popular were his works that in the fifth and sixth centuries he was adopted by several Christian communities as a spiritual leader and role model.
This sermon is deemed to be one of the most interesting apocalyptic texts of the early Middle Ages. The translation of the sermon includes the following segment:3
“For all the saints and Elect of God are gathered, prior to the tribulation that is to come, and are taken to the Lord lest they see the confusion that is to overwhelm the world because of our sins.”
What did the first century church fathers believe about the Rapture? Were they pre-tribulation or post-tribulation? What did the disciples of the Apostles of Jesus Christ teach about the Rapture?
This article will present the writings of the early church fathers – from those who learned under the disciples of Jesus Christ, to the church leaders of the second and third centuries, on the Rapture – the supernatural removal of all Bible-believing Christians from Earth to enter Heaven. While the writings of the first, second and third century Christian church fathers are not Scripture and not on par with the Bible in any way, it is informative to see how the early church leaders interpreted Scripture in addition to what the learned directly from those closest to The Lord Jesus Christ. And definitively, the few writings still in existence on the end times, put the timing of the Rapture before the Great Tribulation. This article will also serve to dispel some of the common misconceptions about Rapture theology as being something invented in the 19th century by a man named John Darby.
All over the internet there are many articles and videos that claim that the Rapture doctrine was “invented” in 1830 by a man named John Darby. The following is an excerpt that summarizes this theory:
“The Rapture doctrine, which was the invention of the Plymouth Brethren led by John Nelson Darby (1800-1882), has today been adopted by most Baptist, Pentecostals, Assemblies of God, and a variety of other fundamentalist sects. The idea that Jesus Christ will return for His true Church just before the beginning of the Great Tribulation in a secret gathering or “catching away” was an important part of Darby’s teaching. The movement in which this teaching began originated in small groups in England and Ireland about 1828 and by 1831 was part of the official teaching of the Plymouth Brethren. By 1860 the “rapture” had made its way to the United States.
Today, prophecy pundits and “end-time” revivalists preach the Rapture as if it were established dogma from the time of Christ until the present. The truth is that the first historical reference to the Rapture doctrine comes from the Plymouth Brethren. Not only is the Rapture not found in the teachings of the Church, but even “end-time” heretics throughout the centuries never dreamed of proposing such a novel idea. For example, the 4th century Montanists, who preached both pre-millennialism and that they knew when Christ would return, never ventured so far as to create another 2nd coming of the Lord in a secret rapture.
In all the writings of the Scriptures, the Early Fathers, and the Ecumenical Councils, there is no mention of two 2nd comings of Christ.” (source) [Emphasis added].
In short, the objection is that rather than being a real part of the Bible, the entire idea of a pre-Great Tribulational Rapture was just an invention by Darby and “not even heretics” ever used it. This is very strong language, but is it true? Were there no ancient Christian writings about the church being Raptured before Great Tribulation? An examination of early church writings shows that this charge is false and there were some church fathers who indeed wrote about the Rapture.
Irenaeus (130 A.D. – 202 AD) was a bishop of the church in Lyons, France. He was an eyewitness to the Apostle John (who wrote the Book of Revelation) and a disciple of Polycarp, the first of the Apostle John’s disciples. Irenaeus is most-known for his five-volume treatise,Against Heresies in which he exposed the false religions and cults of his day along with advice for how to share the Gospel with those were a part of them.
In his writings on Bible prophecy, he acknowledged the phrase “a time, times and dividing of times” in Daniel 7 to signify the 3 ½ year reign of the Antichrist as ruler of the world before the Second Coming of Christ. He also believed in a literal Millennial reign of Christ on earth following the Second Coming and the resurrection of the just.
On the subject of the Rapture, in Against Heresies 5.29, he wrote:
“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;”(1) 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.”(2) For this is the last contest of the righteous, in which, when they overcome they are crowned with incorruption.”
Irenaeus in this passage describes the church leaving the sinful world just before unprecedented disasters. Note his use of the term “caught up” which is Rapture terminology as that is the meaning of harpazo, the term for “caught up” in the King James Bible describing the Rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4. He then quotes Matthew 24:21 where The Lord Jesus Christ says: “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” And it is during this time that those who convert to Christianity during the final years will receive the incorruptible crown mentioned by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:25. In Irenaeus’ belief, the Rapture took place prior to the end times Great Tribulation.
Cyprian (200 AD – 258 AD) – Cyprian was Bishop of the church in Carthage. During his short stint as leader of the church, he guided the flock through intense persecution at the hands of the Roman Empire. In 258 AD after spending seven months of confinement to his home by order of Roman authorities, he was beheaded for his faith. Several of his works still exist today.
In Treatises of Cyprian he wrote in describing the end times Great Tribulation:
“We who see that terrible things have begun, and know that still more terrible things are imminent, may regard it as the greatest advantage to depart from it as quickly as possible. Do you not give God thanks, do you not congratulate yourself, that by an early departure you are taken away, and delivered from the shipwrecks and disasters that are imminent? Let us greet the day which assigns each of us to his own home, which snatches us hence, and sets us free from the snares of the world and restores us to paradise and the kingdom.”
Again we see use of language commonly found in reference to the Rapture as Cyprian describes the judgments of the end times as “imminent.” And he makes his belief on the timing of the Rapture when he wrote that Christians will have an “early departure” and be “delivered” from the devastating global judgments that come during the Day of The Lord.
In line with the Apostle Paul who wrote that “God has not appointed us to wrath, but salvation..” Cyprian expressed joy and encourages the believing reader to rejoice that the Church will be “taken away” before the disastrous Great Tribulation. Just as The Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 24 used the same language of one “taken away” and the other “left.”Additionally Cyprian references the mansions which The Lord Jesus Christ promises to come back and take His believers to in John 14.
“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” – John 14:1-3.
As Beginning and End detailed in our article “The Red Moon Rapture – The Biblical Timing of The Rapture”, in both the Matthew 24 passages (“one taken, the other left”) and in John 14 (“..receive you unto myself..”) the Greek work paralambanō is used for taken and receive. The meaning of that word is “join to one’s self” indicating that Jesus is coming to fully unify with His church – which takes place at the Rapture. Clearly Cyprian believed and taught that the Rapture takes place before the Great Tribulation.
Ephraim The Syrian
Ephraim (306 AD – 373 AD) was made a deacon in the church in Syria in 338 and later became the bishop of Nisibis. Although he was made a “saint” in the Roman Catholic Church, he was not involved in Catholicism and did not even live in the Roman Empire until the final years of his life. The book Pseudo Ephraim was one of his still existing works. It was called “Pseudo” because of later dispute over authorship. However the book’s one reference to the rapture is very compelling:
In his work, On The Last Times 2, he wrote:
“We ought to understand thoroughly therefore, my brothers, what is imminent or overhanging. Already there have been hunger and plagues, violent movements of nations and signs, which have been predicted by the Lord, they have already been fulfilled (consummated), and there is not other which remains, except the advent of the wicked one in the completion of the Roman kingdom. Why therefore are we occupied with worldly business, and why is our mind held fixed on the lusts of the world or on the anxieties of the ages? Why therefore do we not reject every care of worldly business, and why is our mind held fixed on the lusts of the world or on the anxieties of the ages? Why therefore do we not reject every care of earthly actions and prepare ourselves for the meeting of the Lord Christ, so that he may draw us from the confusion, which overwhelms all the world? Believe you me, dearest brother, because the coming (advent) of the Lord is nigh, believe you me, because the end of the world is at hand, believe me, because it is the very last time.
Or do you not believe unless you see with your eyes? See to it that this sentence be not fulfilled among you of the prophet who declares: “Woe to those who desire to see the day of the Lord!” For all the saints and elect of God are gathered, prior to the tribulation that is to come, and are taken to the Lord lest they see the confusion that is to overwhelm the world because of our sins. And so, brothers most dear to me, it is the eleventh hour, and the end of the world comes to the harvest, and angels, armed and prepared, hold sickles in their hands, awaiting the empire of the Lord. And we think that the earth exists with blind infidelity, arriving at its downfall early. Commotions are brought forth, wars of diverse peoples and battles and incursions of the barbarians threaten, and our regions shall be desolated, and we neither become very much afraid of the report nor of the appearance, in order that we may at least do penance; because they hurl fear at us, and we do not wish to be changed, although we at least stand in need of penance for our actions!”
With a sense of urgency and strong warning, Ephraim writes that the end times are upon this world and could start at any moment. This text very clearly states the saints and elect of God, all born again believers in The Lord Jesus Christ, will be “taken to the Lord” before the Great Tribulation. Ephraim also identifies the Old Testament “Day of The Lord” and the end times Great tribulationas the same event (in line with the teachings of the Beginning and End Rapture Series). Ephraim quotes Amos 5:18 which says: “Woe unto you that desire the day of the LORD! to what end is it for you? the day of the LORD is darkness, and not light.”
The point he makes is that a Christian should know the Day of The Lord is coming. In the first part of the passage Ephraim notes that:
“We ought to understand thoroughly therefore, my brothers, what is imminent or overhanging. Already there have been hunger and plagues, violent movements of nations and signs, which have been predicted by the Lord, they have already been fulfilled (consummated)” And not only that but that true Christians will be taken away before it starts.
Here he is describing the first 3 of the first 4 seals of Revelation 6 – wars, famines and plagues. These are the same end times signs Jesus Christ describes in Matthew 24:
And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. – Matthew 24:3-8.
Jesus describes these events as “the beginning of sorrows.” He also says that when these things come to pass “the end is not yet.” Ephraim’s writing agrees with this interpretation as he says those same events have been “fulfilled (consummated)” in his day, but it was still not the actual Great Tribulation. This also falls in line with Beginning and End’s Rapture series as explained in our article Who Are The Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse? (The first four seals of Revelation 6 were opened at the time Jesus Christ ascended to Heaven. And the rapture itself does not occur until the opening of the 6th Seal.)
The Early Church Believed In The Rapture
Although there are not a great number of writings on the end times from the early centuries of the church, there is no question that there was a belief in the Rapture among the church fathers and they taught it with strong language and scriptural support. In terms of the timing of the Rapture, the early church fathers placed it before the end times Day of The Lord/Great Tribulation. The writings of early saints in the church are not Scripture and should not be treated on the same level of the Bible. These writings also do not “prove” that the pre-Great Tribulation Rapture or the Beginning and End Rapture series are correct. Only rightly divided Scripture from the Bible can determine if a specific belief is accurate or in error. But the writings of church fathers can serve as useful commentaries (just as we use Bible commentaries today in our studies) and certainly prove that the Rapture doctrine existed well before John Darby and has been a part of Christian belief since the earliest days of the Apostles.
Rob here with some observations:
1. Irenaeus quote as a most likely Yes to a mid trib rapture. But the others as No.
2. Cyprian was clearly talking about the current deaths due to diseases going around at that time (ie the book is called ‘On the Mortality’) just read the opening paragraph summary. The quote mentioned clearly in context is talking about this issue and being happy to depart early for any individuals who get sick and die – not the church being rapture away from anything.
Preseding verse – Verse 24 just prior says” laying aside the fear of death, let us think on the immortality which follows. By this let us show ourselves to be what we believe, that we do not grieve over the departure of those dear to us (previous deaths), and that when the day of our summons shall arrive (we get deadly infection), we come without delay and without resistance to the Lord when He Himself calls us.”.
The writer has actually mis-quoted Cyprian mentioning “early departure” instead of “earlier departure” ie meaning earlier than planned due to sickness & death, not about any rapture at all..
Opening summary mentions “Them that the Mortality or Plague Was Not to Be Feared, in that It Leads to Immortality, and that Therefore, that Man is Wanting in Faith Who is Not Eager for a Better World” – ie its about dying earlier than due to old age from disease & martyrdom
3. Ephraim the Syrian – from Nicene & Post Nicene fathers series3 by Philip Schaff mentons that he never became a Bishop but was at most a Priest (maybe) after being made a deacon. So in other words – He was NOT an early church Father (must be Bishop).
Also this quote cannot be matched to himself as does not show in any of the Early church fathers writings I have ( and I have them all) thats why its called the Pseudo Epistle or supposed but not known. Wikipedia says that “So popular were his works, that, for centuries after his death, Christian authors wrote hundreds of pseudepigraphal works in his name…” So this is most likely one of those cases written by someone else.
Hi Rob, Thanks for your comments. As you might guess, I disagree with them so i’ll just address them as you listed.
1. Irenaeus – You do not make any substantive argument here so with all due respect, there’s really no way for me to respond. You say it is a mid-trib passage but do not show how by dividing the text. If you do so and can show the mid-trib timeline I’d be glad to respond.
2. Cyrprian – There are variant translations of his writings that have “early” and “Earlier”. This is fairly common among ancient texts. But the point of chapter 25 does not turn on which form of “Early” it is. The context of that chapter is the end of the world. And Cyrpian is making the case that the world is going to end, “..not by its age but by the end of things.” I read that as an end times reference. He then says believers should congratulate themselves that by an “Earlier departure” they are taken away from the “disasters” that are imminent. This is referring to the end times destruction of the Earth when read in context. I am not sure what chapter 24 has to do with this since it is on a different subject.
3. Eprhaim – There are numerous sources that say he was a Bishop. Again whether or not he was is really not relevant to the point of the article. Nor is whether he actually wrote Pseudo-Ephraim (which is characterized accurately in the article). The point being made is that over 1,500 years ago Christians were writings about the Pre-trib rapture. So whether it was Ephraim (which many attribute it to) or some admirer of his, it does not change the fact that the pre-trib rapture model existed well before Darby, the 19th century, etc.
Milan says: I encourage you to listen to Chris White’s presentation, “The Prewrath Rapture Chris White”. Here is the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=imSHBDt1xKM.
In addition, as a Christian of many year (19 to be exact) and somebody who was always taught the pretribulation position, I ask you to openly and honestly consider the possibility that you may just be wrong in holding a pretribulational view. I too, am and have been for quite some time now, open to the possibility of being wrong. I say this, because I believe we are both Christians, regardless of our eschatological view on the rapture. I have dear friends who hold a pretrib view and consider them wonderful men and women of God. We need to go to the bible on this. I would just like to leave you with a question that if you would like to answer, I would be more than willing to hear. Here goes, “Who was Jesus talking to or about in His olivet discourse of Matthew 24? Was it the Church or Israel? If you believe that it is talking about Israel, then you have no other option but to see the gathering of the elect in that chapter as the second coming of Christ after the ‘secret snatching away of the church’ at Armageddon, correct? If that is the case, then Christ comes back on a white horse, ready to make war, and this is not the picture at all when he gathers his elect. Rather, the account Jesus gives his disciples is most clearly linked with the events recorded in the Thessalonian letters. Please give the video I mentioned at the start of my message a fair hearing and I am convinced it will at least make you think if nothing else. God bless you!
Ernesto says: If you will read The Jewish Wars by Josephus you will see that when the Romans were catapulting large stones into the city of Jerusalem the Jews were yelling “The Son Cometh!” Josephus wrote this in Greek and also in Hebrew and used the appropriate word for “Son” in each language. Revisionist have attempted to say that he meant to say “stones or stone”. There was back then those that thought they were saying that Jesus was leading the Romans in battle against the city. Liberal theologians attempt to deny this, yet that is what Jesus prophesied. “I tell you, this generation shall not pass till these things be.” “Coming on clouds” is OT judgment apocalyptic language. If the Christians were going to be raptured, why did Jesus give them signs to watch for and a command to flee when they saw the signs? That is how the Gospel was spread in the first century. The destruction of Jerusalem and the temple was what Jesus, John, Daniel, and all the OT prophets foretold. There is no better indicator of the timing of Biblical prophecy than Acts 3:24″ Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days.” Peter was speaking to his contemporaries, not us today. The 10 kings in Johns Revelation were the Caesars. If you will research the Caesars you will see that there were 10 from Julius to Vespasian, Nero was the 6th and the one that began the assault on the Jews. The one that was but for a short time was Galba, that preceded Nero. As a matter of fact, there was a year when there were 3 successive Caesars due to deaths. The name “Neron Kaiser” totaled up to be 666 in gematria. Nero killed is mother and was even said to be a beast by Jospehus and other historical writers of that era. Most men use the teaching of other men as their standard. After Darby most commentators started using the “caught up” as meaning a rapture. Mathew Henry did not believe in a rapture. If he did he does not mention it in his commentary, He lived around 200 years before Darby. Mathew Henry equates the time of anti-christ with the lifetime of John. It is mighty peculiar that he would do this. I believe that anyone that reads the scriptures would equate the time of the anti-christ with the beast. The anti-christ as John described was a spirit that was prevalent amongst the non-believing Jews, but it could have also been used as a particular high ranking Jewish man. Regardless, Mathew Henry associates it with the papacy. It is obvious from this that his thoughts had been tainted with the writings of Calvin, Luther, and possibly others, since that is what they taught. See, his mind had not been tainted with the Rapture Theory of Darby, but it had with Calvin and Luther’s teaching on the beast. The anti-christ and the beast are not separated by centuries. Also, if you believe in the papacy system, then Peter was the anti-christ!! We know that is not correct. That should tell you that the papacy in not the anti-christ. Paul stated that after the prophecies were fulfilled tongues would be annulled, prophecy would be sealed, and knowledge would decrease. Certainly we cannot expect to know for sure who these men were, but the first century knew for sure. Knowledge has certainly decreased on these events. Tongue speaking is a farce today, and all prophets from that time have caused much grief, deaths, and calamity on this world. John was the last prophet. Just think if man truly understood the scriptures. There would be no Muslim religion, no Mormons, no Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc., etc. Jesus did not come to give man a more confused life. He came to give man a more abundant life, and until man understands true history related to His Story this world will be in torment. I meant all prophets since that time. Also, that the anti-christ and beast were from that 1st century generation. Mathew Henry separates them, the anti-christ and the beast, from the same epoch of time. The beast was not the papacy, nor any system. “You will know him by his number.” That is definetly a man in particular. It was the same man that had Peter and Paul put to death.
Chuck says: I respect your opinion, but the Book of Revelation doesn’t mention the church at all after the seals are broken. Meaning that all Christians will be “caught up” before the tribulation. That means we will not see the time of Jacob’s trouble. Too much evidence points to the rapture of Christians before the rise of anti-christ. I am just a beginning prophecy student, and I believe that the rapture will happen that way.
Also, no one knows the hour or the day of the second coming. Any one who says they can tell you the day is a false prophet and misleading you. I’m know Bible expert, but because our GOD is a wonderful, loving, and patient GOD, he is opening many doors for learning to all of us. We just need to be ready when the SAVIOR does return. I think and believe we all need to be watchful and ready for HIS return.
Instead of when we are going to Heaven, lets just be ready to go when the time comes.
GOD Bless, through his SON JESUS CHRIST, the Risen LORD.
Notable quotes compiled by Dave MacPherson of the Early Church Fathers:
Barnabas (40-100): “The final stumbling-block (or source of danger) approaches…for the whole [past] time of your faith will profit you nothing, unless now in this wicked time WE also withstand coming sources of danger….That the Black One [Antichrist] may find no means of entrance…” (Epistle of Barnabas, 4).
Clement of Rome (40-100): “…the Scripture also bears witness, saying, ‘Speedily will He come, and will not tarry’; and, ‘The Lord shall suddenly come [Matthew 24:30 coming] TO HIS TEMPLE, even the Holy One, for whom ye look’” (I Clement, 23).
Hermas (40-140): “Those, therefore, who continue steadfast, and are put through the fire [of the Great Tribulation that is yet to come], will be purified by means of it….Wherefore cease not speaking these things into the ears OF THE SAINTS…” (The Pastor of Hermas, Vision 4).
Polycarp (70-167): “He comes as the Judge of the living and the dead” (Epistle to the Philippians, II).
Justin Martyr (100-168): “The man of apostasy [Antichrist], who speaks strange things against the Most High, shall venture to do unlawful deeds on the earth against US THE CHRISTIANS…” (Dialogue With Trypho, 110).
Melito (100-170): “For with all his strength did the adversary assail us, even then giving a foretaste of his activity among US [during the Great Tribulation] which is to be without restraint…” (Discourse on the Resurrection, i, 8).
Irenaeus (140-202): “And they [the ten kings who shall arise] shall lay Babylon waste, and burn her with fire, and shall give their kingdom to the beast, and put the CHURCH to flight” (Against Heresies, V, 26).
Tertullian (150-220): “The souls of the martyrs are taught to wait [Rev. 6]…that the beast Antichrist with his false prophet may wage war on the CHURCH of God…” (On the Resurrection of the Flesh, 25).
Hippolytus (160-240): “…the one thousand two hundred and three score days (the half of the week) during which the tyrant is to reign and persecute the CHURCH, which flees from city to city, and seeks concealment in the wilderness among the mountains” (Treatise on Christ and Antichrist, 61).
Cyprian (200-258): “The day of affliction has begun to hang over our heads, and the end of the world and the time of the Antichrist to draw near, so that WE must all stand prepared for the battle…” (Epistle, 55, 1).
Victorinus (240-303): “…the times of Antichrist, when all shall be injured” (Commentary on the Apocalypse of the Blessed John, VI, 5).
Lactantius (240-330): “And power will be given him [Antichrist] to desolate the whole earth for forty-two months….When these things shall so happen, then the righteous and the followers of truth shall separate themselves from the wicked, and flee into solitudes” (Divine Institutes, VII, 17).
Athanasius (293-373): “…they have not spared Thy servants, but are preparing the way for Antichrist” (History of the Arians, VIII, 79).
Ephraim the Syrian (306-373): “Nothing remains then, except that the coming of our enemy, Antichrist, appear…” (Sermo Asceticus, I).
Pseudo-Ephraem (4th century?): “…there is not other which remains, except the advent of the wicked one [Antichrist]…” (On the Last Times, the Antichrist etc., 2).
Cyril of Jerusalem (315-386): “The Church declares to thee the things concerning Antichrist before they arrive…it is well that, knowing these things, thou shouldest make thyself ready beforehand” (Catechetical Lectures, 15, 9).
Jerome (340-420): “I told you that Christ would not come unless Antichrist had come BEFORE” (Epistle 21).
Chrysostom (345-407): “…the time of Antichrist…will be a sign of the coming of Christ…” (Homilies on First Thessalonians, 9).
Augustine (354-430): “But he who reads this passage [Daniel 12], EVEN HALF ASLEEP, cannot fail to see that the kingdom of Antichrist shall fiercely, though for a short time, assail the CHURCH…” (The City of God, XX, 23).
Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153): “There remains only one thing—-that the demon of noonday [Antichrist] should appear, to seduce those who REMAIN STILL IN CHRIST…” (Sermons on the Song of Songs, 33, 16).
Roger Bacon (1214-1274): “…because of future perils [for the CHURCH] in the times of Antichrist…” (Opus Majus, II, p. 634).
John Wycliffe (1320-1384): “Wherefore let us pray to God that he keep us IN the hour of temptation, which is coming upon all the world, Rev. iii” (Writings of the Reverend and Learned John Wickliff, D.D., p. 155).
Martin Luther (1483-1546): “[The book of Revelation] is intended as a revelation of things that are to happen in the future, and especially of tribulations and disasters for the CHURCH…” (Works of Martin Luther, VI, p. 481).
Menno Simons (1496-1561): “…He will appear as a triumphant prince and a victorious king to bring judgment. Then will those who PERSECUTE US look upon Him…” (Complete Writings…, p. 622).
John Calvin (1509-1564): “…we ought to follow in our inquiries after Antichrist, especially where such pride proceeds to a public desolation of the CHURCH” (Institutes, Vol. 2, p. 411).
John Knox (1515-1572): “…the great love of God towards his CHURCH, whom he pleased to forewarn of dangers to come, so many years before they come to pass…to wit, The man of sin, The Antichrist, The Whore of Babylon” (The History of the Reformation…, I, p. 76).
John Fox (1516-1587): “…that second beast prophesied to come in the later time of the Church…to disturb the whole CHURCH of Christ…” (Acts and Monuments, I).
Roger Williams (1603-1683): “Antichrist…hath his prisons, to keep Christ Jesus AND HIS MEMBERS fast…” (The Bloody Tenent, of Persecution, p. 153).
John Bunyan (1628-1688): “He comes IN FLAMING FIRE [as Judge] and…the trump of God sounds in the air, the dead to hear his voice…” (The Last Four Things: Of Judgment).
Daniel Whitby (1638-1726): “…after the Fall of Antichrist, there shall be such a glorious State of the CHURCH…so shall this be the Church of Martyrs, and of those who had not received the Mark of the Beast…” (A Paraphrase and Commentary, p. 696).
Increase Mather (1639-1723): “That part of the world [Europe] was to be principally the Seat of the CHURCH of Christ during the Reign of Antichrist” (Ichabod, p. 64).
Matthew Henry (1662-1714): “Those who keep the gospel in a time of peace shall be kept by Christ IN an hour of temptation [Revelation 3:10]” (Commentary, VI, p. 1134).
Cotton Mather (1663-1728): “…that New Jerusalem, whereto the Church is to be advanced, when the Mystical Babylon shall be fallen” (The Wonders of the Invisible World, p. 3).
John Wesley (1703-1791): “‘The stars shall…fall from heaven,’ (Revelation, vi. 13)….And then shall be heard the universal shout…followed by the ‘voice of the archangel,’…’and the trumpet of God’…(I Thessalonians iv. 16).” (The Works of the Rev. John Wesley, A.M., Vol. V, p. 173).
George Whitefield (1714-1770): “…’while the bridegroom tarried,’ in the space of time which passeth between our Lord’s ascension AND HIS COMING AGAIN TO JUDGMENT…” (Gillies’ Memoirs of Rev. George Whitefield, p. 471).
John Newton (1725-1807): “‘Fear not temptation’s fiery day, for I will be thy strength and stay. Thou hast my promise, hold it fast, the trying hour [Revelation 3:10] will soon be past’” (The Works of the Rev. John Newton, Vol. II, p. 152).
Adam Clarke (1762-1832): “We which are alive, and remain…he [Paul] is speaking of the genuine Christians which shall be found ON EARTH when Christ comes TO JUDGMENT” (Commentary, Vol. VI, p. 550).
Charles G. Finney (1792-1875): “Christ represents it as impossible to deceive the elect. Matt. 24:24. We have seen that the elect unto salvation includes ALL TRUE CHRISTIANS.” (Lectures on Systematic Theology, p. 606).
Charles Hodge (1797-1878): “…the fate of his CHURCH here on earth…is the burden of the Apocalypse” (Systematic Theology, Vol. III, p. 827).
Albert Barnes (1798-1870): “…he will keep them IN the future trials that shall come upon the world [Revelation 3:10]” (Notes on the New Testament, p. 94).
George Mueller (1805-1898): “The Scripture declares PLAINLY that the Lord Jesus will not come until the Apostacy shall have taken place, and the man of sin…shall have been revealed…” (Mrs. Mueller’s Missionary Tours and Labours, p. 148).
Benjamin W. Newton (1805-1898): “The SECRET Rapture was bad enough, but this [John Darby’s equally novel idea that the book of Matthew is on ‘Jewish’ ground instead of ‘Church’ ground] was WORSE” (unpublished Fry MS. and F. Roy Coad’s Prophetic Developments, p. 29).
R. C. Trench (1807-1886): “…the Philadelphian CHURCH…to be kept IN temptation, NOT to be exempted FROM temptation…” (Seven Churches of Asia, pp. 183-184).
Carl F. Keil (1807-1888): “…the persecution of the last enemy Antichrist against the CHURCH of the Lord…” (Biblical Commentary, Vol. XXXIV, p. 503).
Henry Alford (1810-1871): “Christ is on His way TO THIS EARTH [I Thessalonians 4:17]…” (The New Testament for English Readers, Vol. II, p. 491).
John Lillie (1812-1867): “In his [Antichrist’s] days was to be the great—-the last—-tribulation of the CHURCH” (Second Thessalonians, pp. 537-538).
F. L. Godet (1812-1900): “The gathering of the elect [Matthew24:31]…is mentioned by St. Paul, 1 Thess. 4:16, 17, 2 Thess. 2:1…” (Commentary on Luke, p. 452).
Robert Murray McCheyne (1813-1842): “Christians MUST have ‘great tribulation’; but they come out of it” (Bonar’s Memoirs of McCheyne, p. 26).
S. P. Tregelles (1813-1875): “The Scripture teaches the Church to wait for the manifestation of Christ. The SECRET THEORY bids us to expect a coming before any such manifestation” (The Hope of Christ’s Second Coming, p. 71).
Franz Delitzsch (1813-1890): “…the approaching day is the day of Christ, who comes…for final judgment.” (Commentary on Hebrews, Vol. II, p. 183).
C. J. Ellicott (1819-1905): “[I Thessalonians 4:17] ‘to meet the Lord,’ AS HE IS COMING DOWN TO EARTH…” (Commentary on the Thessalonian Epistles, p. 66).
Nathaniel West (1826-1906): “[The Pre-Trib Rapture] is built on a postulate, VICIOUS in logic, VIOLENT in exegesis, CONTRARY to experience, REPUDIATED by the early Church,
CONTRADICTED by the testimony of eighteen hundred years…and CONDEMNED by all the standard scholars of EVERY age” (The Apostle Paul and the “Any Moment” Theory, p. 30).
Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910): “He will keep us IN THE MIDST OF, and also from, the hour of temptation [Revelation 3:10]” (The Epistles of John, Jude and the Book of Revelation, p. 266).
Adolph Saphir (1831-1891): “…the advent of the Messiah…to which both the believing synagogue and the church of the Lord Jesus Christ are looking…” (The Epistle to the Hebrews, Vol. I, p. 96).
M. R. Vincent (1834-1922): “The preposition [‘from’] implies, not a keeping from temptation, but a keeping IN temptation [Revelation 3:10]…” (Word Studies…, p. 466).
William J. Erdman (1834-1923): “…by the ‘saints’ seen as future by Daniel and by John are meant ‘THE CHURCH’…” (Notes on the Book of Revelation, p. 47).
H. Grattan Guinness (1835-1910): “…the Church is ON EARTH during the action of the Apocalypse…” (The Approaching End of the Age, p. 136).
H. B. Swete (1835-1917): “The promise [of Revelation 3:10], as Bede says, is ‘NOT indeed of your being immune from adversity, but of not being overcome by it’” (The Apocalypse of St. John, p. 56).
William G. Moorehead (1836-1914): “…the last days of the CHURCH’S deepest humiliation when Antichrist is practicing and prospering (Dan. viii:12)…” (Outline Studies in the New Testament, p. 123).
A. H. Strong (1836-1921): “The final coming of Christ is referred to in: Mat. 24:30…[AND] I Thess.4:16…” (Systematic Theology, p. 567).
Theodor Zahn (1838-1933): “…He will preserve…at the time of the great temptation [Revelation 3:10]…” (Zahn-Kommentar, I, p. 305).
I. T. Beckwith (1843-1936): “The Philadelphians…are promised that they shall be carried in safety THROUGH the great trial [Revelation 3:10], they shall not fall” (The Apocalypse of John, p. 484).
Robert Cameron (1845-1922): “The Coming for, and the Coming with, the saints, still persists, although it involves a manifest contradiction, viz., two Second Comings which is an ABSURDITY” (Scriptural Truth About the Lord’s Return, p. 16).
B. B. Warfield (1851-1921): “…He shall come again TO JUDGMENT…to close the dispensation of grace…” (Biblical Doctrines, p. 639).
David Baron (1855-1926): “(Tit. ii. 13), for then the hope as regards the church, and Israel, and the world, will be fully realised” (Visions of Zechariah, p. 323).
Philip Mauro (1859-1952): “…’dispensational teaching’ is modernistic in the strictest sense…it first came into existence within the memory of persons now living…” (The Gospel of the Kingdom, p. 8).
A. T. Robertson (1863-1934): “In Rev. 3:10…we seem to have the picture of general temptation with the preservation of the saints” (A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research, p. 596).
William E. Biederwolf (1867-1939): “Godet, like most pre-millennial expositors, makes NO provision for any period between the Lord’s coming for His saints and His coming with them…” (The Second Coming Bible, p. 385).
Alexander Reese (1881-1969): “…we quite deliberately reject the dispensational theories, propounded FIRST about 1830…” (The Approaching Advent of Christ, p. 293).
Norman S. MacPherson (1899-1980): “…the view that the Church will not pass into or through the Great Tribulation is based largely upon ARBITRARY INTERPRETATIONS of obscure passages” (Triumph Through Tribulation, p. 5).
John Johnson says: No doubt the Catholic Church will go through the Tribulation, as they are not part of the Body of Christ, which is entered into by Grace through Faith (Eph. 2:8-9) There’s a reason the Early Church Fathers aren’t canonized as ‘Inspired” Scripture. They believed and taught MANY heretical doctrines and falsehoods. Some were innocent enough – Clement’s belief the story of the Phoenix was real. But others were not, Origen and Augustine taught damnable heresies, especially Augustine’s doctrine Christ came in the first century in the person of His church, the church in the 3rd century was in the millennium and its destiny was to dominate Earth politically. The church must destroy Heretics by use of capital punishment. Many Early church fathers weren’t Christian at all, but were High Occultist’s in sheep’s clothing infiltrating God’s true church to destroy it. According to the Apostle John – the Anti-Christ arises from within the church, not outside. The Bible does not teach a “Secret Rapture” anywhere, Christians go through the tribulation any other doctrine is false teaching and sadly leads to the destruction of many souls eternally. Stay away from it.
Tom says: I agree with everything you said, but who cares? The early church fathers, like Iraneaus, are not scripture. I am a post-tribber and I think it is clear the early church fathers were post-tribbers too. However, I never quote early church fathers as evidence for my position because they are not scripture I can certainly appreciate your desire to stick to the scriptures. However, who do you let decide what constitutes “the scriptures”? The Septuagint LXX was read and in use during the time of Christ and quoted by the church fathers. It contains books the Western church bibles have excluded. Then we have the canon of scriptures from the Ethiopian Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church which include a number of books the Western Church does not include in their Bibles. The early church fathers quoted from these books that we deleted from our Bibles. It is important to make the connection from then up to today by using the church fathers as that connection since our canon of scripture no longer makes that connection. Paul even referred to Greek mythology when he was trying to make a point: Quote by Epimenides, a Greek seer and poet; Acts 17:28, Titus 1:12-13 (*Epimenides was said to have fallen asleep for 57 years in a Cretan cave sacred to Zeus, after which he awoke with the gift of prophecy.)
Thanks for your post. I would like to respond to your question:
“I can certainly appreciate your desire to stick to the scriptures. However, who do you let decide what constitutes “the scriptures”?”
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God..” (2 Timothy 3:16). The Apocryphal books were not written by prophets of God. They are NEVER quoted by Jesus or the Apostles in the New Testament. These 2 points alone are precisely why they were never considered part of the cannon of Scripture (especially since, as you pointed out, The Lord Jesus Christ quoted from the Septuagint and was thus aware of the apocrypha at that time). Even in ancient Jewish culture, they were never an actual part of the Torah (which is why Jewish historians like Josephus and Philo, who lived shortly after the time of Christ on Earth and were thus also using the Septuagint, NEVER quote the Apocrypha and in Josephus’ case, rejected it outright).
Finally, the Apocrypha contain unbiblical doctrines and historical errors. Again, things you will not find in divinely-inspired Scripture. While they are historical accounts and have value as such, you will not find testimony of any Biblical author or figure calling them Scripture. And the church fathers used that exact same standard when officially listing the cannon of the Bible. Just because a text was read alongside Scripture, does not make it Scripture. The church fathers wrote many epistles, that were often used in church alongside the Bible, but were never received as divinely inspired words.
As for the quotes of the Greek poet – the Apostle Paul in Acts 17 was quoting a Greek poet to make an analogy to God. Certainly when Epimenides wrote “and we are his offspring” he was not referring to the God of the Bible. Paul was just quoting that line and applying it to the God of the Bible. Just as he used the altar of the “Unknown God” which the Greeks as an object lesson to teach about Jesus Christ, the true God of the Bible. In no way was Paul endorsing the writings of Greek poets as Scripture and to conclude this from one partial quote of a line is really a stretch.
I hope that clears the issue up. -B&E
First of all, please note in regards to Paul quoting Epimenides, I said that Paul “referred to Greek mythology when he was trying to make a point.” The key phrase is “make a point.” I did not even infer that Paul endorsed the Greek poet.
You must be aware that the New Testament does not reference several OT books including Nehemiah, Ezra, Esther, Song of Solomon. Should we consider them outside the canon of scripture?
I am sure you are aware that Jude quoted directly from the book of Enoch (1 Enoch 1:9) in Jude 1:14-15. He actually referred to Enoch as a prophet. Jude also alludes to the book of Enoch in Jude 1:6. Not only that, but in verse 9, Jude alludes to the pseudepigraphal book, The Assumption of Moses.
I find it highly interesting that out of only 25 verses, Jude uses four verses to either directly quote or reference two books that are outside the Western churches canon of scripture. You must keep in mind that Jude’s purpose for his writing was to “contend earnestly for the faith.” He was writing against false teachers and false teachings. And then he uses his very short letter to bring up what is written in Enoch and The Assumption of Moses. Think about that for a minute.
I am not sure what books you are calling the Apocrypha because many of the books in the Septuagint are now labeled Apocrypha books by the Western Church.
You are aware the book of Enoch was not removed from canon until the Council of Laodicea in 364 AD ? It was a part of cannon for over 300 years. Have you read the complete 60 canons they established? Many of them are just plain horrible as well as against scripture. Just their name…Laodicea…ought to tell us something.
The Council of Trent included 12 books of the Apocrypha in the canonical books.
“The Elect One” is found at least a dozen times in Enoch. Luke 9:35 (original Greek) “This is My Son, the Elect One.” (eklelegmenos–elect one). This is a direct refernce to the Book of Enoch.
Barnabas traveled with Paul and wrote the Epistle of Barnabas which was taken out of canon by the Council of Laodicea also. The reason is because Barnabas spoke in favor of observing the Sabbath. The Council of Laodicea outlawed observing the Sabbath.
Barnabas twice called the Book of Enoch scripture. (Barnabas 4:3, 16:5)
When Jesus described His coming Kingdom and judgement coming down upon the wicked. These descriptions can be traced directly back to Enoch.
Jesus quotes directly from 2 Esdras 15:56 in Matthew 24:14.
Tertullian, Irenaeus, Athenagoras, Barnabas, Clement of Alexandria, and many others considered Enoch holy scripture.
The Ethiopian Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, Asian Orthodox Church, Syrian Church, Roman Catholic Church and others around the Christian world, include all or most of the so-called Apocrypha in their regular Bibles. And in some cases additional books as well.
The Western Church does not include the Apocrypha and the Western Church is also a minority in numbers. Because it is not in their canon, only makes it non-scriptural to the Western Church, but not to the majority of the Christian world.
To say these books were never considered part of canon, history seems to show otherwise. And, it is still active canon in most of the Christian world.
Take time to discover where the OT writers reference numerous books to read that are outside the canon of scriptures but they have referenced these books and as such, at least parts of these books are now a part of scripture.
As far as Josephus goes, you are aware he writes about the history of the Jews (The Antiquities of the Jews), starting with creation. It is basically the OT. However, in addition to the stories included in our Bibles, he includes many additional stories not found in our OT. So, if we reference Josephus, do we agree with all his history? Did he actually obtain the original Nehemiah scrolls?
However, Josephus must not have had too much difficulty with the Apocrypha, considering he frequently referenced the Apocryphal Esdras that was not the Septuagint version.
It is important that we at least read many of these additional books. They add a richness and bring a more complete understanding. There is a reason Enoch begins his book by stating what he is about to write is for the elect in the days of tribulation. Only the Spirit of the One True God could give him the insight to state that.
Maybe there is a special message just for the elect at the end of days, just like Enoch states. Has God preserved some special insight to help us in these end days? Enoch says so.
Maybe the majority of the Christian Bibles around the world contain these additional books for a good reason.
The term for “come out” in Revelation 7 in Greek refers to “an escape.” Here is an excerpt from our article on the Red Moon Rapture:
Additionally, the term “came out of Great Tribulation”, used by the angel who is speaking to John, indicates a sudden escape. In Greek the term erxomenoi, is given a special qualification of its tense in Strong’s concordance:
“5774 Tense – Present
The present tense represents a simple statement of fact or reality viewed as occurring in actual time. In most cases this corresponds directly with the English present tense. Some phrases which might be rendered as past tense in English will often occur in the present tense in Greek. These are termed ‘historical presents,’ and such occurrences dramatize the event described as if the reader were there watching the event occur. Some English translations render such historical presents in the English past tense, while others permit the tense to remain in the present.”
In other words, the phrase reads as if John is watching people who are just coming out of the Great Tribulation as it starts, as opposed to seeing saints who were killed during the Great Tribulation (and remember Scripture never says that the saints of Revelation 7 were martyred, or that they died at all). This interpretation lines up with Jesus’ description of the end times in Luke 21:
Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man. – Luke 21:36.
2) 5th Seal – I do not believe the 5th Seal correlates to a specific end times persecution. The text never says or even implies this. I believe the 5th Seal was opened long ago, at the start of the Church age and the martyrs are indeed all martyrs of the church since then.
3) “Tribulation” vs. “Great Tribulation” – The Lord only uses the term “great tribulation” twice in Scripture in Matthew and Revelation. Matthew 24’s use is a quote of Daniel 12:1 from the Septuagint – in reference to the second half of the 70th week, when the Antichrist is fully revealed. The Second time is in Revelation in another end-times reference. “Great Tribulation” is end times-specific whereas “tribulation” is a universal term for the suffering everyone who follows Christ has and will endure until the end of the age.
For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know. – 1 Thessalonians 3:4.
Tribulation is a common noun. It is a not a proper noun or reference to any specific era. And that is what we endure today. When The Lord used the term “Great Tribulation” it was referring to a very specific time period.
Hope that makes sense. Thanks very much for your posts. It is always a blessing to have iron sharpen iron. God bless.
Dave D says:
I appreciate your comments. I actually agree with the Scriptural basis for the saints of God being “caught up” (or “Raptured”) to be with the Lord when He returns. I appreciate the passages you mentioned on this event. I look back and see that my first statement was incomplete for what I was addressing. My emphasis is that we should not look for a pre-Trib Rapture as a form of escape the times of trials and tribulations both present and to come.
I fully believe in the Gathering together (or Rapture) of the Saints at the time Jesus returns. My primary point of my previous entry was to show that the view of the Scriptures has both the Righteous and Unrighteous present at times of great tribulation. We are present to be a light to the lost and draw them to Him. Even though the wrath of God is falling on them, God can and does protect His people. This is to counteract the argument from the Pre-Trib people that we are Raptured out AHEAD of the Tribulation so we don’t have to suffer God’s wrath. A whole book could be written on this.
As for the Rapture (I will use the current common term), while the Scriptures correctly do speak of this final Gathering at the end of the age, the majority of Scriptures indicate this is to be a simultaneous event
The Matt 24:37-41 passage was mentioned to bring out that its immediate context does not allow us to declare the one taken is the Righteous, but the Unrighteous is the one removed. Matt 24:30-31 are clearly the verses referring to the Rapture. Verses 37-41 are referring to the Judgment that is coming. In this Judgment, the Wicked cannot stand but the Righteous stand firm forever.
When you read Matt 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21, there are several things that must be noticed (not every point is in all three passages):
1. The sequence of events are consistent. First come the signs of the time, followed by a time of great trials and tribulation, a warning of the rise of a man of unrighteousness (Anti-Christ), THEN the arrival of Christ and his angels to gather the saints. This indicates the Rapture is the Gathering together of the Saints of God to Christ at the point of His Return.
2. There is no mention of a pre-gathering of the saints in any of these passages. A pre-trib Rapture is not indicated at all.
3. Jesus keeps saying “you watch, you run, you will see”. Jesus is talking to His Disciples who comprised the Church and He talks to them as if they (the Church) will see and experience these things. Why would He do this if the Church is pre-Raptured and not present?
II Thess 2 – clearly states the Coming of the Lord and Gathering of the Saints will occur after the rise of the Anti-Christ, but does not teach the pre-trib Rapture. The assumption that the Church is the restraining force that must be removed before the Anti-Christ rises is simply not there. It is an assumption to make the Pre-Trib view work.
I believe the Scriptures indicate that the Second Coming of Christ, the Rapture of the Saints world-wide to be Gathered together to be with Him in the air, and the Glorification of the Saints (new bodies – when we see Him we will be like Him) are all a part of one event. When Tribulation comes, the Wicked falter and fall but the Righteous stand firm in Christ. When the final Judgment comes, the Wicked are removed and the Righteous remain in His Kingdom.
The words that are comforting to me are that God is with me in all things both in exaltation and persecution. He is my destiny regardless of what this fleeting life brings me. My business is not to look to get out of trials nor to figure out the minutia of what happens in the future, but to be about the business of my Father in spreading the Gospel of the Kingdom of God to a lost world. This level of the Eschatological studies is not for details but for the mindset of comfort in our Destiny and how we are prepared to handle the journey as we go.
Sorry for the earlier confusion, I was addressing one thought about our attitude about going thru tribulation and who stands and falls. It was not intended to be addressing the topic of the Rapture itself.
I wanted to reply to the interpretation you made as I disagree with it. You said:
You ought to be aware of a couple of things. There are two Greek words that are translated from – ek and apo. The primary meaning of ek is “from inside” while the primary meaning of apo is “from the vicinity of.” These meanings are not true in every single circumstance but they are almost always true.
From in “from the hour of trial” is the word ek. If it has its usual meaning, it means “from inside the hour of trial.” If the church in Philadelphia is inside the hour of trial then they are inside the tribulation and pre-trib rapture cannot be true.
I believe your interpretation is wrong for 2 reasons. First off here is the full entry for the word ek from Strongs Concordance:
Strongs G1537 – ek
1) out of, from, by, away from
There is nothing in the definition that would require the subject of the verb to be experiencing whatever is taking place in a particular sentence. Furthermore, the context of the verse in Revelation refutes your definition. Look at the Revelation Chapter 2. Our Lord Jesus Christ says:
Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.
22 Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.
Notice the conditional nature of this threat. IF they do not repent then Jesus Christ will cast them into the great tribulation. So it is not something they have to experience.
So when we get to the church of Philadelphia, who only receives praises from Jesus Christ, the verses makes much more sense contextually:
And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; 8 I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name. 9 Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee. Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.
The wicked are warned to repent or they will be “cast into great tribulation,” while the faithful are promised that they will be “kept from” (tereo ek) the world’s “hour of trial.” They are the group that has “come away from” (erxomenoi ek) the great tribulation. The Greek word ek (Strong’s Concordance: “out of,” “from,” “by,” or “away from”) does not demand that the Great Multitude experienced the great tribulation. A similar use of the word ek appears in the Greek Septuagint translation of Genesis 19:29, translated here in English:
“So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of (ek) the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot lived.”
Lot escaped “out of” the catastrophe that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, but he did not experience the burning sulfur that rained down from heaven. (The death of Lot’s wife was a separate judgment from God). Just as Lot was warned and escaped from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, so will the Church be rescued “away from” or “out of” the “great tribulation.” The rapture of the Church is a “rescue” (Luke 21:36) and an “escape” (1 Thessalonians 1:10). The Great Multitude of Revelation 7:9-17 is a picture of the Church that has “come out of the great tribulation” right as it begins, in the nick of time.
The second issue with your interpretation is a constant error that is made in the post-tribulation model. Those who support the post-trib model will seem to claim that Christians will be protected during the Day of The Lord/Great Tribulation. However Scripture says the exact opposite:
“And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.” – Revelation 13:7.
“And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up. 24 And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practise, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people.” – Daniel 8.
We also know from Revelation 13 that those who do not take the Mark of the beast will be beheaded. Those who do not worship the Image of the beast will be killed. So to say the church of Philadelphia will go through the Great tribulation but receive some special protection contradicts Scripture.
Again, this is a major error in the post-trib model and I have seen it stated many times. It’s just another reason why this rapture timing cannot be correct. Just some things for you to consider. God bless.
RAPTURE – pre- trib
John 14:1-3 states: Jesus said,
“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s
house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a
place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive
you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”
Bible scholars concur that the Jewish marriage consisted of several parts. First, there was the betrothal period (Deut.20:7), which would last a year before the actual wedding. Remember the problems that developed with Mary becoming pregnant before the consummation of the marriage, thus leaving her guilty and open for putting her away until the news came from the angel that she was carrying the Son of God (Luke 1:26-38; Matt. 1:18-25). Scholars noted that this part which was called the marriage contract was established and paid for by the parents because the parties to the wedding were young and had not reached a responsible age. At a later time, when the couple became responsible, the wedding ceremony took place. Finally, the marriage supper celebrated the consummation of the marriage. According to Steve Herzig, author of Jewish Custom and Culture, the Talmud gives details and guidelines for the ceremony. Herzig commented, “Long ago, a year separated the betrothal from the consummation, allowing the groom to prepare the home and the bride to validate her virginity. Today, these stages are combined into one ceremony called kiddushin.”
With that in mind, one can picture the bride and groom, after making the contract, departing from each other and going their separate ways until the appointed time. On the
one hand, the groom goes back to his father’s house to prepare a place for his bride. Jesus said those exact words to His disciples (John 14:1-3). Paul likens the Church to the bride of Christ (Eph. 5:23-32). Meanwhile, the bride must watch and wait for her bridegroom to return for her. She would be preparing constantly for the anticipated return of her groom. When the Father was finished with the preparations that allowed the bride to be brought home, He would say to his son, “Son, go get your bride!” Even though it may have been at midnight, the bride must be ready and watching every moment with eager anticipation. What a beautiful picture of the Church waiting for her bridegroom.
Starting with the wedding procession at the father’s house, the groom with his guests would march toward his bride’s house shouting, “Behold the bridegroom cometh!”This would continue until they reached the bride’s home. Upon arriving, he would enter the home and sweep up his bride into his arms and away they would go to his father’s house to consummate the marriage. Seven days of celebration would commemorate this special occasion.
There is a beautiful parallel between not only Jesus and His bride, which is the Church but also between husbands and wives as depicted in Ephesians chapter five and Colossians chapter three. According to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, this heavenly relationship which exists between Jesus and His Church is compared with husbands and wives. Thus, the practical aspect of the righteous acts of the saints on earth – the Church – will be revealed later in Heaven as she is dressed in fine linen at the marriage to her Groom, namely Jesus. This also can be seen in an earthly marriage by the way each spouse relates to the other. Revelation 19:7-8 states, “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.”
A contrast between His glorious appearing in the rapture and His second coming in glory and power reveals several distinct differences indicating these are two events rather than one. Dwight Pentecost noted that in the rapture Jesus comes and meets the saints in the air (1Thess.4:16-17). Yet, at His second coming His feet will return to the earth (Zech.14:1-4). In the rapture, Jesus comes for His bride (John 14:1-3; Eph. 5:25). At His second coming, He returns with the Church, His bride (1Thess. 3:13; Jude 14; Rev. 19:11-14). The translation of the believers in the rapture is referred to as “the Lord is at hand” (Phil. 4:5). Paul was writing to the Church of Philippi. They were told to wait for the rapture (Phil 3:20, 21). But the second coming Christ has to do with the kingdom of God (Rev. 20:1-4; Matt.24:14). Jesus will set up His kingdom on earth and will rule and reign while fulfilling His covenants with the Jewish people. The expectation of the Church at the rapture is to be taken to be in the Lord’s presence (1Thess. 4:13-18), but at the second coming of Christ, the expectation of Israel will be to enter into the Kingdom (Matt.25; Rev. 20:1-4). His glorious appearing brings a message of hope and comfort to believers (1Thess. 4:18), yet His second coming brings wrath and judgment (Rev. 19:15-16). Clearly, a careful study of Scripture indicates these are two different events which will be fulfilled in the future.
According to a study of the Scriptures, the rapture will take place before the tribulation. Thus, the Church does not go through the tribulation. John wrote to the church of Philadelphia, “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth” (Rev. 3:10). Notice that John stated this trial would come upon “all the world.” Plus, God’s promise is to “keep” the Church “from” this terrible time. The word “keep” is the word ἐκ which is a preposition that means “out of, from.” In other words, God is saying He will keep His Church “out of – from” the tribulation.
Comparing Scripture with Scripture also reveals this same literal interpretation. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians in the context of the day of the Lord and the second coming of Christ, not the rapture, “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,” (1Thess. 5:9). God’s wrath will be poured out during the tribulation upon those who follow the beast and do not repent (see wrath of the lamb- Rev. 6:16-17). God’s wrath will not be for the Church. Another text indicates this truth. Paul wrote to the Church of Thessalonica, “For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come” (1Thess. 1:9-10).
Still another proof that the Church will be raptured before the tribulation can be found in examining the tribulation period from Revelation chapters six through eighteen. There is no mention of the word “Church”-ἐκκλησία,(from ἔκκλητος called out or forth, and this from ἐκκαλέω); properly, a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place; an assembly. However, the word church appears both before and after the tribulation and can be found in Revelation chapters one, two and three, as well as Revelation 22:16.
To insinuate the Church goes through the tribulation is to miss the mark of the purpose of the tribulation. Evangelization of the Jews (Rev. 5, 7), an end to the times of the Gentiles (Dan. 2, Luke 21:24), an overthrow of the satanic trinity (Rev. 20:10) are all God’s purposes for the tribulation. Prophecy students concluded from this study the doctrine of the imminence of Christ. Renald Showers was interviewed by DeYoung on this subject. He stated that this truth (the imminence) can be compared to the phrase “Hanging over Head.” Jesus could come back in His glorious appearing any moment.
With precise accuracy, the words of the book of Revelation in chapter four cover these areas. Revelation 4:1-2 states:
After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice
which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up
hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. And immediately I was
in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.
The words “after this” are the Greek words μετά, οὗτος, αὕτη, τοῦτο. Chronologically speaking, the Spirit of God is preparing the reader for what is to come after the Church age (Rev. 2, 3). This is a picture of the rapture of the Church. The believer is admonished to stop and look for the “opened door in heaven.” Then listen for “the voice” which will call, “Come up hither.” Notice in the context, John mentioned that the voice sounded as if it was a “trumpet” talking. Everyone knows that trumpets do not talk literally. The correct literal, historical method of interpretation of this Scripture recognizes this is what is called apocalyptic literature. Apocalyptic literature uses symbols to reveal truth but uses other Scripture to explain the truth.
In this case, there are several of passages of Scripture that need to be used to find the real meaning of the text. First, Paul wrote in 1Thessalonians 4:16-17, “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first.” Clearly, this passage is dealing with the rapture of the Church as if it has already been established. Another Scripture can be used in this process of interpretation of apocalyptic literature. The theological term for the study of proper interpretation is called hermeneutics or the science of interpretation.
Second, writing to the church of Corinth, Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit wrote, “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1Cor. 15:51-52).Again, notice the words “trumpet shall sound.” This futuristic event is the rapture of the Church. The conclusion of this study leads one to return to the original passage in Revelation 4:1.
Other Scriptures which have been used in finding the correct approach for interpreting the talking trumpet are in the context of the rapture of the Church. Therefore, the passage in Revelation 4:1 is a description of what is going to take place when the Church is “caught up.”