This will be part 1 in a series called, Why I believe in the Rapture. I start part 1 with the history of the Rapture. We need to see if there is a history of a “BIBLICAL RAPTURE CONCEPT AND EVENT”, and if it were believed or taught in the early church. We know what The Bible says about our “gathering to Lord” at his “NEXT COMING”, and we will look at this. It is well known the word “RAPTURE” is not in the Bible. The Greek word from this term “rapture” is derived appears in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, translated “caught up.” The Latin translation of this verse used the word rapturo. The Greek word it translates is harpazo, which means to snatch or take away. These words are used 9 different times in the New Testament.
There are Christians and groups who bashes and derides anyone who believes in the Rapture. The word “RAPTURE” simply describes the event. There is false information regarding the rapture concept and its beginning. Opponents love to call this the “SECRET” Rapture. The apostle Paul called this a “MYSTERY.” I will discuss the words mystery and secret in Part 2 of this series. Now I ask you to read this statement and digest it, so here it is: “THE WORDS SECOND COMING” IS NOT LISTED IN THE BIBLE.” The Bible is filled with references to the Second Coming, and cannot be denied. “THERE IS A BIBLICAL SECOND COMING CONCEPT AND EVENT.” The Bible is also filled with references to the Rapture, yet this is denied. NEITHER IS THE WORD BIBLE, F0UND IN THE BIBLE, BUT WE KNOW THE REFERENCES AND CONCEPT IS THERE.
I do believe in the “Pre-tribulation rapture of the church. There are different views concerning eschatology. (the doctrine of end-time prophecy). I do believe Christ return will be 2 separate events with 2 different purposes. I will discuss other end-time prophecy views as this article goes along. I THINK I CAN SHOW A “SMEAR CAMPAIGN” AGAINST THE DOCTRINE OF THE PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE AND OUTRIGHT LIES.”
THE ARGUMENT AGAINST THE RAPTURE
. 1. Roman Catholic Church is the God-given interpreter of Scripture. 2. The rapture is contrary to the second coming of Christ, and all scripture references refer to the second coming. 3. Rapture teaching is new. 4. The rapture is exclusively Protestant and almost exclusively American. 5. Oddly, the rapture requires a two-stage return of Jesus. 6. The rapture is not biblical. 7. The logic of the rapture is Gnostic, not Christian. 8. The rapture was never taught or believed in the early church or early church fathers. There are many other arguments but I will lay the foundation of the last one. I ask this question? If the rapture is such an important event then WHY did the early church fathers never teach it and why was the rapture not adopted by the early church? Now that would be a very honest question.
EARLY CHURCH FATHERS AND HISTORY
Many people do not realize the Apostles had disciples of their own. They taught and trained them. After the death of the Apostles, these men carried on the work and ministry of the church, and many pastored churches. There are many, many writings of the early church fathers. Their writings were not inspired by God, (as the Bible was inspired) but many were true and factual. This how we know the “history of the church.” You also need to remember, the persecution of the church was still going on. Christians were not only persecuted by the Romans but, also by the Jews. This persecution continued on until 313 A.D. They became known as Bishops if they were the leaders of the local assembly. (A bishop (English derivation from the New Testament of the Christian Bible Greek ἐπίσκοπος, epískopos, “overseer”, “guardian”) is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight). They were the Christian theologians and writers. Their writings were held to be authoritative.
The argument today is there is no evidence or records that “ANY” of the early church fathers believed or taught the doctrine of the Rapture. The early church fathers were CLOSER to the ORIGINAL SOURCE, THE APOSTLES. SO, IS THE ARGUMENT TRUE OR FALSE? “THIS STATEMENT IS FALSE.” The problem is, many may have read their Bibles, but they have never read the writings of the church fathers.There are records and writings of the early church fathers that show the concept and references. Let’s look at them. They also held the view of imminence (Christ could return at any moment). It is clear that the early church immediately following the apostles held a “PRE-TRIBULATION” view of Christ’s coming to earth, with a Pre-Tribulation framework.
For the sake of room, I will show 4, I believe there were more. Irenaeus (120-202). 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. On the subject of the Rapture, in his writings, 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.”
One of the early Church Fathers, The Shepherd of Hermas, writing in the early 2nd Century, makes an interesting observation about “the great tribulation that is coming.” He says, “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 serving the Lord blamelessly.” (The Shepherd of Hermas, 2:5. A copy of the complete writings of The Shepherd of Hermas can be found on the Internet.”
Cyprian (200-250), 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.”
Ephraim the Syrian (306 AD – 373 AD). In his work, On The Last Times 2, he wrote: 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.” The Early Church Believed In The Rapture. The ancient writings are clear – the belief in the Rapture has existed since the days of the Apostles. And they placed the Rapture before the Tribulation.
For those who still deny the “Rapture” was not taught in the early church or by the early fathers writings, then let me help educate you a little bit. One of the greatest archaeological finds in the world was that of “THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS.” These scrolls were written between 164BC-70AD. Not all of these scrolls were written in Hebrew. Some were in Aramaic.
Would it surprise you to know that scholars say, THE “RAPTURE” IS MENTIONED IN THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS? Let me quote it for you. “The Rapture will occur suddenly. And countless thousands will vanish from the earth. Swept up to heaven to live with Jesus and escape the torment of the Tribulation, the others will be left behind.” — The Dead Sea Scrolls.
“A Newly Discovered Dead Sea Scroll Has Revealed Who Will be Left Behind When the Rapture Comes a Leading Scholar Reports” from the journalist David Augustine.
In this article Dr. William Harold, professor of Canon Law, at the Theological Seminary of Essex, GB wrote:”Without doubt, this is the most important discovery in the history of Biblical archeology. The scroll, written in Aramaic, the language spoken in the Holy Land during Jesus time on earth, was found in a cave on the shores of the Dead Sea by geologists conducting a survey for the Israeli government. Even if you choose not to believe the report of the Dead Sea Scrolls, you CANNOT deny the writings of the early church fathers listed above.
All of these citations were written and documented, long before John Nelson Darby, and all of these prove he did not INVENT the Rapture.
AFTER THE REFORMATION AND HISTORY
I will stop here for a specific reason. I AM GOING BACK AND FORTH BETWEEN THE EARLY CHURCH AND THE CHURCH OF OUR DAY. LETS TALK ABOUT THE PURITAN MOVEMENT AND THE PLYMOUTH BRETHERN.
1800-1881 A.D. John Nelson Darby has been accused of INVENTING, the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine around 1830 AD. They say, Darby has had a profound impact on religion today since Darby’s “secret rapture” false doctrine has infected most conservative, evangelical churches. While the official creeds and statements of faith of many churches either reject or are silent about Rapture, neither do they openly condemn this “doctrine of a demon” (Darby) from the pulpit. Prior to 1830, no church taught it in their creed, catechism or statement of faith. THIS IS THE CHARGE AGAINST JOHN NELSON DARBY. In all honesty it is false charges, Darby did not invent the doctrine of the pre-tribulation rapture. The rapture of the church was already being taught by the Plymouth Brethren before Darby preached it. So how could Darby invent the doctrine of the rapture?
Let’s see if Darby invented the Rapture. Joseph Mede (1586-1638) was the most popular premillennialist of his age. Edward Bickersteth (1786-1850) called him the “father of modern interpretation.” ” His Works,” Book III, p.617). In regard to the rapture, Mede writes: “I will add this more, namely, what may be conceived to be the cause of this RAPTURE of the saints on high to meet the Lord in the clouds, rather than to wait for his coming to earth. What if it be, that they may be PRESERVED during the Conflagration of the earth and the works thereof, 2 Pet.3:10, that as Noah and his family were preserved from the Deluge by being lift up above the waters in the Ark; so should the saints at the Conflagration be lifted up in the clouds unto their Ark, Christ, to be preserved there from the deluge of fire, wherein the wicked shall be consumed?” (“The Works of Joseph Mede,” 1672, London edition, Book IV, p.776)
“Peter Jurieu in his book, Approaching Deliverance of the Church (1687) taught that Christ would come in the air to rapture the saints and return to Heaven before the battle of Armageddon… Philip Doddridge’s commentary on the New Testament (1738) and John Gill’s commentary on the New Testament (1748) both use the term rapture and speak of it as imminent. It is clear these men believed that this coming will precede Christ’s descent to the earth and the time of judgment. The purpose was to preserve believers from the time of judgment. James Macknight (1763) and Thomas Scott (1792) taught that the righteous will be carried to heaven, where they will be secure until the time of judgment is over.”
The next influential prophecy writers to continue laying the foundation for the two-stage coming of Christ (i.e. pre-trib rapture) were James H. Frere (1779-1866) and William Cuninghame (1775-1849):
“Faber, Cuninghame, and Frere were unquestionably the three most prominent expositors in Britain in the early part of the nineteenth century.” (Fromm, Vol.III, p.279). “We are thus assured, that the righteous are to be preserved during the final display of divine wrath…a call is given to the righteous to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb…These considerations ought surely to awaken the Christian to pray more earnestly for his country, and to quicken his diligence, that he may individually be accounted worthy to ESCAPE the approaching wrath and to stand before the Son of Man…Our Lord Himself has emphatically assured us.”
Citing Morgan Edwards (1722-1795), a Baptist pastor who presented a pre-tribulation rapture in the 18th century. Edwards writes:”…the dead saints will be raised, and the living changed at Christ’s ‘appearing in the air’ (I Thes. iv. 17); and this will be about three years and a half before the millennium, as we shall see hereafter: but will he and they abide in the air all that time? No: they will ascend to paradise, or to some one of those many ‘mansions in the father’s house’ (John xiv. 2), and so disappear during the foresaid period of time. The design of this retreat and disappearing will be to judge the risen and changed saints; for ‘now the time is come that judgment must begin,’ and that will be ‘at the house of God’ (I Pet. iv. 17)…”
(Quoted in “Morgan Edwards: Another Pre-Darby Rapturist,” by Thomas Ice). THESE PRE-DATE DARBY. SO, HOW COULD DARBY INVENT THE RAPTURE DOCTRINE?
Darby held to rightly dividing the word of truth, as the Bible commanded, and was a scholar himself, in the Plymouth Brethren movement. There was an awakening within the church. Many scholars say this movement, was far greater than the Reformation. I can only say that Biblical History proves, that God had certain men all throughout church history that he used in great ways, at different times. God used Peter to open the door of Salvation to the Gentiles, God used Paul to give us Eschatology and end time doctrine and God used John to give us his gospel and the book of Revelation. It is very possible God used Darby and the Plymouth Brethren in a great way, just like the Reformers and the Reformation. http://christinprophecy.org/articles/the-origin-of-the-concept-of-a-pre-tribulation-rapture/
CONSTANTINE AND THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
I have now gone back to the early church. As previously stated the early church had been persecuted by Rome. There was a new emperor named Constantine who stopped the persecution in 313 A.D. Constantine claimed to have seen a vision from heaven and “claimed” to be a Christian. For the first time in history, it became popular to become a Christian. People flooded the church. Constantine wanted a new state religion to help cement and expand his power and kingdom. How would Rome and the Romans accept a new religion? Or other countries? Was Constantine a Christian or a user? Many scholars believe He CORRUPTED the church. As the administrator of “RAPTURE FORUM STATES, “Constantine was responsible for bringing the Roman worship of Mithang—relgion of the Mithraic mysteries—into the churches. The idea of a pontifex maximus, the worship of saints, the “holy mother”, the priests’ vestments, the rituals, the extravagant decor of the cathedrals, etc, etc were all transposed from Mithraism (which had been the official religion of the Rome Empire for a couple of centuries) into Christianity (which, under Constantine, became the new official religion of the Roman Empire). http://hope-of-israel.org/mithraism.html
Constantine maintained his ties to Mithraism while professing to be a Christian. In 325 A.D. Constantine called for and instituted the first ecumenical council of Nicaea. Of course, Constantine presided over the council himself. Christian Bishops assembled themselves from the known church world with the purpose of fostering peace and unity in the Christian world. What did Constantine contribute? The rituals of Mithraism were important for the church to carry over to retain favor with the Roman Empire, so it simply adopted them. It was Constantine who changed the birth date for, Yeshua from January 6 to December 25, Mithras’ birthday. Customs such as dipping the fingers in holy water and making the sign of the cross were borrowed from Mithraism. The Mithraic cult was male-dominated, with men called “Fathers.” The members below them were called “brothers.” The Mithraic fathers wore the miter caps the Christian bishops adopted and still wear today; the Mithraic Holy Father wore a red cap and garment, had an official ring, and carried a shepherd’s staff. He was located in Rome. The Christian Bishop of Rome adopted all of these trappings. Christianity enthusiastically took on the traditions and rituals of Mithraism, making its rituals virtually indistinguishable from the Mithraic rituals. After the fourth century, the two religions had been blended into the Holy Roman Catholic Church.” PAGANISM MERGED WITH THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH, BUT WHO WAS GOING TO SAY NO, TO THE EMPEROR or FUTURE EMPERORS OF ROME?
Not only were customs and rituals changed but “CHURCH DOCTRINE AND BELIEFS” were changed. This is a very important point!! “Amillennialism” was adopted as the official position of the Roman Catholic Church’ Eschatology. (the doctrine of end times and prophecy). This doctrine states that there will be “no millennium,” (1000 year reign of Christ here on earth). The millennium was SPIRITUALIZED. This doctrine does away with the Rapture of the church and The Tribulation Period completely. It states a spiritual millennium started at Pentecost, that Christ rules in heaven but the ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH rules on earth. Prophecy is simply symbolic, figurative, and spiritual language. Prophecy is not literal and will not be physical. The Kingdom of Christ is not nor will it be literal, but has a spiritual meaning only. The Roman Catholic Church adopted St. Augustine’s Amillennial viewpoint of prophecy hook-line-and-sinker around 430 AD. In his book, The City of God, Augustine spiritualized Bible prophecy and then argued that the Millennium began at the Cross and would continue until the Second Coming. This view is based on Greek Philosophy rather than Biblical Truth. This view was INVENTED by Saint Augustine of Hippo, and to this day is the Roman Catholic position.
I hope that you can now see a total change in the “NEW” church Fathers under The Roman Catholic Church which grew in power. If you know anything about the Roman Catholic Church history, then you know they set out to covert EVERYONE to Catholicism. This included FORCED conversion and adoption of all the doctrines of Protestant the Roman Catholic Church. This includes the establishment of the PAPACY and the Crusades. The Protestant Reformation was also a bloody time for the Reformers. Martin Luther was the “Father of the Reformation against the Roman Catholic Church.
The Roman Catholic Church grew in power through the years. They adopted Augustine’s allegorical interpretation of the Bible, particularly the book of Revelation, became known as Alexandrian Theology, and dominated the understanding of prophecy during the Medieval Period and Middle Ages (500 A.D.—1500 A.D.), which some scholars call “THE DARK AGES” of the Church. Prophecy was reduced to insignificant symbolic events of the past. Augustine had a huge impact on the Church in this regard. He found acceptance with the Roman Catholic church and later amongst leaders of the Reformation. In fact, most Catholic and some Protestant believers today adhere to Augustine’s views on prophecy (whether they know it or not).
Since Augustine, Greek philosophy has dominated Christian teaching on prophecy, rather than the Word of God itself. A literal interpretation of the scripture was banned, censored and forbidden. To have an opposing view of scripture and prophecy came with a penalty. You were labeled a heretic and punishment applied. Just look at the REFORMATION to see it. Not until the 1600s were theologians again freely rejecting the teachings of Augustine and his followers, and the Roman Catholic Church.
The “LEGACY” of Emperor Constantine was the establishment of The Roman Catholic Church, merging Christianity with Paganism, and combining the church with the State of Rome. Constantine chose to expand his empire using “RELIGION AND POLITICS RATHER THAN WAR AND DOMINATION.” You should be able to see these same elements today in Islam. He did stop the persecution of the church. (WHY KILL CHRISTIANS WHEN YOU CAN USE THEM AND CONTROL THEM?) It is ironic how the persecuted Church, became the persecutors of the church, that developed in Rome and lasted for years and years, persecuting the reformers, and anyone who did not accept Roman Catholicism.
Constantine left Rome and established a new Capital for himself and named it after himself: Constantinople. This new capital was in what is known as Turkey. This alone gave the Roman Catholic Church more power and they merged the church and state further. They set up their own “CHURCH COURT SYSTEM” and ruled over it. They dispensed justice.
The false doctrine of Amillennialism, was forced on the reformers and everywhere the Catholics went. Do not forget that every Christian did NOT have a Bible or access to Gods Word. Neither did Christians have access to the writings of the church fathers from the Apostolic period forward. It would be many years before the first printing press would be developed. Even then, only those in authority in the Roman Catholic Church were allowed to dispense any teaching of Gods Word.
I know this article has been long. I wanted to give a history of the early church fathers and how these doctrines came about. I call this Why I believe in the rapture-history. I have tried to show the history of end time prophecy in the early church. I believe in the rapture from the writings of the Apostles and the Word of God. Part 2 of this series will give greater details of the true church doctrine of the rapture. There is plenty of evidence that shows the early church fathers believed and taught about the Rapture. Many scholars and historians wrote and documented this throughout the early church. Of course this is denied today because it does not fit the narrative of those who “BASH” what they consider “a secret rapture.” Check out this link for yourself and read it. The history of the Pre-Trib Rapture.
FOOTNOTE: This whole series on the Rapture is dedicated to my friend and sister in Christ, Lyn Perez. It is dedicated to her for her study of the Bible and her hunger for God’s Word.