The PreTrib Rapture in Church History
by Pastor Joey Faust | Kingdom Baptist Church
THE PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE IN HISTORY – NOT OF DEMONIC ORIGIN
Many people sometimes wonder who has taught the pre-trib rapture before J.N. Darby (1800-1881). This question is often stated as an objection. These objections are often very bitter and harsh. Modern pre-tribbers have responded by citing Morgan Edwards (1722-1795), a Baptist pastor who presented a pre-trib 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)
Two objections are generally made to this quote. First, it is claimed that Morgan Edwards (as a historicist) was only presenting a hypothetical case for a “term paper.” Second, many argue that this obscure writing had no effect or influence on Christians in the mainstream, and that it cannot be seen as setting the stage for Darby’s later rapture view. They assert that Darby got his view from someone claiming to give an inspired “revelation” in the early 19th century. After Morgan Edwards, post-tribbers have simply put forth a greater demand. They now call upon pre-tribbers to not only present a pre-trib rapture before Darby, but to also present a “significant” case(s) that would have “influenced” Darby (and modern dispensational eschatology). They now demand that pre-tribbers establish aclear historical progression. Otherwise, they still maintain that Darby was influenced by an Irvingite “utterance.”
Wisdom often calls us to stand upon the shoulders of our forefathers. Therefore, it is not unreasonable for post-tribbers to request from us an historical chain of thought in regard to the rapture. It is, however, unreasonable for them to conclude that, simply because certain details may be cloudy, that this must mean the pre-trib view arose from a demonic or Irvingite “revelation.” The same claim was made in regard to futurism (“It is from the Jesuits”), and earlier, premillennialism itself (“It is from the Jews”), etc.
Margaret McDonald and the Irvingites
Tregelles (in 1864) made the claim that the pre-trib teaching arose from an utterance in Irving’s church:
“But when the theory of a secret coming of Christ was first brought forward (about the year 1832), it was adopted with eagerness…I am not aware that there was any definite teaching that there would be a secret rapture of the church at a secret coming, until this was given forth as an ‘utterance’ in Mr. Irving’s church, from what was there received as being the voice of the Spirit. But whether any one ever asserted such a thing or not, it was from that supposed revelation that the modern doctrine and the modern phraseology respecting it arose.” (Tregelles, “The Hope of Christ’s Second Coming,” 1864)
Tregelles does not document this “utterance.” G.H. Lang therefore writes:
“No evidence is available that any of the Powerscourt circle took the idea of a secret rapture from the Irvingite utterances, no evidence beyond Tregelles’s assertion, and for this he gives no proofs.” (“The Disciple,” 1954)
In “The Unbelievable Pre-Trib Origin,” (1973), Dave MacPherson does his best to make his own far-fetched idea “believable.” He attempts to link the origin of the pre-trib rapture view with a young lady named Margaret McDonald. However, he fails considerably in offering any evidence that this young lady influenced anyone on ANY Biblical subject (other than perhaps, whether or not Apostolic gifts were reviving). To start with, she was in Scotland (not England, where Irving’s church was located). As to M. McDonald’s particular “revelation,” she appears to teach that the “Spirit-filled” will be “kept” from deception in the MIDST of the Trib (i.e. the post-trib view)! She has the faithful (including herself) on earth when the Antichrist is revealed:
“I saw the people of God in an awfully dangerous situation. Now will the wicked one be revealed with all power…It will be a fiery trial…Nothing but what is of God will stand…I said, Now shall the awful sight of a false Christ be seen on this earth; and nothing but Christ in US can DETECT this awful attempt of the enemy to deceive…This is the trial THROUGH which those are to pass, who will be counted worthy to stand before the Son of Man…The trial of the Church is from Antichrist. It is by being filled with the Spirit that we shall be kept. I frequently said, Oh be filled with the Spirit – have the light of God within you, that you may DETECT satan…” (emphasis mine)
It is obvious that by being “kept,” McDonald means Christians are kept from DECEPTION while the Antichrist is manifested!
McPherson erred by stumbling onto a book written by Robert Norton in 1861 which claimed that Margaret McDonald originated the pre-trib rapture view. The book was titled, “The Restoration of Apostles and Prophets in the Catholic Apostolic Church” (i.e. Irving’s movement). In 1852, Norton wrote “Reasons for Believing the Lord has Restored to the Church Apostles and Prophets.” By 1861, the pre-trib rapture view was a well-established doctrine among premillennialists. Isn’t it reasonable to conclude that Norton (a member of the Catholic Apostolic Church) would greatly desire to argue that something “significant” originated from someone exercising a restored “Apostolic” gift? Notice his words in describing Margaret McDonald’s supposed “revelation” of the pre-trib rapture (i.e. two-stage coming):
“Marvelous light was shed upon Scripture, and especially upon the doctrine of the Second Advent BY THE REVIVED SPIRIT OF PROPHECY. In the following account by Miss M.M…we see first the distinction between the final stage of the Lord’s coming…and His prior appearing…” (emphasis mine; MacPherson, p.47)
Sadly, Norton (1807-1883) was simply a victim of his own wishful thinking. He read into M.M.’s “revelation” in order to argue that “marvelous light” (i.e. the pre-trib rapture teaching which was WIDESPREAD among prophecy students at the time) had come forth from his own restoration movement. Why would he need this type of prop? Because the majority of Christians at the time thought his movement was inspired by the Devil and that Norton himself was “fanatical”! How advantageous it would be to argue that the prized teaching in regard to the two stages of the Lord’s Coming was first manifested by someone with a supernatural gift. Yet, he failed in offering anything other than his own assertions to validate his claims. MacPherson repeated the mistake (for different reasons).
But let us pretend that M. McDonald is indeed teaching some type of pre-trib rapture. What would this prove? It would simply show that McDonald was INFLUENCED (in the realm of eschatology) by the scholarly, prophetic teachings around her at the time and was simply coughing them back up as a self-deceived or pretended “inspired” utterance. If not, and something more diabolical was at work, Matthew 8:29 and Acts 16:17 reveal that devils often attempt to oppose truth (especially new or revived truth) by AGREEING with it, thereby attempting to bring confusion in regard to its source.
But we should read the quote by Tregelles a bit closer. Why did he use the phrase “secret rapture” instead of “pre-trib rapture”? It is perhaps because he knew that the pre-trib rapture was certainly taught before anyone in Irving’s church ever uttered a word! Whether or not it is “secret” is of no consequence and depends upon what one means by “secret.” The debate is over whether or not there is a PRE-trib escape. The Bible itself is the foundation for the pre-trib teaching (see Lk.21:36, Rev.3:10, Heb.11:5, etc., as well as other Scriptures that have historically been used to teach the view such as Mt.25:10, Rev.12:5, 14:3, etc.). This teaching is found wherever there is a revival of premillennial thought (literal interpretation). In the 17th century, premillennialism was revived in the mainstream. Therefore, we should be able to find the foundational elements of the pre-trib rapture scheme OPENLY presented in the 17th century.
Joseph Mede and 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.” Therefore, his writings were certainly still influential in the 19th century. David Brown called Mede the “prince of Millennarians.” Wilbur Smith stated:
“Probably no work on the Apocalypse by an English author from the time of the Reformation down to the beginning of the 19th century, and even later, has exercised as much influence…”
Mede’s work on the Book of Revelation became the most popular book (outside the Bible itself) of that day. The main prophetic view of Mede’s age (among premillennialists) was the historicist view of the Tribulation period (i.e. the judgments of the Book of Revelation are fulfilled figuratively throughout the whole of Christian history). The literal, futurist view (that which I embrace) did not become widespread until the 19th century when many historicists adopted a “double” view of the 1260 days (e.g. T. Evill, Purdon, E. Bickersteth, etc.) interpreting them literally (i.e. as future days), and at the same time, prophetically (i.e. as years). Burgh, Govett, Darby, and many others would lead the way in abandoning the historicist view altogether. Within his historicist view, Mede suggested the possibility of a RAPTURE before the final “conflagration” (i.e. burning of the earth) in the final days immediately before the 1000-year Kingdom. This would correspond somewhat to the final age of the futurist (i.e. modern dispensational) system. Mede suggested that this particular burning would only be a purification and not a total annihilation of the earth – which he placed after the Millennium (“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 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 lift 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)
Notice the word “rapture,” the use of 1 Thess.4, the analogy of Noah, and the “preservation” in contrast to the wicked, etc. All of these items are the very nuts and bolts of the modern pre-trib system. There was a train of thought (from Mede to Darby) that surely influenced Darby in regard to the rapture. This suggestion of Mede’s had considerable influence on other students of the prophecies. He is later actually quoted by William Cuninghame (which we will discuss shortly) as one of the earliest advocates of the pre-trib rapture view!Therefore, whether or not one agrees that Mede’s quote is foundational in regard to the pre-trib rapture is beside the point. Cuninghame took it as being an early and undeveloped example of his own viewpoint and built upon it. From the point of view of the historian, Mede takes his place in history as being one of the first scholars to revive the pre-trib rapture concept.
Frere, Cuninghame and the Rapture
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)
Both Frere and Cuninghame later participated in the Albury Park conferences (1826-28). Some historians have noted that Irving was a DISCIPLE of Frere in regard to the prophecies. When Mede’s idea of a “rapture” of believers (to escape the end-time destruction on the wicked) was added to a two-stage second coming of Christ, historicism began to look a lot like futurism at its final “head.” The foundation for this two-stage coming was indeed laid by Frere and Cuninghame over a decade BEFORE the Albury meetings took place. This teaching would be “refined” at the Albury meetings. It is therefore no wonder that after the Albury conferences had ended (1828), articles began appearing in Irving’s “Morning Watch” (June-Sept., 1832) advocating a view that held to both the year-day and literal-day interpretations at the same time. A new breed of “historicist-futurist” scholars would arise that combined Mede’s “rapture” with Frere’s and Cuninghame’s two-stage, end-time scenarios. From that point, this “new breed” (plus many pure historicists and pure futurists) would all begin to issue commentaries and articles advocating a two-stage coming and a pre-trib escape. The popularity of Frere and Cuninghame in the early part of the 19th century has already been demonstrated. And it is obvious that these men (and their peers) had an influence on Edward Irving before (and at) Albury Park. Yet, let us document how these men laid an early foundation for the two-stage coming of Christ: In 1815, Frere writes:
“…the sitting of the Ancient of Days is mentioned in the 9th verse of the seventh chapter of Daniel, and precedes the death and destruction of the ten-horned Beast…The sitting of the Ancient of Days and the judgment of the saints mentioned in Daniel, must therefore CONSIDERABLY PRECEDE the sitting of the saints in judgment at the commencement of the Millennium…and must be cotemporary with a period in the Revelation of Saint John, prior to that of the battle of Armageddon…(“A Combined View of the Prophecies,” London: 1815)
Frere looked for the Jews to be restored to the land, followed by a time of trouble to come “such as there never was…”, which would cover a period of 45 years. He saw two blessed periods for the saints; one before this trouble, and one after it (i.e. the Millennium). There is no mention of a translation; yet, the foundation for two stages is clearly being set. Many of the futurists would see a Tribulation period about that length (Seiss, Govett, Larkin, etc.) William Cuninghame actually put out his first edition of “A Dissertation on the Seals and Trumpets of the Apocalypse” in 1813. The following quotes are from his 1817 edition:
“In the interpretation of this passage, I am compelled to differ from most expositors of the Apocalypse. Bishop Newton and Mr. Faber both apply the vision of the Lamb with the one-hundred and forty-four thousand, to the state of the true Church during the reign of the Beast…They therefore consider this mystical number of one-hundred and forty-four thousand, as continuing to represent the true Church from the times of Constantine to the dawn of the Millennium…the state of these followers of the Lamb, does not at all agree with the condition of the Church during the reign of the Beast…According to the system of most writers whose works I have had access to, it does not appear what becomes of the Church after she returns from her secret retreat in the wilderness, till she is exhibited to us in the nineteenth chapter, as having made herself ready for the bridal ceremony……it may be proper, before I close the subject, to take a short view of those great events, which the prophecies both of the Old and New Testament lead us to expect…The first of these is the conversion and restoration of the Jews…their restoration is to happen during a time of trouble, such as there never was since there was a nation…The number of the elect 144,000, who are sealed, for preservation from the last awful calamities, will have been completed, by means of that final preaching of the Gospel…the elect of God shall be gathered from the four winds of heaven to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, and the final judgments shall be let loose against those nations which have named the name of Christ, but have not departed from iniquity… A question will here naturally suggest itself to the mind of the reader. What is to become of the righteous in the awful period described in the foregoing prophecies? Now, the answer to this inquiry has been given, in considering the seventh chapter of the Apocalypse…This tribulation is manifestly that of the closing period of the earthquake and vials; and 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 toESCAPE the approaching wrath, and to stand before the Son of Man…Our Lord Himself has emphatically assured us, ‘behold I come as a thief…’ from these words we may certainly conclude, that He will come at a time, when few even of his own people expect it…No human power or wisdom can avert the terrific events which are approaching. But if, through faith in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, we wash our robes, and make them white in the Blood of the Lamb, then we shall individually be numbered with that great multitude, who shall come out of the great tribulation…”
(“A Dissertation on the Seals and Trumpets of the Apocalypse,” 1817, pp.273-275, 290, 334, 340, 347, 354)
Before reading the next excerpt from Cuninghame, it might be helpful to read over these words in 1813 one more time! All of the elements of the two-stage coming and pre-trib rapture are beginning to come to fruition in 1813-1817 (years before the Irvingite manifestations or McDonald).
In the following years, Cuninghame built upon his own views and developed a clear two-stage coming of the Lord. Cuninghame would quote Joseph Mede and some early Jewish writings as earlier sources of the Bible’s pre-trib rapture teaching. He would also become more clear about what happens to the ready saints during the time of trouble. They would be “translated”!:
“There is a double gathering of his saints unto our Lord, during his abode in the air; first of the 144,000 sealed ones, and secondly, the white-robed palm-bearers (Rev.vii.9-17). The former is at the first moment of the Advent, and the last at a later period…There are two events selected by our Lord himself, as the special types of His Advent, and the state of the world in that day…it is manifest that the Coming of the Lord is to find the world in a state of peace…the ten virgins…are all…found slumbering and sleeping…as soon as the Lord comes and takes to himself the Wise Virgins, the torrent of calamity which is to destroy the prophetic earth shall immediately thereafter break forth…But I remark that there is another class of passages, which no less certainly indicates that his coming shall be in a season of shaking and alarm and fear…” (1836 -perhaps a later edition)
From The Kingdom Alert, #117 (6-9-01)
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Pastor Joey Faust
Kingdom Baptist Church
700 Cordes Dr., Venus, Texas, 76084
The Early New Testament Church Elders Understood the Rapture
We’ve heard a bunch of lying propaganda on the internet from PreTrib Rapture bashers, alleging that John Darby invented the doctrine of the Rapture, which is not true. Although theword itself may or may not have been invented in 1834, popularized by Mr. Darby, the doctrine of the saints being “CAUGHT UP” is plainly taught in 1st Thessalonians 4:17 and was clearly understood by the early Church elders…
What Did Ancient Church Fathers Believe About The Rapture?
August 2, 2013 | By Beginning and End
“Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” –1 Thessalonians 4:17
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…
“John Darby Invented The Pre-Tribulation Rapture”
John Darby has been incorrectly credited with “inventing” the Rapture. 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 tribulation as 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.)
Ephraim in very strong language warns the reader not to be consumed with the cares of the world because the world in its current form, is coming to an end. As the Second Advent or Coming of The Lord Jesus Christ grows near, believers are to look to Heaven and set their hearts on pleasing God. It is clear that Ephraim distinguishes the Second Coming of Christ from the rapture, placing the Rapture before the Great Tribulation to come.
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.
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.