Was a Pre-Trib Rapture Taught before the 1800's?
The Margaret MacDonald Origin for the Rapture False.
Many who don’t believe in a pre-trip Rapture claim it originated approximately 1830. They point to John Darby (1827) and/or Margaret MacDonald. They usually say Margaret MacDonald started this theological view back in 1830. The claim is typically made that MacDonald received a demonic vision, passed it on to John Darby, who in turn popularized it. This really doesn't make since for one Darby began to write about a pre-trib Rapture in the 1820's before MacDonald supposedly had her vision. MacDonald's vision wasn't even published until 1840. On top of that MacDonald's statement has nothing about a pre-trib Rapture. It's more a partial Rapture and even post-trib Rapture. So I don't know why they keep referring to her as the origin of the pre-trib Rapture. And there were others already seeing from the scriptures and teaching a pre-trib Rapture in the 1700's. Disproving the assertion that the pre-trib Rapture wasn't taught until the 1800's proves rather easy. Pre-trib scholars have discovered a host of Rapture writings that predate Margaret MacDonald. Remember, the assertion is that 'no' one believed or taught a pre-trib Rapture until the 1800's. While the Bible should be our source, no matter what has or has not been taught throughout Church history, here’s just a few writings from the early church fathers that believed and taught a pre-trib Rapture.
Epharaem the Syrian (306 AD - 373 AD), A deacon in the large church in Syria he later became the bishop of the church at Nisibis. In his work, On The Last Times - Two, Ephraim wrote:
We ought to understand thoroughly therefore, my brothers, what is imminent or overhanging. . . . Why therefore do we not reject every care of earthly actions and prepare ourselves for the meeting of the Lord Jesus Christ, so that he may draw us from the confusion, which overwhelms all the world? Believe you me, dearest brothers, because the coming 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."
Epharaem said to 'prepare ourselves for the meeting of the Lord Jesus Christ, so that he may draw us from the confusion'. He said the coming of the Lord is near. Then he said, "For all the saints and Elect of God are gathered, 'prior to the tribulation' that is to come". He even used the word imminent. That's describing a pre-trib Rapture. He was quoting Amos when he refers to the day of the Lord,
Amos 5: 18 Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord!
For what good is the day of the Lord to you? It will be darkness, and not light.
The day of the Lord is the time of the Tribulation, not Jesus' 2nd coming. You better believe everyone living during the time of the Tribulation that have come to believe on/in Jesus will be desiring, longing for the 2nd coming. So, to say the day of the Lord is referring to Jesus' 2nd coming doesn't make since.
But we go can back further than that.
Irenaeus (A.D. 120-202), died as a martyr for his faith, wrote Against Heresies, one of the most important prophetic writings of the primitive Church. Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp (A.D. 69-155), who was personally taught by the apostle John who received and wrote Revelation. The writings of Polycarp have been lost to history. I’ve read that his writings were burned in a fire. But there are many early commentaries that quote him as well as Irenaeus. We do have many writings from Irenaeus. Irenaeus taught a pre-millennial view, that Jesus would literally return and set up his earthly kingdom here on earth for a literal 1000 years, a 7-year tribulation and the rapture of the Church. Papias (60 -130) is another early Church father that was taught by the Apostle John. He was 10 years old when Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed. Cyprian (200-258) wrote enthusiastically about the imminent coming of the Lord. All of these early Church fathers also taught and wrote that John was on the Isle of Patmos in 95 a.d. when he received and wrote the book of Revelation. If anyone would know what John taught and when he was on the Isle of Patmos these men would.
Irenaeus (120 A.D. - 202 AD)
In his five volume treatise, Against Heresies, after going into some detail concerning what will be occurring during the Tribulation, in book 5 chapter 29, Irenaeus mentions the Rapture.
And therefore, when in the end the Church shall be suddenly caught up from this, it is said, "There shall be tribulation such as has not been since the beginning, neither shall be." For this is the last contest of the righteous, in which, when they overcome they are crowned with incorruption.
Irenaeus used the same Harpazo, "caught up" as Paul did 1 Thessalonians 4. He said suddenly caught up from this, 'then' there shall be tribulation. So, it sounds like Irenaeus believed that the Rapture of the Church would occur prior to the beginning of the Tribulation.
Cyprian (200 AD - 258 AD)
The bishop of the early church at Carthage was beheaded for his faith in 258 AD and was a great pillar of the early church. In his work Treatise of Cyprian 7 he wrote:
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. ... And 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.
Cyprian said, regard it as the greatest advantage to 'depart from it' quickly, by an 'early departure' you are 'taken away', delivered 'from'. He used the word imminent. Sounds like a pre-trib Rapture.
For almost a 1000 yrs., the time of the medieval Church, also called the dark ages, of which during this time the Roman Catholic Church was all there was, the medieval Church gradually dismissed the literal truths of the Bible. The most fundamental Biblical doctrines as taught in the Bible were lost until the reformation with John Wycliffe, John Huss, William Tyndale, John Calvin and Martin Luther. The Protestant Reformation was based on the unshakable principle “Sola Scripture” (only Scripture). The Protestant Reformation was predominantly based on the rejection of centuries of accumulated man made doctrines, Roman Catholic Church traditions, and a return to the authority of the Word of God. The Protestant Reformation reached a boiling point when Martin Luther posted his Ninety-five Theses in 1520. During the dark ages the Bible was in Latin and none of the people could read Latin and compounding the problem very few Priest could either. Once the Bible was translated into German and English people were able to read and find the truths of the Bible for themselves. The invention of the Gutenberg Press greatly facilitated the distribution of printed Bibles to the people. Since the reformation the truths of the Bible have slowly been rediscovered.
The Doctrine of the Rapture being lost shouldn’t be a surprise, the doctrine of Justification by faith (Romans 1:17), salvation by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-9) was also, the teaching had become salvation by works.
So, the assertion that a pre-trib Rapture wasn't taught for 1800 years is false. We see some of the earliest Church fathers believed and taught a pre-trib Rapture. There were more than these I shared. The fact is the Bible shows us that there will indeed be a catching up of the believers and that it will be before the time of the Tribulation, before the judgment and wrath of God is poured out on a Christ rejecting world.
Maranatha, come Lord Jesus.