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QUESTION:  Isn't the Pre-Trib Rapture position relatively recent in the history of church theology?



ANSWER:  Many who believe in a mid-tribulation or post-tribulation rapture often use the argument that the pre-tribulation position is only a couple of hundred years old.  Not true.  A couple of weeks ago we clearly showed that Christ and the apostles taught that the rapture of the church was imminent. In addition, many men throughout church history taught and believed in a pre-tribulation rapture.


Most who claim the pre-trib rapture position is recent, tell us it was started in 1830 by a man named J.N. Darby.  In fact, that is what the Rev. John L. Bray believes and he offered $500.00 to anyone who could show that the pre-tribulation rapture was taught by anyone prior to 1830.  Many produced the “proof” and it cost Bray a lot of money.  In fact, he had to withdraw the offer.


According to Irenaeus, two friends known as Papias and Polycarp were both students of the Apostle John (who wrote the Revelation).  Extant writings show these men believed in a pre-tribulation rapture.  The Shepherd of Hermas in the year 150 AD preached a pre-tribulation rapture.  Victorinus proclaimed it in the year 270 AD.  Ephraim the Syrian in 350 AD said the church would be gone when the judgments in Revelation are on the earth.  Following the thousand years known historically as the Dark Ages, Rev Dolcino declared it once again in 1315 AD.  The pre-tribulation rapture continued to be taught in 1555 AD by Hugh Latimer who was burned at the stake said just before he died that Christians would miss the Tribulation.  To this list we could also add: Joseph Mede in 1620, Cotton Mather in 1640, Peter Jurieu in 1697, Morgan Edwards in 1742, John Gill in 1748, James Macknight in 1763, and scores of others.


Now, I would not agree with all the theology of these men (any more than someone who takes the mid-trib or pre-wrath position would agree with everything that others who hold that position believe).  The point to be made is that the pre-trib position is not 'relatively new.'  It is older than all other eschatological positions as it reaches back to the first century church.


Corruption of the pre-tribulation rapture began when Paul was still alive, “For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ” (2 Cor 2:17 cf. 2 Tim 2:18).  It is also apparent that all of the Apostles had to deal with it, “…not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully…” (2 Cor 4:2).  Peter states that all of Paul’s writings were Scripture  and that to wrestle against them was at the cost of your own soul, “As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things…which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:16).


Books containing false doctrine but claiming to be Scripture have been around since the first century (2 Thess 2:2).  That’s why Paul would clearly warn, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed (Galatians 1:8).