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A Research Paper Submitted to Liberty Theological Seminary in partial fulfillment of the requirements for completion of the course,


By R. Clay Hardwick

Lynchburg, Virginia March, 2011


The reader will learn from this report, 1) the basic methods used to form a position on

Biblical prophecy, 2) how it is important to separate essential doctrines from non-essential

doctrines, 3) a brief summary of the millennial views, 4) a brief summary of the views related to

the rapture, 4) the major characteristics of the Pre-tribulation Rapture and, 5) the evidence from

Scripture for the Pre-tribulation rapture. As the argument of the Pre-tribulation position is

explained therein, the reader may find they can accept such a position or they may not but

ultimately they should gain more understanding about how a person arrives at such a position.

The supposition to be supported in the content of the paper is the Pre-tribulation rapture is one of

the better arguments currently offered in eschatology.

























I. Introduction

Few topics will divide the Christian community as quickly as the issue of End Times or

more properly called eschatology. Many Christians have studied the Biblical topics of the

tribulation and the millennium and have come to different conclusions about how mankind meets

his end. Each of the views can usually be defended by citing scripture, scholarly articles, and

historical documents in church history. One of the most hotly debated topics is that of the


It is connected to the return of Jesus Christ, but more specifically it is tied to the

tribulation which is a seven year period of great testing and hardship to be experienced by the

people before the millennium (1000 year reign of Jesus). It is the main focus of this paper to

acquaint the reader with the common methods that people take when studying prophecy, the

various Millennial and Tribulational views, and to consider the strengths of the argument for the

Pre-tribulation rapture. It will not be within the scope of this paper to discuss in detail the

deficiencies of other Pre-millennial views on the rapture.

II. Methods Used in Forming a Position on Prophecy

It is observed that most persons who are interested to form a particular view on a Biblical

topic or doctrine form their reasons by reviewing Scripture, documented statements in church

history and published research articles. Forming a view on a prophetic subject like the Rapture

is no different. In section five, these three sources (Scripture, church history, research) will be

used to form the argument for the Pre-tribulation Rapture.

III. Essential Doctrine

As a person is exploring the various views on the Rapture they should be mindful of how


essential and non-essential doctrines are differentiated. Geisler points out:

What, then, makes a doctrine essential? Judging by the doctrines that the historic Christian church pronounced as essential, two basic characteristics emerge. First, the doctrine must be connected to our salvation. That is, it must be soteriological or salvific in nature. Second, its connection to our salvation must be crucial. One of the essential doctrines of the church is the Second Coming of Christ. The reason it is essential is because it is needed to complete salvation and achieve our glorification as sons and daughters of Jesus. 1

To elaborate further, a person should realize that “essential” doctrines are stated specifically in

scripture and essential doctrines must not be denied if one is to remain a Christian. They deal

with the nature of God, the atonement, and its method of salvation applied to the believer.

Denial of an essential doctrine constitutes lack of regeneration and lack of salvation. Conversely,

non-essential doctrines can be denied and the person can still be Christian.

The Rapture is a future event that has been interpreted to occur separately from the Second

Coming. Based on this characteristic it is a non-essential doctrine. Grudem explains,

All evangelical Christians agree on the final results of Christ‟s return. No matter what their differences, all Christians who take the Bible as their final authority agree that the final and ultimate result of Christ‟s return will be the judgment of unbelievers and the final reward of believers, and that believers will live with Christ in new heavens and a new earth for all eternity.


It is agreed in mainline evangelical Christianity that the Second Coming of Christ is an essential

doctrine because it has a salvific property. It is needed to complete salvation. The Rapture is

associated with a movement of the saved from earth to heaven, whereas, “the Second Coming of

Christ is identified by His coming back to earth with angels and saints from heaven to reign over

the earth in His thousand year kingdom.” 3 As significant as the Rapture may be in its meaning, it

1 Norman L. Geisler, “The Essential Doctrines of the Christian Faith (Part 2): A Logical Approach,”


2 Wayne Grudem. Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 430.

3 Charles R. Swindoll and Roy B. Zuck, ed., Understanding Christian Theology, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2003),1259.


does not have to be believed for a person‟s salvation.

IV. Brief Summary of Dispensationalism and Millennial Views

As a person moves through their eschatological studies and discovers how to separate

essential from non-essential doctrines and how to describe the rapture as different from the

Second Coming, they also need to gain a clear understanding of dispensationalism and the

predominant views on the millennium.


A person that is researching the Pre-tribulation Rapture will soon come across the term

“dispensationalism”. It is a system of theology which teaches that God relates to humanity

through a series of distinct periods. 4 As taught by C.I. Scofield, there are a total of seven

dispensations (innocence, conscience, government, promise, law, grace, kingdom) where God

has dealt with people in a distinctive way. “Classical dispensationalism had its beginnings in the

theology of John Darby, a leader in the nineteenth century Brethren movement. It gained a wider

reception in Bible and prophecy conferences in the United States after the Civil War, and was

later popularized in the Scofield Reference Bible and Lewis and Sperry Chafer‟s Systematic

Theology.” 5 Some of the major characteristics or tenets of Dispensationalism are that 1) the

Bible must be interpreted literally, 2) there is a sharp and definite distinction between Israel and

the church, 3) the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven are differentiated and 4) the

4 Robert G. Clouse, The End of Days: Essential Selections from Apocalyptic Texts Annotated & Explained. (Woodstock: Skylight Paths, 2007), 183.

5 C. Blaising, “Dispensationalism,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 344.


millennium is more than a thousand-year reign of Christ on the earth. 6


The word “millennium” is derived from the Latin word for a thousand. “It denotes a

doctrine taken from a passage in Revelation 20:1-10 in which the writer describes the devil as

being bound and thrown into a bottomless pit for a thousand years.” 7 According to Bulman,

“John borrows this notion of the millennium or thousand-year reign of God from the Jewish

apocalyptic expectation of a coming messianic kingdom. This tradition commonly understood

the days of creation as periods of a thousand years each, and the seventh of these „world-days

„was considered the time of the Messiah.” 8

Millennialism includes various views and is concerned with the future of the human

community on earth and the chronology of events that surround that future. Through the study of

scriptures, a person is usually found to hold either a pre-millennial, post-millennial, or millennial


Pre-Millennial View

“Premillennialists assert that the second coming of Christ will precede a millennium or a

thousand year reign on earth.” 9 Also included in the view, is the belief that the return of Christ

6 Millard J. Erickson, A Basic Guide to Eschatology, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998), 114-115,119.

7 R.G. Clouse, “Views of the Millennium,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 770.

8 Raymond F. Bulman, The Lure of the Millennium: The Year 2000 and Beyond , (New York: Orbis, 1999),


9 Roy B. Zuck, Vital Prophetic Issues. (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1995), 15.


will be preceded by signs, including wars, famines, earthquakes, the preaching of the gospel to

all nations, a great apostasy, the appearance of Antichrist, and the great tribulation. “These

events culminate in the second coming, which will result in a period of peace and righteousness

when Christ and his saints control the world.” 10

Post- Millennial View

Postmillennialists argue that Christ returns after the thousand years. “The main argument

of the postmillennialist is that the gospel will advance victoriously in the world, Christianize the

nations, and usher in a golden age.” 11 They believe the millennium will come through Christian

preaching and teaching and thereby result in a more godly, peaceful, and prosperous world.

“During the new age the church will assume greater importance, and many economic, social, and

educational problems will be solved.” 12

Amillennial View

Amillennialism can be stated as such, “there will no earthly, thousand year reign of

Christ.” 13 Presently, the kingdom of God is in the world and Christ rules his church through the

Word and Spirit. Amillennialists construe the future, glorious, and perfect kingdom as a

reference to the new earth and life in heaven. “Thus Revelation is a description of the souls of

dead believers reigning with Christ in heaven.” 14



Clouse, 770.

Doros Zachariades, “Millennium,” in Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, ed. Chad Brand (Nashville:

Holman, 2003), 1127.



Clouse, 771.

Millard J. Erickson, A Basic Guide to Eschatology, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998), 73.


Clouse, 771.



Brief Summary of Views on the Rapture

Rapture of the Church

Rapture is a phrase used by premillennialists to refer to the church being united with Christ

at his second coming. The main scriptural passage upon which the teaching is based is 1

Thessalonians 4:15-17. The verses state:

According to the Lord‟s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

There are five differing views of the Rapture. They are Pre-Tribulation, Mid-Tribulation, Post-

Tribulation, Pre-Wrath, and Partial.


Pretribulationists believe the Rapture of the Church, including both dead and living saints,

will take place before the seven-year Tribulation beginning before the seventieth week of Daniel

that is described in Daniel 9:24-27. 15 It is common that Pretribulationists view the Rapture as a

secret coming of Christ for his church that is imminent, meaning it could occur at any time.

There are numerous passages of Scripture to support the idea that Christ could return at any

time which include: Matt. 24:42-44; 24:50; Mark 13:32-37; Luke 12:40; Phil. 3:20; 1 Thess. 5:2;

Titus 2:12-13; Heb. 10:25; James 5:7-9; 1 Peter 4:7; Rev. 1:3; 22:7; 22:12; 22:20.

15 Charles C Ryrie, Basic Theology, (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1999), 562.


Mid-tribulation or Mid-Daniel's 70th Week

Midtribulationists insist that the church will be raptured during the tribulation. According

to their view, the Rapture will be after the Antichrist rises to power but before the severe

judgments that prepare the way for Christ‟s return to establish his rule on earth. In Matthew

24:10-27, the various signs (false prophets, lawlessness, gospel preached to all nations) that

relate to tribulation will occur prior to the Rapture. “The Rapture event will not be secret but

will be accompanied by an impressive display including a great shout, a trumpet blast, or a great


This dramatic sign will attract the attention of the unsaved people, and when they

realize that the Christians have disappeared, they will come to Christ in such large numbers that a

major revival will take place.” 16


Posttribulationists believe that Christ will come for his church after the Tribulation. It is

understood that the Rapture and Parousia (Second Coming) will occur at the same time. “They

cite numerous passages that indicate that Christ‟s second coming must be visible, public, and

following the tribulation. Their belief was based upon the fact that much of the advice given to

the church in Scripture relative to the last days is meaningless if it does not go through the

tribulation.” 17

16 R.G. Clouse, “Rapture of the Church,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 984.

17 Clouse, 984.


Pre-wrath rapture

This view originated in 1990 through the publication of Marvin J. Rosenthal‟s book, The

Pre-Wrath Rapture of the Church. “According to the Pre-Wrath view, the church will be on earth

throughout the first half of the seventieth week of Daniel and the entire tribulation. This means

that it will be exposed to satanic and human wrath, including that of the Antichrist, contained in

the beginning of the birth pangs and the Great Tribulation. But the church will not be exposed to

the wrath of God. It will be raptured from the earth before the Day of the Lord. It will begin

with its outpouring of divine wrath. Thus, the church will experience a pre-wrath rapture.” 18

Partial rapture

This view teaches that only those who are faithful in the church will be caught up at the

beginning of the tribulation.

The rest will be raptured during or at the end of the seven-year

period. According to their interpretation, “those who are most loyal to Christ will be taken first

and the more worldly will be raptured later.” 19

VI. The Characteristics of the Pre-tribulation Rapture

Now that the foundation of terms related to the Millennium and the Rapture have been

described, it is important that a person who is considering the adoption of Pre-tribulation view to

be familiar with the main characteristics which connect to the argument. Stitzinger notes the

main characteristics as follows:

Stitzinger notes the main characteristics as follows: The coming of Christ at the rapture is imminent,

The coming of Christ at the rapture is imminent, in the sense of an any moment coming. Though there are no signs for the rapture, there are signs of the second coming to

18 Renald E. Showers, The Pre-Wrath Rapture View: An Examination and Critique, (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2001), 9-10.

19 Clouse, 985.


follow and these may appear before the rapture. Note Phil 3:20-21; 1 Thess 1:10; 4:16; Titus 2:13; Jas 5:7-9

The coming of Christ at the rapture is literal and visible. Rev 1:7 states “Every eye shall see Him.” literal and visible. Rev 1:7 states “Every eye shall see Him.”

The coming of Christ at the rapture is for all church saints, deceased or living. First Thessalonians 4:14, 17 and 1 Cor 15:51 record the order of this great event.and visible. Rev 1:7 states “Every eye shall see Him.” This coming of Christ occurs before

This coming of Christ occurs before the outpouring of the great trial upon the earth. A literal translation of Rev 3:10 states that the believer is kept in “a continuing state literal translation of Rev 3:10 states that the believer is kept in “a continuing state outside of” the hour of testing upon the earth.

This coming of Christ is premillennial, that is, before Christ returns to fight the battle of Armageddon and set up the 1,000-year kingdom, and judge unbelievers. First Corinthians 15:23-24 along with Daniel 12:1-2 places the coming of Christ before these events.state outside of” the hour of testing upon the earth. This coming of Christ assumes a

This coming of Christ assumes a literal, normal hermeneutic in the interpretation of Scripture, and it recognizes a fundamental theological distinction between Israel and the church.12:1-2 places the coming of Christ before these events. 20 Each of these characteristics could be


Each of these characteristics could be reviewed and discussed but that is not within the scope of

this essay. Instead, it is more important to look at some of the key reasons for why the Pre-

tribulation Rapture is a Biblical viewpoint that can be adopted.

VII. Evidence for the Pre-tribulation Rapture

It is important that a person understand the Scriptural and historical reasons for the Pre-

tribulation Rapture. All of the Scriptures related to the Pre-Tribulation Rapture are not going to

be explored. Only a few topics within the Scriptures will be selected. Afterwards, there will

discussion on the theological basis for the doctrine and then its development in Church history

will be given attention.

20 James F. Stitzinger, “The Rapture in Twenty Centuries of Biblical Interpretation,The Masters Seminary Journal 13/2 (Fall 2002):152-153.


The Church is Never Mentioned on Earth during the Tribulation

According to Norm Geisler, “The word church(es) is used nineteen times in the first three

chapters of the Book of Revelation, and then not once during the entire Tribulation (v.6-18).

That it reoccurs after the Second Coming (v.19) and during the new heaven and new earth

(22:16) is striking.” 21 Mayhue notes that , most interesting is the fact that nowhere during the

period of Daniel's seventieth week is the term for "church" used for believers on earth (cf. Rev.

4-19). It is remarkable and totally unexpected that John would shift from detailed instructions for

the church to absolute silence about the church in the subsequent 13 chapters if, in fact, the

church continued into the tribulation.” 22

The Church is Saved from God’s Wrath

Not long after speaking of the Rapture (1 Thess 4:16-17), Paul instructs the Thessalonians

with these words: “God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our

Lord Jesus Christ” (5:9), and “to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—

Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath” (1:10).

It is evident when studying Scripture that both halves of the Tribulation are characterized

by God‟s wrath. Daniel considered the whole “seventieth” week (of seven years) as part of the

Day of the Lord, a day of wrath (Dan. 12:1,7). When the sixth seal is broken as described in

Revelation 6:15-16, even the unsaved (slaves and free men) recognize the judgment as the

“wrath of the Lamb”. Salvation from God‟s wrath, as studied within the context of 1

21 Norman L. Geisler, Church Last Things. Systematic Theology, no. 4. (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2005), 612.

22 Richard L Mayhue, “Why a Pretribulational Rapture?” The Masters Seminary Journal13/2 (Fall 2002):



Thessalonians 5:9 and other verses cited above means deliverance from the whole Tribulation

period. 23

A Realistic Concept of Imminence Implies a Pre-Tribulation Rapture

In Revelation 22:7, 12, 20 are the verses, “ „And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he

who heeds the words of the prophecy of this

Behold, I am coming quickly, and My

reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.‟

He who testifies to

these things says, Yes, I am coming quickly.' Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” 24

Brindle explains, “Three times in Revelation 22, Christ promised that He is coming quickly

( ταχύ). The word ταχύς is an adjective meaning „quick‟ or „swift.‟ It is very likely the promises

in these verses point to the rapture as being imminent and ready to occur „at any moment.‟ The

word ταχύ suggests the suddenness of Christ's coming whenever it occurs.” 25

The Rapture as a Mystery Supports Pretribulationism

Paul said to the Corinthians,

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changedin a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable and the mortal with immortality. (1 Cor 15:51-53)

Unlike Christ‟s return to earth, the Rapture will occur without notification, it will be “in a

flash, in the twinkling of an eye” (v. 52). Geisler says, “Like the church, a mystery once

concealed but now revealed (Eph. 3:3-5; Col. 1:17), so the church‟s rapture was unknown.”

(Geisler, 622) Old Testament Jews were aware of a future resurrection but it was not revealed to

them that a large body of believers (spiritually defined as a “new creation” but neither Jew nor

23 Geisler, 615.

24 http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Revelation%2022:7,%2012,%2020&version=NASB

25 Wayne A Brindle, "Biblical Evidence for the Imminence of the Rapture." Bibliotheca Sacra (April-June 2001): 150-151.


Gentile) would be caught up to heaven without either dying or being resurrected from their

graves. 26

Christ’s Promise in John 14 to Return Supports the Rapture

“Let not your heart be troubled; you 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 to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. (John 14:1-3) With simple reflection, this text indicates that Christ‟s promise to His disciples is about

rapturing believers to heaven before the Tribulation rather His return to earth after the

Tribulation. Geisler makes several notes. “First, use of the present tense for a future event: “I

will come again” indicates the event‟s present immediacy. Second, that He will personally come

back implies a separate event. Third, Christ will take true believers to heaven to His Father‟s

house, not keep them on earth to go into the Kingdom as at the end of Tribulation.” 27

The interpretive arguments from Scripture may seem adequate in themselves or they may

not. For some, it is important that a theological basis be described. Below are the main

theological points for the Pre-tribulation Rapture view.

Theological PointThe Real Distinction Between Israel and the Church

“Some arguments for Pretribulationism are based on the theological teaching that Israel and

the church are not the same, and that, hence, prophecies for Israel are not fulfilled in the

church.” 28 In Daniel 9:24 it reads “seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your

holy city.” The key word is “determined”. The seventieth week described in Daniel 9:27 is for

Daniel‟s people, the Israelites or Jews. When God resumes dealing with his chosen nation and

26 Geisler, 622.

27 Ibid., 623

28 Geisler, 634.


fulfilling the prophecy made to them (tribulation), there is no reason from the text to believe that

the church will have to endure what was designated for Israel. 29

Theological PointThe Divine Pattern of Not Judging the Righteous With the Wicked

In this fallen world, it is not uncommon for believers to sometimes experience emotional or

physical abuse from the evil actions of those who do not believe as they do. An example would

be a child receiving abuse by an unbelieving parent.

not judge those who believe with those who do not.

As described in Genesis 18:25, God does

Biblical evidence is also found in Genesis

7-9, where God did not destroy Noah and his family with the wicked world or in Numbers 16,

where Moses and the faithful were saved when Korah and his seditious followers were

swallowed up in judgment. “It is contrary to God‟s pattern to judge the church (believers) with

unbelieving Israel during the Tribulation period.” 30

Theological Point The Wrath of God Fell on Christ for Us

Another theological conviction behind a pretribulational Rapture is that Christ has already

experienced God‟s wrath for believers. “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised

for our iniquities” (Isa. 53:5); “Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous,

to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18); “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ

Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). Because Christ suffered God‟s wrath for sinners, those who have turned to

Him will not endure his wrath in the Tribulation (1 Thess 5:9). 31

29 Ibid., 634.

30 Ibid., 634.

31 Ibid., 634.


Theological Point God Provides Strong Motivation for Our Sanctification

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness. (2 Peter 3:10-11)

It is quite evident throughout Scripture that God has a strong desire for his children to

become like Him. In Leviticus, He says, “I am the Lord who brought you up out of Egypt to be

your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy (Lev. 11:45; 11:15; 19:2). Jesus said, “Be

perfect, therefore as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). God is more interested in a

person‟s holiness than our happiness. He wants them to “become more mature, attaining to the

whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). Such instruction is consistent with the

pretribulational Rapture, which calls for believers to be ready to meet their God at any

moment. 32

With these Scriptural and theological points in mind, a person can come closer to seeing

how a position for Pre-tribulation Rapture is plausible. To advance the argument further, quotes

and observations from Theologians of the past must be considered. Numerous persons from

church history could be chosen for a lengthier discussion on the topic but only three will be

selected to stay within the desired length of an essay.

Historical Development Brother Dolcino (d. 1307)

A study by Francis Gumerlock on the fourteenth-century text, The History of Brother

Dolcino, composed in 1316 by an anonymous source, reveals a pretribulational passage. The

article discusses how the founder, Gerard Sagarello, founded the Apostolic Brethren in 1260 and

how its members soon became objects of persecution. Gerard was burned at the stake in 1300.

32 Ibid., 634-635.


Brother Dolcino became the new leader following his death. Persecution of the group continued

in the years that followed. Out of this harrowing experience, a person wrote:

[T]he Antichrist was coming into this world within the bounds of the said three and a half years; and after he had come, then he [Dolcino] and his followers would be transferred into Paradise, in which are Enoch and Elijah. And in this way they will be preserved unharmed from the persecution of Antichrist. 33

It is evident that the writer believed that Dolcino and his followers would be “transferred”

to paradise. Gumerlock points out that the political and ecclesiastical affairs in Italy seemed to

indicate to the Apostolic Brethren that the end of the world was near. Also, from study of The

History of Brother Dolcino, one can see that “the eschatology of the Apostolic Brethren included

an expectation of the imminent rapture of the church.” 34

Historical Development Peter Jurieu (1637-1713)

According to Clouse, Jurieu was a “prominent theologian and apologist in the French

Reformed Church. He came to believe that Calvinists would be restored to France, because of his

interpretation of the prophecies of the Apocalypse.” 35 In his work, Approaching Deliverance of

the Church (1687), he taught that “Christ would come in the air to rapture the saints and return to

heaven before the battle of Armageddon. He spoke of a secret rapture prior to His coming in

glory and judgment at Armageddon.” 36

33 Francis Gumerlock, "A Rapture Citation in the Fourteenth Century." Bibliotheca Sacra 159 (July-Sept


34 Ibid., 356.

35 Robert G. Clouse, “Jurieu, Pierre (1637-1713),” The New International Dictionary, 557.

36 Paul N. Benware, Understanding End Times Prophecy, (Chicago: Moody, 1995), 197-198.


Historical Development Morgan Edwards (1722-1795)

Tommy Ice, the director of the Pre-Trib Research Center, asserts that the first person to

spell out in detail the idea that the Rapture would occur before the Tribulation begins was a

Baptist leader named Morgan Edwards. 37 Edwards was born in Wales and preached at churches

in England and Ireland before immigrating to the United States in 1761 to become pastor of a

church in Philadelphia. He proceeded to become the founder of Brown University and was

recognized as the leading Baptist historian of his day.

As early as the 1740's Edwards was espousing a pre-tribulational viewpoint in his writings

about eschatology. The difference in his view and the modern Pre-Trib concept is that he

believed the Rapture would occur in the middle of Daniel's 70th week, about 3 1/2 years before

the Second Coming.

Historical topic John Darby (1800-1882)

John Darby was a man of significant influence and is known for his contribution to the

development of dispensationalism. He was well educated and had a fruitful ministry in the

Church of England up until 1826. Stitzinger notes:

After much consideration and a series of providential circumstances, Darby broke with the Anglican Church in 1828-29, envisioning “A spiritual church, joined to a heavenly Christ, indwelt and empowered by the Holy Spirit, and awaiting their Lord‟s return.” Darby soon began to teach openly an Israel-church distinction and a two-stage distinction in the second coming of Christ. This included a quiet appearance of Christ to remove all true Christians from the earth (the presence of Christ), followed by the removal of the restraining work of the Holy Spirit from the earth and the reign of Antichrist, after which would be the public appearing of Christ in glory. 38

The pretribulational rapture view remained a strong conviction with Darby throughout his

37 Thomas D. Ice, "Morgan Edwards: A Pre-Darby Rapturist," The Conservative Theological Journal, April 1997, 4-12.

38 James F. Stitzinger, “The Rapture in Twenty Centuries of Biblical Interpretation,” The Masters Seminary Journal 13/2 (Fall 2002):164.


life. As his view on the rapture grew popular among members of the Plymouth Brethren, it was

not without opposition. Benjamin Newton was a close friend to Darby in the early beginnings of

the Plymouth Brethren movement but after a time, they could not find agreement in their

eschatology. Disputes occurred over the timing of the rapture in addition to differences in views

on dispensationalism. This led to the 1848 split of the brethren movement into the Open

Brethren and Exclusive Brethren.

Even though Darby‟s views on the Rapture were criticized by various opponents, his

influence in the Plymouth Brethren remained strong. As membership grew and other Preachers

reviewed his doctrine, his prophetic teaching was more widely accepted to be Biblically sound.

It was after a visit to America, that the Plymouth Brethren movement and their views were

adopted into American evangelicalism.

VIII. Conclusion

A person who is unstudied on the topic the Rapture needs to have a basic understanding of

key eschatological terms such as the millennium and the tribulation before they can arrive at a

strong defendable position. As controversial as a topic like the Rapture is, it is critical that a

person make good use of Scripture, church history, and research to sustain their reasoning.

Careful attention to what is essential and non-essential in Biblical doctrines will help a Christian

to know what cannot be compromised.

After these basic concepts and principles are laid down,

it is much easier for a person to see the strengths and weaknesses of the views popularly held

within Christian eschatology on the Rapture.

One of the more prominent views on the Rapture that was defended in the essay was the

Pre-tribulation view. The Pre-tribulation view has been debated throughout church history like


many topics in Biblical prophecy yet it has not been swept away as an unsound doctrine.


person that is investigating its main elements would notice that it has plenty of scriptural

references, a rational theological basis, and numerous endorsements from respected Theologians

throughout church history.

Lastly, the person who collects their research on eschatological topics like the Rapture in an

unrushed, deliberate, and methodical way will usually have a greater chance at arriving at a

defendable position.

The position defended in this paper did not show it to be the “best” but one

of the “better” arguments and the approach taken is accessible by any reader of the essay.



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