Origin and History Of The Pretribulational Rapture Theory(1)
By Arthur D. Katterjohn
For 1800 years after the death of Christ, the Church believed and
taught the approaching but posttribulational Return of the Lord, with
the Resurrection and the Gathering-together of all believers unto
Himself at that time. Not one early church father or writer ever taught
that the Lord would come before the tribulation, even though they felt
that His coming might be within their lifetime.
Around 1830 however, a young woman (Miss Margaret MacDonald, according
to some sources) claimed that the Holy Spirit had revealed to her that
the true Church would be "raptured" (caught-up) to heaven BEFORE the
tribulation. This "estatic utterance" gave birth to the modern doctrine
of pretribulationalism and all its related phraseology. There was no
definite teaching that there would be this secret rapture of the Church
at a secret coming until this supposed "revelation".
This new doctrine was presented by a Rev. Edward Irving at the
Powerscourt House Conference in Ireland, where it received the
enthusiastic support of John N. Darby, C. H. Mackintosh, and other
Plymouth Brethren leaders, and ultimately influenced such men as C. I.
Scofield, James M. Gray, Arno C. Gabelein, R. A. Torrey, Harry A.
Ironside, and Lewis Sperry Chafer. Some early Brethren such as S. P.
Tregelles and B. W. Newton opposed this "new" theory, and others such
as Alexander Reese, Henry W. Frost, William J. Erdman, and Charles R.
Erdman continued to teach the historic viewpoint.
The present popularity of pretribulationalism is due largely to the
widespread use of the Scofield Bible, and the many recent authors such
as Dwight Pentecost, John Walvoord, E. Schuyler English, and William
Pettingill. Many evangelical publishing houses, periodicals,
seminaries, Bible schools, faith missions, and popular Bible Radio
Teachers are responsible for its continuing presentation, along with
many prophetic charts, prophetic conferences, gospel songs, and a host
of recently published prophetical paperback books, such as The Late,
Great Planet Earth.
The list of present-day men of God who still teach the Historic
posttribulational view include Oswald J. Smith, George E. Ladd, Harold
J. Ockenga, Leon Morris, Carl F. H. Henry, Merrill C. Tenney, J. Barton
Payne, Norman F. Douty, Norman S. MacPherson, C. S. Lovett, Harold
Lindsell, S. I. McMillen, and many, many others.
Sources for the above statements include: George Eldon Ladd - The Blessed
Hope; J. Barton Payne - The Imminent
Appearing of Christ; Samuel P. Tregelles - The Hope of
Christ's Second Coming; and Wesley G. Edwards - The Day of
Vengeance. Readers are urged to write Mr. Dave MacPherson,
Director, Heart of America Bible Society, 5528 Lydia St., Kansas City,
Missouri, 64110(2) for the latest research materials
on "The Unbelievable Pretrib Origin."
However, as God seems once again to be working with the nation of
Israel, as many prophecies are beginning to be fulfilled, and as we see
this age coming to a close, many more teachers, pastors, and students
are beginning to see the many discrepencies between pretribulationalism
and the Word of God, and are beginning to speak out concerning the
responsibilities of the Church to prepare for the greatest persecution
yet to come. Many Christians, after serious study of the Word of God,
have found that Scofield and Christ disagree, and that Christ's words
must prevail, in matters of prophecy, as well as in everything else.
There is a growing movement toward the Historic Premillennial view
throughout this country, especially among the younger Christians, who
see this age coming to a close very soon.
The QUESTION: Is the Pretribulational Rapture clearly taught by
Scripture, or is it merely a popular teaching, presented by many godly,
sincere Christians, who
are passing on what they themselves were taught, without a careful
examination of God's Word? The latter seems to be the most accurate
(1) From The Rapture -
When? p. 31, by Arthur Katterjohn, former professor at Wheaton
College. Katterjohn is also the author of The
Tribulation People, Creation House, Carol Stream, Ill.
(2) Address no longer valid. Dave MacPherson has written several books
on the subject. You can find his books listed on amazon.com and other
popular booksellers. Or try our Book Search
(3) See my article The Origin Of The
Pretribulational Rapture Theory for a summary of other theories and
Dave MacPherson's article
debunking attempts by some to prove a pre-Darby origin.
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