The Pre-Tribulation Rapture Teaching

by John L. Bray1

Most dispensationalists believe there will be a future seven years of tribulation period after the Rapture and before Jesus comes to the earth, a concept that was unheard of before the early 1800s. In fact, the idea of such a tribulation period consisting of seven years has only one source in the Bible, and that is the prophecy of Daniel's 70 weeks in Daniel 9:23-24, and that passage says nothing in the world about a Rapture, a second coming of Christ, or even a tribulation period in our time. Everything predicted in Daniel 9:23-24 came to completion by the time of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, as can plainly be seen by anyone reading the passage with an unprejudiced mind. There is just no way it can be made to apply to a situation many hundreds and even thousands of years away from that time, for that would do away with the very idea of God's prediction of how long it would take for those things to occur. The exact time was spelled out.

So far as we can discover, the teaching of a pre-tribulation Rapture with a stated period of time between two phases of a future second coming of Christ, was first published in 1788 by Morgan Edwards2, a Baptist minister in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Edwards was born in Wales, and actually wrote the book while he attended the Bristol Academy in England (1742-1744), but he did not publish the book until after he had been of a Baptist church in Philadelphia. The book was entitled Two Academical Exercises on Subjects Bearing the Following Titles: Millennium, and Last-Novelties.

I discovered the book at a library of a Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, in March of 1995. A pastor friend in Mississippi showed me a book of The Life and Works of Morgan Edwards which suggested that Edwards taught the pre-tribulation Rapture among other things. I made a special effort to locate this book which Edwards wrote.

I obtained photostat copies of this book which taught that when Christ appears in the air, He would resurrect the dead Christians, transform the living ones and take all of them to Paradise where they would be judged for three and a half years. During this three and a half years Antichrist would be on the earth. After the three and a half years, Christ would descend to the earth with the Christians and set up His millennial kingdom. (Edwards also believed that the Millennium would begin in 1996, three and a half years after the Rapture! He also believed that the lake of fire and brimstone was on the moon! His book was a "novelty" and "perhaps nonsense" as he himself suggested to his tutor.)

Unfortunately, so many of my Southern Baptist friends (as well as many independent Baptists) still believe in this ridiculous unscriptural teaching of a pre-tribulational rapture.

George E. Ladd, a premillennialist, recognized the origin of the futuristic antichrist and tribulation period teaching among Protestants (though not the pre-tribulation rapture teaching) as being with Ribera, a Catholic Jesuit priest in 1690. He said:
It will probably come as a shock to many modern futurists to be told that the first scholar in relatively modern times who returned to the patristic interpretation was a Spanish Jesuit names Ribera. In 1590, Ribera published a commentary which identified the Papacy with the Antichrist. Ribera applied all of Revelation but the earliest chapters to the end time rather than to the history of the Church. Antichrist would be a single person who would be received by the Jews and would rebuild Jerusalem, abolish Christianity, deny Christ, persecute the Church and rule the world for three and a half years...
This futuristic interpretation with it's personal Antichrist and three and a half year period of tribulation did not root in the Protestant Church until the early nineteenth century. The first Protestant to adopt it was S.R. Maitland." (George E. Ladd, pp. 37-38).


1. From John L. Bray's book Matthew 24 Fulfilled pp. 87-88.

2. Bray's theory on Morgan Edwards as the originator of the pretrib theory is disputed by some. See the text MILLENNIUM, LAST-NOVELTIES by Rev. Edwards. Also see Tim Warner's article on Morgan Edwards.

3. Some related articles on this site:

The History And Origins Of Pretribulationism, George Eldon Ladd
On The Pretribulational Rapture, Dale Moody
The Language Of The Second Advent, George Eldon Ladd
The Second Coming Of Christ, John Piper
The Origin Of The Pretrib Rapture Theory, Ed. F. Sanders
Historic Premillennialism, (Free Republic post)
Our Lord Cometh, William J. Rowlands