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The Rapture Theory

Written by Anne Davis. Posted in

Excerpt from The Remnant Part III: Role of the Remnant in the End of Time.
Projected publication date: September 2018.
The book offers a provocative alternative to the rapture theory.

I am certain that you either believe in the rapture theory, or you once believed in it, or you are aware of what the rapture is even if you do not agree with this interpretation. I have come to agree with an increasing number of scholars, as well as lay people, that the rapture theory does not have sufficient biblical evidence to give it any serious credence. I would like to share with you a startling rebuttal to the popular rapture theory, but before I begin we need to review some terms.

Eschatology is a Christian field of study that explores Scripture for prophetic information about the ultimate destiny of mankind and what has come to be known as end times. The word is derived from the Greek ἔσχατον (eschaton) meaning last. The rapture theory is one branch of eschatology.

Rapture is an interpretation from Scripture that believers in Christ will be transported to heaven at the Second Coming of Christ. A common designation is “the rapture theory” because it has not yet been generally accepted by Christian scholars although lay people have tended to embrace it in wide numbers.

“Pre-Trib”, “Mid-Trib”, and “Post-Trib” describe three divergent interpretations of the rapture. “Trib” is an abbreviation for “Tribulation”. Proponents of a Pre-Trib rapture assert that believers in Christ will be taken up into heaven at the beginning of a Great Tribulation that is described in the New Testament Book of Revelation, so they will not have to endure the tremendous suffering of those seven years. Mid-Trib points to a rapture in the middle of the Great Tribulation, and Post-Trib concludes that the rapture will not occur until the end of the tribulation period.

A Book that Rocked the Eschatological World

A well-researched and increasingly accepted study that discredits the rapture theory was published by Dave McPherson in The Unbelievable Pre-Trib Rapture.1 McPherson is a journalist who was born in 1932 and spent 26 years as a news reporter. He became skilled in research and was especially drawn to historical inquiry.

With convincing evidence McPherson outlines the beginning of the rapture theory in the early nineteenth century in Scotland, an interpretation that grew in popularity until it became widely accepted in the early twentieth century, especially in England and the United States. Let me summarize his findings.

In 1830 a charismatic revival broke out in Scotland that included reports of miraculous healing. At that time, as reported by the Reverend Robert Norton, “the Holy Ghost rested on her [Miss Margaret McDonald of Port Glasgow, Scotland] for several successive hours in mingled prophecy and vision.”2 Her words of prophecy included a two-stage coming of the Lord, which Norton declared was “the first time this distinction was made.”

Numerous people began to travel to Scotland to meet with Margaret McDonald and to hear her continuing words of prophecy. All during the late spring and summer months of 1830, Margaret’s Pre-Trib views were circulated at the many prayer and praise meetings that were held in various towns in Scotland. In a letter written about 1834 by Francis Sitwell, he expresses Margaret’s Pre-Tribulation views as follows. “If you are not sealed you must be left in the tribulations, while those who have obeyed his voice shall be caught up to meet Him.”

There are two key Christian theologians who have been most responsible for publicizing the Pre-Trib theory. One was John Darby (1800-1882), who was born in Ireland to English parents. He was an influential member of the Plymouth Brethren in England, and is considered by many to be the founder of modern dispensationalism. He popularized the Pre-Trib rapture theology in England and the United States through written publications and extensive speaking engagements.

To emphasize how rapidly the rapture theory spread throughout England, McPherson quoted an article that appeared in a British evangelical magazine, “The Witness”, in July 1972. “What strikes us as amazing is the swiftness in which the doctrines unknown previous to Darby became so widely accepted as to be regarded as almost fundamental to the Christian faith.”

The second most influential person who was responsible for spreading the rapture theory in the United States was Cyrus Scofield (1843-1921). Scofield was an evangelical Christian and an ordained Congregationalist minister. He edited with extensive annotations the Scofield Reference Bible that first appeared in 1909 and was revised by the author in 1917. His Bible promoted dispensationalism, the belief that between creation and the final judgment there would be seven distinct eras of God’s dealing with mankind. He also endorsed and encouraged the Pre-Trib rapture theory.

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