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The Origins of The Pre-Trib Rapture?

In previous articles we examined crucial pre-trib rapture claims in light of Holy Scripture. There have been different opinions related to pre-trib's origins.  Views supporting Jesus as the originator, others supporting the apostles, and other opinions that pre-trib was taught in the early church.  Before we go further, let's look at one of Jesus' final statements before his ascension into heaven after His resurrection:

"Go therefore and  make disciples of  all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always even to the end of the age."

Matthew 28:19-20 NASB

Jesus instructed His disciples they will see the abomination of desolation when the Anti-christ sets his image in the temple claiming to be God. He said "then there will be a great tribulation." He also told them do not believe reports that He is here or there. And this is what Jesus instructed His disciples to teach other disciples from all nations to observe. This is contrary to the "pre-tribulation" rapture belief that we're gone before the man of lawlessness makes the scene.

We do not need to go any further to discuss whether or not Jesus introduced the pre-trib rapture because He does not say anything contrary to His word. However, there are those who would rather defend their "pre-trib" belief than to diligently examine the scriptures and see if their belief is correct or wrong.

There are those who use this verse to "justify" their belief: "But of that days and hour no one knows, not even the angels, nor the Son of Man but the Father alone (Matthew 24:36)." They claim  Jesus is coming after the tribulation. But since He didn't know the day or Hour this must be alluded to a "pre-tribulational" coming even though Jesus didn't say this was His "pre-trib" coming (as a matter of fact, nowhere in scripture says  there is a secret coming before the tribulation). This leads to one conclusion: If Jesus told the disciples they will be seeing the revealing of the Anti-christ, it's impossible for them to be raptured into heaven before then. Remember, Jesus said His coming is after the tribulation, but he said he didn't know the day or the hour of his coming which is after the tribulation.

There are pre-tribbers who agree Jesus didn't teach anything about  the pre-trib rapture. They maintain Jesus didn't know enough about prophecy concerning the end times. Therefore prophecy relating  to the tribulation was revealed to the apostles. This brings up a very interesting statement. Since Jesus doesn't agree with the pre-tribbers, they have to make an easy way out and discredit the Lord Jesus Christ! 

As we look back into scripture, John said relating to Christ:

"No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father ,he hath declared him."

John 1:18 KJV

All things that were made known through Jesus Christ. When the writers of old were instructed to write scripture, they were inspired by pre-incarnate Messiah, Jesus Himself. When they encountered God, it was through Jesus.  So, Jesus was definitely qualified to to instruct the disciples concerning the time of Great Tribulation. If He wasn't, He would have said so! Jesus said:

"Heaven and earth will pass away, but  My words shall not pass away."

Matthew 24:34 NASB

This verse sticks to the core because Jesus said it during this meeting with His disciples! If Jesus wasn't qualified to speak in regards to the tribulation then we must strike the above verse out also. There's one thing we can be assured of, in spite of heaven and earth passing away and the ushering in a new heaven and earth, Jesus' words will always stand!

And in Malachi, God Said"

"For I, the Lord, do not change..."

Malachi 3:6b NASB

So if Jesus told His disciples they would see Anti-christ He meant it and God didn't use the apostles to change this!

There are those who use "symbolism" to justify pre-tribulationism. Their claim is Jesus was referring His discussion toward "tribulation saints." But Jesus made His point very clear.  Jesus talked to His disciples privately. And they were to teach this message to other disciples of all nations as well!!!

Did the Apostles, teach the pre-trib rapture or did they confirm what Jesus taught? 

Let's suppose they did. Would they be adding to the word of God? What does God's word say in Proverbs?

"Do not add to His words 

Lest He reprove you and you be proved a liar."

Proverbs 30:6 NASB

So, it's obvious, anyone who adds to God's word will be proved a liar, including the pre-trib  "literal" approach to Matthew chapter 24 and those who give a different spin. In another old testament book, God says:

"You shall not add the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, That you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you."

Deuteronomy 4:2 NASB 

It is very clear. Not only are you to refrain from adding to God's word, we shall not take away from it as well. God also said:

"Whatever I command you to do, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add or take away from it."

Deuteronomy 12:32 NASB

So, then did the apostles add or take away from Jesus' word, or did they take away from His command at the great commission by  introducing the pre-trib rapture. Or did they merely confirm what Jesus said all along?

Let's look in Paul's letter to the Thessalonians. Paul said concerning the rapture:

"For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord."

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 NASB

Paul said that the dead shall rise first. And then the ones are alive will be caught up together to meet the Lord in the Air. Paul did not say this would happen before the tribulation, nor did he say this was secret, but he said the dead will rise first.  Concerning the dead, Jesus said in John: 

For this is the will of My Father that everyone who beholds the son and believes Him, may have eternal life; and I myself will rise him up on the last day."

 "No one comes to me, unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day."

He who eats My flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day

John 6:40, 44, 54 NASB


Jesus said that everyone who believes in Him, Jesus himself will raise them up on the last day. Since there will be saints who believe in Jesus and die during the tribulation He will raise them up also. You will find no references to a "two-phased last day" in scripture.  And since dead tribulation saints can't be raised up before the tribulation for obvious reasons, then everybody who believes in Jesus will be raised at the last day, after the tribulation! John further verifies what Jesus and Paul said:

  "...I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image...and they came and to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

"The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection..."

          Revelation 20:4-6 NASB

John described the dead, they included:

They came to life after the tribulation. John said "This is the first resurrection." he didn't say this is the "third of four phases" of the first resurrection as Hal Lindsay assumes! So, it is very clear the first resurrection is after the Tribulation. And since the dead must rise first before the rapture, then the rapture is after the tribulation. So we must conclude the Apostles didn't teach anything contrary to Jesus' words on the Mount of Olives!

As Jesus said the disciples would see the abomination of desolation, Paul wrote to the Thessalonians: 

Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come (the day of the Lord) unless apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition...

2 Thessalonians  2:3 NASB

Paul said the day of the Lord (the day that Jesus comes) will not happen unless apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed (the Anti-christ) whom the Lord 

"... will slay with the breath of his mouth and bring to and end by the appearance of His coming...

2 Thessalonians 2:8b

Since it is very clear that neither Jesus nor His apostles taught a pre-tribulation rapture, then it is settled! However, as pre-tribbers, they "justify " their position that pre-tribulation was taught by certain church leaders in history.  Grant Jeffrey has "quoted" early church leaders to "justify" his claim that they were pre-trib. However, the ones he "quotes" are few and are the exception rather than the rule.And he misquotes them to justify his claim.  There are others who give outer-bible meanings of pre-trib such as "bible codes," Jewish wedding customs, or even man-made laws. But this is outside the realm of holy scripture and contradicts the very words of Jesus.

There are pre-tribbers suh as John Woolvard who agree this teaching is relatively new to the church. And there are post-tribbers who strongly agree as well. Walter Martin, the Original Bible Answer Man and founder of the Christian Research Institute  answered calls on his radio talk show on various topics. There were times when people would call in and ask him questions about the rapture. He said the teaching began in the nineteenth century. In an audio tape, The Tribulation and the Church, he alluded to this:

"(The post-trib position) was believed by the Christian for nineteen centuries. The church fathers, the reformers and every great theologian in the entire history of the church up until the last 140 years believed that we would see the Antichrist, that we would be persecuted by him, and that we be delivered from him by the second coming of Jesus Christ...You will not find the Idea that we are going to escape the Antichrist until a approximately 140 years ago when a fifteen year old girl had a revelation. And that revelation was picked by J. N. Darby, the founder of the Plymouth Brethren and developed it into a form of theology known as Dispensational Theology. The church for nineteen centuries never heard this doctrine, never believed it, and never preached it."1

What Martin said concerning this fifteen year old was true. She did have a "revelation." However  in 1830 her vision, it was a "vision" of a  a partial-pre-tribulation rapture. In this rapture, the "spirit filled" Christians would be taken to be with the Lord and rest of the church would remain on earth to face the Anti-christ. Nevertheless, this was the first time a rapture was seen happening before the Anti-christ was revealed. Margaret Macdonald, the fifteen year old girl from Port Glasgow, Scotland wrote letters to Edward Irving's Catholic Apostolic Church regarding her vision. And Macdonald's vision was first taught by Irving's Apostolic Church and her version appeared in their publication, The Morning Watch. John Nelson Darby, one of the founders of the Plymouth Brethren Movement, visited MacDonald and developed the pre-tribulation rapture and taught it years later. 

 There is conflict concerning this because modern pre-tribbers disclaim Macdonald as the source and give full credit to Darby. One conflict lies within the Irving movement itself. Irving was defrocked of his ministry while he pastored a Church of Scotland in London, England. He taught Jesus had a fallen sinful nature and was kept from sinning by the power of the Holy Spirit. In his Apostolic Church there were "manifestations" of tongues and other visions among his members. So it is very likely to discredit the Irving camp because of this. And it also likely to reject their position because Macdonald had a "partial" pre-trib rapture vision rather than a full-church pre-trib rapture.

Details relating to the origins can be found on other websites. And I Have provided links at the end of this article. 

Whoever gets the credit or is responsible for introducing the pre-trib rapture can be debated for a long time and God is the judge of that. But the pre-trib rapture stands or falls by the test of scripture alone. And some things  you can be assured of:

 Where does this stand in relation to this website. As I said in my statement of purpose:

"The purpose of this site is to examine the "pre-trib" doctrine by seeking the scriptures and to see if it is true."2


I will not spend a great deal of time writing on the pre-trib origins for I am not an expert on this matter. Even though pre-trib origins are important, the dispensational doctrine of the pre-trib rapture stands and falls on the scriptures alone. 

Part of the Information I received is from Dave MacPherson's book,  The Rapture Plot.  MacPherson has spent over thirty years researching this origin. If you are interested in purchasing this book, I have it posted with a hyperlink in the "Recommended Books and Tapes" section on this website.

. As Paul said:

"...test everything; hold fast what is good"
                                          I Thessalonians 5:21 RSV

And as Jesus Said to His Disciples and to Us:

"Be on guard, that your hearts may not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will come on you suddenly like a trap; for it will come upon those who dwell upon the face of all the earth. But keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man."

Luke 21:34-36 NASB 


1. Dr. Walter Martin, The Tribulation and the Church. This audiotape may be obtained through the   Walter Martin Religious Infonet Website (

2.Statement of Purpose, May 2000 ( .