The “Rapture” Doctrine [1V]
The Origin of the Secret Rapture Doctrine
Copyright © BRI 1985, 1997
All Rights Reserved Worldwide
One cannot help but assume the secret rapture theory to be an ancient historical belief of main-stream Christianity due to the enormous publicity it
receives, and the mammoth number of books, lectures, sermons and wall-charts that teach it as a biblical fact, and which are presently available in the
Christian market-place. The doctrine is also heavily promoted on Christian audio-tapes, on TV programs, in films and on lapel buttons and car bumper
stickers. I recently saw a car bearing the sticker, “In case of Rapture this vehicle will be driverless.” In my opinion, the owner was spiritually brainless, or theologically brain-dead, to so openly and brazenly display such inconsideration toward his/her fellow human beings for whom the Messiah also
Western Christians live their lives as if they were the only believers on Earth. This is illustrated clearly in their view of Christians avoiding tribulation or “wrath.” They seem to be oblivious to the fact that in ancient times Christians were burned alive, crucified, sold as slaves, and thrown to wild beasts in Roman arenas for the amusement of the blood-lusting crowds. They seem to be oblivious to the fact that during the height of the Roman Catholic
Church’s power, believers underwent a score of horrifying torturous ordeals. They experienced man’s wrath, and Satan’s wrath, in every conceivable form. Burnings, rape and drownings were commonplace. Foxe even records (in his Book of Martyrs) how women of all ages had starving rats forced into their vaginas and were then sewn up leaving the rat to chew its way into the abdomen in order to get out of the trap it was in. Horrifying? Feel like fainting? Don’t write in to BRI/IMCF protesting the content matter of our lectures. This is history and as Christians we should face up to the past with honesty. How can we face up to the past if none of us are aware that things like this actually happened? And such things are happening still.
Western Christians seem oblivious that believers in other parts of the world are undergoing horrendous difficulties. And they are apparently ignorant to the tribulation, gaoling and martyrdom already experienced by countless numbers of faithful Christians in China, Russia, Romania, Cuba and Poland. We won’t even begin to list their problems or even begin to mention the trials and wrath encountered by believers in Middle Eastern nations and Black African states.
Someone should have told the millions of Chinese Christians who went to their deaths during Mao’s reign of terror, or the 250,000 Christian martyrs who perished around the globe in 1980-82 that they were not appointed to “wrath.”
Strangely, one of the main points of the Rapturist’s belief states that “Christ” is coming for his saints without being noticed by the world! In their own words they state categorically:
“Quickly and INVISIBLY, unperceived by the world, the Lord will come as a thief in the night and catch away His waiting saints” (Jesse Silver, The Lord’s Return, 1914, 260). “His appearance in the clouds will be veiled to the human eye and NO ONE WILL SEE HIM. He will slip in, slip out; move in to get His jewels and slip out as under the cover of night” (Oral Roberts,How to be Personally Prepared for the Second Coming of Christ, 1967, 34). “It will be a SECRET rapture - QUIET, NOISELESS, sudden as the step of the thief in the night. All that the world will know will be that multitudes at once have gone” (G.S. Bishop, The Doctrine of Grace, 341). “In the rapture only the Christians see Him - it’s a mystery, a SECRET” (Hal Lindsey, The Late Great Planet Earth, 1970, 143). “[The rapture] will be a SECRET appearing, and only the believers will know about it” (Herschel Ford, Seven Simple Sermons on the Second Coming, 1946, 51).
With all due respect to the adherents of the secret two-stage coming of Our Lord, the very Scripture on which the above statements is based implies the absolute EXACT OPPOSITE!
“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a SHOUT, with the VOICE of the archangel, and with the TRUMP of God: and the dead in Messiah shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thes 4.16,17).
This text implies anything but a secret, quiet, unknown event. Rather the noise level will be horrific and involve an astonishing resurrection power surge unleashed in untold millions of people receiving new bodies of immortal, incorruptible SPIRIT! If the great apostle Rav Shaul was trying to describe a secret and quiet event, he certainly chose the wrong words!
In fact even Our Lord Yeshua Himself knew well in advance that the“Church” (the Messianic Community) would fall into grave error on just this aspect of his coming, and he WARNED AGAINST THE RAPTURE! Notice it now:
“If any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is the Messiah, or there; believe it not...If they shall say unto you...Behold he is in the SECRET chambers; believe it not. For as the light of the sun comes out of the east and shines unto the west, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Mt 24.23-27).
The only thing secret about the coming of Yeshua is the timing (Mt 24.36,43,44; 2 Pet 3.10). Not only is this the case, but Yeshua went on to assure his disciples (talmidim, students) that, rather than escape trials and tribulation (another important tenet of the Rapturists) the Messianic Community would be subject to these very same conditions!
“In the world you shall have TRIBULATION” (Jn 16.33).
The assemblies of God would experience tribulation. Yet, even though they would suffer immensely from the wrath of man the Messiah never expected His followers would exit the planet. In fact he stated clearly enough “I pray NOT that you [God] should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil” (Jn 17.15).
Just how plain are these words of Messiah! It was not his will that the disciples escape the confines of the world. One Rapturist argued with me that these words of Yeshua applied only to his apostles at the time he spoke them. She failed to realise that in the same breath Our Lord added: “Neither
pray I for these alone, but for them also which believe on me through their word” (Jn 17.20).
This statement includes us today! We are the inheritors of the message (the Gospel) of Messiah. In no way does the Mashiach want any of us to leave the planetary environs. His own statements have to be twisted for any evidence of a special, secret, quiet coming of the Lord for his saints. But these are factors often overlooked by believers in the two-stage rapture of the ekklesia (Messianic Community).
Some honest Rapturists recognise the enormous difficulties involved in piecing together Margaret Macdonald’s new revelations about the “coming” of the Lord with the plain statements of the Scripture. And so they have attempted to devise word-gymnastics in order to extricate themselves and their doctrine from the pitfalls and flaws that they themselves admit are involved in believing in the two-stage second coming of the Messiah. As one scholar put it, the rapture cannot be the “coming” of Christ at all!
“Strictly speaking, the rapture is NOT THE SECOND COMING AT ALL. The second coming is the visible, local, bodily appearance of Christ in the clouds of heaven as he returns to this earth...in power and great glory” (Frank M. Boyd, Ages and Dispensations, 1955, 60).
Admits another: “The thrilling event which will both mark the end of the day and open the door for the Great Tribulation is the rapture... Specifically speaking, THIS IS NOT THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST. Rather this is the rapture, or the catching up, of the true church” (William W. Orr,
Antichrist, Armageddon, and the End of the World, 1966, 9).
The problem now is that this ingenious manoeuvre raises more questions than it solves, and defies the plain words of the Lord Himself, “Be you
therefore also ready: for in such an hour that you think not the Son of man COMES” (Mt 24.44).
Why on earth would the Lord warn his disciples about the imperative need to be ready for the COMING of the Son of man, if the rapture takes place
before his coming?
Again, Yeshua commanded his true disciples: “Occupy till I COME” (Lk 19.13). How then could the “church” be expected to “occupy until he comes” if the “church” will be raptured away seven years, or three-and-a-half years, before his coming?
We must press the point. Yeshua said: “I will COME again, and receive you unto myself” (Jn 14.3).
Therefore, according to no less an authority than Yeshua the Messiah himself, it is when he COMES that he receives his people unto himself -- if words still mean anything. This “receiving” is decidedly not seven years, or three-and-a-half years, before his COMING. This is why the apostles all
admonished the Messianic Community, “Be patient then, brethren, unto the COMING of the Lord… for yet a little while, and he that shall COME will COME, and will not tarry” (Jam 5.7; Heb 10.36,37).
Now I don’t care if the last two references were sent to the Jewish saints as one body or the Gentile saints as another body -- the COMING of
Mashiach is the COMING of Mashiach is the COMING of Mashiach! WHY exhort the brethren to be patient unto the COMING of the Lord, if their true hope was some rapture prior to his COMING?
Rav Shaul did not think the rapture was a different event from the coming of Mashiach (1 Cor 1.7). For, he is adamant in referring to the rapture as the
COMING of the Messiah (1 Thes 4.15) -- yes, he states it right in the middle of the so-called rapture passage.
The secret rapture doctrine is illogical and contradictory. Yet where did such a pernicious idea originate?
The period which brought forth Ellen White, Joseph Smith, Mary Baker Eddy, Charles Taze Russell, the Fox sisters, Helena Blavatsky and Annie Besant, the British Israelites and others of similar ilk, also gave birth to a certain Miss Margaret Macdonald in Scotland.
The Macdonald family was decidedly Pentecostal. They were preoccupied with the gifts of healing, and tongues. Not only did they speak in tongues, they interpreted them as well. They lived in Port Glascow and in the year 1830 the ignorant peasant girl, Margaret Macdonald, had visions of Christ’s
return. Robert Norton, a clergyman and British physician, retold the events of 1830 but added that in his understanding Macdonald had studied the Scriptures and arrived at the view that there was to be a two-stage coming of the Lord for his saints before the dreaded “tribulation” (The Restoration of Apostles & Prophets: In the Catholic Apostolic Church, 1861). He wrote, “We FIRST SEE the distinction between that final stage of the Lord’s
coming, when every eye shall see Him, and His prior appearing in glory to them that look for Him” (15).
It is a contemporary admission, concerning the origin of the rapture theory, about which almost nobody today knows anything. Norton, in other words, was admitting that this doctrine was brand NEW -- no one had ever heard of it before in the entire history of the church!
But he was in error in his consideration that the Macdonald girl had “studied” the Bible on the two-stage coming of the Mashiach. Norton seems to have wanted to give the doctrine the cloak of“respectability.” Macdonald herself admits it came through a prophetic trance!
In part, her utterance reads: “Now there is distress of nations with perplexity, the seas and the waves roaring, men’s hearts failing them for fear - now look for the sign of the Son of man. Here I was made to stop and cry out, O it is not known what the sign of the Son of man is ... I felt this needed to be revealed, and that there was great darkness and error about it; but suddenly what it was burst upon me with a glorious light. I saw it was just the Lord himself descending from heaven with a shout, just the glorified man, even Jesus ... men think it will be something seen by the natural eye; but ‘tis spiritual discernment that is needed ... Only those who have the light of God within them will see the sign of his appearance ...’tis only those that are alive in him that will be caught up to meet him in the air ... I repeated frequently, but the spiritual temple must and shall be reared, and the fullness of Christ be poured into his body, and then shall we be caught up to meet him.”
For centuries the church believed in and taught the open, visible, awesome second Advent of Yeshua (for centuries he was called Yesu in Europe; it
has only been “Jesus” for the last three centuries). Now, suddenly, with the trance-like visions and prophetic utterances of a religious peasant Edomite woman in an obscure town in Scotland something not previously known was presented -- the coming of the Lord alone, the Lord not seen, a quiet Advent, a secret coming!
Norton became a member of the Pentecostal “Catholic Apostolic Church” which was presided over by Edward Irving, who was an acquaintance of Margaret Macdonald! Irving had founded the sect after being excommunicated from the Presbyterian assembly for his teaching of this “new
revelation” which he had enthusiastically embraced.
The new teaching of the secret coming of Yeshua for his saints was soon preached among the so-called Plymouth Brethren, and to be expected it split the church. In 1864, S.P. Tregelles, one of those members who rejected the introduction of such a new theory, noted: “I am not aware that there was any definite teaching [among the original Brethren] that there should be a secret rapture of the church at a secret coming UNTIL this was given forth as an‘utterance’ in Mr Irving’s church from what was then received as being the voice of the Spirit. But whether any one ever asserted such a thing or not it was from that supposed revelation that the modern doctrine and the modern phraseology respecting it arose. It came, NOT from the Holy Scripture, but from THAT WHICH FALSELY PRETENDED TO BE THE SPIRIT OF GOD” (The Hope of Christ’s Second Coming, 1864, 34-37).
Yet with its introduction, it was taught and preached as if it had always been taught and preached by the entire universal church.
Another very early convert to the church was an Englishman from Doncaster, Robert Baxter. Researcher Dave MacPherson notes, “Baxter had gone
down to London in the fall of 1831, visited some of the prayer meetings which preceded the manifestations [spiritual gifts such as prophesying in the middle of a sermon, and speaking in tongues entirely at an inappropriate time and thus Scripturally out of order] in Irving’s church, and soon was a regular attendant at Irving’s services. He then became endowed with the prophetic utterances and had a number of personal revelations. Later, when certain prophecies made by him and others simply were not fulfilled, he became disillusioned and felt that he had been deceived and had in turn deceived others” (The Incredible Cover-Up: The True Story of the Pre-Trib Rapture, Logos International, Plainfield, NJ, 1975, 86).
Not only was this the case, but Baxter himself wrote an expose about the Irvingites in 1833. In one section he states: “There are some general
characteristics in the work, which, apart from doctrines or instances of failure of predictions, cast suspicion upon it. One is the extreme secrecy enjoined by the spirit, and the manifest shrinking from public examination. The spirit has, both in England and Scotland, forbidden the writing down of utterances, and even the attempt to repeat them verbatim. Thus errors and contradictions are more easily concealed and explained away” (Narrative of Facts, Characterising the Supernatural Manifestations in Members of Mr Irving’s Congregation, and Other Individuals, in England and Scotland, and Formerly in the Writer Himself, 1833, 126).
In another part of the British Isles, the brilliant John Darby -- a noted scholar in the biblical field who penned more than 30 volumes of 600 pages each, and produced a translation of the Bible with notes (which BRI also utilises in its research activities) -- accepted the secret rapture, after visiting the Macdonald home in 1830, and gave the Macdonald belief much needed respectability when he presented it to the Brethren about a year later. But,
although he was the undisputed leader of the Plymouth Brethren, his views on this subject were opposed by his equal, Benjamin W. Newton, who rejected Darby’s new views as “nonsense” and split the Movement. He was joined in his opposition by others of note -- namely Charles Spurgeon, William Booth and George Muller. Ernest Sandeen writes, “Darby introduced ... the ideas of a secret rapture of the church and of a parenthesis in prophetic fulfilment between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks of Daniel. These two concepts constituted the basic tenets of the system of theology since referred to as dispensationalism ... Newton remembered, years later, opposing both positions. Commenting upon Darby’s interpretations of the seventy weeks of Daniel, Newton remarked, ‘The secret rapture was bad enough, but this was worse’” (The Roots of Fundamentalism, 1970, 38).
It was not long before these new views concerning the secret coming of Mashiach gained popularity in America. “The two stage coming view of the
Brethren spread to America and other parts of the world in the latter part of the century. Darby visited the U.S. at least five times. His dispensation-alism became part of the Scofield Reference Bible (1909)” (Macpherson, op.cit., 32).
Today this popular non-Scriptural idea, unknown to the original apostles, unknown to the Church for over 1900 years, unknown even to Our Lord Yeshua himself, and which came out of the visions of an obscure peasant woman in 19th century Scotland, is accepted by countless millions as Gospel Truth.
It is as far from Gospel Truth as the idea that rabbits can lay eggs (although that is also accepted by countless millions of ignorant Christians and promulgated at Easter with equal fervour as the secret rapture).
The Rapture doctrine is beyond being highly suspect; it is a downright diabolical lie. It is time Christians returned to the plain teachings of the Lord Yeshua haMashiach and jettisoned fables by “old wives” and “silly women ladened with sins” (1 Tim 4.7; 2 Tim 3.6).