The Rapture and an Early Medieval Citation -- By: Timothy J. Demy

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 152:607 (Jul 1995)
Article: The Rapture and an Early Medieval Citation
Author: Timothy J. Demy


The Rapture and an Early Medieval Citation

Timothy J. Demy

Thomas D. Ice

[Timothy J. Demy is a United States Navy Chaplain, Springfield, Virginia, and Thomas D. Ice is Executive Director, The Pre-Trib Research Center, Washington, DC.]

The primary justification for belief in the rapture is grounded in biblical exegesis coupled with theological deduction, but such belief is not without historical witnesses. This testimony can be found, in part, in the Byzantine apocalyptic tradition of the fourth to eighth centuries in eschatological writings that have thus far received little attention from evangelical scholars. The clearest such writing is a sermon by Pseudo-Ephraem known as On the Last Times, the Antichrist, and the End of the World or Sermon on the End of the World (written sometime between the fourth and seventh centuries).1 This sermon, besides being a vivid example of early medieval apocalyptic homiletics, also includes a statement of a concept similar to the rapture more than one thousand years before the writings of John Nelson Darby.

The Rapture and Contemporary Critics

Critics of pretribulationism sometimes state that belief in the rapture is a doctrinal development of recent origin. They argue that the doctrine of the rapture or any semblance of it was completely unknown before the early 1800s. While this has been generally asserted by scholars such as George E. Ladd and Robert H. Gundry,2 more pointed criticism has come from those outside academia. One of the most vocal and sensational critics of the rapture is Dave MacPherson, who argues that “during the first

18 centuries of the Christian era, believers were never ‘Rapture separaters’ [sic]; they never separated the minor Rapture aspect of the Second Coming of Christ from the Second Coming itself.”3

A second critic, John Bray, also vehemently opposes a pretribulational rapture. “This teaching is not a RECOVERY of truth once taught and then neglected. No, it never was taught—for 1800 years nearly no one knew anything about such a scheme.”4 More recently, pretribulation rapture opponent Robert Van Kampen proclaimed, “The pretribulational rapture position with its dual parousias was unheard of in church history prior to 1830.”5

Christian reconstructionists have also consistently and almost universally condemned premillennialism and pretribulationi...

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