A Rapture Citation in the Fourteenth Century -- By: Francis Gumerlock

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 159:635 (Jul 2002)
Article: A Rapture Citation in the Fourteenth Century
Author: Francis Gumerlock


A Rapture Citation in the Fourteenth Century

Francis Gumerlock

Francis Gumerlock is a doctoral student at St. Louis University, St. Louis, Missouri.

Is the doctrine of the pretribulational rapture a nineteenth-century theological invention, as is sometimes alleged? The purpose of this article is to introduce and discuss a portion of a fourteenth-century text, The History of Brother Dolcino, as it relates to this contemporary question about the history of the doctrine of the pretribulational rapture.

Two theories regarding the history of the pretribulational rapture are popular but inadequate. The first is what one writer has called “the great rapture hoax.”1 Proponents of this theory say that the doctrine of the pretribulational rapture is not in the Bible and was unheard of in the history of Christianity until the early nineteenth century. They say this idea originated with an 1812 Spanish publication of Immanuel Lacunza, a Roman Catholic Jesuit.2 It was then picked up in England by Edward Irving, who translated Lacunza’s book into English in the 1820s.3 In an Irvingite meeting

thirteen-year-old Margaret Macdonald uttered a prophecy about the rapture being pretribulational. From her, it is alleged, John Nelson Darby (1800–1882), one of the founders of the Plymouth Brethren in England, learned of the pretribulational rapture. In other words this view of the rapture originated in Roman Catholicism or in the demonic utterance of a heretical Irvingite female. Passing it off as the fruit of his own study, Darby spread the pretribulational rapture “hoax” to the rest of evangelicalism.4 The main problems with this history of the pretribulational rapture are its conspiracy-type sensationalism and the questionable accuracy of some of its chain-link historical claims.5

Some advocates of pretribulationalism hold a different theory of the history of the rapture, a “lost-and-found” model that is equally unsatisfactory. They believe that the teaching of the pretribulational rapture is in the Bible, but that this doctrine was lost in history soon after the writing of the New Testament. Then in the early nineteenth century Darby was enlightened by the Holy Spirit to the correct doctrine about the rapture. Uniquely graced by God, Darby, through his private study of the Bible, restored the lost teaching of the rapture as a pretribulational event.<...

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