The Rapture In An Eleventh-Century Text -- By: Francis X. Gumerlock

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 176:701 (Jan 2019)
Article: The Rapture In An Eleventh-Century Text
Author: Francis X. Gumerlock

The Rapture In An Eleventh-Century Text

Francis X. Gumerlock

Francis X. Gumerlock is visiting professor of Latin, Colorado College, Colorado Springs, Colorado.


An eleventh-century Bulgarian text titled Narration of Isaiah teaches that at the end of the world, when the Antichrist is persecuting Christians, God will lift his elect into the air. After that rapture the earth will burn for three years and then lie dormant for another three years followed by its renewal. Then Christ will come to judge the living and the dead. The timing, subjects, and purpose of the rapture in this text show similarities to and differences from modern pretribulationsim. Because of these similarities, the text merits a place in present discourse on the history of the rapture.


Many writers have claimed that the pretribulation rapture was invented in the 1830s by John Nelson Darby (d. 1882) and that such teaching did not exist before the modern era.1 Those claims, however, have been challenged continually

by researchers who have found many authors and texts before Darby containing elements of, and similarities to, pretribulationism. This article first briefly surveys these texts, which date from the early nineteenth century to as far back as the medieval era. It then introduces the Narration of Isaiah, a text from medieval Bulgaria, in which the saints are lifted up six years before the last judgment. Its content and eschatology will be compared and contrasted with modern pretribulationsim.

A Brief History Of Pretribulation Texts

A brief review is fitting, starting with authors from the early nineteenth century and working backward to the medieval era. William Cunninghame, in his 1832 edition of A Dissertation on the Seals and Trumpets of the Apocalypse, set forth a two-stage Second Coming. Concurrent with the first appearance of Christ in the air before the battle of Armageddon would be a gathering to Christ of the palm-bearers of Revelation 14.2

Emanuel Lacunza’s 1816 Coming of the Messiah in Glory and Majesty taught that the Second Coming of Christ will be in two stages. Christ will first appear to catch up the faithful to heaven, after which there will be a period of at least forty-five days before the final coming of Christ.3 Bernard Lambert’s 1806 Expositions des predictions et des promesses also taught an interm...

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