The Rapture in Twenty Centuries of Biblical Interpretation -- By: James F. Stitzinger

Journal: Masters Seminary Journal
Volume: TMSJ 13:2 (Fall 2002)
Article: The Rapture in Twenty Centuries of Biblical Interpretation
Author: James F. Stitzinger

The Rapture in Twenty Centuries of
Biblical Interpretation

James F. Stitzinger

Associate Professor of Historical Theology

The coming of God’s Messiah deserves closer attention than it has often received. The future coming of the Messiah, called the “rapture,” is imminent, literal and visible, for all church saints, before the hour of testing, premillennial, and, based on a literal hermeneutic, distinguishes between Israel and the church. The early church fathers’ views advocated a sort of imminent intra-or post-tribulationism in connection with their premillennial teaching. With a few exceptions, the Medieval church writers said little about a future millennium and a future rapture. Reformation leaders had little to say about prophetic portions of Scripture, but did comment on the imminency of Christ’s return. The modern period of church history saw a return to the early church’s premillennial teaching and a pretribulational rapture in the writings of Gill and Edwards, and more particularly in the works of J. N. Darby. After Darby, pretribulationism spread rapidly in both Great Britain and the United States. A resurgence of posttribulationism came after 1952, accompanied by strong opposition to pretribulationism, but a renewed support of pretribulationism has arisen in the recent past. Five premillennial views of the rapture include two major views—pretribulationism and posttribulation-ism—and three minor views—partial, midtribulational, and pre-wrath rapturism.


The central theme of the Bible is the coming of God’s Messiah. Genesis 3:15 reveals the first promise of Christ’s coming when it records, “He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.”1 Revelation 22:20 unveils the last promise when it records “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming quickly,’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” In fact, the entire Bible can be

understood in relation to this theme. The Old Testament declares, He is coming (Isa 7:14; 9:6). The four Gospels declare, He has comeand is coming again (John 1:29; 14:3, 18–19). Finally, Acts, the epistles, and the book of Revelation declare, Having come, He is coming again (Acts 1:11;

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