Rapture-removal is not the historic teaching of the Church. One of the more astonishing facts in the history of eschatological thought, and one that most Christians are unaware of, is that the idea of “a secret pre-tribulation, Rapture removal from the earth of the Church” is a fairly recent theory in Church history. In theological circles, it’s a “Johnny come lately.” Even the historic creeds, conspicuously, don’t mention it. In fact, it was relatively unheard of and never taught until the early 19th century, and it didn’t become widespread until the 20th century. Since then, it has spread like wildfire. But the many failed predictions of its coming have made it an embarrassment.

The first known reference may have appeared in two obscure but contestable sentences from a 4th century A.D., 1500-word sermon written in Latin by someone called “Pseudo-Ephraem.” If so, this idea went essentially unknown and undeveloped for fourteen centuries. According to most researchers, the idea of a Rapture-removal from planet Earth prior to a “great tribulation” period began to surface in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Possible but only slight and vague mentions of it may have been published in the writings of a famous Calvinist theologian Dr. John Gill (1748), an early American Baptist pastor Morgan Edwards (1788), a Jesuit priest Emmanuel Lacunza (1812), and Edward Irving, who translated Lucunza’s book (1826).

Most scholars, however, agree that the secret Rapture theory was launched into prominence around 1830 by a group of people in Scotland who had become known as the Plymouth Brethren. Under the direction of John Nelson Darby (1800-1882) and others, they began to hold Prophetic Conferences. Supposedly, during one of those conferences, or from a sick bed during those conferences, a charismatic utterance came forth as a prophetic message from the Lord through a young, fifteen-year-old Scottish girl named Margaret Macdonald. While in a trance, she received a private vision and revelation that only a select group of believers would be removed from the earth before the days of the Antichrist. But she also saw other believers enduring the tribulation, something most rapturists nowadays do not teach.

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