The Pre-Tribulation Rapture: A new idea?
by Michael G. Mickey
If you listen to the skeptics, the doctrine of the Pre-Tribulational Rapture of the Church is practically a brand new idea. According to many, the doctrine wasn't even hinted at prior to 1830. Is that accurate?
As you can imagine, I do a lot of reading, especially in regard to the alleged origins of the Pre-Tribulational Rapture doctrine, primarily because I've always found it astounding anyone could allege something as clear in Scripture as the Pre-Tribulational Rapture is wasn't spoken of prior to 1830.
I was pleasantly surprised recently to learn one of the early Church fathers, Clement, may have written quite extensively on the principles of the topic in an epistle to the Corinthians he drafted in either 68 or 97 AD - less than 70 years after Christ's death on the cross - a considerable period of time before 1830.
All of the excerpts I'm about to include of Clement's writings can be found at a website documenting the writings of the Early Church Fathers. In Clement's First Epistle to the Corinthians he wrote, as can be found on this page of the website, the following:
Chapter IX - Examples of the Saints.
Wherefore, let us yield obedience to His excellent and glorious will; and imploring His mercy and loving-kindness, while we forsake all fruitless labours, and strife, and envy, which leads to death, let us turn and have recourse to His compassions. Let us stedfastly contemplate those who have perfectly ministered to His excellent glory. Let us take (for instance) Enoch, who, being found righteous in obedience, was translated, and death was never known to happen to him. Noah, being found faithful, preached regeneration to the world through his ministry; and the Lord saved by him the animals which, with one accord, entered into the ark.
Clement refers to Enoch who was raptured without seeing death, as seen in Genesis 5:24: And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.
Secondly, Clement mentions Noah - a man Clement calls faithful who Scripture teaches us was spared God's judgment during the Great Flood because he walked with God and was righteous in God's eyes, as seen in Genesis 6:8-9: But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.
Continuing with Clement's writings:
Chapter XI - Continuation. Lot.
On account of his hospitality and godliness, Lot was saved out of Sodore when all the country round was punished by means of fire and brimstone, the Lord thus making it manifest that He does not forsake those that hope in Him, but gives up such as depart from Him to punishment and torture. For Lot's wife, who went forth with him, being of a different mind from himself and not continuing in agreement with him [as to the command which had been given them], was made an example of, so as to be a pillar of salt unto this day. This was done that all might know that those who are of a double mind, and who distrust the power of God, bring down judgment on themselves and become a sign to all succeeding generations.
Much as Clement referred to Enoch and Noah, Clement writes next about Lot, another man who was saved from God's judgment as a direct result of his godliness, particularly mentioning the fact that God does not forsake those that hope in Him!
Interestingly enough, Clement also addresses Lot's wife, particularly noting she was of a different mindset than Lot, the end result of which left her standing in the desert as a pillar of salt. Clement tells us God made Lot's wife an example, demonstrating how those of a double mind bring God's judgment down on themselves by distrusting the power of God!
In spite of Scripture indicating the Church isn't appointed to wrath, there are many Christians today who, in a fashion similar to Lot's wife, fearfully look over their shoulders while stating we may need to begin preparing ourselves mentally and spiritually to enter the Tribulation Period - a time the Apostle John refers to as the great day of His [the Lord's] wrath in Revelation 6:17.
If the Church isn't appointed to wrath, and it isn't as seen in 1st Thessalonians 5:9, why do some Christians keep trying to place the Church inside the Tribulation Period? On one hand, these Christians profess having faith in Christ yet, on the other hand, indicate we shouldn't depend on Him delivering the Church from having to suffer in the Tribulation Period via a Pre-Tribulational Rapture of the Church that is clearly in Scripture - a classic example of a double mind where placing trust in the power of God is concerned!
As you can imagine, I couldn't help but smile upon reading Clement's comments because they're precisely in keeping with what I say all the time concerning the many naysayers in the world today who mock those who trust in the power of God and their belief in an overwhelming amount of Scriptural evidence that the Lord Jesus Christ is going to protect His Church by rapturing it before the onset of the Tribulation Period!
Those who mock the faithful need to consider Clement's words and the story of Lot's wife very carefully. They likewise need to read the eleventh chapter of Hebrews in its entirety, especially the portion which deals with Enoch's translation mentioned earlier. Why? Because it's demonstrative of why those who are going to be raptured at the Pre-Tribulational Rapture of the Church will be kept from the hour of temptation - because of their FAITH in Jesus Christ!
Hebrews 11:5: By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death, Christians! By FAITH!!!
Continuing with Clement's writings:
Chapter XIX - Imitating These Examples, Let Us Seek After Peace.
Thus the humility and godly submission of so great and illustrious men have rendered not only us, but also all the generations before us, better; even as many as have received His oracles in fear and truth. Wherefore, having so many great and glorious examples set before us, let us turn again to the practice of that peace which from the beginning was the mark set before us; and let us look stedfastly to the Father and Creator of the universe, and cleave to His mighty and surpassingly great gifts and benefactions, of peace. Let us contemplate Him with our understanding, and look with the eyes of our soul to His long-suffering will. Let us reflect how free from wrath He is towards all His creation.
Are we to believe Christ, who Clement writes is free from wrath toward all His creation, is going to appoint His beloved Church to suffer at His own hand during the great day of His wrath? Scripture answers that question.
1st Thessalonians 5:9: For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,
Continuing with Clement's writings:
Chapter XXII - These Exhortations are Confirmed by the Christian Faith, Which Proclaims the Misery of Sinful Conduct.
Now the faith which is in Christ confirms all these admonitions. For He Himself by the Holy Ghost thus addresses us: "Come, ye children, hearken unto Me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. What man is he that desireth life, and loveth to see good days? Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile. Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and His ears are [open] unto their prayers. The face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. The righteous cried, and the Lord heard him, and delivered him out of all his troubles. Many are the stripes [appointed for] the wicked; but mercy shall compass those about who hope in the Lord."
The Lord looks upon His own, hears them when they cry out to Him, and delivers them out of their troubles! Wrath, the many stripes Clement refers to in the passage, is appointed to the wicked, not the righteous! Mercy encompasses those who hope in the Lord!
Continuing with Clement's writings:
Chapter XXIII - Be Humble, and Believe that Christ Will Come Again.
The all-merciful and beneficent Father has bowels [of compassion] towards those that fear Him, and kindly and lovingly bestows His favours upon those who come to Him with a simple mind. Wherefore let us not be double-minded; neither let our soul be lifted up on account of His exceedingly great and glorious gifts. Far from us be that which is written, "Wretched are they who are of a double mind, and of a doubting heart; who say, These things we have heard even in the times of our fathers; but, behold, we have grown old, and none of them has happened unto us. Ye foolish ones! compare yourselves to a tree: take [for instance] the vine. First of all, it sheds its leaves, then it buds, next it puts forth leaves, and then it flowers; after that comes the sour grape, and then follows the ripened fruit. Ye perceive how in a little time the fruit of a tree comes to maturity. Of a truth, soon and suddenly shall His will be accomplished, as the Scripture also bears witness, saying, "Speedily will He come, and will not tarry; " and, "The Lord shall suddenly come to His temple, even the Holy One, for whom ye look."
The Father is compassionate toward His own. Does this even have to be said? As Clement said, far be it from us that we be wretched like those who are of a double mind and a doubting heart where the mercies of the Lord are concerned! Let us come before the Lord with the simple mind of a child, filled with abundant faith and hope in His power to deliver us from darkness into light!
Continuing with Clement's writings:
Chapter XXVIII - God Sees All Things: Therefore Let Us Avoid Transgression.
Since then all things are seen and heard [by God], let us fear Him, and forsake those wicked works which proceed from evil desires; so that, through His mercy, we may be protected from the judgments to come. For whither can any of us flee from His mighty hand? Or what world will receive any of those who run away from Him? For the Scripture saith in a certain place, "Whither shall I go, and where shall I be hid from Thy presence? If I ascend into heaven, Thou art there; if I go away even to the uttermost parts of the earth, there is Thy right hand; if I make my bed in the abyss, there is Thy Spirit."Whither, then, shall any one go, or where shall he escape from Him who comprehends all things?
Clement certainly didn't seem to see the Church squaring off with the Antichrist in the Tribulation Period. Long before John Edward Darby supposedly cooked up the Pre-Tribulational Rapture of the Church, Clement was seeing a way for the Church to be protected from the judgments to come through a fearful respect of God and righteous living. How could Clement have thought that so long before 1830? Guess, naysayers!
The following section of Clement's writings is taken out of order as I want to close with it:
Chapter XLV - It is the Part of the Wicked to Vex the Righteous.
Ye are fond of contention, brethren, and full of zeal about things which do not pertain to salvation. Look carefully into the Scriptures, which are the true utterances of the Holy Spirit. Observe that nothing of an unjust or counterfeit character is written in them. There you will not find that the righteous were cast off by men who themselves were holy. The righteous were indeed persecuted, but only by the wicked. They were cast into prison, but only by the unholy; they were stoned, but only by transgressors; they were slain, but only by the accursed, and such as had conceived an unrighteous envy against them. Exposed to such sufferings, they endured them gloriously. For what shall we say, brethren? Was Daniel cast into the den of lions by such as feared God? Were Ananias, and Azarias, and Mishael shut up in a furnace of fire by those who observed the great and glorious worship of the Most High? Far from us be such a thought! Who, then, were they that did such things? The hateful, and those full of all wickedness, were roused to such a pitch of fury, that they inflicted torture on those who served God with a holy and blameless purpose [of heart], not knowing that the Most High is the Defender and Protector of all such as with a pure conscience venerate His all-excellent name; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. But they who with confidence endured these things are now heirs of glory and honour, and have been exalted and made illustrious by God in their memorial for ever and ever. Amen.
There are many who want to argue and fight about every manner of doctrine. As Clement put it aptly, we should look carefully into the Scriptures in order to confirm and preserve our faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord as it's through Scripture, not through the wisdom of men, that we find the true utterances of the Holy Spirit!
Those who choose to believe the Church is going to join the unrepentant world in suffering in the Tribulation Period need to reflect, as Clement did, on how the Church has suffered tribulation to this point.
There are two totally different types of tribulation we need to understand as Christians. The first type of tribulation comes to the Church by way of man's wickedness. The second kind of Tribulation is the kind those dwelling inside the Tribulation Period will have to endure. They are not one and the same!
Many today whose doctrines tell us the Church is going to be thrown into the Tribulation Period with the wicked tend to point to tribulations the Church has suffered at the hands of wicked mankind in the past as an example of Christ's willingness to let His Bride suffer at His own hand in the Tribulation Period that will come to test the whole earth. Ridiculous! It's like comparing a peach to a bowling ball!
As Clement put it, the Church has been persecuted, but only by the wicked. Members of the Church have been (and still are being) cast into prison, but only by the unholy! Members of the Church have been stoned, but only by transgressors! Members of the Church have been slain, but only by the accursed! Daniel wasn't cast into the lion's den by the Lord or anyone who feared the Lord. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego weren't placed in the fiery furnace by God, but by the wicked.
Clement credited the hateful and those full of wickedness for inflicting torture on those who served God with a holy and blameless purpose of heart in his day. He further indicated the wicked who did so failed to understand something about God Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego understood about Him - that He was the Defender and Protector of all those who trust in Him with a pure conscience.
Would the Lord have delivered Daniel from the lion's den if he'd had no faith in Him? Would the flames and smoke of the fiery furnace have stood back in the presence of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego if they'd had no faith in the Lord's ability to deliver them from it? I doubt it, which is precisely why those who are placing their trust in Jesus Christ to gather them to His side in a Pre-Tribulational Rapture of the Church are far more in touch with the God of the Bible than those who preach the Church is going to have to suffer alongside the wicked in the Tribulation Period.
It's interesting to me Clement spoke of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the manner he did as a Post-Tribulational Rapture believer would point to those incidents as proof the Church is going to go through the Tribulation Period, but be protected.
If the faithful Church was going to have to endure the horrors of the Tribulation Period, there couldn't have been any finer examples than Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, whose stories of boldly overcoming tribulation are recorded in Daniel, chapters 6 and 3 respectively, right?
If the Church is going to have to suffer in the Tribulation Period as those holding a Mid-Trib, Pre-Wrath, or Post-Tribulational Rapture doctrine would suggest, why did Christ Himself point to two men I spoke of earlier in the commentary, Noah and Lot, who were completely delivered from God's judgment, when speaking of the end times, as recorded in Luke 17:26-30?
I believe Clement understood there was going to be a Pre-Tribulational Rapture of the Church well ahead of John Darby allegedly dreaming the idea up in 1830. If so, it's not such a new idea after all, is it?