If you read yesterday’s post, I omitted part of it. After a lengthy discussion with my husband, I decided to remove the last part of the post. Since the terms like premillennial and dispensation seem to change with time and denomination, I thought it best to pull them off. The final analysis from yesterday’s post ended up being like scrambled eggs, and they only served to confuse. We decided that the terms hold a different meaning for different people. Just as some of the concepts of our countries founders are now finding new meaning, these theological terms also seem to be doing the same.
One thing we know to be true is that the Lord will return for us at the “last trump” (1 Cor. 15:52). I know there is some discussion that the last trump that Paul spoke of, and the last trump of Revelation are different trumps, but I’m not going to get into that speculation.
Early Church Fathers
Several of the early Church Fathers expected a 1000-year reign of Christ. In the testimony of the early Church fathers, there is almost complete silence on the subject of the tribulation. They often speak of going through tribulations. This is probably because during the first centuries of the Church, the Church was passing through many persecutions and they viewed something worse coming their way. They lived expectantly waiting on the Lord’s return.
Hermas (c. AD 150) says: “Happy are you who endure the great tribulation that is coming. And happy are they who will not deny their own life.”
Hippolytus (c. AD 200) speaks of the tyrant who will “…reign and persecute the Church, which flees from city to city, and seeks concealment in the wilderness among the mountains.”
Irenaeus (c. AD 180) says: “For this is the last contest of the righteous, in which they are crowned with incorruption – when they overcome.”
Was there any mention of a pretribulation rapture?
There was mention of a rapture, but you can’t discern if it is pre-trib or pre-wrath.
Hermas writes a story about a maiden and a beast, to show that there would be an escape of the future Great Tribulation period.
“… through the power of the Lord and His great mercy I escaped from it.” Then the maiden said, “Well did you escape from it, because you can be saved by no other than His great and glorious name … You have escaped from great tribulation on account of your faith, and because you did not doubt in the presence of such a beast. Go, therefore, and tell the elect of the Lord His mighty deeds, and say to them this beast is a type of the great tribulation that is coming. If then ye prepare yourselves, and repent with all your heart, and turn to the Lord, it will be possible for you to escape it, if your heart be free and spotless, and ye spend the rest of your days in serving the Lord blamelessly” (Hermas, Shepherd of Hermas, Book I, Vision IV, Chapter ii).
Irenaeus also seems to hold that the church will be caught upduring the tribulation, for he says: “And therefore, when in the end the Church shall be suddenly caught up from this, it is said, “There shall be tribulation such as has not been since the beginning, neither shall be. For this is the last contest of the righteous, in which, when they overcome, they are crowned with incorruption” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book V, Chapter xxix).
The Teaching During the Middle Ages
Further, it is not strange that the leaders in the Middle Ages are silent concerning the pretribulational rapture. With the rise of Constantine and the state church, the Church turned to an allegorizing of the Scriptures concerning the Lord’s return. And with the denial of a literal millennium, the tribulation was allegorized or ignored. The Reformers returned to the doctrine of the second coming, but their emphasis was on the doctrine of salvation, rather than the development of the details of eschatology.
The Pretribulation Rapture (17th – 21st Centuries)
In 1830, a new school arose within the fold of a 1000-year reign being connected to and a pretribulation rapture. Nowadays, most of the reputable Bible scholars hold the pretribulation view, they are: John Nelson Darby; C.I. Scofield; William R. Newell; J. Dwight Pentecost; John F. Walvoord; Charles Ryrie; Robert L. Thomas; William MacDonald and Perry Stone, just to name a few. Do they adhere to this teaching because of tradition, or because they earnestly believe the rapture is pre-trib? I suggest: both. I say this because there are few who have the courage to go against the tide of tradition and preach anything else.