It is strikingly interesting that those that call the Pre-Millenenial Rapture teaching a lie, or attribute its origin to Margaret MacDonald or John Nelson Darby come across as so-called experts or authority for their claims. As I have already shown that to be a patent lie itself in the first three segments of this series you need to be discerning of misguided self-serving pseudo-Bible deceivers. You can't escape the bias and hatred of the Pre-Tribulation teaching simply because of where they base their argument. Satan hates the Pre-Tribulation Rapture teaching.
Genuine credible teachers and scholars would take you back as far as permissible to establish their premise. That is something that we find is totally lacking in every Anti-Pre-Tribulation web site on the Internet. Not a one of them has any credentials that offers any credence to suggest they are trained scholars in the Bible, history or theology. The weakness of the Internet is the ability for a small investment, anyone can set up a web site with dishonest purposes. Even the US military has set up social media sites that have one mission only, and that is to confuse their users. I saw just recently that the US military has created phony addresses, up to ten fake sites per operative, all designed to create diversity and confusion in the war on counter-intelligence. Government agencies use fear-mongering tactics to intimidate and to sustain their power. This has been revealed in interviews conducted by 36-year veteran of the super-secret NSA William Binney. You might not recognize this spreading use of social media and the internet that is impacting the ability to collect truth.
Quoting below from one of the greatest theologians of our time, Dr. H.Wayne House, author of over 30 books on the Bible and Bible-related subjects, he holds an earned Th.D. from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO, and J.D. from Regent School of Law, in Virginia; he is Distinguished Research Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Faith Seminary in Tacoma, Washington and Professor of Law at Trinity Law School in Santa Ana, CA. His qualifications and credentials are above reproach, his statement below, I quote from:
"Generally scholars of systematic theology and patristics [writings of the period of 100-450 AD of church history] are in agreement that the earliest view of eschatology in the Church is premillennialism. From the late first century until the time of Augustine in the fourth century, some form of premillennial expectation of Jesus' return was either the dominant view, or held by a member of prominent leaders and theologians of the Church."
Dr. House has written articles, papers, for more than 70 journals and magazines. His works are considered to be superior in their fields. I myself still have a dozen of his resource classic works in my pastoral library. Those in Bible colleges and Seminaries quote from Dr. House at one time or another in their academic studies. As to the statement above by Dr. House, it should be a "Non-sequitir" for us that the Pre-Tribulation Rapture belief extends back to the first-century Church era.
Dr. House holds to the belief that the Pre-Tribulation Rapture will occur before Daniel's "70th Week", the Tribulation Period. In a paper that Dr. House gave some years ago, he writes, "But why should persons so close to times of the apostles not be in unison on all areas of doctrine? Should they not all have been able to sign various confessions and creeds that have formulated since their time? To require such uniformity is asking too much. Even persons who originally received the teachings of the Lord and that of the apostles did not always understand them fully, and some did not agree wit the teaching and became teachers of error. Even when one is speaking about the Fathers of the Church who lived closest to the time of the apostles, there is no guarantee that they understood each text of Scripture correctly, so that their theology always squared with the teaching of the prophets, apostles and the Lord. It appears that they began to deviate from the better understanding of Scripture on matters such as marriage, celibacy, asceticism, baptism, not in abandoning the subjects altogether but deviating in certain ways from the proper understanding of the doctrines. Consequently, never should we substitute the theology of the Fathers of the Church, early or late, for the teaching of Holy Writ."
There are differences among the Early Church Fathers in some of the details, but those who were most influential by the apostles, and the method of interpretation received from them, tended to be Premillennial in their view of the Lord's coming and reign. One may count among this group, and I quote from Dr. House on this list, the following Church Fathers, authors, and Apostles:
++Clement of Rome (bishop of Rome, ca. 90-100 AD)
++Polycarp (bishop of Smyrna in western Asia Minor, ca. 70-155/160 AD)
++Papias (bishop of Hierapolis in Phrygia, Asia Minor, ca. 70-130/155 AD)
++Ignatius (bishop of Antioch in Syria, d. ca. 98/117 AD)
++Author of Epistle to Barnabas (70-132 AD)
++Justin Martyr (Samaria and Rome, ca. 100-165 AD)
++Tatian (Assyrian, Rome, Antioch in Syria, ca. 120-180 AD)
++Irenaeus (Asia Minor, bishop of Lyon, Gaul [France], ca. 120 - ca. 202 AD)
++Hypolytus (presbyter and teacher in Rome, d. ca. 236 AD)
++Tertulian (Carthage in Northern Africa, 150-225 AD)
++Cyprian (bishop of Carthage, 200-258 AD)
++Commodianus (Africa, 200-270 AD)
++Victorinus (bishop of Pettau, in Austria, 240-303 AD)
++Coracion (Egypt, 230-280 AD)
++Lactantius (Italy, 240-330 AD)
++Methodius (Thessalonica and Slavia, 250-314 AD)
These early church fathers represent a formidable factor of the early Christian Church. They represented a wide range of the Christian world from France to Syria to Egypt to Africa. This wide geographic spread further confirms that the idea of Jesus Christ's two-fold return and "deliverance" before the Great Tribulation was developing into an important doctrine whereby the Church was beginning to contextualizing the Eschatology that has provided the basis of the Church today for expressing Millennialism and the Dispensationalism of men like John Nelson Darby.
Philip Schaff, author of 'The History of the Christian Church', a multi-volume work published in the late 1880's says, "The most striking point in the eschatology of the ante-Nicene age [before the council of Nicea] is the prominent chiliasm, or millennialism, that is the belief of a visible reign of Christ in glory on earth with the risen saints for a thousand years, before the general resurrection and judgment." Dr. Schaff goes on by saying, "The historical evidence indicates that chiliasm (pre-millennialism, as it is known today) was the predominant belief in the church of the first three centuries."
The prevalence of Pre-Millennialism in the earliest centuries of the Church is a discomforting truth to those who reject the view, but the facts of this are conclusive. Ken Gentry, a Reformed theologian, associated with the Reformed Presbyterian Church is a major opponent of the Pre-Millennialism view. In fact, he is an advocate of Orthodox & Reformed Preterism. Preterism has grown its following over the past twenty-five years, and positionally has argued that all Biblical prophecy has been fulfilled by 70 AD. Note this fact, a major error by Preterists. Preterists still err in their understanding of how Jesus saw Himself, particularly missing the point when He addressed the congregation at the synagogue in Nazareth in Luke 4:16-20. He did not read the entire portion of Isaiah 61 given to Him that included the day of God's vengeance that the Messiah would fulfill. They [Preterists] expected the Messiah to fulfill both portions in His coming but Jesus knew of His two comings. Their timing was off and so is the case of present-day Preterists. In a number of anti-Pre-Millennial web sites, these folks argue futilely that Israel is irrelevant today in God's plan. They fully embrace "Replacement" Theology. Many of the Preterists view have embraced a mixture of "British-Israelism" and "Replacement" Theology where Israel has been replaced by the Church. That view is nothing more than a distortion of the Biblical text which morphed out of the roots of Allegorical interpretation and Spiritualizing of Scripture beginning with the Roman Catholic Saint Augustine around the 350 AD era. I did several posts last year on the errors of "British-Israelism" and "Replacement" Theology.
The early Christians understood the importance of Israel in the plan of God. God would not forsake His covenant, and though the Gentiles had been grafted in to the natural branch, the Jew still gave life to the Gentiles and, in the words of Paul, "All Israel will be saved." When Paul gave admonition to the Corinthians, he reminded them that the word of the Lord did not start with them; it came from Jerusalem. It was in Jerusalem that the apostolic word came and judgment was given in Acts 15.
What was the reason that the Christians in Alexandria, and those infected by them, departed from Pre-Millennialism whereas others from Asia Minor, and those impacted by them, remained Pre-Millennialism. This question has plagued the Church today, and furthermore, has been instrumental in division of the Church today.
The reason was the Apostle John himself, but too detailed of a topic to discuss here in full. The Church for centuries remained true to the Scriptures as the apostolic Word, and it remained true to the Pre-Millennial understanding of eschatology, but when its eyes strayed to philosophies contrary to Scripture, as well as social and cultural events and changes, it strayed to the Gnostics of the Alexandrian school in Egypt.
The matter of philosophy was of such a concern that we know that the Apostle Paul addressed the issue in Colossians 2:8, "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ." The mention here of philosophy, (Greek - "philosophia"), a feminine noun, occurs in the Bible but this ONE time. It is made up of two words which means "love of wisdom". Back in the early 1990's there was an inter-denominational women's movement, called the "Sophia movement" that was inter-denominational and "goddess" worship oriented. It is a branch of the "Theosophical Society" with an emphasis on Gnostic or so-called "hidden" mystical knowledge supposedly within the Bible. I have a daughter-in-law that is working on her RN Degree at a Roman Catholic college and was looking for an elective to fill out her final year of her BS Degree program in nursing. The school offers a course on Gnosticism and she happened to ask me what it meant and what I thought about her taking the course. I explained it to her and how that fit into the school's program on Jesuit mystical theology and the "Contemplative Movement". The school is big on the "Contemplative Prayer and Spiritual Formation" movement which originated with the co-founders of the Jesuits, which has been infiltrating many denominations and churches today.
The fact that the Church was influenced by the Greek and Roman schools of philosophy through Augustine in the late fourth-century and the Gnostics of Alexandria were instrumental in the great divide that began to overpower traditional Pre-Millennialism. Roman Catholicism influenced by philosophy and the Gnostic movement was usurped by the Jesuits in the1540's period and has remained staunchly in control of the Roman Catholic theology today. Critics of the Pre-Millennial Pre-Tribulation Rapture are quick to state that the early Church was Amillennial (no millennium and no rapture) without ever explaining why this divide existed in the first place. We have here a classic example of where Satan through vain deceit did exactly what Paul warned the believers at Colossae to avoid.
This segment has taken us back to the first and second-century Christian Church in Asia Minor. The proof that the early Christian community was Pre-Millennial and Pre-Tribulation has been determined by historical evidence and early Church leaders and their writings. I have named 16 Pre-Millennial scholars above, church leaders, bishops, for which we have documents written by or attributed to those named church leaders. Furthermore, we have the statement by Dr. Philip Schaff, which is an extremely important statement by someone who personally did not ascribe to Pre-Millennialism. Celebrity pastor/writer Carl Gallup has intentionally misrepresented some of the Early Church Fathers or dismissed and disregarded the existence of Pre-Millennial Church leaders when he claims the early Church Fathers were Amillennial (meaning no millennium) in their eschatology. That is simply not the case. Revelation 20 states six times there will be a 1,000 year period following the Rapture.
Keep the point of this study clear in your memory: The Pre-Tribulation Rapture is not a late 19th century-church belief, it was an early belief doctrine of the first-century church, and as we will see, it originated with the Apostle Paul, and most likely was personally revealed by God to Paul. It never began with Margaret MacDonald or John Nelson Darby. Those who teach to the contrary about Margaret MacDonald or John Nelson Darby are either ignorant of the facts and history or simply lie in Satan's choir. Satan hates this doctrine more than anything else because it challenges us to be awake, alert, and at work for the Lord. Roman Catholicism despises the Dispensational and Pre-Millennial teachings. Even the present pope, Francis has made at least twice statements of repudiation on Bible Fundamentalism and a group of ranking cardinals have stated that Jesus wasn't coming back anytime soon!
As part of the confusion and misinformation propagated is the accusations that the Jesuits originated the Pre-Tribulation doctrine. Again, this is another one of those strawman arguments designed to cast dispersions on the Pre-Tribulation belief. I discussed last year the story out there that a Jesuit created the Pre-Tribulation teaching, and I also pointed out that it was another Jesuit about the same time who was instrumental in creating the doctrine of Preterism. A number of sites state that the Jesuits were the originator of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture. Unfortunately, those same sites that make those claims are only partially true and a half-truth is still a lie.
While the Roman Catholic Church has been accused of creating the doctrine of Preterism and the doctrine of Futurism, proponents of these teachings seem to ignore what the first-century Church believed, such names as I have noted earlier in this post. I hate to think how my seminary professors would have graded my papers had I limited my research to nothing before the 1500's and not worked backward to the day of the Church's beginning.
In a short summation below, I will discuss the key names of the Jesuits seeking to dethrone the Protestant Reformation in the Roman church. Further down the road, if time permits, I will provide a much more detailed post on how the Jesuits were seeking to undermine the Reformation, in a Counter-Reformation movement as part of the plan to restore Rome to the position of both 'spiritual and temporal' power, thus signified in the Pope's 'Coat of Arms', in the form of the "crossed keys".
The first individual, the one most often credited for creating the Pre-Tribulation Doctrine was a Spanish Jesuit theologian, Francisco Ribera (1537-1591). In 1585 he wrote a lengthy commentary on the book of Revelation. Interestingly, he took the prophecy of Daniel's 70 Weeks, specifically Daniel 9:25, and made the connection with the 70th week as being the last "seven" year period of the Tribulation; he divided the "seven" year final week of Daniel's 70th week into two equal periods of 3-1/2 years. As a Pre-Tribulation advocate we would not find any conflict with his construct interpretation. Perhaps he was more Pre-Millennial than he let on. His purpose we are told was to apply it to a future Antichrist, and thus avoiding an application to the Papacy. There is no question as to the practice of Jesuits to distract and divert attention elsewhere when it comes to preserving Romanism and its image. This is not to say they touched on an important part of the Pre-Tribulation doctrine or Ribera was correct in his analysis!
The second individual, Robert Bellarmine saved Francisco Ribera's bacon. Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621) was a Roman Catholic cardinal and promoted Francisco Ribera's commentary. Cardinal Bellarmine conducted a series of lectures that were published as 'Polemic Lectures Concerning the Disputed Points of the Christian Belief Against Heretics of This Time'. A long title for attacking Protestant Fundamentalists! Where I once lived in the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh, there is a Catholic school and church in East McKeesport, PA, called 'Saint Roberts', named after Cardinal Bellarmine. He became a defender of the Catholic faith and his lectures became the primary source for defending the Roman Catholic faith. Years ago, I had a chance to obtain a copy of one of the lectures when attending a wedding of a family relative at the church.
The third individual, Luis de Alcasar (1554-1613) wrote a book in 1604 and published in 1614, a year follow his death, entitled, 'Investigation of the Hidden Sense of the Apocalypse'. Alcasar applied the New Jerusalem to the Roman Catholic Church. Alcasar is credited with the creation of the doctrine of Preterism, discussed above, which means all prophecy was fulfilled in or before 70 AD. It is a popular teaching that has gained adherents and grown significantly just in the past twenty-five years. Alcasar attempted to do the opposite of what Francisco Ribera, to take the focus off of Rome being the Antichrist system. His approach was creative in many ways. He contended that the Apocalypse described the twofold war of the church in the early centuries - one with the Jewish synagogue, and the other with paganism - resulting in victory over both adversaries. Not withstanding the fact that Roman Catholicism under Constantine appropriated so much of paganism into the religious system, that it became nothing like the early Christian Church before the blending of Christianity with paganism, it is absolutely puzzling as to how Alcasar was so successful in fooling the public at large.
In essence the Roman Catholic or the Jesuits produced two interpretations of end-time prophecy that were polar opposites of each other. I will quote a SDA scholar here, who offers an insight worthy of consideration. I differ greatly with SDA theology; however, the Papacy was one of and still remains the greatest enemies to the SDA community and it has enlarged the scope of Papacy studies, something that orthodox Protestants have sacrificed as it has surrendered to ecumenism, and beguiled by Rome's courting of "the lost brethren". Walter Veith, in his book, 'Truth Matters', says, "To counter the stand of the Reformers, the Catholic Church launched the counter-reformation spearheaded by the Jesuit Order. The doctrines of Preterism and Futurism, published by Alcasar and Ribero, to Jesuit priests, in 1585, redefined the reformation position on the Antichrist and shifted the emphasis away from the papacy to the Greek king Antiocus Epiphanus IV and to some tyrant who would persecute the Jews some time in the future." Professor Veith made the observation that by accepting these alternative approaches to Biblical prophecy, "The Protestant world saw in it an opportunity to cease hostilities with Rome." The issue of the Jesuit "Counter-Reformation" is a subject that few scholars focus on these days, but the Jesuits, skilled as they are, continue to work feverishly to promote both theological positions as they maneuver and court the Protestant "Lost Brethren". When the 'Peace of Augsburg' was concluded in 1555 between the Holy Roman Emperor and the cities and principalities, it recognized the spread of the Protestant Reformation in Germany and adjoining lands, but it did not cease to do everything possible to set their sights on one day restoring the Papacy to the throne that made and broke kings.
The point to take away from this post is that while the Jesuits may be blamed or credited, depending on which side of the fence you stand, the Doctrines of Preterism and Futurism [a form of Dispensationalism], abundant evidence exists to support my contention that Pre-Tribulation roots existed and were deeply rooted in the first-century Christian Church. Dr. Larry Crutchfield says, "Many of them, especially in the first century, did indeed make explicit statements which indicated a belief in the imminent return of Jesus Christ."
In summation, with few exceptions, the Pre-Millennial fathers of the early Church believed that they were living in the last times. Thus they looked daily for the Lord's return. Even most of those who looked for Antichrist's appearance prior to the Second Advent, saw that event as occurring suddenly and just as suddenly being followed by the rescue and rapture of the saints by Christ. This belief in the imminent return of Christ within the context of ongoing persecution has prompted many to broadly label the views of the earliest fathers as imminent intratribulationism. Certainly the drought brought by Alexandrian Allegoricalism and later by Augustine, extinguished the light of Pre-Tribulationism as the men closest to the original disciples and the first two generations passed on, and Rome tightened the grip on interpreting Scripture through Allegoricalism and Spiritualizing the Scriptures. Catholic amillennialism reigned supreme to the present, even in most Protestant mainline denominations.
Historian Dr. Kurt Aland, now passed on, also saw the early church's imminent expectation of the Lord's return. I quote Dr. Aland, "Up until the middle of the second century, and even later, Christians did not live in and for the present, but they lived in and for the future; and this was in such a way that the future flowed into the present, that future and present became one - a future which obviously stood under the Lord's presence. It was the confident expectation of the first generations that the end of the world was not only near, but that it had really already come. It was the definite conviction not only of Paul, but of all Christians of that time, that they themselves would experience the return of the Lord."
Keep listening for the trumpet call, be alert, awake and at work as we occupy till Christ Jesus comes for His Bride. The Pre-Tribulation, Pre-Millennial Rapture is neither a lie nor is it dead as some proclaim.