Jovial (31 May 2015)
"Joseph Mede and the Pre-Trib Rapture from a 1629 letter"


About 200 years before Darby, Joseph Mede, a professor at Cambridge University, presented the pre-trib rapture as one of several theories he considered possible.  He may have presented the earliest pre-trib theory that can be quoted as coming from a source post-tribbers would value as a source since the Dolcino text isn't likely to change minds.

Joseph Mede (1586 1639) published  Clavis Apocalypse or Key of Revelation in 1627, and had other End Times books published (Book of Daniel and The Apostasy of Latter Times), mostly after he diedHis ideas influenced the next generation of Protestants and he rethought the timing of Revelations.  His work is interesting to read and his style makes it easy to enjoy his ideas even when you disagree with him.

He had some unusual ideas about the timing of various events. 

  • He may have been one of the earliest to suggest that the New Heaven and New Earth would happen AT Armageddon, not AFTER the 1000 years, as a literal reading of Revelation suggests.  His theory was that Yeshua was too holy to set foot on our corrupted world, and it needed to be regenerated before He could do that.  I would disagree with him on that issue, but the logic behind this stuck and many people after Mede began saying the same thing.  This caused a lot of people to discard some of the plain sense of Chronology to Revelation and interpret the timing more freely. 
  • He suggested that perhaps only MARTYRS would be raised in the first resurrection before the 1000 years began. (See Clavis Apocalypse in the chapter on the Woman in the Wilderness as well as his letter about the 1000 years Regnum Sanctorum)
  • He suggested that the war of Gog in Ezek 38 and Revelations was the same war, despite timing problems with equating them.
  • He suggested in his letter that the Rapture may not happen until after the 1000 year reign of Messiah on earth.

Mede commented extensively on the End Times in over 458 pages in the English translation of his originally Latin book, but said nothing for or against a Pre-Trib Rapture.  At first I thought the omission must be evidence of a post-trib philosophy, but I later learned that this omission may have had more to do with his uncertainty about when the timing of the Rapture. 

Joseph Mede wrote another letter in which he discussed 4 arguments for 3 possible timings of the Rapture.  I am not sure which he believed and I think he was at least partly uncertain.  2 years after he published his book (Clavis Apocalypse), a man named Sam Meddus wrote him a letter asking him this question, "if there shall be a 1000 years reign on earth, what need they be caught up in the air, and how ever be with the Lord from thenceforth, if they and their posterity after them continue for the space of a 1000 years subject to mortality?"

Mede responded by saying, 

"I will therefore, as well as I can, propound what I had before conceived might be answered to such an Objection..." 
(Mr. Mede's Answer to the Tenth Quaere, about the 1000 years Regnum Sanctorum)

There is some uncertainty in his words, and after he proposes MULTIPLE THEORIES, without really seeming certain which was the right answer.  He responds by describing;

  • Why the Rapture might happen AFTER the Millenium, and AFTER the 2nd Resurrection at the end of the 1000 year reign of Messiah and gives two different arguments on this timing. 
  • Why the Rapture might happen at the end of the tribulation, when Yeshua returns.
  • Why the Rapture might happen before the tribulation period.

Why did he present multiple theories?  That is a hard to understand to many people in our modern times, since we tend to be very opinionated either for one position or another, with little room for uncertainty.  But if you teach every theory that could be true, you've taught the truth somewhere in there, you just don't know which one it is.  And with a warning in Revelation like,

if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city (Rev 22:19)

Why be narrow mindedly focused on teaching one and only one possible outcome?  Perhaps he did favor one of these theories over another, but was respectful of the warning in Rev 22:19 not to teach something erroneous and thus lose a share of the tree of life.  Such a mindet might explain why he'd write a book with 400-500 pages and not say a thing about the timing of the rapture.

The Mishnah was written like this, being an entire book devoted to exploring all POSSIBLE explanations for a variety of issues, rather than simply explaining one right answer for every question.  The gemara on the other hand was sometimes exploratory, but less so, and more often explainatory than exploratory.  A common Jewish joke is that anytime you get 2 Jews together, you have at least 3 opinions.  Maybe Mede gets a badge as an honorary Jew!!!  But perhaps the concept of exploring all possible answers was a lot more common in more ancient times than it is in our modern times.

One problem with the concept that He is "too holy" to set foot on corruptible ground is that He is MOST HOLY.  In Torah, when something that is holy makes contact with something unholy, what is holy becomes unholy.  But when something MOST HOLY makes contact with something profane or unholy, that which is profane becomes HOLY.  So if His feet make contact with the soil, it becomes holy.  This is why the woman with the issue of blood knew that if she touched Him, she'd be healed.  It was because she believed He was MOST HOLY, and would thereby cleanse her, not her defile Him.

 

Here is the rest of his response....

"

  • 1. Therefore, It is not needful that the Resurrection of those which slept in Christ,and the Rapture of those which shall be left alive together with them into the Aire, should be at one and the same time: For the words and first and then or afterwards, may admit a great distance of time, as 1 Cor. 15. 23. Every one (or, all mankind) shall rise in their order, Christ the first-fruits (that is, first,) afterwards they that are Christ's, at his coming. Here, afterwards, notes a distance of time of above a thousand and a half of years, as we find by experience...."

By "thousand and a half of years" (1,000 + 500 = 1,500 years) he is alluding to the passage of about 1600 years from the death of Messiah (circa 30 AD) to the time of his writing (1629 AD).  He is essentially trying to say that if Messiah if the firstfruits, and there was 1600+ years between Him and the next of the harvest, maybe there's a long time between the resurrection and the rapture too.  He goes on to say...

  •  Suppose therefore this Rapture of the Saints into the Aire be to translate them to Heaven; yet it might be construed thus, The dead in Christ (that is, for Christ, namely, the Martyrs) shall rise first; afterwards, (viz. a thousand years after) we which are alive and remain shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, and meet the Lord in the Aire, and so (from thenceforth) we shall ever be with the Lord. Thus Tertullian seems to understand it, who interprets, or as it is in ver. 14. ,of Martyrs; namely, such as die propter Christum, for Christ, by means of Christ, through Christ, for Christ's sake; taking as noting the cause or means of their death....
  • "2. If thus to restrain, or seem not so fully to answer the Apostle's scope and intention, which seems to be a general consolation to all that die in the faith, a fruition of Christ: then may we give it the largest sense, and yet say, That it is not needful that the Resurrection of those which died in Christ should be all at once or altogether; but the Martyrs first, in the First resurrection; then (after an appointed time) the rest of the dead in the Last resurrection; afterward,when the Resurrection shall be thus compleat, those which remain alive at Christ's coming shall together with those which are risen be caught up into the clouds, to meet the Lord in the Aire, and from thenceforth be eternally with him. And so the reason why those which Christ found alive at his coming were not instantly translated should be in part, that they might not prevent the dead, but be consummate with them."

So there's his 2 post-Millenial arguments.  He then continues with a post-trib argument;

  • "

    3. Both these Interpretations suppose the Rapture of the Saints into the Clouds to be for their present translation into Heaven. But suppose that be not the meaning of it; for the words, if we weigh them well, seem to imply it to be for another end, namely, To do honour unto their Lord and King at his return, and to attend upon him when he comes to judge the World: Those (saith the Text) which sleep in Iesus, will God bring with him; he saith not, carry away with him. Again, They and those which are alive shall be caught up together in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the Aire; to meet the Lord's coming hither to Iudgment; not to follow him returning hence, the Judgment being finished. Besides, it is to be noted, that although in the Hebrew notion the Aire be comprehended under the name of Heaven, yet would not the Apostle here use the word Heaven, but the word [Aire,] as it were to avoid the ambiguity, lest we might interpret it of our translation into Heaven.

    If this be the meaning, then are those words [We shall ever be with the Lord] thus to be interpreted; After this our gathering together unto Christ at his coming, (so the Apostle calls this Rapture, 2 Thess. 2. 1.) we shall from henceforth never lose his presence, but always enjoy it..."

There's more to this, and you can read the whole thing at http://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/eebo/A50522.0001.001/1:72?rgn=div1;view=fulltext .  After this he gives his pre-trib argument;

"4. I will add this more, namely, what may be conceived to be the cause of this Rapture of the Saints on high to meet the Lord in the Clouds, rather than to wait his coming to the Earth. What if it be, that they may be preserved during the Conflagration of the earth and the works thereof, 2 Pet. 3. 10. that as Noah and his family were preserved from the Deluge by being lift up above the waters in the Ark; so should the Saints at the Conflagration be lift up in the Clouds unto their Ark, Christ, to be preserved there from the deluge of fire, wherein the wicked shall be consumed? "

Well, he was an open minded guy.  Or an uncertain guy.  "Conflagration" here means "tribulation period".

I must say that as I was reading Mede's work, I thought, "This guy thinks like me."  He has a flare for interpreting symbolism, and was a strong linguist, and presents multiple competing ideas at the same time.  We even share nearly the same name, with the same first name, and his last name means "measure" while mine means "much."  Key of Revelation is definitely a worthwhile read.

Shalom,

Joe