The Doctrinal History of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture
Icrease & Cotton Mather
The concept of the rapture, in connection with premillennialism, was expressed by the 17th-century American Puritan father and son Increase Mather and Cotton Mather. They held to the idea that believers would be caught up in the air, followed by judgments on the Earth, and then the millennium.
Phillip Doddridge & John Gill
The term rapture was used by Philip Doddridge and John Gill in their New Testament commentaries, with the idea that believers would be caught up prior to judgment on the Earth and Jesus' second coming.
Morgan Edwards, Emanuel Lacunza (a Catholic Priest) & John Nelson Darby
There exists at least one 18th century and two 19th century pre-tribulation references: in an essay published in 1788 in Philadelphia by the Baptist Morgan Edwards which articulated the concept of a pre-tribulation rapture, in the writings of Catholic priest Emmanuel Lacunza in 1812, and by John Nelson Darby in 1827. However, both the book published in 1788 and the writings of Lacunza have opposing views regarding their interpretations.
Emmanuel Lacunza (a Jesuit Priest)
Emmanuel Lacunza (1731–1801), a Jesuit priest, (under the pseudonym Juan Josafat Ben Ezra) wrote an apocalyptic work entitled La venida del Mesías en gloria y majestad (The Coming of the Messiah in Glory and Majesty). The book appeared first in 1811, 10 years after his death.
In 1827, it was translated into English by the Scottish minister Edward Irving.
Dr. Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, John Darby & Edward Irving
Dr. Samuel Prideaux Tregelles (1813-1875), a prominent English theologian and biblical scholar, wrote a pamphlet in 1866 tracing the concept of the rapture through the works of John Darby back to Edward Irving.
Although not using the term "rapture", the idea was more fully developed by Edward Irving (1792–1834).
In ? (first volume published in 1706) Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry's commentary on the whole Bible : Complete and unabridged in one volume. Peabody: Hendrickson. Matthew Henry used the term in his commentary of 1 Thessalonians 4.
Eward Irving, James Henthorn Todd, Samuel Roffey Maitland & Francisco Ribera
Edward Irving directed his attention to the study of prophecy and eventually accepted the one-man Antichrist idea of James Henthorn Todd, Samuel Roffey Maitland,Robert Bellarmine, and Francisco Ribera, yet he went a step further.
Edward Irving began to teach the idea of a two-phase return of Christ, the first phase being a secret rapture prior to the rise of the Antichrist.
According to Edward Irving, “There are three gatherings: – First, of the first-fruits of the harvest, the wise virgins who follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth; next, the abundant harvest gathered afterwards by God; and lastly, the assembling of the wicked for punishment.”
John Nelson Darby
John Nelson Darby first proposed and popularized the pre-tribulation rapture in 1827. This view was accepted among many other Plymouth Brethren movements in England.
John Darby and other prominent Brethren were part of the Brethren Movement which impacted American Christianity, especially with movements and teachings associated with Christian eschatology and fundamentalism, primarily through their writings.
William Eugene Blackstone
Influences included the Bible Conference Movement, starting in 1878 with the Niagara Bible Conference. These conferences, which were initially inclusive of historicist and futurist premillennialism, led to an increasing acceptance of futurist premillennial views and the pre-tribulation rapture especially among Presbyterian, Baptist and Congregational members. Popular books also contributed to acceptance of the pre-tribulation rapture, including William Eugene Blackstone's book Jesus is Coming published in 1878 and which sold more than 1.3 million copies and the Scofield Reference Bible, published in 1909 and 1919 and revised in 1967.
The Rapture Theory Began to Get Accepted by Churches
The early original Christian church, as well as the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox churches, the Anglican Communion and many Protestant Calvinist denominations, have no tradition of a preliminary return of Christ and reject the doctrine.
The Orthodox Church Rejected it
The Orthodox Church, for example, rejects it because the Protestant doctrine of the rapture depends on a millennial interpretation of prophetic scriptures, rather than an amillennial or postmillennial fashion.
Clement, Origen & Augustine
Some believe the doctrine of amillennialism originated with Alexandrian scholars such as Clement and Origen and later became Catholic dogma through Augustine.
Some maintain that the earliest known extra-Biblical reference to the pre-tribulation rapture is from a 7th-century tract known as the Apocalypse of Pseudo-Ephraem the Syrian, which says, "For all the saints and Elect of God are gathered, prior to the tribulation that is to come, and are taken to the Lord lest they see the confusion that is to overwhelm the world because of our sins. However, the interpretation of this writing as supporting a pre-tribulation rapture is debated because he holds no biblical truths.
The rise in belief in the pre-tribulation rapture is often attributed to a 15-year old Scottish-Irish girl named Margaret McDonald (a visionary and follower of Edward Irving), who is said in 1830 to have a vision of the end times which was interpreted as a pre tribulation rapture theory. Her vision was published again in 1861.
In 1957, John Walvoord, a theologian at Dallas Theological Seminary, authored a book, The Rapture Question, that gave theological support to the pre-tribulation rapture; this book eventually sold over 65,000 copies.
In 1958, J. Dwight Pentecost authored another book supporting the pre-tribulation rapture, Things to Come: A Study in Biblical Eschatology, which sold 215,000 copies.
During the 1970s, belief in the rapture became popular in wider circles, in part due to the books of Hal Lindsey, including The Late Great Planet Earth, which has reportedly sold between 15 million and 35 million copies, and the movie A Thief in the Night, which based its title on the scriptural reference 1 Thessalonians 5:2. Lindsey proclaimed that the rapture was imminent, based on world conditions at the time. The Cold War figured prominently in his predictions of impending Armageddon. Other aspects of 1970s global politics were seen as having been predicted in the Bible. Lindsey suggested, for example, that the seven-headed beast with ten horns, cited in the Book of Revelation, was the European Economic Community, a forebear of the European Union, which between 1981 and 1986 had ten member states; it now has 27 member states.
In 1995, the doctrine of the pre-tribulation rapture was further popularized by Tim LaHaye's Left Behind series of books, which sold tens of millions of copies and were made into several movies.
The doctrine of the rapture continues to be an important issue of many churches/ Christians from around the world. But as we can see clearly that this view of a pre tribulation "rapture" is based on tracts, commentaries, books, visions of men/women and not from the Word of God.