Where did the rapture doctrine come from and is it Biblical? The “Rapture” theory is one of the most recent doctrines to have developed in modern Christianity. It was developed around the nineteenth century and has become exceedingly popular in the past 50 years.
There are a number of variations about the rapture, such as pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation, or post-tribulation, but the general idea is that all Christians will be taken up to heaven at some point during the last days.
It is sometimes referred to as the “secret rapture” because they believe it will come suddenly and without warning. They teach that the rapture could happen at any moment, so we must always be ready because no one knows the day or the hour.
Many of the recent books and movies about the rapture convey an almost comical situation in which piles of clothes are left on chairs where people once sat, vehicles are suddenly abandoned while driving down the road, and everyone on earth (who are “Left Behind”) are overcome with confusion and fear.
So, where did the rapture doctrine come from?
There is no documented evidence of anyone teaching the rapture prior to the late 18th century. That means for the first seventeen hundred years of Christianity no one was teaching the rapture. No one!
The first known mention was in an essay published in 1788 by Morgan Edwards, and the next by a Jesuit priest named Manuel Lacunza in 1811. Then in 1827, John Nelson Darby put forth one of the most noteworthy works regarding the rapture, which caused the theory to circulate among the masses. As a result, Darby is believed by many to be the one who introduced the rapture concept, since there were no major Christian teachings about it prior to him. He was not the first to mention it, but Darby was definitely the one who made it popular.
Darby is also called the “father of dispensationalism” because he was so instrumental in spreading the belief that God changes the rules and the way He interacts with people during different periods of time.
Darby taught that the prophetic timetable had been paused at the founding of the church and that the unfulfilled Biblical prophecies will not take place until after the Rapture of the church. He also taught that the Rapture would be a “secret” catching away that could happen at any moment without any signs or warnings.
By the late nineteenth century, preachers such as C. I. Scofield began teaching the Rapture theory along with dispensationalism and increasing its popularity among protestant churches worldwide. Scofield also published his own translation of the Bible called the “Scofield Reference Bible”, which he used to teach the Rapture theory in his footnotes. With over three million copies printed in the first fifty years, this popular Bible was widely distributed in both the United States and England. Many of the preachers who read this Bible accepted its footnotes as authoritative and began teaching the Rapture theory in their own churches. This is when the rapture really became a common belief among protestants.
It became even more popular in the 1970s when Hal Lindsey wrote “The Late Great Planet Earth“, and was further cemented into Christian doctrine in the 1990s with the “Left Behind” series by Jim Jenkins and Tim LaHaye. The “Left Behind” books were so popular that in 1998 the first four books of the series held the top four slots in the New York Times best-seller list simultaneously, and the total sales for this series has surpassed over 65 million copies sold.
Obviously, the rapture theory has become very popular among Christians, but popularity is not what determines sound doctrine. Our doctrine must always come from the Word of God alone and not the imaginations of men.
So, be sure to watch part two as we test the rapture theory against the Word of God to see if the Bible really teaches that believers will be raptured.
- THE RAPTURE IS A LIE