The Secret Rapture
Lorraine Day, M.D.
Many Christians believe that Christ's second coming will be in two stages -- first, a secret rapture of the Church at the beginning of a seven year period of tribulation, followed by a visible, triumphant return of Christ to the earth, accompanied by the Church, at the close of the seven year period.
They believe that during this seven year period there will be a great tribulation during which time, God will select and seal 144,000 literal Jews (who are sexually celibate) who will take the Gospel of the Kingdom to the whole world, converting innumerable souls to Christ.
The war of Armageddon, a literal war of nations against literal Israel, which occurs near the end of the seven year period, is brought to a halt by Christ's return with His Church. Then literal Israel accepts the Lord as the Messiah and enters with Him as His covenant people into the 1,000 year (millennial) reign on earth, known as the Kingdom Age.
Christ will rule directly over the earth from the throne of David in Jerusalem, where the typical temple services function again. Those who ultimately reject Christ's rule are eventually judged and destroyed at the end of the Millennium. The new believers will then receive immortality and eternity will begin.
That is the doctrine of the Secret Rapture.
Is this doctrine Biblical?
Which texts support it?
Are there other texts that deny this doctrine?
How long has this doctrine been prevalent in Christianity?
How did it begin, and who was/is the primary promoter of it?
In early 1830, Margaret McDonald, a 15 year old Scottish Girl had visions that included a Secret Rapture of believers before the appearance of the Antichrist. Edward Irving (1792-1834) her Scottish Presbyterian pastor and forerunner of the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements, attended prophecy conferences that began in Dublin Ireland in that same year, 1830, at Powerscourt Castle. There he promoted the doctrine of the Secret Rapture.
John Nelson Darby (1800-1882), a minister of the Church of Ireland, later became a member of the Plymouth Brethren and also promoted a Secret Rapture after attending the same Powerscourt Bible Prophecy meeting in 1830 where he learned of Margaret McDonald's vision. He visited Margaret McDonald at her home in Port Glasgow, Scotland, then later visited America several times where his Secret Rapture theology was quite well accepted.
The writings of John Darby greatly influenced Cyrus Scofield (1843-1921) who incorporated this doctrine in the notes of his Scofield Reference Bible, first published by Oxford University Press in 1909. One million copies were printed by 1930, firmly establishing this Futurist interpretation in the Bible schools and denominations of the United States in the 20th Century.
Did this Secret Rapture doctrine really start with Margaret McDonald, John Darby and Cyrus Scofield, or did it originate much earlier?
Historical evidence shows that it originated much earlier.
Before and during the Protestant Reformation, the Reformers embraced the "Historical" interpretation of the Bible, where the antichrist was clearly seen as a SYSTEM of apostasy and persecution rather than a single individual. John spoke of antichrist that "shall come" but he added that "even now are there MANY antichrists." 1 John 2:18
So we know that there are, and/or have been, MANY antichrists, NOT just one, AND that the system of antichrist was operating at the time John was writing, almost 2,000 years ago.
The conclusion of those who studied these prophecies during the Reformation was that there was only one system that fit all the characteristics of the antichrist power: the papacy of the Roman Catholic Church. Its characteristics included the following:
5) It would rule "over many nations, people and tongues." In other words, it would be a universal world governing body (Rev 13:7)
6) It would claim authority over all kings (Rev 17:18)
3) Its leaders would make great and blasphemous claims against God. (Rev 13:1,6)
4) It would claim it had the power to change "times and laws." (Dan 7:25)
5) It would be a "mother" harlot church with apostate daughters coming from her. (Rev 17:5)
6) It would be an apostate church that would make all nations drink of her apostasy. (Rev 14:8)
7) It would persecute the saints of Jesus Christ. (Rev 13:7)
8) It would rule for 1260 years (according to the "day-for-a-year" prophecy concept, adopted by many denominations) following the fall of pagan Rome and then would suffer what would appear to be a "deadly wound." (Rev 11:2,3; Rev 13:3)
9) It would be revived after the deadly wound, and the whole world would wonder at its revival.
It is not surprising that the Catholic Church was so violently opposed to the Bible being available for everyone to read for themselves. To control what they considered a heretical doctrine, the Catholic Church called for a special meeting, known as the Fifth Lateran Council (1512-1517), which FORBADE anyone to publish a book without prior censorship. It also prohibited anyone from preaching on the subject of antichrist! The leaders of the Council and their governing body, the Catholic Church, also attempted to ban or burn all the Bibles, heretical books, and the heretics that owned or preached from them.
One major characteristic identifying the antichrist power was this 1260 days prophecy (interpreted as 1260 prophetic years) of persecution of the "saints", which appeared to be fulfilled in the Catholic Church's persecution of Christians throughout the dark ages, beginning in 538 A.D., after the fall of the pagan Roman empire, and extending to 1798, when the Pope was taken prisoner by Napoleon (considered by some to be the "deadly wound").
In order to divert attention AWAY from the Catholic Church as the antichrist power, a new interpretation would have to be found for this twelve century papal rule of the middle ages.
This was done by rejecting the "Historical" interpretation, and instead accepting the "Futurist" interpretation proposed by a Jesuit doctor of theology, Francisco Ribera (1537-1591). In his book, entitled In Sacrum Beati Ioannis Apostoli, & Evangelistiae Apocalypsin Commentarij, he postulated that the 1260 day prophecy (Rev 12:6) (42 months (Rev 11:2, 13:5), or time, times and half a time (Rev 12:14) - 3 1/2 times) were not 1260 years, but a literal 3 1/2 years, or 1260 actual days, and therefore NONE of the book of Revelation had any application to the middle ages or the papacy. It applied to a future period just prior to the Second Coming of Christ, hence it was called "Futurism" or the "Futurist" interpretation.
Manuel De Lacunza (1731-1801), a Jesuit priest from Chile, also advocated futurism in his manuscript entitled La Venida del Mesias en Gloria y Magestad ("The Coming of the Messiah in Glory and Majesty"). Writing under the assumed name of Juan Josafa (Rabbi) Ben-Ezra, Lacunza hoped to obscure the fact that he was a Catholic, in order to give his book better acceptance in Protestantism.
To make the prophecy fit its new interpretation, the 70 Weeks prophecy of Dan 9:24-27, beginning in 457 B.C. with the decree to rebuild Jerusalem (Ezra 7:1-27) had to develop a "gap." Arbitrarily, the 70th week (7 days = 7 years) of Daniel's prophecy is detached from its context and placed at the end of the age, 2000 years later. This "week" will, according to its proponents, constitute the "seven year tribulation period," prior to which the Secret Rapture will occur.
This "gap" theory states that all fulfillment of this prophecy is suspended until the Christian era is over. Then the last week of the 70 weeks prophecy becomes operative again, constituting the 7 year (a day is a year in prophecy*) period of tribulation. The "Rapturists" teach that the first sixty nine weeks of this seventy-week prophecy (490 years) reached from 457 B.C. to 27 A.D., the year that Christ began His ministry.
The "Historical" view teaches that the 70 weeks prophecy of Daniel 9 began in 457 B.C. and ended when Stephen was stoned to death in 34 A.D. It was at that time that the gospel went to the "Gentiles" and the "Jewish" people lost their place as those "Chosen" to spread God's message to the world. They had rejected Christ by calling for His crucifixion in the "middle of the week," in 31 A.D. and then rejected Christ's followers by stoning Stephen 3 1/2 years later, at the end of the 70th week (34 A.D.).
*(1 day in prophecy = 1 year: Numbers 14:34; Ezekiel 4:6)
Which Bible texts are used in support of this Secret Rapture Theory,?
(also known as the Pre-tribulation Rapture)
Even though these texts are used to support the Secret Rapture Theory, if one reads the entire passage, or in some cases just the complete verse, it is clear that they do NOT support this theory.
A) 2 Peter 3:10-12 "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night. . ."
This may suggest a secret event. However there's MORE. The last part of this verse says ". . . in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up."
Clearly this is NOT a secret event.
"Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?"
The point of the example of Jesus coming as a "thief in the night" is NOT that it will be a secret event, but that He will come at a time when nearly everyone will NOT be expecting Him. The warning to the believers is that we should constantly be holy in our conduct because Jesus could come when we least expect Him.
B) Luke 12: 39-40 "And this know, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have allowed his house to be broken into.
"Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not."
Again, the warning is to be ready at all times, because Jesus will come at a time when we aren't expecting Him. This passage does NOT imply that His coming will be secret.
C) 1 Thess 5:2,4 "For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the nightŠ
But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.
Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be self-controlled."
Again, the message here is NOT that Jesus' coming will be secret, but that it will occur at a time when most will not expect it, therefore we must WATCH!
D) Revelation 16:15 "Behold I come as a thief. Blessed is he that WATCHETH, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame."
Again, the message is NOT that Jesus' coming will be secret, but that most will not be expecting it, therefore we must WATCH! "Garments" refers to our righteousness, (Zechariah 3:4,5) "lest he walk naked" (without righteousness).
E) Matt 24:40-42 "Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. WATCH ye therefore; for ye know NOT what hour your Lord doth come."
The warning again is that His coming will be unexpected, NOT that His coming will be secret.
F) Luke 21:34 "And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be weighed down with carousing and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares."
We are told that if we watch and live righteously, we will NOT be caught unaware. Only the wicked will be caught unaware.
G) Revelation 3:3 ". . . if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you."
H) Revelation 3:10 "Because you have kept my command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth."
We know that those who REFUSE the Mark of the Beast will NOT be affected by the Seven Last Plagues. (Rev 16:2) So the righteous WILL be kept from that hour of trial, the plagues, which shall come upon the whole world. But this does not mean that we will not have go through the time of trouble, nor that we will not be persecuted.
John 17:15 Jesus promised to be with us through our trials, not to remove us from them. Jesus prayed, "I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.
Jesus NEVER promised us that we would escape persecution, in fact, He promised us that we WOULD be persecuted.
John 15:20 "A servant is not greater than his Master. They persecuted Me, they will persecute you."
Texts that DISPROVE the Secret Rapture Theory
1) *** Do God's people live THROUGH the coming tribulation (including the seven last plagues) or are they raptured before the tribulation?"
Revelation 16:12,15: And the sixth angel poured out his vial (the sixth plague) upon the seat of the beast; and they gnawed their tongues for pain. . . Behold I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watches and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame."
Why would Jesus be coming "as a thief" AFTER six plagues are already poured out, if He had already come "as a thief" BEFORE they were poured out?
2) *** No one can enter the (heavenly - see Rev 15:1) temple UNTIL the seven last plagues are completed!
Rev 15:8 ". . . and no man was able to enter into the temple (in heaven - see vs. 1) till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled."
3) *** They persecuted Jesus! They will persecute His followers!
John 15:20 Jesus said "Remember the word that I said unto you. The servant is not greater than his Lord. If they persecuted Me, they WILL also persecute you."
Dan 3:16-28 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had to ENTER the flames (be persecuted) but God was with them THROUGH the persecution.
Ps 96: Ancient Israelites, as a symbol of Christians in the time of the end, were delivered from Egyptian bondage AFTER the plagues, NOT BEFORE, so God's people will be protected THROUGH the plagues and delivered from the hand of the oppressor.
4) *** In this parable that Jesus told, the sheep and the goats are together UNTIL JESUS COMES.
Matt 13:24-30 "When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of glory. . . and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats."
5) *** The Wheat and the Tares grow together until the END - THE HARVEST.
Matt 13:24-30 In the parable of the wheat and tares, Jesus said "Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn."
7) God PROMISES us tribulation in this world.
John 16:33 "In this world you WILL have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
Luke 21:10-12 "Then said He unto them, Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and great earthquakes shall be in various places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven.
"But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for My Name's sake."
Mark 13:9 "But take heed to yourselves; for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten; and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them."
8) Question: Doesn't 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 say that some will go first and others follow?
Answer: No, it teaches that they will all go together.
1 Thess. 4:15-17 "For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall NOT precede (prevent) them which are asleep (in death).
"For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first: (from the graves - the first resurrection).
"Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up TOGETHER WITH THEM IN THE CLOUDS, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we always be with the Lord."
"Parousia" vs "Apokalupsis"
There are two Greek words that are translated "coming" in the Bible: parousia and apokalupsis. The Greek word "parousia" is translated "coming" 22 times, and translated "presence" only 2 times.
Those who believe in a "secret rapture" say that "parousia" refers to the secret "coming" of Jesus in His "presence and that "apokalupsis" refers to the visible, glorious "coming" of Jesus in power, seven years later. In the mid-point of that time, at 3 1/2 years, the antichrist will take charge.
Yet both "parousia" and "apokalupsis" are used to describe the second coming, illustrated by its parallel in the "days of Noah."
Matt 24:37 "As in the days of Noah, so shall also the coming (parousia) of the Son of Man be."
Luke 17:26,30 "As it was in the days of Noah. . . Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed (apokalupsis).
These two texts describe the same event, Noah's flood, but one uses "parousia" and the other uses "apokalupsis" so any distinction as some suggest, is unwarranted.
In 2 Peter 3:12, we read "looking for and hastening the coming (parousia) of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat."
This "coming" (the word - parousia) is used in 2 Thess 2:1-4,8 and says it will NOT happen until AFTER the AntiChrist has set himself up in the temple of God.
Those who believe in the secret rapture teach that it will occur BEFORE the seven year tribulation and BEFORE the Anti-Christ comes to power, which they believe will happen DURING the seven year tribulation. But the following passage says the Antichrist will come BEFORE the "parousia" occurs.
In other words, there is NO pre-tribulation Secret Rapture!
2 Thess 2:1-4, 8 "Now we beseech you, brethren, concerning the coming (parousia) of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto Him, "that you be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ had come. Let no man deceive you by any means: for THAT DAY (the parousia) SHALL NOT COME except there come a falling away FIRST, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.
Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God."
Question: Those who teach the "Secret Rapture" believe in a "seven year tribulation period." Where did they get this doctrine?
Their Answer: Daniel 9:24-27 speaks of a seventy-week prophecy (490 years). "Secret Rapture" believers teach that 69 weeks of this seventy-week prophecy (490 years) reached from 457 BC to 27AD, the year that Christ began His ministry.
They then teach that the last week - the 70th week, doesn't take place for another 2000 years. They place the last week, the 70th week, way down at the end of time, the last 7 years of earth's history - and define it as the tribulation.
NOTHING in the Bible suggests that this prophecy should be broken up in this way. NO OTHER Bible prophecy is broken up like this, with a 2000 year gap!
Our Answer: The 70 weeks (490 years) is a CONTINUOUS prophecy which began in 457 BC and ended in 34 AD, the year Stephen was stoned and the gospel was then taken to the "Gentiles."
Here's how the text reads:
Daniel; 9:24-27 "Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon the holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins (Jesus death on the Cross), and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Holy of Holies.
"Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem (457 BC) unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks and theescore and two weeks ( 7 + 62 = 69 weeks - until the beginning of Jesus' Ministry, His baptism, in 27 AD), the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.
"And after threescore and two weeks (the 62 weeks that followed the first 7 weeks) shall Messiah be cut off (literal translation: "suffer the death penalty"), but not for Himself;. . .
"And He shall confirm the covenant with many for one week; and in the middle of the week He shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation (offering) to cease. . ." (Jesus' death on the Cross occurred in 31 AD, in the "middle of the 70th week," which eliminated the need for the animal sacrifices in the temple). The 70th week ended in 34 AD when Stephen was stoned. The gospel then was taken to the "Gentiles", more properly translated "nations" which is the term the Bible uses for "unbelievers."
Summary: The Bible consistently teaches only ONE return of Christ and it will be a visible, world-wide, noisy event. "For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God. . . and the dead in Christ shall rise first." Christ's coming will be both seen and heard.
An additional part of the Secret Rapture doctrine is that there will be a millennial kingdom set up on the earth when Jesus comes with His church and halts Armageddon. They believe that after the antichrist and his army are destroyed that Israel will accept the Lord as the Messiah and become His covenant people during this one thousand year "kingdom age."
The third temple will have been built and Jesus will personally reign over the nations in their mortal state from the throne of David in Jerusalem. They believe that animal sacrifices will begin again, even though Jesus' death on Calvary did away with them. At the end of the millennium, those who do not accept Christ will be destroyed and eternity will begin.
In our opinion, this interpretation of Scripture is incorrect for the following reasons:
1) The destruction that has occurred on the earth from the seven last plagues (Rev. 16) will make the earth uninhabitable.
2) Because humanity has long ignored God's directive to rest the earth every 7 years, the earth must lay dormant for 1000 years. This millennial period will allow the earth to make up for all the rest it did not receive during the 6000 years since creation.
3) There is an excellent reason why God did not destroy Satan when he first sinned. God is allowing Satan to continue his evil work until he completely destroys the earth. God will not stop Satan even one day short, otherwise Satan would cry "Foul!"
Satan, if he were stopped before completely destroying the earth, would claim that he could have turned things around if he had only been given more time. God will allow all the time necessary for Satan to prove that Satan's way does not work. Only then will Satan, the inhabitants of the world, and the inhabitants of the universe, be totally convinced that God's way is the only way.
This utter destruction of the earth will make it uninhabitable.
4) Satan and his evil angels will be bound to the earth by a "chain" of circumstances. They will be confined to the earth and its atmosphere for the millennium as part of reaping what they have sown, so they will get a full sense of the catastrophic results of their actions. They will have no one to tempt because the righteous will be in heaven, having ascended to meet Jesus in the air, and the wicked will all be dead, awaiting the second resurrection and the judgment (Rev 20:5) after the millennium.
There is not a different plan for the "Jew" and the "Gentile" during the millennium, as many Christians believe. In fact, there is no difference at all between the "Jew " and the "Greek" according to the Bible (Gal 3:28). In fact, there is no such thing AS a "Jew" or a "Gentile" (Please see the study at www.goodnewsaboutgod.com entitled "Who is Israel? Who is the Church?").
God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). He loves everyone the same and He has just ONE plan for ALL!
We believe that the Biblical view is as follows:
There is ONE and ONLY ONE return of Christ, the Second Coming. It will NOT be a secret event. When He comes, every eye will see Him. so it will be a world-wide phenomenon, and it will be a loud, cataclysmic event. This will occur AFTER the tribulation. The righteous dead will be resurrected by Christ and they, with the righteous living, will be caught up in the air to meet the Lord to ascend to heaven for the millennium, regardless of nationality.
Jesus will continue to have His group on the earth, small though it may be, exhibiting HIS character, right up until the very end.
The remaining wicked on earth will be destroyed by the final catastrophic events of the end, a culmination of the devastation of the seven last plagues and the result of Christ's return with His hosts of angels breaking through into our atmosphere.
The wicked will remain dead for the 1000 years and Satan and his evil angels will be confined to this earth for that same period of time.
After the thousand year period is over, Christ and the saints return to earth from heaven, Satan is "loosed" for a short time simultaneous with the resurrection of the wicked dead for the judgment.
To find out what happens next, please see the study: "What Happens at the Judgment?"
Conclusion: The teaching of a Secret Rapture and escape from persecution will be a devastating deception for Christians. Persecution and suffering have always been God's means of strengthening His people and producing strong character.
Even Jesus "learned obedience through suffering." (Heb 5:8) Jesus guarantees that, if we speak His truth boldly, we WILL suffer persecution.
Satan wants to impede and restrain strength and character building in Christians by getting us focused on ESCAPING trouble and persecution instead of our preparing to GO THROUGH PERSECUTION, even to the point of death.
When these "soft" Christians are confronted with heavy persecution, they will fall like dominoes and Satan will be ecstatic. His lies will have worked once again!