Saturday, January 24, 2015

Rapture Beliefs of Church Fathers

I recently posted an article about Margaret MacDonald's 1830 prophecy of the rapture, which some believe gave rise to the popular belief in a pre-tribulation rapture that began around that same time. While the Holy Spirit may have Restored Truth about the rapture through Margaret's prophetic utterance, the belief in a pre-tribulation rapture did not originate with her.  It goes all the way back to the apostles, whom the Holy Spirit inspired to write the Bible.  And it is evident in the writings of the Church Fathers that they also held to this same belief.  Here is what they believed.

Irenaeus
Irenaeus (130 A.D. – 202 AD) was a bishop of the church in Lyons, France, and a disciple of Polycarp, the first of the Apostle John’s disciples. It is thought that Irenaeus may have personally seen the Apostle John.  He is best known for his five-volume treatise, Against Heresies.  On the subject of the Rapture, in Against Heresies 5.29, he wrote:

“Those nations however, who did not of themselves raise up their eyes unto heaven, nor returned thanks to their Maker, nor wished to behold the light of truth, but who were like blind mice concealed in the depths of ignorance, the word justly reckons “as waste water from a sink, and as the turning-weight of a balance — in fact, as nothing;”(1) so far useful and serviceable to the just, as stubble conduces towards the growth of the wheat, and its straw, by means of combustion, serves for working gold. And therefore, when in the end the Church shall be suddenly caught up from this, it is said, “There shall be tribulation such as has not been since the beginning, neither shall be.”(2) For this is the last contest of the righteous, in which, when they overcome they are crowned with incorruption.”

Irenaeus believed the Church would suddenly be caught up after a time of tribulation that would be a last contest of the righteous on earth before their heavenly crowning.  This is consistent with the apostle Paul's teaching in his epistle to the Thessalonians, in which he wrote that the righteous would be "caught up" (Greek word "harpazo") to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thes 4:16-17). This is also consistent with what our Lord Jesus taught in Matthew 24, which I have written about in Sequence of Signs Preceding the Coming of Christ.

Cyprian
Cyprian (200 AD – 258 AD) – Cyprian was Bishop of the church in Carthage during severe persecution from the Roman Empire. After seven months of house arrest, he was beheaded for his Christ.  In his Treatise he described the end times Great Tribulation thus:

“We who see that terrible things have begun, and know that still more terrible things are imminent, may regard it as the greatest advantage to depart from it as quickly as possible. Do you not give God thanks, do you not congratulate yourself, that by an early departure you are taken away, and delivered from the shipwrecks and disasters that are imminent? Let us greet the day which assigns each of us to his own home, which snatches us hence, and sets us free from the snares of the world and restores us to paradise and the kingdom.”

Cyprian taught that more terrible things are imminent, but that by an early departure from that tribulation, the righteous would be taken away.  He taught that the righteous would depart quickly from that time of tribulation, on that day when we would be snatched up out of this world into paradise to heavenly mansions prepared by the Lord to each of us. This is consistent with the promise of our Lord Who said, “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am." (Jn 14:2-3). Moreover, as with the teaching of Irenaeus, this teaching of Cyprian about a "snatching" is consistent with the language used by the apostle Paul in his epistle to the Thessalonians (1 Thes 4:16-17).

Ephraem The Syrian
Ephraim (306 AD – 373 AD) was the bishop of Nisibis. His book that still exists today was known as Apocalypse of Pseudo Ephraem, due to dispute over its authorship that arose later. It is also known as Sermon at the End of the World.  In it he made one compelling reference to the rapture in Section 2, where he wrote:

“We ought to understand thoroughly therefore, my brothers, what is imminent or overhanging. Already there have been hunger and plagues, violent movements of nations and signs, which have been predicted by the Lord, they have already been fulfilled (consummated), and there is not other which remains, except the advent of the wicked one in the completion of the Roman kingdom. Why therefore are we occupied with worldly business, and why is our mind held fixed on the lusts of the world or on the anxieties of the ages? Why therefore do we not reject every care of worldly business, and why is our mind held fixed on the lusts of the world or on the anxieties of the ages? Why therefore do we not reject every care of earthly actions and prepare ourselves for the meeting of the Lord Christ, so that he may draw us from the confusion, which overwhelms all the world? Believe you me, dearest brother, because the coming (advent) of the Lord is nigh, believe you me, because the end of the world is at hand, believe me, because it is the very last time.

Or do you not believe unless you see with your eyes? See to it that this sentence be not fulfilled among you of the prophet who declares: “Woe to those who desire to see the day of the Lord!” 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. And so, brothers most dear to me, it is the eleventh hour, and the end of the world comes to the harvest, and angels, armed and prepared, hold sickles in their hands, awaiting the empire of the Lord. And we think that the earth exists with blind infidelity, arriving at its downfall early. Commotions are brought forth, wars of diverse peoples and battles and incursions of the barbarians threaten, and our regions shall be desolated, and we neither become very much afraid of the report nor of the appearance, in order that we may at least do penance; because they hurl fear at us, and we do not wish to be changed, although we at least stand in need of penance for our actions!”

Ephraem referred to "the advent of the wicked one," who is the lawless one and the son of perdition, the man doomed to destruction, whom the apostle Paul said would be revealed before the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him (2 Thes 2:1-12). As the apostle Paul did, Ephraem taught that the advent of the wicked one would occur before the meeting of the Lord Christ.  Ephraem wrote that once that antichrist is revealed, then "all the saints and elect of God are gathered, prior to the tribulation that is to come, and are taken to the Lord."

Conclusion
In the second century, Irenaeus taught that "in the end the Church shall be suddenly caught up."  In the third century, Cyprian taught that by an early departure from the tribulation to overwhelm the earth, the righteous be "snatched" up out of this world into the kingdom of heaven. In the fourth century, Ephraem taught the "gathering" of all the saints and elect of God prior to the coming tribulation, and that we would be taken to the Lord.

If you think that Margaret MacDonald was one who originated the belief in the rapture, then please compare what these Church Fathers said with what our Lord Jesus said would be the Sequence of Signs Preceding the Coming of Christ.  There are definite signs that Scripture says will happen before the Lord returns, and we see them taking place all around us. 

In the words of Ephraem, "it is the eleventh hour," the end of the world is at hand," and "the coming of the Lord is nigh." "Why therefore are we occupied with worldly business, and why is our mind held fixed on the lusts of the world or on the anxieties of the ages? Why therefore do we not reject every care of worldly business, and why is our mind held fixed on the lusts of the world or on the anxieties of the ages? Why therefore do we not reject every care of earthly actions and prepare ourselves for the meeting of the Lord Christ?"

It’s time to wake up, repent, and live a life of daily repentance.  We need to produce the fruit of repentance, walking in love and in the light, and serving the Lord.  We need to watch and pray, always being ready for Jesus’ return.  Then that day will not overtake us like a thief in the night.

Attribution notice:  Most Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®, unless otherwise noted.

Author's note: You must take responsibility for your own actions. Nobody knows the day or the hour, and in no way am I date setting. This is only to provide you with information, so that you can make your own decisions, for which you will be accountable to God.

I also encourage you to read Rapture Revelation to Mushala Sisters , Rapture Revelation to Angelica Zambrano, Sequence of Signs Preceding the Coming of Christ, The Rise of Antichrists, Rapture Revelation to Linda Ngaujah, Peace, Safety, and the Thief in the Night, The Timing of the Rapture, and Rapture Revelation to Zipora Bitrus, as well as The Messiah Is Coming.  You may also visit our Signs of the Times Directory, and access my complete blog directory at Writing for the Master.

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
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Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

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