The Rapture has always been a hot topic. As a young child, I remember sitting in Sunday Service listening to those horrifying sermons that claimed, “Jesus is coming soon!” The rest of the message followed, “In a moment … In the twinkling of an eye,” supported by one prophecy after another and the signs of the end times. The atmosphere was thick! The basic attitude suggested; that blessed event might happen today or tomorrow. But I was never quite sure if this was a good thing! That was over 25-years ago! The message was so intense back then; some people even quit their jobs and sold all of their worldly possessions; donating the proceeds to their relative churches. After all, what would be the point if we might all vanish off the face of the earth in any given moment? But what I could never quite figure out was why the Church needed the proceeds!? Were they not waiting to be raptured right along with everyone else?
IS IT FACT OR IS IT FICTION?
The most Bible illiterate Christian can tell you; the words “The Rapture” are not biblical. However, they argue the concept can be found. I say the same thing about Reincarnation but… Is the unwritten rule to conveniently pick and choose what to believe? As it turns out, quite a few of the most basic Christian beliefs cannot be found in the Bible. Can anyone out there show me where the Bible says: all Christians go to heaven after they die and all Sinners will burn in hell? Yet, these are some of the most deeply embedded doctrines within the Christian psyche. And just mention an Old Testament prophecy that might suggest the signs of the end times and automatically the Church interprets it to mean; Jesus is coming soon.
If the Rapture is not biblical, where pray-tale does it come from? Actually, the idea is less than 200-years old! How long has the Christian Church been around? The European Church, about 2000-years! You mean, for 1800-years no one expected Jesus to return and whisk them away? No one interpreted this prophecy and that one as signs that Jesus is coming soon? One might say; the Church has come a long way. But has it?
THE ORIGINS OF THE RAP
The Rapture theory was born in England during the early 1800s. A minister of the Church of Scotland by the name of Edward Irving was the first to actually preach the idea that Jesus is coming soon. As it turns out, the organization was on the conservative side; Edward Irving was not! It all began with his eccentric beliefs about the “gifts of the Spirit” based on the 2nd chapter of the Book of Acts. On the day of Pentecost, a small group of people met in an upper room where they were showered with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in unknown tongues; among other things. Edward Irving encouraged his followers to mimic this same/similar behavior. Only during his service did people show signs and wonders (e.g. speak in tongues, interpretation of tongues, prophecy, dancing, shouting and faith-healing). However, the authorities of their organization seriously disapproved of these types of services. And who knew this was Pentecostalism in its infancy!?
In 1830 during one of these sessions, a woman by the name of Margaret MacDonald went into a trance where she saw visions and began prophesying. Of which she revealed; Jesus Christ is coming soon; in two stages: 1) he will visibly appear only to the Righteous of the Church; and 2) he will return a second time to bring God’s wrath upon all the Unrighteous! Hmmm. Maybe she’s on to something! Shortly there after, Edward Irving incorporated Margaret MacDonald’s vision and prophesy in all his sermons. At this point none of this idea was supported by biblical scripture. After a while, an Englishman named John Nelson Darby (educated in Westminster School and Trinity College, Dublin … and the picture to the right) from a similar movement called the Plymouth Brethren joined the Irving crusade by contributing a name, The Secret Rapture (not just the Rapture), and providing the prophecy and signs in biblical text – this was called, Dispensationalism. I would suppose he also became the very first Pentecostal-type Evangelist.
A HOP SKIP AND A JUMP
Unfortunately for John Darby, his beliefs met with serious resistance from all the Church organizations in England and Scotland. He was practically dismissed as a Crack-Pot. But his evangelist adrenaline would not let him quit; he journeyed to the United States! In the mid-late 1800s, John Darby made periodic trips to the United States where he introduced his ideas to a nearly dried up Christian community. The American Ministers preached fire and brimstone sermons so much that attendance eventually dropped. One can only take “you’re gonna burn in hell for your wicked and evil ways” so many times! The idea of the Rapture was new, fresh and catchy; Jesus is coming soon! At first people though, “to a theater near you.” But after all the explained away signs, prophecy and quotes, who could sit still? The Church was once again on fire! The message traveled across the nation like a brush fire. And church attendance grew!
John Darby eventually met with Cyrus Scofield, who produced the Scofield Reference Bible. This was actually a Bible that noted, identified and explained Darby’s ideas on Dispensationalism. And was pretty convincing! The Scofield Bible transformed the Rapture into an official doctrine of the Church! Hey, if it’s in the Bible … it must be true! Although, the idea has morphed into a one-time event instead of the original two-stage event prophesied by Margaret MacDonald. In the early-mid 1900s, the message began to deflate just like the previous fire and brimstone sermons of the past. But in 1972, “The Late Great Planet Earth,” credited primarily to Hal Lindsey jump started the movement once again. The book primarily focused on the signs and prophecy events laid out by the Scofield Bible. And yes, the “Jesus is coming soon” message took the show!
To date, the Rapture has become big business. There is music, TV, movies, DVDs, CDs and books galore based on the subject! And the Church of today honestly believes this is a doctrine that dates back to when the Messiah walked the earth. Although, if you do your own Google Searches, you will find different variations of the contents of this article but they all contain the same names: Edward Irving, Margaret MacDonald, John Darby and Cyrus Scofield; the architects of the modern Rapture Theory!