The Christ in Prophecy Journal

The Early Church Fathers on the Pre-Trib Rapture

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Nathan Jones: Is the teaching that the Rapture of the Church will happen before the Tribulation, called the Pre-Tribulation Rapture view, just too new of a teaching to be true? Was it invented by a guy named John Darby back in the 1830s who in turn heard it from an ecstatic teenage girl? Or, did the Early Church Fathers teach about the Rapture happening before the Tribulation?

To help answer these questions, we are joined by Lee Brainard. Lee’s a fantastic author in both the academic theological realm as well as in Christian fiction. I’ve been enjoying reading his Planets Shaken series which utilizes a fictional serial story that teaches Bible prophecy. Lee’s also an expert in ancient languages and translating ancient documents.

Lee, as of late you have been digging into the writings of the Early Church Fathers. Tell us what does being an Early Church Father mean? And, then tell us just what you discovered as it relates to the timing of the Rapture?

Lee Brainard: The Early Church Fathers were those believers who lived just after the generation of the Apostles. These men include Polycarp and Irenaeus and people who lived all the way up into the Fourth Century, such as Ephraim of Syria. The era of the Early Chuch Fathers actually goes up to the Byzantine Era. So, about four or five centuries cover the era of the Early Church Fathers. The farther into the Church Age the more removed the Church got from its New Testament teachings. But, there’s still value to be found there, in my estimation, not only in learning the language of the New Testament — Greek — but primarily for finding information on what the Early Church believed about the Gospel and about prophecy.

Tim Moore: Sometimes the Church had to clarify exactly what it believed so they got together and held councils. Even the Apostles themselves had to make sure that they were focusing on the core message of the Gospel. These Early Church leaders would challenge one another, encourage one another, and they brought clarity to the early beliefs in light of the Scriptures.

Lee Brainard: That is exactly right.

Nathan Jones: At the 2021 Pre-Tribulation Conference held in Dallas, Texas, Lee you gave a fantastic presentation about the teachings of a few of the Early Church Fathers. With one Father in particular, you dived deep into his writings while translating from Greek. In doing so, you found a Pre-Trib Rapture teaching presented by an Early Church Fathers made hundreds of years before Darby taught about that Rapture timing, correct?

Lee Brainard: That is exactly right, yes. I was actually doing a study on the Greek word “apostasia” as it relates to 2 Thessalonians 2:3, and while I was doing this study I stumbled across a Rapture passage in Ephraim of Syria’s 55 Beatitudes. Well, I about fell off my chair!

So, in studying Ephraim, I found a Pre-Trib Rapture passage. Then I went on and investigated his 150 plus Greek works, and I found dozens more Rapture passages. Ten of them are crystal clear about the Rapture happening before the Tribulation. I also found twenty-plus passages that are clear Rapture passages, though the context would not define if it was Pre-Trib or not.

If you want a listing of Ephraim of Syria’s passages, you can find them on my website at soothkeep.info.

Nathan Jones: Most people claim they cannot find the word “rapture” in the Bible. They don’t know that in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 the original Greek pronounces “rapture” as “harpazo” which means “to be caught up.” When the Bible was translated into Latin, “harpazo” was translated into “rapio” which in the Latin transliteration into English is where we get the word Rapture.

Did Ephraim use the actual word “rapture”? Or, did he really use the Latin “rapio” or “harpazo” in the Greek instead of the word “rapture” in his passages?

Lee Brainard: In Ephraim’s time, the Latin works used the word “rapio” which is the same noun form as in the Greek which, like you said, is “harpaga” and “harpazo.”

Looking and Longing For the Rapture

Tim Moore: I’ve long been fascinated by this concept that the Lord is coming to Rapture His Church. The Apostles also taught Christians to “be on the alert” and “to look for His coming.” They believed Jesus was coming back for them and that event could happen at any time. Obviously, Jesus has tarried for 2,000 years now, but we still retain the same excitement. Those Early Church Fathers understood that excitement as well.

For example, when the Apostle Paul went to the church of Thessalonica to give his Bible 101 or Gospel 101 message, it included the message that Jesus would be coming back for the Church. The Thessalonians were thrilled when receiving that glorious message!

Lee Brainard: Absolutely! That excitement is reflected in what I see, too, whether I’m studying the Early Church Fathers or I’m studying the Medieval heretics such as the Paulicians, the Albigenses, the Waldensians, or whether I am studying the Reformation churches or modern Evangelicals — all of these people really loved the Word of God. I would put them into a category of being literalists, or biblicists, because they were always looking for the soon coming of the Lord. They may not have had all of their T’s crossed and I’s dotted right when it came to Eschatology and Bible prophecy, but they were looking for and longing for the coming of the Lord Jesus.

Nathan Jones: Jesus’ return is meant to be the Christian’s “Blessed Hope” as it says in Titus 2. That is why we get excited about Bible prophecy. We hear some people declare: “No! The Church is going to have to live through the Tribulation. You are going to be suffering and dying under God’s wrath. You’ve got to live in a ‘Protestant Purgatory’ to earn yourself the right to enter Heaven.” And yet, when we go back to the teachings of Jesus Christ Himself, the Apostles, and of course the Early Church Fathers, they held on to that hope of Christ’s return before God pours out His wrath upon the world.

Purified Not Purgatory

Nathan Jones: The Early Church Fathers lived through a time of terrible persecution. So, they had that hope of Christ’s return to keep them going, as we have that hope today, right?

Lee Brainard: Absolutely! I, too, have read of people or heard some people say that we have to live through the Tribulation so that the Bride of Christ, ie the Church, can be purified. I’m thinking to myself, “You’ve got to be kidding! If the blood of Christ isn’t going to purify us, a whip or persecution or jail or getting burned in a fire or getting your head cut off, those are not going to purify us of our sins.

Tim Moore: No, persecution does not purify one’s soul. There were many martyrs who come out of that time period, and will again, as we know from the book of Revelation.

Lee Brainard: What is going to happen, though, if the people have been saying, “Lord, Lord,” but all of a sudden the Rapture happens and they didn’t go off to Heaven, which is a terrifying situation, I strongly suspect that these people were never saved. I am going to guess also that with some people who are going to be raptured that I’m going to be rather surprised that they did, while there are probably going to be other people who I had expected to be raptured who are not going to go up.

Really, the exhortation here is that every one of us should examine ourselves daily. Every one of us! It is scriptural to examine yourself and test yourself to see if you have remained in the faith. Probably a few times a year I look at myself and wonder if I am even saved. Well, of course, I am saved, because I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died for my sins. But, it is the people who don’t examine themselves that may encounter a problem when they die or the Rapture happens.

Remember the story of the Apostles in the upper room. The disciples were all asking Jesus, “Lord, is it me? Lord, is it me?” But, who was the one who didn’t even ask? That was Judas, the one that was not saved.

Again, visit my website at soothkeep.info. That’s the Old English word for “truth fortress.” Learn what the Early Church Fathers had to teach about the Rapture of the Church. And, if you have questions, please feel to contact me through my website.

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Dr. Nathan E. Jones

As the Internet Evangelist at Lamb & Lion Ministries, Nathan reaches out to the over 4.5 billion people accessible over the Internet with the Good News of Jesus Christ. He also co-hosts the ministry's television program Christ in Prophecy and podcast The Truth Will Set You Free.

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