The Pretribulation Rapture theory arises from an honest mistake and a corrupt fable – at a time when advances in printing made crazy ideas accessible. Books were the Internet of their time, and an information-starved populace couldn’t get enough. And, when Scofield put Dispensationalism everywhere in his ‘study bible’, it was the final blow.
The Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science, Seventh Day Adventism, Communism, Eugenics, Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, and the Flat Earth movement – all owe their rise to the steam-powered printing press and a 19th century desire for a good story.
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Bad Eschatology, Part 4 – Pretrib History
An Honest Error and a Corrupt Fable Meet The Printing Press
Irenaeus was a good guy from a great church (Smyrna). Jesus spoke highly of them in the Book of Revelation, so it shouldn’t surprise us that such a godly group would produce someone like Irenaeus. To add even more buff to his reputation, the Apostle John discipled Polycarp, and Polycarp discipled Irenaeus.
You’d want to listen to someone with THAT background.
However, just because the teacher of your teacher was the Apostle John, won’t always mean that you deserve such respect. But, when a church in Gaul – now France – needed a pastor, Smyrna sent Irenaeus. And, he was at the right place at the right time to help lead the fight against Gnostic heresies, and is famous for his treatise, Against Heresies.
Irenaeus And The Honest Mistake
Unfortunately, in his haste to oppose the Gnostics, Irenaeus made a claim that he might not have thought through:
“And in the midst of the week,” he says, “the sacrifice and the libation shall be taken away, and the abomination of desolation [shall be brought] into the temple: even unto the consummation of the time shall the desolation be complete.“(8) Now three years and six months constitute the half-week.
– Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book V, chapter 25
That part in bold is from Daniel 9:
26 And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.
27 And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.
– Daniel 9:26-27 (KJV)
Unfortunately, Irenaeus was reading from the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, called the Septuagint. It would have been natural for him to do so, since he grew up in a Greek environment and came to Christ in a Greek-speaking church. And, I’m afraid that this Greek translation is full of errors. (Every translation is.)
So, here are verses 26 and 27, but this time from the original Hebrew:
VERSE 26 – And after sixty and two weeks will Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and a people of a prince that shall come and destroy the city and the holy place, and its end in the overflow, and to an end war is desolations determined.
VERSE 27 – And, a covenant shall be confirmed to many, for one week. And, [at] half of the week, there is a ceasing of sacrifice and offering. And, to the wing of abominations, devastation – until completeness and destruction is poured on [the] devastated.
– Daniel 9:26-27, JLV (John Little Version)
I’m sorry, but that Antichrist is nowhere in those two verses. Nor is there any gap between them. But, by inserting the Antichrist, Irenaeus was de facto adding a gap into the prophecy about the First Coming of Jesus Christ.
I doubt that this was his intention, but it happened. And once something like this is written down and sent out, it gains a life of its own.
By the way, Irenaeus did NOT believe in a pretrib rapture. He said that we were going through the Great Tribulation, but those who wish to promote the pretrib rapture theory, conveniently ignore this.
Again, I know that Irenaeus was a student of Polycarp, who had been a student of the Apostle John. That doesn’t make him infallible. We all make mistakes. Sometimes, in writing. But, we are all susceptible to idolatry. And yes, elevating a commentary to the level of the Bible is pretty idolatrous.
We need to stop that.
Unfortunately, a charismatic speaker, John Darby, knew all about this claim by Irenaeus, and was building a new theology that had its basis in what Irenaeus said:
This unintentional ‘gap theory’ introduced by Irenaeus and expanded by Darby, is at the core of Dispensationalism. Without it, the whole idea collapses. But, we’ll talk about that more, when we get to Darby.
Societas Iesu – aka., The Jesuits
We like to blame John Darby for inventing the Pretribulation Rapture theory, but that’s not true. All that Darby did was give it a more popular spin and package it up inside an even bigger theory called Dispensationalism.
Who was the one to create this theory?
This might surprise you, but the Pretribulation Rapture Theory was invented by the Jesuits.
I’m not here to promote conspiracy theories about the Jesuits. They may, or may not, have been as bad as some claim. They may – or may not – be as deadly now as they were in the 16th and 17th centuries, when they were given the job of stamping out Protestantism. They may – or may not – be the most capable intelligence gathering organization in the world. I don’t know, and don’t care.
However, we can be certain that they were tasked with the destruction of Protestantism. And, since Protestants said that the Roman Catholic Church was the Antichrist, that had to be stamped out, too.
Oh, and all that trouble that they caused from the 1500s up through the 1700s?
Yeah. We can be certain of that. The Jesuits were truly awful, nasty bunch.
The Jesuits, or Societas Iesu, was started when Ignatius of Loyola got six young men together and started their own monastic order in 1534. Pope Paul III put his stamp of approval on the whole idea six years later. They then went on to become one of the most vicious organizations ever devised by man. Heinrich Himmler, the founder and head of the German Gestapo, credits the Jesuits as being the model for his organization.
With such a powerful tool in the hands of the Pope, it is easy to see why the Pope would order the Jesuits to destroy the Protestant Reformation and all other forms of Christianity. They penetrated and subverted political institutions in Europe, as well as any and all religious institutions. They became so successful, that the monarchies of Europe pressured Pope Clement XIV to disband them, which he did in 1773. It was called the Suppression of the Jesuits. But, like a really bad case of cancer, they went underground before roaring back in 1814 – when Pope Pius VII reinstated them.
And, they wrote books.
In the late 1500s, two Jesuits, Francisco Ribera and Roberto Bellarmino thought of a way to neutralize the Protestant claim that the Roman Catholic Church was the Antichrist. They did that by creating a new Roman Catholic doctrine called Futurism, or Jesuit Futurism. Basically, Jesuit Futurism just says that the Roman Catholic Church can’t possibly have anything to do with the Antichrist. Of course, they wrote it in Latin, which kept it from being a ‘best seller’.
Fun Fact: Bernhard Stempfle may or may not have been a Jesuit, but he was definitely the Catholic Priest responsible for Hitler’s Mein Kampf. In fact, it’s not certain that Hitler wrote any of that foul book. Hitler expressed his gratitude by murdering Stempfle in the Night Of The Long Knives.
Oh, and you know what other theory the Jesuits invented?
Yup. That’s right. Preterism was the creation of Spanish Jesuit Luis del Alcázar around 1600, as a part of their attempt to corrupt Protestant eschatology. Protestants thought that the Roman Catholic Church was the Antichrist, and the Pope didn’t like that at all.
Along comes Chilean-born Manuel Lacunza, a Jesuit priest who found himself with too much time on his hands, because he’d been defrocked. (Remember that part about the Pope disbanding the Jesuits in 1773?) Lacunza built on the ideas of Ribera and Bellarmino by adding that all the good Christians (i.e., Catholics) would be resurrected BEFORE the Antichrist. However, he said that after this ‘rapture’, the Roman Catholic Church would side with the Antichrist.
The Pope liked it, except for the last bit, so he banned it.
Undeterred, Lacunza chose to write in Spanish and publish under the name Rabbi Juan Josafat ben-Ezra. The claim was that ben-Ezra was a rabbi who had converted to Christianity and then wrote a book about how Jesus would return. Of course, someone else could have chosen that fraudulent pseudonym, since the book was printed in 1811, ten years after Lacunza died. Whatever the case, the book gained popularity throughout Spain and eventually wound up in the hands of a Scottish Presbyterian, Edward Irving.
For Irving, it was love at first cite. In fact, he was so taken with the book that he promptly took up the study of Castilian Spanish so that he could translate the book into English. His translation was published in 1827 as “The Coming of the Messiah”. The name ‘Edward Irving’ might sound familiar because he is one of the fore-runners of the Charismatic and Pentecostal movements. The famous Margaret MacDonald, whose vision(s) created a massive sensation throughout Scotland and Great Britain in 1830, was a member of Irving’s congregation.
Also in 1830, it appears that Irving started preaching that the Rapture will occur in two stages – a secret one before the Antichrist and a public one at the end of the Great Tribulation. The question of which came first, Margret MacDonald’s vision or Irving’s teaching, gets a little more difficult to figure out. It sounds like Margaret internalized Edward Irving’s preaching, and then colorized it with ‘visions’.
By the way, have you tried to read Irving’s translation?
Wow. What a badly written book. It’s almost incomprehensible. I will try to upload a copy of both volumes to this website, but be prepared for a sleep-inducing wall of words. This is probably why Edward Irving’s speeches at the Albury Conferences were more influential than that mind-numbing book in two volumes.
John Nelson Darby
John Nelson Darby, was 30 when news of Margret MacDonald’s visions hit the headlines. He did his own investigation into the matter and incorporated it into his theory of Dispensationalism. It was the last piece that he needed to make Dispensationalism come to life.
Remember that Darby was expanding upon what Irenaeus said about Daniel 9:26-27. He inserted and expanded this theoretical gap, to claim that the Age of Grace (aka, Church Age) was a separate age from the Age of Law. And, he went on to basically say that the Age of the Law would return in the Age of Kingdom, when the Church was removed.
Now, just to be clear, there were others who were also looking into why there appear to be differences between periods of time, in the Bible. The era before the Great Flood had a system of worship of God, but seemed very basic in application. The time between the Great Flood and Abraham was also barely understood, with a basic worship of God, some sacrifices and seemingly little else. With Abraham, we saw a covenant that included the sacrament of circumcision in addition to sacrifices. Then Moses and the 613 laws of Torah.
People were seeing differences and trying to lay out a systemic approach to those differences. Unfortunately, this was an application of human logic, and not the Holy Spirit. The Bible doesn’t divide itself into ‘ages’. They forgot that Jesus died for all, in every one of those ‘ages’. Everything pointed to Christ, but that wasn’t enough for Darby. But, let’s get back to Edward Irving’s influence on Darby.
Back To Edward Irving’s Pretrib Rapture
Some say that Darby attended at least one of the Albury Conferences that Irving was preaching at, but I’m not sure that we can say this with confidence. He certainly could have gotten Edward Irving’s ideas from some other source. Just remember that no one but Edward Irving was preaching the idea of a pretribulation rapture before 1830.
The Albury Conferences collapsed in 1830, when Edward Irving was thrown out of the Presbyterian Church. Ministers in Scotland were aghast at some of the strange events occurring at his church – not just the visions of Margaret MacDonald. Irving died three years later.
By the time of Irving’s death, a thirty-something Darby was attending the Powerscourt Conference where some say that Irving’s Pretrib Rapture theory was explained to him. Whatever the case, that conference was what launched Brethrenism.
Darby isn’t just the father of Dispensationalism. He’s also the father of the Plymouth Brethren.
Darby went on to visit the US six times between 1859 and 1874, preaching Dispensationalism and the pretribulation rapture. He also spent much time preaching in Europe, developing a reputation as an interpreter of bible prophecy – a reputation that he most assuredly did not deserve.
Cyrus Ingerson Scofield
Darby’s theory of Dispensationalism would have probably died quietly, were it not for the intervention of a corrupt lawyer – Cyrus Ingerson Scofield. He claims that his corruption – bribery, theft and forgery – were all before he became a Christian. But, we have reason to disbelieve that claim.
He said that he got ‘saved’ in 1879, at the same time that he was abandoning his wife and two daughters. His wife was forced to work to support herself and divorced him in 1883. Apparently, Scofield claimed to be a bachelor when he married Hettie Hall von Wartz, on March 21, 1882. Also in that same year, he was ordained as a Congregationalist Minister.
How is it possible for a ‘Christian’ to abandon his wife and daughters, marry someone else and get himself appointed as a minister?
But, it gets worse.
Scofield took Darby’s Dispensationalism, added his own corrupted ideas, and put all that into something called the Scofield Reference Bible. That ‘bible’ was published in 1909. By 1930, more than one million copies were in print.
The notes in the Scofield Reference Bible…
…reveal an agenda other than opening the text.
…reveal a fundamentally flawed methodology.
…expose a theology that reads the Scriptures.
To put it more bluntly, he had an axe to grind, and he ‘ground that axe’ at every opportunity. His ‘bible’ was not about helping you to understand what the scriptures meant, but to inject into the words of God his ideology. And, that third point by Dr. Rios is an important one to remember.
Instead of allowing the Bible to inform and instruct our view of God and His words, the Scofield Reference Bible forces the reader into the mindset of Scofield’s personal theology. That theology then directs the readers thoughts to see something in the Bible that is not there.
This has created an utterly bizarre approach to Biblical interpretation, where claims are made that have no reflection in what the Bible actually says. For instance, Bill Salus wrote an insane book, claiming that Psalm 83 was a prophecy about how Israel would fight some massive war in the near future and become a superpower.
There is literally no prophetic wording in Psalm 83 whatsoever.
Even if such a war were to be fought… it does not give us permission to twist the words of the Bible to fit our preconceived notions about what the Bible should say. In fact, it’s a sin.
God says this about adding to His words:
Do not add to His words,
Lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar.
– Proverbs 30:6 (NKJV)
I’m sorry, but Bill Salus and C.I. Scofield have been found to be liars. And, it’s not a good thing that we follow along in their errors. The words of God should be precious to us, and we are engaging in abomination in our abuse of them.
By placing his commentary of the Bible within the Bible itself, he essentially elevated his own thoughts on the Bible to the level of the Bible itself. Whether this was intentional, or not, is immaterial. The fact is that his errors instantaneously became legitimate in the eyes of everyone who was reading his bible.
With the advent of the Scofield Bible, seminaries became major proponents of the Jesuit Pretribulation Rapture theory.
Oh, and what did Scofield do with the massive amount of money that he made from publishing this ‘bible’?
He bought lots of expensive real estate and joined the prestigious Lotos Club. That ‘gentleman’s club’ had menus featuring topless women. And, at the same time, he was styling himself as having a ‘Doctor of Divinity’, without a single record of him ever receiving such an honor.
It is no surprise to see someone as corrupt as Scofield, being at the heart of the Dispensationalist/Pretrib Rapture movement.
The Steam Powered Printing Press
Now, Lacunza, Irving, Darby and Scofield would not have been quite so successful without the help of a major technological advancement that came along at just the right time:
The steam-powered printing press.
The first successful implementation of such a printing press happened in 1814, when it was bought by the Times of London. From that moment on, books and newspapers became cheaper and cheaper as new innovations in printing press technology allowed more and more people to get access to cheaper and cheaper books.
Edward Irving’s translation of Lacunza’s book might never have happened without the steam-powered printing press. News of Margaret MacDonald’s ‘visions’ might never have reached the headlines. John Darby’s Dispensationalism might never have gotten popular. And, Scofield’s Reference Bible could never have sold a million copies in 21 years, were it not for the electric printing press that replaced the steam-powered versions in 1900.
Like the Internet of today, steam and electric powered printing presses made it possible for knowledge to expand. It also made possible for false teachers to get an even wider audience.
3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.
– 2 Timothy 4:3-4 (NKJV)
And, the pretrib rapture is one whopper of a fable. Unfortunately, such fables are hard to dislodge from the minds of those who believe them. Once they have taken up residence, it takes a lot of hard work to get rid of them.
As I said last week, there are 11 reasons why the pretrib rapture theory is wrong, and you need to understand those reasons:
Bad Eschatology, Part 3 – The Pretribulation Rapture
I truly hope that you’ll be ready for this
A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished. – Proverbs 22:3
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