by John R Ecob

It has long been alleged by those who interpret prophecy allegorically that the pre-tribulation Rapture is a new doctrine and cannot, therefore, be true.

Gary DeMar, President American Vision, says:

“A majority of prophecy writers and speakers teach that the church will be raptured before a future tribulational period. But did you know that prior to about 1830 no such doctrine existed. No one in all of church history ever taught pretribulational rapture” (cited from “Why Christians Will Suffer Great Tribulation,” Ourdailybreadbyjoeortiz).

When Demar says the pre-tribulation Rapture did not exist prior to 1830, he is referring to the The Morning Watch prophecy journal and the writings of John Darby which popularized dispensational theology in the 1800s.

Though this claim continues to be made, it is patently false.

MORGAN EDWARDS (1722-1795)

The Pre-Tribulation Rapture was taught by prominent Baptist leader Morgan Edwards. His Two Academical Exercises on the Subjects Bearing the Following Titles; Millennium and Last-Novelties was in 1744 in Philadelphia.

Morgan Edwards was one of the most prominent Baptist leaders of his day. He was the pastor of the Baptist church in Philadelphia and the founder of Brown University, the first Baptist college in America. A summary of life was featured in the Baptist Encyclopedia. He was one of the first Baptist historians of repute, his Materials Toward A History of the Baptists (1770) providing a foundation for all subsequent works.

Following is what Edwards believed about Bible prophecy:

“The distance between the first and second resurrection will be somewhat more than a thousand years. I say, somewhat more; because the dead saints will be raised, and the living changed at Christ’s ‘appearing in the air’ (I Thes. iv. 17); and this will be about three years and a half before the millennium, as we shall see hereafter: but will he and they abide in the air all that time? No: they will ascend to paradise, or to some one of those many mansions in the father’s house’ John xiv. 2), and disappear during the foresaid period of time. The design of this retreat and disappearing will be to judge the risen and changed saints; for ‘now the time is come that judgment must begin,’ and that will be ‘at the house of God’ (I Pet. iv. 17)” (Edwards, Two Academical Exercises on the Subjects Bearing the Following Titles; Millennium and Last-Novelties, 1744).

We should note that Edwards believed that the tribulation would only be 3.5 years, so he was not promoting a “pre-wrath” or mid-tribulation position.

Edwards first wrote the previous statement in an senior essay while at Bristol Baptist College in Bristol, England, before coming to America. At the beginning of the essay, in a comment addressed to his teacher, Edwards said,

“And is it come to my lot to treat of the Millennium, or Christ thousand years reign on earth? Thousand pities, sir, that you had not allotted the task to one of these older and abler students! But since it is your pleasure, I will do my possible: and IN THE ATTEMPT WILL WORK BY A RULE YOU HAVE OFTEN RECOMMENDED, VIZ. ‘TO TAKE THE SCRIPTURES IN A LITERAL SENSE, EXCEPT WHEN THAT LEADS TO CONTRADICTION OR ABSURDITY.’”

This rule of literal interpretation of prophecy is exactly the rule from which Pre-Tribulationists work today. It is the rule that I teach in my courses on Bible interpretation.

Edwards bluntly rejected the allegorical approach. Of the millennial kingdom prophecies, he said, “Miserable work do the Antimillenarians make of these texts.”

Edwards was writing 175 years before the destruction of the Ottoman Empire’s hold on the land of Israel (1917) and 200 years before the establishment of the modern state of Israel (1948), yet he knew that these things would happen. Consider the following fascinating prediction that he made based on a literal interpretation of Bible prophecy:

“The Turkish or Ottoman Empire will be demolished; for otherwise the right owners cannot posses their inheritance … The twelve tribes (as observed before) will return to their ancient inheritance, else how can the twelve apostles be their judges? … In this united capacity they will rebuild Jerusalem in its place, and the temple in its place on mount Zion; for in this temple will antichrist sit as god, and be the abomination mentioned by Daniel, and referred to by Christ” (Edwards, Two Academical Exercises on the Subjects Bearing the Following Titles; Millennium and Last-Novelties, 1744).

From the case of Morgan Edwards, it is obvious that there were Baptists in the 18th century in England and America who held the literal principle of interpretation of Bible prophecy as opposed to the allegorical.

We must remember that most preachers do not leave a permanent record of their teaching. From Paul’s day to ours, the vast majority of sound preachers have been common men as opposed to scholars.

Typically, they are not writers and do not publish books. In the record church history, we only have a tiny glimpse into what was happening, and that glimpse is based on the pittance that has survived of the little that was ever recorded.

“For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty” (1 Cor. 1:26-27).


We now go back to two centuries after the apostles. Ephraem is venerated as a “saint” by the Catholic and Orthodox churches, but they would not allow him to teach his doctrine of prophecy today.

Ephraem is called “the Syrian” because he lived in that region.

He was a voluminous writer. Many of his sermons and psalms are included in the 16-volume Post-Nicene Library. (The Council of Nicea was held in AD 325, and historians divide the “fathers” into Ante-Nicene, before 325, and Post-Nicene, after 325).

Some of Ephraem’s sermons and hymns are used in the liturgy of Orthodox churches.

In the 1990s some of Ephraem’s writings were translated into English for the first time, one of these being On the Last Times, the Antichrist, and the End of the World, A.D. 373.

The translation was done by  Professor Cameron Rhoades of Tyndale Theological Seminary at the bequest of Grant R. Jeffrey. It was subsequently published in Jeffrey’s 1995 book Final Warning.

It is obvious that Ephraem believed in a literal fulfillment of prophecy, including a Rapture of New Testament saints prior to the Tribulation.

“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” Ephraem the Syrian, On the Last Times).

Observe that Ephraem taught that the saints will be taken to the Lord so they will not see the confusion that is to overwhelm the world, which is exactly what 1 Thessalonians 5:3-9 says.

Ephraem taught a literal antichrist who will sit in a literal rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, a literal 3.5 year Tribulation, a literal Two Witnesses or prophets who will preach in Jerusalem, a literal battle of Gog and Magog.

“And when the three and a half years have been completed, the time of the Antichrist, through which he will have seduced the world, after the resurrection of the two prophets, in the hour which the world does not know, and on the day which the enemy or son of perdition does not know, will come the sign of the Son of Man, and coming forward the Lord shall appear with great power and much majesty, with the sign of the word of salvation going before him, and also even with all the powers of the heavens with the whole chorus of the saints. … Then Christ shall come and the enemy shall be thrown into confusion, and the Lord shall destroy him by the Spirit of his mouth. And he shall be bound and shall be plunged into the abyss of everlasting fire alive with his father Satan; and all people,
do his wishes, shall perish with him forever; but the righteous ones shall inherit everlasting life with the Lord for ever and ever” Ephraem the Syrian, On the Last Times, the Antichrist, and the End of the World, A.D. 373).

Ephraem believed in the imminency of the return of Christ and urged Christians to live godly lives in expectation of His return.


Actually, Ephraem the Syrian was not alone in interpreting Bible prophecy literally in his day.

He was living one generation from the era of Augustine (354-430), at which time there was a dramatic change. When Ephraem died in 373, Augustine was 19 years old.

It was in the era of Augustine that allegoricalism widely replaced the previous method of interpretation. Prior to this, it was common among Bible believers to interpret prophecy literally. They believed that Christ would return literally (and imminently), bind Satan, and establish a literal millennial kingdom on earth.

This is admitted by church historians.

William Newell says: “The early Church for 300 years looked for the imminent return of our Lord to reign, and they were right” Newell, Revelation).

Phillip Schaaf said, “… the most striking point in the eschatology of the ante-Nicene age [prior to AD 325] is the prominent chiliasm, or millennarianism, that is the belief of a visible reign of Christ in glory on earth with the risen saints for a thousand years, before the general resurrection and judgment” (History of the Christian Church, 8 vols, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1960, 2:614).

Henry Thiessen says, “It is clear that the Fathers held not only the pre-millennial view of Christ’scoming, but also regarded that coming as imminent. The Lord had taught them to expect His return at any moment, and so they looked for Him to come in their day. Not only so, but they also taught His personal return as being immediately, with the exception of the Alexandrian Fathers, who also rejected other fundamental doctrines” (Thiessen, Introductory Lectures in Systematic Theology, p. 477).

In fact, Augustine, “the father of amillennialism,” once believed in a literal millennium himself. He said, “I myself, too, once heldthis opinion. … They who do believe them are called by the spiritual, Chiliasts, which we may literally reproduce by the name Millenarians” (Augustine, City of God, book 20, chapter 7).

The following statement by Irenaeus is an example of what was commonly believed among the early “church fathers,” as they looked forward to Christ’s returnand the establishment of His kingdom:

“The predicted blessing, therefore, belongs unquestionably to the times of the kingdom, when the righteous shall bear rule upon their rising from the dead; when also the creation, having been renovated and set free, shall fructify with an abundance of all kinds of food, from the dew of heaven, and from the fertility of the earth. … In like manner [the Lord declared] that … all animals feeding [only] on the productions of the earth, should [in those days] become peaceful and harmonious among each other, and be in perfect subjection to man” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, The Ante-Nicene Fathers).

The church at Antioch long interpreted Bible prophecy literally. Antioch was an important church founded by Barnabas and Paul, and it is from this church that the first foreign missionaries were ordained and sent out (Acts 11:19-26; 13:1-4). It was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.

Some of the preachers associated with Antioch were Lucian (died 312), Theodore (AD 350-428), Chrysostom (AD 354- 407), Theodoret (AD 386-458), and Diodorus of Tarsus. These men interpreted Bible prophecy literally and believed in a literal millennium.

In his History of Interpretation, F.W. Farrar observed, “Diodorus of Tarsus’ books were devoted to an exposition of Scripture in its literal sense, and he wrote a treatise, now unhappily lost, ‘on the difference between allegory and spiritual insight’” (Farrar, pp. 213-15).

“The Antioch’s school’s two greatest exegetes, Theodore of Mopsuestia (AD 350-428) and John Chrysostom (AD 354-407), were ‘anti-allegorical’” (Matthew Allen, “Theology Adrift: The Early Church Fathers and Their Views of Eschatology,”

Some of the early Christians after the apostles even taught a form of dispensationalism. Examples can be found in the extant writings of Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Methodius. Justin Martyr 100-165) believed in four phases of history in God’s plan: From Adam to Abraham, from Abraham to Moses, from Moses to Christ, and from Christ to the eternal state. Irenaeus (120-202) taught something similar, dividing the dispensations into the creation to the flood, the flood to the law, the law to the gospel, the gospel to the eternal state.


The allegorical method of interpretation was invented by false teachers after the apostolic era as the apostasy was growing and spreading toward the formation of the Roman Catholic Church.

A school was established at Alexandria, Egypt, which became the headquarters for the allegorical method of interpretation. Egypt was a place where false teaching proliferated in the first centuries after Christ. Clement, who headed the school from AD 190 to 202, corrupted the Christian faith by mixing it with the worldly philosophy and allegoricalism of Philo. He taught many false doctrines, including purgatory, and believed that most men would eventually be saved even though Jesus said only a few would be (Mat. 7:14). “Clement saw the literal meaning of Scripture as being a ‘starting point’ for interpretation. Although it was ‘suitable for the mass of Christians,’ God revealed himself to the spiritually advanced through the ‘deeper meaning’ of Scripture. In every passage, a deeper or additional meaning existed beyond the primary or immediate sense” (Matthew Allen, “Theology Adrift: The Early Church Fathers and Their Views of Eschatology,”

Origen (AD 185-254) was one of the chief fathers of allegoricalism.

He led the school at Alexandria from AD 202 to 232. Though he endured persecution and torture for the cause of Christ under the Emperor Decius in 250, Origen was laden down with heresies. Like Clement, he mixed the truth of the Bible with pagan philosophy. He taught that celibacy was a holy state above marriage, contrary to the teaching of the apostles. He taught baptismal regeneration, purgatory, and the pre-existence of the human soul. He taught that all men, even Satan and demons, would eventually be saved. He taught that the Holy Spirit was the first creature made by God, and denied the full Godhead of Jesus. He did not believe that the Scriptures are wholly inspired by God.

Origen claimed that “the Scriptures have little use to those who understand them literally.” He described the literal meaning of Scripture as “bread” and encouraged the student to go beyond this to the “wine” of allegoricalism, whereby one can become intoxicated and transported to heavenly realms. Origen’s commentaries contained a wealth of fanciful interpretations, abounding in “heretical revisals
of Scripture” (Frederick Nolan, Inquiry into the Integrity of the Greek Vulgate, p. 367).

Another father of allegoricalism was Augustine (AD 354-430), one of the fathers of the Roman Catholic Church. He was exalted as one of the “doctors” of Rome. Augustine invented the terrible and unbiblical doctrine of the inquisition that was used by the Catholic Church against Bible believers for more than 1,000 years. The German historian Neander observed that Augustine’s teaching “contains the germ of the whole system of spiritual despotism, intolerance, and persecution, even to the court of the Inquisition.” Augustine instigated fierce persecutions against the peace-loving, Bible-believing Donatists who were striving to maintain pure biblical churches. He taught that “the sacraments,” such as baptism, were the means of salvation. He taught that Mary did not commit sin. He taught the of purgatory. He was one of the fathers of infant baptism, claiming that unbaptized infants are lost and calling all who rejected infant baptism “infidels” and “cursed.” He exalted the authority of “the church” over that of Scripture.

“Through Augustine, Origen’s allegorical hermeneutic became the backbone of medieval interpretation of the Bible” (Matthew Allen, “Theology Adrift: The Early Church Fathers and
Their Views of Eschatology,”

These heresies grew and became a fundamental part of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

When the Protestant denominations (e.g., Anglican, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist) broke away from Rome, one of the errors they brought with them was the allegorical interpretation of prophecy and its Replacement Theology.


When it comes to sound doctrine, the bottom line is not what anyone has or has not taught in church history. It is “what saith the Lord?” Period. The Bible is the sole authority for faith and practice. It is not one authority among many, and it is not the authority only as confirmed by “church fathers” and “theologians.”

The bottom line is that the apostles and early Christians interpreted prophecy literally.

They believed in an imminent return of Christ.

“For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come” (1 Th. 1:9-10).

The apostles and prophets taught that the Lord’s return is “at hand” Ro. 13:12; Php. 4:5; 1 Pe. 4:7; Re. 1:3).

They believed in a Rapture of New Testament saints.

“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 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 prevent them which are asleep. 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: 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 ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Th. 4:13-18).

They believed that the New Testament saints would be saved from the Tribulation to come.

“For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. 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 sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:3-9).

They believed in a literal Antichrist.

“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day 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, shewing himself that he is God” (2 Th. 2:3-4).

They believed in a literal return of Christ and a literal fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.

“Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:19-21).

They believed in a literal fulfillment of Israel’s covenants following the church age.

“For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins” (Romans 11:25-27).


Irenaeus (AD 130 – 202)

“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 wastewater 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.”

– Against Heresies, Book 5, 5. 29

Cyprian (AD 200-258)

“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.”

– Treatises of Cyprian

Victorinus (AD 240-303)

“And the heaven withdrew as a scroll that is rolled up.” For the heaven to be rolled away, that is, that the Church shall be taken away.”And every mountain and the islands removed from their places that in the last persecution all men departed from their places; that is, that the good will be removed, seeking to avoid persecution.”

– Commentary on the Apocalypse

Thomas Vincent (1634-1678)

“the righteous … suddenly caught up together in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; which sight will be fearful and amazing to them, when they perceive themselves to be left behind. … O the fear and trouble which will be upon the spirits of those unbelieving Christ-less, grace-less sinners some of them linked in the nearest relations to them, when their believing relations shall be caught away from them, and carried up into the air, with the rest of the glorious train of Saints, when themselves shall remain below upon the earth … Friends will be together at that day as at other times, not expecting Christ’s coming … Suppose that the heavens should just now open and you should hear the sound of the last Trumpet, and Jesus Christ should descend. … all you that are impenitent and unbelievers, would be left behind: and think what terror would fall upon you…

– Christ’s Certain and sudden Appearance to Judgment London,1667), 53-54.

Joseph Mede (1586-1639)

“After this, our gathering together unto Christ at His coming…The saints being translated into the air … and they may be preserved during the conflagration of the earth, and the works thereof: 2 Pet. 3.10. that as Noah and his family were preserved from the deluge by being lifted up above the waters in the ark, so should the saints at the conflagration be lifted up in the clouds, unto their ark, Christ, to be preserved there from the deluge of fire, wherein the wicked shall be consumed.”

– Mede, Works, III, 611 [cited in H. Orton Wiley; Christian Theology)

Jeremiah Burroughs (1600-1646)

“The first thing that shall be done in this great day of Jezreel, shall be the deliverance of the Churches from wofull affliction which they shall be found to be in a little before, For so the Scripture tells us, Dan.12.1. that before this day there shall be a time of trouble such as never was…and at that time thy people shall be delivered…it is therefore called a great day, because of Gods appearing so gloriously
in the deliverance of his Church at that day. … It is a going up, it is a rising… search into these truths of God, that so they may be the better prepared to meet Christ their Bride-groom when he commeth.”

– An Exposition of The Prophesie of Hosea (London, 1643), 187, 195.

Nathaniel Homes (1599-1678)

“all mankind shall rise in their order, Christ the first fruits… afterwards, they that are Christs at his coming…notes a distance of time of above a thousand and a halfe of yeers…the rapture of the Saints into the clouds, to be their present translation into heaven… this our gathering together unto Christ at his coming (so the Apostle calls this rapture, 2 Thess.2.1.) wee shall from henceforth never lose his presence, but always enjoy it, partly on earth, during his reign of the thousand yeers, and partly in heaven, when wee shall be translated thither. this rapture of the Saints on high to meet the Lord in the clouds, rather then to wait his coming to the earth. What if it bee, that they may be preserved during the conflagration of the earth, and the works thereof, 2 Pet.3.10. That as Noah, and his family were preserved from the deluge, by being lift up above the waters in the Ark, so should the Saints at the conflagration bee lift up in the clouds unto their Ark, Christ, to be preserved there from the Deluge of fire, wherein the wicked shall be consumed?”

– The Resurrection Revealed (London,1653), 492,494.

William Aspinwall (1605-1662)

“If God by some voice from heaven, I mean out of his Churches, say Come up hither, Rev.11.12,13. Follow his call, and fear not enemies; though you see them, & they see you ascend up to heaven, you shall be safe. Some commotion or earthquake will ensue, but no detriment to you that obey the voice from heaven, The detriment will be to the enemies themselves…”

– A Brief Description of the Fifth Monarchy, or Kingdome, That shortly is to come (London, 1653), 9-10.

John Browne (1582-1659)

“the hundred forty and four thousand, who are called Virgins, cannot be said to be the Virgins that attend the Spouse, the Lamb’s Wife, seeing that they are upon the Earth after the said Spouse is taken up. …then will follow the calling of the two Tribes of Judah and Benjamin to Jerusalem…and then the City is built, which bringing back of the ten Tribes will not be completed till after the Saints are taken up, when as before that time both Jerusalem and the Temple will be built, and Sacrifice offered…”

– Events of Last Times London,1654), 7, 12-13

William Hook (1600-1677)

“There are several Resurrections mentioned in the Scriptures. But great troubles will follow this Resurrection [pre-Trib rapture] after a short time…which will shake the power of the Beast…till it come to Armageddon… The Beast lives in Hell upon Earth [tribulation], the Saints in Heaven…when they ascended up to Heaven in a cloud, their Enemies beheld them. They rise up from Antichrist and his Pollutions, and all his earthly and hellish waies…and at last, they shall come with Christ to judge the world. …

“Until then they are protected, somewhat like as when the Egyptians pursued the Israelites into the Red Sea…”

– Short Discourse of the Nature and Extent of the Gospel-Day London,1673) 13, 18, 20-23.

Anonymous Tract (1699)

“those saints that are then alive shall not prevent the rising of the Saints that were dead at the coming of Christ…for the dead in Christ shall be raised first; then the Saints alive in the Body, in this mortal state, shall be changed… in the twinkling of an eye, less than a moment, raise all the dead Saints, and change all the Saints then alive into an incorruptible immortal state… They shall be caught up in the Clouds to meet the Lord in the Air…in this appearing of Christ…but here it’s another sight of Christ, viz. as their Judge: for so he will be to the Sinner and ungodly, when he shall come the second time in the Clouds of Heaven…coming to enter upon his Kingdom here on Earth, with all his Saints in a glorified State, after having received their gloried bodies, and after meeting their Lord in the air, prepared for this great Assize and Judgment of the World.”

– Anon, A Short Survey of the Kingdom of Christ here on Earth with his Saints (London,1699, 9-11, 14-15.

Oliver Heywood (1630-1702)

“the Souls of the glorified Saints shall descend and be united to their own Bodies, and then ascend to meet the Lord in the Air, and the wicked are left behind on their dunghill the earth…the dead shall rise, before the living are rapt up… These congregated Saints shall be admitted into one place, and state of Glory: They are before the throne of God…there is room enough in heaven for all the saints, In my Father’s house, saith Christ, are many mansions.”

– The General Assembly: or, a Discourse of the Gathering of all Saints to Christ (London,1700), 15- 16,19-20.

Increase Mather (1639-1723)

“The Living Saints at Christ’s coming shall be caught up into the Air, that they may escape that Deluge of Fire which will be the Perdition of ungodly Men. … But before this Rapture of the living, the dead Saints shall be raised. … They, as to their Bodies, shall not be with Christ before the Bodies of Saints asleep in the Grave shall be with him … As when the Flood came, there was a Difference make between Noah’s family and the rest of Mankind: Thus when the World shall perish by Fire, no Saint shall be hurt by that Fire, but Sinners shall. …we may not determine how long the Conflagration shall last. Noah’s Flood continued for many Days and Months, he was a whole Year in the Ark. The Weapons of Ezekiel’s Gog are Seven Years in burning, Ezek. 39.9.”

– Dissertation Concerning the Future Conversion of the Jewish Nation (1709), 15.


Brethren, do not let anyone rob you of a literal interpretation of prophecy and the imminency of the return of Christ, which is the believer’s Blessed Hope. We are looking for Christ, not for the Antichrist.

A large portion of the Bible consists of prophecy, and much of it has not yet been fulfilled. The portion that has been fulfilled has been fulfilled literally. We think of the great Messianic prophecies of Christ’s first coming in Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53. The prophecies are breathtaking in detail, and every detail was fulfilled “literally.”

Further, if we do not interpret prophecy according to the normal literal” method, there is no way to determine for sure what it means.

A literal interpretation of prophecy results in the doctrine that the church is not Israel, and that Israel’s covenants will yet be fulfilled after the church age.

“For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins” (Romans 11:25-27).

The 70th Week of Daniel 9:24- 27 pertains to Israel, not to the church. Every event of the 70 Weeks pertains to “thy Daniel’s] people, and the holy city [Jerusalem]” (verse 24). Before God turns His attention, so to speak, to fulfilling Israel’s ancient covenants, including the Davidic covenant of 2 Samuel 7, the Church will be Raptured and will not see the coming of the antichrist and the other signs that immediately precede the glorious return of Christ.

The doctrine of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture is not a minor one. Jesus, Paul, James, and Peter taught that the return of Christ is imminent and is to be expected at any time Mat. 24:44; Phil. 4:5; Jam. 5:8-9; 1 Pet. 4:7). The early Christians lived in this expectation (1 Th. 1:9- 10).

The doctrine of a Pre-Tribulational Rapture is a great motivator for purifying the Christian life.

1. It encourages the believer in trials and persecutions. “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 ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:17-18).

2. It keeps the church’s focus on the Great Commission (Mat. 28:18-20; Mk 16:15; Lk. 24:44-48; Acts 1:8). D.L. Moody had it right when he said: “I look upon this world as a wrecked vessel. God has given me a lifeboat and said to me, ‘Moody, save all you can.’”

3. It motivates believers to be busy in the Lord’s work (1 Cor. 15:58).

4. It motivates believers to live obedient lives (1 Jn. 3:1-3; 1 Th. 5:4-7).

5. It motivates believers to separate from evil (Tit. 2:13-14).

6. It keeps believers on the outlook for heresy and apostasy 2 Timothy 4:3-4; 1 John 2:24-28).