Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Early Church Fathers on the Rapture: Some Quotes

Last night we discussed 1 Thessalonians and spent some time discussing issues like the Rapture and the end times (also known as eschatology).  I spent some time before Bible study looking into some of the beliefs of the early church on the Rapture.  Many argue that the Rapture is a recent belief (pinning the tail on John Darby in the mid-1800's).

What I found interesting was that at least among some of the Father's, there seems to be a form of belief in the Rapture.  As to the timing, it seems to remain unclear, but from what I can tell, they seem to place the Rapture as just prior to the Second Coming of Christ.  Here are some quotes all of which are taken from David Bercot, A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, 551-552.

Irenaeus – “When in the end of the church will suddenly be caught up from this, it is said, ‘There will be tribulation such as has not been since the beginning, nor will be.’  For this is the last contest of the righteous.  When they overcome in this contest, they are crowned with incorruption.” -551

Tertullian – “In the crisis of the last moment, and from their instantaneous death while encountering the oppression of the Antichrist, these persons will undergo a change . . . These persons will put on this heavenly garment over their bodies.  Meanwhile, the dead, for their part, will also recover their bodies.” -551

Tertullian – “He says that those who remain unto the coming of Christ, along with the dead in Christ, shall rise first, being ‘caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.’ . . .” -551

Tertullian – “Before we put off the garments of the flesh, we wish to be clothed with the celestial glory of immortality.  Now, the privilege of this favor awaits those who are found in the flesh at the coming of the Lord.  These – owing to the oppression of the times of the Antichrist – deserve by an instantaneous death (which is accomplished by a sudden change) to become qualified to join the rising saints.  Paul writes of this to the Thessalonians.” -552

Interesting to say the least.  The Early Fathers seem to be clearly describing what we would call the Rapture.

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