Pretribulational Rapture Thin 17 & 18th Century England

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Pretribulational Rapture in 17th & 18th Century Englandby Dr. William Watson, Professor of History, Colorado Christian UniversityPrefaceI am thankful to Early English Books Online (EEBO) for their collection of over 100,000 titles published inEnglish from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries, made easily accessible to the public. Thanks also to thefollowing archives: Huntington Library, British Library, Bodleian Library Oxford, and theNational Library ofWales. Thanks also to Talbot Theological Seminary, where I was rooted in the Scriptures, and to theUniversity of California Riverside, where I studied under some of the finest scholars in seventeenth andeighteenth century English history and received a fellowship to study in England. While a graduate student atUCR, I participated in the compilation of the Eighteenth Century Short Title Catalogue (ESTC), the Americanbranch of which was headed up by my dissertation chair Dr. Henry Snyder. The ESTC is the eighteenthcentury equivalent of EEBO, which covers the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries. Thanks also to OxfordBrookes University, which provided me a fellowship where I began the research for this book.My primary motivation for beginning the research culminating in this book came from a colleague at ColoradoChristian University, Dr. Johann Kim, professor of New Testament studies. We debated the issue of ChristianZionism and Dispensationalism before a large audience in the spring of 2007, where he declared that theseideas began only 150 years ago in the mind of John Nelson Darby. Having spent decades digging througharchives and data bases of pre-Victorian English published material, I had regularly encountered Apocalypticmaterial which seemed similar to Darby, and decided after that debate to dedicate my time to studying them.Since then, upon informing colleagues of my work, I got a response similar to what James Robertson got inearly eighteenth century while writing on the book of Revelation:Some are not ashamed directly to flout at, and spit Contempt upon these that meddle with the Expositionof this Prophecy; which is an indirect Battering of a great Part of the Word of God. Thus Dr. South, in oneof his Sermons, affirms, That none but a Madman will meddle with the Revelation; or, if he has wits at theBeginning, before he has done they will be cracked. And Davies, a Welsh bombastic Barrister, has theImpudence to insult a learned and reverend Prelate, yet alive, because he consumed two full Years andmore on this Prophecy; and adds that when he had done, he was ashamed to make them publick. nor doI doubt but that learned Man’s Endeavours may see the Light, to the Shame of his Adversaries.1The method I followed in this work was to spend four years studying only primary sources before reading thehistorians and theologians. This was made possible by using the search engines of EEBO and ESTC/ECCO.Only later did I check my conclusions with others. My apologies for quoting in length so many passages fromthese primary sources, but it was to avoid accusations that anything was taken out of context or that my 1730),vi.1

interpretations were imposed upon the sources. This is not a popular work expressing eschatologicalspeculation, but an academic endeavor, an attempt to discover what was believed centuries ago. Myconclusion is that Philo-Semitism, Premillennialism, and even Pretribulation-ism were more prevalent beforethe nineteenth century than many have supposed, and that many of those revered by current Preterists wereactually Premillennial (i.e. Westminster Assembly divines, Anglican bishops, and renowned Puritans on bothsides of the Atlantic). While Preterists claim that Premillennial-ism is new, it is actually Preterism that wasconsidered an innovation in the early eighteenth century.The word “rapture” has been commonly used in the twentieth century to describe the taking away of believersto heaven, but anti-dispensationalists insist that it was an idea begun by Darby in the late nineteenth century.An etymological study of the word shows its use centuries earlier.2 Rapture comes from the Latin word rapioor “caught up” and is found in English as early as the fourteenth century in the Vernon Manuscript, “wan hewas rapt into paradys.” John Lydgate early fifteenth century associate of Chaucer wrote, “in this wyse werethe brethren twayne to heaven rapt.”3 It is also found in the sixteenth century when William Bond refers toPaul’s mystical experience, “he was rapt & taken vp in to the thyrde heuen.”4Seventeenth CenturyIn 1608 Thomas Draxe reminded fellow Christians that just as God saved “Noah and his family” in the deluge,that “hee will remember and saue them, when all the world besides perisheth,” and “Lot in Sodome, hee shallbee preserued when all the rest are consumed.”5 Draxe exhorted us to “watch and pray, that we may beaccompted worthy to escape all these things that shall come.”6 He apparently believed in a partial rapture onlyof those worthy. Draxe believed the calling of the Jews would not occur until “the burning and destruction ofRome, for then the stumbling blocks ye Papists offer them, by their imagery, invocation of Saints, Latineservice shal be removed ” He claimed “Christs coming will follow soone after the calling of the Iewes.”This calling would then cause “the reviving and resurrection of the world.”7 Draxe noted that “Enoch andElias (though instantly transchanged) rapt aliue into heauen.”8 He wished to encourage his readers, thatThe day of the resurrection is the time of their refreshing, and of perfit restitution and a yeere of Iubily,and the day of our bodies ascent into heauen: wherefore, let vs prepare our selues, to meet the Lord atthis day If wee beleeue the doctrine of the resurrection, wee must not immoderately weepe, ormourne for our friends departed For they die not but sleepe awhile in the earth, and afterwards oksOnline.VernonMSS,inOld English Miscellany,223;andJohnLydgate,Chronicle of Troy(1420) ilgrimofPerfectioninWynkyn de Worde,1531): 25 in “Rapture” - ondon,1613),50.32

bodie shall awake and ascend to glorie: they are nor perished but shall one day meete together in thePalace and parliament of heauen our bodies though eaten of the wormes, and comsumed to ashes,shall in due time, be raised up from the death, reunited to our bodies, and be euerlasting glorified.9In a later work of 1615 Draxe warned that we should “make ourselves ready against that day, that we may beeaccounted worth to escape al those things that shall come upon the world, and to stand before the Sonne ofMan.” He concluded by asking God, “after we have suffered a while, and made our selues ready, bring vsvnto,and translate vs into, thine euerlasting Kingdome of glory.”10The word rapture appears often in the early seventeenth century, not only for personal mystical experiences,but also for the act of being swept bodily into heaven. In 1626 Barton Holyday wrote that “Elijah suffered atriumph and rapture of his bodie.”11Joseph Mede believed in two resurrections, but they were before and after the millennium, however his1627 comment on 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18 used the same illustration on his “first resurrection” as didDarby on the rapture. He connected it to Noah’s family lifted up away from the death and suffering onearth.12 In a single letter he uses the work “rapture” six times, all in reference to the saints meeting theLord in the air, even claiming that “the Apostle calls this Rapture, 2 Thess.2.1.”13 Although he seems tosuggest a post-tribulation rapture, he does give a bit of time between the rapture and return to earth of thesaints. Note also his word usage, that those “translated into the air” would “be preserved during theconflagration of the earth”:After this, our gathering together unto Christ at His coming The saints being translated into theair and they may be preserved during the conflagration of the earth, and the works thereof: 2Pet. 3.10. that as Noah and his family were preserved from the deluge by being lifted up above thewaters in the ark, so should the saints at the conflagration be lifted up in the clouds, unto theirark, Christ, to be preserved there from the deluge of fire, wherein the wicked shall be consumed.14Joseph Hall, bishop of Exeter in the 1630s spoke of how both Moses and Elijah were taken away to heaven,and that they would return as the two witnesses of Revelation. He then encouraged his readers:The Saints of God are not lost, but departed; gone into a far Country with their Master, to return again,richer and better than they went. Lest we should think this the Condition of Elias only, that was raptinto Heaven, see here Moses matched with him, that died and was buried: And is this the state of these9Ibid.,58- ffreyJue,HeavenUponEarth(Springer,2006),122- ‐125.13Mede,Works,iv,775- heEighteenthAnnualBarndollarLectureSeries].103

two Saints alone? Shall none be seen with him Oh thou weak Christian, was only one, or two Limbsof Christ’s body glorious, in the Transfiguration, or the whole? He is the Head, we are the Members. when Christ, which is our Life, shall appear, then shall we also appear with him in Glory We shallnot all sleep, we shall be changed Elias was changed [Nothing] shall keep us from appearing withhim when the fiery Chariot shall come, and sweep thee from this Vale of Mortality.15In 1642 press censorship was no longer enforced, and a flurry of apocalyptical works were published. RobertMaton immediately published several works, making it likely that he had been working on them since his daysat Oxford, but had been unable to publish them.16 In Israel’s Redemption our Saviours Kingdom on EarthMaton believed the resurrection would happen before Christ’s coming with his saints to rule on earth, and thatthe ungodly would be “left behind” to experience the wrath of God in the last days:When our Saviour comes to reign over all the earth, he comes not alone, but brings all the Saints withhim. why shall the Saints come with him, but because they have a share in this Kingdome whyshall the elect onely be gathered together and the rest left behind they shall be left, because the goodAngels cannot at once assemble them to the place of Judgement, and the Elect to meete the Lord in theAire, if these things were to be done at the same particular time. And therefore, as I suppose, they shallbe left, either to perish in that great destruction, which shall come upon all Nations that fightagainst the Jewes, whom our Saviour shall then redeem: Or to bee eye-witnesses of Gods wondersin all Countreys at that time.17In his follow up book Gog and Magog, or the Battle of the Great Day of God Almightie, published at the sametime as Israel’s Redemption, Robert Maton wrote of a great invasion into Judea by Gog and Magog. This isthe battle of Armageddon where the Kings of the Earth along with Babylon the Great Harlot and Antichrist’sforces are destroyed when Christ returns to usher in the Millennium. Maton believed that Ezekiel, Joel,Zechariah and Revelation 16-17all foreshow one and the same battell First, because they all speake of a more generall confederacyand combination of the Kings of the world Secondly, because they all say, that the returning or theJewes into their owne Land, shall be the occasion of this warre-like assembly. Thirdly, because theyall declare, that the destruction of this great army, shall be in the land of Judea.18Then Maton insisted that the resurrection of the saints needs to be well before this great battle:Although the foresaid prophecies of Saint John and Zechar. Doe expressely shew, the coming of ourSaviour to be at the time of a battell in the 1 to the Thess. And the fourth Chapter, where it is said,That the Lord himself shall descend from Heaven with a Shout we are told That when the great Dayof the Lord’s descent shall come, there is to be a generall security: Eating and drinking, marrying andgiving in marriage. And not warring and fighting. For if an end of the warres should be made by heNewTestament,nowcomplete.Togetherwith tsofAnglo- London,1642),94- ‐95.164

Lords coming, how would the faithfull have time here to rejoice, and to give thankes unto God fortheir greatest enemies overthrow?19Maton saw in the Scriptures “a double resurrection”, with believers rising and others left behind:The Time is coming, in which all that are in the graves shall heare his voice, and come forth; they thathave done good, unto the resurrection of life (when this time begins) and they that have done evill, untothe resurrection of damnation (when this time shall end.) And surely, seeing the same Apostle hath in the20. Chap. Of the Revel. plainely recorded this first and second resurrection; Saint Paul also thusvoting for us. As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his owneorder. Christ the first fruits, afterwards they that are Christs, at his coming. Now as it is evident, that theword [Order] doth imply a distance of time betwixt the rising of Christ, and of those that are Christs: sodoubtless, there being nor intimation of the rising of any others at his coming, besides those that are his; itdoth imply a distance of time too, betwixt the resurrection of these, and of those that are not his. And this Apostle elsewhere speaking of the resurrection which is to concurre with our Savioursdescension from heaven, hath not a word of the rising of any but of them that are dead in Christ.20Maton expected the Jews to be central to the Promises and Prophecies of the Last Days, involved in bothoverturning Rome and rebuilding Zion. Although modern theologians claim they can’t find anyone like himbefore Darby, he continued to be quoted throughout the last half of the 17th century.21That same year John Archer also expected a resurrection before the return of Christ:Christ shall come from heaven that is, Christ shall visibly appeare, which is not spoken of as theDay of the last Judgement. For it is the Time of the Israelites great trouble, after the first conversionto Christianity. First, He will raise up the Saints, which are dead before this his coming thisresurrection is not at the Worlds end, that they should rule with him in his kingdom that theyshould sit as kings, and rule the Tribes of Israel, which cannot be meant of Heaven, for that is theFathers Kingdome, and Christs Kingdom ends when the world ends. they should rule with him inhis Kingdom our Raigning with Christ 22Archer clearly has the return of Christ with his saints a period of time after the resurrection of those saints:The first thing that Christ will doe, when he comes from Heaven to set up his Kingdom, he will raise upall Saints who are dead before his coming, therefore he is said to come with all his Saints Zach 14.5.For surely, as Christ had a middle State betwixt his Resurrection and Ascension for forty days; soshall his Saints have who dye before his coming from Heaven; but they shall have a middle statebetwixt glory and mortality yet he said then to come from Heaven, although he had come before,therefore he must have gone to heaven again God hath approved somewhat proper and peculiar to everyAge of his Church and people; and in this place they are kept till this Kingdome of Christ come 2319Ibid.,110.Ibid.,118- m,inOppositiontotheCityoftheNationsGreatBabylon Babylon,andBuildingofZion,asMaton,andothersassert ChristuponEarth(London,1642),16- ‐17.23Ibid.,19.205

Westminster Assembly divine Jeremiah Burroughs taught of great tribulation before the church’s deliverance:The first thing that shall be done in this great day of Jezreel, shall be the deliverance of the Churches fromwofull 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 bedelivered the Ancients have spoken of this, that though it be a point that seems to be somewhat strangeto us, yet it was one of the most ordinariest things that was known in the Primitive times. It was then sogenerally acknowledged, that I remember Iustin Martyr (who was but 30. Yeers after Saint Iohn) hat suchan expression of this, There is no man (saith he) that is of the Orthodox faith in all things, but he dothacknowledge it. And Lactanitius in his 7. Book shewes that a little before there shall be most grievoustimes that shall fall out the Saints they shall be persecuted great times of affliction wil be before thatgreat day; and it is therefore called a great day, because of Gods appearing so gloriously in the deliveranceof his Church at that day. There is a great day for the Church of God, a day of glory It is a going up,it is a rising, and will rise more and more till it be risen unto the heighth. search into these truths of God,that so they may be the better prepared to meet Christ their Bride-groom when he commeth.24Ephraim Huit (Hewitt), founder the first church in Connecticut in 1639, believed “the comming of the Son ofMan in the Cloudes” would save the elect from “trials” and allow the Jews regain their role in God’s plan:“deliverance from outward trials is expressed by the Lords coming in the clouds in the deliverance ofhis Church, from Egypt, and preservation in the wildernesse is described by his riding on the heavens “Secondly, this coming of the Son of Man in the clouds is some memorable event, not long before thegeneral judgement, whereof it was a foregoing signe, and must therefore teach some other appearance.“Thirdly, upon this comming of the Son of Man in the cloudes, the kingdom is given to the Iewes butupon the Incarnation of our Lord, the kingdom was taken from the Iewes, and given to the Romanes “the summoning of the Elect by the sound of a trumpet but this trumpet is heard only by the Elect, sothat to me it seems to intend some voice, and call of the Lord, whereof the reprobates are incapable:“our Lord Mat 24.30. & his beloved disciple Iohn Rev 1.7. do couple this coming of the Son of man inthe Cloudes with that holy wailing of the Iewes in their conuersion Zac 12.10.”25Huit paraphrased Daniel 12: 1 “in those days shall the Messiah the Lord and Guardiant of his Church shewhis power in the redemption of thy Countreymen, the which times however exceedingly troublous, the like notime ever afforded, nor people endured, yet shall they be delivered as many as be the Lords elected people.”Huit went on to imply a partial resurrection prior to the “general judgement and resurrection.”“In the days of affliction the Lord stands for the defense of his Church. these things cannot bemeant by the generall judgement and resurrection.“First the children of Daniel’s people onely are delievered, the Iews onely are capable of this risingagain, who in the generall judgement have no preeminence.“Secondly, this time is a great time of trouble even to them that rise to life, but the state unto whichthe godly do arise in the generall judgement, is replenished with rest and peace.“Thirdly, in this resurrection many shall arise but not all but in the generall judgement even allshall arise how profane so ever they esieofHosea(London,1643),187- ‐188,194- 43),196- ‐199.256

Huit then described the invasion of a reestablished Judah by the King of the North and the King of the South,identified as Turks and Saracens. The Jews “in those times of their restore are said to be very troublous,” butwould be finally saved when Christ and “gods Church as a Bride royally attired descends from Heaven.”27Elizabeth Avery in 1647 understood the woman of Revelation 12, who was taken by the two wings of an eagleto safety in the wilderness, to be the true Church rescued from the persecution of the false church. She alsounderstood passages where God would gather his people from around the world (commonly understood asJews gathered to Israel) and gather them to himself.he will gather all his from all places whither they have been led captives, as well as out of this Land,which doth more evidently appear to be spiritual Babylon then any other place the great Tribulationwhich shall befall the Church of God immediately before her deliverance out of Babylon and herdeliverance likewise temporally from the bondage of the creature, the hateful enemies of God; and sothe Church shall be secured in that chamber spoken of in Isai 26, and the wildernesseRevel 12. As wellin a temporal sense as in a spiritual, which is a place of safety which God will provide as a restingplace for the Saints: which I say is an undoubted truth, in respect of the judgements of God which arecoming on the earth, an utter destruction of the wicked by Sword, Pestilence and Famine.28Avery supports this gathering of saints as a separate event than the actual return of Christ, and from the samepassages as did Darby and later Dispensationalists:Whereas the saints do expect a dissolution of all things at the last days, when the Son of man shall comein the clouds of heaven with power and great glory, and all the Saints with him in like manner, whoshall be gathered together by the sound of a trumpet, as in 1 Cor 15.And 1 Thess 4 and 5 Chap. 1Pet 3.Where it is said, that the day shall come as a thief in the night those that are risen at the comingof Christ, with those who are risen from the dead, shall be caught up into the clouds, to meet the Lordin the air and accordingly do expect Christ coming in glory spiritually, and all his Saints with him. thoughts concerning the state of the Saints departed, with those who shall, before the gloriousmanifestation of Jesus Christ in the flesh 29An expectation that the Saints would be taken out of tribulation and protected from the wrath of Antichrist wascommon in the seventeenth century. Lady Mary Cary believed that “enlargements shall come for the Saints,and they being delivered from the rage of the Beast, shall be preserved wholly from his fury ”30Peter Sterry, another member of the Westminster Assembly of Divines, in The Clouds in which Christ Comes(1648) seems to describe as a pre-tribulation rapture:26Ibid.,346- causedarepetition).28E.Avery,Scripture- ‐Propheciesopened(London,1647),7- Rome(London,1648),Postscript.277

This second Coming of Christ, is, as the dayes of Noah. The Lord Jesus in the Spirit shall be both Arkand Flood: An Ark to those which are taken into Christ, lifting them high above all miseries towardHeaven; And [illegible] carrying away insensible Persons, and Scorners [illegible] ing Woe.31Nathaniel Homes is another seventeenth century author who used the word “rapture” for the event in 1Thessalonians 4. He cited Joseph Mede who wrote twenty six years earlier:The resurrection of those which slept in Christ, and the rapture of those which shall be left alive,together with them into the aire, should be at one and the same time: For the words in 1 Thess 4.v.16,17 may admit a great distance of time Everyone (or, all mankind) shall rise in their order,Christ the first fruits afterwards, they that are Christs at his coming notes a distance of time ofabove a thousand and a halfe of yeers Suppose this rapture of the Saints into the aire, be to translatethem to heaven, the rapture of the Saints into the clouds, to be for their present translation intoheaven. this our gathering together unto Christ at his coming (so the Apostle calls this rapture, 2Thess.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.32Using a classic Pre-Tribulation argument, Homes wondered why the saints would be raptured into the aire, instead ofmeeting Christ when he arrives on earth:What may be conceived to be the cause of this rapture of the Saints on high to meet the Lord in theclouds, rather then to wait his coming to the earth. What if it bee, that they may be preserved duringthe conflagration of the earth, and the works thereof, 2 Pet.3.10. That as Noah, and his family werepreserved from the deluge, by being lift up above the waters in the Ark, so should the Saints at theconflagration bee lift up in the clouds unto their Ark, Christ, to be preserved there from the Deluge offire, wherein the wicked shall be consumed?33Homes wrote of a dual resurrection, “Blessed & holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection,” whichwould occur at “a Resurrection of the deceased beleevers intimating that the bringing in of the Jewes at theResurrection of all things would be a very great and glorious businesse ”34 Homes believes the rapture andthe calling of the Jews would happen simultaneously:The likeliest maine time to make out the true meaning of this Text [“they will look upon him whom theyhave pierced and mourn” Zachariah 12:10] is the time of the general Call, and conversion of the Jewes yetto come, at the beginning of the Restitution of all things. this coming is meant of a coming after hisAscension, and yet before the ultimate day of doome a future thing it is not intended of his last Actthat ever hee will doe, which is the ultimate judgement. BEHOLD implies some eminent coming, andnone more eminent than this, for the RESTITUTION OF ALL THINGS. HEE cometh IN the clouds. this coming shall not bee so obscure, as his Incarnation but he shall come conspicuous and gloriousvisibly to all upon the earth Zechary the Prophet, and John the Apostle both prophesie in the aforesaidplaces of one and the same personal appearance of Christ visibly to the eyes of men on earth after dinaSermonbeforethe id.,62- ‐3.328

Ascension. But this cannot be understood of his appearance at the ultimate day of judgement, becausethey speak of his pouring out of grace, and giving repentance to the families of the Jewes 35After pages of arguments as to why numerous prophetic events could not have yet occurred, Homes implies apre-trib rapture and explicitly states a pre-mil scenario, that there would be a “first Resurrection, wherein allthe Saints rise; so that the ruine of Babylon, and the raising of the Saints immediately concurre with thesorrow of the one, and the triumph of the other.” Homes quoted Mennesseh bin Israel, that the “ruine ofBabylon” would allow “the great Restauration” of Israel:The Israelites after their return into their own Country at the time of their redemption, are not to injoy afull and perfect tranquility, and peace, until the last war with Gog and Magog shall be finished. For itshall come to pass that after the Israelites shall returne into Palestine, that Nation of Gog and Magogshall come to invade the Holy Land confirmed by divers places of Scripture. I By Ezekiel, Chap.37. where the prophet treating of the gathering together in the 38. Chapter, that this people shall bebroken Secondly it may be confirmed out of Joel, Chapter 3 Thirdly out of Dan. Chapter 12 36William Aspinwall also had a concept of a taking up into heaven, leaving some behind before a great wrath:If God by some voice from heaven, I mean out of his Churches, say Come up hither, Rev.11.12,13.Follow his cal, and fear not enemies; though you see them, & they see you ascend up to heaven, youshall be safe. Some commotion or earthquake wil ensue, but no detriment to you that obey the voicefrom heaven, The detriment wil be to the enemies themselves 37This idea of one last great persecution with the true church protected miraculously by God was also a belief ofArchbishop Ussher. In fact, Ussher, renowned for setting the date of creation at 4004 BC was in close contactwith Joseph Mede and concurred in this eschatological scheme. Both Mede and Ussher believed there wouldbe 6000 years of human history, then the 1000 years of paradise in the Millennium. After all, wasn’t the earthcreated in six days with God resting on the sevent

The word “rapture” has been commonly used in the twentieth century to describe the taking away of believers to heaven, but anti-dispensationalists insist that it was an idea begun by Darby in the late nineteenth century. An etymological study of the word shows its use centuries earlier.2 Rapture comes from the Latin word rapio