the gifts of the Spirit, the rapture, Mormonism, Adventism,
and other modern Christian novelty assemblages
the "blessed hope" of many, being caught up into the clouds to meet the Messiah
In any historical overview of the Christian religion, it can't be overlooked that from the early part of the 19th century, something weird was going on in the world of the ecumenical church. It has been characterized as the so-called "Second Great Awakening."
While one must concede that revelations from God can come anytime and anywhere, it is also true that one must use extreme caution when considering some crazy, newfangled teaching. Particularly, question whether or not it conforms to the gospel teachings of Yeshua and what the apostles taught? Does it deviate from Torah teaching? One should even consider the question, "has God ever used a prophet to speak for Him that wasn't Jewish?" Satan has.
In the 1830s John Darby was spreading the new doctrines of dispensationalism and the rapture. Dispensationalism, among
But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber. - 2 Peter 2:1-3
During this period of time from the early 19th century, there was a noticeable quickening of false teaching, new ideas, and further divisions within the ecumenical brotherhood. Much of it centered around predictions concerning the return of the Messiah, and "time guessing," as well as new teachings such as the rapture, or whether or not the "New Jerusalem" would be physically located in North America.
a study on separating the tares from the scriptural wheat
Edward Irving - first stirrings of the Charismatic movement
Born in Scotland in 1792, Edward Irving became a minister in the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian). He wound up pastoring a congregation in Regent Square in London, which was revived by his enthusiastic preaching style. He happened to be close friends with a pastor named John McLeod Campbell in west Scotland, with whom he would visit and spend time. McLeod had an assistant named A.J. Scott who would join them in their conversations, and had begun arguing against the belief in 'cessationism' - that the gifts of the Spirit had ceased long ago, and the Spirit was no longer active among the faithful as it had been at Pentecost. In 1827, Irving picked up on it, and began teaching this new idea at his church in Regent Square.
Irving became obsessed with end times prophecies, and declared that he had learned from his studies there would be a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit prior to the return of the Messiah. He also made the prediction that the Jews would be returned to Israel, and that Christ would make his triumphant return in 1864. He led classes for his parishioners to ardently seek the Holy Spirit, believing that if they did, the Spirit would manifest itself through them with signs and gifts such as speaking in tongues, healing, and prophecy. Gifts of the Spirit as at Pentecost. Then . . strange things began to happen.
In 1830, at McLeod's church, up in Scotland, a woman named Mary Campbell began speaking in an unknown tongue. The following month another woman named Margaret MacDonald began to speak a word of prophecy, "there will be a mighty baptism of the Spirit this day." Both of these women were acquainted with each other, and both happened to be very ill at the time. It is said that MacDonald was near death. Her brother came to her and commanded her to stand and be healed, and she did. He then wrote a letter to Mary Campbell, telling her of Margaret's miraculous healing, and telling her she would also be healed. Upon receiving the letter, Campbell's illness is said to have left her immediately. People began to come from all over Scotland and England to learn more about these outpourings of the Spirit, and the gifts began to manifest all over the place. It was kind of weird, but it was as Edward Irving had predicted. He supported these teachings with both Hebrew and Christian scripture;
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven (Pentecost), raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: “ ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. - Acts 2:14-19
I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. - Joel 2:28-31
It did not go well for Mr. Irving. In 1831 board members of the church were getting increasingly uncomfortable with the demonstrations of Spirit possession. It's understood that speaking in tongues, without anyone to interpret, is meaningless. The board brought a complaint to the London Presbytery, which in turn decided Irving was in violation of the "order of worship" for the Church of Scotland by allowing confusing and disruptive interruptions of the service from the laity. He was removed as a pastor, but they carefully avoided making charges that might implicate the Holy Spirit, and instead removed him for some of his earlier teachings. He had taught that the incarnate Jesus was totally human, and as such, had the potential for sin. The Lord didn't sin, he taught, only because he was so filled with the Spirit. This teaching was contrary to the trinitarian teachings of the church, which declares it heresy to think God as Christ could even have the potential for sin. Irving was declared a heretic, and his ordination was revoked.
His congregation, not to be deterred, reorganized as the Catholic Apostolic church. These were the origins of present day Pentecostalism. They moved into a new building, and focused on the gifts of the Spirit, but as prophecies spoken, did not come to pass, some became disillusioned, and began leaving the church. Many of his supporters began to turn against Mr. Irving, and he lost all control of the church he had started. He went on a speaking tour against doctor's orders, due to health issues, and passed away in 1834 at the age of 42. The Messiah did not return in 1864, however, his prediction that the Jewish people would return to the land of Israel did in fact come true, but on an entirely different timetable. 1948. Nonetheless, in the 1830s such a prediction would have seemed completely preposterous, given that the Jewish people had been scattered around the world, and their former homeland of Israel had been decisively erased by the Romans.
John Darby - dispensationalism, and the rapture teaching
John Nelson Darby was born in 1800 in London to an Anglo-Irish land owning family. He was an exceptional student, studied law, and in 1822 became a lawyer in Ireland. However, his law career didn't last long. Within four years he quit the law, in favor of a higher calling, becoming in 1825, ordained as an Anglican clergyman in the Church of Ireland. The Church of Ireland was an autonomous division of the Anglican Communion. It was the second largest Christian church in Ireland after Roman Catholicism. He became known for his preaching, and highly respected for his devotion to his pastoral duties.
But as his personal Bible study progressed, he became disillusioned with how "established" the Protestant churches had become since the Reformation. They seemed to fit the Lord's admonitions from Revelation, "They had left the love they had at first," and, "because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold..." This was becoming apparent of all the reformed and Protestant "mainline" churches, but the Anglican church, in his opinion, so closely associated as it was with the state, had become truly lifeless. Consequently, he resigned his pastoral appointment after only a couple of years.
He found a group of similarly disillusioned Christians who simply called themselves "Brethren." The group rejected denominationalism, and had no professional clergy. Their services consisted of a simple communion ceremony, which was served by a different individual each week. They met regularly in Plymouth, and became known as the Plymouth Brethren. Darby began to develop his own theology, part of which was the conviction that the very idea of a clergyman was a sin against the Holy Spirit. He felt that the clergy class was interfering with the Holy Spirit's ability to speak through any member of the assembly.
Though he wasn't a leader of the community, he quickly became the most prominent and influential voice of the Brethren. He published a pamphlet entitled The Nature and Unity of the Church of Christ, in 1828, describing the community's beliefs and practices, which drew a lot of attention. He wound up traveling through Western Europe, North America, Australia, and New Zealand, preaching his new ecclesia, and denouncing denominationalism. Along the way he established many new assemblies of the Brethren.
They came not only to hear him preach about his new form of worship, but also his teachings about the end times. Darby had developed a new formulation for premillennialism which he called "dispensationalism." In this, Darby divided history into seven distinct segments, or dispensations, corresponding to the seven days of creation. He named these historical ages of human existence; Paradise, Noah, Abraham, Israel, Gentiles, the Spirit, and the Millennium. Apparently, he was such a convincing preacher, that nobody took notice that this dispensationalism was a novel new theology, not taught by Yeshua. It is said, he was presuming to read God's mind. Others point out that the Bible actually only identifies two dispensations, Law and Grace - see John 1:17. Other aspects of the dispensationalism taught by Darby was his novel method of scriptural interpretation, including the application of strict literalism to scriptural texts, discarding such concepts as figurative illustrations and metaphors. He also taught the absolute separation of Israel and the Christian church into two distinct peoples of God, rather than "One flock, one shepherd." Then there was the rapture theology to which he became so closely wedded and identified.
The rapture is a doctrine of faith promoted by large numbers of Christians even today, as a teaching central to their hopes and understanding of End Time prophecy, or eschatology. Yet the concept is a modern novelty that was not taught by Yeshua or the apostles, and has no scriptural support beyond convoluted analytical contortions of verse. One might ask, how could an idea, so important to end times expectations, have been completely over-looked by all of the church fathers, scholars, and theologians for over 1700 years? Still, this teaching has become so popular and widespread since it was first introduced, it cannot be ignored.
Contrary to what many believe, the rapture doctrine did not originate with John Darby, but Darby was instrumental in developing and popularizing the idea, utilizing his theological credentials, and lending credibility to the wacky concept that Christ would return in two stages, one secret and the other open. By the summer of 1830 the revelations of Miss MacDonald were being mentioned in praise and prayer meetings around western Scotland. From these meetings it was being reported that some were speaking in tongues and manifesting other charismatic signs of possession of the "Holy Spirit." In 1830, the word was spreading of a revival of "gifts" occurring in the Scottish lowlands. Some were experiencing what they called an outpouring of the Spirit, which moved them to speaking in tongues, healing and other charismatic phenomena.
These extraordinary events had come to the attention of Darby, who traveled to Scotland to witness first hand what was going on. Miss MacDonald is said to have experienced manifestations of "mingled prophecy and visions." She received a revelation during this experience, convincing her that the Lord's return would occur in two stages, departing sharply from what Christians had always believed. The Lord would first come in glory to receive up to the clouds all those saints that look for him. He would then come back again a few years later, and all eyes would see him. These visions of Miss MacDonald represent the foundational source of the modern day rapture doctrine. While Darby did not approve of the ecstatic demonstrations of the charismatics he witnessed among the Scottish churchgoers, it is noteworthy, that after returning to England, he began teaching that Christ's advent would occur in two phases.
Joseph Smith - the founder of Mormonism and the Latter Day Saints movement
Across the Atlantic, the weirdness of this particular time in Christian history, continued as Joseph Smith Jr. was born in 1805, in Sharon, Vermont. His father was a farmer, but after a series of crop failures, he moved the family to Palmyra, New York. His mother had come from a family that had dissociated from traditional congregationalism and taken up a movement called "Seekerism." Seekerism sought a new revelation that could restore true Christianity. Her unorthodox views apparently had a strong influence over the impressionable young mind of the youthful Joseph.
Smith claimed to have received the golden plates
containing the Book of Mormon, from the angel Moroni
Confused about proper doctrinal worship, when he was 14, Joseph prayed for help, and according to his own testimony, God and Jesus appeared to him, manifesting in the forms of two separate beings. In answer to his question about which was the right church, they told him that all the churches were wrong.
Later, while praying for forgiveness, in 1823 he received another vision, this time from an angel that identified itself as "Moroni." The angel revealed the location of a stone box, containing a set of golden plates, which held a Judeo-Christian history of an ancient civilization in America. Smith found the stone box, conveniently not far from his father's farm, but was unable to open it.
Four years later, Moroni reappeared, and permitted him to open the box and remove the plates, along with a breastplate, and a set of "interpreters," which consisted of two "seer" stones set in a frame. Moroni instructed him in the method of translating the foreign characters inscribed on the plates. He was further instructed not to show the tablets to anyone, but that he should publish the translation. He called the unknown inscriptions "reformed Egyptian," and Smith was the only person able to read and translate it using the seer stones.
Smith always insisted that he did not compose the Book of Mormon, but only translated it under divine guidance. He completed the work in less than 90 days, and published the 580 page volume in March of 1830.
Among many other teachings, the Book of Mormon claimed that the Native Americans were the descendants of the 10 lost tribes of Israel which were said to have migrated to the Americas around 600 B.C. Then, according to Mormon doctrine, this alliance of Jewish tribes divided into two groups, the God fearing Nephites, who were whites (though the term "white" was officially changed in 1981 to read "pure"), and the Lamanites, who became dark-skinned as a punishment for idol worship. Modern DNA analysis has completely disproved this teaching of the Mormon church, however, the church chooses to dismiss the DNA evidence as an irrelevant distraction. DNA analysis proves there is no Hebrew blood among the indigenous peoples of the Americas. The Mormon church insists the translation work of Joseph Smith must be taken as literal and without error.
Convincing others, beyond just a handful of friends, of the prophetic and visionary merit contained in his Book of Mormon, was going to take some effort. After some followers questioned his authority, he responded by claiming to have received a revelation which declared him to be a prophet and apostle. Furthermore, it was revealed that only Smith had the ability to pronounce doctrine, and interpret scripture for the entire church. This put to rest the uncomfortable questions unindoctrinated people might ask. You can't question a self proclaimed prophet's self proclamation, or dispute his self-proclaimed authority of guidance and oversight.
From among the growing numbers of followers in New York, he dispatched Oliver Cowdery, Hiram Page, and Peter Whitmer on a mission to Missouri to proselytize Native Americans and seek out the site of New Jerusalem. Along the way they passed through Northeastern Ohio, where they came across a fellow named Sidney Rigdon in Kirtland, who led an assembly of over a hundred followers of Campbellite Restorationism, and the missionaries converted the entire congregation to Mormonism.
As Smith's teachings got more and more attention, he began to encounter strong, opposing voices in New York. He had another of his conspicuously convenient revelations, declaring Kirtland, Ohio as the eastern boundary of the New Jerusalem. In 1831 he moved from New York to Kirtland, and told all his followers to gather there. What he found in this new home, were religious practices that included charismatic demonstrations of Holy Spirit possession, including fits and trances, rolling about on the floor, and speaking in unintelligible tongues. Smith set about taming these outbursts, and brought the assembly under his authority.
Converts came, and began to swell the population of the little Ohio town. By 1835 there were 1,500 to 2,000 Mormons in the area, expecting Joseph Smith to lead them all to the Millennium Kingdom of God. Though the mission to the Native Americans was a failure, Cowdery eventually reported back that he had found the site of New Jerusalem in Missouri. He declared the little frontier village named Independence, as the center place of Zion, and for the next few years, the church was divided between the congregations of Ohio and Missouri.
Smith had remained in Ohio until a mob of local residents, angry about Mormon teachings and the fact that they were using their shear numbers to control local political power in the county. The mob got their hands on Smith and Rigdon, beat them both senseless, covered them in tar and feathers, and left them for dead. The community in Missouri faced a similar backlash of local resentment against the newcomers for the same religious and political reasons. In 1833 the first violent clash occurred, and from there it only got worse, erupting into shoot-outs, with both sides taking casualties. Smith even led a small "paramilitary" group to Missouri to reinforce the Missouri Mormons. The expedition was a failure, however, plagued with an outbreak of cholera, and a lot of bickering and disagreement among the participants.
The Kirtland Temple was dedicated in 1836, and many participants at the opening were reported to be possessed by the Holy Spirit as they prophesied, saw visions of angels, and blathered in tongues. However, by 1837, internal disputes led to the collapse of the Kirtland Mormon community. Construction of the temple had left the church deep in debt, and Smith was blamed for the failure of a church-sponsored bank. There were large numbers of defections from the church, including some of Smith's closest and most influential advisors. In 1838 a warrant was issued for the arrest of Joseph Smith on charges of bank fraud. Smith and Rigdon opted for the scoundrel's leg-bail, fleeing to Missouri, one step ahead of the creditors and civil authorities.
Smith and Rigdon abandoned Independence as the place of Zion, and moved on to another little Missouri town called Far West, declaring this the new Zion. They also gave the church a new name, "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints," and began construction on a new temple. Thousands of Mormon faithful followed them from Kirtland, and a new settlement sprang up in the frontier country of Missouri.
The next big confrontation came in the latter months of 1838 when non-Mormons tried to prevent Mormons from voting. These incidents of provocation led to shoot-outs between Mormon militia groups and non-Mormon vigilante groups. Farms were burned out, towns were attacked, casualties were taken on both sides. Finally, the Latter Day Saints surrendered to a force of 2,500 state troopers, and agreed to forfeit their property and leave the state.
Smith and Rigdon were charged with treason and jailed in Liberty, Missouri awaiting trial. Meanwhile, Brigham Young, one of the Twelve Apostles of the church, stood to the challenge of leadership, organizing the relocation of about 14,000 Mormon refugees across the river to Illinois. Then, in April of 1839, following a grand jury hearing, Smith and his companions escaped custody with some outside help.
They went on to establish a new community in Illinois, forming a town that Smith named Nauvoo (Hebrew, meaning "to be beautiful"). This became a period of expansive doctrinal innovation for Smith. Including the controversial doctrines of plural marriages, and baptisms for the dead. Internal strife erupted again, accusations flew, tearing at the church leadership. Smith and his brother Hyrum wound up being arrested and charged with inciting a riot, but once jailed, the charges were increased to treason.
In June of 1844 a mob with blackened faces stormed the jail where Joseph and Hyrum were being held. Hyrum was shot in the face while trying to hold the door. Joseph got off three shots from a 'pepper-box' pistol before he could get out the window. He had been shot several times as he fell from the jail house window, and is said to have been already dead by the time he hit the ground. He was shot several more times before the mob dispersed. Five men were later tried for the murders of Hyrum and Joseph Smith, but all were acquitted by a sympathetic court.
After the death of Joseph Smith the church was governed by the "Twelve Apostles," where Brigham Young was the president. More disputes arose in Illinois, and the entire community of Mormons set out on what would become known as the 'Mormon Trail'. They left the boundaries of the United States, and eventually settled on the banks of the Great Salt Lake, in the wide-open Utah Territory. Young had blamed the government of the United States for failing to protect the Mormons from the political and religious persecution they encountered in the states of Illinois and Missouri, setting up a future conflict. Young would be appointed the first governor of the Utah Territory in 1851. The LDS church, founded by Joseph Smith, after undergoing many doctrinal reformations, currently boasts an international membership of over 16 million.
William Miller - the Millerites and the origins of Adventism
Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to him, “How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled—the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, the rebellion that causes desolation, the surrender of the sanctuary and the trampling underfoot of the LORD’s people?” He said to me, “It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be reconsecrated.” Daniel 8:13,14
Miller came to the realization that the Lord would return about 1843, without attaching a specific date. He began his preaching in 1831, warning anyone that would listen, that the imminent second coming of Christ was fast approaching. He had only modest success winning over converts at first, though he devoted himself to the task, and was willing to preach anywhere to any congregation. Various pastors were willing to open their churches to him, allowing him to preach because his message was a popular draw, filling the pews, and collection plates.
As the predicted year drew closer, the ranks of the "Millerites" swelled into the many tens of thousands, by some estimates. Expectations intensified enormously when a comet suddenly appeared in the night sky, in March of 1843. The anticipation in
Adventism is the doctrine that the second coming of the Messiah, and the millennial Kingdom are events whose time has come. This is a doctrine that has certainly been taught by Yeshua and the Apostles, and has been an expectation of His followers for nearly 2,000 years. The doctrine itself is neither an augmentation nor a novelty of Christian belief. The Adventism, though, that started showing up around 1831 with William Miller, overstepped the Lord's warning against setting dates, or timetables for the arrival of the glorified Messiah;
"But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only." - Matthew 24:36
Additionally, there was an unorthodox element in these teachings, whereby the Americas had taken on a central role, as the possible site of the New Jerusalem, not unlike Joseph Smith's teaching.
William Miller was born in 1782 in Massachusetts, and went on to serve as an officer in the Army during the War of 1812. In the 1820s he joined the Baptist faith, and began to study the Bible. He developed a fixation on the prophetic books of Daniel and Revelation, and became obsessed with the cryptic words of Daniel, attempting to calculate a time frame for the 'Time of the End'.
some, was said to have gotten irrationally exuberant. People started to give away everything they owned, including farmland, homes, and livestock. There are even unsubstantiated reports of Millerites wearing "ascension" robes, and standing on rooftops and hilltops, hoping the elevation would get them closer, that they might be among the first to meet the Lord. The mockers and ridiculers had a field day. Date setting did not reflect well on God's word.
The date of April 3, 1843 was floated among Miller's followers, though Miller himself had not announced a date. The New York Herald had published the date in a false report, and it gained traction among Miller's following. Of course, the date came and went. Everyone waited patiently, but by the end of summer Miller and his followers were all feeling a growing sense of disappointment.
A new date was officially announced, March 21, 1844. They arrived at this new date by switching from the Christian Gregorian calendar, to a new reckoning based on the Jewish calendar. After this date had also passed, William Miller apologized for his error, and retired to obscurity. But the movement he had started was more determined than ever that they would not give up. Miller had started something that refused to die and continued to roam the earth like the undead. One of the Millerites, Samuel Snow, calculated October 22, 1844 as the next potential date for the Messiah's return. When this date also came and went, it resulted in what came to be known among Adventists as, "The Great Disappointment."
The following year, those that still believed in Miller's prophetic revelation, gathered for a conference to console one another, and plan the next phase of the "egg-on-face" tour of pulpiteers. They formed a loose affiliation called the Evangelical Adventists, which became the foundation of all Adventist churches. Among the die-hard followers were James White, Ellen Gould Harmon, who would marry James White in 1846, and Joseph Bates. They were convinced that Miller had set the right date, but had interpreted events incorrectly. From their reading of Daniel chapters 8 and 9, they concluded that God had in fact, begun the "cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary."
The tare is a weed common to the region of the Levant. It's known as the "bearded darnel" (Lolium temulentum). It so resembles wheat in its early stages of development and growth, that the wheat and tares are, for all practical purposes, indistinguishable. Only when they develop seed heads at maturity can you easily tell them apart.
two cents worth of botany 101
William Miller passed away in 1849, but he left a legacy that would long outlive him. Following the Great Disappointment the Millerites wept all night, and after regaining their composure, most of them simply abandoned their beliefs. Yet, there were two Adventist groups that emerged with some staying power. After knocking around various possibilities that might explain the misinterpretation, perhaps an error in Biblical chronology, or some other human interpretive error, there were those that remained steadfast in the belief that the imminent return of the Lord was at hand. Of course, as Christians, we must always consider that the return of the Messiah is imminent. The two surviving Adventist groups are the Advent Christian Church which still claims about 61,000 members, and the Seventh Day Adventist Church, which has grown to over nineteen million members.
the modern teaching of the rapture
Most Christians, if not believers in this teaching, are at least familiar with it. For those that may be unfamiliar, or unsure about the teaching, we provide the following summary and refutation. First of all, understand that the word "rapture" does not appear anywhere in scripture. The rapture teaching wants you to believe that the return of the Messiah will occur in two stages.
other things, included his teaching of strict Biblical literalism, and the "rapture" was a radical new teaching. Later, the popularity of the Schofield Reference Bible helped to spread these teachings across the Atlantic to America. It is written:
It begins with the cryptic time frame provided by Daniel, the great Hebrew prophet, who wrote extensively about End of Days eschatology. Daniel was a young boy when he was taken into captivity in the Babylonian exile of Judah in the fourth year of Jehoiakim (604 BC).
It is taught that the evidence for this teaching is found in scripture. However, much like the trinitarian doctrine, an ordinary person reading the words of the Bible would never even get a hint of such an idea. Still, they are willing to follow those claiming a gift of prophetic, ecclesiastical insight, embracing an idea they cannot comprehend for themselves. An idea that cannot be supported by scripture except through tortured, twisted, interpretations, or removed of context. We've been warned, "many false prophets will rise up and deceive many."
Did Yeshua or the apostles teach a two stage return? Read their words, judge for yourself. Tracing the origins of this eschatological teaching takes us back to Miss Margaret MacDonald of Port Glasgow, Scotland. From there, to John Nelson Darby who claimed he received the revelation in 1827, after he realized the distinction between Israel and the Church. Darby's critics accuse him of being a self-promoter who lifted the ideas of Edward Irving, the Presbyterian pastor in London. It was then picked up by the Plymouth Brethren movement.
Later, an American named Cyrus Scofield would be brought to the faith through the witness of a friend named Thomas McPheeters. His was a life spinning out of control, but after being brought to Christ, his life took a radical turn. Eventually, he would become friends with such notable evangelists as D.L. Moody and Robert Torrey. However, what Scofield became best known for was the Scofield Reference Bible, published in 1909. Some would say this publication was a remarkable achievement for a man with no formal theological training. Others might consider the lack of seminary training a blessing. Nonetheless, Scofield has no shortage of both personal detractors and admirers of his accomplishments.
The Scofield Reference Bible uses the King James Version (see - King James I authorizes a new Bible), linking references from passage to passage, following a train of thought, making it an extremely valuable study Bible. He had come to appreciate the teachings of John Nelson Darby, and Darby's dispensationalism and premillennial rapture teachings were incorporated into footnotes throughout Scofield's Bible, as though they were established Biblical teaching. Darby's legacy was thus transferred across the Atlantic and inserted into what would become the "study Bible" of choice among a vast number of seminary students. It's unprecedented circulation among Protestants throughout England and America has been an invaluable aid in scriptural interpretation, and contributed more to the spread of Darby's teachings than any other publication.
While Scofield's Reference Bible amplified and magnified the legacy of John Darby, so Scofield's legacy would be magnified by Lewis Sperry Chafer, who founded the Dallas Theological Seminary. The Dallas Theological Seminary became the most prominent dispensational seminary in the world, and has had many high-profile graduates including Chuck Swindoll, Tony Evans, David Jeremiah, J. Vernon McGee, and Hal Lindsey. The rapture teaching was further promoted and popularized in the 1970s by Hal Lindsey’s writings ( The Late Great Planet Earth, etc.), and more recently by Jim Jenkins and Tim LaHaye in their Left Behind books and film productions. It's a fanciful idea that captures the imagination.
“Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place. “Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him. ” - Daniel 9:24-27
The popular way of reading the above scripture, is to then couple it with the words of Yeshua when He speaks to the apostles in answer to their question about the time of the end:
. . . "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?" And Jesus answered and said to them: "Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved." - Mattew 24: 3-13
The "elect" refers to Jews, not to Gentile Christians, but don't tell the Gentiles that, because the rapture idea is an exclusively Christian Gentile teaching. Anyway, in very general terms the doctrine states that Christ will return first, in secret, to rapture his saints away from this world, in order that they might escape the pain, suffering, and hardship of the Great Tribulation. He will then return in a second advent, visibly, so that "all eyes will see him," and His wrath will be issued forth upon the nations. This is the basic structure of the doctrine, though there are a number of variations, which are often stridently debated among the different rapture factions.
Disagreement among the rapture believers hinges largely on the timing between the two comings. Some believe the lapse of time between the two phases will be 3½ years. Others say 7 years. Some say the rapture of the saints occurs before the Tribulation, while others say about midway through. Most believe the saints will be removed to heaven for protection, receiving new "spiritual" bodies in the process. Others believe the faithful will be removed to some sanctuary, a geographical place on earth. Some believe that only a portion of the chosen will be raptured, while others believe that all the elect will be carried to safety. In the humble opinion of the ecumenical examiner, which is always founded in humility and ignorance, those who believe in the doctrine of the rapture are flirting with frustration and likely to be disappointed. We will all have the privilege of suffering through the tribulation, Jews and Christians alike, until the Messiah comes and establishes the Kingdom of God on earth. Hallelujah.
For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened. - Matthew 24:21,22
The concept of a two stage return of Yeshua is without doubt a modern novelty, never taught in the early church. It has introduced new confusion, and caused further division within the Lord's great ecumenical congregation. Therein lies the harm of this teaching. The teaching lacks scriptural integrity, and is without constructive value, in that it encourages Christians to dismiss the importance of spiritual preparation as the tribulation quickens. This poverty of spiritual strength will make such Christians vulnerable and weak when extreme persecution demands they reconsider their beliefs.
Christians and Jews alike will experience tribulation and hardship during the so-called Great Tribulation along with the rest of the world, but the difference is, unlike the rest of the world, they won't be the targets of God's wrath. The night before Jesus suffered and died, He warned His disciples, “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). He went on to say, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). He never mentions an escape plan such as the rapture for the avoidance of suffering.
There is yet another millennial teaching that preceded Darby's premillennialism. Daniel Whitby promoted the concept of "postmillennialism" in England. This idea teaches that current Christian institutions will prevail in overcoming evil in this world in preparing the way for Christ's return. Only when this is accomplished can Christ return and begin His thousand year reign. Then will come judgment and an end to the present world order. If we're depending on men, this could be a long wait. It's obvious that spirituality in the world has been growing further and further away from God, not closer.
Postmillennialism breaths life into the concept of the "social gospel" and the belief that men, through the church, can usher in the Kingdom through their human actions. This has led to so many Christian churches to involve themselves in the political arena of the world, of which we are to have no part. We're supposed to be separate from the world. Yet, church leaders feel obligated to coax or flatter the world's governmental leaders towards a more Godly posture. The Roman Catholic church plays a very big role in this movement, believing that it is the call of the church to prepare the way for the Lord's return, establishing His Kingdom in advance of His arrival. Thus, they take on such issues as abortion, immigration and human rights, homosexuality and same sex marriage, freedom of religion, and environmental issues like global warming. The Mother church walks this path proudly, arrogantly thinking they can lead the secular powers of the world, cajoling and prodding them towards the church's concept of the Kingdom of God (see - the Harlot of Revelation).
the Second Great Awakening
Another parable He put forth to them, saying: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?' He said to them, 'An enemy has done this.' The servants said to him, 'Do you want us then to go and gather them up?' But he said, 'No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, "First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn." - Matthew 13:24-30
With all these new novelties of spiritual understanding, and scriptural interpretation, coming to the attention of the faithful, dividing the congregation of the Lord, the result has been a scattering, and a leading many of the Lord's flock down this path or that. The effect of this was to open up a spiritually dangerous period of unwieldy, even bewildering new doctrinal introspection, and reevaluation. In general, confusion. The emergence of various self-proclaimed 'prophets' seemed to suddenly appear on the scene, preaching new ideas, in some cases, unusual enough that they bordered on revolutionary. When evaluating these ideas, which threaten to overturn 1900 years of Christian teaching, we must use extreme caution. Remember the parable of Yeshua;
know your faith - grow your faith