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John Darby: Pre-Tribulation Rapture Theory

As Samuel Tregelles wrote in 1864, concerning this teaching, ‘…The theory of a secret coming of Christ was first brought forth about 1832.  …I am not aware that there was any definite teaching that there would be a secret rapture of the Church at a secret coming until this was given forth as an ‘utterance’ in Mr. Irving’s Church…’  It has been shown previously through his writings and teachings that Irving did teach of a Pre-Wrath coming of the Lord for the Church, but did not teach a Pre-tribulation Rapture.  Some say Darby had reservations against the ‘secret rapture’ doctrine up to 1845; concerning his interpretation of the ‘tribulation’ period, in the Dictionary of Premillennial Theology (1996), in which at least 28 of the 56 contributors are members of the Pre-Trib Research Center, Floyd Elmore writes: ‘…At times Darby spoke of the seven year period as entirely future, but at other times as only three and a half years remaining for the future…’  So, sometime between 1832 and 1845, when Darby returned to Plymouth, England, he fully developed the modern Pre-Tribulation Rapture theory.

In 1832, when answering ‘Lectures on the Second Advent’ by Rev. William Burgh, Darby did not have his Pre-Tribulation Rapture teaching fully developed.  Darby agreed that the Antichrist was a person who would after 42 months break a covenant upon which he would as Daniel prophesied ‘cause the sacrifice …to cease,’ and set up ‘the abomination that maketh desolate…’ then later enter the temple at Jerusalem.  However, when Burgh stated the ‘woman persecuted’ by the ‘dragon (Rev. 12)’ is ‘the Jewish nation, against whom Antichrist, in this his short reign, will for reasons before stated, direct all his malignity…’ Darby answered as follows:

“…Though all the malignity of Antichrist is here directed against the Jews, elsewhere we learn that he is to kill all the Gentile saints also.  …The attempt to force everything into the three and a half years during which Antichrist is to sit in the temple of God in Jerusalem, involves necessarily, in contradictions and inconsistencies, which prove the falseness of the principles form which they flow… the ten kings, the exercise of all the evil and deceivableness, as ‘man of sin,’ previous to the holding and exercise of that power in Judea, which especially concerns Christendom to beware of…”

About 1843, in The Coming of the Lord and the Translation of the Church, Darby answers George J. Walker’s pamphlet, ‘May the coming of the Lord be expected immediately?  And will the translation of the church be secret?’  In this work, Darby speaks against Walker and Newton, and writes of “the church and its rapture previous to the Lord’s appearing.”

In this brief rebuttal, Darby refers to a previous article titled, ‘What Saints will be in the Tribulation,’ in which he wrote: “The question, ‘will the saints be in the tribulation?’ …I cannot, in the space allowed me here, enter at large into the declarations of the Old Testament as to a remnant, nor of the New as to the church.  But a short answer to the question …on the rapture of the saints; I purpose adding a development of the true force of 2 Thessalonians 1, 2, so often introduced in the discussions which have arisen on these subjects.  …There will be at the close a tribulation; a time such as there has never been, till the Lord’s coming brings deliverance.  What, then, are the Scriptures which tell us that there will be such tribulation?  I am not aware of any other direct ones than these: Jeremiah 30:7; Daniel 12:1; Matthew 24:21; Mark 13:19; Luke does not speak of it (wrong: see Luke 21:23-28) nor of the abomination of desolation; to which we may add the more general passages of Revelation 3:10; chapter 7:14.  The first four passages do effectively prove that there will be a time of tribulation such as never was since there was a nation, or as it is expressed in Mark, ‘such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created, neither shall be.

‘…There will be then a tribulation.  The other part of the question still remains: shall we, who compose the church, be in this tribulation?  ‘The answer to this question must be sought in the passages which speak of the tribulation itself.  The first of them, Jeremiah 30:7, is as clear… ‘It is the time of Jacob’s troublebut he shall be delivered out of it.’  This time, then, of trouble …is the time of Jacob’s trouble.  Nothing can be clearer or more distinct.  The whole chapter may be read which sets it in the clearest light.  It is not merely that Jacob may be found there, but when it is said, ‘Alas! For that day is great, there is none like it,’ the trouble spoken of is Jacob’s trouble.  …Michael, also will then stand up for that people, and as Jeremiah had said, they ‘shall be delivered,’ that is, the elect remnant – those written in the book.”


      Notice how slyly and subtly Darby implies this time of tribulation is a Jewish problem, it’s ‘Jacob’s trouble’ and not ours; but then changes their deliverance ‘out of it’ in Jeremiah 30, to that of the Christian Church, or as he says ‘those written in the book.’  This Jewish / Christian division interpretation will become important.  However, here Darby changes from saying ‘Gentile saints,’ to ‘Jewish’ ‘saints.’

Darby continues: “Daniel’s testimony then is also quite clear.  The tribulation is the tribulation of Daniel’s people.  But this is rather important because it carries us at once to Matthew, the Lord Himself declaring that He speaks of this same time and same event, using the terms of Daniel, and referring to him by name as well as to the statement of the passage.  Compare Matt. 24:15 and Daniel 12:11.   Those who are in Judea are to flee to the mountains.  …The abomination which causes desolation stands in the holy place.  They are to pray that their flight may not be on the Sabbath.  False Christs and false prophets are to seduce with the hopes cherished by the Jewish people.  All is local and Jewish – has no application to hopes which rest on going to meet Christ in the air.”


Darby entices the reader and his followers to accept the tribulation as a Jewish event, and move on to the next point or event of the vast occurrences prophesied for these last days.  Many are blinded by deception, lack of knowledge or undisciplined eagerness to move on without seeking out the truth of every prophecy and scripture.  If this ‘time of Jacob’s trouble’ shall be as Matthew says, ‘there shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world …nor ever shall be (Matt.24:21);’ then it is the end of all wars and commotions.  Considering that the mass holocaust of Jews during World War II occurred in several countries, and considering that war involved dozens of nations across a third of the earth, then without even consulting the scriptures in Revelation or any scripture, one should see that the “great tribulation” is so far beyond a ‘local and Jewish’ event; and any theologian or teacher or minister who insist such, should be greatly opposed in this matter.

Darby continues: “Mark relates evidently to the same event and almost exactly in the same terms.  Thus these four passages, which speak of the unequalled tribulation, apply it distinctly to Jacob, Jerusalem, and Judea, and the Jews, not to the church.  …There are two passages which, as I have said, are more general: Revelation 3:10 and 7:14.  Do these, then, apply to the church?  …‘Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world to try them which dwell on the earth.’  That is, when the church is addressed, it is with a declaration that she will be kept from that hour which shall come to try others.  …Revelation 7:14 may seem more difficult, still is bears witness to the same truth.  For the heavenly kings and priests, that is, the elders who have represented them form the beginning of the second or strictly prophetic part of the book, are professedly another class of persons, who have not come out of the great tribulation.  One of these elders explains to John who those who have come out of the great tribulation are, another class of persons from themselves.”


       First, concerning Rev. 7:14: ‘these are they which came out of the great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’  Who is this ‘class’ of persecuted Christians?  To these ‘…white robes were given… that they should rest …until their fellow-servants and brethren should be killed (Rev. 6:11).’  They shall be ‘beheaded for the witness of Jesus and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, nor received his mark (Rev. 20:4).’  There is not ‘another class’ of Christians.
        Secondly, concerning Rev. 3:10 – it says, ‘upon the entire world’ proves the great tribulation is more than a ‘Jewish or Jerusalem’ event.  Also, ‘the hour,’ could refer to an actual hour, as in ‘that day’ and thus support a ‘Pre-wrath Rapture,’ but not a ‘Pre-tribulation Rapture.’ Next, what do ‘try’ and ‘keep’ mean?  Many theologians have interpreted this verse to mean that the Lord shall ‘try’ or ‘test’ them through great trials and tribulation, but ‘keep’ their souls preserved; or as stated in Barnes Notes: “I will so keep you that you shall not sink under the trials which will prove a severe temptation to many.  This does not mean that they would be actually kept from the calamity of all kinds, but that they would be kept from the temptation of apostasy in calamity…” Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance defines this word ‘keep’ as also ‘to guard,’ ‘to hold fast’ and to ‘watch.’  If we did not even consider the previous points, is it just for Darby to simply pick and choose which verses he desires to apply the great tribulation?  He picked the message to the sixth candlestick or the church in Philadelphia; why not the second candlestick or church in Smyrna, ‘…I know thy works and tribulation and poverty …fear none of those things which thou shall suffer… ye shall have tribulation ten days; be thou faithful until death, and I will give thee a crown of life… (Rev. 2:8-10).’ Or the last church, Laodicea, Repent or ‘…I will spue thee out of my mouth (Rev.3:16).’

Darby continues: “…Revelation 12 – while not using the term tribulation… strongly confirms this same truth.  When Satan and his angels are defeated by Michael, he is cast out and come down to the earth, having great wrath, knowing he has but a short time, and persecutes the woman.  Now what is the effect of this most important event… the trial of the heavenly saints is ended, and that the inhabiters of the earth and the sea just about to begin in its most formidable shape, because Satan is cast down there. The language is this: ‘Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of God, and the power of Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down… and they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimonyand they loved not their lives unto the death…’  Now I do not say that this is the moment of the rapture, for I think it is included in the man-child’s being caught up (Rev. 12:5).  But I say this that, at the moment of the commencement of the great rage of Satan for the three times and a half, the entire deliverance of the heavenly saintly from his power, and their triumph is celebrated; that is, they are not exposed to that last time of Satan’s rage.  This chapter, then, confirms, in the fullest waythe exemption of the church from the last and dreadful time of trial…”

‘The dragon …shall make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ (Rev. 12:17).’  This last verse of the chapter shows that it does not ‘exempt the church from that dreadful time of trial,’ but places them in the midst of it.  Also, the word remnant is used because many of ‘their fellow-servants’ and ‘brethren’ had already died from the previous perils and ‘things that must come to pass’ before ‘the end (Matt. 24:6; Rev. 6:11).’


Back to Darby’s The Coming of the Lord and the Translation of the Church: “…I now turn to the interpretation of 2 Thessalonians… Some would change here the authorized English Version, and read, ‘But we beseech you, brethren, concerning the coming,’ etc., instead of ‘by the coming.’  The preposition itself is used in both ways; but its constant force with words of beseeching is ‘by.’  The force of the apostle’s reasoning is this, that as they were to be gathered together to Christ, they could not be in the day which was to come by His appearing; they were to go to meet Him in the air, and hence could not be in the judgments of that day, it trials or its terrors.  The apostle had taught them in the first epistle that they were to go to meet the Lord in the air…’

‘The church’s connection with the return of the Lord was, to go up to meet Him in the air, to be gathered unto Him.  The day was entirely another thing; it was vengeance from His presence.  Neither could the day therefore come before the objects of vengeance were there.  An apostasy would come, and the man of sin would be revealed, whom the Lord would consume with the breath of His mouth, and destroy by the appearing of His presence.  That is, we have two things… we know to be distinct, exactly in this way, Christ’s coming, and the manifestation of it; for when He appears, we shall appear with Him; hence we must be with Him before even He appears at all…  They will appear with Him in glory – be like Him.  Now it is quite certain they will not appear with Him when they are caught up to meet Him in the air.  Thus it is not merely particular expressions, though these are clear and forcible, but the bearing, and object, and course of reasoning of the whole chapter, which shows the distinction of the rapture of the saints before Christ appearsand the coming of the day when He is admired in them.’

‘…We wait for Him to come…  We have no need of judgment to participate in blessing under Him; we go out of the midst of all events to meet Him above.  The Jews and the world are delivered by judgments.  Hence they must await the course of events and the full ripening of earthly evil for judgmentfor the day will not come before.  …The church on earth has no need to seek thisshe belongs to Christ, and will be caught up to heaven out of the evil.’

‘…The Thessalonians knew perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night… ‘But ye, brethren, are not in darkness that that day should overtake you as a thief: ye are all children of the day.’  (Paul) had just taught them that they were to be caught up to meet Him in the air…  This passage says nothing of not being in the tribulation – we have treated that point already; but the objection confounds the tribulation and the day which really closes it.  The tribulation is Satan’s power, though God’s judgment in woe; the day is Christ’s, who makes it and binds him.  But the passage speaks not at all of the tribulation …but it does speak of the day of the Lord, and with the instruction as to the portion of the saints, which shows that it can have in no way whatever to do with them.  …All it says is – The day will overtake them as a thief: but it will not overtake you, for ye are of the day…”

    We must agree ‘apostasy will come, and the man of sin will be revealed before the coming of the Lord, because Paul says so. Darby admits ‘the tribulation and the day which really closes it;’ that is that ‘the day’ of the Lord or coming of the Lord ‘closes’ ‘the tribulation,’ yet states, ‘But the passage speaks not at all of the tribulation …but speaks of the day of the Lord.’ He is opposed by his own words, but more importantly by the Holy Scriptures, in which Paul explains in 2nd Thessalonians: ‘I told you in the previous letter’ (1st Thessalonians), ‘of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ… be not soon shaken …or troubled …as that the day of the Lord is at hand.  Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not comeexcept there come a falling away firstand that man of sin be revealed… sitting in the temple of God (2 Thes. 2:1-4).’ If that day ‘closes the tribulation,’ as Paul explains and Darby admits, then not only does the ‘passage speak’ and warn of apostasy and tribulation; but warns we shall be in ‘the midst of all events.’

In another article, The Rapture of the Saints and the Character of the Jewish Remnant, Darby wrote: “…The rapture of the saints before the appearing of Christstrange as it may appear to some, has nothing to say to the church, directly or exclusively; but as we form part of those caught up…  The rapture is in connection with the glory of the kingdom; and the saints in general, who are to reign in the kingdom, have part in this rapture.  Still, indirectly, the enquiry leads to the question, what is the church?  The doctrine of the rapture of the saints before the appearing of Christ connects itself with the existence of a Jewish remnant waiting for deliverance after the rapture and before the appearing; and the position of this remnant connects itself, more or less, with the spiritual condition of the saints before the manifestation of the church on the earth.’

‘…The two points …first, that there will be a Jewish remnant at the end… secondly, the true character of the church of God. …This Jewish remnant has neither the church’s heavenly blessings nor the church’s hope.  …First, as regards the Jews, Zechariah 13:8, 9: ‘…two parts …shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein.  And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver… and try them as gold; they shall call on My name, and I will hear them…  Still they will be united in the land.  See Ezekiel 37; verse 19: ‘I will take …the tribes of Israel… and make them one…’ Verse 24: ‘And David My servant shall be king over them…  My tabernacle also shall be with them.

‘As regards Judah, Daniel tells us: ‘And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which stands for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble …at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book (Dan. 12:1).’  I have no doubt verse 2 refers to those scattered in the countries: but on this point I do not dwell here.’

      Darby has no problem writing another 4 pages, but he does ‘not dwell here’ nor quote verse two because he no longer believes in the early creeds that the Lord shall come to judge the living and dead as taught in Matthew 13:24-50; John 5:25-29; Rev. 14:14-20; and Daniel 12:1, 2: ‘…at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.  And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.’


Darby continues, “…The remnant of Israel …as it is said in Isaiah 10, ‘…shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God.’  The points thus made clear are that it is the remnant which is blessed …according to promise, in the land, with Jehovah as their God.  The next and capital point …is their previous state: is it a Christian or church state?  …In the Sermon on the Mount the remnant are morally distinguished…  Two great principles of discernment in this teaching of the Lord are the spiritual character of the law, and the revelation of the Father’s name.  It is to be remarked that persecution is supposed, and reward in heaven presented as the fruit of it.  …Obedience to His teaching was like a man building his house on the rock; while Israel was warned he was in the way with God, and if he did not come to agreement with Him, he would be cast into prison till all was paid.  Compare Isaiah 40:2.  It will be remarked, that all this is divine government, not divine salvation.’

‘…In chapter 10 (Matthew) Christ sends out the twelve.  They were not to go in the way of the Gentiles… but to go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and declare the kingdom of heaven at hand; to enquire who was worthy, i.e., seek the righteous remnant, not poor sinners, and repel with fullest condemnation… ‘as sheep in the midst of wolves:’ it was an ungodly nation.  They were to seek the worthy ones in it…   But in verse 18 this goes on to circumstances out of the Lord’s lifetime.  They were to be brought before Gentiles, and …would be hated of all men for Christ’s name sake, and when persecuted in one city, go to another; they would not have gone over the cities of Israel till the Son of man come.’

‘Now here we have a mission exclusively to Israel, carried on during the Lord’s lifetime, carried on by the Spirit afterwards, in which they were to endure to the end – a ministry which would not be closed nor completed, and still confined to the cities of Israel, till the Son of man came.  …They have only to do with Gentiles as enemies, along with the wicked and hostile nation of the Jews.  …They were, according to Jewish hopes and prospects, to gather out a remnant and prepare a people for the kingdom which was at hand.’

‘The Lord then proceeds in Matthew 24 to announce the judgment of Jerusalem, and the circumstances of His disciples in connection with the end of the age.  The disciples enquire when should the temple be destroyed, what the sign of Christ’s comingand the end of the age.  That the questions here relate to the Jewish people is perfectly evident: the end of the age, it is well known that ‘world’ is a mistake, has no sense or application out of the sphere of Jewish thought…’

‘As to the first part, to whom do persons come, saying, I am the Christ?  Not to Christians, as such, I suppose.  It was an expectation that Christ might appear, into which the disciples, with Jewish expectations…  The scene, sphere, and character, of deception are Jewish.  Many troubles and wars would arise; but… before that arrived, the gospel …would be sent to all the Gentiles, and then the end comes.  Why even this difference, if the previous part were not Jewish in its sphere?  The later part, from verse 16, demonstrates, as clearly as any language can do, that the Lord was referring to what was Jewish.  The abomination of desolation of which Daniel spoke in a prophecy specially referring to his (Daniel’s) people, is the point of departure: it would stand in the holy place.  Those who were in Judea were to flee to the mountains; they were to pray that their flight should not be on the Sabbath day…’

‘…The saints, the nations, and their judgments, (are) in chapter 25. …Chapter 10, and pursues it to the close – the coming of the Son of man – in an exclusively Jewish character.  The Lord takes up the disciples and the multitude, chapter 23, on definitely Jewish ground… the remnant before they would see Him again: and then, showing the judgment on the house, shows the nation guilty – iniquity abounding – the testimony of the remnant in the midst of this iniquity – the true witness of the kingdom – and extending before the end to all nations; and, finally, He returns to the last great tribulation and occupies Himself with the godly remnant in Judea and Jerusalem, previous to His own appearing; warning them that new pretenses would properly so called, because they are to be caught up to meet the Lord in the air.  …We go up to meet Christ in the air… and not await His coming to earth; but that this coming to receive us to Himself is not His appearing… Colossians 3, shows that we are already with Him when He shall appear, ‘When Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory’.”


       Because i shall address the ‘any moment’ pre-tribulation rapture later and soon will offer works by many who opposed Darby, i shall be brief here.  Darby says certain chapters in Matthew apply to the Jews only, and then certain other chapters apply to the Gentiles and again others to Christians, and sometimes all three at different places within a single chapter.  Matthew certainly records Christ speaking to Pharisees and Jews in certain chapters, yet to say that the gospel of Matthew applies to Jews only, unless otherwise obvious, is ridiculous; yet many ministers and teachers and professors follow this absurdity.  Second, to say the disciples of Christ were to go to Jews only is foolishness.  For Christ, about two years after Matthew 10 and weeks after Matthew 24, instructed His apostles and His followers to be ‘witnesses of Him in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and unto the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8).’  Obviously, this is beyond the ‘Jew’ only; it is for ‘all nations (Matt. 28:19);’ and followers of Christ shall continue this command to ‘preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15),’ knowing Christ is with us ‘even unto the end of the world, Amen (Matt. 28:20).’  Matthew 24:14: ‘And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the entire world for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come.’  Are we to believe this is only a Jewish event?  And Darby opposes the established churches and Rev. 20:12, and excludes Jews from the judgment, saying they are not part of Matthew 25:31-46.

Darby continued in this same manner year after year in other articles such as, ‘Is the Coming of Christ for His saints the proper hope of the Church?’  In his commentary On the Epistles to the Thessalonians, Darby wrote, concerning “1 Thes. 4:13-18, Paul presents, at the end of the chapter, fresh developments on the subject of the Lord’s coming.  …What he adds as a fresh element is particularity the doctrine of resurrection.  Doubtless, the Thessalonians would not have denied that there will be a resurrection from among the dead, but they might not perhaps have been able to apply it to the Lord’s coming…”

          Once again Darby misleads the novice Christian or the elder that no longer searches the Scriptures; for the Thessalonians knew quite well of ‘that day’ of the ‘coming of the Lord (2 Thes. 2).’  Not because Paul already had ‘told them these things (2 Thes. 2:5),’ but because the Scriptures taught in this manner for a thousand years, as Job said, ‘I know that my Redeemer lives, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; and …in my flesh I shall see God (Job 19:25, 26).’  Likewise, Noah, and Jacob and Abraham, who looked for the New Jerusalem, by faith taught of the ‘better resurrection (Heb. 11:10, 35);’ of ‘that day’ that the Lord should come and resurrect the dead and ‘judge the quick and the dead.’  They knew when this age or world passes away, as Martha said of her dead brother, ‘I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day (John 11:24).’  And when Christ told Martha, ‘I am the resurrection, and the life, that he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live;’ she believe Him and knew that it was ‘the Son of God, which should come into the world,’ and bring about the resurrection.  And not only did John speak of the resurrection through the coming of the Son of God (John 5:25-30); but Daniel spoke of the resurrection unto the judgment of the Lord centuries earlier (Dan. 12:2).

Darby continued: “2 Thes. …Chapter 1 ‘…we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure…’  Then he (Paul) shows in what an end these tribulations would issue and change of position they were preparing between the persecuted and the persecutors at the appearing of the Lord Jesus.  In that day we shall be at rest while the wicked will find themselves in tribulation…”

Again Darby does not see or warn that before the time the Lord returns with great wrath upon the earth and ungodly men, and to destroy the Antichrist, already half of the inhabitants have been killed by wars, famines, pestilence and persecution.

Darby continues: “…Verse 6, ‘What withholds.’  It is not in order to prevent the revelation of the lawless one that God has put a restraint; it is to prevent his being revealed before his time.  The adversary is always ready for evil.  In the day that God takes away the bridle, Satan will immediately show himself at work to drag men into apostasy.  ‘That which restrains …is not that which restrains now; then it was, in one sense, the Roman empire, as the fathers thought…  At present the hindrance is still the existence of the governments established by God in the world; and God will maintain them as long as there is here below the gathering of His church. Viewed in this light, the hindrance isthe presence of the church and of the Holy Spirit on the earth.  The Antichrist will be the head of the ecclesiastical apostasy…  He will be at the same time a civil head, although the first beast (Rev. 13:1-10) will be the one to whom the authority and throne of the dragon will be given.  The Antichrist, whose seat appears to be in Judea, will be a kind of lieutenant of the beast.  ‘…The Lord shall consume him …with the brightness of His coming.’  …This leads us to distinguish between the coming of the Lord and His appearing.  The Lord will first come, and then He will manifest Himself – He will appear…”

     Darby’s writings usually do not flow smoothly, and mostly do not flow biblically.  ‘That which restrains’ will be addressed later; yet tell me, how can God remove His Spirit from any place and still there be breathe, or more so ‘the testimony of Jesus which is the spirit of prophecy (Rev.19:10),’ or salvation?  How can the ‘two witnesses prophecy 1,260 days’ without the Holy Spirit (Rev. 11:3)?  The Scriptures say: ‘these are they which came out of great tribulation (Rev. 7:14),’ and ‘I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus and …had not worshipped the beast, neither received his mark (Rev. 20:4).’   Yet, a hundred seminaries and thousands of professors, preachers and Sunday school teachers now teach as Darby, and most without taking a hundred hours, much less than a thousand hours or two, to faithfully study the subject.  Now, Darby did teach correctly that ‘the Lord will not put the saints into sorrow and trouble when He comes …when He shall be revealed from heaven, the saints will have rest.’  However, it is only because the Lord shall come just exactly as He said: ‘immediately after the tribulation of those days… (Matt. 24:29).’

Darby wrote hundreds of letters, and in many we find him speaking of future events.  In his lectures given in many countries, he continued to teach this doctrine of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture of the Church.  Between 1862 and 1866, he made several trips to various cities in North America.  In Toronto, Canada, Darby gave his ‘Lectures on the Second Coming of Christ.’  By this time, in his sixties, John Nelson Darby was speaking with great confidence on his ‘dispensations,’ and events of the last days.  In what is titled, ‘Lecture 1,’ in Toronto, Darby said: “…When the disciples ask Him the time when these things are to be, He tells them to watch; and in verse 44, ‘Therefore be ye also ready; for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.’  But the Lord goes farther in the following parables, which apply to Christians.  The mark of the evil servant given there is that he says in his heart ‘my lord delays his coming,’ and thereupon begins to eat and drink with the drunken.  They lost the expectation of Christ…  Matthew 25:1, ‘Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps and went forth to meet the Bridegroom.’  There is the essence of the church’s calling.  They went forth, but while the Bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept – saints as well as professors, no exception.  They all …gave up watching.  And what is it that aroused them from the sleepy state into which they had fallen?  ‘And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the Bridegroom cometh: go ye out to meet Him.’  They had to be called out again; they had got into the world, into some place to sleep more comfortably, just where the professing church is now, eating and drinking with the drunken, and the cry is, I trust, again going forth, ‘Behold, the Bridegroom cometh.’  And what made the church depart… just what people and Christian people too, are saying now, ‘The Lord delayeth His coming.’  They do not say He will not come, but He delays it…”

   All the virgins, good or evil (John 5:29) heard the ‘shout’ and awoke (Dan. 12:2), that is, to ‘go out to meet Him’ who is coming with judgment.  Darby was correct in saying most do not consider the Lord’s return.

In Darby’s ‘Lecture 2,’ he says, “…turn for a moment to Zechariah 14, where it is said the Lord shall come and all His saints with Him, and His feet shall stand in the day upon the Mount of Olives.  This is referred to by the angel, when, after Christ’s ascension from Mount Olivet, he said to the disciples, ‘…Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven.’ Again, in verse 14 of Jude… ‘Enoch …prophesied of this, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints (holy ones -NAS) to execute judgment upon all.  Here they are associated with Christ in the executing of judgments. …Of ‘His saints to execute judgment’ shows how entirely we are associated with Christ.  …You will find the same truth in 2 Thes. 1 …when ‘the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven, with His mighty angels… taking vengeance on them that know not God and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction… when He shall come to be glorified in His saints…’  He comes with these ten thousand or myriads of His saints.’

‘…You find a distinct statement of their coming given in figure in the Revelation.  At chapter 17 it is said, ‘These shall make was with the Lamb.’  All the kings of the earth shall be found, not in blessing, joined with Christ, but in open war with the Lamb, joined with the beast.  ‘These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them; for He is Lord of lords, and King of kings; and they that are with Him are called, and chosen, and faithful.’  Other passages show us that angels will be with Him, but it is not angels that are here spoken of as being with Him …but these that are ‘…called,’ and it is the saints who are called by the grace of God.   …Now to chapter 19, ‘And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True , and in righteousness He doth judge and make war.’  …A little while, yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry.  He only knows how long the gathering of the saints to be with Him will last.”

  The scene of the Lord’s coming shall not change, it is with His ‘holy ones’ – in the Greek ‘saints,’ hagios, can be used for angels or righteous men.  In Zechariah 14 & Jude 14 it is as Darby said, the Lord with His angels.  Yet, Darby divides the Lord’s coming into two comings and supposes that in Rev. 17 the Church is with the Lord in heaven and not on earth; but this is not a war in heaven as previously spoken of in Rev. 12:7.  Yet, the angels shall be with the Lord when He returns, Paul says in Thes. 1:7 where he identifies ‘angels’ specifically returning with the Lord.  And when the Lord returns He will not need to ‘pray to the Father, and receive twelve legions of angels (Matt. 26:53),’ they will already be with Him.

In ‘Lecture 3,’ Darby wrote: “…But there is still a week left – we have only had sixty-nine weeks; and here, without entering into details, is the great principle I want you to get hold of.  We have the sixty-nine weeks, and then there is a lapse.  Messiah comes, is rejected, and is cut off, does not get the kingdom at all …He gets the cross…  He ascends to heaven, and therefore our hearts must follow Him up to heaven, while He is there.  Then comes the time of the end …and he (Antichrist) ‘shall confirm the covenant with many for one week (Dan. 9:27).’  For remark what was said before, ‘unto the end of the war desolations are determined (Dan. 9:26).’  As to the time all is left vague; these desolations are to go on for no one knows how long after the destruction of Jerusalem, the Messiah having gone and taken nothing.  ‘…In the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations’ – that is, idolatry – ‘…he shall make it desolate even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate (Dan. 9:27).’

‘…So again our Saviour, in Luke’s gospel, after speaking of the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, says the Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.  …He cannot begin these dealings with the Gentiles in the last week until the gathering of the saints to be heirs with Christ is over.  Until He has got the heirs, Christ cannot take the inheritance; and thus, all the dealings of God or of Christ …direct dealings of God with the world through the Jews are suspended until the church is taken up.’

‘…You never finduntil the end of Revelation – the church revealed in prophecy, except in connection with Christ.  …He only intercedes for the world when He asks for dominion over them, and of course, it will be given Him.  …And He will take judgment in hand, the rod of iron.  But then the saints will judge the world too ‘…know ye not that we shall judge angels? Do ye not know the saints shall judge the world (1 Cor. 6:2, 3)?’  …At the end of Revelation 2 you will find that this is given to the church ‘…He that overcomes and keeps My words unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron…’.  In Daniel 7 ‘…and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High,’ the saints who will be in the heavenly places with Christ, when Christ comes…’  And in Rev. 20 ‘…And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them.’

‘…In chapter twelve of Revelation …you have it positively revealed that it is finished with the saints, as regards all their trials and all their accusations, before the time that the trial of the Jewish people begins in the last half-week of Daniel.  …The ‘woman clothed with the sun… and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.’  This, I have no doubt, is the Jewish people, nothing else; because Christ is not born of the church, but …born of the Jews, ‘of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came (Rom. 9:5).’  Twelve is the number always used to indicate power – the power of God’s administration among men.  You have the twelve apostles sitting on twelve thrones – the city built on twelve foundations and having twelve gates, etc. …Well, Christ was to be born.  ‘And she being with child, cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered;’ and so the Jews say, in Isaiah 9, ‘To us a son is born.’  The church cannot say that at all.  We can say that we believe He is the Son of God; but we do not say He is born to us.  As concerning the flesh, He was born into Israel.’

‘…And the woman fled into the wilderness… 1,260 days …the gap, with regard to all God’s dealings with the world, which there always is in prophecy – without, however, giving any dates at all – between the time that Christ is taken up, and the time that the church is taken up…  It is positively revealed, as God’s own order in Daniel 9, that Messiah was to be revealed, and cut off, and take nothing; that blindness in part happens to Israel till the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled; and that then the Jews would be brought to repentance, as Jesus Christ says in the gospel of Matthew, ‘Ye shall not see Me henceforth, till ye shall say, ‘Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord.  Thus we get the church, united with Christ, taken up to God, and the woman fled into the wilderness.’

‘Now we come to the progress of events, not as regards the church at all, but as regards Israel and the world.  ‘And there was war in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon …and his angels…’.  That is in direct contrast with the result of the church’s warfare; ‘We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities… and rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.’  This is the conflict we have to wage as to our title to sit in heavenly places with Christ; and the result of this spiritual conflict is, that the power of Satan is cast out.  ‘And the great dragon was cast out… Satan, which deceives the whole world… and his angels were cast out with him.  …Now is come salvation …and the kingdom of our God …for the accuser of our brethren is cast down… And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and loved not their lives unto the death.’

‘…Woe to the inhibitors of the earth…  For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knows that he hath but a short time.  And the dragon …persecuted the woman...’  We see here very clearly that by the woman it is not the church of God …they have overcome the accuser by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony. This woman is …the Jewish people.  This is for them the time of great tribulation… I have now gone through all the passages in the New Testament, which, so far as I am aware, speak of the resurrection; and I think it must be as plain… those passages show very distinctly that the resurrection of the saints is an entirely distinct thing from the resurrection of the wicked, being founded on their redemption and their having received life from Christ, the power of which is shown by the resurrection of their bodies; that resurrection of life is definitely distinguished from the resurrection of judgment by a thousand years elapsing between the two…”

        Concerning Luke 21, many have and do teach that it is referring to Titus’ destruction of the Temple and Jews in 70AD. And if Luke 21:5-28 did not parallel to Matthew 24 and Mark 13, i also might have taught that of vs. 20.  But, Luke 21 speaks of same events and goes into the same parable of the fig tree – Luke is recording Christ words that Matthew and Mark also heard.  Darby says the Church is not in Rev. 12; tell me, who are they who ‘overcome …by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and loved not their lives to the death (12:11); and who are ‘the remnant of the woman’s seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ (12:17)?  They are the ‘fellow-servants (6:11) of those that ‘came out of great tribulation (7:14); they are those who ‘were beheaded for the witness of Jesus (20:4),’ they are Christians – the Church.

In Lectures 4 and 5, Darby continued his teaches, and in Lecture 6 concerning Daniel chapter 7:21, 22 he said, “…‘I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them… and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.’  …It is not here the church, but all the saints who have their dwelling in heavenly places in connection with the kingdom, yet in a state of eternal glory.  God took the name of God Almighty in relationship with Abraham, of Jehovah with Israel, of Father, in grace, with us.  Thus Abraham was to be perfect, walking before God Almighty; Israel was to be perfect with Jehovah their God…’

‘…Meanwhile tribulation and trial is the portion of those on earth.  The little blasphemous horn …makes war with the saints.  …I do not believe this little horn to be Antichristthe source of persecution is ever the traditional religious power.  Antichrist will be in direct association with him and urges him to it…  But this is the last active power of evil in the Roman Empire or beast whose names of blasphemy are on it…  This persecution will continue till God’s power interferes …till the Ancient of days …the Son of man …A total change takes place, judgment is given to the saints of the high places, and …the saints possess the kingdom.  He does not say saints of the Most High here, for on earth …the earthly saints will possess the kingdom, as in Matthew 25 …the Ancient of days then comes, judgment is given to the heavenly saints, compare   Revelation 20:4, where we read judgment was given unto them, and they live and reign with Christ a thousand years…’

‘…Times and laws’ refer to Jews entirelythe words are terms which refer to their statutes and ordinances.  These, not the saints, are given into his hands.  God never gives His saints into their enemies’ hands, though He may use these as a rod.  …The 42 months or 1,260 days …belongs entirely to the Jews, and the three years and a half begin to run when they are again on the scene, when Satan has been cast down, and the beast …comes up out of the abyss.”

     Darby is both confusing and in great error.  He denies that the ‘little horn’ is the Antichrist; and he states that the persecuted ‘saints’ that Daniel speaks of ‘is not the Church… but saints who have their dwelling in heavenly places;’ and Darby says Christ is not ‘our King’ because ‘we reign with Him.’  He says the tribulation belongs to the ‘Jews entirely.’  Are we to believe Satan distastes only the Jews and ignores the worshipers of Jesus Christ; are we to believe that persecution against the Jews, about .2% of world population, is ‘a time of trouble, such as never was (Dan. 12:1)?’

If we examined the hundreds of other works of John Nelson Darby, such as The Two ResurrectionsJudgment-seat of God and Christ, or his lectures on the Apocalypse or Daniel – Are there Two Half Weeks in the Apocalypse, we would find the same teachings.  However, it is worth looking at a portion of Darby’s Outline of the Revelation, to show again how he teaches confusion:

‘…The number of the Jews …144,000 is a mystic number…  We find these Jews in Matthew 25 spoken of as the Lord’s brethren.  We have the heavenly saints in the same chapter as the virgins and the servants.  These are not altogether the same as the 144,000 of Revelation chapter 14.  Some of them are killed during the tribulation and get their places in heaven. …The Gentiles seen in chapter 7 are those who have gone through the tribulation…  The great tribulation is not the same as Jacob’s trial (trouble); the former is connected with the whole earth, while the latter only applies to Israel.  They may be going on at the same time.  …In Revelation 8 are the first four judgments,… are the western judgments; in Revelation 9 the fifth and sixth trumpets… these are the eastern judgments, the third part of man being slain.  The fifth falls on the apostate Jews who had not the seal of God on their foreheads; Rev. 9:4.’

‘It is the wrath of God here that is poured out, not that of the Lamb.  …His title as the slain Lamb is owned in Revelation 5, but we do not get His acting in judgment till we come to Revelation 19.  (note: in Darby’s Thoughts on Revelation, he said, “…The seven last plagues give us the wrath of God, not of the Lamb, we do not get that until chapter 19.”) The action here is all angelic. …Revelation 10 and 11 are parenthetical; Rev. 12, 13 and 14 are connected; Rev. 15 – 18 form an appendix.  The whole book closes at Revelation 11:8.  It brings us down to the judgment of the dead, at the end of the millennium… Rev. 20.  The last verse in Rev. 11 belongs to chapter 12.  It goes on beyond the millennium into the eternal state…’

‘…Revelation 11:2, the holy city is trodden under foot of the Gentiles 42 months.  …In Daniel 7:25 it is the times and laws, and not the saints.  …In the half-week of the Lord’s ministry the remnant received Him, the nation did not.  When under Antichrist the nation goes through the first half-week, it will be the converse, the nation receives him and the remnant does not.  In the Gospels by Matthew and Mark we have only the last tribulation, while in Luke is also seen the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus.  Luke says nothing of the abomination of desolation set up.  We find from Revelation 11:1-3 that true worship and true testimony are maintained during the whole of this time of 1,260.  Time is never counted except in connection with the Jews.  The church belongs to heaven, and the time is not reckoned in connection with it.  There is no date mentioned in Revelation till you come to the last half-week.’

‘When the church is caught up, there will be apostasy.  We see in 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 that those who received not the love of the truth that they might be saved are given up to believe a lie…  Revelation 11 takes us on to the last scene of judgment – that of the dead, which takes place after the millennium: this finishes the book.  Thus the beast, Babylon, and then the appendix, chapters 11:19, 12, 13 and 14, go together.  …The church is not spoken of here.”


 Again Darby follows error and says Matthew 24 and Mark 13 relate to the ‘last tribulation,’ and Luke is the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus’ and ‘nothing of the abomination of desolation…’   What is obvious is that Matthew, Mark and Luke are recording the answers to the same question: ‘Master, when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall pass (Luke 21:7; Matt. 24:3; Mark 13:4)?’

Upon which they all began their records, saying, And Christ said, ‘Take heed that ye be not deceived… (Luke 21:8; Matt. 24:4; Mark 13:5).’        Moreover, Darby says ‘the church is not spoken of’ in Revelation chapters 11-14.  He must say this as all pretribulation teachers do, because they assign the great tribulation only to Jews and unbelievers.  But ‘hear what the Spirit’ says to the churches (Rev. 3:22), and what the Lord writes to the Christians – saints (Rev. 13:7), those who are persecuted such that ‘the dragon …makes war with (them) …which keep the commandments of God , and have the testimony of Jesus Christ… (Rev. 12:17).’

Now, Darby did preach salvation through Jesus Christ; and he rightly taught, ‘there is no such thing as annihilation,’ and opposed those who were saying so; for some such as William Miller in the 1840’s (a founder of Seventh Day Adventist) were teaching the souls of those that do not enter heaven would be ‘annihilated’ and that there is no eternal hell.  In the 1870’s Charles Russell’s ‘Bible Students,’ which became the Jehovah Witnesses, taught this same ‘annihilation’ doctrine.

Darby wrote many letters to friends showing his love for Christ, and for the word of God, and for lost souls.  He earnestly sought to do the will of God, yet, like Luther against his friend Zwingli, Darby spoke in error against many teachings of John Wesley, and many times, likewise, against the Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, etc.  Darby wrote so often, that one collection of his writings is 32 volumes.

One of his most influential works was his 5-volume Synopsis of the Books of the Bible.  According to Logos publishers, “Darby’s …Synopsis …has played a central role in the emergence of fundamentalism and the development of American Christianity.  As the intellectual and theological forerunner of well-known preachers such as Dwight Moody and contemporary authors such as Tim LaHaye, John Darby’s influence is profound.  From a dispensational interpretation of the Bible, to the contemporary understanding of the rapture and the End Times, the prominent features of evangelical theology are indebted to Darby’s influence.  ‘…I literally devoured these five volumes…’ H. A. Ironside; ‘Darby left a lasting legacy for us today,’ Conservative Theological Journal.”  In his ‘Synopsis…’ on 1Corinthians chapter 15, Darby wrote, “…The dead shall be raised incorruptible …the apostle always looked at it as a thing immediately before his eyes, ready to take place any moment…”

Error of ‘any moment’ Rapture Theory

Pre-Tribulation Rapture Theory

Pretribulation Rapture Theory 2

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