The origins of the invisible return of Christ, and the Pre-Tribulation Rapture
John Nelson Darby – Invented the doctrines of the secret return of Christ and the
pre-Tribulation Rapture based on his faulty Dispensational theology sometime around
1830. He then aggressively, almost single handedly sold it to many Evangelical leaders
of the late 19th century.
D L Moody – The most popular American evangelist of the late 19th century and founder
of the Moody Bible Institute, who came under the influence of John Darby, and became
an ardent pre-Tribulationalist.
Cyrus Scofield – Joined Moody’s ministry and created a popular study Bible which
included extensive notes on Darby’s theology, the invisible return of Christ and
the pre-Tribulation Rapture.
Lewis Sperry Chafer – Mentored by Scofield and started the Dallas Theological Seminary,
one of the most influential Evangelical seminaries where Darby’s teachings were aggressively
Clarence Larkin – Created popular prophecy drawings and charts in the early 20th
century based on John Darby’s eschatology, the invisible return of Christ, and the
Hal Lindsey – Attended Dallas Theological Seminary and wrote the “Late, Great Planet
Earth” in 1970, a wildly successful book based on Darby’s eschatology which brought
widespread awareness of pre-Tribulation Rapture beliefs into both the secular world
and Evangelical churches.
Tim LaHaye – An influential Baptist minister who co-authored the very successful
“Left Behind” series of fictional books, further bringing Darby’s invisible Coming
and pre-Trib beliefs into mainstream popularity.
An invisible Coming and pre-Tribulation Rapture is not found in the Bible
Before 1830 the belief in an invisible Return of Christ and a pre-Tribulation Rapture
was unheard of in the public discourse of the Evangelical Church. No one today has
independently studied the Prophetic Scripture and come to any such conclusion on
their own. Every new believer must be taught this solely from Darby’s theology in
order to believe that there will be an invisible return of Christ and a pre-Tribulation
Rapture. This teaching cannot be derived directly from the Bible because it just
simply is not there. Jesus never taught it, the Apostles never taught it and the
Hebrew Prophets never taught it. In fact Christ Himself as well as Paul clearly warned
us against being fooled into believing in a secret Coming or a pre-Antichrist/Apostasy
Rapture (Matthew 24:26-28 and II Thessalonians 2:3-4). The Apostle Paul said, “…learn
not to go beyond what is written.” II Corinthians 4:6. If Darby’s invisible Coming
and pre-Tribulation Rapture cannot be found anywhere in the Word of God it has to
be categorized as mere speculation and must be considered an unbiblical doctrine.
Evangelicals before Darby never saw a pre-Trib Rapture in the Bible
None of the Reformers and prominent Evangelicals like John Wycliffe, William Tyndale,
John Knox, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Bunyan, John Wesley, George Whitfield,
George Muller, or Charles Spurgeon ever preached an invisible Return or pre-Tribulation
Rapture. All these Evangelical reformers, preachers and theologians studied the Bible
most of their lives and never saw it anywhere in the Scriptures.
Contradicting Darby’s theology, the Bible clearly teaches that the Rapture will occur
at the Seventh Trumpet after the Antichrist is revealed and every eye will certainly
see Jesus when He first appears on the clouds
Every eye will see Him
Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him... Revelation 1:7
He will appear with great power and glory to gather the elect after the Tribulation
“But immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun will be darkened, and
the moon will not give its light, and the stars of the heaven will fall from the
sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then the sign of the Son of
Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and
they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great
glory. And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather
together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.” Matthew
The coming of the Lord and the Rapture will not occur until the Antichrist is revealed
Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ
and our gathering together with Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure
or be disturbed wither by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the
effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceived you, for
it will not come unless the apostasy come first and the man of lawless ness is revealed...
II Thessalonians 2:1-3
The Rapture will occur at the Last Trumpet
Behold I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in
a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound,
and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. II Corinthians
The Mystery of God will be finished at the Seventh Trumpet, not before the Tribulation
“...In the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound then
the Mystery of God is finished, as He preached to His servants the prophets.” Revelation
The Mystery of God is Christ in the Church
The mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now
been manifested to the saints, to who God willed to make known what is the riches
of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope
of Glory. Colossians 1:26-27
Because every eye will see Him and the Rapture as well, the Church as a mystery to
the world will be finished
When Christ who is our life is revealed, then you will also be revealed with Him
in glory. Colossians 3:4
Jesus will be revealed from heaven and give relief the the afflicted Church
...And give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus
will be revealed from heaven with His might angels in flaming fire. II Thessalonians
Christ warns us about believing in a secret coming
For if they say to you, “Behold He is in the wilderness,” do not go out, or “Behold
He is in the inner rooms,” do not believe them. Matthew 24:26
He describes His return being as visible as lightning flashing across the entire
For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will
the coming of the Son of Man be. Matthew 24:27
Many good ministries are endangering Christians by teaching Darbyism
This is solely a criticism of those unbiblical teachings about the invisible Coming,
the pre-Tribulation Rapture. The faithful preaching of the Gospel and adherence to
sound Biblical, Evangelical doctrine by any of those mentioned is not questioned.
There are many good churches and ministries that preach the true Gospel and sound
Evangelical doctrine while unfortunately holding to Darby’s false teaching on the
Second Coming. This may not have caused a serious problem in the past but as the
Tribulation and the return of Christ draws near, the effect of these unbiblical teaching
may prove to be catastrophic for unprepared Christians who have no expectations of
being here when the Antichrist comes to power. “He (the Beast) will destroy the unsuspecting.”
Darby’s Exclusive Brethren Cult
Evangelical ministers of Darby’s day warned of the cult-like aspects of Darby’s Exclusive
Brethren group, where he exercised authoritarian control. Even today the reclusive
Exclusive Brethren are considered an extreme cult by most good Evangelical churches;
steeped in legalism, authoritarian leadership, and heretical teachings. Darby was
infamous for his rancorous squabbles and condemnations of other Christian leaders
who rejected his extreme eschatology and theological inventions, among them George
Mueller, highly regarded as a champion of the faith by believers even today. Charles
Spurgeon, a contemporary of John Darby and considered by many to be the greatest
evangelist and Bible teacher of the 19th century, had little good to say about Darby,
his theology or his group. Spurgeon was sharply critical of Darby and his destructive
cult. He published numerous articles about the more unseemly aspects of Darby’s ministry:
“In his case it assumes the form of infallibility. Mr. Darby is, to all intents and
purposes a thorough Pope, though under a Protestant name. He will never admit that
he is in error... how need we feel surprised that Mr. Darby, as the 'prophet, priest,
and king' of the party, should exercise a perfect despotism within the domains of
Darbyism?. . .”
"Plymouth Brethren have no feeling wherever their principles are concerned. I know
indeed of no sect or denomination so utterly devoid of kindness of heart. It is the
most selfish religious system with which I am acquainted. It is entirely wrapped
up in itself. It recognizes no other denomination, whether the Church of England,
or either of the Nonconformist denominations, as a church of Christ. Mr. Darby has
again and again said in print, as well as written in private, that those who belong
to his party in the metropolis, constitute the only church of Christ in London. .
. .” James Grant, who wrote several articles in Spurgeon’s 1869 “Sword and Trowel.”
Spurgeon commented on Grant’s article: “Mr. Grant has done real service to the churches
by his treatise on "The heresies of the Plymouth Brethren," which we trust he will
publish in a separate form. It is almost impossible for even his heavy hand to press
too severely upon this malignant power, whose secret but rapid growth is among the
darkest signs of the times.”
George Mueller, an evangelist who is still famous for his faith-based orphanage ministry
was once a member of the Plymouth Brethren. After being condemned by Darby for resisting
his theology, he had this to say: "My brother I am a constant reader of the Bible,
and I soon found out what I was taught to believe did not always agree with what
my Bible said. I came to see I must either part company with what John Darby, or
my precious Bible, and I chose to cling to my Bible and part from Mr. Darby."
George Mueller also was adamant that II Thessalonians 2 clearly states that a pre-Apostasy/Antichrist
coming of Christ will not occur: “The Scripture declares plainly that the Lord Jesus
will not come until the apostasy shall have taken place, and the man of sin … shall
have been revealed…” George Mueller.
Darbyism is a sub-cult in the Evangelical Church
Unfortunately Darby’s theology has taken over most Evangelical Church’s teachings
on eschatology. Together with other sub-cults like Pentecostalism and Preterism,
it is creating a generation of believers who have little ability to discern falsehood
in apocalyptic teachings. This may prove to be disasterous for unprepared churches
when the Antichrist rises to world power during the approaching Tribulation period.
But God is faithful and Christ will preserve His Bride through the test of the Tribulation,
at least those believers who reject “this malignant power” of Darbyism and prepare
for what the Lord clearly forewarned. “Behold I have told you in advance.” Matthew
24:25. We are commanded to be alert, prayerful and prepared to meet the Lord in the
air when He returns after the Tribulation.
As with any false doctrine, Darbyism must be categorized as a satanic inspired deception,
even if it is taught by otherwise responsible and effective Evangelical ministries.
Its true damage to the Body of Christ will not be evident until until the millions
of unprepared and misinformed believers who believe in an invisible Coming and pre-Tribulation
Rapture suddenly find themselves under persecution by the Antichrist in the extreme
test of the Tribulation period.
Dispensationalism does not require a Pre-Tribulation Rapture
Because Darby also taught an extreme form of Dispensationalism, many believers assume
that the two theological teachings are inseparable. Yes, the Scriptures teach distinct
dispensations, but only two are clearly stated: Law and Grace (John 1:17). The Bible
never states, nor even hints that there are seven dispensations. Even among Dispensationalists,
there is much disagreement about what qualifies as a dispensation and what doesn’t.
The Seventh Trumpet Appearance and Rapture will end the Church Age and the Dispensation
of Grace, no matter how many dispensations there may be.
John Nelson Darby invented and aggressively pushed the ideas of the invisible Coming
of Christ and the pre-Tribulation Rapture into prominent Evangelical Ministries.
All modern belief in these unbiblical doctrines can be traced directly back to Darby
alone through the ministries of the popular pre-Tribulation Rapture teachers of today.
No student of the Scriptures can independently realize an identical eschatology as
Darby taught by studying the Bible alone because it is simply is not there, in fact
the Scriptures warn us about being deceived by these types of teachings. Unfortunately
for the millions of pre-Trib believers, the deception and dangers of Darbyism will
not become evident until the Tribulation period is already under way and the opportunity
to prepare is long past.