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The Dangers of Darbyism

The Dangers of Darbyism
The most glaring inconsistency of the secret rapture is the belief that the antichrist will not appear until after the saints are caught away. The apostle Paul settled this matter clearly in
2 Thessalonians 2:1–4 ...

“Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God”
(emphasis added).

These words are clear: Christ’s coming will not take place “unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed.” The man of sin, the antichrist, will be revealed before Jesus comes.

Paul was not referring to a powerful person who will appear 2,000 years after his writing. Indeed, he said, “The mystery of lawlessness is already at work” (verse 7, emphasis added). Paul was already combating the emerging spirit of antichrist. The apostle John said the same (1 John 4:3). By the sixth century, the man of sin had matured, yet the crowning act of his deception will occur just before the return of Christ. “Then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming” (2 Thessalonians 2:8). There’s no question that the antichrist will not arrive after the second coming, but before it.

Where, then, did this “futuristic” interpretation about the antichrist in prophecy originate? What does it have to do with the rapture? During the Reformation, most reformers identified the antichrist as papal Rome. Of course, this was not well received by the papacy. Rome countered this with a new interpretation of prophecy in order to turn people away from the notion that it was the antichrist power:

“Accordingly, toward the close of the century … two of her most learned doctors set themselves to the task … namely, that of diverting men’s minds from perceiving the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Antichrist in the papal system. The Jesuit Alcazar devoted himself to bring into prominence the preterist method of interpretation ... to show that the prophecies of Antichrist were fulfilled before the popes ever ruled at Rome, and therefore could not apply to the Papacy.

“On the other hand, the Jesuit Ribera tried to set aside the application of these prophecies to the papal power by bringing out the futurist system, which asserts that these prophecies refer … to that of some future supernatural individual, who is yet to appear, and to continue in power for three and a half years. … The [papal] Jesuit Ribera, about ad 1580, may be regarded as the Founder of the futurist system in modern times.

“It is a matter for deep regret that those who hold and advocate the futurist system at the present day, Protestants as they are for the most part, are … helping to screen the Papacy from detection as the Antichrist” (Joseph Tanner, Daniel and the Revelation).

The origin of the two-phase, mid-tribulation coming of Christ has an equally questionable history. It was around 1830 that this view appeared. In a Scottish church pastored by Edward Irving, Margaret McDonald gave what was believed to be an inspired utterance. She spoke of the visible, open, and glorious second coming of Christ. But as the utterance continued, she spoke of another coming of Christ in which those who were truly ready would be secretly raptured.

John Nelson Darby, a preacher and writer in England, was most responsible for introducing this new teaching on a large scale. The secret rapture theory spread to the United States starting in the 1850s, where it received a boost when Cyrus Scofield incorporated it into the notes of his famous Scofield Reference Bible, published in 1909. Since that time it has been widely accepted, often by people who are unaware that this was not a belief held by Christians of the early and Reformation church.

Oswald Smith, a prominent minister from Toronto, explains in his book Tribulation or Rapture that he once believed this theory, but when he began to search the Scriptures for himself, he discovered that there is not a single verse in the Bible to uphold this view. He confessed:

“I had been taught that the Greek word ‘parousia’ always referred to the Rapture and that other words were used for the Coming of Christ in glory ... but I found that this is not true. ... We might go through all the writers of the New Testament, and we would fail to discover any indication of the so-called ‘two stages’ of our Lord’s Coming. ... That theory had to be invented by man. Search and see. There is no verse in the Bible that even mentions it.”

Take Heed
Jesus warned His followers, “Take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly” (Luke 21:34).

The most obvious danger of the false teaching of futurism is that it wrongly gives people the idea that they have a second chance. The Bible teaches that there is only one coming of Christ at the end of time, not two. Those who think there are two-phases to Jesus’ return will be caught unexpectedly, having ignored God’s call to salvation.

Christ said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only” (Matthew 24:36). Though we do not know that day or hour, we do know with certainty it is only one event on one day and at one hour, not two events.

Jesus goes on to explain, “Know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into” (verse 43). We do not know the day of Jesus’ coming. There is no calculated mid-tribulation time prophecy that we can count on. The best advice is from Christ who said, “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (verse 44).

Don’t count on futurism or Darbyism as a second escape route out of being prepared for Christ’s return. Watch and always be ready!
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