Messianic Jewish belief in a pre-tribulational rapture.

Q: One of the arguments of those who oppose a pretribulation stance is that the early church fathers like Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Hippolytus, and Tertullian taught that there would be only one resurrection at the second coming of Messiah (i.e., after the tribulation). In your “History of Hebrew Christianity” CD, you say that Gregory of Nyssa took exception to several Jewish Christian beliefs, including the one that there would be three resurrections. Could this be evidence that the early Messianic Jews believed in a pretribulational rapture—a theology that was lost until the mid-1800s?

A: The majority of the early church fathers were premillennial and believed that the second coming of the Messiah would precede the millennium and usher in the Messianic kingdom. By the fourth century, however, the church’s method of interpreting Scripture was largely allegorical, symbolic, or spiritual instead of literal. This led to a failure to understand the premillennial rapture. A literal interpretation is essential in order to conclude that the rapture will occur before the tribulation. Another problem is replacement theology. The church began to teach that it, the church, was the new Israel and failed to make a consistent distinction between Israel and the church. This affected its view of eschatology. In the 1800s, churches again began to interpret the Bible more literally, recognizing the concept of separate prophetic programs for Israel and the church. Pretribulationism began to regain recognition in these churches. Neither the adherents of midtribulationism, nor the adherents of three-quarters-tribulationism, nor the adherents of posttribulationism can cite a passage concerning the tribulation that mentions the church. Therefore, these three groups must resort to the assumption that the church is Israel. Since, according to the Bible, Israel is in the tribulation, these groups must then assume that the church will also be in the tribulation. However, this is a logical fallacy. 

For further research on this topic, I recommend the Pre-Trib Research Center. On their website (, you will find many articles and papers along these lines.

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