Monday, April 29, 2013

The Rapture

What is it and where did it come from?

All contents copyright © 2013 by M.L. Wilson. All rights reserved. No part of this document or the related files may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, by any means (electronic, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the publisher.
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Next to the Holy Trinity, there are few other contentious issues within the interpretations of scripture which rival that of the theory variously called “The Rapture.” This is a theory that had one specific meaning to Christians for nearly two millennia until the early nineteenth century. From approximately 1832 on, this theory began to morph into something else entirely. My point in writing this commentary is to simply give my view and opinion as to what caused this change in thought, why we have cleaved to the latter meaning and what the implications of embracing such a belief are to us as Christians.
It is important to outline just what the Rapture Theory is because the term has come to take on two different essential meanings. There is the older view which is based upon the scripture found in 1st Thessalonians 4:14-17, “We believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive who are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to greet the Lord in the air.”

In this older view, the Rapture was the calling of believers to Christ upon His return to earth to setup His new Kingdom. This “calling up” came after all of the various judgments and tribulations had concluded. The newer incarnation came about much, much later and introduced a new concept which had never been heard of before. Both will be discussed at length in this commentary.
First, one must understand that within the Canon of scripture, there is no such word or term as “Rapture”. The Rapture is a “shorthand” term used to explain an event; a happening. The actual word “Rapture” is defined thus: 
This from the Free Online Dictionary by Farlex (
1. The state of being transported by a lofty emotion; ecstasy.
2. An expression of ecstatic feeling. Often used in the plural.
3. The transporting of a person from one place to another, especially to heaven.
tr.v. rap·turedrap·tur·ingrap·tures
To enrapture.

[Obsolete French, abduction, carrying off, from raptcarried away, from Old French rat, from Latin raptus; see rapt.]
In addition to the  dictionary version, it is also believed the word “Rapture” is derived from the Latin word “rapio” which means, “to seize, to take by force.”, and interestingly enough, is thought to be the root for the English word for “Rape”. The Greek word used in scripture is “Harpazo” which is translated as “caught up” or “snatched.” One question which can be legitimately asked if there is no Hebrew word used, and the Greek word used is Harpazo would be, “Why is it called The Rapture Theory then?” The answer comes from the fact that in the late 3rd Centuries and early 4th Century, Jerome of Stridon (a border town between Dalmatia and Pannonia which is located in modern-day Croatia.) translated the Greek Septuagint into the Latin Vulgate. (Vulgate essentially means common, ergo “translation into the common language”.) Hence, the term Harpazo in the Greek was translated by Jerome into “rapio” or “rapere” or the more common term of “rapture” depending up the version one read in Latin. There are subtle differences in each word, yet they all could easily be applied to the usage of the Greek word “Harpazo” found in the Septuagint.
Once established in its most broad sense, “Rapture” means, “To take up” or “To take away”, we can proceed into the exploration of the different schools of thought respecting the application of the term. In order to do that properly, we have to understand cultures and eras have an effect on interpretation of scripture. One cannot view scripture without understanding the era in which it was written. In the case of 1st Thessalonians, we are looking at one of the oldest letters written by the Apostle Paul. His letters to the Church at Thessalonica date back to the early 50’s AD.
Here I must digress somewhat and ask you to bear with me. I bring this notion of dates and eras up only because there is a tendency to believe such Biblical giants as Paul, John and Peter , et al, remained static in their spiritual growth. What I mean by that is as observers from the 21st Century, we tend to look at these early church fathers as somehow already knowing everything God intended for them to know, and having worked out all of the problems which could possibly confront them from a spiritual perspective by the time they wrote what would become the scriptures. Since that is the presumption we tend to believe as we delve into their works (e.g. The Bible is the inerrant word of God), we therefore regard such works as infallible. Such notions should not be considered; Paul, John and Peter were just people who put down on papyrus, the chronicle of Christ’s trek on earth and the essential teachings they encompassed. Such work was “Divinely Inspired”, but such works are NOT infallible or inerrant. These are misconceptions resulting from a misunderstanding of terms. 
It is of interest to note the very thought of infallibility with respect to the Apostles or their written works is debunked within the pages of scripture by the Apostles themselves. We see this when Paul is forced to correct Peter on the subject of circumcision (Galatians 2:11-17) or when both he and Barnabas find themselves at odds with one another. (Acts 15:36-39) We can look back on the Paul and Peter argument and perhaps make a determination Paul was correct based upon our knowledge of doctrine, but do we know who was correct between Paul and Barnabas? Both remain silent on the points of disagreement. Can such be construed that neither was wrong, or both? What if it turns out Paul was wrong in his position? Would that error therefore invalidate all his works? Such a conclusion could only be reached if we impute a weight to such works which was never intended. Here is where it is important to remember the very reason these letters were written to begin with; many were to answer questions that these early churches had with respect to the teaching they had been given.
It is important to remember that just as God works in our lives and allows us to grow and learn, the same held true with these Apostles. Yes they were Divinely Inspired to write their works and they have been used to educate scores of people over two millennia, but scripture is not inerrant; the Word of God is. The misconception is the belief the Word of God is the printed word; the Bible. However, the Bible as it exists today was not compiled until at least three hundred years after Christ and continued to be molded and tinkered with up until the late 19th Century. To clarify, the Word of God is Jesus Christ; the Bible is scripture.
It is in this light we must look at scripture and take what the individuals say and make certain it aligns correctly with what Christ taught. Paul was a man and had opinions. If one looks at the attitude of Paul in the letters he wrote to the Church at Thessalonica and compares them with the attitude of his later works—his letters to Timothy thought to have been written in the early to mid-60’s AD, one will see a change in his language and his concepts. This is reflective in the growth the ten years or more which separates the two letters clearly points out. When we deny these early church fathers the benefit of that growth, we nullify their lives and the experiences they had to endure. 

Thus those who have created an entire theology around one passage of one letter written very early in his public ministry without finding harmony within Christ’s teachings, err considerably. I am cognizant of the fact this will sound somewhat heretical to some, but all I am really saying is that to regard the written text of the Bible as being without error is to impute far more into what the Bible is than what was intended. Scripture was Divinely Inspired, not conceived through something akin to automatic handwriting.
This from Wikipedia:
Automatic writing or psychography is writing which the writer claims to be produced from a subconscious, and/or external and/or spiritual source without conscious awareness of the content.
Almighty God did not take possession of the Apostles and write the Bible for them; He imbued them with His essence through RELATIONSHIP and these men wrote about the outgrowth of that relationship. The very presence of a Bible—while common to us today, was an extreme rarity even after it was compiled in the 3rd and 4th centuries and very few people set eyes upon one and even if they did, most likely would not have been able to read it; most people were illiterate. The early church had memorized creeds and used those creeds to guide them in their knowledge of Christ; the concept of a book which was without error was unknown to them.

The most common of these creeds, but by no means the first was introduced somewhere around 390 AD as mentioned by Ambrose, Archbishop of Milan. The creed reads:
 I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son Our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into Hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into Heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. Amen.
For some three hundred years before Constantine the Great and many hundreds of years afterward, uncounted numbers of people lived and died regarding themselves fortunate only to have been able to have heard a creed such as this one. These were people who were persecuted, and martyred in horrific ways in attempts to get them to renounce their belief in Christ. These people had no scriptures to pour over for answers and had only the Holy Spirit to guide their way. It would be my humble opinion that despite their lack of scriptures, these people possessed far more faith than any modern Christian—if only because of the dearth of a Bible.
It would be a fair statement to say most all people grow as they learn; tomorrow, most people will know more than they do today. I would not want to be held to the level of spiritual understanding I possessed in my youth no matter how erudite I may have felt I was on such matters. I therefore struggle to make certain I am as accurate on what I disseminate today, being mindful of the fact that I will know more tomorrow than I know today.
Paul, Peter, John, et al—no matter how much regard we hold for these men, were just men and they wrote what they knew in the context they knew it and in the culture of their day. The Spirit guided them—just as I believe He guides you or me, but we get to make the final determination as to what is put on the paper. Thus as a writer, I am divinely inspired in just what it is I write, but it will remain open to debate as to whether I am correct or incorrect in my conclusions; whether my words are inerrant. I explain this position with respect to the scriptures only to place into proper context the scripture passages used to buttress the Rapture argument.
There are three basic thoughts on the modern understanding of The Rapture Theory within the Evangelical Church today. These break down to:
  •          Pre-Tribulation Rapture
  •          Mid-Tribulation Rapture
  •          Post-Tribulation Rapture
Briefly in order, Pre-Trib believers will be taken at the start of the great Tribulation. Mid-Trib believers will be taken after the first three and one half years have passed and Post-tribulation believers will be taken at the end of the Great Tribulation. This latter view is essentially the view long held by the Church dating back to the time of Constantine the Great.
In the first and second Rapture theories, the arrival of Christ is a “secret” coming where He gathers His faithful—believers in Him—and whisks them off, thus they avoid God’s wrath against the sinners and unbelievers left behind during the Great Tribulation. Since the situation on earth does not degrade into violence until after the first forty months of the Tribulation, Christians can still be “rescued” even though the Tribulation has begun. Few adherents of The Rapture theory believe in a Post-Tribulation Rapture as that “misses the point” of the Rapture as they see it.
One would believe that if this was what was going to occur at the end of the age, Christ would have spoken about it. However the most those who favor the Rapture theory can come up with is a parable told by Christ to support their theory. In both the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke: 

“As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the Ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.” Matthew 24:37-41

Two things to be mindful of in this: Firstly, there is no explicit mention such is a “secret” coming of Christ. The Patriarch Enoch, Noah's great-great-grandfather, had first prophesied of the coming deluge more than six hundred years before it occurred. He preached about this coming cataclysm up to the day he was taken. Similarly his son, Methuselah was also told about and preached the coming deluge. Noah's father, Lamech was also made aware as, of course, was Noah. Few within proximity of the Ark and Noah's family did not know of the story of the coming cataclysm, but it remained just a story. Of course once it hit, they became aware of the accuracy of the story instantly. They also knew Noah’s strange boat could provide them rescue, but it was already closed up. Again we see absolutely no secrecy about the arrival of the cataclysm and only one avenue of deliverance. To reiterate, we see a scenario that Christ pointed out to us (Matthew 24:37) where upon there was no "secret" delivery. It was long announced, but the coming abrupt and only once.
The second point is there was an immediate and irreversible end to the earth the inhabitants all were familiar with; their world ceased to exist. The antediluvian world was vastly different from the world we inhabit today. Even archaeologists will contend the earth has gone through different phases of weather and conditions resulting in forming the earth we now experience. Few of them will attach themselves to what is called “The Hydro-Plate Theory” (Conceptualized by Dr. Walter Brown Ph.D. I have some disagreements on many of Browns attendant theories, but such is for another commentary.), but they are all in general agreement that there have been episodes in earth’s history which saw catastrophic and abrupt changes.
The “Left Behind” scenario held by “Rapturists” does not follow this Noahic model as outlined by Christ. With the exception of a small group of Christians suddenly vanishing from the face of the earth, nothing else would immediately change. Everything else would go on as it always had after this “secret” taking away of only faithful, believing Christians.
In answering the number of actual people Raptured, it is important to note such a person can only be Raptured if they are a Christian and have confessed any overt or secret sins and have not slid back into the errant behavior. As a result of such parameters, the number of Christians which would be affected by such a Rapture would actually be rather small. This is from Dr. Timothy La Haye’s Newsletter entitled “Pre-Trib Perspectives”.  In the May 2003 issue (Volume VIII, Number 1) he writes the following on page 3:
Many countries I am sad to say, will hardly notice when Christians are suddenly missing.  For example, would it be ten percent in Germany or France?  Probably not. In such countries the attitude will probably be, "good riddance"!
Not so America.  Last month I cited the December 2002 Gallup Poll that found 46 percent of the American people have had a "born again experience with Jesus Christ."  I hope and pray that is true!  If it is, what about the many others who believe Jesus is the Son of God, that He lived a sinless life, died a sacrificial death for our sins and that He rose again from the dead, but have never been introduced to the term "born again," which occurs only twice in the Scripture.  Would God reject from His heaven any soul who goes out into eternity believing Jesus is the only way to God, who trusts Him for his soul's salvation?  I think not. 
So how many would that make who will be raptured?  Only God knows, of course, but we should not be surprised if it is well over fifty percent.
Think about it.  If 50 or more percent of the doctors, nurses, teachers, craftsmen and workers from all walks of life including military personnel from every branch of service were suddenly missing - that would be a devastating blow to the American economy and way of life.  Into that leadership vacuum that the rapture may cause, the world would be vulnerable to domination by Germany and France, both socialist forms of government with weak leaders or a globalist organization that would propose equality of nations.  A perfect setup for the Man of  Sin to move in and take over.
Many adherents of The Rapture Theory were actually critical of La Haye's figures as they believed them to be too inflated. So whereas La Haye believes maybe a bit over 50% in America would be raptured, a good number of “Christians” believe the percentage will be far, far lower.
A personal anecdote: My brother was a young Christian when this incident took place more than thirty years ago in a small Baptist Church. He noticed the pastor was upset about the reception he received from the congregation to his sermon. He asked the pastor what the matter was and the pastor abruptly responded with, “I doubt there are ten saved people in this congregation!” (The present congregation stood at roughly one hundred.) This alarmed my brother as he had to wonder if he could possibly be one of those ten fortunate people. Surely the pastor was included as was his wife and his child. That left only seven spots remaining for the rest of the congregation. One would have to wonder that if the pastor truly believed 90% of his congregation—friends, family and acquaintances—were destined to an eternal torment in Hell, why he wasn't on his knees in a prayerful wail to God, rending his clothing at his failure to reach these people. Instead we see a man self-possessed and angry. Thus, the “fruit” of such a theory is to build a wall between man and God rather than a bridge.
I tell this only to illustrate that as Christians we are not to focus on our salvation; such was not part of the Great Commission. We are to use our energies to introduce others into a relationship with Christ. We can do this because Christ took care of the salvation part already to free us from that burden. Consider this passage from Matthew:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden light.” – Matthew 11:28-30
Here Christ is explaining that unlike being under The Law, which crushed the people with its awesome burden of rituals and regulations, Christ took the heavy burden from us. There was no longer the restrictions to adhere to and labyrinth of rules and regulations to surmount in order to find favor with God.
Now consider this from the author of the book of Hebrews:
“We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” – Hebrews 5:11-14
As a Christian, there comes a point where we are free; being mature means being able to take upon us the responsibilities of adulthood and NOT go astray. A child must be watched at all times lest they stray into danger; an adult is supposed to have the ability to discern the danger and avoid it. The Law was designed to take the discernment from the people whereas Christ has freed us from the burden—and that gilded cage. God does not desire a relationship with mindless sheep; He desires an intimate relationship with those who can empathize with Him. That means we all have to grow up and growth can sometimes be a painful experience, however it is of note that most things worthwhile in life usually are.
Christ said that we would encounter trials as His followers, that we would be persecuted and killed for His namesake. The mere fact that the Rapture of the Church essentially spares the believer from the “honor” of serving Christ in this manner seems to be a departure from what it is that Christ said and what it is that the Christian walk is all about.
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The Cultural and historical conditions which led to The Rapture Theory:
At every step in human history, culture has played a primary role in how humanity regarded their creator. Since as humans we tend to need a thread of commonality—a point of reference in order to comprehend the incomprehensible, we tend to anthropomorphize that which is intellectually beyond our grasp. I will also hasten to add this is typical behavior; by anthropomorphizing that which we do not understand, we make a connection—no matter how tenuous. Through this connection, we feel a semblance of control and it is this faux foundation upon which most of our theology is created.
I do not mean to make it sound as though every connection we have with God is based upon some vague feeling, but for the most part, such is in fact the case. The need for humans to control God on an intellectual level kept humans from being paralyzed with fear over the prospect of some massively powerful entity invading and controlling their lives. The ancient “gods” were not prone to kindness and instead demanded much from their “creation”, the converse of which could mean death—or worse. Thus the gods of the pre-Christian era were stern, taciturn, and perpetually angry. They did not suffer fools gladly—or at all. In reality, the gods were unknowable to mankind—as was their intention.
It is the god of the Hebrews which is the one most familiar to the West, but there were gods of similar fashion in other portions of the world who had their own people to tend to as well. I will not dwell on this bit of theology too much here, but only to mention it as a point of context. The God of the Universe has to be the God of all or He is not really God. It is important to note that while the god of the Hebrews was dealing with Moses and the Jews in the desert, there were other people who lived and existed in such faraway places as China, Australia and the Americas. These people all worshiped gods as well and had expected outcomes from their prayers. When we dismiss their gods as somehow lesser because they are not the “true god” of the Hebrews, the question one should ask then is, “By what measure does one so quickly dismiss their god without also dismissing the god of the Hebrews?” Remember, all gods must be measured against Christ. “I and the Father are one.” –John 10:30.
So culture played an important role in how each people saw their god. Each god spoke their native language and understood their customs; each god knew the terrain and understood the people; each god warned his people of the danger posed by “the others”. Each god protected his people from the other gods and from the children of those gods, spelling out just how these invaders were to be dealt with. In this, the Hebrews were not alone or unique.
The Judeo-Christian culture we have been raised in and are familiar with rose out of many years of tumult, wars, bloodshed and terror. This particular faith was battered both from within and from outside in order to assume its present shape. Battles between Jews and Christians were predated by battles between Jews and Gentiles (or pagans if you will). Both Jews and Christians sometimes found themselves as unlikely allies when the specter of Islam finally made its way into their midst. Eventually a fashion of Christianity formed in the guise of the Catholic Church through Constantine the Great, Roman Emperor in the early fourth century AD. Rules were established which neither Jews nor Muslims obeyed. Soon it didn't matter as those who swore allegiance to Christianity found themselves as the power brokers of the Western world. More bloody battles were fought to establish and maintain this dominance.
The earlier schisms within the Church in the 11th (the split into the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church in the West.) and 16th centuries (The Protestant Reformation) notwithstanding, by the latter half of the Seventeenth Century, a new way of viewing God which was held primarily by those of the Protestant faith had emerged. Deism has been traced as a concept to Lord Herbert Cherbury (1582 – 1648). Though not regarded as a Deist, it was Cherbury who laid much of the foundation for Deistic thought which was predominate in that time.
So what is Deism and what part does it have to play in a commentary on the Rapture Theory? Deism is essentially the belief that reason and observation of the natural world are sufficient to determine the existence of God, accompanied with the rejection of revelation and authority as a source of religious knowledge. In so defining the means by which one would quantify God, Deists took much power and authority away from the established Christian religions of their day. Deism was regarded as a “reasonable” means by which to view God and became a major influence in the lives of men who were responsible for the French and American Revolutions. Many are well familiar with the knowledge that such giants in American History as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were Deists. The error which is propagated by some historians is that these men were not Christians.
There is today a popular misconception the Forefathers of our Republic were not Christians because they claimed to be Deists. To dismiss their belief in Christ because they did not hold to the specific theology of Catholicism or Protestantism is to be both ignorant and misinformed. Such men came to appreciate the science and philosophies of their day and found that if much of the untried and tested traditionally held theological beliefs were brushed aside, another view of God emerged; one which was far more in keeping with their understanding of their world at that time. To clarify, these men eschewed the prevailing established religious thought of the day in favor of a religious thought they found reasonable; that does not negate their faith and belief in Christ. In interjecting their personal agendas, many historians are doing a grave disservice to their chosen fields of study and will be lost to history. People do not long follow liars. 
Deism has been also called “The Watchmaker God” theology. This reasoning was because from all the evidence one had on hand, it was inarguable an intelligence created the universe and the earth beneath their feet, but it also seemed inarguable this “god” had long since moved on to other things, but making certain the natural order of the realm would continue as designed. Thus, God created the watch, wound it and then set it down on a table, confident that even in his absence the watch would continue on as he had designed it to do.
Cherbury’s views were published in his seminal work in 1624. In his book, he outlines five “Common Notions” which govern Deistic thought:
  • There is a Supreme God.
  • This Sovereign Deity ought to be worshipped.
  • The connection of Virtue and Piety is and always has been held to be the  most important part of religious practice.
  • The minds of men have always been filled with horror for their wickedness. Their vices and crimes have been made obvious to them. They must be expiated by repentance.
  • There is reward and punishment after this life.
The understanding of Deism is—in my opinion—necessary in order to understand how we came to believe in Dispensationalism and the Rapture. One can clearly see the “evolution” of religious thought as times dictated and men began to contemplate their role on the earth. George Washington in his inaugural address in 1789 invoked God Almighty and ceded the fact that this God ruled the Universe, giving this God the credit for America’s defeat over the British Empire.  Though a Deist, Washington’s level of understanding of God certainly doesn’t sound like a man who was not Christian. In fact, his writings show quite the contrary viewpoint.

As our country began to grow and mature, the defeat of the British allowed them to grow and mature as well. Suddenly God's ordination didn't seem quite as clear to the British Crown. What had went wrong? What was going on? Did God not care what His Chosen People had to endure? The United States struggled to gain its footing and the British Empire struggled to make sense out of their defeat. In the midst of all of this, the Bourbon Monarchy in France crumbled and was replaced by a truly secular dictatorship under General Napoleon Bonaparte. Was the fall of France just punishment for helping the Americans? The British were then attacked by the French and the British attacked the Americans.

All of this chaos began to give people pause. Whose side was God on anyway? The French had largely been Catholic, the British largely Anglican and the Americans an eclectic mix.  Clearly something more was going on here that was not heretofore understood by anyone. Perhaps God didn't act as people believed He should because people had misunderstood God’s limitations.
A Plymouth Brethren preacher named John Nelson Darby (1800 – 1882) soon changed all of that. Born in Westminster, London, Darby started out as an Anglican clergyman in Ireland. In this position, Darby claimed to have converted many Catholics to Anglicanism.  As a result of a contentious issue regarding these converted Irish peasants and the demand for their sworn allegiance to the British Crown, Darby resigned his position in protest. Shortly thereafter in 1827, Darby was thrown from a horse and was seriously injured. During his recovery, Darby began to contemplate God and the Bible. He began to believe the “Kingdom” described in the Book of Isaiah and elsewhere in the Old Testament was different than that manifest by the Christian Church. Given the tumult he had just personally witnessed in Ireland as well as the religious tumult in recent history, to regard a “better” kingdom than that populated by the “Christians” he was familiar with was not a great leap to make.
Over the next five years, Darby developed the principles which would make up his theology. One of Darby’s revelations is similar to the revelation which Martin Luther had experienced; that the Spirit can speak to all men, not just “appointed” individuals. With Luther, the error that the Spirit spoke only to the Pope was revealed; to Darby, it was that the Spirit could take to anyone, not just members of the clergy.
By 1832, Darby had completely split from the Anglican Church and had formed a new religious congregation along with some other like-minded people and called themselves the Plymouth Brethren. It was during this time Darby began to expand his reach by giving lectures in Ireland and England; writing papers on his beliefs which were also widely disseminated. Out of this “maturing” of his theological beliefs came the theology known as Dispensationalism.
Essentially in dispensationalist theology, God is understood to relate to humans in different ways under different Biblical covenants or “dispensations” in history.  In dispensationalist theology, Israel is seen as distinct from the Christian Church and that God has yet to fulfill his promises to Israel. Ergo, Christians and Jews are looked upon and have different tracks to God under Dispensationalism; the two groups are dealt with separately.
The theology of Dispensationalism was adopted by and made popular by American minister and theologian, Cyrus Scofield. Scofield used Darby’s dispensationalist theology and the attendant Rapture Theory as part of his Scofield Reference Bible, published in 1909. This was a King James translation with notes whereupon Scofield explained what the scriptures actually were saying. The Scofield Reference Bible asserted such beliefs as latter writing of the Book of Revelation to 96 AD, the “Gap Theory”, and the date of creation as being set at 4004 BC.
The Scofield’s Reference Bible was then adopted by the founders of the Dallas Theological Seminary, Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer and William Henry Griffith Thomas. Their vision was that there be a school where expository Bible preaching was taught simply. The Dallas Theological Seminary has become a cornerstone of the modern Fundamentalist movement of the Twentieth Century with impressive alumni which includes: 
·         Gregory Beale, former president of the Evangelical Theological Society
·         Michael J. Easley, former president of Moody Bible Institute
·         Tony Evans, pastor and widely-syndicated radio broadcaster
·         Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church (Dallas, Texas)
·         David Klingler, former NFL player and current director of DTS' Houston extension campus
·         Hal Lindsey, author of The Late, Great Planet Earth
·         Duane Litfin, former president of Wheaton College
·         J. Vernon McGee, founder of "Thru the Bible Radio Network" program
·         Scott O'Grady, pilot whose story formed the basis for Behind Enemy Lines
·         Jim Rayburn, founder of Young Life
·         Kenneth N. Taylor, creator of the The Living Bible and the founder of Tyndale House
·         Dr. John Townsend, award-winning co-author of Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life 
·         Bruce Wilkinson, founder of Walk Thru the Bible and author of The Prayer of Jabez
·         Dr. Charles Swindoll, Chancellor of the Dallas Theological Seminary
With this array of Christian luminaries, it is easy to see how a theology which did not exist in any form only one hundred eighty years ago, dominates the Evangelical landscape today. Do their opinions matter in light of the tenuous origins of their theology? That is a debate which will not be resolved anytime soon, but further exploration as to what the Rapture Theory is and its ramifications for not only Christians, but for Israel will be explored next.