This article deals with a popular yet controversial subject within the Christian church, the legitimacy or illegitimacy of THE SECRET RAPTURE. Every truth seeking Christian, whether or not you believe in a secret rapture, should carefully read this article and prayerfully search the scriptures daily. This article is adapted from The Secret Rapture by James Bennett as published in the 1878 London edition of The second Advent. Prior to the 19th century the idea of a secret rapture was foreign to the Christian church. “Somewhere around 1830, Edward Irving began to teach the unique idea of a two-phase return of Christ, the first phase being a secret rapture prior to the rise of the Antichrist.” (Left Behind By The Jesuits). Edward Irving was highly influenced by the teachings of Jesuits Francisco Ribera and Robert Bellarmine regarding their anti-Reformation rhetoric and private Futurist interpretation of antichrist, which no doubt led him to speculations of a secret rapture. In 1864 Samuel Prideaux Tregelles published a book in which he gave the following testimony on the origin of the secret rapture:
“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, from what was there received as being the voice of the Spirit. But whether any one ever asserted such a thing or not, it was from that supposed revelation that the modern doctrine and the modern phraseology respecting it arose. It came not from Holy Scripture, but from that which falsely pretended to be the Spirit of God....” (The Hope Of Christ's Second Coming, 1864, Chapter 9, p. 35)
The Secret Rapture
This view is one which has made and still is making considerable progress among believers. There is much that is attractive about it, but it will not, I am persuaded, stand searching, sober investigation. The theory briefly stated is, that there are yet two comings of Christ to take place. One of them may occur at any moment, without the slightest warning. The object of this coming will be to take away the Church, which will thus disappear from the earth in an instant. This secret rapture of the Church will, we are told, be followed by the manifestation of Antichrist, the persecution of restored Israel, and when Jerusalem is besieged, the Lord will come openly to the world, accompanied by His saints. What the Christian is to look for, then, is not the coming of the Lord at the siege of Jerusalem, but a coming which may occur at any instant. So far as I am aware, this view has been derived from Edward Irving, by whom it was first broached. It need hardly be remarked, that, without saying one syllable as to Irving's personal condition before God, he was a most unsound teacher. Any Christian at all acquainted with the Word of God must feel this. His idea, for instance, that our Lord's humanity was teeming with evil propensities, is fearful to a spiritual mind. That the theory should have originated with such a man is enough to make one doubly cautious in receiving it. He, however, taught it in a form somewhat different from that given above. He said that the whole Church would not escape the great tribulation, but only those who followed his directions. And a modification of this is held by many who are not Irvingites. They say that only some will escape, viz., those who are watching for the Advent, and, as some add, standing aloof from all denominations! In these pages, however, only the form of the doctrine first given is dealt with, viz., that the whole Church will share in the secret rapture. I confine myself to this one aspect of the view, because it is the most widely spread. And in fact, if this is disproved, the other will fall with it.