John Darby and the Pre-Tribulation Rapture

John Darby and the Pre-Tribulation Rapture
James Scott Trimm

This was originally a post I made in the “HebRoots” Discussion group in the late 1990’s:

It was John Darby founder of the Plymouth Brethren and creator of
Dispensationalism that greatly popularized the Pre-Trib rapture of the

During the 1820’s and 1830’s Darby developed a new systematic theology
called “Dispensationalism.” Dispensationalism has since become very
popular in Christendom. It is a fact that Dispenstionalism did not
exist until the nineteenth century. It has no roots in Judaism whatsoever
and did not even exist in Christianity until the 19th century.

Like most 19th century theologians John Darby was an anti-nomian, he
believed that the Law of Moses had passed away at the cross. Darby was
disturbed however with certain problems created by that theology. Darby
noticed that during the seven years of Daniel’s final week the offerings
are being made at the Temple. Since the Law of Moses was clearly being
kept during this seven year tribulation, Darby concluded that the Law comes
back into effect at the beginning of the tribulation. This train of
thought caused Darby to segregate biblical and prophetic history into
compartmentalized ages. Darby theorized an age of Law that ended at the
cross and an age of grace or church age that began at the cross. Then at
the seven year tribulation the age of Law kicks back in and the church age
of grace ends. This created a problem for Darby’s theory. How can the age
of Law return if the Church is still here? Darby saw the age of Law as an
age in which God dealt with Israel and the tribulation as a return to God
dealing with Isarel. So what happens to the Church? Surely the Church
will not leave Grace and come under the Law of Moses. As a result Darby
adopted the idea of a pre-trib rapture. This idea had the Church leave the
earth at the beginning of the tribulation, leaving Israel behind to enter
the tribulation and the age of law’s return. Darby now had another
problem. If the Church is raptured leaving Israel behind, then what about
so-called “Jewish Christians.” Do they get raptured with the Church, or
stay behind with Israel. Darby proposed yet another solution:
Church/Israel dichotomy. This theory taught that a Jew who becomes a
believer in Messiah becomes part of the Church and is no longer part of
Israel. As a result no one can be both a part of the Church and Israel.
Jewish believers, according to this theory, stop being Jews and become part
of the Church of God, which he taught contained people that are not Jews or

Thus the three pillars of Dispensationalism are:

1) The Law is not for today

2) The pre-trib rapture

3) Church Israel dichotomy

Now Messianic Jews cannot accept that the Law is not for today or Church
Israel Dichotomy. The Pre-Trib rapture was only needed because of a belief
that the Law is not for today. The PreTrib rapture does not work without
Church/Israel Dichotomy which was created to solve problems created by a
Pre-Trib rapture. Two of the three pillars which must be present to
support Dispensationalism are noncompatible with Messianic Judaism.
Moreover the only remaining pillar cannot stand alone, it only exists to
solve a problem created by the Law not for today theory, and it cannot
stand without Church/Israel dichotomy. When examined in light of the
truths that Messianic Judaism has, the whole structure of Dispensationalism
comes crashing down. It is a late 19th century invention of Christendom
with NO roots in first century Judaism at all.

See also The Premature, Pre-Trib Rapture

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