Two Points On Left Behind And The Secret Rapture

RaptureI’m not certain how many “Left Behind” films there have been so far but since the 1970s there have been several evangelical thrillers—beginning with “Thief In The Night”—based on the eschatology of John Nelson Darby (1800–82) et al that anticipate a “secret rapture” of believers as part of a complex of events associated with the “end times.” As a young, newly converted evangelical I was quickly introduced to the evangelical pop sub-culture which included Contemporary Christian Music (CCM). For a time I even worked at one of the pioneering CCM radio stations (KBHL, Lincoln) with some of the folks who invented that radio genre (Scott Campbell, Dewey Boynton). Back then the most famous and one of the better CCM artists was Larry Norman and one of his more popular songs was “I Wish We’d All Been Ready.”

The song in question starts at about 1:30. It’s fun to hear Phil Keaggy and Larry having fun. Whatever one makes of his theology, Keaggy is an amazing guitarist.

The premise of the song is that Jesus will come and believers will be taken secretly to be with him and, in this scheme, it the rapture will be followed by a period of tribulation. The imagery behind “left behind” is taken from Matthew 24:36–44:

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son,but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect (ESV).

According to Thomas Ice Dispensational Premillennialist theologians don’t often appeal to this passage in support of the so-called “pre-trib” rapture but in popular evangelical folk-culture this passage is often taken this way. It certainly was taken that way in the circles in which I was introduced to evangelicalism.

If, however, we read the passage slowly, carefully, however we will see that, in context, to be taken is not a good thing, it is not to go to be with the Lord in the air. No, to be taken is a bad thing. Observe the comparison. Our Lord begins with Noah. Who, in that episode was “taken” and who left behind? Noah and his family were left behind and everyone else is “taken” in the floodwaters of judgment. That establishes the pattern and the analogy that informs the rest of the passage. “So it will be when the Son of Man comes.” Two men are working. One will be taken and the other left. Two women are making bread. One will be taken and the other left. Following the analogy with Noah, one does not want to be taken because that is to be destroyed. One wants to be left behind.

Is It Secret?

Above we looked briefly at the problem with the popular appeal to Jesus’ discourse in Matthew 24. It reverses the analogy that our Lord made. Here we want to consider another passage that fuels the plausibility of a “secret rapture,” i.e., the notion that, as part of a complex of end-times events, our Lord will take believers out of this world bodily ahead of a period of tribulation.

In 1 Thessalonians 4 the Apostle Paul speaks directly to the nature of Christ’s return. He explained to the Thessalonians that it will not be secret, that they would not miss his return. Beginning in v. 13 he turns to the resurrection of the body. “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.”

Our bodily resurrection is linked to Jesus. Because he was raised bodily, so shall we also be raised bodily. Notice the last clause, “even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him.” This bringing occurs at his return. He explains more beginning in v. 15:

For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words (1 Thess 4:15–18; ESV).

When Jesus returns those who have already died will be brought with him as a great, royal entourage. Those believers who are alive on the earth will rise to meet the returning Lord after the bodily resurrection of those who have already died. Notice how the Lord returns: with a “cry of command” or “with a shout, in the sound/voice of the archangel” and “in the trumpet of God.” This shout and this trumpet are not secret. The imagery here is that of a conquering king arriving at a city.

The residents of the city, just as today, go out to meet the arriving dignitary. When the President of the United States flies to a state or a city the mayor and the governor go to meet him. There is fanfare, e.g., Hail to the Chief. It is not a secret. It is public, visible, and even noisy. He comes into the city with a motorcade, with motor officers driving at high speeds to block off intersections and to provide security. This is the sort of image that Paul is painting for the Thessalonian Christians, who worried that Jesus might have returned and that they might have missed it. Hymenaeus and Philetus (1 Tim 1:18-19; 2 Tim 2:15–18) had been telling people that the resurrection had already happened and that they had missed it.

Those who talk about a secret rapture are not making quite the same mistake but they create the same sort of anxiety among believers when they warn them about “missing” the so-called “secret rapture.” The only “rapture” (being taken up) about which Scripture knows is quite public and quite noisy.


Remember, the notion that believers will be taken bodily out of the world before tribulation is an idea that is hardly known among Christians until the 19th century, just as Dispensational Premillennialism, on which the secret rapture theory is built, is also unknown among Christians until the 19th century. Prior to the rise of Dispensationalism, most Christians expected to suffer. To be sure, there were eschatologies (doctrines of final things) of victory or triumph in this life. In the Second Helvetic Confession (1566), Heinrich Bullinger (and the Swiss Reformed Churches) condemned explicitly a notion, held by some Anabaptists, of a glorious triumph of believers on the earth.

THE SECTS. We therefore condemn all who deny a real resurrection of the flesh (II Tim. 2:18), or who with John of Jerusalem, against whom Jerome wrote, do not have a correct view of the glorification of bodies. We also condemn those who thought that the devil and all the ungodly would at some time be saved, and that there would be an end to punishments. For the Lord has plainly declared: “Their fire is not quenched, and their worm does not die” (Mark 9:44). We further condemn Jewish dreams that there will be a golden age on earth before the Day of Judgment, and that the pious, having subdued all their godless enemies, will possess all the kingdoms of the earth. For evangelical truth in Matt., chs. 24 and 25, and Luke, ch. 18, and apostolic teaching in II Thess., ch. 2, and II Tim., chs. 3 and 4, present something quite different (chapter 11).

As the old historicist view, which transposed the 1,000 years of Revelation 20 upon church history, began to break down post 1000 AD—there was a great panic which came and went as the date turned over—the Protestants began to cast about for alternatives. Some (perhaps many) of them pole-vaulted a literal millennium into the future. That view, historic premillennialism or chiliasm had long existed. In the 17th century and after some began to look for a future golden age, the result of the progress of the gospel in the world. In that view, the millennium is figurative.

There’s no clear, unequivocal teaching in the New Testament that would lead one to think that believers will be taken suddenly, bodily out of the world ahead of suffering and persecution. Consider these points:

  • Our Lord came to suffer and die. He was not delivered bodily until after he suffered and died (Matt 16:21). He called his disciples to take up his cross and to follow him (Matt 16:24). To be sure, that cross is usually figurative but frequently it has been literal and especially in the ancient, pre-Constantinian, world.
  • The Apostles rejoiced at the privilege of being counted worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus (Acts 5:41).
  • When the Apostle Paul was given new life and called to ministry, he was called to a life of suffering (Acts 9:16; 2 Cor 11).
  • Paul taught explicitly that the ordinary pattern of the Christian life is suffering and then glory:

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him (Rom 8:16–17).

  • He wrote to the Philippian congregation that it had been granted to them not only to believe but also to suffer for Christ’s sake—suffering for Christ’s sake is a gift! (Phil 1:29).
  • Peter wrote to the congregations of Asia Minor (Turkey) that suffering for Christ’s sake is a given and that when they suffer it must be for the sake of the gospel, for the sake of righteousness, not because they did stupid, illegal things (1 Peter 2:19–21). When we suffer for Christ’s sake, we are blessed. When we are arrested for his sake—a thought that today does not seem nearly so foreign and remote as it once did—we should be prepared to give an answer for the hope that lies within us. We should shame the pagans by our good behavior and thus imitate Christ (3:13–18; 4:16).
  • When we are insulted or arrested or suffer for Christ’s sake, that is evidence that the church is God’s holy temple, on which the Spirit of God and of glory rests (4:14–19). For Peter it was not a question if Christians shall suffer but when. His is a theology of the cross (as opposed to a theology of glory and triumph in this life).
  • The letters to the seven churches in Asia Minor (Rev 1–3) were written to suffering congregations c. 93AD. On this see Colin Hemer’s excellent book, The Letters to the Seven Churches. The major burden of the Revelation was to help Christians understand the nature of existence between the ascension and return of our Lord. How can it be that he is now reigning with the Father, departed believers, and with the angels and yet Christians on the earth suffer so grievously? The Apostle John explains the nature of inter-adventual history in a series of seven parallel, highly symbolic visions.
  • The 1st century church suffered under Nero and Domitian. The early post-apostolic church suffered under Trajan, Decius and other rulers. Christians were regularly arrested, questioned, required to renounce Christ and affirm “Caesar is Lord” and pour out a drink offering. When they did not they were put to death horribly. The Martyrdom of Polycarp narrates the dignified way he faced his death for the sake of Christ in the mid-2nd century. In his epistles (2nd century) Ignatius begged the churches (especially the Roman congregation) not to intervene in his martyrdom.

In most views current before the rise of Dispensational Premillennialism, the church expected to suffer and for that suffering to be relieved, as Peter has it, by the single, bodily, visible, noisy, conclusive, final return of Christ. Peter likens it to the Noahic flood. There are no such floods today, in the interim, but there will be another even greater, final cosmic flood of judgment (2 Pet 2:4–6). Noah was mocked and relatively few people listened and then the flood came. So it will be when the Son of Man comes (Matt 24).

From where, then do so many evangelicals get the idea that believers will be taken bodily out of the world (raptured) invisibly, suddenly, before the alleged seven-year tribulation preceding the alleged millennial reign of Christ and the saints on the earth, the reinstitution of priestly sacrifices in Jersualem etc? The whole scheme hangs on a single point: the notion of two parallel peoples of God: Jews and Christians, on the notion that the dividing wall that Paul says was destroyed in Christ’s body, on the cross, still remains.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace…. (Eph 2:13–15)

There are Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians but there is no separate parallel people of God apart from Christ. If your eschatology has a dividing wall, you have a problem with Paul.

Scripture may be said to teach a rapture, of sorts, but certainly not the sort of rapture that is portrayed in the various Left Behind books and movies. Paul wrote to the Thessalonian congregation:

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words (1 Thess 4:13–18; ESV).

Some in the Thessalonian congregation were concerned about the return of Christ and whether perhaps they had missed it—as is suggested today by a form of what is known as preterism—and Paul wants them to know that they have not missed Christ’s return. When Christ returns it will not be partial nor will it be multiple. Scripture knows nothing about two or three returns of Christ. When he returns it shall not be secret. It will be noisy, visible, and obvious to all. When it comes it will be with a great cry from the heavens. Royal trumpets will announce his arrival. His first advent was quiet and was missed by most of the world. Such a disappointment he was to their expectations of earthly conquest that, ultimately, even those who saw he chose to call for Bar-Abbas instead of Jesus. This time there will be no ambiguity. Those who want to see earthly conquest and visible royal power shall have it. The believers who have already died before Christ’s return shall be raised bodily, visibly. Believers who are alive on the earth shall be visibly, bodily taken up to be with him and with the believers who’ve gone before.

One assumption of the pre-millennial, pre-tribulation, secret-rapture theory is that Jesus then returns to heaven and takes the raptured with him but 1 Thessalonians 4 says nothing of the sort. The imagery of the royal, conquering king leads us to think quite the opposite. Kings do not approach a conquered city and then withdraw. They enter and those in the city come out to meet them. That’s all the “rapture” is in this case, believers being taken up to escort their glorious King.

The Left  Behind properties (books, novels etc) may be good business but they are poor biblical exegesis, poor biblical theology, poor systematic theology, and quite out of accord with the expectations of the historic Christian church. Jesus is coming again, bodily, visibly, gloriously, and finally. It won’t be secret. As it was in the days of Noah, two will be working and one will be taken in judgment and the other, the believer, will be left behind in peace and fellowship with his Savior who, for the joy set before him, despised the shame of the cross, and endured it our sake (Heb 12:2).

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  1. It didn’t start with the films. There were these lurid novels before that, I read “Mark of the Beast” in ’67 or ’68. Even then, in my charismaniac/hex-a-costal days, I thought the lurid descriptions of the terror were chicken-feed, compared with what was already going on in Eastern Europe. And I was always uncomfortable with “second chance” eschatology.

  2. But can we REALLY say that to be taken up in the air is to be left behind? Because the rapture is an absolute certainty, even though I know it won’t be secret, and I know that irreversible judgements will fall immediately on those not raptured.

    • To Dr Clark: you say:

      “Ok but confidence that the pope is the antichrist began to wane widely, beyond the Netherlands, in the 18th and 19th centuries. I don’t think one say that Bavinck and Kuyper are causes. What seemed clear in the 16th and 17th centuries seemed less clear to a lot of Reformed folk in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Americans revised the WCF w/o the influence of K and B.”

      Ah, but now you see that doctrine is indeed the underlying reason that Reverend Elshout did not translate the final volume of ‘Reasonable Service.’ But shouldn’t a Brakel be given a fair reading?

      I must add – as a former Roman Catholic myself, I thoroughly disagree with the Confessional declension of the American churches. I know from personal experience the Pope is the man of sin. I saw it daily in the Mass, especially in the Feast of the Monstrance (‘Corpus Christi’), when the priests dedicate the wafers. The papists do worship them. They worship the pope, too. They call him ‘our sweet Christ on earth.’ I might add, the EU is in his pocket. I could tell that through a chilling conversation I had with the Portuguese ambassador to the West Bank, who was a rabid papist. (Portugal refuses to recognize Israel.)

      I might add: you haven’t seen what I have seen in Jerusalem. I saw on national Israeli television the Pope promenade with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem into the Mosque of Omar, on the Temple Mount. If you have ever read the ‘Prophetic Poem’ of Reverend Lochlin MacKenzie, you would know the ominousness of that. I might add, I was watching the news on an overhead television in an auto license branch in Jerusalem, and every Jewish eye was riveted to the screen. The caption under the news was

      האפיפיור בהר הבית

      “The Pope on the Temple Mount”

      The Pope does want Jerusalem.

      Interesting that the first people he met with in Jerusalem were not the Jews, nor Bibi Netanyahu. He first went to meet with the Grand Mufti, the leader of the Muslims. The Grand Mufit read a scroll five feet long full of complaints against Israel, and the pope kept nodding his head in agreement…

      • Albert,

        I really don’t think any of us can know what’s in a person’s heart. Let me encourage you to take care in that regard. You’re entitled to your opinion, of course, but comments on the HB must adhere to the moral law, including the 9th commandment.

        Re the papacy. You may be correct. I have a lot of sympathy for the historic view but I’m not wiling to castigate those who disagree with me since the older conclusion is an inference (based on a series of premises) and it may be a good one but I doubt that it’s a necessary inference such that those who disagree are to be condemned. Further, we still confess that he Roman eucharistic sacrifice is damnable idolatry. I’m aware of what happens in Jerusalem and in Rome and elsewhere. I quite agree that it’s shocking to the senses. I’ve written a fair bit of criticism of the papacy here.

    • To both of you: “I really don’t think any of us can know what’s in a person’s heart” – Neither can I know what is in Rev Bart Elshout’s heart, but I can tell you definitely what was in his MOUTH this evening! I mentioned his translation of the series to him, twice, I think mentioning the last volume. He said that soon after publication it was rejected and laid aside by his (Brakel’s) own church, because the hermeneutic was totally faulty. It was not because it was historic postmillennial. And it is not for this reason either that Rev Elshout hasn’t translated it. His reason for not translating it was that if the last volume were to be published in English alongside previous volumes, its shortcomings might discourage English readers from reading anything by Brakel. He would much rather wait some 30 years until Brakel’s reputation was established and then publish a translation for purely historical reasons, with a preface pointing out its serious deficiencies.

  3. The real question for me as a Presbyterian who adheres strictly to 1647 Westminster Confession of Faith is this: why did Rev. Bart Elshout not translate the final volume of ‘Reasonable Service’ (Redelijke Godsdienst) by Wilhelmus a Brakel? I can tell you why, frankly: a Brakel was a postmillennialist in the mold of Jonathan Edwards, Herman Witsius, Ralph Erskine, and most of the Second Reformation divines. Whereas, most modern Dutch theologians are indeed ‘pessi-amillennial.’ That is, they are convinced everything will only get worse and worse.

    The Reformed in the English-speaking world have a right to know what Wilhelmus a Brakel thought. Given also that his final volume was a verse-by-verse commentary of the whole Book of Revelation, wouldn’t it also be a great value in confuting the nonsense of the Darby/Larkin dispensationalists?

    Al Hembd

    • @ Mr. Hembd: Well looking at Holland now is it any wonder they had such a view….lol

      I must say a straight forward reading of all the ‘relevant’ texts for dispensationalism (e.g. Daniel 7, 1 Thess. 4, Matthew 24) rid me of my Left Behind Fever. One has to utilize serious hermeneutical gymnastics to come to their conclusions.

    • I find a problem with Second Reformation postmillennialism, on which I think Robert Murray M’Cheyne put his finger when he asked his elders – I won’t go on, you all know the story! We must view any eschatology which implies Christ could not come in the next hour with grave suspicion. My amillennialism is strictly speaking postmillennialism, because I believe Christ will come at the end of a millennium which started when Satan was “bound” and “imprisoned” in such a way that he could no longer deceive the gentiles (a legitimate translation of ta ethne in Revelation 20:3) in such a way that the Kingdom of God could not be formed amongst them; i.e., we are LIVING in the millennium, which could terminate any minute now if God so wills. And the mystery of Israel is fulfillable by all surviving Israel suddenly coming to faith seconds before Christ comes the second time. We won’t be aware of the mass conversion of Israel before Christ comes.

    • Dear John:

      You say (understandably so): “I find a problem with Second Reformation postmillennialism, on which I think Robert Murray M’Cheyne put his finger when he asked his elders – I won’t go on, you all know the story! We must view any eschatology which implies Christ could not come in the next hour with grave suspicion.”

      In response, it can be very hard to find reliable literature explaining the postmillennial view. Most modern postmillenialists, under the rather baneful influence of theonomy, are preterists. The classical view of postmillennialism, however, is historical, and it posits the coming of the Millennium after great tribulation. (See Jonathan Edwards in History of Redemption.) I am a Free Presbyterian (Church of Scotland, and my Church is almost unanimously postmillennial (there are exceptions). We are historicists, in the vein of Jonathan Edwards, Herman Witsius, Wilhelmus a Brakel, Ralph Erskine, Theodorus van der Groe, etc. etc.

      I think I can offer a reasonable explanation to your above objection.

      Let’s consider briefly Mark 13.33 – 37:

      33 Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.

      34 For the Son of Man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch.

      35 Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning:

      36 Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping.

      37 And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.


      There are several ways in which the Son of Man comes. He came to the early disciples in the power of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. John 14.18 “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” Our Lord and Saviour faithfully fulfilled that promise to the apostles, when He came to them in the power of the Holy Ghost. The coming of the Spirit was the coming of Christ personally upon the apostles

      The Saviour also comes, however, in the hour of death. And thus, though it is unlikely that any of us here on this forum will be alive at the Lord’s coming in Person, yet we will meet with Him in the hour of death. He will come to us then. The hour of death will be a day of the LORD.

      And thus, we must always be ready for the Lord’s coming for us. Indeed, the day of the LORD comes upon the unconverted, in a day of shock and surprise. Men live as though they will never die. But then, the hour of death comes upon them, and they are hurried by the elect angels into the presence of God, to stand before the Son of Man seated upon the Throne of Judgment. And then, their spirits are cast into hell, if they are not redeemed. Whereas, the righteous are ushered into glory, to await their final resurrection in their physical bodies at the last day.

      So, then, in summary: actually, postmillenialism does not compromise imminency. The LORD will come as a thief in the night upon most, in the hour of death, because they are not ready.

      Al Hembd

    • Al,
      I am absolutely astonished that you are an FP and that you are now based in Jerusalem – Nothing in the QR or the FP magazine gave me any clue that either of these might be the case (Of course, I’m not unhappy about either – I just pray that you’ll be safe – I knew the lady from the Orkneys many years ago). Are you doing advanced studies or other research at the Hebrew University? or revising the Delitzsch independently of the same?
      I was heartened by your throwaway observation in the QR that the errors in Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, etc. could be due to persecution. I had emailed a certain London FP elder a copy of my drafts on the subject (and on the last 12 verses of Mark) to keep in case anything happened to me, and, possibly, to use, because I’m an appalling writer.
      As it happens, I hope to be meeting Rev. Bart Elshout for the first time this very evening (in Salisbury). I might ask him.
      I have always been puzzled by the massive emphasis that’s put on the Second Coming, because of your very point about death seeming to be equivalent to it as far as the individual is concerned. However, I find it equally puzzling that in all the warnings I see in Scripture about being ready for the Second Coming I have found no statement about death being equivalent; maybe, for reasons we don’t understand, death simply isn’t equivalent. For this reason, I am quite loth to accept anything that suggests that following the revelation of the Man of Sin, which happened when the Papacy came into existence, there remains any significant period of time during which the Lord cannot return. When I said to the aforementioned FP elder “If ethne had been translated ‘gentiles’ instead of ‘nations’ in Revelation 20:3, both premillennialism and postmillennialism would have been knocked on the head”, he seemed to take it on board. I would say I was pan-amillennial, (strictly speaking pan-postpresentmillennial), rather than pessi-amillennial.

    • Al,

      Having done a bit of translation myself, I think we should be cautious about assigning motives here. It’s a lot of work. I worked on Olevianus’ Romans commentary for quite a while only to conclude that, in the end, it just wasn’t that valuable as a commentary. Perhaps Elshout reached the same conclusion in this case. Whatever the facts (which, I take it, we don’t know) let’s be thankful for the good work that he did. We’re all in his debt.

      “A right”? Really? In that case there’s a lot of work to be done because there are hundreds, if not thousands of volumes to which, on your premise, we have “a right.”

      How committed are you to getting that volume translated? Are you willing to pay someone to do it? That runs into a bit of money.

    • To John Rokos: I am in Israel, now studying at Bar Ilan University, but also working for the Trinitarian Bible Society on a revision of the Delitzsch Hebrew New Testament. You can view some details on that at my website at

      To Dr Clark: I do understand that translation is difficult work, especially in seventeenth century Dutch. I also understand that some works would not be worth translating. That said, I know from many Dutch friends that this is not at all the case with the final volume of Redelijke Godsdienst. Interestingly, one such friend is an elder with the Netherlands Reformed Congregations in Kalamazoo, Michigan, the son of a deceased but very noted minister by the name of Arie Vergunst. Jan Vergunst is himself a postmillennialist because of that work. It was he who recommended to me Ian Murray’s work Puritan Hope. So also several other friends in Holland have commended that work to me, brethren who are very sound in the faith. My own observation is more that of Trent’s – namely, that sad to say, most of the Dutch are entranced with Herman Bavinck, who also was snared, as I understand it, by Kuyper’s doctrine of presumed regeneration.

      A Brakel’s final commentary on Revelation is an important work. That said, Reverend Elshout is probably committed to the doctrine of G H Kersten in his commentary on Revelation, given that he and his father were ministers in Ds Kersten’s Church, in Holland, De Gereformeerde Gemeenten, and in the United States, the Netherlands Reformed Congregations. Kersten was more in step with Bavinck. And thus, for Reverend Elshout, the problem is that a Brakel does not agree with Reverend Kersten. It is likely that Reverend Elshout wants the people to follow Kersten’s views. Yet a Brakel is much respected in NRC circles, and Ds Kersten himself highly praises him. I know many people in the NRC very well. My experience tells me that Ds Elshout probably fears that if Dutch Reformed people in English speaking countries knew of a Brakel’s work, they would likely scuttle Reverend Kersten’s view.

      To be perfectly candid, there is a strong possibility, even a probability, that a Brakel’s commentary on Revelation is far superior to Reverend Kersten’s work.

      All this said: I much agree with you that we are much indebted to Reverend Elshout for the work he did. I would just hope that there might be a groundswell of support calling for his continuing the work, and finishing the final volume. Let him put in his caveats in an introduction, if he so wishes! But let us have the opportunity to read a Brakel’s verse-by-verse exegeses on the Book of Revelation, especially given that a Brakel’s views were far-and-away the majority view in his day, as James Durham’s Commentary on Revelation demonstrates.

    • My apologies: one final comment to Dr Clark. As for funds for the translation of the final volume of Redelijke Godsdienst, that is no problem at all! People in Holland would pay for it! There are many congregations of three thousand members in solid Reformed churches in Holland, and there are hundreds who could be solicited.

      For that matter, I was speaking on the Sabbath with a man who is working now in Houston, who is a member of the Gereformeerde Gemeente in de Nederlands. There are an increasing number amongst them, believe it or not, who believe in the free offer of the Gospel, and who are postmillennial. Mr van Berg (the aforementioned friend) apprises me that his minister, Reverend Westrate, prays for the conversion of the Jews every Sabbath, and preaches about the coming national conversion of Israel every Sabbath. Mr van Berg is also postmillennial, and he agrees that a Brakel’s commentary on Revelation was not translated because of the amillennial bias of many Dutch ministers, who are yet under the influence of Bavinck and the Kuyperian Dutch, instead of their own Second Reformation divines, like Theodorus van der Groe.

      All this said, funds would come pouring in, if solicited.

      • Albert,

        I’m sure that, if the funding is available, the Dutch Translation Society or some other entity would be happy to translate a Brakel. I really doubt that people aren’t translating because they disagree with it. There’s plenty of academic reason to translate texts with which one does not personally agree.

        I don’t think that one should assume that millennialists necessarily don’t anticipate the future conversion of Jews. One need not be a postmillennialist to anticipate that.

    • To Dr Clark: I quite agree that one need not be, strictly speaking, a millennialist in order to believe in the future conversion of the Jews. One only need to read Philip Mauro, for example, in that regard.

      That said, that was not the doctrine of G H Kersten, and therein lies the rub. G H Kersten taught that there would only be a gathering of a remnant from each generation, all the way up to the Second Coming, and nothing more: which is entirely contrary to what a Brakel taught. But there is much more than that.

      Kersten also taught, with Bavinck, that the Antichrist was a future figure: and he specifically denied that the Pope is the Antichrist. This is what was commonly taught in the NRC when I attended them. In contrast, a Brakel, in the piece I linked you to, specifically teaches that ‘the Pope is that Man of Sin, the son of perdition.’ Note, for example, a Brakel’s comments on Revelation 9 below (and by the way, I know enough Dutch to know that a Brakel’s commentary is very outstanding! Note the historical details!)

      In these comments, a Brakel shows precisely the rise of Antichrist in the days of Pope Gregory. I assure you, this doctrine would not fly in the NRC. But of course, the problem is, this is the doctrine of our forefathers.

      You see: the Dutch began to deny that the Pope is the Antichrist in the days of Abraham Kuyper. Kuyper made political alliances with the papists in order to be elected as Prime Minister. And G H Kersten, who was also a politician and a member of the Dutch parliament, fell into Kuyper’s footsteps on this score.

      (By the way, as an FP, I believe with the Church entirely in the Westminster Confession of 1647, and therefore, that the Pope is indeed ‘that man of sin, the son of perdition.’)

      See a Brakel’s comments on Revelation 9 below. I’m sure you know enough Dutch to get the gist of it. — Al


      I. In het vorige hoofdstuk hebben wij de eerste vier bazuinen gehoord, aankondigende de vierderlei ellenden, die de kerk zijn overkomen, na het half uur stilzwijgen, onder Constantijn de Groote; in de vierde eeuw tot het jaar 606, wanneer de bisschop van Rome, Bonifacius, voor algemeen bisschop en hoofd van de kerk werd verklaard en uitgeroepen door de keizer Phocas.
      Na het vertrek van de keizer Constantijn uit Rome naar Constantinopel, en onder de invallen van de Gothen en andere woeste heidenen in het Westers keizerrijk, kreeg de paus van Rome de handen vrij, die tot hiertoe door de keizers weerhouden was, gelijk te zien is, 2 Thess. 2:6, 7: En nu wat hem wederhoudt, weet gij, opdat hij (de mens der zonde, de zoon des verderfs, vs. 3) geopenbaard worde te zijn eigener tijd. … alleenlijk, die hem nu wederhoudt, die zal hem wederhouden, totdat hij uit het midden zal weggedaan worden.
      Mauritius, keizer in ‘t Oosten begunstigde de bisschop van Constantinopel, die zich algemeen bisschop liet noemen. Gregorius, bisschop van Rome, schreeuwt daartegen aan, zeggende, dat zulks het teken is van de Antichrist. Mauritius leger maakt opstand: Phocas, zoon van Mauritius, doodt zijn vader en broeder, vleit Gregorius, en Gregorius hem. Bonifacius wordt Bisschop van Rome, neemt de naam van Opperbisschop aan. Phocas erkent hem daarvoor. Er wordt een Synode beroepen, en ‘t wordt er zo goed en zo slecht als het kan, doorgehaald.
      De paus van Rome, zo door de uitwendige troebelen, als door de veelvoudige ketterijen, van welke Rome wel het meeste onbesmet bleef, en daardoor de toevlucht werd van de waarheid vasthoudende kerken, waardoor hij hoe langer hoe groter gezag kreeg; alsmede door de aanzienlijkheid van de stad Rome, hebbende zo lange tijden het gebied gehad over de wereld, en zijnde geweest de zetel van de keizers, de paus van Rome, zeg ik, door deze middelen groot aanzien en gezag bekomen hebbende, werd van de Oosterse keizers gevleid, om door zijn toedoen het Westers rijk wederom in bezit te krijgen; dit acht men het oogmerk van Phocas geweest te zijn, in hem voor hoofd van de kerk te verklaren.

      II. Van de trappen, waarbij de bisschop van Rome tot hoofd van de kerk is opgeklommen, werd in de vier voorgaande bazuinen gesproken. De vijfde bazuin, tot welke wij nu gekomen zijn, vertoont hem in zijn macht op de troon, ‘t welk uit de inhoud van deze bazuin zal blijken. Het geeft ook veel licht over de profetie van Paulus, 2 Thess. 2, met deze te vergelijken.
      De tijd, wanneer de Antichrist zou opkomen, is, nadat de keizer, die hem weerhield, uit het midden weggenomen was, ná de vernietiging van het Westerse keizerrijk, ‘t welk in keizer Augustulus geëindigd is, vs. 6, 7. In de tijd, dat de zesde bazuin klonk, was het rijk verwoest, en hij is in het begin van de zeventiende eeuw voor Paus uitgeroepen.
      Hij zou niet uit de kerk gaan, maar zich in de tempel Gods zetten als een God, vs. 4, als het hoofd van de kerk; ‘t welk de Heere, onze God, alleen is. Hier wordt door het zinnebeeld van het vallen van een ster uit de hemel afgebeeld, dat een aanzienlijk leraar van de waarheid zou afvallen, en met zijn werk de waarheid verduisteren, en alle onverzegelde leden van de kerk beschadigen.
      Hij zou zijn, (Grieks: ho antikeimenos) een tegensteller, tegenstrever, en alzo de Antichrist. Deze ster zou macht hebben en die macht gebruiken, tegen de Zon, de Heere Jezus en Zijn waarheid, om die te verduisteren.
      Zijn toekomst zou zijn naar de werking des satans, vs. 9. Deze ster opende de put des afgronds, waaruit de rook en de sprinkhanen voortkwamen.
      Hij zou zijn, de zoon des verderfs. Hier, Openb. 9:11, wordt hij genoemd Apollion, Verderver, die anderen en zichzelf eeuwig verderft.
      Hij zou alleen kracht hebben in degenen, die verloren gaan, vs. 10. Hier, Openb. 9:4, zou de ster beschadigen die mensen alleen, die het zegel Gods aan hun voorhoofden niet hebben. ‘t Is nu zeker, dat de apostel in 2 Thess. 2 spreekt van de Antichrist, en deze bazuin, Openb. 9, hetzelfde zegt van deze ster. Derhalve worden wij in deze bazuin tot de Antichrist geleid. ‘
      ‘t Welk nog meer opgehelderd wordt, als wij deze bazuin vergelijken met Openb. hfds. 7, 8 en hfdst. 11, waar duidelijk van de Antichrist gesproken wordt. En de zaken, die daar van de Antichrist gesproken worden, worden in de vijfde bazuin gezegd van de ster. En bijzonder, omdat de verzegelden en niet verzegelden de kerk uitmaken, waarin de Antichrist zich zetten en werken zou, hfdst. 7:3 en hfdst. 13:8. Omtrent diezelfde personen wordt de ster gezegd te werken, hfdst. 9:4.

      • Ok but confidence that the pope is the antichrist began to wane widely, beyond the Netherlands, in the 18th and 19th centuries. I don’t think one say that Bavinck and Kuyper are causes. What seemed clear in the 16th and 17th centuries seemed less clear to a lot of Reformed folk in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Americans revised the WCF w/o the influence of K and B.

    • To John Rokos: you point out “Neither can I know what is in Rev Bart Elshout’s heart, but I can tell you definitely what was in his MOUTH this evening!”

      Of course, I knew all along that it was for doctrinal reasons that Rev Elshout declined to translate the final volume. I was in that church when he made those public statements. Thus, there was no infringement of the Ninth Commandment. I also knew of what was coming out of his mouth, over twenty years ago.

      With regards to the ‘inferior hermeneutic’, perhaps it is true that Reverend Elshout thought that a Brakel’s commentary was a poor representative of historic postmillennialism. It would be interesting, however, to canvass his assessment of James Durham’s commentary on Revelation, which, as I understand it, is virtually parallel to a Brakel’s commentary, and of which I have heard no one claim that it was an inferior piece of hermeneutics.

      But then, perhaps a Brakel’s work is inferior to Durham’s. I doubt it, though. I rather think that Reverend Elshout thinks that historic postmillennialism by its very nature is an inferior hermeneutic. His words bewray that persuasion.

      A ‘hermeneutic’ is a methodology by which one exegetes the text. One could have a sound hermeneutic, but be a poor exegete. But if you say one has a poor hermeneutic, you are saying his basic premises are flawed, and therefore, none of his exegeses can be correct.

      As I say, it would be interesting to get more details on Reverend Elshout’s assessment. I know many, many Dutchmen who do not agree with him. I also know for a fact that his church at the time was much opposed to postmillennialism, and was very much committed to the millennialism of G H Kersten.

  4. Great, another version of that dreadful Left Behind movie and now with A grade actor Nick Cage who my wife likes. She likes (and adheres) to the first Left Behind and now, with Mr. Cage, this should cement it. Argghh!

  5. J. N. Darby systematized what became known as classic or traditional dispensationalism. From my study into the history of Darby and Brethrenism, I’ve learned that the Brethren movement split over Darby’s theology. Men like George Muller and B.W. Newton rejected Darby’s views.

    I’ve learned another wrinkle that Edward Irving translated a work by Manuel Lacunza, which advocated futurist views of Daniel and Revelation that provided fueled the fire of Darby’s views. It seems to me that this angle doesn’t always come up in the conversation on “Left Behind” theology. I’ve begun reading Irving’s translation of Lacunza’s work in order to see what this Jesuit actually taught.

    Before I wrap this up, I want to make a painful observation. I’ve read some of the writings of 19th century theologians and ministers such as David Brown, Henry Alford, the Bonar Brothers, Spurgeon, Newton, et al, and these men saw the errors being espoused by Darby. All of them were staunch opponents of classic dispensationalism.

    Because of the efforts of those men, dispensationalism never took hold in the UK. Instead, Darby comes to the US searching for a receptive audience, and his theology spreads like wildfire. I find this to be a painfully sad, historical fact about the development of theology in the US. It seems to me that the progressive flavor of dispensationalism has made improvements for the better; although, I do not espouse it. I’m sorting through the theology of the 2nd London Confession.

    I’m learning to see the progressive flow of the covenants throughout redemptive history. Biblical theology seems to be an important discipline to learn and wield. It unlocks things in the scriptures that otherwise remain hidden.

    • Bob, How DARE you! Only Dr Clark is allowed to post commercials on the Heidelblog.

      I must admit I’m slightly tempted.

      Here’s a commercial of my own: If anyone would like my “Light Party Invader” and “Reformation Day” designs to print on a t-shirt (I had the t-shirt made to wear for my 5-year-old great-nephew’s Halloween Party, an invitation I couldn’t refuse), please let me know your email address and I shall try send them you. Alternatively, design your own – I’m sure you can do better.

  6. “Most modern postmillenialists, under the rather baneful influence of theonomy, are preterists.”

    This is not an accurate comment. While many (though certainly not all) modern postmillenialists are sympathetic to theonomy and reconstructionism, even theonomic postmillenialists are not full preterists. (For example, Dr. Kenneth Gentry, a theonomic reconstructionist postmillenialist, has written against full preterism.) Many are partial preterists who, while interpreting much of the Olivet Discourse and the Book of Revelation preteristically, nevertheless confess the second advent of our Lord. But even theonomists recognize that full preterism is a heresy and outside the bounds of historic orthodoxy. Read Keith A. Mathison’s book “Postmillenialism: An Eschatology of Hope” (P & R Publishing, 1999) to get a more accurate picture of what most modern postmillenialists actually believe.

    • Gentry is plainly a preterist. He teaches that Mystery Babylon was Rome and that Antichrist was Nero. Thus, he teaches that most everything was fulfilled in 70 A D. He is just not a total preterist who claims that the resurrection was also fulfilled in 70 A.D.

  7. Well Mr. Clark,

    Your post certainly brings back memories. Back in the mid 80’s I became a part of the “Christian” Bookstore culture, and my very first job was to maintain a 16mm rental library, which included “A Thief in the Night,” “A Distant Thunder,” and the 4-reel sequel “Image of the Beast.”

    I have repented!

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