“The Coming of Messiah in Glory and Majesty” by Ben Ezra, is the origin of the Pretribulational doctrine in the modern church. ‘Ben Ezra’ is the pseudonym for a Roman Jesuit priest named Manuel (sometimes Emmanuel) de Lacunza (1731 – 1801). The pseudonym may have been a way of making the work acceptable to Jewish readers and diverting attention from the station of the author.
This is the first mention of the doctrine, outside of a few obscure references from the writings of the Church Fathers. Prior to this book, there was a brief introduction to the subject by another Jesuit, a man named Rivera, who was heavily involved in the Spanish Inquisition. Prior to that, there is no reference to the Rapture being before the Tribulation in either Catholic or Protestant literature. Some will object that it was taught by the Church Fathers but Lacunza took a collection of less than ten sentences, from as many authors, and developed it into a six hundred page book.
The book was taken to England, where it was translated by a man named Edward Irving, a minister of the Church of Scotland. It was Irving’s translation, available here, that fell into the hands of John Nelson Darby, the founder of a sect called the Plymouth Brethren. Darby was fascinated by this book, originally believing that it was written by a converted Jew. The ideas overtook him and consumed his life. His doctrine was changed forever and his writings are the foundation of Dispensationalism and the Pretrib Rapture in the English speaking world.
From a different angle, a young girl from Scotland, Margaret MacDonald, a very early Pentecostal and follower of Irving, had a vision of a secret rapture where those “Baptized in the Spirit” were taken out of the world prior to the Tribulation. This vision established the Pre-Trib Rapture as a solid doctrine in Pentecostal Churches. John Darby would later meet Ms. MacDonald and they would compare notes. There is no doubt that her vision served to cement the doctrine in the mind and heart of John Nelson Darby.
In 1867, an American Evangelist by the name of Dwight L. Moody visited England. It was there that he met Darby, who taught him the basics of dispensationalism, including the idea of a Pretribulational Rapture. Moody came home, thrilled with his newfound doctrine. He did not have the theological background to understand all of the implications of Dispensationalism, but as an Evangelist, he could not miss the implications of the teaching that Jesus could return at any time.
Soon after, Darby made a trip to the United States. While in the States, he met a theologian named C. I. Scofield. Scofield went on to publish his annotated Bible, which became the standard for American Protestants and Evangelicals for a hundred years. In the Scofield Reference Bible, the Jesuit doctrine of Rivera, Lacunza, Darby, McDonald, Moody and Scofield is presented as Gospel Truth and established fact. This despite the fact that Scofield’s fellow theologians begged him not to do it and at least one member of his editorial staff resigned over the issue.
The Doctrine was almost instantly picked up by every evangelist in America… The idea that Jesus could return at any minute, scared the Hell out of sinners who flooded the altars and the offering plates. It was about to die out, having lost its shock value in a world that did not believe in God anyway. Then came the Left Behind books and movies. Suddenly, the Christian world was on fire with the doctrine of a Pre Tribulation Rapture… Suddenly, the whole world was staring at the clouds.
Our American Pretrib doctrine started with a Jesuit Priest, writing under Jewish pen name, through the founder of the Plymouth Brethren in England to Dwight L. Moody, a shoe salesman turned Sunday School Teacher, turned Evangelist. (Moody had no formal Bible training.) Moody brought it back to the United States… From there, it was spread by the graduates of Moody Bible Institute and throughout the Evangelical Churches. It was reinforced by the notes in the Scofield Bible, which many preachers considered to be almost as inspired as the Scriptures themselves. After that, it got picked up by the writers of a series of novels that became movies… and the rest is history.
I defy anyone to find even the words Pretribulational Rapture in the writings of any American church or denomination, prior to Moody’s return from England…
This is the real, historical history of the doctrine. It may be fully researched. I have made available here, the entire six hundred plus page book that started it all… Welcome to Jesuit Land!