Why is the rapture of the church taught in today's churches, when for 1900 years it was not? Who started this teaching?
Community answers are sorted based on votes. The higher the vote, the further up an answer is.
The doctrine of the rapture began with Jesus Christ! See Matthew 24 and Luke 21 and Revelation 2-3, among other Scriptures. Jesus told His church to expect Him to come "as a thief in the night" - unexpected, unheralded. Paul, Peter and John and the early church all expected Jesus to return in their lifetimes. See I Thess 4:13-18, 5:9, I Cor. 15:50-54. Paul and John make statements to the effect that "things are unclear now, but when Jesus appears, then we will understand..." See I John 3:2. It was only when Jesus did not come for three hundred years, that the church felt they had made a mistake in expecting Jesus at any moment. Leading the way was Augustine, who started to pursue the amillennial view, that the church represented Christ's "return" to earth. With Constantine's decriminalizing Christianity throughout the Roman Empire in 312 AD, and Theodosius' making it mandatory for all citizens to be Christians in 379 AD, the imminent return of Christ was forgotten, as the once-persecuted church now embraced power and wealth. John Nelson Darby, a brilliant Bible scholar who spoke many languages, did not "invent" the Rapture doctrine, as has been suggested. In studying Scripture, he rediscovered it and blew the dust off it. The fact that it had not been taught for 1500 years is to the church's shame, not evidence that it is a "new" doctrine! Titus 2:13 makes it clear that the rapture is our blessed hope. I John 3:3 states that "everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure." The instantaneous, imminent return of Jesus Christ is to give us the effect of expectancy and purity of behavior.
The Rapture of the Church is Biblical and has been taught throughout all of church history. BUT - the question probably presupposes and anticipates the question: When did the Pre-Trib Rapture of the Church begin to be taught. It's true. The Pre-Trib position was unheard of before around 1830. Some pre-trib authors try to take some quotes from theologians before 400-500 A.D. out of context to show the early church fathers taught it. But Tim LeHaye, for example, takes those quotes out of context. Pre-trib theology is almost entirely American. As Michael Tinsley said, it was formulated mainly by Darby, the Plymouth Brethren, and the Scofield Reference Bible. (SRB for short) The seed for it was planted in Darby's mind when he heard about and studied the "revelation" of a girl in Great Britain who had a vision during a seance'. The root of Pre-Trib teaching should be viewed with much fear. My implication to you is that this teaching may be Satanic in it's origin. SRB notes were only Scofield's interpretation. He got his Pre-Trib theology from others associated with Darby and the Plymouth Brethren. Most of his other notes are probably fairly orthodox. What happened is many itinerant preachers took that Bible and used it to evangelize America in the late 1800's and early 1900's. That was good. However, these preachers didn't distinguish between "Scofield's Notes" at the bottom of the page and the text of the Bible itself. Therefore they preached the man-made pre-trib teaching far and wide. Eventually, esteemed people who used that teaching established or were appointed to institutions like Dallas Theological Seminary. These institutions then taught this teaching and established a whole systematic theology surrounding it called "dispensationism". All of this was not any church's teaching before the early 1900's. It is not scriptural even though, like Jehovah's Witnesses, they quote the Bible extensively. Early Protestant preachers such as John Bunyan, Charles Spurgeon, Charles Finney, John Knox, John Calvin, Martin Luther, George Whitefield, and a host of others were all solid Post-Trib believers. Pre-Tribulation-ism was unheard of during the growth and expansion of most of the Church. It was never taught anywhere except in America where the SRB was popular. Missionaries have carried the teaching to other parts of the world. I some ways this has been disastrous. I had a relative who was a missionary to China. When the Communists took over many Chinese Christians were dismayed that they were being persecuted for their faith. Thousands were tortured, imprisoned, and died. They had their hope in a pre trib rapture, and not in God. Hundreds of thousands renounced their faith. Even so, many more hundreds of thousands have found faith because of the steadfast witness of those who held on to their belief in God despite the persecution. God, everywhere, from the Jewish diaspora of the first century to present day persecution and savagery in Iraq, is saving people through the strength He gives His Own in persecution. He is not saving people who will endure to the end because of "persecution insurance". "Witness" - the Biblical word - means "Martyr" in the Greek New Testament.
The Bible describes multiple past and future rapture events, including a pre-tribulation event that most people call "The Rapture." It would be more accurate to call it "The Next Rapture Event." Jesus, Himself, promises a pre-tribulation rapture in two places: 1) In Luke 21:34-36, in the context of end-times predictions, tells the apostles: “ But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. 35 For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man." Note that He promises that those who are faithful and "counted worthy" will escape ALL the events He had just predicted. 2) In Revelation 3:10, in the context of His message to the faithful church at Philadelphia, He said, "Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth." Scholars have argued themselves hoarse about this verse, but the plain meaning is a pre-tribulation rapture. In addition to these passages, there are references to no less than seven rapture and resurrection events just within the Book of Revelation. Most of these events include showing the specific group before their event, as well as showing them in heaven afterward. These seven events include: 1) The Next (pre-tribulation) Rapture Event. The church is depicted in the letters to the seven churches (Revelation 2-3) and then in heaven, represented by the 24 Elders who sing the Song of the Redeemed (Revelation 4-5). 2) The Numberless Multitude. A portion of these are depicted as the martyred souls under the altar in Revelation 6:9-11, who are given white robes and told to be patient for a while longer. Then they appear in heaven. The Apostle John didn't recognize them (Revelation 7:13-14); they weren't Christians then, and they aren't born-again believers today. There might be non-martyrs in the group, but we won't know for certain until the event happens. 3) The 144,000 sealed from the tribes of Israel, in Revelation 7:1-8. These are shown immediately before the start of the Trumpet Judgments and then a few chapters later, in heaven in Revelation 14:1-5. Obviously this is a private event. 4) The Two Witnesses. We see their ministry on earth, their murder at the hands of the beast, their resurrection and their catching away to heaven in Revelation 11:2-13. Another private event. 5) The Lord's final harvest. In Revelation 14:14-16, the Lord (sitting upon a white cloud) takes a harvest of some sort from the earth immediately before the events of the Day of the Lord. Immediately afterwards, a different (the Greek word is heteros -- of a different type) angel comes out (Revelation 14:17-20) and takes a different type of harvest. That latter harvest was "cast into the great winepress of the wrath of God." By contrast to the "winepress of wrath," the Lord's harvest appears with Him in Heaven in the very next chapter, Revelation 15:2-4. 6) After Jesus returns to earth, He resurrects "them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus." This is in Revelation 20:4-5, and is called the first resurrection. 7) After the 1000 years, comes the second resurrection and the White Throne Judgment, Revelation 20:11-15. My complete set of lessons on the Book of Revelation and Last-Days' prophecy can be found here: http://www.biblewriter.com/revelation.htm
I looked it up in Wikipedia and there it says a man named John Nelson Darby, an Irish evangelist who lived from 1800 to 1882 and is associated with the 'Plymouth Brethren' (an Anglican Evangelical Christian group which originated in Ireland). He and a few others developed the pre-tribulation 'Rapture' theology in the 1830's and it was spread by (and through the writings in) the Scofield Reference Bible in the early 20th century. It was (and is) a very popular Bible. I think I have one around here somewhere. I'm sure you can find one in your Christian bookstore. The Plymouth Brethren are not associated with any denomination and have independent churches throughout the United States (and overseas). You can read their complete history by going to wikipedia.org and typing 'Plymouth Brethren' in the search box. I use Wilkipedia for a lot of answers to anything I want to learn about. I haven't found a subject yet that the website doesn't have information on. Its a great research tool and has links to more detailed studies on every subject you're interested in. The Plymouth Brethren believe in 'sola scriptura' which is pretty much the same as the eBible 'Statement of Faith', found at the bottom of every page on this website. I hope this answers the question without being too tedious.
All answers are REVIEWED and MODERATED.
Please ensure your answer MEETS all our guidelines.
A good answer provides new insight and perspective. Here are guidelines to help facilitate a meaningful learning experience for everyone.