Ephraim the Syrian: …Pretribulation Rapture Passages :: By Lee Brainard
Ten Undiscovered Pretribulation Rapture Passages
In my ongoing studies in the early church fathers, I have discovered a number of pretribulation rapture passages in Ephraim the Syrian that I haven’t seen referenced in books, magazines, or online. I offer ten of the clearest here. Perhaps “undiscovered” is an overstatement, but unless my radar needs to be significantly upgraded, these passages do seem to have largely escaped notice in prophecy-loving circles. I found them in his 150-plus Greek works which not only aren’t included in the standard English-translation church-father collections, but the vast majority of them have never been translated into English, at least not with any semblance of formal publication.
If these passages are as clear to other prophecy students as they appear to me, this is potentially explosive information. They would be a significant addition to the patristic pretribulation rapture references that we already have. It is high time that those who love Bible prophecy avail themselves of Ephraim’s largely unknown Greek works. This treasure trove significantly bolsters the proof that biblical eschatology—I mean premillennial and pretribulational—survived deep into the patristic era before the militant efforts of the apostatizing church almost entirely replaced the biblical truth with the error of replacement theology.
[Note: English Translation Source — Translation Is My Own. To see the original Greek added to the text, follow this link: Ephraim the Syrian – Ten Undiscovered Pretribulation-Rapture Passages – Soothkeep]
(#1) Ephraim the Syrian, Sermon on Repentance and Judgment and the Separation of the Soul from the Body
— (239) Behold, the kingdom of heaven is at the doors [ready] to flash forth, but we don’t want to hear about these things—not ever. The signs and wonders, which the Lord said had to happen, the famines, the earthquakes, the terrors, and the nations in upheaval. These all seem to us like a dream to be told to others. The report of these things does not disturb us, nor the spectacle itself. For the elect shall be gathered prior to the tribulation, so they shall not see the confusion and the great tribulation coming upon the unrighteous world. The season for harvest has now drawn nigh, and the end of the age holds forth. Angels holding scythes are waiting for the nod. Let us fear, brethren, for it is the eleventh hour of the day.
— OBSERVATION — Ephraim’s statement “gathered prior to the tribulation” is clear presentation of a pretribulation rapture.
(#2) Ephraim the Syrian, On the Fathers Who Have Completed Their Course
— (14) Behold, now the holy and the just are chosen and gathered into the harbor of life that they should not see the tribulation and the snares (stumbling blocks) coming upon us because of our sins. … If we don’t now hasten and weep shamelessly, rightly repenting in humility of soul and complete meekness, oh how we shall mourn in the tribulation … Again, when we see the saints in glory flying off in light in the clouds of the air to meet Christ, the king of glory, but see ourselves in the great tribulation, who shall be able to bear that shame and terrible reproach?
— OBSERVATION — Ephraim’s statement “not see the tribulation” and his contrast between those in the clouds and those in the tribulation clearly teach a pretribulation rapture.
(#3) Ephraim the Syrian, On the Second Coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ
— (407-408) Indeed, the grace of God strengthens and rejoices the hearts of the righteous; and they shall be seized up in the clouds to meet him. While those who are lazy and timid like me shall remain on the earth, trembling. … (409) For behold the Bridegroom is ready to proceed on the clouds of heaven with the glory of his blessed Father. And he will summon each of you by name, and he will place you in the rank of those saints abiding in the unspeakable light in the life that is undefiled, immortal, and eternal, according to your labors.
— OBSERVATION — Ephraim’s contrast between those seized up in the clouds and those trembling in the tribulation indisputably portrays a pretribulation rapture.
(#4) Ephraim the Syrian, Sermon on the Advent of the Lord, and the End of the Age, and the Coming of the Antichrist
— (115) Watch always, praying continually, that you may be worthy to escape the tribulation and stand before God … (116) for if anyone has tears and compunction, let him pray the Lord that he might be delivered from the tribulation which is about to come upon the earth, that he might not see it at all, nor the beast himself, not even hear of its terrors. For there shall be famines, earthquakes, and diverse pestilences upon the earth. … We need to use many prayers and tears, oh beloved, that each and every one of us might be found steadfast in [our] trials, for many fantastic (deceptive?) signs by [the hand of] the beast are going to happen …
(117) … Finally, brethren, there is a terrible struggle for all those men who are lovers of Christ, (118) that we may not manifest timidity till the hour of [our] death, neither stand in weakness (sponginess) when the dragon is marking with his own seal in opposition to the cross of the Saviour. … (122) And there is nowhere to flee or hide. Everything is in disarray—in the sea and on land. This is why the Lord said to us, watch and pray continuously that you might escape the tribulation.
— OBSERVATION — The idea in (118) is that if we stand in the weakness of hypocrisy now, we shall miss the rapture and stand in weakness before the dragon.
— OBSERVATION — Ephraim’s statement “escape the tribulation” with the clarification “that he might not see it at all” emphatically teaches a pretribulation rapture.
(#5) Ephraim the Syrian, On Patience and the Consummation of this Age, and on the Second Coming …
— (179) Therefore beloved, faithful servants and elect soldier monks, let us take up in our hearts the full armor which we have been talking about, and without delay meditate on them one by one, that we may be able to fight the good fight and tread down all the power of the enemy, that we might be delivered from the wrath coming upon the sons of disobedience and that we might find mercy and grace in the day of judgment before the righteous judge who renders to every man according to his works.
— OBSERVATION — Ephraim employs phrases like the time of wrath coming upon the world as synonymous with the tribulation.
— OBSERVATION — Ephraim’s statement “delivered from the wrath coming upon the sons of disobedience” is clear presentation of a pretribulation rapture.
(#6) Ephraim the Syrian, Fifty-Five Beatitudes, 19
— Blessed is he who unceasingly remembers the fear of Gehenna and hastens to sincerely repent with tears and groans in the Lord, for he shall be delivered from the great tribulation.
— OBSERVATION — Ephraim’s statement “delivered from the great tribulation” indisputably portrays a pretribulation rapture.
(#7) Ephraim the Syrian, Sermon on the Resurrection of the Dead
— (272-273) Give to us a desire, Lord, to watch for your meeting, having the loins of our understanding girded and the intellectual lamp of our soul unquenchable, waiting for you, our God and Saviour Jesus Christ. Count us worthy, Lord, of the rapture of the righteous, when they meet you the Master in the clouds, that we might not be tried by the bitter and inexorable judgment … The righteousness flight is swift, lifting the righteous from earth to heaven. May your grace, Lord, be our strength, and may you take us up in the clouds, with the righteous and the elect in the air, to meet you the king of everything.
— OBSERVATION — His reference to our being tried (πειρασθῶμεν) by the bitter, inexorable judgment is an allusion to the hour of trial (τῆς ὥρας τοῦ πειρασμοῦ) in Rev. 3:10. He obviously regards the hour of trial as a time of divine judgment.
— OBSERVATION — The pretribulation rapture cannot be taught any more clearly than Ephraim’s statement that the church will be caught up to the clouds that they “might not be tried by the bitter and inexorable judgment.” They won’t be down here to see that horrible time.
(#8) Ephraim the Syrian, The Destruction of Pride
— (94) Let us pray the Lord in great humility that he would take us out (remove us) from the coming fear, and count us worthy of that rapture (snatching away) when the righteous are raptured (snatched) in the clouds to the air to meet the king of glory, and we shall inherit the kingdom of heaven with meekness and humility.
— OBSERVATION — Here he refers to the tribulation or hour of trial as “the coming fear.” This expression doesn’t have the ring of standard English, but if we paraphrase it as “the coming horrors,” the point is driven home to the deepest recesses of our inner man.
— OBSERVATION — Ephraim’s statement that the church will be removed prior to the time of the coming horrors, and this by being raptured up to the clouds, is a strong testimony for a pretribulation rapture.
(#9) Ephraim the Syrian, How the Soul Ought to Pray God with Tears
— (68) Blessed are those who cry day and night that they should be delivered from the coming wrath.
— OBSERVATION — Here Ephraim refers to the tribulation as “the coming wrath.”
— OBSERVATION — Ephraim’s deliverance prior to the coming wrath is clearly a pretribulation rapture.
(#10) Ephraim the Syrian, On the Blessed and the Cursed
— (323) Blessed are those who cry day and night because they shall be delivered from the coming wrath.
— OBSERVATION — This is identical to the prior citation except that it presents the promise in the indicative rather than the subjunctive. This evidences, as I have long observed, that there was semantic overlap between the subjunctive and the future indicative in the minds of the Greek speakers of yore.
— OBSERVATION — Here, as above, Ephraim is clearly teaching a pretribulation rapture.
When I discovered the first of these references to a pretribulation rapture in Ephraim the Syrian’s Greek works, I could hardly believe what I was reading. It was so emphatic and clear. As my research progressed and the clear testimonies to a pretribulation rapture began to pile up, my excitement level went through the roof. I felt like I had stumbled upon a treasure trove in the mountains. While these passages do not prove a pretribulation rapture — that is the province of Scripture alone — they establish beyond all shadow of a doubt that there was a clear and strong pretribulation rapture testimony in the early church. May these pretribulation rapture passages from the writings of a fourth-century monk prove a blessing to all who love the prophetic Scriptures and the glorious hope they hold out for the church.
“Eyes wide open, brain engaged, heart on fire.”
Lee W. Brainard
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