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The Rapture

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the impact of the idea developed by John Nelson Darby that believers will vanish suddenly, 'to meet the Lord in the air' before the Second Coming

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the ideas developed by the Anglican priest John Nelson Darby (1800-1882), drawn from his reading of scripture, in which Jesus would suddenly take His believers up into the air, and those left behind would suffer on Earth until He returned with His church to rule for a thousand years before Final Judgement. Some believers would look for signs that civilization was declining, such as wars and natural disasters, or for new Roman Empires that would harbour the Antichrist, and from these predict the time of the Rapture. Darby helped establish the Plymouth Brethren, and later his ideas were picked up in the Scofield Reference Bible (1909) and soon became influential, particularly in the USA.


Elizabeth Phillips
Research Fellow at the Margaret Beaufort Institute at the University of Cambridge and Honorary Fellow in the Department of Theology and Religion at Durham University

Crawford Gribben
Professor of Early Modern British History at Queen’s University Belfast


Nicholas Guyatt
Reader in North American History at the University of Cambridge

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Available now

51 minutes


Nicholas Guyatt at the University of Cambridge

Crawford Gribben at Queen's University Belfast

Elizabeth Phillips at the University of Cambridge

John Nelson Darby’s scrapbook - The John Rylands Library

Letterbook of John Nelson Darby – The John Rylands Library

The Brethren Archivists and Historians Network

‘Letter on the Parables of the Thirteenth of Matthew’ by J. N. Darby

‘What is the world, and what is its end?’  by J. N. Darby

Rapture – Wikipedia



Donald H. Akenson, Discovering the End of Time. Irish Evangelicals in the Age of Daniel O’Connell (McGill-Queen's University Press, 2016)

Donald H. Akenson, Exporting the Rapture. John Nelson Darby and the Victorian Conquest of North-American Evangelicalism (Oxford University Press, 2018)

Yakov Ariel, An Unusual Relationship: Evangelical Christians and Jews (New York University Press, 2013)

Paul Boyer, When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture (Harvard University Press, 1994)

Jennie Chapman, Plotting Apocalypse: Reading, Agency, and Identity in the Left Behind Series (University Press of Mississippi, 2013)

Andrew Crome, Christian Zionism and English National Identity, 1600-1850 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018)

John Nelson Darby (trans.), Holy Bible Darby Translation (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013)

John Nelson Darby, An Introduction to the Bible (Rani Publications, 2018)

Neil T. R. Dickson, Brethren in Scotland 1838-2000: A Social Study of an Evangelical Movement (Paternoster, 2003)

Frances Fitzgerald, The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America (New York University Press, 2017)

Amy Johnson Frykholm, Rapture Culture: Left Behind in Evangelical America (Oxford University Press, 2004)

Tim Grass, Gathering to His Name: The Story of the Brethren in Britain and Ireland (Paternoster, 2006)

Crawford Gribben, Writing the Rapture: Prophecy Fiction in Evangelical America (Oxford University Press, 2009)

Crawford Gribben, Evangelical Millennialism in the Trans-Atlantic world 1500-2000 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011)

Nicholas Guyatt, Have a Nice Doomsday: Why Millions of Americans are Looking Forward to the End of the World (London, 2007)

B.M. Pietsch, Dispensational Modernism (Oxford University Press, 2015)

T. C. F. Stunt, From Awakening to Secession: Radical Evangelicals in Switzerland and Britain, 1815–35 (T&T Clark, 2000)

Matthew Avery Sutton, American Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelicalism (Harvard University Press, 2014)

Jerry Walls (ed), The Oxford Handbook of Eschatology (Oxford University Press, 2010)

Timothy P. Weber, On the Road to Armageddon: How Evangelicals Became Israel's Best Friend (Baker, 2004)



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