(1) Many modern Pretribulationists and other Dispensationalists (such as John Walvoord and Hal Lindsey) claim that most (if not all) of the first Early Church Fathers were Rapturists. Such believe Jesus could return "any moment" to resurrect dead Christians and then secretly "rapture" His dwindling though still-living Church "up in the air" before "the great tribulation" of ungodly earthlings. Thereafter, the Church would then return and rule with Christ on Earth for a thousand years until God would resurrect the wicked dead.
(2) That notion (called "Chiliasm") is false. Neither the Church of the Older Testament (even when under foreign domination) nor the always-struggling and often-persecuted Church of the Newer Testament (even till the fourth century) ever expected to dwindle or to be whisked away; but only to conquer this great planet Earth under her victorious Messiah. That Church expected God not to the rapture her but to heal the World His Son had come to save.
(3) During the fourth century, the Church's expectations and efforts were partially realized at the nominal christianization of the Pagan Roman Empire. For the victory-orientated Church of the first four centuries was overwhelmingly anti-chiliastic, and totally antipretribulationistic.
(4) Even the famous Premillennial Scholar Prof. George Eldon Ladd insists against Pretribulationism that "every Church Father who deals with this subject, expects the Church to suffer at the hands of Antichrist…. We can find no trace of Pretribulationism in the Early Church. And no modern Pretribulationist has successfully proved that this particular doctrine was held by any of the Church Fathers or Students of the Word before the nineteenth century."1
(5) There is no trace at all of Dispensationalistic Pretribulationism in the Early Church Fathers. Neither is there any trace of it in later Church History, prior to the sudden occurrence of the 'tongues-speaking' Irvingites around A.D. 1830. See the Premillennialist Dave MacPherson's books: The Unbelievable Pre-Trib Origin (1973); The Late Great Pre-Trib Rapture (1974); and The Incredible Cover-Up: The True Story of the Pre-Trib Rapture (1975).
1 J. Walvoord's The Millennial Kingdom, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1959, pp. 120ff; per contra G.E. Ladd's The Blessed Hope, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1956, p. 31. D. MacPherson's cited books were all published by Heart of America Bible Society, Kansas City, Mo.
ALWAYS VICTORIOUS! THE EARLIEST CHURCH NOT PRE- BUT POSTMILLENNIAL
(6) Only after 1830 was this novel pretribulationistic eschatology speedily disseminated. This was done in Britain by the Plymouth Brethrenist J.N. Darby. It was thereafter done especially in the United States by C.I. Scofield, D.L. Moody, and L.S. Chafer and by dispensationalistic Seminaries such as Dallas (Texas) and Grace (Indiana). But it was disseminated only minimally outside of those circles (and particularly outside of Britain and the United States right down to our present time).
(7) The Bible does, of course, teach the future physical catching up in the air of the saints at the Second Coming of Christ in Final Judgment. Matthew 24:31-40 cf. First Thessalonians 4:13-17. Yet the Bible does not teach the "chiliastic" idea of a "double resurrection." For the idea that a future physical "rapture" of the living saints (right after a physical resurrection of the dead saints) would be followed by a thousand-years-long visible reign of Christ Himself here on this Earth prior to the physical resurrection of the wicked dead is unknown to Holy Scripture.
(8) Sometimes attempts are made to establish this extra-Biblical teaching by appealing to the solitary and difficult-to-understand passage Revelation 20:3-7. But the teaching of Chiliasm is not at all derived from the Bible. Instead, it is derived from Babel via pagan Zoroastrianism. See (18)ff.