DEBATE II / TOPIC IV / REBUTTAL (b.)

"Rapture Myths"
& the Tangled Webs we Weave - Part I
Tim Warner - 12-07-2003
Debate Index


In articles appearing on the new Pre-Trib Research Center website, called Rapture Myths, Thomas Ice displays incredibly poor scholarship if not outright revisionism. In his attempt to answer some of the objections to pre-tribulationism raised by post-tribulationists, Ice has either forgotten things he has previously claimed or else thinks nothing of blatant revisionism. Our website includes two articles, Grant Jeffrey's Apocalypse Debacle and Pseudo-Pseudo-Ephraem, exposing the shenanigans of Grant Jeffrey, another member of the Pre-Trib Research Center's steering committee. In these articles we proved beyond doubt that Jeffrey was falsifying the positions of the early Church Fathers regarding the rapture and "imminency", using such bold methods as dropping out critical sentences from quotations, and ignoring clear post-trib statements in the immediate contexts. Ice continues to repeat Jeffrey's falsified historical record as though it were fact. It is virtually certain that Ice is well aware of our unanswered rebuttal to these claims. They were included in our debate with Mal Couch, another member of the Pre-Trib Research Center and associate of Ice's. Shortly after our exposing Jeffrey's falsified claims on the Conservative Theological Society's website, Dr. Couch withdrew from the debate, and the whole debate disappeared from Couch's website.

In this round of our virtual debate with Thomas Ice, I will address two of the main topics in Ice's "Rapture Myths" articles, one from part one, concerning the "secret rapture," and the other from part two, concerning the beliefs of the early Church.

Part I. The "Secret" Rapture "Myth"

Ice complains that pre-tribbers have been wrongly accused of believing in a "secret rapture." Posttribulationists have pointed out that the "rapture" in the Bible is anything but "secret." In this article, Ice claims that pre-tribulationists have not taught that the rapture is "secret." Ice writes, "In all my reading of pretribulationism and discussion with pretribulationists, I have never, that I can recall, heard a pre-trib rapturist use the nomenclature of "secret" rapture to describe our view. I have only heard the phrase "secret" rapture as a pejorative term used exclusively by anti-pretribulationists. Why? Apparently they enjoy fighting with a straw man."

Whose "Straw Man?"
The fact is that the Plymouth Brethren have throughout their history called the pre-trib rapture "secret." I grew up in Brethren Assemblies, and heard this characterization at least hundreds of times. Ice cites Gentry, who argues that the rapture is "one of the noisiest verses in the Bible." Ice then comments, "The truth of the matter is that Gentry wrongly assumes that pretribulationists characterize their view of the rapture as "secret." We do not! However, there are anti-pre-trib rapture advocates, like Dave MacPherson who have taught this myth. As a result, unwitting critics like Gentry have absorbed this myth into their rhetoric without doing their homework."

Ice then sets out to blame Dave MacPherson for the alleged "myth." He writes, "Very likely it was Dave MacPherson who has spread this myth that equates pretribulationism with a secret rapture." As evidence of MacPherson's guilt, Ice cites MacPherson's quote of William's Reid's 1880 book on Brethrenism, which clearly states that the "secret rapture" was taught by the Irvingites. He then claims that MacPherson used "slight of hand" to attach the phrase "secret rapture" to Darby and the Brethren, thereby linking Darby to Irving.

Ice then quotes Heubner, a self-appointed nemesis of MacPherson's, writing "I am not aware if JND ever thought that the rapture would be 'secret.'" Ice concludes, "It was the Irvingites, and not the Brethren, who believed in the secret rapture. Since the secret rapture and pretribulationism are not the same, this is where much of the confusion resides."

Thomas Ice vs. Thomas Ice
But the "confusion" is not the work of Dave MacPherson, but of Ice, Heubner, and the revisionists at the PTRC 1. Unless Ice is simply getting forgetful, he could have easily found plenty of evidence that pre-tribulationists have taught a "secret rapture" from his own writings! In his article, Is the Pre-Tribulation Rapture a Satanic Deception, written to counter Marv Rosenthal's claims, Ice quoted pre-trib writer and historian, Ernest Sandeen, as follows: "This seems to be a groundless and pernicious charge. Neither Irving nor any member of the Albury group advocated any doctrine resembling the secret rapture."  Compare this statement to his statement in the above paragraph, "It was the Irvingites, and not the Brethren, who believed in the secret rapture." In his rebuttal to Rosenthal's claims, Ice implied that the Brethren taught a "secret rapture" and not the Irvingites. Now he is claiming just the opposite, that the Irvingites taught a secret rapture and not the Brethren. This is indicative of the kind of shell game the Pre-Trib Research Center is willing to play with the historical facts.

In 1988, Ice wrote an article called, Dispensationalism, Date Setting, and Distortion. In this article Ice also repeatedly quoted Sandeen. "... First, Darby taught that the second advent would be secret, an event sensible only to those who participated in it.... Second, Darby taught that the secret Rapture could occur at any moment. In fact, the secret Rapture is also often referred to as the doctrine of the any-moment coming." A little farther down in the same article, Ice quotes his favorite authority again, "... Darby maintained that none of the events foretold in the Revelation had yet occurred nor could they be expected until after the secret Rapture of the church."

Thomas Ice vs. Tim LaHaye
In Tim LaHaye's devotional, Perhaps Today, discussing 1Thess. 4:15-17 and Matt. 24:29-30 [2], Ice's boss, LaHaye, writes, "Anyone who examines these relevant passages can see that one of them describes a secret coming of Jesus in the air to gather His church, and the other to the earth to set up his kingdom." "The easiest way to reconcile these two events (His secret Rapture and His public descent) is to see them as two phases of His Second Coming."

Now Ice is claiming, in the article currently under review, that the "secret rapture" and the "pre-tribulation rapture" are not the same thing, tracing the former to the Irvingites, and the latter to Darby and the Brethren. How can this be when in his own articles Ice repeatedly quotes his favorite pre-trib historian clearly connecting the "secret rapture" to Darby and claiming that the Irvingites knew nothing of a "secret rapture?" Likewise, the founder of the Pre-Trib Research Center, Tim LaHaye, also refers to the "rapture" as being "secret!" Who are we to believe? the former Thomas Ice? the current Thomas Ice? or Tim LaHaye who employs Ice? Another PTRC member, Mal Couch, has a biography of J. N. Darby on his Dispensational International Research Network website. In this article, Floyd Elmore wrote, "In 1845, the Great Schism over B. W. Newton's differing views concerning the "secret rapture" and his supposed lapse into clericalism brought tremendous dissension among the Brethren assemblies." Elmore himself described Darby's "rapture" view as "secret." And Couch does not seem to object, or indicate that Elmore's slip of the pen is because he was influenced by Dave MacPherson's alleged "myth."

Darby's Contemporaries — Samuel P. Tregelles & Benjamin W. Newton
There is plenty of information from Plymouth Brethren sources equating the "secret rapture" with pretribulationism long before Dave MacPherson was born. For example, Samuel P. Tregelles, the most prominent Plymouth Brethren scholar and contemporary of Darby's, in his book The Hope of Christ's Second Coming, devoted an entire chapter to The "Secret Rapture," its Origins.

Ice strains to distance Darby from the heretical proto-charismatic Irvingites and their mystical "secret rapture." But Tregelles stated plainly that the pretribulation rapture "was given forth as an "utterance" in Mr. Irving's Church, from what was there received as being the voice of the Spirit." Tregelles knew Darby personally and was intimately familiar with how pretribulationism was developed. I have included Tregelles' entire ninth chapter below, where he explained from first hand knowledge exactly how pretribulationism came about. Tregelles articulated the atmosphere of prophetic expectancy, the new ideas floating around in prophetic circles at the time leading to the shift from pre-millennial historicism to futurist pre-millennialism, and how the "utterances" in Irving's church triggered the coming together of the whole pretribulation viewpoint later espoused by Darby. Note the bold portion in the footnote. I have also highlighted in bold the many times Tregelles used the term "secret rapture" to describe pretribulationism.

The Hope of Christ's Second Coming
Samuel P. Tregelles, Published 1864

Chapter 9 - The "Secret Rapture" its Origins


When a new doctrine is taught as if it were a revealed truth, it behooves every Christian to inquire on what Scripture testimony it rests; and unless this is satisfactorily set forth, what is taught ought not to be accepted. This will apply very definitely to the system of the secret rapture and secret coming. When the hope of our Lord’s second advent was revived as a point of definite teaching, when it was seen that until that day the ancient promises of blessing would not be fulfilled, there were those who thought of this one point of prophecy almost exclusively: if they turned at all to prophetic detail, it was with a kind of supposition that everything had been accomplished that was needful to introduce that day. They knew that the apostles had taught intervening events, the corruption that should take place in the Church from false teachers, etc.; they knew that the knowledge of such truths had once been a right thing, and that it had not been inconsistent with the hope of the coming of Christ; but now there was a kind of supposition that such prophecies had been exhausted, and that there might be a kind of momentary expectation of the Lord’s appearing. This supposition was, apparently, not then connected with the belief in a secret coming or a secret rapture. [Here, Tregelles was describing the post-reformation revival of premillennialism, but still maintaining the "historicist" {fulfilled} view of the tribulation, with its imminent expectancy of the post-trib second coming - TW]

But when a closer study of prophecy had led to the conviction that many things remained unaccomplished, such as must precede the reign of Christ [a revival of "futurism" regarding the tribulation - TW], there was an unwillingness to give up the opinions previously conceived—there was an endeavor to hold the prophetic detail without giving up the thought of the coming of Christ, apart from the possibility that any intervening events could be part of our expectation. This led to the adoption of theories by which definite points of revelation were explained away; and for the support of which it became needful to maintain that the moral power of the hope of the Lord’s coming is lost, if any intervening event, any sign, is supposed to be a portion of truth. This, if deliberately held, would show that the apostles, and the Apostolic Church, who, as a fact, knew of certain intervening events, did not so hold the hope as to apprehend it in its moral power. [Tregelles maintained that it was the unwillingness to give up the "imminence" of the historicist view that was largely at the root of the sudden acceptance of pre-tribulationism. Also, note that Tregelles stated clearly that the early Church did NOT hold to this "imminence," but believed certain intervening events must occur first, yet without destroying their hope of Christ's coming - TW]

The tone of thought thus arrived at was quite different from that which recognized that intervening events had once been known, but in which it was assumed that they were now exhausted. [That is, the new kind of "futurist" thinking was different from the kind of "historicism" and its "imminent" post-trib second coming after all the tribulation events were exhausted - TW]

But still it seems as if it were some time before a secret advent of the Lord and a secret rapture of the Church had a definite and systematic place. It was rather as if the coming of Christ had been divided into two parts: indeed, there were those then who said that He would appear in glory, and when He had taken the Church He would cease to be seen until He came to crush the powers of evil, and then reign. This would, however, be virtually a second and third coming; it would err in the fact of addition to Holy Scripture, as well as in that of contradiction to its testimony. [Here, Tregelles indicated that the possibility was discussed regarding a second and third coming of Christ, but was rejected on the grounds that two more comings of Christ could not be harmonized with Scripture - TW]

But when the theory of a secret coming of Christ was first brought forward (about the year 1832)[1] it was adopted with eagerness: it suited certain preconceived opinions, and it was accepted by some as that which harmonized contradictory thoughts. There should, however, have been a previous point determined, whether such contradictory thoughts, or any of them, rested on the sure warrant of God’s written Word. [The footnote here indicates that it was from an "utterance" in Irving's church that the concept of a "secret" coming first emerged. And that the idea of a "secret" coming helped to resolve the problematic nature of a second and third "second coming." That is, a "secret coming" perhaps should not really be considered a part of the visible first and second comings of Christ. - TW]

Thus the doctrine held and taught by many is, that believers are concerned not with a public and manifested coming of Christ in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory — not with His appearing when every eye shall see Him, and when He shall sever the wicked from among the just, but with a secret or private coming, when the dead saints shall be secretly raised, the living changed, and both caught up to meet the Lord in the air — that the shout, the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God, do not indicate anything of publicity, for the ear of faith alone shall hear them — that the Church shall meet the Lord, not at His visible coming, but in order to remain with Him, at least for years, before His manifested advent — that after this secret coming there shall be in the earth a full power of evil put forth amongst both Jews and Gentiles that there shall be a time of unequalled tribulation and great spiritual perils (with which the Church has nothing to do) and that this condition of things shall end by the manifest coming of the Lord.[2]

FOOTNOTES:
[1] I am not aware that there was any definite teaching that there would be a secret rapture of the Church at a secret coming, until this was given forth as an "utterance" in Mr. Irving’s Church, from what was there received as being the voice of the Spirit. But whether any one ever asserted such a thing or not, it was from that supposed revelation that the modern doctrine and the modern phraseology respecting it arose. It came not from Holy Scripture, but from that which falsely pretended to be the Spirit of God, while not owning the true doctrine of our Lord’s incarnation in the same flesh and blood as His brethren, but without taint of sin. After the opinion of a secret advent had been adopted, many expressions in older writers were regarded as supporting it; in which, however, the word "secret" does not mean unperceived or unknown, but simply secret in point of time. Thus in a passage of Milinan —

"Even thus amidst thy pride and luxury,
O! Earth, shall this last coming burst on thee,
That secret coming of the Son of man;
When all the cherub-throning clouds shall shine,
Irradiate with His bright advancing sign,
When the great Husbandman shall wave His fan," etc.

The third line was taken up as if it taught the new doctrine of this secret coming; whereas the whole passage (even if it had any theological value) teaches a coming in power, glory, and publicity, in contrast to that which is private: so, too, as to other writers, whose words were sometimes used.

Sometimes from a hymn being altered, writers appear to set forth a secret rapture of which they had never heard, or against which they have protested.

[2] In 1863 I heard it publicly and definitely maintained, that the secret coming is the second coming promised in Scripture, and that the manifest appearing of our Lord is His third coming. Many seem to think this who do not say so in definite words. But a third coming is something very different from His coming again.

It is obvious from Tregelles' first hand account that there was a certain "mood" regarding "imminence." This mood was not the result of careful Scripture exegesis, because all acknowledged that the Scriptures indicated that many signs must be fulfilled before Christ's coming. Rather, the "imminence" mood was a part of the old Protestant eschatology (historicism). This view used the "year-day" theory to claim that the Roman Catholic 1260 year reign was the fulfillment of the 1260 day great tribulation, and was approaching its end. Consequently, many historicists were predicting dates for Christ's return. They believed Christ's post-trib coming was "imminent." According to Tregelles, the Scriptures were being forced by the new "futurists" in order to try to accommodate this mood of imminent expectation of Christ's coming, with little success. That is, those who were moving from the historicist view of the tribulation to a futurist view were unwilling to let go the idea that Christ's coming was "imminent."

The reason they were reluctant to abandon imminence is obvious. Both Darby and Irving were articulating, in their own separate circles, that the organized Protestant denominations were corrupt and a far cry from being Jesus' true "Church." Irving was Presbyterian (Church of Scotland) and Darby was Anglican (Church of England). Both of them had been very vocal in condemning the current state of Christianity as corrupt, nothing like the New Testament Church. They both insisted that the pure remnant of Christians were not to be identified with a state church, denomination, or label. Both Darby and Irving pulled out of their respective state churches and formed new movements, with believers "called out" (ekklesia) from these state churches. To this day the Brethren consider themselves the "called out" from among the denominations, with their distinctive being a New Testament organization. Plymouth Brethren reading this paper know this to be true. The Irvingites held a similar mentality, except their badge of authenticity was the alleged revival of the spiritual gifts. Both Darby and Irving believed that their respective groups were real New Testament churches. The real difference between Irvingism and Darbyism was the focus on what they considered lacking in the Protestant state denominations, Darby on their unbiblical organization and worldliness, and Irving on the lack of supernatural spiritual gifts. Both men were formerly historicists, and both adopted futurism, first Irving then Darby. Both taught that the corrupt denominations were about to be judged by God via the Antichrist. So, both of them were inclined to find ways for their elite groups to be spared the coming judgment of both Catholicism and Protestantism. Both men had formulated their views of the nature of the true church, as an invisible body of true believers, while still holding historicist eschatologies and seeing Christ's coming to judge the current situation as "imminent." Therefore, both of these men had a lot of theological baggage at stake that depended on Christ's return being "imminent." This is what Tregelles was speaking about.

That Tregelles did not manufacture this history is clear from another Plymouth Brethren leader, and contemporary of Darby's, Benjamin W. Newton, in his paper, Events that are to Precede the Return of the Lord. Newton recalled precisely the same situation that Tregelles articulated above.

Events that are to Precede the Return of the Lord
Benjamin W. Newton


... When the doctrine of the Lord’s premillennial return was, about thirty years ago, revived in the Church, those who taught it were, for the most part, accustomed to say, that no event previous to His return was to be expected. [This idea of "imminence" was because of their former "historicist" view that the tribulation was already fulfilled - TW]. This was taught, not because it was believed that the early Churches were forbidden to look for events that were to precede the coming of the Lord, but because we were supposed to be differently circumstanced. They, it was argued, [the early Christians who looked for the fulfillment of certain signs before Christ would return - TW] had the whole course of the dispensation before them prophetically delineated in the Scripture, and consequently, by them, many events must necessarily have been expected; whereas we, it was said, were living at the very close of the dispensation, when every predicted event had been accomplished, and therefore, nothing any longer remained for which to wait. [That is, the "historicist" view saw the reign of Antichrist, abomination of desolation, great tribulation, etc., as past - TW]

But when the Scripture was searched more carefully, it was found that we had erred in supposing that all the prophecies that pertained to the present dispensation had been accomplished. It was found that Zechariah 12 and 14, and Matthew 24:15, revealed events yet to be accomplished in the Land of Israel before Israel is forgiven — that the Head of the Roman Apostasy [the pope - as in Protestant historicism - TW] is not The Antichrist who is to blaspheme God in Jerusalem, and to reign over all the kingdoms included within the whole Roman World — that the whole Roman World, Eastern and Western, has not yet been divided into the Ten Kingdoms that are to close its evil history — that the 1,260 days of Antichrist’s blasphemy, instead of being accomplished, have not yet commenced — and that the predictions of the book of Revelation yet remain to be fulfilled. [Newton was describing the revival of the "futurist" position held by the early Church - TW] Thus we again found ourselves placed in circumstances closely resembling those of the early Churches, having a path before us prophetically marked by events intended as signs of the great approaching end. [That is, Christ's coming could not be "imminent" - TW]

Yet great reluctance has been exhibited by many in consenting to fall back into the place into which Truth constrains. Some, earnestly desiring the return of the Lord, are impatient of anything that implies delay. "Hope delayed maketh the heart sick." Others again, more weak in faith and timorous, and perhaps little acquainted with the Word of God, shrink from saying that there are to be events antecedent to the Lord’s return, because they feel it to be a solemn thing to venture an assertion, which, to their conscience, appears almost equivalent to saying with the evil servant, "My Lord delayeth His coming".

... Long before the Apostles died, the fair field of wheat which at Pentecost seemed to promise so much, became marred by the interminglement of tares; and since then, tares and wheat have grown on in the world together. Are we then told anything respecting the period when this growing together is to cease? Is the wheat to be removed before the tares? Is it to be reaped secretly and gathered secretly into the heavenly garner? are the tares to remain and flourish in the earth after the wheat has been thus removed? No: they are "to grow together until the harvest".

Both Newton and Tregelles were intimately familiar with the content of the prophetic conferences, particularly the Albury and Powerscourt conferences at which Edward Irving and John Darby were major players. According to Tregelles, it was the "secrecy" of the Irvingite mystical "rapture," allegedly heard and seen only with the "eyes of faith," that resolved the problem for those whom both Tregelles and Newton said were unwilling to give up the historicist idea of "imminence." The "utterance" Tregelles claimed that was given in Irving's church was the missing piece that resolved the main obstacle for the marriage of futurism and imminence — pre-tribulationism — which up to that point had been impossible to reconcile. That this was exactly the topic of Margaret MacDonald's visions and prophecies is clear to those who read the text of one of her prophecies. "I saw the error to be, that men think that it will be something seen by the natural eye; but 'tis spiritual discernment that is needed, the eye of God in his people. Many passages were revealed, in a light in which I had not before seen them. ... Only those who have the light of God within them will see the sign of his appearance. ... 'Tis Christ in us that will lift us up - he is the light - 'tis only those that are alive in him that will be caught up to meet him in the air. I saw that we must be in the Spirit, that we might see spiritual things. ... I felt that those who were filled with the spirit could see spiritual things, and feel walking in the midst of them, while those who had not the Spirit could see nothing - so that two shall be in one bed, the one taken and the other left, because the one has the light of God within while the other cannot see the Kingdom of Heaven."

Certainly, the "utterance" referred to by Tregelles in Irving's church was not the sole reason pretribulationism took off as it did. There is no indication that Darby and the Brethren ever accepted the Charismatic excesses of the Irvingites as genuinely the gifts of the Spirit. So it is doubtful that Darby would accept an "utterance" of this kind as being the voice of the Spirit. However, there is no reason to think that such an utterance could not be the spark that set in motion Darby's mind, in his quest for a way to maintain imminence within futurism. There is every reason to believe that these "utterances" sparked Irving's mind, whose writings, articulating his own dispensational and partial pre-trib rapture views, influenced Darby.

The unwillingness of the former "historicists" to part with the idea of "imminence" was certainly a major factor, as both Tregelles and Newton explained. And as we have shown, this unwillingness likely grew from both Irving's and Darby's views of the corrupt condition of the state churches, and having already been proclaiming their impending judgment. Other factors were also in play including the emergence of "dispensationalism," with its dichotomy between Israel and the Church. Yet, contrary to what you may have heard, dispensationalism was clearly articulated by Irving while Darby still held the "historicist" (fulfilled tribulation) view. The dispensational dichotomy between Israel and the Church, the alleged parenthetical "Church age" interrupting the fulfillment of prophecy for Israel, and Israel's restoration in the Millennium were ideas already in print before Darby was persuaded of them. Irving published all this and more in his "Preliminary Discourse" to his English translation of Manuel deLacunza's The Coming of Messiah in Glory and Majesty written in 1826. And these ideas were all publicly taught in Irving's London church beginning Christmas 1825, years before Darby espoused either dispensationalism or futurism.

Some might think that all this arguing over whether the rapture is described as "secret" or not is much ado about nothing. Does it really matter whether older pretribulationists called the rapture "secret" and newer ones are reluctant to do so? If the only issue involved was whether pretribulationists currently taught that the rapture was secret, or whether it was a public event, and if pre-tribulationists have changed their minds on this point, now acknowledge that it is not going to be "secret," this is no big deal. It merely means that pre-tribulationists have abandoned one element of their teaching which has no substantial impact on the overall eschatology.

However, there is a much more sinister ploy going on here, devised by the LaHaye - Ice Pre-Trib Research Center. This ploy is designed to distance Darby and the development of pre-tribulationism from the charges of Dave MacPherson using underhanded tactics. MacPherson's main point in all of his works has been the involvement of Irving's proto-Charismatic movement in the formulation of pre-tribulationism. Irvingism has proven to be a heretical movement. And the prophetic gifts of Irvingism have proven to be a fraud. One former "prophet" of the Irvingite movement, British lawyer Robert Baxter, even claimed that they all had been deceived by demons.

The charges of Dave MacPherson, if largely true, put the whole origin of pre-tribulationism under great suspicion. The plan of counter-attack, for the Pre-Trib Research Center has been to discredit MacPherson and his work, and attempt to distance Darby from Irving using any means available. The clear switch in strategy, from the earlier claim that the Irvingites did not teach a secret rapture and the Darbyites did, followed by the latest claim, that the Irvingites did teach a secret rapture but the Darbyites did not, is clearly evidence that they are on the wrong side of this issue, and are using revisionism as their means of defense. Furthermore, Ice's ridiculous charge against MacPherson, that he originated the "myth" that pre-tribulationists taught a "secret rapture," demonstrates that their real agenda is to deflect the charges by making MacPherson himself the issue, rather than honestly dealing with the issues he has raised in a forthright manner.

The distinction Ice is currently seeking to draw between the Darbyites and Irvingites is that the Irvingites held to a "secret" rapture, but it was not pre-tribulational. He claims now that the Darbyites held to a rapture that was pre-tribulational but not secret. We have already shown using quotes from early Plymouth Brethren contemporary with Darby, that their rapture was "secret." We have also shown that modern pre-trib writers, including Ice himself and his boss Tim Lahaye, have taught that the pre-trib rapture was "secret." One final point remains to be shown in order to completely overturn Ice's argument. That is, that the Irvingite "rapture," which Ice himself has admitted was "secret," was also pre-tribulational. (By "pre-tribulational" we mean prior to the 1260 day persecution under Antichrist, not necessarily prior to the whole 70th week).

For this evidence we present the words of Robert Baxter, former Irvingite "prophet," in his first-hand account of the Irvingite movement. In his 1833 book, Narrative of Facts, Characterizing the Supernatural Manifestations in Members of Mr. Irving's Congregation, written shortly after leaving the movement, Baxter wrote the following: "[T]he delusion first appeared in Scotland ... it was not until adopted and upheld by Mr. Irving, that it began to challenge much attention...". "An opinion had been advanced in some of Mr. Irvings writings, that before the second coming of Christ, and before ... the day of vengeance ... the saints would be caught up to heaven..."(p. 17). Baxter later explained that the "day of vengeance" would begin with the arrival of "the man of sin" (p.31). "... [with] the successive failures of prophecy and contradictions of utterance ... I was convinced it must be a work of Satan..." "[W]e had all been speaking by a lying spirit, and not by the Spirit of the Lord" (p. 118). Speaking of the prophetic gifts that were encouraging this new doctrine, Baxter wrote: "[T]he whole work is mimicry of the gifts of the Spirit" (p. 135). How these prophetic utterances related to the alleged "secret rapture" he wrote: "...the continual use which was made of the doctrine of the second advent of our Lord. This was the leading theme of our utterances. ... [T]here must have been much error, in our view of the manner and circumstances of the coming of the Lord, or we could not have been so deceived" (pp. 142,143). No wonder Ice wants to distance Darby and the Brethren!

But that's not all. MacPherson has uncovered a very rare book, written by Robert Norton in 1861 called, The Restoration of Apostles and Prophets in the Catholic Apostolic Church. The Catholic Apostolic Church was the name of Irving's new movement. Interestingly, Norton took the opposite position from Baxter, thinking that the movement was genuinely the work of the Spirit. Yet, Norton also attributed the beginning of the secret rapture doctrine to the Irvingites, with the involvement of Margaret MacDonald and her visions and prophecies. Norton wrote; "Marvelous light was shed upon Scripture, and especially on the doctrine of the second advent, by the revived spirit of prophecy. In the following account by Miss M.M---, of an evening during which the power of the Holy Ghost rested upon her for several successive hours, in mingled prophecy and visions, we have an instance; for here we first see the distinction between the final stage of the Lord's coming, where every eye shall see him, and His prior appearing in glory to them that look for Him. She writes: --- 'I felt this needed to be revealed, that there was great darkness and error about it; but suddenly what it was burst upon me with a glorious light. I saw it was the Lord Himself descending from heaven with a shout - the glorified Man - even Jesus; but that all must be, as Stephen was, filled with the Holy Ghost,...'" (p. 15).

Ice and other pre-trib writers have argued that Margaret MacDonald's letter quoted by Norton, its only surviving copy, does not explicitly teach pre-tribulationism. That may or may not be true, because the letter is a bit ambiguous. It appears to me to teach a partial rapture of only the "Spirit filled" believers prior to persecution of the rest of the Church by the Antichrist. But, keep in mind that this was only one sample of the many prophecies that came from the lips of MacDonald, and all the oral utterances from Irving's congregation and "prophets," like Baxter. The exact content of these oral utterances has not been preserved in writing. However, we have the personal testimony of both Baxter and Norton that these utterances concerned the "secret rapture."

Finally, we have shown, in our article The History of Pre-Trib Development, that Irving's quarterly publication, The Morning Watch, clearly taught a pre-tribulation rapture in the fall of 1830. Irving had been teaching "dispensationalism" to his congregation since Christmas 1825, and had published his dispensational ideas in 1827 in his Preliminary Discourse to the English translation of Lacunza's book. Darby published his first prophecy paper in 1829, and was clearly still "historicist" and post-trib. In the December 1830 issue of The Christian Herald, Darby published another article entitled, On 'Days' Signifying 'Years' in Prophetic Language. In this paper Darby continued to defend the standard "historicist" view, that the 1260 day tribulation meant 1260 years. Consequently, he saw the tribulation as largely past, and could not possibly have been expecting a pre-trib rapture, which requires a "futurist" viewpoint. From these facts we can conclude that Irving and the Charismatic "secret rapture" pre-dated Darby's adopting pre-tribulationism.

The Pre-Trib Research Center attempted to obscure these facts with revisionism, and by attacking Dave MacPherson. They pretend that all of his charges are of his own imagination. Yet, MacPherson has produced many quotations from both Brethren and Irvingite sources that make all the same claims that he is now making. MacPherson's claims against pre-tribulationism's origin were all articulated at in the mid and early 1800s, when pre-tribulationism began. And the claims do not only come from those antagonistic to pre-tribulationism. They come from both Plymouth Brethren and Irvingite sources. While we do not always completely agree with Dave MacPherson's analysis of the sources, we do agree with his overall claim, of the Irvingite connection. Mac Pherson has provided a plethora of historical documents showing that the very claims he is now making were the claims of well known Brethren scholars and Irvingite historians at the time. But, if you examine the refutation work of the Pre-Trib Research Center members, you will find that they simply quote each other as authorities, and rarely even appeal to the historical evidence. They certainly do not systematically address MacPherson's source material directly. Rather, they play revisionist shell games and accuse MacPherson of being the source of all "confusion."

Please see our article, The History of Pre-Trib Development for further information and documentation.


1. The Pre-Trib Research Center practices revisionism as their mode of defending their view. Not only do they revise history, but they have been so bold as to revise Scripture itself! Take a look at the top of their website, which has Titus 2:13 written out as part of their logo.

The above graphic is linked to the PTRC site, and is being generated from their server. Do you notice anything missing from their revised version which reads:

"Looking for the blessed hope and appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ."

But the Bible really says:

"Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;" (KJV)
"looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;" (ASV)
"awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our Great God and Savior Jesus Christ;" (RSV)
"looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus;" (NASB)
"while we wait for the blessed hope-- the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ," (NIV)
"looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, (NKJV)
"prosdecomenoi thn makarian elpida kai epifaneian thV dochV tou megalou qeou kai swthroV hmwn Ihsou Cristou." (Greek - TR, MT, NT, UBS, WH, et al)
"expectantes beatam spem et adventum gloriae magni Dei et salvatoris nostri Iesu Christi." (Latin Vulgate)

This subtle omission makes all the difference between a pre-trib "blessed hope" and a post-trib "blessed hope." And it has everything to do with the topic under discussion in this article — whether the rapture is "secret" or not. The "appearing" of Christ COULD be a pre-trib rapture, but not the "appearing of the glory" which is necessarily post-trib. The Bible repeatedly states that Christ's post-trib coming will be "in power and great glory" (Matt. 24:29-31). The "glorious appearing" or "appearing of the glory" is His visible revelation in glory to the whole world in the clouds of heaven. Paul wrote that this is our "blessed hope" for which we are "looking." Yet, as you can see, the revisionism of the Pre-Trib Research Center even extends to the Bible itself.

Update: 12-16-03
One of our readers (James) decided to contact Dr. Ice regarding this omission. He forwarded his e-mail exchange to me that he had with Thomas Ice on December 15, 2003 regarding the truncated rendering of Titus 2:13 in the PTRC logo. He asked Dr. Ice which translation the verse came from. Dr. Ice responded that it was from the NASB. James wrote back saying, "With all due respect, I believe your logo has a serious typographical error. My NASB shows Titus 2:13 as '...looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus;'I would hope that, for the glory of Jesus, a distinguished group of scholars such as you and Dr. LaHaye would recognize this omission and correct it. Thank you for your consideration." Dr. Ice replied with only the following words: "Sorry to offend you. It is an edited version of the that passage." Ice gave no indication that the omission was unintentional, or that it will be corrected. We assume that by "edited" he meant it was purposely altered.

2. LaHaye, Perhaps Today, chapter 33 page 87, copyright 2001.

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